Nate Smith

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Everything posted by Nate Smith

  1. Proving a negative

    Then is this an example of proving a negative? It looks like it, but then at least sometimes a negative can be proven.
  2. Proving a negative

    How would you define a negative statement? I am guessing that you would say my statement "2 + 2 = 5 is false" is not a negative statement.
  3. Proving a negative

    I want to make sure I understand this point. But I'll use a different example. Let's say I want to prove that '2 + 2 = 5' is false (I'll call this statement not-A). At first one might claim you can't prove a negative. But since I can prove that '2 + 2 = 4' is true, and '2 + 2 = 4' is an example of not-not-A (or A), then I have proven that not only is A is, but also that not-A is a contradiction and therefore must be false. Is that correct?
  4. Free Will

    The evidence is the fact that everything in existence follows causally deterministic laws. Since our consciousness is the result of a process in the physical brain, it too must be a deterministic process. While it may seem, introspectively, that we can choose to focus or not, that can't possibly be the case because science doesn't allow for that. When you claim that you experience the choice to think or not, or that the process of abstraction requires an act of volitional distinction, a determinist would say you must be mistaken. It would seem that the burden of proof woud lie with the Objectivists that contend that free will is possible given that it seems to function, by their account, differently than all other known phenomena. I do admit I find this argument compelling. I can "imagine" that conceptualization happens automatically more easily that I can understand what free will would consist of in terms of molecules, electrical charges and discharges, physical laws, etc.
  5. Breaking Bad (2008)

    The premise of the show is that Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher and formerly one of the world's leading chemists, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. To provide for his family after he dies, he decides to start producing and selling crystal methamphetamine. The show is the story of how he gets more and more involved in this world. The show is brilliantly written and is one of the most entertaining shows I've ever seen.
  6. Breaking Bad

    Please add the TV show to be rated. Thanks.
  7. Obamacare Upheld

    (-An excerpt from the majority opinion) Under the category of "Philosophy: Who Needs It?", it should be pointed out to most of the ruling's opponents that the justice is correct. If the government has the right to tax people for some sort of "greater good" (or for their own good), then this is not an unjust government action. Unfortunately this won't cause many of its opponents to challenge the idea that the government has that right; they'll just keep on accepting the contradiction.
  8. Evil Thoughts

    Nathaniel Branden says in his book The Disowned Self (page 8): I'm not sure which of two things we should conclude from this passage: 1) There are no evil thoughts. 2) There are some evil thoughts, but we need to be very careful about which ones we do consider evil. I lean towards 1, but hesitantly, probably because I was raised religious--so I want to clarify. If we accept the first conclusion, then just actions are labeled as good or bad. And insofar as we default on thinking (which falls under the category of action/inaction), we can develop bad (or false) thoughts. But we can also accept bad thoughts accidentally; honest errors can occur. That being the case, I am still tempted to label some thoughts as evil. If I plan to murder someone, that seems like an evil thought. I consider communism an evil theory, though I realize one can hold that belief honestly (at least for a while). There is probably some context switching from talking about evil thoughts to evil theories. The former is relative, while the latter is judged objectively. I'd appreciate any feedback.
  9. I’d like to lay out some thoughts and questions I have on the subject of altruism. Here’s the first: A friend recently said to me that one of the actions that most impresses him is when someone adopts a child from an underdeveloped nation, that is, when someone “saves” the life of a child that probably would have had a pretty low quality of life. My friend is a devout Christian, and obviously this comment is largely (if not solely) driven by an altruistic morality. It would have been easy for me to dismiss this comment as nothing more than that. But I do feel some sympathies to this sentiment. After thinking about it for a while, I found it difficult to completely dismiss his evaluation. I too on some level “like” if someone is motivated to adopt a child that is in that situation. I have considered that I have some lingering altruistic tendencies, but I don’t think that is the case (though I haven’t ruled it out). But I don’t want to evaluate this action as moral--for two reasons: 1) It does not satisfy the standard of promoting the adopter’s life. 2) Once we label an action as “moral,” it falls under the category of “something that we ought to do.” A thought on the second point: One might concede that this action is still moral or good, but if it falls low enough on one’s hierarchy of values, that action could be put off. As an analogy, I think it would be good to learn Latin, but that value is low enough on my list of values that I may never do it. There are other things I’d rather do first. I see this as the only way that an action deemed good or moral cannot be taken. Otherwise anything I deem moral, I ought do. The problem with this concession is that one could argue that those that have significantly more resources could and therefore should save many of these lives. Bill Gates could adopt many of these types of children, and even if he doesn’t want to raise these children personally, he could even pay others to do so. I don’t feel comfortable agreeing with this as all, so I am very comfortable holding to both reasons 1 and 2. So that leaves me wondering why I still am sympathetic with my friend’s evaluation. Here’s my theory: We probably all know someone that is benevolent, generous and that we find admirable. Maybe it is a family member or maybe a teacher we had. Most people would praise this person for being altruistic. But I think there is another cause for admiration. I think this type of benevolence is motivated by a respect for oneself and by happiness in one’s own life. People who are happy and enjoy their lives seem to want the same for others and act accordingly in proportion to the value others are to them. The implicit principle in action is “my life is good, therefore life is good.” This seems to motivate a lot of charitable (or “altruistic”) behavior. What’s admirable about this type of person is not that they are helping other people, but that they have developed the character prerequisite for benevolent behavior, i.e., genuine self-love. In other words, it’s selfishness, not altruism that is really being admired here. I’m pretty confident in saying that what most people admire as kind, benevolent, charitable, or “altruistic” behavior is really a reversal of cause and effect. Successful rational selfishness is the cause of the positive moral evaluation, and the benevolent behavior is the effect. Most people mistakenly label the effect (the benevolent behavior) as the primary, as that which is morally praiseworthy. This would explain why altruism, which has no rational foundation, has such a broad superficial appeal. Looking at the adoption example in this light, I can admire the person who has the desire to help another human being. The behavior reflects this person’s view towards human life. That I admire. Choosing to adopt is the form in which their sentiment (sense of life?) manifests. And as so far as adopting is within their means, it is acceptable, but not praiseworthy in and of itself. So here are my first questions: Do you have sympathies for admiring this behavior, as I do? Or when you hear my friend’s statement, do you place no moral worth on this behavior? (I wonder if some Objectivists believe that they ought not admire this, when there might be room for some admiration. And I also wonder if I do have some lingering altruistic tendencies.) Does my account of these sympathies seem correct? Are there any other disagreements with any of these comments? I’d like to know what seems correct and incorrect in what I said. Thanks.
  10. Free Will

