Burgess Laughlin

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Everything posted by Burgess Laughlin

  1. Immigration

    Here is another example. http://www.universalservice.org/default.aspx From the site: "Rural Health Care - This support provides reduced rates to rural health care providers for telecommunications and Internet services so they pay no more than their urban counterparts for the same or similar telecommunications services." In this case, urbanites are forced to subsidize those individuals who prefer to live in a rural area. Through my telephone bill, I pay a government-mandated Universal Service Fund "fee" (tax). Every person who moves to the sticks adds to my burden. I have no doubt that -- in some way, shape, or form -- country dwellers are forced to subsidize city dwellers. We are a society of cannibals -- with a growing appetite.
  2. Media Seriously Considering War with Iran

    Phil, thank you. What you have provided is definitely a step in the right direction. When a government considers going to war, which is the topic of this thread, that government should have more evidence to show than an accumulation of opinion pieces and reports tied to nothing. The executive branch of that government should have proof to show to the legislative branch, in an objective manner. When I support a government going to war, I will do so only when I have seen that evidence and have heard a logical argument leading from it to the conclusion: "This threat justifies spending billions of dollars and risking the lives of thousands of our best soldiers."
  3. Do most philosophy graduate students pursue one graduate degree at a time, perhaps moving from one university to another, or do they look for a university where they can get both a master's degree and then a doctorate in one program with the same main professor?
  4. On Ayn Rand's "fallacy of the stolen concept".

    I, speaking for myself, view logic as part of epistemology, which is part of philosophy. Logic is the art (and, I hold, science) of non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality. Logic is what one uses to know reality, and knowing reality is what epistemology studies. Also, logic, like epistemology, is both descriptive and prescriptive. A second reason for holding that logic is an element of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, is that the essence of Objectivism is the idea of "objectivity" (in its epistemological meaning). Objectivity is a certain kind of relationship between ideas in the mind and the facts of reality, a logical relationship. So, there can be no objectivity, and no Objectivism, without logic. Logic is thus an element of Objectivism, the philosophy Ayn Rand created. Another question is where did the elements of logic (the tools in the toolkit) come from? Historically many came from earlier philosophers, mainly Aristotle, but Ayn Rand adopted them and added to them. This is an historical question.
  5. On Ayn Rand's "fallacy of the stolen concept".

    HaloNoble6, are you asking one or more of these questions? 1. Is Ayn Rand's explicit, named identification of the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept an element of her philosophy? 2. Did Ayn Rand use the fallacy to help her uncover possible errors during the original development of her philosophy? 3. Is logic (which includes formal identification of fallacies) a part of philosophy or outside of it? They are all intriguing questions -- either philosophically or historically -- but I am unsure which one(s) you are asking.
  6. Happy Birthday to HaloNoble6

    Happy Birthday, HaloNoble6! I always think "congratulations" would be more in order than "Happy Birthday," for all the good people I know -- like you. Living another year, fully pursuing your values, is an investment in the future. I suspect, from what I have seen of your activities, that your account is growing nicely. Best wishes for many years to come!
  7. Exercise for Handi-crips

