Nate Smith

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Everything posted by Nate Smith

  1. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    I understand that. My question is more one of semantics. Would you go so far as to say that: "Emotions are tools of cognition with regard to one's inner state or one's values" (or something close to that)? I don't think you would. I think you are distinguishing between the data (in this case the emotions) and cognition itself (which is solely takes place in the mind). Does cognition solely refer to a rational process? As an analogy, if I stub my toe, the pain is data but I must identify stubbing my toe as bad. The cognitive process is the identification and the pain is not part of that. Agreed?
  2. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    Ray, I appreciate you taking the time to write about those experiences. I am honored that you shared those. I didn't realize it at first, but the contradiction you speak of is exactly what I need to deal with. The procedure you described I think will turn out to be very useful. Thank you.
  3. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    All of your comments were helpful, thank you. While emotions are not tools of cognition of the external world, could it be said that they are with regards to your mental state?
  4. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    Just curious, have you read this yourself, or are you recommending it based on this article?
  5. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    Interesting point, thanks. ----- Does anyone see repression as a potential problem in this situation? What is the balance between keeping un-integrated emotions in check and repression?
  6. "Words have no meaning."

    It seems like you are drawing too strong of a conclusion from the fact that Loughner is functional in some respects. How do we know that because he can speak, think and take actions, that he has every capacity that a healthy mind does? That would be like someone claiming, "I don't believe that Mike can't digest dairy. I've seen Mike eat meat, and other people that can eat meat can also eat dairy." It seems very plausible that a schizophrenic could have capacities that a healthy mind does while at the same time having deficiencies that hinder him in other ways. If your argument is based on science that I am not aware of, I'd like to know, but it sounds more like you're making a largely philosophic claim. I don't know much about schizophrenia, but I've read a little about it. Watching the movie A Beautiful Mind about John Nash (which I admit is fiction) depicts a mental life which is consistent with the little I've read. It's hard to imagine that condition being created by experiences and ideas, and it's also difficult to imagine a solution to it being under one's control.
  7. "Words have no meaning."

