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Posts posted by Dismuke

  1. I met Stephen on Usenet back around 1997 when he and Betsy were one of a very small Objectivist minority on what was then then the only free of charge forum where one could go to allegedly discuss the philosophy. Most of the threads on that forum were devoted to attacking Objectivists - and Stephen's staunch defense of the philosophy and his sense of humor made me smile and laugh many times. Like so many others who he had an impact on, I never met him. I am going to miss him. I wish that it would have been possible for him to read all of the nice things people are saying about him and know how much he meant to so many people. Isn't it sad that people usually wait to say such things until after a person is gone?

    Betsy - you mean a great deal to a lot of people as well. You and Stephen were very fortunate to have found each other. You have my deepest condolences.

  2. Only in the very broadest sense.  As I wrote of John Lautner's buildings:

    I guess you could call that a "style" -- but why?

    Now if people only copied the features of Lautner's buildings, as they once did by shamelessly ripping off ideas for "Googie style" coffee shops from his original design for Googie's in Hollywood, that would be a "style."

    Perhaps we are referring to different usages of the word "style." Sometimes people use the term to mean "faddish" or "popular" - and that is not the sense that I am using it in.

    When I made my point regarding style, I was thinking of the usage that Ayn Rand mentioned in "Art and Sense of Life" in which she said: "'Style' is a particular, distinctive or characteristic mode of execution." Of it, she said: "Style conveys what may be called a 'psycho-epistemological sense of life,' i.e. an expression of that level of mental functioning on which the artist feels most at home. This is the reason why style is crucially important in art - both to the artist and to the reader or viewer - and why its importance is experienced as a profoundly personal matter." (emphasis Ayn Rand's)

    In the above mentioned article, Ayn Rand was primarily talking about painting and fiction. However, she also said with regard to the performing arts: "The basic principles which apply to all of the other arts apply to the performing artist as well, particularly stylization, i.e. selectivity: the choice and emphasis of essentials, the structuring of the progressive steps of a performance which lead to an ultimately meaningful sum."

    In that sense of the term, do you think that it is valid to refer to a truly great architect as having a certain "style" - i.e. a mode of execution that is unique and distinctive to his works?

    One of my reasons for being interested in the term is because when I was recently skimming through James Valliant's The Passion Of Ayn Rand's Critics I saw several references to the term "stylized universe." Apparently, Branden coined the term - but on page 226 of the book is a passage from Ayn Rand's notes providing a definition:

    "In regard to a 'stylized" universe.' A stylized person...is a person who lives in reality according to his highest values, who takes nothing less, accepts no substitutes, and struggles to translate his values into reality, no matter what the difficulties." (All emphasis Ayn Rand's)

    Typically, when I say that something has "lots of style" I mean that it does a very good job at expressing, translating and concretizing certain values into reality - and, if those values reflect mine, then it is a style that I like. I usually don't mean it in the sense of fads or popularity as, for example, when people say that a certain item of clothing is "in style" this year.

  3. I think realistically this is too simplistic when taken in its strongest sense.  While the principle is a good one I believe there might be numerous design outcomes of equal value.

    This is along the lines of something I said in my previous posting - but I am going to word it here differently.

    I suspect you might have fallen into the fallacy of equating "adherence to principle" with adherence to dogma. It is an understandable error to make because, in today's culture and in the history of philosophy, most people who uphold principles DO regard them to some degree or another as dogma. But that is NOT the approach that Ayn Rand took - and understanding what her approach is crucial to understanding her philosophy. I can't cover the issue in one posting. The best thing I can suggest is to read what Dr. Peikoff wrote about the intrinsic verses the subjective verses the objective.

  4. I think that while Roark's theory is valid there are ways to hold it too strictly.  Ayn Rand (writing through the character of Roark) seemed to assume that by following the philosophical guildlines you will end up with a building which is the objectively "best" building for that site and client. 

    I am not aware of Ayn Rand saying anything to suggest that she had such an assumption. I don't think Ayn Rand would have had a problem with saying that two talented architects could independently design a building for a particular site and come up with very different buildings both of which she might have liked. I suspect you are making the error of equating "objective" with "intrinsic". There is no intrinsically "best" building for a particular site or client - such a notion is contrary to everything Ayn Rand stood for philosophically.

    I think realistically this is too simplistic when taken in its strongest sense.  While the principle is a good one I believe there might be numerous design outcomes of equal value. 

    I don't think Ayn Rand would have disagreed with the fact that there might be numerous design outcomes that are all worthy of merit.

    When you add the wishes of the client into the mix, this makes it even more complex.  Roark didn't design for the client for the most part, he found clients who desired his designs.  But most architects don't have this luxury and I am not sure most clients want to give them that luxury.

    But working with a client does not necessarily compromise one's artistic integrity.

    Ayn Rand worked with her client, Warner Brothers, when it came to the writing of a screenplay for The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand did not have a problem per se with making changes to suite the legitimate needs of her client - i.e. that which was necessary to make a commercially profitable movie. But she did insist SHE be the one to make any changes to her script and she held her ground on suggested changes that she thought undermined her work.

    If you are some newbie architect just out of architecture school - no, your boss and your boss's clients are not going to give you free reign to design buildings anyway that you want and insist that they be built without change. That is something that has to be earned on the free market. But that doesn't mean that a newbie architect whose designs are revised by the head of the architectural firm has necessarily compromised his artistic integrity and the fact it is necessary for him to work for others in such a manner does not invalidate Ayn Rand's wider points about integrity in general.

