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Author Topic: Reading Ayn Rand...
The Rabbit
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quote:
And beyond all that, even if Reardon metal was the work of a group of researchers, whom Reardon had funded entirely out of pocket for that express purpose, it would still be perfectly reasonable for him to claim it as his and guard the secret of its creation.
You are begging the question. Whether or not it is ethical for him to guard a secret that could benefit many in order to secure his own profits is the question at hand.

Its certainly the way things are done in our society, but that's a long way from demonstrating that it is the ethical way to do things.

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Rakeesh
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Pft, if? Lisa, I don't really expect much courtesy from you when it comes to discussing Rand or Objectivism. Anyway, the rudeness isn't the point though it was irritating when you're permitted to get huffy about what I consider to be trivial terminology.

The point is that, as has been discussed at length, it's not just a McGuffin. (And no, it's been discussed in more ways than to just repeat it). My point isn't now and has never been that individual inventors don't exist in the present day. I don't think you'll look around, Dan or Lisa, and see anyone else saying they don't. What you will see is that the more complicated an invention gets, the less likely that it was invented by one lone Producer!, in proportion to its complexity.

Lisa's list of lone inventors does nothing to contradict this point, for two reasons: one, almost all of those inventions are not modern at all and two, most of them are when compared to the kinds of invention we're discussing now not very complex. And even if you break things down to the things you mention, Dan, well then another problem emerges: all of the things you mention require collaborative effort too, but Objectivism requires we reject it for...well, some reason, it's not too clear exactly.

Wait, here it is:
quote:

We're human beings. We don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. That doesn't mean that what I do with my mind is a collaborative act. If I write something, I did it. Me. The fact that I made use of things around me that may have been created by other individuals is a good thing, but it doesn't mean my creation was a collaborative one.

No, what it means is: you couldn't have done it alone. Something which Rand and Objectivism, at least every time I've heard people in support of those ideas ever speak out about it, reject with surprising vehemence.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:

We're human beings. We don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. That doesn't mean that what I do with my mind is a collaborative act. If I write something, I did it. Me. The fact that I made use of things around me that may have been created by other individuals is a good thing, but it doesn't mean my creation was a collaborative one.

No, what it means is: you couldn't have done it alone. Something which Rand and Objectivism, at least every time I've heard people in support of those ideas ever speak out about it, reject with surprising vehemence.
No, you haven't. Clearly you think you have, but you've simply misunderstood. When we say that individuals create, we don't mean that in a vacuum; we simply reject the comparison to that and any kind of collaboration. Because that is not the same thing as collaboration, and the false identification of it as such is a dishonest rhetorical trick, and nothing more.

As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.

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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
And beyond all that, even if Reardon metal was the work of a group of researchers, whom Reardon had funded entirely out of pocket for that express purpose, it would still be perfectly reasonable for him to claim it as his and guard the secret of its creation.

See, this I don't necessarily agree with. In fact, I disagree with the notion that just because Reardon did all the work himself, that automatically gives him the right to claim it as "his." Because I don't think that facts about "who owns what" are part of nature. They're for civilization to decide.

This isn't to say that there's no right or wrong decision to make about how to put together a system of property. But constructing such a system and making it work is a practical problem. If we do an effective job of it, we've done well even if not everyone gets to keep what we might naively call the fruits of their labor.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
I know what Rand says about this issue. She's wrong.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
I know what Rand says about this issue. She's wrong.
So you don't think that we build off of a general knowledge base?
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Chris Bridges:
"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants."
-- Albert Einstein

That would be Newton, actually. And he wasn't being generous, he was mocking Hooke, who had accused him of stealing results. Hooke was short, and sensitive about it.
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King of Men
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More on-topic: Can I just point out that existing laws about patents and whatnot, horribly statist as Lisa no doubt considers them, do in fact recognise the individual inventor? If someone invents Rearden metal tomorrow and patents it, he will be free to make a humongous profit off it, if the patent system works as intended. Indeed, he'll likely make a bigger profit than in a purely libertarian system, which presumably would not prohibit other people from reverse-engineering his process. So I suggest that those who object to the individual inventor should take a deep breath and recognise that they're just wrong on this point. Such people do exist, and even current law recognises that they are entitled to compensation for their work, whatever the degree of giantism in the shoulders they stood on.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Lisa does seem to have counterexampled the specific point at issue, namely that Reardon couldn't realistically invent a new alloy without a large team.
Obviously I wasn't precise enough when I used the phrase "collaborative effort." I wasn't necessarily talking about working in a large team. Rabbit is definitely on my wavelength. Inventions don't happen in a vacuum. There has to be the right environment, in terms of prior art, available technology, information exchange, and support from other branches of society to allow for an invention to occur. Albert Marsh and William Hoskins could not have alloyed nickel and chrome unless someone else had been able to isolate those particular elements. The Wright brothers borrowed glider and engine designs from others. Many inventors couldn't reduce their work to practice without government funding, etc.

