George H. Smith

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Everything posted by George H. Smith

  1. The Moral Implications of Beliefs Smith discusses the claim that some beliefs are immoral and the role of credibility in choosing our beliefs. My Essay #223 has been posted. Ghs
  2. Belief and Doubt Smith discusses various meanings of "belief" and "doubt." My Essay #222 has been posted. I neglected to post a link to last week's essay, "Do We have a Moral Obligation to be Rational?" It may be found here. Ghs
  3. Back to the Ethics of Belief Smith resumes his discussion of whether beliefs per se can be immoral. My Essay #220 has been posted. I was given two weeks off to work on the next Reader: Critics of State Education. The manuscript should be complete by next Friday. Ghs
  4. I just heard on the news that a high-ranking member of ISIS, Al-Adnani, may have been killed. If this is true, then how should we respond to his death? Should we reflect that he was a human being who probably had some admirable characteristics? Or should we respond with a lively round of Bronx cheers? I prefer the latter. As Murray Rothbard used to say: "Hitler loved cats. Who cares?" As for the degree of evil necessary before we cheer the death of a person, there is obviously no pat answer to this question. It depends on the evaluator and the person he is evaluating. In many cases, as with politicians, I may not cheer their deaths, but nor will I be in the least sorry to see them go. Nor will I pretend to feel sorrow for the deaths of people who meant nothing to me. Everyone dies. And death does not change what a person did during his life. Death is not an accomplishment that should change what we thought of a person when he was alive. If both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were to die tomorrow of natural causes, the world would be a better place. Ghs
  5. Yes, Peikoff was definitely referring to Barbara and Nathan. But his general point about cheering, in effect, upon learning of the deaths of evil people is quite sound. One of these days I plan to write an essay or two on NB's writings for Ghs
  6. Reason and Ethics Smith criticizes Hume’s claim that reason cannot motivate actions, and explains how moral sense philosophers dealt with the problem of differing moral standards. My Essay #219 has been posted. Ghs
  7. Do We Have a Moral Sense? Smith explains some fundamental tenets of the moral sense school of ethics, especially as found in the writings of Francis Hutcheson. My Essay #218 have been posted. Ghs
  8. Yes, the recent printing of ATCAG contains a new Epilogue by me. I think it's pretty interesting. Ghs
  9. I don't know what this is supposed to mean. For one thing, I had nothing to do with the choice of Krauss to write a foreword; that was a decision made by Prometheus. Ghs
  10. The point Mises made was essentially this: An economic theory can only be refuted by a better economic theory, not by the empirical facts of history. This is so because we cannot conduct controlled experiments on social (including economic) phenomena; there are too many complex variables than cannot be isolated. And singular facts do not come attached with their own meanings and theoretical significance. The empirical facts have meaning only when interpreted within a theoretical framework, so different economists working from different theoretical frameworks will assign different levels of significance to the same fact. This does not mean that empirical facts are completely irrelevant to an economic theory. When economic phenomena run consistently counter to what an economic theory would cause us to expect, then this may cause us to doubt the soundness of our theory and thereby reevaluate it. But the falsification would occur at the theoretical level, not at the empirical level.
  11. Values and Facts Smith discusses axiology (the study of value) and David Hume’s celebrated argument about “is” and “ought.” My Essay #217 has been posted. Ghs
  12. Earlier today Aaron Powell informed me that plans to publish all of my Excursions essays in book form. Depending on the word count for particular volumes, this will amount to 3 to 6 Readers altogether. The only editing will be changing internal links to my other essays to chapter references. I don't know the publishing schedule, but I assume it will be around one volume every 6 months or so.(This is just a guess.) The essays will be arranged by themes. Thus one volume will comprise the 29 essays I wrote on "Freethought and Freedom," and with the addition of one earlier, standalone essay on the key biblical texts most commonly cited in the toleration controversy, this will make a nifty little volume in its own right--one with considerable appeal to the freethought community outside of libertarian circles. Although the themes have not been finalized yet, another Reader will probably consist of my essays on social theory, another of my early essays on the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, and so forth. Thus within the next 2 years or so, my output of books will have doubled--and all this with me barely lifting a finger (proofreading the texts before they go to press.) --Ghs
  13. If you think that QM is all there is in the world, then you live a very barren life. I never said that facts cannot refute a theory. I specifically referred to economics. Mises was not referring to physics and experiments that can be conducted under controlled conditions. He was referring to the study of complex social phenomena in which there cannot be controlled experiments. Your use of the term "science" is quite arbitrary. For centuries the label "science" (scientia) was applied to any sustained and systematic discipline that can yield knowledge. Lots of disciplines other than the "hard" sciences meet those criteria. You are using "science" in an honorific sense, as a value judgment to express your opinion that the knowledge of physics, etc., is somehow of a higher status that other types of knowledge. That's nonsense.
