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I like most of the rights originally written into the Constitution. They make sense to me. They were even intended to cover children.

Truly amazing. Ayn Rand's rights theory takes much from the Founding Fathers. She even praises the Constitution. Yet according to MSK Ayn Rand's rights theory doesn't apply to children, since it does not address children. On the other hand, according to MSK the rights originally written into the Constitution were even intended to cover children. This is despite the fact that children are not mentioned in the Constitution. Is the guy an amazing mind-reader or what? Truly amazing.

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I don't know how he can say it, Laurie, if he's an Objectivist. I missed it because I hadn't read it before you quoted it. This is like saying no one can have a Cadillac unless everyone can have one. No one can have food unless everyone has food. So on and so forth. His whole post is Objectivism--not. Objectivist Living--not. He is saying he has no "personal use" for your rights and my rights or even children's rights. (His rights?) Or in law. Or in philosophy. All he might do is keep chewing his cud sharing the anarchic inchoate results with us. It's the Brazil in him.

I am trying to figure out how to keep posting on a purported Objectivist site that isn't an Objectivist site. Because of the length and volume of Michael's posts and that he is in control of things here his viewpoint is utterly dominant. I have no problem discussing these issues with Michael (and Wolf), but not here. That you shouldn't initiate physical force (violate rights) is too much of a rule to accept? Even in Brazil? OL should be called "Human Living" and take down that photograph of Ayn Rand.

I'm about to stop posting here. This whole site is a bait and switch.

--Brant

Michael, regarding post 370:

How can you say this??

...Until rights can be for people, all people within a country, including children, then I have no personal use for them except to note more rules that are sometimes in my way and need to be broken so I can build and protect those I love....

1) Rights ARE for all people, including children. How can you say that there's no use to a law that forbids people to murder or injure a child?

2) As to the justification of the concept of rights as deriving from man's nature as a rational animal, and his rationality being his means of survival - This holds true for children as well! Reason IS their means of survival; if not yet their own reason, then the reason of their guardians.

3) Just because a child cannot fully exercise his rights does not mean they're of no use to him. It's like saying, "what good is an automobile as a means of transportation if an infant can't drive one?" Well, he can ride in one, can't he?

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Laure,

Call it anything for an infant but right to life if rights are defined strictly in terms of NIOF. That's just too hypocritical for my taste.

I don't think the right for children to starve to death was what the Founding Fathers had in mind with that phrase.

As to the rest of your points, I have been aware of them since the beginning. They fall into contradiction when a child is defined as a human being needing care.

I agree with you that rights are supposed to be for all people. It just doesn't work out that way, not even in theory. I can't live with that contradiction. I will live out here in the real world.

Now I am going to be interested in seeing how my words get twisted into meanings that are the exact opposite of what I stated. It has already started.

Michael

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I'm afraid the whole public face of Objectivism is rotten, authoritarian, stupid, not Objectivism (or is it?), confused, and the kitchen sink. The good stuff gets buried. That goes for Michael's good stuff. I haven't seen an Objectivism site yet that wasn't a bait and switch. I have no objection to its basic principles, excepting esthetics--there aren't any Objectivist esthetics, just opinions--but the digressions go spinning off in various directions. So maybe it doesn't really matter what this place is called. That's not how I feel, though, for my being here sanctions it, for whatever that's worth to anyone.

--Brant

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Laure,

Call it anything for an infant but right to life if rights are defined strictly in terms of NIOF. That's just too hypocritical for my taste.

I don't think the right for children to starve to death was what the Founding Fathers had in mind with that phrase.

As to the rest of your points, I have been aware of them since the beginning. They fall into contradiction when a child is defined as a human being needing care.

I agree with you that rights are supposed to be for all people. It just doesn't work out that way, not even in theory. I can't live with that contradiction. I will live out here in the real world.

Now I am going to be interested in seeing how my words get twisted into meanings that are the exact opposite of what I stated. It has already started.

Michael

Define: What is a right to life? What is a right?

