Nate Smith

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About Nate Smith

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  • Birthday 03/27/1975

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  1. Implicit Concepts and Units

    Those are helpful comments, thanks. And I like the analogy between "potential man" and "implicit concept." That's good. I want to return to my second question and try to answer it. Feel free to interject if you disagree. I can think of at least one difference between regarding entities as units and observing similarity. I can observe that there's something similar between a skyscraper and a ruler. Their shape is similar. But that doesn't necessarily mean I am abstracting away something in common from the two and regarding them as units of some concept. I can observe that purple and blue are similar when compared to red, even though I am not regarding the two as units. It does seem that in these two examples it could be possible to go an extra step and form a concept from these observed similarities. A word for long-skinny-rectangle could be abstracted, if it were deemed useful to do so. And a word for colors within the blue-purple spectrum could be coined if so desired. Would it be accurate to say that "observing similarity" is a first step in the process of concept formation, and it's as far as animals can go? One other question comes to mind: Can entities be regarded as units (of some concept) before the process of concept formation has been completed? I can recall instances where I regarded different entities as alike only to later find out that there was a word for that thing. And I can imagine that if a child plays with a tablet computer a couple times, and that child identifies the next tablet computer he encounters as similar, he is regarding these entities as units, even if he doesn't have a name for these things yet. For this reason, it seems that we can regard entities as units before conceptualization is finished.
  2. Every Loneliness Is a Pinnacle

    The quote is very limited in context, so it could mean a wide variety of things. For example, coming from Toohey it could mean a call for self-sacrifice. Since we are social animals, and we do desire friendship and companionship, this could be a way of him teaching people to stop their "selfish pursuits" by convincing them these desires are weaknesses. But given how Dominique was intrigued by it, I don't think that was his intent. This quote makes me think of a line that appears often in Nathaniel Branden's work--that it is important for an individual to accept his fundamental aloneness. The process of maturation is one towards learning to think for oneself, choosing one's own values, and living according to one's own mind. In doing so, one is essentially alone during this process. That's the sense in which this is a pinnacle. The word "loneliness" raises questions though. Generally that word has negative connotations. One definition states that to be lonely is to be "affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone." That certainly isn't a pinnacle. It could be the case that this is a word that has evolved in recent decades since Rand used it. Given the dominance of altruism, few people can appreciate what Rand is talking about here, and it causes many people to dread how someone like Howard Roark lives--hence the "depressing feelings." All that being said, if I were to push back against this quote, I would argue that it seems to suggest a false dichotomy. It seems to suggest that we can either have our social needs and desires met, or we can live as individuals, but we can't have both. Why can't it be the case that in thinking for oneself, one isn't alone? In a perfect world, I'd like to think humans could be raised by wise and nurturing parents (and in a likewise society) that help them achieve eventual independence. Certainly Rand was alone in developing Objectivism, and I'm sure that was hard at times for her, but I don't that's a necessary rite of passage. While I like elements of the quote, it also has a ring of Dominique's negative view of life.
  3. Implicit Concepts and Units

