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Everything posted by DavidOdden

  1. How come? Clearly, I don't think it's a bad idea, but if you're up for high level philosophical stuff, this is a question you should ask yourself (and answer, to me). Can you point to specific aspects of the practice of law which excite you, and explain why they do?
  2. The so-called "infinity" in mathematics

    As I understand the terminology, "decimal (number)" refers to a base-10 number (as opposed to binary, octal etc). A "decimal fraction", OTOH, is a fraction with a power of 10 as the denominator.
  3. Artificial Intelligence

    The First Amendment to the US Constitutions says that you have the freedom to say this. If you're asking "Suppose we define the following term X; now let us apply the term to mental operations; if we stipulate that mental operations have characteristic Q, which is definitionally sufficient for being term X; then can we say that mental operations 'are X'?", I think the answer just has to be "yes". That seems so obvious, that I suspect that you meant to ask a different question. Taking a guess at what that question might be, I believe that consciousness does reduce to a finite set of theoretical primitives (the particular concern with "operations" is ad hoc to certain theories of computation, where "add" alone is an operation, as opposed to "add 3 and 7" and "add 3 and 9" which are not distinct operations.) This is just a consequence of the fact that the universe is finite.
  4. You Be the Jury #1

    I think this is a consequence of two serious problem in the jury system. First, jurors do not understand or accept (or both) their legal obligations, resulting in jury nullification. Second, and most important IMO, is that jurors lack the necessary epistemological foundation for determining rational doubt. I sympathize, of course, because it is difficult to understand what "reasonable doubt" and "certainty" are, if you're been taught repeatedly that certainty is unattainable. Since the courts themselves cannot get it together on the concept of "reasonable doubt", it should be no surprise that legally unsophisticated jurors are not consistent. Massachussetts went so far as to consider (and I don't know if it became law) an additional standard, namely "possible doubt" as distinct from "reasonable doubt", the stronger to be applied in death penalty cases (i.e. defining a standard according to which the death penalty would be possible). If that won't scramble the epistemological eggs...
  5. "What do you believe is true..."

    What do you mean by "prove" -- why can't he prove it?
  6. Moral Dilemma #2

    I didn't actually understand your claim to be that the son should lie, just that it would be morally acceptable for him to lie (and I disagee), rather than tell the truth directly, or imply the truth by refusing to answer. I fully accept that in this context, silence may have the same effect as confession, especially if a child is generally in the habit of communicating details of his life to his parents. Whether it involves parents, friends or coworkers, other people are free to make whatever inferences they want to, no matter what you say. Your actions contribute to their ability to accurately infer things about your like -- if you've never said anything like "There are certain personal things I do not think proper to discuss," then a sudden refusal to speak on a topic leaves the other person in a good position to guess correctly. On the other hand, if you are characteristically a private person, your refusal to answer a particular nosey question gives others no grounds for inferring anything. What has Jane done to make it clear that there are topics that are absolutely out of bounds for discussion? Why did she give people the impression that they have the right to know the intimate details of her life?
  7. Moral Dilemma #2

    Especially if you lead a relatively open life where people know details of your personal affairs (e.g. Mom has cancer, brother Billy is a drunk, your son Bob is fiscally irresponsible, you're a adulterer), there is only one reasonable conclusion you can draw from the fact that a person ansers "None of your business" or "I'd rather not discuss it" in answer to the question "So, how's X?". If you put it out there, it's out there. Whether or not it's a good idea to advertise the details of your life, the fact that you have acted as though your life is an open book does have consequences -- such as, that your silence can be self-incriminating. Revealing personal information to a person has a meaning, which can't suddenly be denied.In the special case of a parent interrogating the child about their sexual reference (drug usage, or various other unininvited parental inferences), supposing the answer is a clear "yes", what value is there in not recognising and admitting to that fact? You don't want to suffer the consequences of saying "Yes, mom, I'm gay and I snort cocaine" or "Yes, mom, I am an Objectivist and I abjure the despicable Kantian perversions that you've tried to shove down my throat for 30 years", so lying will avoid facing reality in this case. But only today: the question is probably going to come up next week or next month. The best case for lying is the deathbed lie, where you lie to a person who is dying in order to spare then some pain. I'm not saying that that's a good case, but uit's the best case. Apart from the obvious, lying at gunpoint.
  8. Stephen's Health