You have taken this phrase, "right to life" and made a lot of it. I don't see the contradiction that you are talking about.

You say people here don't understand what you're saying or twist it. All of us? I'm not known for being particularly stupid, and I don't think the others posting here are either. Are we all just narrow minded or dogmatic?

You have made statements that things are a not as we would say. You say we are wrong. You say that you are figuring this out. If you are figuring it out, then I don't think you know that Rand was wrong.

This debate is a waste until you can put your money where your mouth is. You need spell out exactly what you mean and show why it is so. You haven't done that yet. Please don't bother to tell me how my question is wrong and how I'm wrong. Just answer your own statements as to children having rights, what those rights are, and what that means to others. Focus on that. Write it down. Put it up for scrutiny. Then I can read it and see. Anything else here is just waste and words.

Ethan

Edited by ethan dawe
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... for my being here sanctions it...

Brant,

That goes both ways. What does my entertaining guests who disagree with me sanction? Forgive me if I feel that this is one of the silly agruments Objectivists use when they disagree with someone. Schwartz did that with libertarians, used it to prompt the split with Kelley, and it has not gotten much better since then.

Michael

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Ethan,

Simple.

Life has a specific nature.

Human nature must be in accordance with that and be knowable.

Human values must be in accordance with human nature.

Social customs, rules or whatever one calls them must be in accordance with human values.

In other words,

Metaphysics

Epistemology

Ethics

Politics

The problem is making this work.

Michael

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Ethan,

Simple.

Life has a specific nature.

Human nature must be in accordance with that and be knowable.

Human values must be in accordance with human nature.

Social customs, rules or whatever one calls them must be in accordance with human values.

In other words,

Metaphysics

Epistemology

Ethics

Politics

The problem is making this work.

Michael

Michael, you didn't intend this as an answer to Ethan's post, did you? Because we'll still say, "so, where's the contradiction?"

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Thanks very much for the implicit invitation to speak of it again.

Wolf,

I'm interesed in pursuing the discussion. I warn you in advance I'll often be slow of response, and especially slow during busy stretches, one of which is looming this next week.

You wrote:

I have no quarrel with [Rand's] ethics, although I tweaked it (deformed is more accurate) in The 51% Solution. Not an important matter. Let's say that Objectivist ethics are spot on, no need to improve or reconsider. Reason, purpose, self esteem. Evil requires the sanction of the victim. Stop supporting your destroyers.

I'm imprecisely in agreement with her ethics. That is, for brief, I find "reason, purpose, self-esteem" good. I applaud the desideratum of "non-sacrifical" (in Rand's meaning) human relationships -- neither a victim nor an aggressor be. My quarrels pertain more to imprecision of derivation than to the goals, with the cavil regarding the latter that I think her particular moralizing temperament produced a kind of "sinners in the hands of an angry God" tone in her own essays; I think the good stuff of what she recommends needs separating from the moralistic presentation.

Nor did I hope to contradict Locke or Paine, both of whom made important contributions, Paine particularly. In The Rights of Man, he made a breakthrough of tremendous importance, that government could not lawfully author or amend its own constitution. Unfortunately for me, I became convinced that every political system is (often implicitly) founded upon a single principle. Otis, Jefferson and other Americans saw justice in equality. It proved to be rhetorical and figurative, although it was useful and applicable in declaring independence from England and its monarchy.

I'm unclear on the meaning of some of that:

Your statement "Nor did I hope to contradict Locke or Paine": Is the meaning that when you set out, it wasn't with the hope of contradicting Locke or Paine, but in the result you did contradict them?

"Unfortunately for me, I became convinced that every political system is (often implicitly) founded upon a single principle.": Do you mean that every political system is (often implicitly) founded upon the same political principle, or that each government is (often implicitly) founded upon some single political principle, which principle differs from government to government? I'm suspecting you mean the first, from other details, but I'm not sure.

"Otis, Jefferson and other Americans saw justice in equality.": You mean "equality" before the law, yes (not "equality" of possessions, or of natural abilities)?

