Spaceman Spiff

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  • Location Redondo Beach, CA
  1. Investing

    But what about the specific example of a person who buys a foreclosed home for a bargain price, then two weeks later sells it for twice as much? What value has this person produced? Apparently, some people make their living doing this sort of thing - they play the real estate market or stock market like it's a "game". They watch for trends in the market and hunt for good deals, and they time their buying and selling skillfully to make a quick profit over a couple days or weeks. To me this seems more like gambling than producing. So I'm just wondering if this type of investor is doing anything productive, or if he is just a skillful gambler.
  2. Investing

    I just read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. If what he says is true, then most rich people make their money by investing. I was wondering what Objectivists think about making a living investing. I am not financially "literate"; I don't know much about investing at all. Kiyosaki is annoyingly indirect about everything - it's more of a motivational book than an instructional one - but from what I can gather, he and many other rich people make millions by investing in real estate and stocks. From the stories he tells, it seems like he just finds good deals, buys them, and sells them for more. It seems to be just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and knowing lots of tricks of the trade. Like buying a foreclosed home for a cheap price, then selling it for twice as much. To me, it doesn't seem immoral or illegal, but it also doesn't seem very honorable or noble. Investing seems more like gambling than producing, yet Kiyosaki claims that he creates wealth. But Objectivism, as I understand it, says that creating wealth means producing something of value. So I wonder, are investors producers or looters? Are they producing anything of value? Or are they at least doing a significant amount of work or using some brain power to earn their millions? Or are they just masters at taking advantage of tricks and loopholes? Do Objectivists consider this a valid way to earn a living? I'm curious to hear some Objectivist opinions about this.
  3. testing

    Testing hyperlink my post on Rush And yes Joss, I agree, Calvin & Hobbes is great. I'm considering buying that nice new box set, even though I already have every book!
  4. Objectivist view of volition

    I'm not convinced that I do have direct perceptual evidence that I am making a choice. If I try the example that you gave, where I focus and unfocus my mind on a crossword puzzle, the only direct perceptual evidence that I have is that I focused and unfocused my mind; I don't have any evidence that I did this volitionally. Maybe I only did it because you suggested that I do it, and that suggestion aroused a curiosity in me, and I happened to have a book of crossword puzzles within arm's reach, and a million other conditions that all cumulatively caused the effect of the focusing and unfocusing my mind. Also, I don't see it as being in the same category as the "what if I don't exist" question. My existence is an axiom, because my existence must be accepted in any attempt to confirm it or deny it - I can deny that I exist, but the act of denying it requires that I exist. I don't see the same thing being true for volition - I can deny that I have volition, but it is not necessary for me to accept volition to deny it - my denial that I have volition could have been deterministic: Perhaps this brain, given the exact set of knowledge and experience that it has obtained up to this point, has no other choice but to deny that it has volition. Another type of "direct perceptual evidence" often cited is this: "It's obvious that I made a choice, because I know that I could have chosen otherwise." But I would argue that you know no such thing! Since there is no way to go back in time and try again, there's no way to know that you could have made a different choice. For all we know, the choices we have made are the only choices we could have made. And, as for evidence that our thoughts are deterministic, consider that everything else in nature is deterministic, as was pointed out to me in a separate topic. Since humans are a part of nature, and the human brain is also a physical part of nature, and consciousness is a feature of a physical brain, why would human thought be any different than anything else in nature? What reason do we have, other than vanity, to claim that human thought is an exception to everything else in the universe? I'm sure I must be going wrong here somewhere - please explain what's wrong with these arguments. Ironically, I do want to believe that my thinking is volitional. But am I choosing to want this, or am I deterministically forced to have this desire? I don't know! Help!
  5. How does consciousness arise?

    Thank you all for your comments. Very interesting discussion. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfied, but I understand what you're all saying, and you've given me a new perspective on the topic. Well I certainly can't argue with that point, Carlos! In fact, Rush's advice on the matter is pretty much the same as what you and the others are saying: "Why are we here? Because we're here. Roll the bones [i.e. get on with your life]."
  6. How does consciousness arise?