    Betsy, you have my deepest sympathy over your loss. I always deeply appreciated his deep grasp of Objectivism and science, and wish that we could have met.
  9. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    I don't see how I am equivocating -- maybe you can point to the contradictory passages that I wrote, since I may simply not be aware of the contradiction. You've invoked context, which is fine, but in the context of knowledge, knowledge is not specialised knowledge. Similarly, in the context of philosophy, philosophy is not specialised knowledge, and in the context of epistemology, epistemology is not specialized knowledge. The relationship between "knowledge" and "science", or "knowledge" and "philosophy" is species / genus; analogously, the relationship between "philosophy" and "epistemology" is species / genus, on down the line.Epistemology is, on the face of it a specific study, the study of knowledge, which addresses such questions as the nature of perception (for example, do we directly perceive entities or indirectly infer them). Epistemology is not the same as ethics or metaphysics, specifically the study of proper human action and existence; and yet epistemology cannot be a specific, specialised study. Unless, or course, epistemology is not philosophy, but is merely applied philosophy, and Rand's definition of the distinction between philosophy and science only applies specifically to general philosophy and science, and not applied philosophy or science. I think I understand the problem now: I've been granting philosophy a much wider latitude than is justified. There is relatively little that is properly in the area of philosophy. Most questions of ethics and epistemology, for example, are not properly in the realm of philosophy because they are questions which are specific to man, and not universally applicable to all existents. A few basic issues of metaphysics are correctly in the realm of philosophy, such as that the universe exists, it has a nature, that nature is governed by laws, and those laws are non-contradictory. Given the nature of epistemology, since it is specific to either man or conceptual beings, is it specific, and thus not philosophy. It could, however, be reasonably called applied philosophy.
  10. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    Okay, but that still doesn't explain the difference between specialised knowledge and general knowledge. I can't grasp various truths of modern physics, because that knowledge is hierarchical and I don't know all of the foundation that it's constructed on. However, it happens that I do at least partially grasp conservation of charge. Now what about Objectivism? It certainly took me a long time to begin to understand Objectivism even in the slightest, again because of it's hierarchical relation of concepts and principles. How is that not specialised knowledge?
  11. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    I wanted to raise this question a week ago but didn't have the time to devote to it then. The question isn't entirely about grammar vs. philosophy, but it's partially about that. This portion of Rand's statement in the quote caught my attention: My particular interest is the idea of "specialised knowledge". What is specialised knowledge, and what is it contrasted with? To take a concrete example, Rand's metaethics and Tara Smith's amplification of Rand's ethical ideas are expertly crafted, they do constitute knowledge, and they are not only not immediately obvious, but clearly required much careful thought to arrive at -- I certainly could not come up with such knowledge on my own, and if I do say so myself, I am dang good in my area of proficiency. So my question is, how do you define "specialised knowledge" so that Objectivist ethics remains general knowledge as contrasted to specialized knowledge. Is or was the theory of evolution (a the hands of Darwin) an instance of science or philosophy -- what facts makes it science?The position which I am trying to avoid is the rationalist one where you decide certain matters a priori, without reference to facts of reality.
  12. Vandalism and Force

    First, initiation of force isn't just "to change a person's behavior", even if it does often result in some change in behavior. Second, you don't need to know the name of the person, so anonymous terrorist bombs in a shopping mall aren't necessarily planted in order to affect a particular named individual. It suffices that there is a good reason to believe that there will be a victim. It is inconceivable that tires on a car would be unowned non-property. Breaking a fallen branch in the woods isn't neessarily initiation of force (but then, look for the signs that say "Keep Off", or "No Branch Breaking").
  13. More effective form of government?