In the next paragraph you write that while searching for "a political principle, a constitutional one-liner": "In the meantime I honored Rand's ethics by saying 'The right to life is contingent on responsibility' -- a highly unsatisfying amalgam of 50% rubber and 50% hokum."

I don't know where you get the statment "The right to life is contingent on responsibility" as coming from Rand's ethics. (Btw, to repeat something I've said further up the thread, I think that "right to life" is a most unfortunate usage, possibly the most unfortunate in the history of Western philosophy, since it can easily be taken to imply a right to be kept alive, to have one's survival needs provided, by generalized others [i.e., by others who haven't voluntarily taken on guardianship obligations.])

The Freeman's Constitution was the result. It hangs on a single political axiom, that justice is the armed defense of innocent liberty, and a logical standard for constitutional due process: that no man may legally judge his own cause. No connection with Rand's natural rights thesis IMO.

I haven't yet done more than glance through your "Freeman's Constitution." On the "Rights Theory" thread which you recently started, you provide this link to what's described as the "Final draft," date August 19, 2001. Have there been any revisions since then, or is this still the currently operative draft?:

http://billstclair.com/organic-law/

Thus far I'm not understanding why you say you see "no connection" with "Rand's natural rights thesis." It seems to me that there is connection. You said in a post further up this thread (post #354) that you agree with Bentham's view that "natural rights" are "nonsense on stilts," and yet, what is "innocent liberty" except some idea of "natural rights"? I'm unclear on your understanding of what "natural rights" means.

(Briefly sketching my own view: I think that every human society has some notion of "rights," by which I mean -- extending on a defintion I gave earlier -- legitimately enforceable paired sets of obligations/freedoms. I think that such paired sets evolutionarily well antedate the human lineage, that they go far back in the vertebrate lineage, even to the fish stage of territorial mutual behaviors. The classic theory of natural rights, which Rand adopted (with some alteration) I see as the attempt to specify and logically defend the best set of such pairs for forming a peacefully cooperative society.)

Ellen

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... for my being here sanctions it...

Brant,

That goes both ways. What does my entertaining guests who disagree with me sanction? Forgive me if I feel that this is one of the silly agruments Objectivists use when they disagree with someone. Schwartz did that with libertarians, used it to prompt the split with Kelley, and it has not gotten much better since then.

Michael,

What you said about rights isn't Objectivism, not even small "o" objectivism. You can't abjure human rights the way you did in #370 and have much of any Objectivism left, just bits and pieces at your feet. This isn't deconstruction, it's destruction. I understand Brazil and survival necessity. I understand that that is what one also needs to do in the United States too, albeit not so much. In many other countries you really can't do much of anything and it shows, so Hurrah for Brazil and the US both! I'm not beyond discussing any of this with you or Wolf, but I don't think Wolf claims to be an Objectivist. As far as Objectivism is concerned you've stepped outside the box, but you've made no coherent case for doing so. You've run off the top of Objectivism Mountain and, like Wiley E. Coyote, you are suspended in mid-air until you look down. You have a philosophy. Wolf has a philosophy. They seem to be the same, but not Objectivism.

You don't seem to appreciate that important Objectivist concepts have a heirarchy--that one can be for rational self-interest as a basic principle of Objectivism and still investigate ethics empirically for exceptions and grey areas and possible additions to Objectivist ethics without discarding that principle. Same for rights. The principle of non-initiation of force doesn't exclude real-world examination of what is and for what practically can be, but you seem to have tossed out the principle with the bath water. I cannot imagine society without government and government without taxes even in "a perfect world." If nothing else human dynamism means perfection even if achievable will never last. You need bad around anyway to know what the hell it is. It helps build up and maintain the immune system.

But unless I misunderstand your position on human rights, this is not an Objectivism site, not even a libertarian one. "Human Living" yes, "Objectivist Living," no. That's what has me upset, not your views per se. And I'd like to read much more about Brazil. Etc. If you want to go after and critique basic ideas in Objectivism, please at least properly represent them and their importance to the philosophy first. If you do that you'd be on solid ground.