    Well, I understand that A is A, and Spiff is Spiff, and Xyhm is Xyhm. And I understand that consciousness is a feature of the physical brain. And I understand that if this physical brain didn't exist, then this consciousness called "me" wouldn't exist either. What I don't understand is, why is Spiff me? How is it that I "am" this particular consciousness? I experience existence through the eyes and consciousness of this particular organism. There are many other beings with awareness, but only one of them is "me". To an outside observer, he sees one being called Spiff and one called Xyhm, and he knows they both have volition and consciousness, and to him they are just two beings of the same species that he can observe. But to me, it's a lot different - because one of those beings is "me"! I'm looking out from the "inside". I can tell the difference between Xyhm and "me", but the outside observer can't. I can detect my own thoughts and recognize them as mine, but nobody else can. I have control over Spiff's body and consciousness, but not Xyhm's. I experience awareness as Spiff, but not as Xyhm or anyone else. What is different about this consciousness that it's the one that's "me"? How does the subjective, personal, experience of "me" come into existence, and why does it exist as this particular consciousness? I'm not understanding how "A is A" answers that. I hope this makes a little more sense than my original question... sorry if I'm still not being clear. I guess what I'm trying to comprehend is the nature of the subjective, personal experience which is a part of consciousness.
  7. How does consciousness arise?

    Hmm... I hadn't thought about it that way. That makes sense. Thanks for that enlightenment. I guess if we could mathematically describe the physics of the lottery ping-pong ball machine, and we knew the initial conditions, then theoretically we would be able to predict the winning numbers, right? But of course "choice, however, is not chance," according to the entry on Free Will in the Lexicon. So is it safe to say then that my existence is the indirect result of the combined volitional choices of all (or many) humans who came before me? The existence of a canyon or a mountain was inevitable and completely deterministic, but the existence of me was not, because humans could have made other choices? (I have a lot of questions about the nature of volition too, and why "choice is not chance", but I haven't explored all the topics on volition in this subforum yet, so I won't get into that here - I'll just accept that as true for this discussion.)
  8. How does consciousness arise?

    I don't understand why so many people think this topic is insignificant. Let's say I won the lottery. Are you saying that it makes no sense to say, "Gee, I wonder what the odds were of me winning that lottery. 1 in 100,000,000? Wow, that's amazing! I'm really lucky!" Are you saying there's no significance or validity to those odds? It's not amazing or exciting at all that I won the lottery? And I don't understand the idea that the odds of my birth were 100%. You seem pretty confident that your existence was inevitable. That sounds like you believe in fate or determinism - but I know that can't be, because you're Objectivists, so I must be misunderstanding your point. Are you saying the odds of my winning the lottery were also 100%? There was no possible way those numbered ping pong balls could have bounced any other way? Or maybe you're saying that, given the fact that it happened, the chances that it happened are 100%? Well of course they are. But that's not my point. I'm looking back before it happened, and considering what the odds were, at that time, that it could happen. I could just as easily look to the future at similar events. Right now at this moment, I have countless options available to me: I could travel to Japan and meet a woman and have a child named Andy, or I could get to know the girl next door and someday have a different child with her named Ben, in which case Andy will never exist. Or I could sit here at my computer for the rest of my life (granted, that is probably the most likely scenario ), in which case neither Andy nor Ben will ever exist. The point is that countless decisions and options are available to me every day. But from my future son's point of view, all these decisions and options are completely random - he has no control over them, because he doesn't exist yet! And they are largely out of my control too - I can't control who I happen to meet when I travel, and if I do meet someone, I can't control her decision to accept or reject me. So what are Andy's chances of ever existing? Stepping back and taking a larger view of all the interactions between all the billions of people on the planet, it sure seems to me that chance has a lot to do with the way things actually turn out. Maybe the significance of these thoughts is a matter of perspective. If you prefer to consider your existence as a given, and don't consider it profound or amazing in any way, that's fine with me - go ahead and enjoy life and don't give it a second thought. Perhaps I would be wise to do the same. But to me the question is interesting, because it seems like something that is beyond comprehension, and I'm the type of person who likes to understand everything - so it's fun to think about. And consider a suicidal person - to him, these thoughts might have all the significance in the world. If I had a friend who was considering suicide, I would probably offer him these thoughts to try to convince him that his life is an unbelievably rare and precious thing that should not be thrown away.
  9. Religious Festivals/Greetings