  5. That is because "style" didn't matter.  The purpose of Roark's architecture, unlike that of other architects, was not to conform to or express a "style" but to create a functional, beautiful building to meet the needs of his client. 

    But wouldn't you say that, in doing so - i.e. by creating a functional beautiful building - he would have expressed a "style" of his own origination? I can't recall exactly where in The Fountainhead it was said or what character said it, but I remember that one of Roark's prospective clients said he wanted his building to have "the Howard Roark look" (quoting here only from memory). Wouldn't that certain "look" which was common and unique to his buildings have constituted a style?

    In the end, what made me receptive to Howard Roark's position was I finally realized that there need not be a beauty/function dichotomy. As a kid, I was quite disgusted at most modern buildings I saw and considered the older ones to far superior aesthetically. I asked about and debated the issue with grown-ups and all that they could say to defend the new buildings was "they are functional" and "cheaper to operate." On that premise, windowless box made out of concrete pre-fab panels with an asphalt lot instead of landscaping would be the architectural ideal. So when I first read The Fountainhead that was the premise I thought Roark was coming from. And for the first few chapters, I actually kind of disliked Roark - the description of him in the opening scenes struck me that he was kind of a 1920s version of a hippie. Peter Keating, however, struck me as a nice enough fellow. That, of course, didn't last very long. As the novel progressed, Roark became increasingly sympathetic in my view because I admired his struggle and independence - though I was still suspicious of his buildings thinking that he was wanting to inject 1960s culture into the 1920s. What helped me realize that I was wrong about what Roark stood for was the character of Gus Webb who did stand for the kind of architectural ugliness that would become increasingly common after World War II. Plus there was the fact that Roark used a representational sculpture in one of this buildings. One rarely sees sculpture in post World War II buildings - unless it is the so-called "sculptures" which consist of chunks of rusting metal or a bunch of brightly colored geometric objects senselessly fused together.

  6. The reason I called Roark's architectural position arbitrary is that the style of architecture he is in favor of is entirely dependant on the time period his character is set in and not on his essential values or character traits.  Roark was a proponent of modern architecture, thus if the novel was set in the 1870s his character could be exactly the same and his architectural style would be different.

    Perhaps "arbitrary" is a bad word to use in this context however.  I better word I think would be "non-essential."

    I think I kind of see your point. In other words, if Howard Roark had been born in the Renaissance, the style of buildings he would have built and which would have been considered innovative and original would have been very different stylistically than the buildings presented in The Fountainhead. And, of course, the Howard Roark of the 1920s and 1930s would have been very much opposed to the Peter Keatings of the world making second hand imitations of the buildings of the Renaissance era Roark. And, in the same way, a contemporary Howard Roark would be opposed to making imitations of the Roark that Ayn Rand wrote about.

  7. In The Fountainhead the stylistic choices of Keating and Roark are largely arbitrary choices of Rand herself.  And of course, there were few specifics of Roark's style given in the first place other than vague generalities.  Extrapolation from The Fountainhead that neo-classical styles are somehow inferior would I think be a grave error.

    Vladimir - I am afraid I disagree. I think Ayn Rand explained her views on architecture very well and in great detail through the character of Howard Roark and the things he argued for. For that reason, I don't think it is correct or fair to label her position "arbitrary." One may perhaps disagree with it - but that does not make it arbitrary.

    Personally, I think Ayn Rand made a very convincing case for her position - and, trust me, I was a VERY hard sell on something like that. The reason I was a hard sell is because some of the same arguments that Roark made about his buildings were the same arguments that adults all my life had made to defend the bland and ugly 1970s garbage that I so thoroughly despised. But, ultimately, I came around - especially when it became clear that Roark was not opposed to ornamentation and beauty per se.

    I have no doubt that Ayn Rand and I would have had some big differences of opinion with regard to taste in architecture. My understanding is that she enjoyed a lot of the art deco style architecture that I am very fond of - and on that we would have probably had common ground. On the other hand, I love a lot of the grand and opulent older historically inspired buildings as well. I fell in love with such buildings at an early age and they have always been a great value to me - and Ayn Rand's arguments in The Fountainhead, while I understand and mostly agree with the intellectual point she is making, it certainly did not cause me to fall out of love with the sort of buildings I have enjoyed all my life.

    As to whether neo-classical styles are inferior - part of that depends on where one is coming from. To the degree that it is a matter of personal aesthetic preference, no, it does not necessarily follow that neo-classical building are inferior. But if one's standard is originality - well, then, yes, it would be simply because the style is NOT very original in today's context.

  8. Ooops. I forgot that Invision Power Board has a default of 10 images per posting - and I picked out 12. Here are the final two - both of them showing ground floor details of the AIG Building in New York City.


    AIG Building ground floor detail


    AIG Building ground floor detail

  9. One reason that building a Greek Temple in 21st century America is ridiculous is because it doesn't belong here. The original function that it was designed for is not the same as a bank or a university building where classes are held today. Not to mention the fact that it would not be an original design, but a copy that which was done in the past. 

    I understand what you are saying and I really don't disagree with you. But I enjoy a lot of classical and other historically inspired architecture from the early 20th century, an era one could make an equally valid a case that it did not belong.