quote:
Tesla didn't require a large collective effort to invent alternating current.
Let's start with the fact that Tesla didn't invent alternating current. He built on it. And given that Tesla worked for Edison, and Westinghouse, among others, it's not really possible to identify which of Tesla's inventions were purely his, and which were inspired by his coworkers, fellow students, or his teachers. He most certainly did not work in a vacuum.

quote:
No one bellyached about the time machine in Wells' book.
Because the point of Wells' book was a thought experiment about the human tendency to ask "what if?" As I said before, the time machine was merely a plot device that allowed him to examine that question. Rearden metal is a metaphoric device that allowed Rand to argue that since Rearden invented it, he should be entitled to all of its rewards. Once again, I haven't read the book, and I'm planning to, but that's my understanding of it. But unless he saw the need, funded the research, figured out how to isolate the ingredients, and did the grunt work of trial and error combinations, and all the other myriad details that lead to the invention, then the system that supported him as he invented it deserves to benefit to a certain degree. I'm with you 100% that those benefits shouldn't drain him, or cripple further efforts on his part, but hell, you can't even build a railroad unless you've got a government that can use eminent domain to secure contiguous land, and he wouldn't benefit nearly as much if the railroad didn't exist to provide a market for his invention.

Curious, what do you think of businesses that exist merely by taking a cut off of transactions?

quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
Please do.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
If someone invents Rearden metal tomorrow and patents it, he will be free to make a humongous profit off it, if the patent system works as intended.
Bear in mind that the reason patents exist is not to ensure that inventors profit, it is to ensure that inventions are published so that others can learn from and build on that art.
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Parkour
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I never thought about eminent domain and how it makes railroads a horrible example to use for the vindication of objectivism, since rail systems basically require eminent domain to be functional.

I am sure that it can be as easily sidestepped in the movie.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
If someone invents Rearden metal tomorrow and patents it, he will be free to make a humongous profit off it, if the patent system works as intended.
Bear in mind that the reason patents exist is not to ensure that inventors profit, it is to ensure that inventions are published so that others can learn from and build on that art.
Actually, this isn't even a matter of opinion. That may be one benefit of them, from your POV, but the Constitution (Article I, section 8) lists the power of Congress, including:
quote:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
Since it actually states the reason for patents, it's kind of hard to argue about it.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
Tesla didn't require a large collective effort to invent alternating current.
Let's start with the fact that Tesla didn't invent alternating current. He built on it. And given that Tesla worked for Edison, and Westinghouse, among others, it's not really possible to identify which of Tesla's inventions were purely his, and which were inspired by his coworkers, fellow students, or his teachers. He most certainly did not work in a vacuum.
Considering that Edison tried to ruin Tesla, as well as AC, using every dirty trick in the book, it's pretty unlikely that he invented it himself. And inspiration isn't the issue. A hundred people can be inspired, but only a few of them are going to act successfully on that inspiration. They're entitled to claim that achievement for themselves.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
No one bellyached about the time machine in Wells' book.
Because the point of Wells' book was a thought experiment about the human tendency to ask "what if?" As I said before, the time machine was merely a plot device that allowed him to examine that question. Rearden metal is a metaphoric device that allowed Rand to argue that since Rearden invented it, he should be entitled to all of its rewards.
What distinction are you trying to make? Reardon Metal could have been Reardon Foam Rubber. That it was an alloy is utterly nonessential to the point of the book. Reardon Metal, to phrase it as you did with Wells, was merely a plot device that allowed Rand to examine the question of whether a creator is entitled to his creation.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Once again, I haven't read the book, and I'm planning to, but that's my understanding of it. But unless he saw the need, funded the research, figured out how to isolate the ingredients, and did the grunt work of trial and error combinations, and all the other myriad details that lead to the invention,

That's the implication in the book. Except for the "funded the research" part. It seemed to me that he did the research. That he experimented until he came up with Reardon Metal. I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure the book even mentions the effort.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
but hell, you can't even build a railroad unless you've got a government that can use eminent domain to secure contiguous land, and he wouldn't benefit nearly as much if the railroad didn't exist to provide a market for his invention.