Nevertheless, like I said in a previous post apropos this give and take, maybe it just doesn't matter. The public face of Objectivism seems to have something wrong with it no matter who wears the mask of Objectivism. To me this makes Objectivism either rotten or rigidly dogmatic. These last are emphatically NOT my opinion of you. I don't want to go around telling people they are or are not Objectivists and that they should do x, y and z, not a, b and c therefore. If I stop calling myself an Objectivist, then it won't matter what OL is or isn't respecting Objectivism as far as I'm concerned. In fact, I've got an idea about that that will let me keep posting here without putting anybody's feet to the fire. See my next post on this thread, assuming I can change a personal preference here.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Brant,

Objectivism for me is a starting point, not an end in itself. It is a body of ideas, nothing else. Most of my framework for examining and analyzing the world comes from it, ergo I am an Objectivist.

I do not get meaning of life from Objectivism, though. I flunked Meaning of Life 101 years ago when I tried to do that. I have been an autodidact ever since. Now I feel it is time to overhaul the whole thing in my mind from the ground up. I have some serious work to do and this keeps getting in the way. (Now do you understand what I mean by "from the ground up"? I am doing exactly what Rand did. From the ground up. And applying it to my life, here and now. Not to some abstraction.)

But there is not the total disconnection you imply. If you look a little deeper than the words, you might see that I kept the concepts and junked the jargon, or at least I junked what many of the words have come to mean 50 years down the road. A lot has been piled on Rand that she did not put there. And there are some things where it would have been extremely useful to see what she thought, but that is no longer possible. I have no doubt about one thing, though. I think she would have ended up infuriating many people who think they know her enough to pigeonhole her. (Especially those who start sentences with "Objectivism says this..." or "Objectisism teaches that...") She always did that.

My idea is simply to build on those now jargon-less concepts in my mind and extend them to fit the reality I perceive and can test. It's a selfish thing. I don't want to stuff reality into principles when it doesn't fit anymore. I got sick of that. All you do is get busted up. I have scars all over my body from that.

Principles give me a very good framework with which to look at reality, but nothing beats careful objective observation and corroboration. Thinking with your own mind. If I can look at something, point to it and say, "That doesn't fit the principle, yet the principle covers it," I'm afraid the principle will need to be rethought. And if I see a pattern that is not included in a principle I learned, or is denied by a principle I learned, it is the principle that needs to be altered, not reality. I don't care what word we slap on it. The knowledge is the important part. I can no longer accept brushing what I see aside.

As the saying goes, if this be treason, then make the most of it.

Michael

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You're a good guy, Michael, and I'd want you as a juror no matter which side I was arguing.

Wolf,

Thank you. I agree.

I swear by all that is sacred to me that if I were on a jury, I would never hang a man on principle alone or crowd pressure. And malicious people who harmed others and tried to get off on technicalities would have a bitch of a time with me.

Michael

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Ethan,

I am enlightened that you know what I think. At least I know where to look when I am get in doubt and no longer know. I am relieved.

:)

I suggest you take more care of what Ethan thinks than what Michael thinks, but that is only a suggestion. In my opinion, that would be more productive on a very selfish level. But, of course, you are free to do as you please.

Michael

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[my emphasis]

Just answer your own statements as to children having rights, what those rights are, and what that means to others.

Michael,

I think that Ethan put his finger on the key issue in the words I've emphasized: "what that means to others." Surely no one here is unaware that children too young to acquire food on their own have to have food provided by others if they're to survive. If you believe -- which near as I can tell you do believe -- that children have a right to have food provided by whomever (according to the chain of responsibility you've previously outlined) until children are old enough to acquire food on their own, implementing this right on behalf of a child might require initiating force against those who aren't in a legal guardianship relationship to that child and who aren't willing to provide for that child. On what basis would you justify this initiation of force? Wouldn't justification require a rationale for infringing the rights of non-guardian, non-willing adults? Wouldn't you have a contradiction if you nonetheless claimed that rights entail freedom from initiation of force?