    I grew up in the Fort Worth/Dallas area where most parts of town were built in recent decades. At the time, the influence of the 1960s and 1970s was everywhere, including in architecture. My opinion is that most buildings from that era are bland and tacky at best and very frequently butt ugly. When I was a kid, I discovered the pre-World War II decades through photographs, music and old buildings and completely fell in love with the era. It was so CLEAN, so grand and so utterly different than the slovenly, shoddy and very cheap looking popular culture I grew up in.

    Go to some big city downtown and try to find an old early 20th century bank lobby that has managed to survive intact and look at the opulence and grandeur. When one went to the bank, everything about the place shouted out: this place is an important and dignified financial institution and by virtue of the fact that you have business here, you too are important and are part of something grand and wonderful. Now go into some modern banking lobby and, if you even notice your surroundings, try not to yawn.

    Next time you are in New York City, go into Grand Central Station and notice that it is actually GRAND. Compare that experience with the blandness of today's typical airports. The best you can hope for in most airports is that they have at least a little more class and atmosphere than a typical public housing project.

    The historically inspired architecture of the early 20th century may have been second handed in some respects. On the other hand, however, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail and concern for beauty was just wonderful and something that is all but lost in today's culture. Maybe aspects of it were second handed. But I will take second handed greatness over first hand mediocrity any day of the week.

    To me, the best architectural movement was the "modernist" movement of the 1920s that we today look back on and call "art deco." The architecture of that era was simply spectacular. It had the all the style, grandeur, craftsmanship and attention to detail that the historically inspired architecture before it had - but it wasn't borrowed. It was highly imaginative and innovative. After World War II, everything in the popular culture started going to pot in a very big way, including architecture and totally jumped into the sewers of nihilism and mediocrity once the 1960s came around.

    To illustrate what I am talking about with regard to 1920s -early 1930s architecture, here are some photographs I took this past April when I visited New York City for the Ayn Rand Centennial conference and for a couple of Radio Dismuke events. I consider all of these buildings to be outstanding and nothing that has been built since, in my opinion, even comes close.


    Chrysler Building


    Chrysler Building detail


    Chrysler Building detail


    Chryslier Building detail


    Empire State Building


    11 Madison Park


    11 Madison Park detail.


    Here is a building I only first noticed on my last trip to New York. It is the AIG Building and I fell for it the moment I saw it. Built between 1930 and 1932, it was the last jazz age skyscraper in the Wall Street area. It was originally called the Cities Service Building


    AIG Building


    AIG Building

  10. I think the individual who gets angry over threatening posts (whether they are personal attacks or attacks on his ideas) is the one who loses the most. We should not be angered by individuals who lack rational justification for attacking us or our ideas. Anyone who acts that way is not worthy of being the source of our anger.

    I think there are times when it is ok to get angry and to make that anger known.

    On the other hand, there is a certain point to what you say.

    Ours is an age culturally dominated by nihilism. There are people out there who will say things to attack people's values for the sole purpose of getting them upset. Observe that a lot of non-Objectivist atheist types will attack religion not so much because they have any intellectual problem with religion but rather because a lot of people value it. These are the types who like to get into the faces of the devout and shout "Jesus sucks." Such types are everywhere. Go to any non-moderated discussion venue purportedly about Objectivism and there will always be a handful who will say the most vicious things about Ayn Rand and Objectivism for no other purpose than to tick off everyone in the group.

    In the face of such people, the last thing you should do is become upset or angry because that is exactly what they want you to do. The only effective way I have ever found to deal with such people is to turn the tables on them and laugh at or ridicule them. By doing so, you demonstrate that you do NOT take them seriously - which drives them crazy. The smile on your face becomes like a magic mirror that throws them into the same fit of uncontrollable rage that they so desperately wanted to see in you.

  11. I have been attacked. Not only the idea that I agree with has been attacked, but even more importantly, I have personally been attacked by Dr. Joe. Why should this bother me? If I am confident in my ability to reason I know that I have come to the correct conclusion regarding the idea being discussed and I know that I am not an idiot. I am open to any and all new evidence that I have not considered, and if someone can prove me wrong, I will gladly change, but when someone blatantly attacks my ideas without well defined supporting evidence and logical reasoning, why should I feel threatened -- and why would I think this very important idea is in danger of crumbling?

    Why would something like that bother a rational person? Perhaps because he considers what is being said about him and his values to be an injustice. This would especially be the case if the attack in some way involved a distortion of one's position or taking something one said out of context.

    When evil creeps like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy seek to deliberately undermine this country's foreign policy and would risk our security in the quest of their nihilistic desire to see the United States get the "comeuppance" they think it deserves in the eyes of the rest of the world - well I get really ticked off not because I think their sick and perverted ideology might be right but because they are willing to attack and sell out everything that is good and decent which is, of course, unjust beyond words. In fact, my blood starts to boil the very instant those people open their mouths because I know exactly where they are heading and what they would do if they were allowed to get away with it.

  12. My point is that as this type of connection continues to spread (especially with the Google setup in San Francisco) people will be operating under the assumption that an public, unsecured wireless network is meant for public access or at least is not meant to be entirely private. 

    I think that point will arrive relatively soon. Right now, if I am not mistaken, there is a charge by the provider of the hotspot for Starbuck's wireless access. But every time I go inside one, the places are usually full of people with laptops. The cost of a T-1 runs about $500 per month anymore and the equipment to create a hot spot is not all that expensive - which means that, in the context of running a business, it does not cost very much to provide free wireless access as a courtesy to customers. I wouldn't be at all surprised that not very far into the future any coffee shop, fast food joint, shopping mall and travel center/truck stop that does not offer a free public hotspot for their patrons will pretty much be regarded in the same light as restaurants that do not accept credit cards (and I have actually run into a few of these over the years, which I discovered AFTER the fact and without sufficient cash in my wallet to cover the ticket!)