Again, that's not true. There was one transcontinental railroad in the days of the robber barons which refused to take grants from the government, and operated independently. And thrived while railroads based on government grants crashed and burned. The whole "robber baron" phenomenon was yet another example of how government interference makes things worse.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Curious, what do you think of businesses that exist merely by taking a cut off of transactions?

Insufficient data. Capital is the lifeblood of innovation. Few people can afford to produce in a big way without the investment of capital from the outside. People who facilitate this investment are providing a vital service. So it isn't simply a matter of taking a cut; it's a matter of getting paid for services rendered.

Yes, there are people who take a cut without actually providing any real service, and those are parasites, worth about as much as the stuff stuck to the bottom of my shoe. But there will always be bottom feeders.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
Please do.
Sure.
quote:
Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes--if it is a human society. The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade. Man is the only species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; the knowledge potentially available to man is greater than any one man could begin to acquire in his own life-span; every man gains an incalculable benefit from the knowledge discovered by others. The second great benefit is the division of labor: it enables a man to devote his effort to a particular field of work and to trade with others who specialize in other fields. This form of cooperation allows all men who take part in it to achieve a greater knowledge, skill and productive return on their effort than they could achieve if each had to produce everything he needs, on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm.

But these very benefits indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society.

--Ayn Rand, "The Objectivist Ethics"

If you want to read the whole article, you can read it here. The problem is when someone comes along and says, "Because you benefited from others (any others), you owe all others a piece of your life." That's a lot like a kid running into an intersection and washing windshields (without asking permission) and then demanding payment. It's the moral equivalent of extortion.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
There was one transcontinental railroad in the days of the robber barons which refused to take grants from the government, and operated independently.
How did they acquire land from people that didn't want to give or sell it to them?

quote:
People who facilitate this investment are providing a vital service.
Then government provides a vital service.

quote:
Because you benefited from others (any others), you owe all others a piece of your life."
Strawman. Because you benefitted from others you owe those others a share of what you were only able to create due to that support. Where that share goes is irrelevant, although in a system of democratic government you have a say in making that decision.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Since it actually states the reason for patents, it's kind of hard to argue about it.

You're right, the Constitution specifically says: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,"

"by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" is a means to that end.

Thanks.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
There was one transcontinental railroad in the days of the robber barons which refused to take grants from the government, and operated independently.
How did they acquire land from people that didn't want to give or sell it to them?
Like who, for example? How do you know there were such people?

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
People who facilitate this investment are providing a vital service.
Then government provides a vital service.
Pardon me. People who facilitate this investment are providing a service to people who are voluntarily purchasing it. I wasn't precise enough, I guess.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
Because you benefited from others (any others), you owe all others a piece of your life."
Strawman. Because you benefitted from others you owe those others a share of what you were only able to create due to that support.
Except that you don't want me to owe only them. No, you want me to owe everyone.

quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Where that share goes is irrelevant, although in a system of democratic government you have a say in making that decision.

Democracy is good for deciding between two or more legitimate things. It doesn't ever justify robbing one person to pay another person.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
I know what Rand says about this issue. She's wrong.
So you don't think that we build off of a general knowledge base?
How could you possibly have gotten that from my post.

Ayn Rand goes through a lot of mental gymnastics to explain why building off a general knowledge base does not create a moral obligation to the society which has fostered, preserved, taught, and freely distributed that knowledge. She's wrong.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Again, that's not true. There was one transcontinental railroad in the days of the robber barons which refused to take grants from the government, and operated independently. And thrived while railroads based on government grants crashed and burned. The whole "robber baron" phenomenon was yet another example of how government interference makes things worse.
Only in fantasy. The first transcontinental railroad (completed in 1869) was built with huge government subsidies. Nearly all the land was donated by the government (most of it stolen from Indian tribes). The power of eminent domain was used to obtain lands from private white land owners. In addition to donating the land , the government paid The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads with a combination of government bonds and land grants for constructing the railroad.