    Are you claiming that paranoid schizophrenia is a problem solely created by bad experiences and bad philosophy? Do you believe it can be fixed philosophically? I know very little about schizophrenia, but that would really surprise me. Given all that you said about neurons and synapses, I don't see why there still isn't room for potential biological mis-development of the brain. You say that most synaptic connections develop from experience and actions. But the brain has identity and surely that must play some role in how those synaptic connections form. It isn't hard to imagine some genetic or developed abnormality affecting how synapses are formed making one much more susceptible to conditions like schizophrenia. I might be misinterpreting what you're saying, but it sounds like you're saying that after our genes give us 100 billion neurons by birth, our biology has little to nothing to do with how the brain develops.
  8. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Great . And thanks to everyone for the feedback.
  9. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Ayn Rand says: "one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice)" It seems that charity is only proper when it is a subclass of justice. And it is only virtuous when done in the pursuit of one's values. Agreed?
  10. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    A quick question on the meaning of the word virtue. Ayn Rand defines virtue as "the action by which one gains and keeps [a value]." If I'm in the mood for an apple, and I walk to my kitchen to get one, would we say that that action was virtuous? Or if I take out the trash because I don't want my house to smell, was that action virtuous? Since these actions are means to obtaining a value, do I conclude that "it is a virtue to take out the trash" or "it is a virtue to get an apple from the kitchen"?
  11. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Interesting--but also confusing. I'm having some trouble processing exactly what this would mean if one turns this into a principle. Someone's need is not a claim on our property. Can someone's deserving be such a claim? Will this principle ever put us in a position to do something that we don't want to out of a duty to be moral? Like B.Royce said, if there were some kind of virtue here, "you would have to go looking for that needy person." I keep thinking of altruists going around telling people that they should give their time and money to help those in need. When I read what you write, I can't help but imagine Objectivists going around preaching to people that they should give to ARI or something like that. I'm sure that's not what you mean though. Tara Smith quotes this passage from Atlas Shrugged (p.888) in her book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics in the section on charity (p.256): Cheryl: "That I happen to suffer, doesn't give me a claim on you." Dagny: "No, it doesn't. But that you value all the things I value, does." Cheryl: "You mean...if you want to talk to me, it's not alms? Not just because you feel sorry for me?" Dagny: "I feel terribly sorry for you, Cheryl, and I'd like to help you--not because you suffer but because you haven't deserved to suffer." Does Dagny really mean that because Cheryl values the things Dagny does, this gives Cheryl some claim on Dagny? That doesn't seem right. I can see Dagny having a desire to help Cheryl, but to call it a virtue and claim that she ought to? I'm not making the connection. It seems like if we make that next step, we're forced into seeking out people that "deserve" our help. I'll keep thinking about this.
  12. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    You may be correct, but it certainly doesn't seem like it. Not only does she say she does not consider charity a major virtue, she also says she is fighting the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue. Ayn Rand chose her words carefully, and it's hard for me to believe both of these qualifiers have no significance. Is there anywhere where she distinguishes between primary virtues and secondary ones or major and minor virtues? And you say that "If she regarded it as a virtue at all she would have said so in 'The Virtue of Selfishness'." But the seven virtues she mentions in VoS Leonard Peikoff addresses in OPAR. And he adds that "Miss Rand did not regard this list as necessarily exhaustive" (p251). So presumably there are other virtues that she does not comment on. I'm not saying she believed that charity is a virtue, but I do wonder why she qualified her statement on charity as she did.
  13. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I don't see charity as a virtue at all. What I wonder is why Ayn Rand qualified it with the word major. Why doesn't she just say, "I do not consider charity a virtue."? Does Ayn Rand consider charity a virtue in any way? And if so, in what way and why?
  14. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I will eventually re-read that. But I find it peculiar that you say that no one can give me helpful answers. I've gotten many helpful answers from this site. Perhaps it isn't possible to give a full answer in a post but certainly some sort of answer must be possible.
  15. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I appreciate your comments; you make some useful distinctions and points. I'll begin by saying that I think I agree with what you're saying. And I acknowledge that some of what I said is unclear or ambiguous. That's largely due to the fact that I raised this topic to help me think a lot of this through. As I have, I do see how some of my posts could be misinterpreted or were simply poorly worded. Since I think I'm in agreement with the responses I've read, I don't have a huge desire to rehash all that I've said, but I will respond just in case I there still is disagreement or I am missing some subtle yet important distinction. I agree. But we both know how an ethics of "selfishness" is perceived by most people at first. If you can paint a picture of how true benevolence is only possible under this philosophy and show people what underlies it, that is useful and important. I've always wondered, what does Ayn Rand mean when she says charity is not a major virtue? Does she consider it a minor virtue? And if so, doesn't that imply one ought do at least some charity? Why doesn't she say, "I do not consider charity a virtue."?
  16. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I can't help but feel that you're reading a lot of my comments out of context. Have you read the thread from the beginning? I've addressed most of these points already, and I am in agreement with Ayn Rand's assessment of charity and altruism. I do not admire Mother Teresa's behavior, and I have not advocated helping boys all over the globe. The original intent of my question was to try and figure out why altruism is so prevalent, and if there are any facts of reality which might mistakenly lead people to be so sympathetic towards it. When my friend brought up the adoption example, I wanted to determine if there is anything valid in his sentiment at all (acknowledging that there is much mistaken in it). I do not believe that out-of-context charity is admirable, and I think altruism is always wrong. But I do think that a lot of peoples' desire to be "altruistic" or charitable comes from something good within them. And there is something to admire about that (again, not the action, but that which is good within them). Understanding this for me is helpful in trying to understand people and therefore help them transition from altruism to egoism. Anyway that I can show someone that what they value as "altruistic" can actually be properly understood in a different and better way is helpful in changing minds.
  17. Drinking & Driving