    The fundamental problem is that you cannot formally state any of the most fundamental legal concepts using such a symbolic language. By "cannot", of course, I mean that this is beyond our grasp presently, not that there is an insoluble problem of principle. The basic lacuna in the total formalization of propositions is the lack of a descriptive calculus for talking about concepts, and the problem of ostensive definitions is the centerpiece of this problem. Supposing, purely hypothetically, that a descriptive calculus were devised that would allow any concept to be formally defined in such a way that a machine could correctly identify the units that the concept refers to. Still, the point of law is to devise a code that governs the behavior of men, with respect to other men -- so it must be comprehended (I commend Lon Fuller's essay "Eight Ways Not to Make Law" as a good way to see the importance of law being comprehensible). it follows that even if a computer code could be constructed which states the propositions that we recognize to be the essence of objective law, it still must be related to what humans understand, namely real language. Without the benefit of invented computer languages, it is still possible to do vastly better in the drafting of laws, in terms of vagueness and, frankly, plain stupidity. The two primary causes of bad legal drafting are ignorance of technical facts of language, and hide-bounded tradition.
  14. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    No, clearly that's quite old news. Has this gotten bogged down over the fact that as an area of philosophy, metaphysics is entirely useless and invalid as an area of philosophy once you recognise non-contradiction, meaning that there is nothing at all to metaphysics beyond that fact? Since the law of non-contradiction is self-evident, I would be loathe to say that metaphysics is a branch of philosophy if there is nothing more to it than that (compare that to other productive areas such as epistemology, aesthetics and ethics, where results are not self-evident). Obviously, for an area of philosophy that is fully specified, resolved and closed to discussion, there is no possible contribution of science to that area of philosophy. For those areas that are still open to discussion, reference to the facts of reality could be useful. (Example: Peikoff's discussion of "certainty", which greatly refines the details of the concept "knowledge" in ways that Rand simply did not cover herself).
  15. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    Well maybe I just don't understand what metaphysics is. I understand it to be the study of existence, and fundamental principles about the nature of existence (such as non-contradiction). Saying that a brick can't be both entirely white and entirely black isn't a primitive metaphysical law, it's a derived scientific result having to do with the physical nature of color, which wasn't understood 300 years ago. So a understanding of the scientific issues provides an understanding of some of metaphysics. However, since I don't know what the hot questions of metaphysics are, I'm not totally wedded to the idea that the scientific study of existence and its nature has anything to say about the philosophy of existence and its nature. What distinction between metaphysics and (scientific) physics do you mean that Rand made a clear distinction between? The penny is just not dropping.
  16. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    It's a slippery slope. The worst end of it is when you just get some idea in your head about grammar, for no reason; or, for a totally wrong reason (such as racial hatred). More commonly, people make reasonably correct generalizations without explicitly getting the causal basis. It's something that people "just know", kind of like driving a car. I am putting that in contrast to a scientific approach, where hypotheses are empirically tested using objective measures.
  17. Grammar’s Relationship to Philosophy

    The latter. Some people consider it an art, in the sense that they approach the topic intuitively rather than objectively. That is perfectly acceptable, in the same way that car repair is one form of the art of physics. Philosophy is not disjoint from science, so you could also say that it is a more specific philosophy, as physics is.
  18. the future : Epistemology

    Because so far, it has been (one is playing fast and loose with the word "like" here, of course).
  19. It just keeps getting better...

    Yes and no. If there is a discernable negative trend, that can be a problem. Assuming that they use a quantitative evaluation, they probably compute a class mean for various questions (there is usually an "overall" question, which counts the most). If there are enough low marks and few enough high marks, someone may notice. If you get a somewhat low score with a bimodal distribution, that's just written off as a bunch of crackpots. Whether an instructor personally cares about evaluations is a random guess. The administration may care (the chair or the dean), and a robust pattern of negative evaluation can lead to denying promotion, tenure, or non-renewal of contract depending on the position and institution, since they are almost universally a part of how an instructor is evaluated. A smaller, select undergraduate-oriented institution would care the most, I think, and a factory school or graduate research oriented institution would care the least. YMMV, as always. If you can construct a strong argument that the teaching has done something wrong, in the form of a letter, then sending a letter of protest to the instructor, chair and dean (addressed to the instructor, cc'd to the higher administration) would be most effective. You should wait until the class is over, and you better get an A- at the least, for this to work. It's trivial to check the "stinker" box; it's non-trivial to write a well-reasoned letter.
  20. Mastering a foreign language