    Yes, that reference was helpful. Thanks. It does raise other questions. It's not clear to me why Ayn Rand chose to name "implicit concepts" when all she is referring to is the material available for conceptualization. Why call something an implicit concept when it isn't necessarily the case that any conceptualization has taken place? Why not just refer to them as the existents that could become a concept? Also, I realize that "implicit concept" isn't a definition, but it sounds like a differentia subset of the genus "concept" (the same way a flying fish is a type of fish). But in fact that isn't the case. Generally I understand why she makes choices like this, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something in her choice to do so.
  4. Reading through ITOE again, I'm still not clear on what Ayn Rand means when she refers to implicit concepts. For example, it isn't clear to me what she means when she says "man grasps it [the concept of an existent] implicity on the perceptual level." (page 6) Question 1: Is there a difference between perceiving that there are things that exist, and having an implicit concept of existent? Animals can perceive that there are things that exist. Does this mean that they have an implicit concept of existent? Is it the case that animals can go this far (and only this far) in the conceptual process? Or are they incapable of even this much? I don't believe animals have implicit concepts. Here's my thought as to why: The difference between man and other animals lies in Rand's concept of a unit. She says, "units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships." (page 7) I may view 3 or 4 tables and have a "feeling" that there's something similar about all of those things. I am noticing that there's something they have in common, as opposed to other objects. I am regarding these objects in a certain way--in a way different from other objects. In short, I'm abstracting something from all of these objects, and regarding these particular existents as instances of that abstraction (even if the conceptualization process isn't complete). Question 2: AR writes, "The ability to regard entities as units is man's distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow." (page 6) - What exactly does it mean to "regard entities as units"? I think it means what I was referring to in the table example, but I'm not sure. Is there a difference between "regarding entities as units" and observing similarity. I'm guessing animals can do the latter but not the former. But if so, what is the difference? It seems that a lion, after observing its first gazelle and eating it, would identify future gazelles with some recollection of the first. It seems the lion notices similarities. Is it not "regarding" a second gazelle as like the first? Question 3: Is forming an implicit concept a necessary step in the process of conceptualization? I think the answer is yes.
  5. Every Loneliness Is a Pinnacle

    I'm curious what others think about this quote from The Fountainhead. Though it comes from Toohey, it sounds like one of his rare moments where he acknowledges a truth he doesn't subscribe to. Does this quote represent represent something Rand believes? That's my assumption, though I'm not sure. It's an interesting line, but I'd like to have a fuller understanding of its meaning.
  6. Creation ex nihilo

    I'm pretty comfortable with the problems that are created by asserting the "nothing exists." I can see how such a claim is contradictory. I'm not as clear on how it would be a contradiction to claim that "something sprung into existence from nothing." This is what I'm interested in thinking through. Does something need to be created from something else? Is it a contradiction to say "this particle sprung into existence" (and if so, how exactly)?
  7. Creation ex nihilo

    I'd like to understand a little better why something can't be created from nothing. Occasionally I hear the claim that this actually happens in nature (apparently according to some modern theories?). Searching this Forum, I see that people claim that creation ex nihilo violates the law of identity. That reasoning isn't perfectly clear to me, and I'm hoping someone can elaborate on that. Thanks.
  8. Hedonism and Objectivism

    I'm not saying they are less related to the nature of human life. My claim is that they don't have the same standard/purpose connection that 1 and 2 do. If it's there, I don't see it. Since it can be hard at first for people to see the connection between values and happiness (between beliefs and emotions), the first two are good examples to illustrate Rand's point. Once one has consciously decided that computer programming and medical research are of objective value, it then becomes possible to get pleasure from success in those endeavors. (The movie Karate Kid comes to mind; all that waxing on and off would have been torture not knowing what purpose it was serving. Once Daniel found out the reason, he was highly motivated to do it and enjoyed it.) With regards to 3-5, I don't know why I like playing sports, why I like music, and why I like being around other people. For someone who isn't aware of the Objectivist ethics, these sorts of pleasures certainly seem to reinforce the idea of hedonism.
  9. Hedonism and Objectivism