    Personally, I can't wait until they find a way to get cheap, unlimited highspeed access into people's cars - so they can listen to Radio Dismuke, of course! That will revolutionize the world of popular music in so many ways. There are literally tens of thousands of Internet radio stations out there with any type of format conceivable. No longer will motorists (who are always the largest segment of the radio audience) be confined to their own private music collections or the lowest common denominator bilge that is currently spewed out by AM/FM stations. One's choices will be virtually unlimited.

    Right now Verizon is offering high speed cellular Internet access for about $70 per month in certain markets. It is nowhere near as fast as a good dsl or cable connection - but it is sufficient to stream audio and do most of the other normal tasks people do on the Internet. That is pretty expensive compared with other highspeed options - but, in time, I am sure it will come down. If it catches on, perhaps hotspots will become as obsolete as floppy drives.

  13. 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.

    Actually, the person in my example isn't a friend - it is the brother of someone I know from work. The way that the story was presented to me, I have no doubt that the person is aware that the signals are not always intended as a public service as he is supposed to be rather tech savvy. My guess is his thought process on the subject is limited to something along the lines of: If I pick up a signal, I'll surf. If not, not.

  14. It appears that this is actually going to be provided by Google for free:

    Google bids to help San Francisco go wireless

    That's just great. And when Google giving out free highspeed Internet access in San Francisco causes all other ISPs to pull put of the market, perhaps Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Leftist nutcases that infest that part of the world will persuade Google to filter its search engines and blog sites to disregard offensive content that contains certain unacceptable words - such as "capitalism" or "freedom" or "liberty" or "hamburger" etc. By then Google certainly will have gained plenty of practice from its experience in China. Not only that, San Francisco has a very large Chinese community. Perhaps Google could take a cue from Yahoo and report to the thugs in Beijing the names of people of Chinese origin who reside in San Francisco whose online activities brand them as "trouble makers" so Beijing's agents here in America can "deal with them."

    I am only being partially facetious here. One of the things that really sends shivers down my spine is when city governments start talking about giving away free wireless Internet. The thought of the GOVERNMENT being everyone's ISP - which is what will happen if this catches on and the regular ISPs fold - ought to be VERY frightening. After all, we can't have people using the "public Internet connections" for doing things such as looking at dirty pictures or engaging in Forum discussions in ways that might violate the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. Beyond concerns about government access to people's surfing habits and the potential for censorship of content, one should simply ask what would things be like today if governments a decade ago decided to make dial up access "free" for everyone and killed off the ISPs. I suspect we would have Algore running around complaining about how unfair it is that only the wealthy suburbs have access to those newfangled "high speed" 56k dial-up connections while the governments of the less wealthy cities have a hard enough time trying to provide 28k service for everyone else.

  15. Or consider this hypothetical.  Suppose that someone starts a regular broadcast TV station but says that the station isn't free, if you want to watch it you must send them $10 each month.  Since every home with a TV can just tune in the channel with their rabbit-ears, is everybody supposed to just close their eyes and plug their ears when flipping through the channels in case they accidentially start watching the "pay" channel by mistake?

    Vladimir, I think the above is a good example of why the point I suspect you are trying to make might have a certain degree of validity. From a strictly legal standpoint, it may very well not be theft. But that is an entirely different issue as to whether it is theft from a moral standpoint.

    Now, one major difference between the TV station and wireless Internet signals is that the broadcasts on the channels 2 - 69 frequencies are presumed to be for public consumption and if the owners wish for them to be otherwise, it is their responsibility to scramble the signals.

    (As an historical aside, many may not realize that there was a brief period during the early 1980s when exactly that was done in certain major cities that did not yet have cable television. Certain UHF channels with scrambled signals existed for the purpose of showing premium content that was made available to subscribers who had special descrambling devices on their rooftops. Once cable television, and later satellite television arrived, such channels became obsolete and most of the channels ended up becoming independent broadcast stations. )

    With wireless Internet signals, however, there is definitely NOT an expectation of intent that others will intercept and use those signals. But I don't know whether that is sufficient to make it illegal. There are other types of radio transmissions that are also not intended for public consumption either such as police and airline communications but there is nothing illegal about eavesdropping in on them. If you were to set up some sort of wireless intercom or video camera network inside your house, there would be nothing illegal about your nosy next door neighbor who was able to passively receive those signals tuning in and gossiping about it later. But your neighbor would be a rather creep person to say the least. Whether or not the same principle applies from a legal standpoint with regard to wireless Internet access, I am not sure. But I am not aware of any other type of situation where it is illegal to merely access the radio signals that are transmitted to one's property as they are transmitted. Where it usually becomes illegal is to descramble those signals.

    Now, with regard to the moral issue, I would say that mooching off one's next door neighbor's wireless Internet connection without permission his is definitely freeloading and inappropriate. To use a different example to make the same point, if you were to place some sort of amplification device between your ear and the wall dividing your apartment from your neighbor's in order to snoop in on his private conversations, what you are doing might not be illegal but it is highly unethical.

  16. It seems most places have some sort of wireless connectivity now either intentionally or through their failure to prohibit access on their networks.  Either way, I am having a lot of fun with this thing.