  14. Some statements in the human sciences are empirically falsifiable, while others are not. The relevant point here was made by Ludwig von Mises in Human Action. Mises held that economic (praxeological) theories cannot be empirically falsified, because any given fact may be interpreted in myriad ways, depending on the theoretical framework within which it is understood. Only a theory can refute a theory, according to Mises. For more details, see the last part of my essay on Mises here: See also my discussion of Herbert Spencer's views on "science" here: Ghs
  15. I don't have a definitive answer to your question. Brand Blanshard, whom I quoted in the essay, spoke of the "Virtue of Reasonableness," but in another, lengthier discussion of the same topic (Reason and Goodness), he appears to use the terms "reasonable" and "rational" interchangeably. In my mind, "reasonable" is broader in scope thant "rational," which is usually used in the context of beliefs and knowledge claims. But when we call a person "reasonable," we may be referring to a broader scope, such as how the person interacts with others, how he deals with personal problems, etc. I have not read Rawls in decades, so I cannot address his views. Ghs
  16. You cannot weasel out of Steve's point that easily. If we accept your argument that empirically nonfalsiifiable statements are "nonsense," and if you agree that the criterion itself cannot be empirically falsified, then the criterion itself is nonsense. You cannot magically make the criterion meaningful by calling it "meta-science." You might as well sprinkle some fairy dust on your meta-scientific statement to escape the problem. Ghs
  17. Popper never said this, of course. His falsifiability criterion was meant to distinguish between science and "metaphysics," or philosophy. Popper never claimed that empirically unfalsifiable statements are "nonsense"; in fact, he wrote a good deal about philosophy himself. You are reverting to the old logical positivist notion that has been demolished so many times that it is dead as a doornail in both philosophy and science. Popper was not a logical positivist, as he took pains to point out. [Later edit] To be clear about this: The logical positivists said that propositions that cannot be empirically verified are meaningless. Popper said that only propositions that can be empirically falsified are scientific. But by nonscientific propositions Popper did not mean meaningless statements. Poppers line of demarcation between scientific and nonscientific propositions was not a criterion of meaning.
  18. Why Should I be Moral? Smith explains how questions like “Why should I be rational?” and “Why should I be moral?” involve a bait and switch tactic. My Essay #215 has been posted. Ghs
  19. Thanks, Steve. I'm glad to hear that my podcast was useful to you. Ghs
  20. This is a podcast, posted on the site earlier today, of one of my favorite essays, which was originally published around two years ago.. The ideas expressed here took years for me to refine. I am very pleased with this presentation, so I tried to pat myself on the back but was unable to do so. The best I could manage was to tap myself on my lower back with the backside of my right hand. Getting old really sucks. I strongly recommend that people under 30 refuse to get old. Try stamping your feet or holding your breath or pouting and see one of those works. .
  21. Neo-Thomism and the Virtue of Reasonableness Smith explains the value of Neo-Thomistic books for libertarians and Randians, and what is meant by the virtue of reasonableness. My Essay #214 has been posted. Ghs
  22. Some Basic Problems in Ethics Smith explores the nature of belief, knowledge, ethics, the difference between moral and prudential decisions, and some ideas about virtue. My Essay #213 has been posted. Ghs
  23. Immanuel Kant on War and Peace Smith discusses some of Kant’s ideas about the moral, political, and practical aspects of perpetual peace. My Essay #211 has been posted. Ghs
  24. Yeah, I know what you mean. I've had the same problem. 8-)