SaulOhio

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    Euclid, Ohio
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    RC airplanes, windsurfing, kitesurfing

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  1. I have always been a bit unsatisfied with the standard Objectivist definition of "government" as the institution that has a legal monopoly on the use of force. The use of force part is a given. There is no argument there. Everything that a government does is backed by force, and that is the one thing that distinguishes government from all other institutions. My problem has always been with the words "legal" and "monopoly". Since the government defines what is legal, including that word tends to put a circular aspect into the definition. Also, government does not have a monopoly on the use of force because we have the right, supported by government in the form of such things as the "castle doctrine", to use force in self-defense. The definition I propose is that government is the institution that is the ultimate authority on the use of force. You might use force to defend yourself, but if you do, there is usually at least a police investigation, maybe even a hearing, to determine if what you did was truly self-defense. In this way, you are free to use force, but the government has the authority to decide if you have used it responsibly.
  2. "If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!" "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."
  3. Alan Greenspan's comments on the subject are far from a claim that the US governemnt, or Bush specifically, wanted to "plunder" mid-east oil. On the contrary, it seemed to be a move to protect the oil from being plundered by Hussein. He had already torched the Kuwait oil fields. Greenspan hints that Hussein had intentions to control more oil resources, that he was the one who had some intention to do the plundering.
  4. In "The Forbidden Planet" (1956), the ancient race names the Krell were quite benevolent, until they got wiped out by their own invention and their suppressed savage instincts. "My Favorite Martian" (1963 TV series), had a man from Mars who was quite friendly.
  5. Rand didn't make up that definition. She was using the definition used by philosophers before her. The biological definition is relatively new, and does not apply to discussions of human ethics.
  6. Bob_Mac: You are mistaken to assume I have little knowledge of evolutionary science. That was, in fact, my major in college. I do not deny that evolution may have programmed us with tendencies towards certain behaviors, but as I said, we cannot trust them. They are relics of our savage past, as Michael said. We need to examine our behavior rationally, and root out anything that is out of date, counterproductive, even destructive. Most examples of altruism I am familiar with, it is used as an excuse to perpetrate attrocities, justify government policies that have proven impractical (not only immoral by the egoist standard), and lay guilt trips on good people, in order to gain power over them. As for the man qua man thing, if there is some inborn tendency towards kindness, this is not necessarily altruism, especially if we derive physical pleasure from such actions. Many of the thinkers who argue for altruism claim that even such pleasure contaminates the purity of an altruist act. What is being described in such experiments is not altruism, but benevolence. If you haven't, I suggest reading David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism.
  7. Hey! You want to ruin a perfectly good rant with facts??? Yes, put in perspective, you are right. Unless I sell, its not a loss. I just have to hold on till the market recovers, which it always does. In fact, a down market is a buying opportunity. It just hurts to see the numbers go down. However, I just checked my 401-k, and found that the numbers in that account went UP almost 400 dollars. Yes, I am diversified, and the energy, natural resources, and gold funds in my account went up. :logik: Like I said, don't you hate when facts ruin an otherwise perfectly good rant?
  8. And if there IS some evolutionarily programmed altruistic behavior in humans, that doesn't mean thats how we SHOULD act. One basic principle of evolutionary biology is that it is the environment that determines which inherited traits will promote an organism's survival. As the environment changes, so must the organism, in order to survive. We need to figure out on our own what kinds of behaviors will promote survival. And none of what I have seen has convinced me that we have any genetically programmed predisposition to certain kinds of behaviors. That we do act in a certain way, or that certain parts of our brains become more active when we do, doesn't prove it. What you would need to do is identify the genes responsible, sequence the protiens they code for, and demonstrate how they influence the development of the brain and its neural pathways to influence behavior. Even then, like I said, the fact that we have a predisposition to act in certain ways is not evidence that we should. It might be an evolutionary remnant, like a vestigial organ, that is at best unnecessary, or even a disadvantage, and our ability to use reason overrides it most of the time anyway. Reason remains our best survival trait, and if we do have any instincts, they should not be trusted because they are leftovers from a past that is long gone.