[ February 15, 2011, 07:14 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Samprimary
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I think it would help to know what the One Transcontinental Railroad was that apparently operated independently.

Not that it makes such a great example with what to do with rail now, since placing down the rail without eminent domain only really works when all the land is just stolen from the native americans. Doesn't quite work so well for modernizing rail infrastructure from yon 1800's.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
As I said to Rabbit, if you want, I'll show you where Rand talks about how we build off of a general knowledge base.
I know what Rand says about this issue. She's wrong.
So you don't think that we build off of a general knowledge base?
How could you possibly have gotten that from my post.

Ayn Rand goes through a lot of mental gymnastics to explain why building off a general knowledge base does not create a moral obligation to the society which has fostered, preserved, taught, and freely distributed that knowledge. She's wrong.

"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
I think it would help to know what the One Transcontinental Railroad was that apparently operated independently.

Not that it makes such a great example with what to do with rail now, since placing down the rail without eminent domain only really works when all the land is just stolen from the native americans. Doesn't quite work so well for modernizing rail infrastructure from yon 1800's.

The Great Northern Railway
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Rakeesh
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quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
What happens when the vast majority, or at least an undoubted plurality, of those individual human beings, believe in that "society" themselves? Do you then tell them, "Well y'all are just kiddin' yourself, don't know what you're talkin' about you're not actually a part of any sort of group fostering of effort whether or not you think you are. I know better."

(The funny thing being that that kind of presumption would just positively steam your broccoli if it came from, y'know, government but is quite right and proper when coming from you.)

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
What happens when the vast majority, or at least an undoubted plurality, of those individual human beings, believe in that "society" themselves?
The same thing that happens when they believe in fairies, or the FSM.

"If 10 million people say a foolish thing, it remains a foolish thing." --Anatole France

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MattP
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quote:
"If 10 million people say a foolish thing, it remains a foolish thing." --Anatole France
But in this case doesn't the predominant view actually define the reality? When a group of people collectively agree about the existence of the community and what it's rights and responsibilities are?

If you're born on a commune is it your right to enjoy the benefits of the commune without having any responsibility to contribute back to it? Do the members of the commune have an obligation to permit this parasitic behavior?

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The Rabbit
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quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
That's a meaningless distinction. It's like saying, "People don't write books, its a biochemical process".

Collaboration is essential in fostering, preserving, teaching and distributing knowledge. These aren't things that can be done individually. Yes collaborative groups are made up of individuals. But some things are better described as a working unit rather than a collection of part. When talking about the writing of a book, its more useful to talk about the work done by person than the individual biochemical reactions that make up that person. In exactly that same way, when we consider fostering, preserving, and distributing knowledge it is more useful to talk about societies and cultures than the individuals within them.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
That's a meaningless distinction. It's like saying, "People don't write books, its a biochemical process".
Again, that's only true according to your view. I can understand that you see the world differently, even if I disagree. Why do you lack that ability? I'd understand if you were a little kid, but I'm fairly sure you aren't.

quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Collaboration is essential in fostering, preserving, teaching and distributing knowledge.

Collaborating is when individuals collaborate with one another. What you're describing is not collaboration in the way the word is ever used. You're basically arguing that it's qualitatively the same, but that's an argument; not a fact.
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Parkour
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
The Great Northern Railway[/URL]

You are pointing at a railroad that didn't take public money for the transcontinental railroad specifically but took governmental land grants to expand. Land from the government is much more relevant to questioning whether modern rail development requires Eminent Domain.

I think your point is lost if you have to point to a project done in the 1800s that would rely on dispossession of undeveloped land from indigenous peoples, that would not work today without the ability for the government to force buyout of private land.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
That's a meaningless distinction. It's like saying, "People don't write books, its a biochemical process".
Again, that's only true according to your view. I can understand that you see the world differently, even if I disagree. Why do you lack that ability? I'd understand if you were a little kid, but I'm fairly sure you aren't.
It's not a matter of a point of view, its a statement of fact. Unless we are talking about fundamental atomic particles, everything is made up of some collection of smaller things. Whether it's useful to think of a collection of things as something distinctive (like a person or a nation) or merely collection of smaller subunits depends on the types of questions we are asking.

The writing of a book could be described as a series of chemical reactions, but there are reasons why it is more useful in most cases to think of that collection of chemicals as a human being. Neither way of viewing the system is factually incorrect. The "proper" way of describing the system depends on the type of questions you are trying to act.