    I know someone whose brother lives in the same city you do, Vladimir, and apparently this guy has not had an account with an ISP for some while because he is usually able to pick up stray wireless network signals in his apartment and elsewhere. I am not sure if this would constitute theft or not. My inclination is to think not so long as he merely turns on his computer and the access is automatically there and he is not trying to hack his way into such networks. I am just not sure why anyone would not take the steps to secure their network to stop random people from accessing it and perhaps using it to cause trouble.

    One of these days, I am going to have to break down and get a laptop. I just need to find a few more excuses to rationalize myself doing it because I really don't need one. But there are occasions when one would sure be nice to have.

  17. The guaridan will have to prove that the owner indeed saw the abuse taking place in her house and did nothing about it, so the owner is innocent until proven guilty.

    Michelle - Question: let's say that, for whatever reason, the abusive parent was acquitted in any criminal trial that took place. Obviously that would probably weaken any case the guardian might have against the owner - but would it necessarily be sufficient to render it invalid?

    My understanding is that to be convicted in a criminal case, the government must prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt." Isn't that threshold somewhat lower in civil cases? I did not follow the OJ trial (and I am one of the very few people who has no opinion of it - though most people I agree with on other things who did follow it believe he was guilty) - but I seem to recall that after he was acquitted of murder, he faced another trial for the civil consequences of the murder he was acquitted of. Unfortunately, I cannot remember for sure if that trial took place or what the results were.

    I guess what I am asking is that, obviously the guardian would have to prove that such abuse did, in fact, take place. But isn't the standard of that proof going to be much lower for the guardian's lawyers than the prosecutors in the civil trial? Also, let's assume OJ was instead convicted. Would the lawyers in the civil suit be able to enter that fact in as evidence? Or would they have to prove his guilt again from scratch?

    Also one other question if you do not mind my asking: Are you a lawyer or a law student? Or is this simply a subject you happen to be knowledgeable about?

  18. Considering that the government still owns all shares in the companies, I wonder what "privatize" actually means here?

    The only reason I could possibly see something like that as being valid is if it were part of a plan to privatize all of the shares over a certain period of time in order to maximize the final sales price.

    For example, if the US Government were to privatize our Interstate Highway network and tried to do it all at once by immediately selling it through the stock market, since there is only a finite supply of potentially available investment capital at any one moment, the ultimate selling price of the company might be rather low as compared to the value of its assets due to a lack of available investors to bid it up. However, if that stock were released on the market at a rate of 20 percent per year over 5 years, I would think the chances are greater that a higher per share price could be realized.

    Do we have an interest in the government getting as high a market price for the things it privatizes? Ultimately, I think we do because, for example, the proceeds from the sale of such assets could go a long way towards paying off the promises it has made in areas such as the Social Security Ponzi scheme so that the programs can be abolished completely.

    Somehow, however, I doubt that anything of the kind is happening in Japan.

    I guess it means that instead of a few governmental public corporations running the system, six corporations owned by the government will run the system. That's fascism for you.

    Ayn Rand once said something to the effect that if dictatorship ever comes to the United States it would be of the fascist variety using socialist slogans.

    In recent years, I have come to wonder if perhaps she had been aware of the course of events after her death she would have modified that slightly to say that if dictatorship ever comes to America it would be of the fascist variety using pseudo-capitalist slogans.

    I don't hear a lot of calls for explicit socialism these days. I do here lots of calls for "public-private partnerships," espeically on the local levels of government, by people who consider that to be a recognition on their part of capitalism's worth.

  19. I was referring to mental damage in the context of the case cited by Vladimir Berkov (post 225, 9/25/05):

    My point is that, had the child survived, she would have required physical as well as mental care for the trauma of being beaten to near-death. I agree that the government is better kept out of it, and private charity could take care of the damages. My point is that the host who watched the child being beaten and did nothing is legally liable for damages in a civil suit by the child's custodians, public or private.

    I am inclined to agree with the above. The only reason I say "inclined" is simply because of my lack of specialized knowledge on legal matters. It certainly makes sense to me.

    I wasn't aware that, by "mental damage" you specifically meant treatment of trauma. I mistook it to mean to mean "mental damage" in a wider sense which, unfortunately, can be sometimes ambiguous, especially in light or our still largely primitive level of knowledge and understanding of human psychology. So I stand corrected.

  20. Then why shouldn't a house owner be responsible for the mental (and possibly physical) damage caused to an abused child on his premises?

    I think one has to be very careful when it comes to the issue of "mental damage."

    I agree that it is a definite issue and a very serious one at that in terms of a child's well being. Telling a child over and over again "You're rotten. You're worthless. You will never amount to anything." can sometimes cause deeper and far more permanent scars than mere physical abuse. For example, what Ellsworth Toohey did with Catherine was most definitely mental abuse in my book. The problem is that there is a very slippery slope when the government gets involved with it.

    I could make a case that it causes mental damage to tell a child that he is wicked by nature, that if he pursues his own happiness he will face eternal misery and that any injustice or evil that he encounters is his fault. But do we want the government telling parents that they cannot preach certain religions and philosophies that uphold exactly that?

    I suspect that the primary context in which mental damage could become a proper governmental concern is when it comes to custody issues. For example, if a father becomes outraged and concerned over the ongoing verbal abuse his wife spews at their children and, for this reason, wishes to divorce her, get sole custody and raise the kids by himself, then I could see that as potentially being something that a court might need to take into consideration. Of course, to what degree and how it would have to be proven is a legal and not a philosophical issue.