    Does the process of forming percepts from sensations involve any abstraction? More broadly, roughly what is the process? (I've always wondered what exactly a sensation is. I believe in ITOE AR states that we don't experience sensation directly. But if I experience a pin prick, am I not experiencing a sensation?) The example you use is interesting. If I see a black ball and it immediately reminds me of a bowling ball, how is that volitional? It seems like that occurs automatically. I can see how some identifications (less obvious ones perhpas) might involve the volitional choice to focus. But are you claminig all abstractions are volitional?
  11. Free Will

    Isn't the state of an entity the same thing as the entity? In other words, isn't an entitiy's state just its identity? And it's identity is what determines its causal potential.
  12. Free Will

    By the way, I'd like to try to redirect the conversation slightly. I agree with Miss Rand's identification of free will as the choice to focus or not. From everything I experience in my life, this seems very accurate. It is explanations along these lines that constitute most of the responses to my comments. And while there are a number of interesting comments I'd still like to pursue, I'm much more interested in reconciling her account with causality. Instead of approaching the subject "macroscopically", I'd like to look at it more "microscopically." How can scientific/metaphysical causality as we understand it allow for the free will that Ayn Rand describes.
  13. Free Will

    Determinists would argue that human beings are evidence of it. They would argue that conceptualization occurrs automatically for humans, but it doesn't happen automatically for other animals. They have different natures.
  14. What is collective bargaining?

    Just to get back to the main question, I still hear statements about collective bargaining in the news that I don't fully understand. Here's a statement I've heard quite often about Act 10 (Act 10 is the legislation that Gov. Walker passed in WI that resulted in all the news). Teachers unions are now allowed to only collectively bargain base salary (and only up to some limit). What exactly does that mean? If a health care package isn't collectively bargained for, does that mean it was bargained for individually? Doubtful. I'm sure the unions still negotiate the terms of much of the contracts. Does that mean that the health care package provided is determined solely by the school boards now?--that there's no bargaining whatsoever on that element of compensation? If so, what if the teacher's won't accept it? Or does it mean that the health care package is bargained for some other way, other than "collectively"? Can the teachers' unions strike? Can striking members be fired? Can a school board deal with a competing union? These are questions that I wish would be addressed that reporters don't seems to ask. If anyone knows about this sort of stuff, please share.
  15. What is collective bargaining?