    Ray, I am very impressed with the results you are achieving with your clients. If I lived in your area, I would definitely recommend to friends that they work with you. You offered your comment above as a generalization, not intending it, I assume, to apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times. As a caution to some individuals among your readers, I would like to mention my own experience, which was different. At 45, I was at my peak: running, stair climbing, some work with weights (though not anything like your program), martial arts, and intermediate level yoga. I weighed about 160, at 6 feet. No one said I looked overweight. I was lean but strong (especially from grueling exercises in martial arts schools, even though I was only a beginner). I had already had two decades of continuing mild dermatitis problems, plus intermittent episodes of lung collapse and iritis. Otherwise I was, at 45, at my very best physically and I reveled in my strength. Then at 45 I began limping from pain somewhere in the hip area. I had to cut back on running, walking and stair climbing, and had to abandon martial arts altogether. The pain was too much of a barrier. As several years went by, this tendonitis-type pain spread to other areas. Then bursitis began appearing, limiting me even more. Then arthritis appeared. At the worst point, I was so crippled that I was shopping for a wheelchair and trying to decide whether to get an electric or a manual. My muscles were wasting away (but I wasn't losing weight). And during all this mess, I developed colitis and my dermatitis became so ghastly that I went out only at night. After years of searching (and being told by doctors that the tendon, muscle and joint pain was "genetic" or "just aging"), I finally found a solution (mainly through the long-distance assistance of Dr. John McDougall): a radical change of diet. The solution mainly was to eat only foods predicted to create an alkaline condition. (I used the Potential Renal Acid Load list I found in an article on a site by John F. Berardi, whose other advice, by the way, I reject.) By eating only fruit, vegetables and nonacid-producing starches, I eliminated all the continuing pain problems: tendonitis, bursitis, and arthritis. (The colitis has just about disappeared, and my skin cleared almost completely, and what remained was eliminated -- based on a Leaky Gut Syndrome theory -- by a course of antibiotics and then probiotics.) With the assistance of exercises and stretches in Pete Egoscue, Pain Free, I eliminated (so far!) the last of the residual, intermittent knee pain. I do 20 light exercises and stretches every day, for these and other reasons. I am finally able now to turn my therapeutic diet (fruit, vegetables, roots, and gourds) into a maintenance diet by adding each day a small amount (2 T) of B12-rich meat and one kind of nut (walnuts). This is the kind of diet that I believe represents the direction in which Dr. RJM is leaning. (See his carefully limited comments here in the "Healthiest Diet for Humans" topic.) At this time, I am gradually building back the strength that I lost because of debilitating pain problems. So, for at least one individual, diet (mostly cutting protein back to about 50 grams/day) and frequent stretching -- rather than only muscle building -- were the primary solutions. P. S. -- I am not endorsing every statement of physician Dr. John McDougall, physical-therapist Pete Egoscue, biological-science researcher Dr. RJM, or (especially) physiologist Dr. John Berardi. I have, however, found elements of their work to be helpful to me either in solving the problems I faced or in confirming the solutions I found that work for me.
  8. Aristotle's Poetics

    Amse, good question. I don't have those editions in front of me, but I interpret "basic" and "college" as alert-words. Seeing them, I suspect that these editions might provide only selections from the Poetics. Participants in PSISG need the complete text, ideally accompanied by some kind of introduction to it or commentary on it, as a guide to understanding it. If these two editions are indeed selections, I would obtain one of the other texts mentioned in this thread.
  9. Aristotle's Poetics

    First, PSISG is a study group, of course, not a class. Here is the list of individuals who have said they will participate each week: - Burgess - Amse - Duane - Glenn I said in post 1 that I would run the PSISG only if five made the commitment to participate. So far, only four have done so. I know that current sign-ups don't want to start their work without assurance the SG will actually happen. So, yes, I will go ahead and commit to running PSISG as scheduled. Based on past experience, I assume a few more people will sign up (here in this thread) before I set up the new thread (which will be open only to PSISG members who sign up ahead of time).
  10. John Stuart Mill

