Nate Smith

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Everything posted by Nate Smith

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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)?
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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?
  11. 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.
  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

    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?
  15. 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?
  16. Harry Binswanger wrote a very good article in Forbes yesterday about gun control laws. I like his attempt to change the conversation by looking at the issue from an individualistic perspective instead of a collectivist one. But I'm not yet convinced that a cost-benefit analysis is the wrong way to look at the issue. It seems to me that many (or all?) principles are properly formed by using this type of analysis. For example, we believe it is proper to forcibly quarantine someone who has a very dangerous disease but not someone who has the flu. And while bearing arms is a right, bearing nuclear weapons is not. Aren't these principles formed at least in part from a cost-benefit analysis?
  17. With Gun Control, Cost Benefit Analysis Is Amoral

    Do you think there are any difficult "border" cases? For example, many claim that fully auotmatic weapons go beyond tools of self defense. What if a person wanted to put land mines in their yard to protect from intruders? And the argument is often made the the biggest threat to individual rights is the government, and an armed populous is important for that reason. What if someone claimed that for this reason people should have the right to own missiles, tanks and fighter jets? I don't find it easy to determine where to "draw the line."
  18. Economic Growth in China

    One argument that is used to support free markets is to point out that states or countries that are more free tend to be more prosperous. It is often pointed out now that California and Illinois are two states that are in financial trouble because of statist regulations, America rose to great power relatively quickly due to its freedom, and East and West Berlin were great examples as well. Given this, how would one account for China's growth? It is now has one of the largest economies despite a communist regime in power over the last few decades.
  19. Purpose and Productivity

    This quote can be found under purpose in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. How would Ayn Rand define "productive"? What makes a purpose a productive one? For example, let's say someone won the lottery and was set for life financially. Would it be a productive purpose if that person chose to go to college for the rest of his life to learn everything he could? It seems to me that one could make this the purpose of one's life, though I'm not sure I'd consider it productive. What if instead the person decided to make playing video games the purpose of his life? Could these choices lead to a fulfilling life?
  20. Oh My God Particle

