• Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About thomtg

Previous Fields

  • Full Name
  • Articles
    1. Understanding Objectivism Vs. Being an Objectivist 2. The Intellectuals Are Dead--Long Live the Intellectuals! 3. The Opposite of Nothing Is/Isn't Everything: Which is it? 4. Is there really such a concept as "Existence"?--Post #6 5. 'Existential Import'...Does [it] have such?--Post #66 6. Why Do Subject-Topics Mutate on OL? 7. The Black Swan of Words
  • Looking or Not Looking
    not looking

Contact Methods

  • Website URL
  • ICQ

Profile Information

  • Gender

thomtg's Achievements


Newbie (1/14)



  1. I don't see much to fault Buechner's definition of economics. If I must, I would say it is too wordy. Compare it to George Reisman's definition: "economics is the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labor." (CATOE 15b) A definition in my view should only highlight the positive characteristics of the referents (if it is a positive concept). It should not bring in the abnormal, the fringe, the disputed. It should not zero in on the penguin at the expense of the pigeon in the everyday context. I would prefer understanding the core concept first before venturing to examine the peculiar cases. In this light, Buechner's introduction for the reader is a good one.
  2. Thanks, Stephen, for cross-checking the term "optional value" against "moral value" in Tara Smith's other book Viable Values. Beyond just thinking that the first term is misnamed, I now think the pair of concepts "optional value" and "moral value" are both invalid. And renaming the first to "variant value" doesn't help either. The problem as I see it is that the things anybody pursues are concrete. They all differ in every detail. They all vary in every measurement. For example, you can categorize a dish of snails into escargot or into food. On Smith's view, this something, as food, is a nonoptional value, but as escargot, it is an optional value. Moreover, on this view, food is a moral value because it is universally needed by men, but escargot is something only some people want to eat and so isn't a moral value. "Moral values are the most fundamental values that apply for all human beings. They so apply because they are necessitated by our common human nature. (99–100)." This is incoherent. On this view, reason supposedly is an invariant moral value that applies to all human beings. This divorces "reason" (and even "food") from its referents. Unless you count the whole Earth as one, there is no single concrete thing that is universally needed by men and is valued by all men. If so, then the only way to make sense of Smith's statement above is to interpret her to say that the concept "reason" is that which is valued by men, and that the concept "reason" per se is the moral value. By contrast, a concrete is a value to someone whenever he deems it objectively to satisfy his needs and acts to gain it. Even reason follows this principle. And it is not "reason" per se but his unique, particular reasoning faculty, which varies in every detail from mine and from yours. And all these concrete things he values become thereby moral values if they sustain the particular concrete life which is his. The incoherence in Smith's ARNE p. 190 footnote lies in her taking nonoptional values to be concretely real to be pursued by means of optional values. She is reifying abstractions. That is to say, on her account, you eat snails not because it's a value to you but because it's one of the optional means to acquire "food" which is a nonoptional value to you. Finally, about the passage requiring this footnote, the analysis, about which movie being argued by a couple to go see in the evening, is not even correct. The application of Rand's principle against compromise is inapplicable here. More appropriately, the principle to use is the one against sacrifice. The movie you finally decide not to see (the one you originally preferred) is of a lesser value in relation to the relationship you have with your lover. Besides, once you don't choose a thing, anything whatever, it is no longer a value. So, for Smith to make it into an "optional value" as a matter for compromise is to turn it into intrinsic valuing.
  3. Thanks for the connection to Tara Smith's book, Merlin. Smith's conception of "optional value" is not any better. Synonymous with "discretionary value", it is contrasted against "basic, universal value" (ARNE 27) or "fundamental value" (265) or "broader value" (274). If a thing is a value (to somebody, to be gained for some purpose, etc.), then it is an instance of the concept VALUE. But on Smith's conception (and presumably Buechner's), that thing is an optional value AND not a nonoptional value. In other words, on Smith's view, there is no such concrete ~thing~ as a nonoptional value or "universal value" or "fundamental value" or "broader/est value"; yet at the same time, values are to be contrasted against the nonoptional. (See especially footnote, p. 190.) This is fuzzy division. I am beginning to think this notion of "optional value" fails Rand's Razor.