    Amse, I agree with your general approach, if I have understood it correctly. One important lesson, among many others, that I have learned from Leonard Peikoff is to avoid "clashing contexts" when studying other philosophers. Dr. Peikoff presented this technique, I recall, in a lecture I heard him give at a Virginia conference about 12 years ago. He identified a problem that I had had repeatedly: Trying to study another philosopher, such as Plato, while holding my own philosophy, Objectivism, in mind as the context-setter. The problem is that a philosophy is a context. So, to properly study a philosophy initially, one needs, he suggested, to set aside one's own philosophy and immerse oneself in the other, target philosophy. This approach allows one to better make connections "inside" that target philosophy -- e.g., a connection between Plato's metaphysics and his epistemology. Then after that period of immersion in the target philosophy, one can lean back and evaluate it from one's own context, a philosophy proven right already. Psycho-epistemologically this problem of clashing-contexts is similar to trying to write a draft and edit at the same time, a big mistake Ayn Rand warns against in The Art of Nonfiction. One caveat: The technique of immersion is very difficult if one is studying only an excerpt of a philosopher's writings. The technique is easier to apply when reading a whole book by a philosopher, as apparently you are doing. It is even easier -- but extraordinarily time-consuming -- to use the technique on the philosopher's whole body of writings. But that approach is nearly impossible in a school situation, so one must rely on editors, commentators and others to help set some of that context. That is where writers such as Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, W. T. Jones, and others can be helpful as partial guides.
  11. John Stuart Mill

    The philosophical cause of my happiness, of course, has been Objectivism, which I have worked for more than 40 years to understand and -- more difficult -- to apply. I can also say that I can empathize with Amse in his readings of other philosophers. The most unpleasant lesson I had to learn in performing philosophical detection on philosophers generally was coming to accept that they really do mean what they say, and what they say is often awful. I didn't want them to be as bad as many of them are, but they are what they are. Ayn Rand discusses these difficulties, in various ways, in several essays in her Philosophy: Who Needs It, particularly Chapters 2 (Philosophical Detection), and 9-11 (about detecting Kant, directly or indirectly).
  12. John Stuart Mill