    I do agree with you, Betsy. That last paragraph of mine may have been a bit too blunt. I am actually very polite to everyone I meet, and I would certainly not advocate going around making fun of relatives and associates because of their beliefs - that would just be childish and serve no purpose other than making people angry. My comments were meant more in the general sense - regarding the overall attitude of society towards religion. I'm just frustrated that it's the 21st century, and it's still perfectly socially acceptable to believe in fairy tales, and it's still taboo to make disparaging remarks about religion in general. Although maybe this is changing. I know of several famous comedians who do openly make fun of religion - Adam Carolla, David Cross, George Carlin, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman. But personally, the older I get, I do find it harder and harder to show respect to religious people during the one-on-one encounters. I feel very disingenuous when I find myself saying something like, "Well, you're free to believe whatever you want to - everyone has their own beliefs, and there's nothing wrong with that." What I really want to do is shake my head, frown at them, and say, "What's wrong with you?" Of course I don't, but it's hard not to. Plus, I used to enjoy debating with religious people, asking them why they believe in it, trying to reason with them. But now, I have no patience for that anymore - when I find out someone I know is religious, my internal reaction is just disappointment and disgust. My external reaction is just, like you said, to avoid him, or remain distant and polite. I find it difficult, as a rational person, to live in an irrational society. There are definitely times when some resentment, disappointment, or depression build up inside me because of the way most people are. I think this world could be so much better if it were left to the rational people - why are there so many irrational people screwing everything up? Why can't everyone be as rational as me? I just have a very low tolerance for irrationality. I don't think I could survive in the particularly irrational society in India that MRZ described! MRZ must be a very patient person. But are patience and tolerance really virtues when it comes to irrationality? I do agree with you, Betsy, that we should be polite to everyone. But is it possible that too much patience and tolerance are what allow a society like MRZ described to exist? Is it possible that some brutal honesty on some occasions could actually help society overall, even if it means alienating a few relatives or associates?
  10. anonymity on this forum

    Spaceman Spiff is of course not my real name. I've decided to remain anonymous on this forum for several reasons: 1.) I might someday want to discuss very personal or embarrassing issues. 2.) I think some of my questions might be a little stupid, which is also embarrassing. 3.) I was once a member of an Objectivist email list, and some members' responses to my posts seemed more like personal attacks than rational arguments. Since I was using my real name, I felt compelled to spend a lot of time defending my name against these irrational accusations. So I prefer anonymity. However, I recognize a few of the names on this forum - they are people I have met or spent time with in person, and they are people that I respect and admire. When I read their posts, or reply to them, I feel like I'm spying on them or invading their privacy in some way, because I'm learning more about them without their knowledge. If I see them again in person someday, they won't know that I've read their posts. Am I morally obligated to reveal my true identity to those people (perhaps in a private email), or is it ok to remain anonymous?
  11. Favorite Music?

    Hey there gnargtharst, Thanks! It's my favorite comic strip too, obviously. (When I was a kid, I wallpapered my room in C&H comics - cut them out of the newspaper every day.) I'm thinking about writing up something on Bill Watterson over in the "In Praise of the Good" area. He was a brilliant artist and a true uncompromising individualist. I wish he would do another comic strip! Or a graphic novel, or something! He just retired Calvin & Hobbes and went back into hiding...
  12. How does consciousness arise?

    In addition to the sperm-egg calculation, consider the permutations of couples. Let's assume that in the year I was born, there were a billion men and a billion women on the planet (including my parents). The number of possible couples is ((10^9)!) (that is, a billion factorial). (Man #1 can be paired with one of 10^9 women, man #2 can be paired with one of (10^9 - 1) women, man #3 (10^9 - 2), etc...) But the number of actual couples, in the conservative case of every man and woman pairing up, is 10^9. So out of this potential set of a billion factorial couples, only a billion of them actually occur. So the odds that my parents were one of this billion is ((10^9)/(10^9)!) (that is, a billion over a billion factorial). Now, I don't even know how to compute the value of a billion factorial - the number is beyond astronomical - so much so, that the odds of my birth don't just seem unlikely, they seem impossible!! This almost makes me consider the mystics' claim that life is a miracle. How can I wrap my head around this?
  13. Religious Festivals/Greetings