    I recently read this quote by Murray Rothbard: I know some libertarians hold this position in principle, and while I'm sympathetic with it, I've never been completely comfortable with it. They would argue that we ought not punish "victimless crimes." (This I am sympathetic with.) But acting on this principle seems to allow a number of behaviors that create very risky circumstances. I have not agreed with legalizing drunk driving because once a person is drunk, he loses the capacity to drive safely. It could be the case that he gets home safely without hurting himself or others, but the chances drop significantly. In other words, this behavior is potentially very dangerous to others, and therefore I am comfortable making it illegal. (If the risk were only to himself, I would have no problem with it being legal; it's the risk to others that is the political concern.) Here are a couple other examples to consider: 1. Let's say a man walks into a crowd and (for whatever reason), just starts firing a gun wildly. Let's say he doesn't hit anyone. Since no overt commission of a crime took place, this should be legal behavior. 2. Should we allow private citizens to own nuclear weapons (assuming they could obtain them)? Do we really want to wait for that individual to use it before we punish them? So I guess what I see as the proper principle would be roughly something like: A. Allow people to take part in whatever behavior they desire so long as it does not infringe on others' rights. B. But behavior that is deemed to have a high degree of risk to the safety of others also needs to be legislated against. It seems to me that in both cases it would be a proper to curtail these behaviors simply on the high degree of risk that accompanies them. I think Rothbard would argue, how do you define "high degree of risk?" Many argued for prohibition on these same grounds. And this is a good question, one I don't have a full answer to. Of course the philosophers of law would need to clean this up a lot, but I think it might need to be decided on case-by-case basis. I'm curious what others think about this.
  18. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Yeah, that sounds crazy.
  19. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I'm not arguing that in all situations charity is just. Rational principles are always necessary for deciding courses of action. I'm simply saying that at the times when charitable behavior is acceptable, there can be reason to admire the person who desires to be charitable--if the motive is good will towards man. I think this motive originates from something good within us. I would not argue that the action itself is moral though. Let me use a couple concrete example: I recently watched some of the NOVA special on the trapped Chilean miners. The rescuers were aided by a mining company from Pennsylvania, and someone from the company (the owner perhaps?) was part of the program. Now I won't pretend to know his true motives, so I'll use a fictional account to make my point. Let's say the owner of this company lent aid to the miners because he was taught that he ought to do so. He reluctantly helps out because he is getting pressure by those around him, and though part of him doesn't want to, he believes it is moral to help, so he does so. Clearly this would be altruism in action, and we would not praise him for this. But on the other hand, let's say he was motivated by the desire to help those trapped in the mine, not because he believes it is moral and he will be good to do so, but simply because he knows he is one of a few people in the world who can help, and he sees the opportunity to help other men in need. I admire this motive. I admire good will towards men, not because of the fact that someone wants to help another, but because I see its origin in the love of oneself. And I place no moral worth on the action itself. A second example: The other day my son (who's 8) and I were at a restaurant, and as we were leaving, he saw one of those stands with quarter-slots in it and a boy's picture on it. He asked me what it was. I told him it was to raise money for a missing child. He asked me if he could get a quarter from his wallet in the car and put it in. I was proud of him for this--not because he was acting altruistically, but because he wanted to help another person. He is a very benevolent and kind person while at the same time he lives very selfishly (in the proper sense of course). I see benevolence as having its origin in selfishness, and when it does, I admire it. (P.S. I realize the risk in using my son as an example; please don't hesitate to comment on his behavior or on mine as a parent. I welcome any comments.)
  20. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    The character that led to the desire to help is what's admirable. And I'm assuming that we would evaluate the charitable action as actually helpful.
  21. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    I agree. I am not saying that charitable behavior ought follow given the preconditions I mentioned; that would be altruism. I am simply saying that when it does, there is reason to respect or admire the person performing the action.
  22. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Interesting point. Is there a post on The Forum that elaborates on this?
  23. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    This is interesting. If I plan on adopting a child, and I am choosing between adopting a child from America vs. a child from a third-world country, that choice to me boils down to raising the quality of life of a child from a 6 to an 8 vs from a 1 to and 8. All other things being equal, I would choose the latter. That choice does seem altruistic (since the other person is the standard of the choice), but it also seems like the right choice. I would feel good about making that choice. What I would feel good about is not so much that I am helping another person per se, but because of why I want to help another. If I simply believe it is good to help other people, I am mistaken. That is altruism. But if my desire to help others is the result of my valuing of human life, and my valuing of human life is the result of me valuing my own life, and me valuing my own life is the result of some level of success by me in living a rationally selfish life, then there is reason to admire this choice. I wouldn't say the choice is moral; the choice is the effect not the cause. The cause (living life well) is what is moral; the "altruistic" act is the effect and therefore is neither moral nor immoral. Henrik reminds us of how non-charitable people actually are living under altruism and socialism. And Objectivism teaches us that what America lacks is the proper moral foundation for individualism and capitalism. I am sure that as America has devolved over the last 200+ years, many identified the benevolent and charitable nature of Americans as rooted in altruism and said that we need to return to that. These people misidentified the cause and effect relationship. What we need to return to is individualism/egoism and be conscious of the fact that charitable behavior is not moral, but is properly rooted in something moral. I think that this is a valuable distinction to keep in mind.
  24. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    The purpose to morality is to help us decide which values to choose and which actions to take in obtaining those values. I do treat the choice to be educated as a moral decision. And learning Latin has the potential to be valuable towards learning things that have an impact on my life, so I place some moral worth on it. But since I evaluate that impact as relatively small, in comparison to other things I could choose, it is very low on my hierarchy.
  25. Altruism (and things sometimes labeled as such)

    Good distinction, thanks.