    I can't add much more than the explanation I offered in post 42, paragraph 2. Perhaps an analogy will help. When I pick up a novel by an author new to me, I "suspend disbelief" initially. That is, I accept the world that this author has created, initially. Where a fiction writer creates a world, a primary philosopher (such as Plato) describes a world. I cannot fully understand a component of that world unless I have first understood the context that shapes that component. For example, using the book Amse mentioned, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals by Kant, I cannot fully understand what Kant is driving at unless I accept (provisionally) his metaphysics and epistemology. His idea that we should treat others in an egalitarian manner follows from his view that we can't know other individuals as they really are -- because we can't know anything as it really is. Given that skepticism, it follows supposedly that we should be automatically benevolent toward our fellow man as a duty. I have found that if I resist the philosopher, on first reading, in every sentence he makes, I often miss those connections between more fundamental ideas and less fundamental ones. So, in an initial reading, my objective is to understand what he is saying. Then I can see how each piece adds up to a house. Next, I can evaluate the house as a whole (e.g., does it have a foundation in earth or is it floating?) and every component of it (does it follow logically from the foundation?).
  13. I would like to make recommendations. First, I need context-setting information: 1. Why do you want to do "more philosophical[ly] challenging" reading? In other words, what is your purpose? Is it part of your central purpose in life -- or some other purpose? If the former, then what is your CPL? If the latter, then which one? (For anyone new to Objectivism and not familiar with the idea of a central purpose in life, I recommend starting with the articles on "Purpose" and "Happiness" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.) 2. At what level are you reading? You say in a later post that you have read Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Have you done so at a full abstract-integrative level, or did you read mainly to see what is there?
  14. I suggest you read the whole excerpt but here are two quick points that come from "Purpose," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 398: 1. "Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man's life ..." 2. "A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man's life." In my words, my ultimate purpose in life is maintaining and enhancing my life. (See "Ultimate Value" in ARL.) To achieve that ultimate purpose, I have secondary purposes. Mine are (1) my central purpose in life, my beloved work; (2) creating and maintaining friendships; and (3) my favorite leisure/recreational activities (which re-create me, so to speak, after periods of intense work). While my work is my central purpose, the others are peripheral purposes. But "peripheral" does not mean unimportant. Ayn Rand's ultimate purpose in life was happiness. Her central purpose in life was to portray the ideal man in fiction, including his philosophy. When she completed that career, she turned to defending and expanding the ideal man's philosophy, which was her philosophy, Objectivism. (See Jeff Britting's little biography, Ayn Rand.) Howard Roark's ultimate purpose in life, I infer, was happiness. His central purpose in life was to design and build buildings. This is an example of two facts: the ultimate purpose in life for all men should be the same, happiness. But each man chooses a personal CPL based on his nature as an individual and on his individual circumstances. Way down on the scale of human achievement, my UPL is happiness, and my CPL is telling success stories from the past. My CPL is the core of my life. It is not the whole of life, but it is the core. Sometimes defining a CPL takes a lot of time. Have you selected one for yourself? If so, it can be one guide in helping you decide what to read.
  15. You did say you were reading for flavor. However, if I had read the works on your list at the abstract-integrative level, I would have needed closer to two years -- especially counting the complete dialogues of Plato, which are superficially easy, but, on close examination, contain many puzzles. One requirement for a lawyer -- at least, one who has a courtroom practice -- is confidence. I don't think you lack anything there. You have an exciting career ahead.
  16. Your approach here is correct. It does pay to learn what some past philosophers have said about the particular philosophical problem that fascinates you. (If they all fascinate you, then you are a philosopher, as Ragnar was.) However, in an important way, all philosophers are contemporary. They are "alive" through their surviving writings. Each looked at the world and thought about it in the widest terms. Their conclusions are available to us today. Yes, the philosophies of the ancient and medieval past require some knowledge of history in order to fully understand their meaning (as W. T. Jones's five-volume History of Western Philosophy series shows), but their main points are just as relevant today as they were a thousand or two thousand years ago. Of course, relevant doesn't mean right. P. S. -- You have said your CPL is to be a lawyer. You have also shown a hunger for not only studying some philosophy but for adding to it. I would like to encourage you to consider combining the two. Consider the field of philosophy of law. That is the study of the foundations of theory of law. Objectivism is a philosophy. To affect the world, it must be applied. It will be applied, in part, through philosophies of X -- where X is some field such as music, physics, law, psychology, or history.
  17. In your original list, you said you had read Plato's dialogues. You didn't say some of his dialogues or a selection from his dialogues. I (rightfully, I think) concluded that you had managed to study the whole set, a mind-boggling amount of work. But now I have a better understanding of what you are doing. So, in light of that I do have one book to recommend that should (1) keep you busy full-time for a whole month (at least), (2) benefit you for the rest of your life, and (3) teach you about Aristotle's most important contribution to Western Civilization -- all at the same time. The book I recommend is H. W. B. Joseph, An Introduction to Logic, second edition, revised, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1916. Joseph has been called "the last of the Aristotelians." His book is available in a new printing, put out by Paper Tiger. (You can see the catalogue and find this book online.) He introduces the reader to logic, overall, and bases almost all of it on Aristotle's own writings -- plus Joseph's own analysis of modern philosophers, in places. This is a book that should stay in your personal library for the rest of your life. Do not be misled by the title. It is not for babies. It is very challenging. Joseph's writing is very clear and reality-oriented. This 600-page book, however, is a major intellectual challenge -- especially to cover in only a month. I guarantee that you will not be bored with this book if you approach it seriously. If your notes are thorough, I hope you will post questions or summaries of key points in THE FORUM. I would love the chance to learn from such discussions. One last point: It is a contradiction to say that one wants to read lightly (via selections, quick reading, or reading only for flavor) and that one wants a serious intellectual challenge. The two don't fit. It is, however, appropriate to do what perhaps you have, in fact, been doing: First, read lightly (in survey mode, for "flavor") and then take on a serious intellectual challenge. But the latter approach requires a lot of time and effort -- as you will find if you decide to face the challenge that Joseph offers.
  18. What do you mean by "greatest" -- and who are examples of such philosophers in the Roman world? I do agree that anyone who wants to be a trial lawyer should probably, at some time in his life, spend time reading about the history of the development of Roman law, from the Republic, through the decaying Empire, and on to the recovery of that body of law in the later Middle Ages. Perhaps that is a subject Amse will consider in future summers or in a careful choice of course work in his undergraduate studies and in law school. Also, anyone who chooses philosophy of law, as a field for his central purpose in life, will probably need to study the history of law to see how underlying principles of law changed over time.
  19. Aristotle's Poetics