  21. You keep telling me that I am not keeping context. But individual rights are only in a political context. If the person doesn't have a choice of action in the context of reality, well their rights are not being violated. It is no different than the person being poor and not being able to afford things. So what if reality gives them no choice? That doesn't change the fact that no rights are being violated.

    Michael - I think this is one of the big areas where you are missing my point. I base my contention that you are missing my point rather than the other way around on the fact that I completely agree one hundred percent with the above and do not regard it as being even remotely controversial.

    You are entirely correct, Michael, in that sometimes reality presents one with few, if any, choices of action or only choices of action which are all unpleasant. And, as you correctly point out, this does NOT violate a person's rights in any way, shape or form. Reality cannot violate a person's rights, only other people can violate someone's rights. One does not have a right to demand that reality or other men provide him with choices of action.

    My point is simply this: whatever choices of action that reality does provide a person with, he has a right to make those choices and to act on those choices of action. The fact that those choices of action might be extremely limited or unpleasant has zero implications on his right to life. His right to live consists only of his being free to act on those choices of action. To deny a man the freedom to choose and act on whatever (non rights violating) choices of action that reality presents him with is to violate his right to life. There is only one way that can be done: by the initiation of force.

    All of the above is Objectivism 101 and should be non-controversial in the context of this Forum.

    Now, let's go back to the incapacitated. Their situation is unique from a right to life perspective not because reality has significantly limited their choices of action but rather because, metaphysically, they cannot choose and cannot act on whatever choices of action reality does present them with.

    Does an incapacitated person even have choices? Very frequently he does. Let's say a successful business man trips and ends up in a coma. Certain risky options exist regarding the course of his medical treatment. Plus, in order to pay for his medical care, certain assets of his need to be sold. Does a person have a right to decide which proposed medical options are to be pursued in his treatment? Of course - because it is about his life and his body. Does the comatose businessman have a right to his assets? Sure. He earned them. Does he have a right to choose which assets are to be sold and for what price? Of course - because they are his assets and he has a right to them. Unless he happens to be a crime victim, the mere fact that he is in a coma does not constitute a violation of his right to life. What gives the situation right to life implications is the fact that that the coma makes it metaphysically impossible for him to choose and to act on the choices of action that must be undertaken for the preservation of his life and property.

    Remember, one's right to life is the right to make such choices and act on them. As a human being, the comatose person has a right to make such choices and actions but he is metaphysically incapable of exercising this right because cannot choose and cannot act. Therefore, because of his metaphysical limitations, the only way that his right to life can be exercised is for him to delegate that right to some other person, i.e. a willing guardian who will exercise it on his behalf.

    Does a person have a right to delegate to a willing guardian the responsibility for exercising his right to life - i.e., to exercise his freedom to act on the choices of action that reality puts in front of him? Of course he does because they are his responsibilities and his rights to delegate. Does he have a right to have such actions taken on his behalf by his guardian? Yes, he does because, by virtue of agreeing to become guardian, his guardian willingly entered into a contractual obligation to do so.

    All of the above is non-controversial as far as Objectivism is concerned.

    Does an incapacitated person have a right to a guardian? Only if someone is willing to function as one. If an incapacitated person does not have a guardian, is it appropriate for the government to step into the picture and appoint one? That depends on the wider context.

    Let's say that a two year old girl is found abandoned and wandering. Her parents cannot be located. Is it proper for the government to take custody of the girl and locate suitable guardians willing to adopt her?

    If the girl is found in a pre-industrial agricultural society where "good" times mean that there is no famine, where parents can barely support the children that they already have and where girls in particular are considered to be a burden because boys are able to help out in the fields at an earlier age, then it would not be appropriate for the government to take action on the child's behalf. It would not be appropriate because there would be no basis to assume that willing care givers and guardians can be found and to force people to take care of her would be a violation of rights.

    In the context of modern day America, however, where there are huge waiting lists of people who are very eager and more than willing to adopt a two year old girl, it is entirely appropriate for the government to step into the picture. She does not have a right to a guardian, but she does have a right to a guardian who wants to take care of her - and in our society, there are plenty of such would-be guardians. But since she is not able to act on this right, it is appropriate for the government to step in and make sure it is adequately protected. A two year old is not capable of finding or selecting a suitable guardian. Furthermore, a situation where would-be parents who wish to adopt can simply pick up any unattended child they happen to come across would, for obvious reasons, be intolerable. Furthermore, since the child is only two years old, she is vulnerable to criminals such as child molesters.

    To use another example, let's say you are mugged, beaten and are found unconscious in a strange city. You are rushed to the hospital. All of your identification was stolen in the mugging. Certain decisions must be made with regard to your medical care but you remain unconscious. Normally it would fall to your family to make such decisions. But nobody has any way of knowing who your family is or how to contact them. Because you do have rights, until your family can be located, it is entirely appropriate for the government to step in and make certain emergency decisions on your behalf or, having anticipated such circumstances in advance, to have delegated those decisions to the hospital staff.

    I don't think that any of what I have said above about the role of government in such contexts is controversial to most Objectivists.

    Now, I want to step back and point something out to Michael and to others here who are intellectually sincere. To agree with what I have said up to this point in this posting does NOT necessarily imply that one agrees with my position on requiring people to call 911. While it is true that my position depends on the above arguments, they alone are not sufficient to prove my position.