The crucial point is that one person's right entails a corresponding obligation on the part of other persons. If you claim for young children a right to action on the part of non-guardian and non-willing providers, this would impose an obligation on those providers which they didn't choose to accept. How would you justify doing this? An answer to that question is a requisite if you want a consistent rights theory.

Ellen

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[my emphasis]

Just answer your own statements as to children having rights, what those rights are, and what that means to others.

Michael,

I think that Ethan put his finger on the key issue in the words I've emphasized: "what that means to others." Surely no one here is unaware that children too young to acquire food on their own have to have food provided by others if they're to survive. If you believe -- which near as I can tell you do believe -- that children have a right to have food provided by whomever (according to the chain of responsibility you've previously outlined) until children are old enough to acquire food on their own, implementing this right on behalf of a child might require initiating force against those who aren't in a legal guardianship relationship to that child and who aren't willing to provide for that child. On what basis would you justify this initiation of force? Wouldn't justification require a rationale for infringing the rights of non-guardian, non-willing adults? Wouldn't you have a contradiction if you nonetheless claimed that rights entail freedom from initiation of force?

The crucial point is that one person's right entails a corresponding obligation on the part of other persons. If you claim for young children a right to action on the part of non-guardian and non-willing providers, this would impose an obligation on those providers which they didn't choose to accept. How would you justify doing this? An answer to that question is a requisite if you want a consistent rights theory.

Ellen

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Ellen -

Good points, clearly stated (something much needed in this discussion - the topic is potentially volatile, as has been seen on other forums). I think it is consistent for someone to say (as I do) that they DO NOT recognize that a young child's existence imposes on EVERYONE the legal requirement to fund their sustenance(that is, that there is no "right" to be fed by all the citizens of the republic!), . . . That being said --- I would view very negatively the behavior of someone who would not, of their own free choice, render a modest amount of emergency-level aid. Ropes to drowning people, etc...

Alfonso

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Ellen -

Good points, clearly stated (something much needed in this discussion - the topic is potentially volatile, as has been seen on other forums). I think it is consistent for someone to say (as I do) that they DO NOT recognize that a young child's existence imposes on EVERYONE the legal requirement to fund their sustenance(that is, that there is no "right" to be fed by all the citizens of the republic!), . . . That being said --- I would view very negatively the behavior of someone who would not, of their own free choice, render a modest amount of emergency-level aid. Ropes to drowning people, etc...

Alfonso

Alfonso,

I'm curious. Have you been reading this thread? It's like, LOL. Yeah, we've been there, many times, many times...

Ellen

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what is "innocent liberty" except some idea of "natural rights"?

Excellent question. It's easier to discuss its suppression, curtailment, denial, most often by government but also as a habit of thought or shared culture. Easiest to see in the custody of children: No, no, no! Stop that! Never mind why. Because I said so!

I think it's exceedingly difficult to re-conceive and weigh the scope of basic principles from the perspective of modern life. John Winthrop exploited an error in the Massachusetts Bay colony's charter, creating democratic self-government in Boston where none existed at the time in England. From the Romans we inherited the notion of contract. Conundrums in mercantile maritime law led Grotius to suggest the idea of individual rights. How remote are the strictures of canon law, primogeniture, frankpledge, and trial by combat. Yet those are the deepest roots of contemporary Anglo-American common law.

