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About starrynightlife

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  1. Looks like a good list. One of my favorites that doesn't appear on your list is Rationally Speaking. Science, philosophy, but mostly philosophy of science. Great hosts. The Atheist Experience is usually entertaining, but its call-in format makes the quality highly variable.
  2. Good one, Michael. I enjoyed myself well enough, but this movie did not belong on the big screen.
  3. Fair enough, Ted. I'll try to pull a little more out of you while on the subject. Years ago I learned of abduction in my Philosophy of Biology class, a favorite. The philosopher Elliot Sober has an intriguing twist to the creationism debate. The design argument, traditionally understood as an argument from analogy, he says is better thought as an inference to the best explanation. In other words, at one time we knew of only one origin of things that looked designed: a designer. Darwin's theory, Sober argues, became the superior explanation because it could account for the appearance of life's design, as well as the sloppy parts of that design. I think this is a clever argument, even commendably persuasive (it reflects the humility of pragmatism: "who cares for Certainty, it seems to me..."). But it implies creationism was intellectually credible right up until Darwin - despite its inherantly nonsensicality. While the argument is based on observation (designs have designers), testability was out of the question until a theory like evolution turned up. This appeal to abduction strikes me as grossly non-Objectivist. It is to say, despite our explanation's problems, it's the best we have. Is abduction inferior to other types of reasoning? Is abduction alone justification for regarding something as true? Another question to add to the list above is if induction is the essence of concept formation, does abduction have a similar relation? Btw, Ted, your posts attacking gene selection in other threads were great. I wouldn't have understood their gravity without the class I mentioned above. That one of science's most popular writers still champions this (last I heard) is bothersome.
  4. I realized today that I've never read an authoritive Objectivist use the word abduction (inference to the best explanation). The word is not in the AR Lexicon. I don't recall reading it in The Logical Leap. A quick search here suggests the only person to have uttered 'abduction' here is Baal (good posts, btw). I find this odd, considering Objectivism is hostile to pragmatism and affirms inductive efficacy. It might be said the insights of pragmatists were psychological gems, albeit philosophicly confused. Abduction has that same appealing yet suspicious character that pragmatism has in general. The concept was introduced by the pragmatimatimatisist (to make an ugly word uglier), Charles Peirce, as Baal has pointed out. It looks like abduction hasn't found a home in philosophy yet, its status is debated normatively and conceptually. It has been argued abduction is the basis of science itself, but it is barely indistinguishable from guessing. My questions to the forum are: Has an Objectivist authority said anything specificly on abduction? Does it have a place in Objectivist epistemology? Conceptually, is induction a species of abduction (this has been argued)? Is abduction different than the argument from ignorance? Cheers.
  5. Ted, That's a curious description. I'm not clear on what atheistic Scholasticism could mean. Could you explain? -Epi I had considered saying Thomism instead, but feared that that would be even more likely to be misinterpreted. I mean such things as both Rand's and Aquinas' presenting a systematic, non-skeptical philosophy with a hylomorphic ontology, with realism in regard to concepts, with respect for the reality and importance of individual happiness, and with belief in both objective truth and moral judgment. Obviously the supernatural element in Aquinas subverts the whole enterprise so far as Rand is concerned, but when the Scolastics set aside God, revelation, and the afterlife, they deal respectably well with life on earth. Rand's specific differences from Epicureanism and Stoicism lie in her rejection of their metaphysics and in her rejection of their negative view of what happiness consists of. Aquinas and Rand both believe in the reality of joy. This agrees with what I've read about the Catholic church's relationship to reason. Reason is highly regarded, but only within prescribed domains. I wasn't aware of these parallels between Objectivism and Aquinas' thought. Very interesting. I'm aware of several parallels between Epicureansim and Rand, but the two differences you've noted are spot-on. Thanks.
  6. Ted, That's a curious description. I'm not clear on what atheistic Scholasticism could mean. Could you explain? -Epi
  7. Ah, but that is its virtue. In O’ist ethics, Value judgments are intelligible and grounded only insofar as they identified in respect to the need of an organism. Values are subject-dependent, yet they remain objective in that they are relational facts regarding survival. Subjective has a very different meaning than how Austrian economists use it in light of this fact. The harmony of interests principle only argues that the rational ends of some organisms are generally compatible, not identical. This structure escapes many naive notions of morality.
  8. Thanks Stephan, for responding with like seriousness. You've offered much food for thought. Thanks Ted, for the only other helpful bit. If I have further questions I'll resort to personal messaging. Looking forward to constructive correspondence.
  9. Hello OL folks! I'll start with a short introduction. I suppose I'd say I've been a student of Objectivism and philosophy for 7 years. I've read most of Rand's books, and several books on the philosophy. For reasons I won't get into, I've had to do some premise-checking, desiring to clarify and ensure the objectivity of my beliefs. I've run into some issues and would much appreciate help. I hope you'll enjoy the challenge. Objectivism observes that life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generating action and builds its ethics on this insight. The meta-ethics concludes that an organism's life is its ultimate value. Objectivism holds a special place for entities, rather than populations or cells composing an entity. In a real sense, Objectivism is egoistic because of its methodological individualism. But is this tenable? Cells are living things with values in their own right. A collection of cells become an organism when they specialize and form structures that function to sustain a body. In time they will specialize to effectively value the life of the whole above their own. I believe this is Objectivism's justification for giving primacy to organisms rather than the cells they are composed of. But what are we to make of structures with functions that can't be understood as sustaining the life of the whole? Two phenomena serve as counter examples: cancer (which can be easily dismissed as mere disease) and sexual cells and structures. Sexual cells, structures, and their counterpart impulses strain the idea that life is an organism's ultimate value or that organisms can be granted a unified purpose. The pathetic plight of the male Anglerfish (see here for a hilarious explanation) serves as a dramatic example. The Anglerfish is an organism with objective needs for life and Objectivist ethics says that if it had a choice it should pursue only values conducive to that end. Yet its sense organs and impulses seem entirely bent on living only to mate; this mating ritual consists of a slow death while melting into the female. A spectrum of less extreme examples appear allover the world of life. Cells and structures can be understood as having ends of their own even within bodies. Sexual organs sometimes compromise the organism's ability to live by growing large and nutritionally expensive. Sexual cells release hormones that create impulses that often put the organism's life at risk. Indeed, evolution has invoked the cocept Cost and Group Selection (an out-dated concept, perhaps) to help comprehend life's deadly behaviors. Objectivism's understanding of life would be totally compelling if organisms weren't partly made for costly procreative interests that do not work to the organisms overall benefit. This is arguably true even of humans. It is a wonderful fact that the act of sex enhances our life, but the same case for procreation is dim. Human babies make life harder and less happy (according to a study I can reference if needed. Happy may be used in too narrow a sense). Procreation is costly to women and may make later life harder. Yet even if organisms are made up of incompatible ends, humans are uniquely capable of unifying these ends through reason. Objectivism argues life needs an ultimate end, because a mess of ends is a metaphysical, epistemological impossibility. In a sense this is right. When an organism's "ultimate ends" conflict, it might die. But it seems that two ultimate ends coexist in living entity long enough to count. The same argument can be applied at the level of populations by way of analogies. Are values so tidy and discrete that they don't apply to populations in unique ways? This is already overly long, and I think you can make the connections.