    Suggestion: You might wait a week or so to see if others suggest better alternatives for your needs. Not all SG members have the same needs, so the same book may not be best for everyone. We will see. By the way, for anyone with access to a university or other large library: You might look at the translations on the shelf to get an idea of what's available.
  20. Are you distinguishing between knowledge and descriptions of relationships? If so, would you explain what you mean by "knowledge"? Isn't a description of a relationship an instance of knowledge? The definition of knowledge that I use is the one that Ayn Rand formulated: "'Knowledge' is ... a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation ..." (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, p. 35).
  21. One horn of the dilemma: I want to form key concepts on my own. Second horn of the dilemma: I don't want to waste time recreating concepts formed by a philosopher I have come to expect to be right (always subject to further investigation, of course). Is that an accurate summary of your dilemma? If so, then I would question the first horn: I would ask myself why I would want to develop these concepts on my own. Even if my central purpose in life were to be a philosopher, I would still not spend time recreating concepts that I suspected have already been properly formed. Why not recreate those concepts? Division of labor. Even if my CPL were to be a philosopher, I would try to learn what I can from the earlier work of others so that I could apply their gains to new problems, problems that need attention and that could greatly affect my world for the better. An example is developing a theory of theories. (Ayn Rand has introduced a theory of concepts, but what about higher levels of integration -- as in a theory of propositions and a theory of theories?) And if my CPL is not to be a philosopher, then I would have even more incentive for selfishly gaining from the work of others so that I could focus full-time on my own CPL. Why? Because I love my CPL, whatever it might be. It is the core of my life, making all other work secondary or even lower on my scale of priorities. For those reasons, I would reject the dilemma. There is no dilemma in that context. If your purpose is to better understand concept-formation, then a more productive approach would be to practice developing a new concept in the field of your own central purpose in life, if new concepts are needed. (Ayn Rand explains in ITOE how to decide whether to form a new concept.) P. S. -- ITOE is Ayn Rand's single most important philosophical work. It describes a theory which she used to develop all the rest of her philosophy. No one can understand Ayn Rand's philosophy without having studied ITOE's basic ideas.
  22. John Stuart Mill

    Amse, The Ayn Rand Lexicon includes two articles that should interest you: - "Mill, John Stuart," with four excerpts from Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff. - "Utilitarianism," with two excerpts from Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff. These excerpts should provide you with ideas that may help in your analysis of the writings of Mill. As usual, each article concludes with cross-references to other articles in ARL.
  23. Not many people know what they want in life. You do. Congratulations! I would suggest one correction in your thinking. Happiness is not the central purpose, but the ultimate purpose, that is, the purpose towards which all other purposes are directed. Work (as the central, core purpose), leisure, and friendships all contribute to happiness. Keeping the terms/ideas of "ultimate" and "central" straight helps keep the hierarchy of values and purposes straight, and therefore makes life simpler.
  24. Aristotle's Poetics

    The Poetics Special-Interest Study Group will begin in two weeks, on Monday morning, Dec. 12. On that day I will open a new topic, and a moderator will close this invitational topic thread. According to my records, the following eight people (as screen names) have made a commitment to participate in the Poetics SISG: - Burgess Laughlin - Duane - RickWilmes - GMartin - Amse - Michelle F. Cohen - johngillis - Myrhaf During the PSISG, Dec. 12 - Jan. 22, participation will be limited to these people. When the SISG is complete, on January 23, participation will be open to all members of THE FORUM who have read the Poetics and have questions or comments about it.
  25. Artificial Intelligence

    What is "artificial intelligence" -- and, for that matter, what do you mean by "intelligence"?