In exactly the same way, it is factually accurate to describe the United States as either a collection of individuals or one nation. Both ways of looking at it are useful for answering certain questions. Was the Gaza strip bombed by Israel or by individual Israelis? It's not a fair question because both ways of looking at it are factually accurate. The "correct" way of looking at it depends on the question we are trying to answer.

If you are going to keep arguing that groups don't do anything, only Individuals, then I will keep countering with "Individuals don't do anything, only quarks actually do anything until you give me some reason why there is a difference between the two statements.

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Collaboration is essential in fostering, preserving, teaching and distributing knowledge.

Collaborating is when individuals collaborate with one another. What you're describing is not collaboration in the way the word is ever used. You're basically arguing that it's qualitatively the same, but that's an argument; not a fact.
This quite simply put not true. Individuals have to work together in ways that are collaborative in the way the word is used in ordinary language and by you in order to foster, preserve, teach and distribute knowledge. This is my profession and it is fundamentally collaborative in the way you think of as collaboration. I interact directly with hundreds of collaborators to foster, preserve, teach and distribute knowledge. We have this as a common goal. We agree to work together. If that isn't what you mean by collaboration, what do you mean?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
I think your point is lost if you have to point to a project done in the 1800s that would rely on dispossession of undeveloped land from indigenous peoples.
Don't forget that this also required military action to remove said indigenous peoples from their land.
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Samprimary
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The tycoon in charge of the GNR totally lobbied for the U.S. government to give him permission to just baldly force a railroad straight through established Indian-held lands at the time and was pretty set on doing it, too. He was thwarted by a veto.

I'm not gonna make a guess at whether he was overall a good dude or a bad dude but his is an example only of expansive capitalism that is made possible only by American pioneers capitalizing on an easily malignable indiginous race that can be pushed out of the way to consider all land along the frontier essentially "up for grabs," which the government doled out accordingly and used militaries and state guard to enforce this dispossession and dispersion.

There's no more frontier. There's no more wide swaths of completely undeveloped land with indians you can just push out of the way or pay people to shoot. Unless you want to leave rail lines in pretty much the condition and operability they were capped at from during this period, rail networks act as a quintessential example of things that need eminent domain to modernize.

Which makes it, at the very least, amusing that it would be the centerpiece for a modernized Objectivist fairy tale. Especially in an era where the Reardenized high speed rail lines of the world are ONLY being developed via eminent domain and/or outright seizure of land from people.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Collaborating is when individuals collaborate with one another.
And a sovereign nation is a nation that is sovereign.

I think this argument is over.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
The Great Northern Railway

You are pointing at a railroad that didn't take public money for the transcontinental railroad specifically but took governmental land grants to expand. Land from the government is much more relevant to questioning whether modern rail development requires Eminent Domain.
Interesting. Since the article I linked to (and which you removed the link from (I've replaced it... you don't need to thank me) says otherwise, I wonder what your source is.
quote:
The Great Northern was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history. No federal land grants were used during its construction, unlike every other transcontinental railroad built. It was one of the few transcontinental railroads to avoid receivership following the Panic of 1893. (emphasis added --LL)
quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
I think your point is lost if you have to point to a project done in the 1800s that would rely on dispossession of undeveloped land from indigenous peoples, that would not work today without the ability for the government to force buyout of private land.

Not at all. Because the actual subject was whether railroads had been problematic for use in Atlas Shrugged, and the answer is: no. Taggart Transcontinental wasn't built yesterday.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
"Society" hasn't fostered, preserved, taught, or freely distributed anything. Individual human beings have.
That's a meaningless distinction. It's like saying, "People don't write books, its a biochemical process".
Again, that's only true according to your view. I can understand that you see the world differently, even if I disagree. Why do you lack that ability? I'd understand if you were a little kid, but I'm fairly sure you aren't.
It's not a matter of a point of view, its a statement of fact.
<snicker>
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Chris Bridges
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This is not an argument that can be won. Mostly, I think, because the people involved do not at all experience life and interaction with other people the same way.