  4. The table of contents that Stephen typed out is helpful. Thanks. I'll add the book to my Christmas list. Meanwhile, one item in the TOC caught my attention: Chapter 2 - Objective Value : Optional Values Are Objective Values. What is an optional value? Is it conceived as opposed to "required value"? And if so, isn't that contrary to Objectivist ethics? As I understand the volitional nature of ethics, "optional" is a redundant tautology (like "human rights"); and "required" is a self-contradiction. Now, perhaps I am jumping hastily. OPAR does mention "moral options" (323), but they are described in terms of degree, variety, possibility. But nowhere is there an implication that some values are optional. Something is either valuable, or else it isn't.
  5. On hearing that I had not watched any episode of it despite the social buzz about its imminent return, a friend this week lent me the DVDs to the half-season of the television series Glee. I have finished watching half of them and am planning to finish the rest this weekend. The show is surprisingly good. To those who have been watching Glee, do you think it qualifies as Romantic art? By that I mean, that it has a definite story arc; that the theme is about finding joy in whatever one does in life; that the plot-theme is about a group of students joining the Glee club to sing and to compete at some future competition; and that the few main characters (e.g., the Spanish teacher, the dark-haired student-singer, the football quarterback, the cheerleading coach) have purposeful goals and deliberate principles of action. Maybe my standard is set too low, but I think it is Romantic. Or am I not experienced enough in the Romantic arts to have it categorized appropriately? About Romanticism in the culture, Ayn Rand stated, "It is impossible for the young people of today [1969] to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible." [TRM, Introduction]
  6. Here is a WSJ blog article reporting the communitarian Dr. Stephen Chu, Energy Department Secretary, for making a Freudian slip, for not knowing his place in relation to the citizens he works for.
  7. The basic error in the original post is not in correctly stating the definition of reason; the error is in equating the definition for the concept. Just as a spider-like Martian possessing reason is not a man, so a canine process that identifies and integrates perceptual material is not a faculty of reason. By Objectivist standard, a definition is a statement having the purpose of condensing one's knowledge. On a nonobjectivist standard (e.g., nominalism), a definition is a synonym for a label. The case of the latter is a case of massive context-dropping.
  8. Hahaha, good one! Now the image is stuck in my head.
  9. Me too, I am a Tara fan. Currently I am reading her Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist. I'm also listening to her 1998 lecture course "Rationality and Objectivity."
  10. It is another example of fighting over the details while conceding the principle.
  11. The PTA organization has been infiltrated compromised. Check out this article. Parents upset over 'leftist propaganda' video It reports a local Parent-Teacher Association organization in Salt Lake City showing a 4-minute video entitle "I Pledge" to elementary-school students with explicit permission from school administrators. The subsequent protest reportedly was over the concrete, trifling details. The school's theme for the academic year still is "service." The American culture has really changed. There is now a 180-degree inversion in the relationship between the citizenry and its government. Watch the "I Pledge" video, especially at 3:54 into the segment. Here is the link at 3:54: (NOTE FROM MSK: The links are now properly inserted, but for some weird reason the hyperlinking does not work. Instead, the text gets butchered or does not show up. I had to put the links in "code" brackets, which disables the hyperlink, to make them appear at all. So just copy/paste the URL's in your browser and they will take you where the poster wanted.)
  12. Here is a real example of sacrifice on the part of a mother who acted imprudently: "Boy, 9, killed rescuing duck from the road" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
  13. Here is a follow up to the story: Amazon has apologized for the bulk deletion and is now being sued for stealing the work of a 17-year-old student. Read more on the issue of digital "rights" here.
  14. On your interpretation, Michael, Kindle owners are merely license holders of the authors' books. By this account, the Kindle devices are merely a part of this licensing distribution system. It has been the case that customers, having bought something, could for a limited time and limited reasons exchange or return something bought from a store. Now the store, Amazon in this case, can at any time electronically go to every customer and take its "licenses" back. This stinks morally. More reactions from the blogosphere here.