The basic principle of the American Experiment was diffusion and balance of power among competing sects, sections, and economic classes. It persists today more or less unchanged since its inception as a pragmatic exegency circa 1780. The British constitution is likewise frozen in time: God and My Right (to perpetual dominion, fealty to the crown, defender of the faith). Modern superstructures like universal sufferage, wider tolerance, and nonpartisan civil service have not substantially altered the basic logic of constitutional paradigms. Neither American nor British citizens are guaranteed liberty as a first principle of social order. It is traditionally taught and widely accepted that freedom should only exist by permission and subject to regulation. "Liberty is so precious, it must be rationed," Lenin smirked, echoing Justice Holmes: Free speech does not include the right to shout 'Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Significantly, crowded theaters are a thing of the past. So are mass set-piece battles like those of World War One, purposelessly grinding millions of men to death for the amusement and honor of laureled aristocrats and private bankers. The mass regimentation and waste of life was a fresh memory for Ayn Rand and most Europeans. In the United States, she found a vacuity of first-hand thought and experience. The Americans never suffered grievously in battle. They saw the world from a distance, an almost unreal comic book story to be dealt with by Captain America and Bugs Bunny, B-52s and Predator Drones in the current context. The American Way is bipartisan pork barrel appropriation, the American Dream a credit card.

In this cacophony of detail, whither liberty? I don't know a single U.S. job or business that can be conducted without acting as an agent of state, collecting tax and enforcing applicable law. Nor are these laws challengeable. The will of Congress and State legislatures are constitutionally sovereign. As I mentioned previously, I was thrust into the job of nation-building and starting afresh. Not one of my freedom-seeking compatriots wanted the rule of law (see Framer of Last Resort). Their inclination was to blend the system of Swiss cantons and Hanseatic League 'law merchant' -- meaningless fig leaf ornaments for dictatorship by the strong, the wealthy, a cabal of insiders.

I knew that adversarial common law due process was a lifesaver, treating each as an equal party before the bar. But I had to define a standard of justice, else the whole thing might slide back into the slime of Roman consent or Lockean 'first-use' homesteading. Is liberty a natural right? No. It is merely the least worst enterprise of public justice, if the purpose of law is impartial adjudication of contrary claims and defenses.

W.

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Ellen -

Good points, clearly stated (something much needed in this discussion - the topic is potentially volatile, as has been seen on other forums). I think it is consistent for someone to say (as I do) that they DO NOT recognize that a young child's existence imposes on EVERYONE the legal requirement to fund their sustenance(that is, that there is no "right" to be fed by all the citizens of the republic!), . . . That being said --- I would view very negatively the behavior of someone who would not, of their own free choice, render a modest amount of emergency-level aid. Ropes to drowning people, etc...

Alfonso

Alfonso,

I'm curious. Have you been reading this thread? It's like, LOL. Yeah, we've been there, many times, many times...

Ellen

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Ellen -

Yes, I've been reading it - with building frustration. I have been doing so with that feeling one has driving by a car crash. It seems that things get all tangled up in long posts with lots of detail. This can be much more simply stated - and you just did so in the post I responded to.

Alfonso

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Ellen,

Before we can have a consistent rights theory, we have to have a consistent human nature theory.

What I love about Objectivism is the passion Rand had for greatness and her efforts in giving it a proper moral status. She understood that part of human nature more than anyone I have read. I love reading those passages where her heroes overcome great odds, stay true to their own minds and achieve something superlative. I strive to be like that when I work at my projects.

I cannot say the same for her understanding of (or probably interest in) children and incapacitated individuals. She even declared in a Q&A that care for retarded people was a "courtesy," whatever that is supposed to mean, and only then, because some miracle cure might be found and they could develop normal minds. I shudder to think what she would have said had she continued that line of thought and been asked about retarded people who have severe physical brain damage for which no cure is possible.

I used to think this business was either-or. Either the geniuses or the helpless. Now I think we can assure both, and on legal terms. (But I still despise those who preach helplessness over genius as morally superior to it.) I have already stated that I do not consider NIOF to be a contextless virtue. I do agree with it almost without context, however, when only consenting sane adults are involved.

But like I said, this is too early for me to make any fixed statement. I just noticed that the life cycle and species are not included in human nature in Objectivism in the part from which human values are derived. Only fuel processing is included from life, and human nature adds volition and concept formation. "Animal" is thrown in almost as an afterthought. I've got a ways to go to get to force. On the level I am looking at right now (the metaphysical one), the issue of force is merely eat or be eaten. NIOF doesn't mean anything at that level.

Michael

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