    I realize this isn't qutie the hot topic that it was a few months ago, but I'm trying to figure out exactly what collective bargaining is. Living in Wisconsin, I have seen a lot of extreme moral outrage towards the governor and others for ending this "right" for public unions, but no one is defining exactly what's going on. And I'm having a heck of a time finding good information. Here's how Wikipedia defines it (and many other places define it similarly): At first glance, this seems like a genuine right. It would seem to follow from the "right to peacefully assembly" establised in the Constitution (or more importantly by reality as Rand points out). Of course, if I and a group of co-workers want to go to our employer and say "here what we'd like or else we'll look for work elsewhere," we have that right. But I'm pretty certain this isn't what's the republicans are dismantling. The republicans don't see that all of the moral indignation that they're facing isn't just because people are losing something they were getting. It's because those people are losing something they feel is a right. Nothing motivates people like believing they have morality on their side. And as always, the Republicans are doing a lousy job at presenting a moral defense. A few months back I heard one of our state senators tell a very short story about the history and origin of CB in WI. The jist of it was that collective bargaining is actually forced arbitration. It began when teachers' unions would go on strike if an agreement wasn't made before the start of a school year. And apparently in one situation, one school ran a whole school year without its staff using all substitutes. After that, legislation was passed that resulted in any disagreement between the school boards and unions to go to arbitration. Not surprisingly, over time the arbirators generally favored the unions and the results were soaring compensation. The free market mechanism had been replaced. If this is true, it's unbelievably important information. I'm shocked that none on the right (as far as I can tell in WI at least) have thought it important to convey this message (though I probably shouldn't be). This information seems to be non-existent. Anyways, I'm still looking into this and trying to contact that senator, but if there are any here that are familiar with any of this history, generally, if not in WI, I'd appreciate any insights.
  16. Free Will

    The implications of this might make more sense to me after I understand the first part.
  17. Free Will

    What I mean is that if a certain brain state, the cause, must lead to the same action or result (focusing or not focusing, some action, some emotional response, etc.), then what may have seemed like a choice isn't really a choice. Choice is then a misidentification. Would you believe that the choice to focus is uninfluenced? Clearly a child who is taught to think and learns that he is capable of succeeding when he tries to think is more likely to make that choice in the future. As Objectivists, we are much more likely than others to choose to think about moral, political, and philosophical questions. This is because we've developed confidence in our ability to answer these questions, to varying degrees of course. That previously observed success funcitons as a cause, at least partially, of future choices. In many cases, previous experience seems to be very deterministic in how future choices are made. Now since there are exceptions, clearly we can't make a rule of this. But the determinists then have to explain the few exceptions. I do see room for some free will, but it does seem that there is a significant amount of determinism in our choices.
  18. Free Will

    Since I'm put in a position of playing devil's advocate, why couldn't it be argued that conceptualization could still occur without free will? Couldn't that be an automatic process? If the mind automatically can integrate sensations into percepts, on what grounds do we claim that it couldn't automatically integrate percepts into concepts?
  19. What is collective bargaining?

    True, I understand that. I'm approaching this from a free market starting point and working to identify the basic principles at play here to determine exactly where the "breakdown" occurred. And one of those major breakdowns was in giving unions the powers you describe (I believe it started with the Wagner Act). The wrong moral argument to make to people is that "unions don't have a right to collectively bargain." That's because many (relatively honest) people think that collective bargaining is nothing more than a group of people organizing to present their terms of negotation. To these people, arguing against collective bargaining does sound "kinda bad." When you explain to people all of the unjust powers unions have, how the employers are forced to associate in a way that don't want to, and that they can't walk away from the negotiation, it's quite eye-opening. I've had some success framing the issue this way with some pretty liberal people. It's an ineffective approach to denounce unions in general and colletive bargaining in particular. It works much better to clarify to people the injustices in the market and sell them on the right to freely associate.
  20. Free Will

    I admit that I experience this to be true. But I am wondering how this is possible given causality. I guess my thinking goes something like this: Let's say that the instant before I choose to focus my mind, my brain has some brain state. If we accept the principle “the same entity, under the same circumstances, will perform the same action,” and my brain is an entity under a certain set of circumstances, then the same action will always result. I will always make the same choice. Therefore it's not really a choice, and I didnt' exercise free will. I do admit that I feel like I experience free will in choosing to focus my mind, but many philosophers will argue this is just an illusion.
  21. Free Will

    Interesting comments. But I'm not sure where to go with most of them. Here are a couple questions to begin with: What do you mean by "the mind is not physical"? And what are the consequences of that? "Fourth premise to check: physical things follow physical laws. Which physical laws?" I don't know. Are you saying the laws as we currently understand them don't allow for free will? Or is there some other point I'm missing?
  22. Free Will

    I can see how it's possible to get emergent properties from combining things. But it's not like we're combining causally determined processes and getting a non-causally determined consequence. So I guess the question is, what is free will? It seems like if free will is a causal process, then there's only one outcome that can result any given situation (or "brain state"). But doesn't this preclude free will? From Dr. Peikoff in p.15 of OPAR: “the same entity, under the same circumstances, will perform the same action.” If a given state in my brain (a cause) will result the same thought or action (the effect), then what is free will?
  23. What is collective bargaining?

    For anyone who's interested, I did eventually find a few pretty good articles on the history of collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Here's a good one:
  24. What is collective bargaining?

    That's an excellent article. Thanks.
  25. What is collective bargaining?