    Because they speak Danish in Denmark? The part that I find anumsing is that the Norwegian channels will put Norwegian subtitles on a Swedish movie.
  21. Wireless internet

    Then how in the world can you lay partial blame on Microsoft for the way it default-configures its product?
  22. Wireless internet

    The same courtesy of blame should be extended to router manufacturers, who ship routers pre-configured to be unsecured. Of course, people would whine that they can't get their new wireless to work.
  23. Novices' rules for forming possessives

    The apostrophe does not signal a difference in pronunciation, and that is basically why it is used (because there is no difference in pronunciation). Regular plurals are formed by adding -s ("cats, dogs"), and so are possessives. Plural nouns can be possessors (see "children's" or "mice's" as in "The mice's combined mass was less than that of Jupiter"). But when you try to combine the regular plural -s and the possessive -s, only one of them can be used, so you say "The dogs' tails all need washing" and not "The dogses tails all need washing". The popular "euphony" explanation for multiple-s reduction isn't totally without merit, but it overstates the case, since this simplification thing is only about s-plural and the possessive suffix. The distinctive placement of the apostrophe then tells you whether you have a possessive plural, possivive singular, or non-possessive plural (which are all pronounced identically).It's quite obvious (to a native speaker of English) that phrases like "Davis's mansion" -- however you spell it -- has two s's, and a vowel betwixt them (it sounds exactly like "Davises" as in "The Davises and the McCoys fought for generations"). To invoke the apostrophe-s rule in LA Times fashion for "Davis'" is just plain wrong. It is not pronounced the same as "Davis". It just indicates that the editors didn't understand the rule for using s' in the first place. I'd have to do more research into examples like "Xerxes' army": while I disagree with the implied pronunciation (I would say "Zurkseezez") that might just be my curmudgeonry showing through, and perhaps some people do really say "Zurkseez" in that context.
  24. Wireless internet

    The argument is right on target. Express consent is not required: implicit consent suffices. It is not possible to imagine a person "accidentally" constructing a web page that others can see, in the course of performing a different activity (e.g. reading email, printing a document). It is trivial to accidentally expose your internet connection to hijacking by outsiders: buy a wireless router and connect it. Good grief, have you looked at the Windows "Help" files about securing a wireless connection? Correspondingly, implicit consent cannot be assumed in such a (non-)knowledge context.
  25. Wireless internet

    Clearly we can find some difference between physical entry into a man's house and electromagnetic entry: I don't see how that changes the principle, that the wireless connection is another person's property, which you are (well, he is) taking and using without permission. Vladimir, I think you are just wrong about taking an unsecured wireless connection to be evidence of permission. People are just not that computer-smart: some people are, and most aren't. It's much easier to protect yourself against computer viruses -- the fact that a number of people don't manage to be rigorously protected is no proof that they are consenting to be attacked. "No Trespassing" signs are only necessary to make evident that you deny the generally granted permission to property access that's otherwise presumed in society. There are no clear social conventions on wireless use, because it's new enough technology with sufficiently restricted distribution that you simply cannot assert that there is an implicit welcome mat just because the bars aren't up. It appears to me, based on Dismuke's presentation of the facts, that his priend probably is stealing service: of course that may not be the case, and we'll just have to leave it to him to judge based on the facts. The crucial question is, does the user have an honest belief that the free signal that he is using is provided as a public service. I suggest a test. Point the browser to and enter "admin" as the username, no password. If you succeed, then you've broken into an innocent neighbor's unsecured network, somebody who doesn't know how to set these things up.