    I was recently discussing standards of value with someone not familiar with Objectivism. After laying out Ayn Rand’s argument for how and why life is the standard of value, he was not pleased at first. His response was essentially, “What about happiness? Happiness and pleasure are what motivate us and drive our choices and actions. An ethics that doesn’t account for happiness seems empty.” I explained how our emotional responses are reactions resulting from our chosen values, and that Rand wasn’t overlooking happiness. Since it is the result of choosing and achieving values that are good for the life of the individual, happiness and morality are inextricably linked. He was much more pleased with this account. But his concern was a reminder that many people believe that ethical choices revolve around what bring happiness. Understandably, they aren’t aware of the cause and effect relationship between emotions and values and that happiness is largely conceptual in nature. The more I thought about this though, a question came to mind. Are all types of happiness the result of achieving values that have life as their standard? I don’t think so. Here are two examples that do: 1) A person enjoys computer programming, not intrinsically, but because he values how the product of his labor can be used to improve some aspect of his life. 2) A researcher enjoys her work searching for a cure to a disease, because she stands to gain financially if she is successful, and because that cure will help those inflicted with the disease. But it seems as though there are values that we hold that do not have life as their standard. For example: 3) Many people get pleasure from playing sports. 4) We get pleasure from having friendships and romantic relationships. 5) Listening to music is a value to many because of the pleasure it brings. So would it be considered hedonistic to pursue these pleasures? (I don’t mean as a way of life, but the way most people do in their free time.) If so, then there is some place for hedonism within Objectivism. Or does hedonism only refer to a code of action in which pursuing pleasures is one’s way of life?
  10. Do Unions Play a Role in Economic Development?

    What specifically do you give them credit for? Economically speaking, I don't see that they increase the net productivity, even apart from the legal powers they unjustly acquire.
  11. It is common to hear from the left that we have unions to thank for ending child labor, improving working conditions, shortening the work week, etc. I realize that none of these things are possible without first having productivity. The harsh lifestyle man once had to endure was ended by the production of capitalism, not unions. But it is also common to hear people reply that unions were once of value but have since served their purpose and aren't needed anymore. Is this true? Did unions once serve a valuable purpose in improving people's quality of life? Here's a plausible answer the union advocate might make. As capitalism was starting to have a significant economic impact, the result in the beginning was a relatively small number of rich people with many people still living with little wealth. In a free market, there will be competition between the capitalists for the good labor, and there will be a resulting net rise in wages. But there will be some lag time between the wealth production and the rise of average wages. It's during this relatively short period that unions step in, demand more, and the result is a net rise in wages. The unions then take the credit for rise in standard of living (similarly to how they and/or the government take credit for ending child labor). But is this true? I don't know enough about the history to know if this is how it played out. I can also imagine that it was the case that the competition among individuals alone (following increased productivity of course) was enough to result in the rise of wages and quality of working conditions. So how much credit, if any, do unions deserve historically?
  12. Life of Pi

    I just saw it this week (spoilers coming). There is a lot that I liked about the movie. Visually, it was beautiful. The development of Pi and his relationship with Richard Parker was a unique and fascinating plot element. And the struggle for meaning and survival made for an interesting story. (The floating carnivorous island was a little strange though.) But I was disappointed with the twist at the end. After Pi tells his whole story, along with the second more "plausible" account he tells the Japanese men, he asks his listener, "which is the better story?" Of course the version with the animals is the favored choice. Pi responds, "And so it goes with God." In other words, it's proper to believe in god, because that's a more preferable view of reality. Here's one Q & A I found online: In short, the movie advocates a primacy of consciousness metaphysics with the sole argument for it being skepticism. Despite its redeeming qualities, this certainly soured me on the movie.
  13. Happy Birthday to Nate Smith

    Thank you
  14. Interest Rates and Inflation

    Good explanation, thanks. A couple follow-up questions. If the interest rates are set too high, could a similar phenomenon occur where too much money funnels into the stock market creating a bubble there? Any thoughts on what eventually causes the bubble to burst? (I realize this is the million dollar question.) How and when do people realize that the goods are overvalued? (I'm assuming only a few actually do, the rest are just reacting to a trend.) And on a similar issue, I've heard it said that there has been an overreaction to the inflation threat and there is a bubble in gold. Is there any liklihood in that?
  15. Interest Rates and Inflation

    Yaron Brook in his recent debate at Loyola made the point that when you keep interest rates below the rate of inflation for as long as we have, a financial crisis is imminent. I don't understand this point. Would someone briefly explain this?