    The reason I say this is because this thread has been profoundly frustrating due to the fact that, rather than forcing me to focus on those aspects of my argument that do need to be defended and are arguable, I have ended up spending an enormous amount of time dealing with objections based on parsings and nitpicks of premises that should not be at all controversial to Objectivists.

    The fact that one may regard a conclusion as suspect, by itself, says nothing about the validity of the individual premises that are put forth to support it. To be hostile to a premise or regard it as suspect based on the fact that it supports a conclusion that one disagrees with is a form of rationalism. I have been guilty of this myself, on occasion. For example, I sometimes find myself in discussions with Leftists and, knowing where they are heading with an argument and finding their ultimate conclusion to be grotesquely hideous, I wish to "defeat" it. In doing so, I will sometimes fall into a knee jerk mode of trying to nitpick and disprove ANY fact or premise they put forth to support it. Of course, if one of those premises happens to be right - well, my denying it does not help anyone out and actually undermines my position.

    This fallacy is not merely something one must watch out for in one's own arguments. One must also be alert for it when following the arguments of others. An extreme, contemporary example is the attitude of today's Left has towards President Bush. They disagree with his policy on the war - so anything the man says or does with regard to foreign policy (or anything else, for that matter) is parsed and nitpicked no matter what, even when he (unforgivably) is acting to appease them. Of course, not every instance of this is dishonest, as is the case with the Left. Sometimes people hear a conclusion that somehow does not sound right to them so they passionately conclude that it must be incorrect. But if they either cannot or do not know how to argue against the position in terms of the relevant essentials, they will sometimes seize upon and try to parse any and all premises in order to "defeat" that conclusion because they "know" that it cannot be right. Perhaps the conclusion the person is arguing against is, in fact, totally incorrect. Regardless, the trap for those who are following the argument is that the only effect such rationalism has is to muddy the water and make it difficult to gain a genuine understanding of the issue.

    Ayn Rand didn't want people to cherry pick part of her sentences, she wanted them to be looked at in full.

    But I have not engaged in "cherry picking."

    What Ayn Rand did not want is for people to accept her conclusions and principles as if they were some sort of religious dogma. Ayn Rand held that her moral principles, like all principles, were formed based on a specific context and, if one were to find himself in a completely and fundamentally different context, those principles may or may not be applicable to that new context. For example, Ayn Rand held that honesty is a virtue and, therefore, one should never lie. I consider that principle to be 100% valid. But it is entirely appropriate for me to lie in order to protect my values from a criminal. To say that is not to "cherry pick" Ayn Rand but, instead, to acknowledge the fact that Ayn Rand's moral principles do not presuppose the context of my having a gun pointed at my head - a context in which moral action becomes impossible.

    However, forcing people to call 911 is a violation of the person passing by's rights because you are getting the government to initiate force to compel someone to do something against their judgment and values.

    I am afraid that this begs the question as the above is precisely the issue that is under discussion. I submit that there are certain very delimited and rare instances where the government does have the authority to use such compulsion and that it does not constitute a rights violation - and I have explain why I think this is the case.

    Lets kill the cellphone example since in America, cellphones are considered cheap / worthless over there and replace it with a satellite phone, common in the Australian outback. Same principle, different unit chosen to demonstrate the principle clearer.

    Do you know how expensive those things are? Between $18 to $30 a minute depending on your provider. Yet you want government to force people to be out of pocket. $30 at wages in Australia is stripping away 3 to 4 hours of that persons life.

    That is perhaps an entirely valid point. But the only possible implication it has on my position is in its application and implementation, not the validty of the position itself. I very clearly pointed out that I am assuming the context of someone who is in an objectively non-sacrificial position to make such a call. There are any number of contexts where it may not be appropriate to expect people to contact the government. One example given was if one has reason to fear for one's life. I also stated that defining the specific instances and exactly how such a law would be applied is not something I am qualified to do. That is not a philosophical issue but a legal issue.

    Now a second aspect. You can not delegate to the government to initiate force on your behalf since you don't have the right to do so yourself.

    Again, that begs the question. What is under discussion here is the fact that I am arguing that, under certain very specific instances, requiring a person to call 911 is appropriate and does not constitute an initiation of force, just as the military running tanks over Cindy Sheehan's pasture in time of war does not constitute an initiation of force.

    So what if the government is their guardian? (Which I disagree with) That doesn't magically make the government have the right to say "Either you call the phone or you will be executed or thrown in jail(You said they ought to be treated like murderers)."

    Go back and reread my postings because I have already addressed all of the above in very great detail.

    A guardian can only look after your rights. He can not do anything that you can't do(You can't sign a contract that signs away a 3rd parties rights who had nothing to do with the contract, that would be testement to slavery), and if you can't compel someone, well your guardian can't either.

    I very clearly stated exactly that. So I am not sure what your point is in saying it.

    As Brian previously highlighted(And I suggest you do read his posts, they are extremely good), the only reason that the government can get witnesses to the stand is because it is responding to the initiation of force that another human being previously did.

    I am not a lawyer but I don't think that is the case at all as I am pretty sure that the government has the power to authorize subpoenas even in cases involving disputes where there has been no initiation of force but, rather, where there is a mere dispute over exactly what each party's rights are in a given situation.