    This is funny.
  21. “Destruction” in The Fountainhead

    I just finished re-reading The Fountainhead, and there’s an important theme running through the book that I would like to “chew.” That is the theme of the destruction of individuals by society. I’d like to explore the topic by focusing on Dominique’s character, because hers is the one that best portrays this theme in action. Dominique’s character begins the story with a fear of people in general. As a child, she destroys the piece of art she obtained from a museum so that others couldn’t see it. As an adult, she works to destroy Roark, not because she dislikes what he represents, but because she’s certain he’s going to be hurt and destroyed by a society that won’t let someone like him succeed. (There may be more to have motives; correct me if I’m wrong on this point.) This fear goes well beyond Dominique’s character; it’s a major theme running through the novel. Steven Mallory and Henry Cameron are victims of it as well. And it’s this fear that I don’t fully understand. Speaking of the Enright house, Dominique says, “I think the man who designed this should have committed suicide. A man who can conceive a thing as beautiful as this should never allow it to be erected.” … “He shouldn’t have offered it for men like you to look at. For men like you to talk about. He’s defiled his own work by the first word you’ll utter about it. He’s made himself worse than you are.” … “A man who knows this should not have been able to remain alive.” (Page 230 of 690, according to Kindle) I have a hard time identifying the premises that would allow Dominique to have this attitude. Rand does a masterful job of capturing the essence of many types of people in this book. I see elements of Keating, Wynand, and Roark in lots of people. I don’t see this quality of Dominique in people—the desire to destroy the good out of fear of the bad. Later in the book she says, “He’s beating you, Ellsworth. Ellsworth, what if we were wrong about the world, you and I?” “You’ve always been, my dear.” (Page 300 of 690) In what respect is Roark beating Toohey? What regarding the world is Dominique wrong about? Later Mallory says, “How did you know what’s been killing me? Slowly, for years, driving me to hate people when I don’t want to hate…” (316 of 690) Here Mallory echoes the same sentiment, but again, I can’t fully identify his premises or his mistake. A major theme of the book is second-handedness, and apart from Roark, every major character in the book suffers from some variation of it. But I don’t see it clearly yet. After Roark’s first trial, he says to Dominique, “They won’t destroy me, Dominique. And they won’t destroy you. You’ll win because you’ve chosen the hardest way of fighting for your freedom from the world.” (362 of 690) Two questions come to mind: What do they mean by “destroy”? And how has Dominique chosen to fight? Later on, when Roark comes to Dominique for help to destroy Cortlandt, “She knew that he did not need help for the thing he was going to do, he could find other means to get rid of the watchman; that he had let her have a part in this, because she would not survive what was to follow if he hadn’t; that this had been the test.” … “She was free and he knew it.” (599 of 690) Why would Dominique not survive the bombing if Roark hadn’t involved her in it? What does Rand mean by this? And why was Dominique now free? What had changed? Was it simply that enough time had passed and Dominique had seen that Roark was not destroyed by the world—that there was something different about him and she was mistaken? And completing her enlightenment, Dominique says, “I have never been able to enjoy it before, the sight of the earth, it’s such a great background, but it has no meaning except as a background, and I thought of those who owned it and then it hurt me too much. I can love it now. They don’t own it. They own nothing. They’ve never won. I have seen the life of Gail Wynand, and now I know.” (651 of 690) It’s interesting that she cites Gail’s life as a lesson, and not Roark’s. I don’t know why she does. But more importantly, the idea that the masses “own the world” is an important glimpse into her earlier psychology and fear. I don’t know exactly what it means, but I can relate to the feeling. And, “Howard, if you win the trial—even that won’t matter too much. You’ve won long ago…. I’ll remain what I am, and I’ll remain with you—now and ever—in any way you want….” (654 of 690) The implication is that even if Roark goes to jail, he has still won. I assume that’s because, even if that happens, Roark hasn’t allowed the world to hurt him. This is a common ideal represented in Rand’s work, though I have not yet fully understood it or learned how to implement it. Why wouldn’t going to jail hurt him? This quality can be seen not just in Rand’s work. It can be seen in Socrates just before he is to die. And I have also seen persecuted enlightenment individuals. It’s an inspiring quality. What is unique to Roark that the other heroes are lacking? What caused Cameron’s and Mallory’s suffering? Early in the book, there’s a line “Heller knew that he had found the best friend he would ever have; and he knew that the friendship came from Roark’s fundamental indifference.” (121 of 690, emphasis mine) I know the key to all of this lies here, though I haven’t grasped its full nature. Any thoughts on these questions are appreciated.
  22. Free Will

    I'm curious about how to reconcile the idea of free will with the fact that the mind is physical and therefore follows physical laws. I know that Dr. Binswanger has given this a lot of thought, and I have read some of his comments on his HBL (which I'm not subscribed to currently). But I've read very little, and don't know much about his ideas. (Has he published anything on this?) I recently had a conversation on this topic with someone who argued the standard position that any thought or action must have had some cause, and that thought/action must have had some cause, etc. While it seems, introspectively, that I have the volition with respect to my consciousness, I admit that I don't know how this could be possible given causality. Perhaps people here can make a good case reconciling free will with natural law. And if anyone has knows of any good writings on this, please feel free to make a recommendation.

    I think there's a very small chance of a governor refusing to implement Obamacare being arrested. If one governor did decide to do this, it's very likely that a number of others would follow. And I don't believe Obama has it in him to go after all them (or even one of them). He knows this legislation is very unpopular. The leftist statists function much more subversively than overtly, and they're counting on the cowardice of the republicans (which they usually can) along with the ignorance and apathy of the citizens. Going after states and their governors would knock too many citizens out of that apathy, and they know it. Nullification is a card they don't expect their opponents to play, and they don't have it in their playbook to fight this issue in open terms on center stage.
  24. Proving a negative

    What you say makes sense. The language is somewhat ambiguous. A dictionary definition of negative (as used in logic) is: (of a proposition) denying the truth of the predicate with regard to the subject. There is a short section in Wikipedia addressing "you can't prove a negative" where one philospher claims that no logician believes you can't prove a negative. He seems to be using the definition differently than "something for which there is no evidence". Was it Aristotle that first said "you can't prove a negative"? If so, I wonder what his definition was and how that definition has changed over time.
  25. Oh My God Particle

    Apparently there's a big announcement coming Wednesday.