  9. The topic says it all, but I'll keep ranting. This seems to happen every time the Federal Reserve has a meeting, but especially when the chairman, wether it was Greenspan or Bernanke, mentions the I-word. I know I don't have to mention, on an Objectivist forum, that this is exactly what you should expect in an economy with fiat currency and central banking, and especially when that central bank is run on a theory of inflation that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real inflation and a general rise in prices caused by natural market forces. But this particular forum is for ranting, so I'll say it anyway. ECONOMIC GROWTH AND INFLATION ARE NOT THE SAME THING! Inflation is NOT a natural part of a free market, and a central bank is NOT needed to control it! My father used to say that every time Greenspan opened his mouth, he lost $10,000 from his retirement account. He used the Lithuanian word "Issizioja", which implies that Greenspan only had to BEGIN opening his mouth, not even actually say anything, and the markets get jittery. My account is smaller than my father's, since I am still a decade or two from retirement, but I've still lost about a thousand or more today. #@%!! Bernanke! @*!!! the FED! Was that properly in the spirit of this section of this forum?
  10. The fact that some pleasure center of the brain is stimulated when someone does something nice for another person is not itself proof that altruism is hardwired into us. There are other explanation of why acting in such ways causes us pleasure. It may be that the test subject is philosophically convinced that altruism is a moral ideal, so they feal pleasure in knowing they acted in a way they believe to be moral. Or, they understand the selfish basis of benevolence, and their pleasure comes from acting morally by THAT standard. Or the simplest explanation is that what is hardwired into us is not altruism, but vicarious enjoyment. That may not even be hardwired, but a learned behavior, a product of our need for a benevolent sense of life. Being able to see happiness in another person helps us to appreciate and understand the happiness we experience first-hand. Seeing another person suffer reminds us that it is possible for US to suffer. Its a reminder that life isn't perfect, all sunshine and roses, which is why we don't like to see others suffer. Helping another person who is in pain is our means to deal with such vicarious suffering, and is thus selfish, not altruistic. Most of your criticism of Rand's moral philosophy doesn't make much sense to me. What conclusions did she make that were so indefensible?
  11. My first reaction was "Teaching philosophy to 4 year-olds? Sounds more like indoctrination. Then I got to this part: THATS the right approach. That is THE most important question to ask EVER. If you get children into the habbit of asking that from an early age, you can't go wrong.
  12. The act of delegating is a contractual act. Rand was not clear on when a person was supposed to perform such delegation (enter such a contract). This is a crack in the principle that needs to be patched up. Michael I agree there is a problem with Rand's statement here. When in an emergency situation we cannot wait for the police to arrive to defend us. Almost any time we are confronted by a criminal, we have only our own resources to rely on. She should have said something more along the lines of we delegate our right to the retaliatory use of force. That seems to me to be clearly what she meant. If someone pulls out a knife and threatens you with it, you pull out your gun. But if someone has already cut you, and run away, or stolen your property, you do not go after them yourself, you tell the cops.
  13. OK. Vegetarians herd. Predators run in packs. I'm an omnivore. What do we do? Besides eat everything, wether it moves or not? Excuse me. I'm getting hungry. Have to go eat.
  14. What you are saying seems to imply some version of evolutionary psychology. But that means that such behavior evolved because it has certain benefits. We evolved the tendency to herd because of exchange value. Chicken, egg?
  15. I have rethought my position on this subject, and am backing away from the idea of conceding that social contract theory is true. I've read up on the theory some more, and have found more fallacies behind it, one of them being a strawman argument against natural rights. The theory is a castle in the sky built out of a grain of sand. But the grain of sand is there, and real. There is one fact of reality that makes social contract theory sound plausible, and that is that we derive benefits from living in a society. The rest of the conceptual edifice of the theory is smoke and mirrors, but this fact is the grain of sand I mentioned before. If you deny the whole theory in its entirety, it sounds like you are denying that we want to live in an ordered society, like an anarchist. I have written a new essay on this subject, which I posted on the Sam Harris forum, which can be seen here. In it, you can see some changes in my thinking.