    Regardless, the reason the government can get witnesses to the stand is because, in order for the rights of all parties to be protected, it is crucial and mandatory that the judge and the jury have access to the facts and knowledge that they need to do their job and, therefore, the government has a right to obtain those facts and that knowledge.

    The moral responsibility for the consequences of the crime(such as calling witnesses to the stand) then belong to the criminal who initiated force.

    This actually implies that the government, in compelling a witness to a stand, is passively perpetuating a process of force initiation that the criminal set in motion. That is simply bizarre.

    Requiring someone to serve as a witness is not something that someone must be "morally responsible for" and it does not constitute an initiation of force. The reason it is not an initiation of force is because one cannot morally demand that others respect his rights but, at the same time, refuse to cooperate with the measures which are objectively necessary to protect the rights of others.

  22. Speaking as moderator, I realize that this subject has become a rather contentious issue for some, but I remind all participants in this thread to stick to the facts and leave out any personal remarks.

    For the public record, I do not regard myself one who regards the issue as contentious. I am not out to persuade anybody and I really couldn't care less if any given individual agrees with me or not.

    My selfish interest here is to further clarify my understanding of the issue. This thread and some postings by certain individuals in it have been very helpful to me in that regard. All one has to do is read my earlier postings in this thread and read my later ones to see how my thinking on the issue has evolved. For that reason, it has been well worth the time and effort I have put into it. Therefore, I welcome intelligent comments and criticism on my position and my premises as it has been such comments and criticism that has forced me to do the thinking that was necessary for understanding to thusly evolve. But it is not worth my time or effort to be involved in any sort of contention or debate. Going forward, I will respond only to comments where I think doing so will either clarify my understanding of the issue or will enable me to clarify my position in areas that I have either not addressed or not adequately addressed. If others wish to debate, I will not participate. If others wish to declare some sort of "victory" that is their prerogative, I guess and I couldn't care less.

  23. Individual rights are not gurantee's that you will survive, even in difficult situations.

    That is completely true. And since I went through great effort to very clearly state exactly that in my posting, I have utterly no idea why you are telling it to me.

    Question 1) Yes he has a right to life. It is based upon his being free to take whatever actions reality allows, free from physical coercion of others.

    But keep in mind that we are talking about a person in a situation where reality does NOT allow him any actions.

    Keeping context is crucial here.

    Back to the quote you posted by Ayn Rand"

    the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.

    When Ayn Rand wrote that, she was NOT assuming the context of people who are mentally retarded, she was NOT assuming the context of someone who is comatose and she was NOT assuming the context of an orphaned infant.

    If one were to regard her principle as some sort of dogma without regard to context, one would have to conclude that any right to life that an incapacitated person might have would be utterly meaningless because such a person is metaphysically incapable of taking ANY actions and such a person's condition is NOT that of a rational being.

    You also wrote:

    They [individual rights]merely state that no-one is to interfere with your life and choices without permission.

    Then this implies that one may not even help an incapacitated person by taking actions and making choices on his behalf because, to do so, would be to "interfere with his life and choices without permission." Such permission, of course, would be metaphysically impossible to obtain. Therefore, the only alternative is to simply not interfere with that person's life and let him die.

    Obviously such a situation would be absurd.

    The correct answer, of course, is to keep context - and I made a special effort to carefully identify that context in my posting.

    Let's go back to that Ayn Rand quote:

    the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.

    This principle does apply to incapacitated people. But since they are NOT capable of "self-sustaining" action and their cognitive status is NOT that of a "rational being" how that principle is applied to their unique situation is necessarily different than how it is applied to people whose metaphysical condition is identical to that which the principle presupposes. In the case of an incapacitated person, it is his guardian who assumes the responsibility " to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment " of that person's life.

    Does an incapacitated person have a right to a guardian? As I pointed out in my posting, absolutely, so long as someone is willing to become such a guardian (and, as I also pointed out in my posting, there are contexts in which one may not be willing to do so, in which case, no such right obviously exists). But, so long as someone agrees to become an incapacitated person's guardian, he does have a right to that guardian's assistance because, by virtue of agreeing to become a guardian, one willingly enters into a contractual agreement to be responsible for making decisions and taking actions on behalf of the incapacitated individual's best interests.

  24. A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

    Note that freedom is a critical part of that definition and explanation. You dropped that in your reduced definition. That means you are free from force or interference from others to take any actions nessessary to sustain your own life.

    I agree 100%

    It does not mean you have a right for those actions to be taken by others to further your life.

    But I never said that I or anyone else did have such a right.

    The issue under discussion is the rights of the incapacitated. I never said that the incapacitated had a right "for actions to be taken by others to further [their] life." I very clearly stated that, in a context where no willing guardians could be presumed to exist, such people would be up the proverbial creek.

    But if someone is willing to give them such assistance, then they do have a right to that which others freely gave them.

    Let me throw out some questions for you to consider.

    - Does an incapacitated person have a right to life? If so, what is it based on? And why?

    - As you mentioned in your quote, Ayn Rand said: "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." Ok. If so, since the incapacitated are metaphysically incapable of exercising the above mentioned freedom of action, how is the concept of rights even applicable to them?

    - You also quoted Ayn Rand as saying: "the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life." Since an incapacitated person is metaphysically incapable of taking "all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment" of their own lives, how is the notion of "the right to life" even applicable to the incapacitated?

    I have provided my answer to all three of the above questions in my last posting. If you disagree with my answers, then please enlighten me with what you think the correct answers are.