    I had a similar situation last weekend, during Thanksgiving. I went to visit my mom, and her husband is quite religious. Normally, if I am eating dinner at someone's house, and the host wants to say a prayer first, I have no problem just remaining silent and letting them say their prayer, because remaining silent doesn't reveal anything about me. But it turns out that my mom's husband practices the peculiar and repugnant custom of joining hands with everyone at the table during the prayer! So the first time it happened (which was in their home), I was caught by surprise, and didn't want to make a scene, so I just took his hand (yuck!!) and suffered through it. The next day, however, we all went out to a restaurant to eat. And again he wanted to join hands and pray. Abiding by his custom in his house with no time to think about it was one thing, but doing it in public was out of the question. So this time I raised my hand in a "no thank you" gesture, smiled, and said, "I think I'll sit this one out". Of course, then after they finished praying, I had to explain that I was an atheist, and we got into a whole theological/philosophical discussion, which I would have rather avoided. But I was very much opposed to helping him to display his religion in public and/or giving people the impression that I was religious too! It not only made me uncomfortable, but I thought it would also have been dishonest! So I was obligated to politely refuse. Also note that if he had known I was an atheist, and expected me to pray with him anyway, I would have been offended! I don't think any religious person has the right to impose their beliefs on others. So the joining hands idea seems really stupid to me - whoever came up with that custom apparently didn't consider that it might make non-believers uncomfortable and force them to reveal personal information that they would rather not have shared. Anyway, MRZ, to respond to your post more directly, I'd like to offer a few thoughts: 1.) Wishing someone a "happy XYZ" doesn't necessarily mean you believe in XYZ, it only means that you hope that person enjoys their XYZ. You don't have to agree with their irrational beliefs to genuinely hope they get some enjoyment out of them. So exchanging holiday greetings does not reveal anything about your personal beliefs. 2.) However, if the holiday greetings make you uncomfortable, then you have every right to avoid using them. I think your polite response to your supervisor was perfectly appropriate and honest. He has no right to expect you to believe in his religion or practice his customs. 3.) I think you should not be afraid to declare your atheism and be proud of it. Maybe when your coworkers and relatives see that a well-adjusted, honest, benevolent, intelligent person can be an atheist, it will help to dispel the myth that atheism is a disease or a mental illness. Who knows, maybe your honesty will have a small part in helping other people to realize the irrationality of their ways, or at least make them think about it for one brief moment, instead of blindly accepting the social norm. And if anyone thinks less of you for being an atheist, then that person is irrational, and who cares what an irrational person thinks? Unless they are threatening you with physical violence or the loss of your job, you have nothing to be afraid of. I actually think we are too polite to religious people in general. I for one am sick of tolerating their nonsense. If a person genuinely believed in Santa Claus or leprechauns or Zeus, others would either make fun of him, or try to get him into some professional psychological care. Yet we don't say anything when intelligent people admit that they believe in fairy tales or talk to an invisible man in the sky. Why should we show these people any respect? I think more people should make fun of religion. I have a hard time showing any respect to a religious person at all.
  14. Does Objectivism contain any theory about how consciousness arises from a physical brain? A question that always confounds me is: Why am I me, and not someone else? I experience life through the eyes of this one particular organism. The awareness called "me" arose from this one particular brain. But why this one? If this body had been born a day or an hour earlier or later, would the consciousness that arose still be "me", or would it be someone else? Would "I" still exist? Billions and billions of lives have come and gone throughout millions of years of human history. Is it just as likely that "I" could have been born a thousand years ago on a different continent, as it is that "I" was born here and now? Or is it more likely that "I" would never have existed at all? If my consciousness is simply a feature of this particular physical brain, then how lucky am I that this brain exists? Think of how many countless billions of potential consciousnesses never got a chance to exist, just because of the countless number of common everyday choices of everyone throughout history (parents who decided not to have more than one child, people who never had children, the few couples that actually met compared to the countless possible permutations of couples that could have met, abortions, masturbation, etc, etc). One infinitesimal change anywhere in human history, and this one particular body might never have been born, and this "I", this awareness, would never have existed. So what kind of inconceivable odds did I beat, just to exist??? It blows my mind to think about it. It seems to me that we should all consider ourselves extremely lucky to be alive. And it also seems to me that these are impossible questions to answer, and I find that troubling. Which raises another interesting question about Objectivism: Does Objectivism hold that all questions have answers that can be discovered someday, or are there some mysteries to existence that will always be beyond all comprehension? Any thoughts on this?
  15. Favorite Music?

    Hi Carlos. Always glad to meet another Rush fan. Yes, I am well aware of the god-like drumming skills of Neil Peart. He is amazing! (Incidentally, he once said he drums for Howard Roark.) Geddy's bass just blows me away (I agree 100% about YYZ - unbelievable), and Alex creates such amazing, strange, complex, beautiful sounds on the guitar. All three of them are extraordinarily talented musicians. But since this is an Objectivist forum, I thought I should emphasize the Objectivism connection. I've got every one of their albums and dvds (including the new 30th anniversary dvd, "R30"!). I have too many favorite songs to name, but I'll name some anyway: Power Windows is my favorite album. The Big Money is just pure happiness to me, and Marathon is so uplifting and triumphant. All their most famous songs are great of course, and everything on Moving Pictures is awesome, but some of my favorites are maybe a little more obscure: The Body Electric, Superconductor, Between the Wheels, Grand Designs, Kid Gloves, Turn the Page, Show Don't Tell ... I could go on and on. I agree with you that their older stuff was maybe more ambitious. And I love all their music, but I'm actually more drawn to the mid 80's to mid 90's era. To me there's just something magical about it. But there's some pretty powerful stuff on their newest album Vapor Trails too - I like One Little Victory, Earthshine, Peaceable Kingdom, and Freeze. Another favorite band of mine is Dream Theater. Do you like them too? They are in that same category of insanely skilled, jaw-dropping musicians. Their lyrics don't do anything for me, but the music is unbelievable.