I'm not claiming this as analogous to anyone here, but by way of demonstration my son has many of the same habits and attitudes recently associated with Aspergers. He had extremely delayed development, he tends to get extremely focused on some things, he demonstrates almost no empathy to others at all unless he makes an effort to do so, and he doesn't understand a lot of social traditions. We've talked about it and he said he has to consciously notice how people react to each other in social situations and then make sure he says and does the same sort of things when it's called for. We all do, to some extent, I assured him, but when we talked further it became obvious that he really had no concept of the reasons behind many social interactions that I took for granted.

Please note that he's not "challenged." He's smart as hell and I think his focus gives him talents I don't have, and an awful lot of top scientists and mathematicians have similar traits. But he does see things differently than I do.

It wasn't a surprise to me that he read and enjoyed "Atlas Shrugged." To him, it makes perfect and self-evident sense because, I think, it's one of the first times he's read something written by someone thinking the same way he does.

It's easy to dismiss the use and value of a group if you are personally unable to see it, or ever feel a part of it. It's also easy to dismiss the opinions of someone who values the individual over all when you yourself see social grouping as inevitable, desirable. And both would be correct for themselves, but totally wrong for the other.

Again, not claiming I know the thoughts or motivations of anyone here, and certainly there are fans and detractors of Rand for many reasons. But it does read to me like two people who are perhaps physically and emotionally incapable of perceiving life the way their opponent does, which makes any sort of agreement impossible.

[ February 16, 2011, 01:11 PM: Message edited by: Chris Bridges ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
It's not a matter of a point of view, its a statement of fact. Unless we are talking about fundamental atomic particles, everything is made up of some collection of smaller things. Whether it's useful to think of a collection of things as something distinctive (like a person or a nation) or merely collection of smaller subunits depends on the types of questions we are asking.
Rather than simply snicker Lisa, can you please point to the parts of this statement which you consider opinion rather than fact.
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PMH
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
There's a difference between someone disagreeing with Rand (I do, on numerous points) or even disagreeing with Objectivism, and the big wave of "crappy writer! dumb philosophy!" and a whole slew of strawman attacks on either Rand or Objectivism. It happens every time the subject comes up.

So we've got 3 different topics here:
(crossed with something like serious discussion vs flaming)
* Ayn Rand - the person, & her views outside Objectivism sensu stricto
* Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand
* her fiction

It occurred to me (finally!(?)) that this thread is (supposed to be) focused on the last of these..
..so I reckon I should start a new thread, since what I'm interested in is the middle one.

I can get past not having done that in these forums..
..but it would seem best to reply to some of the posts in this thread over on that new one..
..but I don't know whether or not there's some special way to do that.
(I ran across some mention of ~copying over~ some things, but...)

I'll just jump in & try something, I guess.

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The Rabbit
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PMH, I have no clue what you are talking about. Where did you start this new thread? What are you going to copy over.

I'm afraid you will find that threads in this forum have a life of their own. You can try to limit a discussion, but it rarely works.

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PMH
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I haven't started a new thread yet.

I thought I'd wait & see if there were any helpful replies.

Now that you mention it, where to do it is an issue. Maybe Ornery American General Comments.

If ~copy over~ doesn't ring any bells, forget it; it was just something I ran across in my whirlwind tour.

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The Rabbit
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PMH, Its actually common practice for people here to copy a post from one thread into another thread when they want to discuss some aspect of that post without derailing the original thread. I don't think anyone sees it as problematic, I just wasn't sure whether this was what you meant by ~copy over~. If you want to start a new thread on Objectivism here at hatrack without some of the baggage in this thread, please feel free. It may work. Sometimes it does but more often than not threads here tend to head in directions the OP never intended or imagined.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
PMH, Its actually common practice for people here to copy a post from one thread into another thread when they want to discuss some aspect of that post without derailing the original thread. I don't think anyone sees it as problematic, I just wasn't sure whether this was what you meant by ~copy over~. If you want to start a new thread on Objectivism here at hatrack without some of the baggage in this thread, please feel free. It may work. Sometimes it does but more often than not threads here tend to head in directions the OP never intended or imagined.

I recommend putting on some asbestos underwear first. You'll need it.
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PMH
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by PMH:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Whenever the objectivist ethics become a topic of philosophical review, they get demolished, because the premises and implicit premises contain at least eight fatal flaws

I think that's the one I referred to above.
You'll find that Sam whips out Heumer's opus every time the subject comes up. I've pointed out that the "refutation" is based on clear misreading. Heumer takes Rand's definitions of terms as claims. So he'll say that Rand is claiming value to be only agent-relative, and say, "But she doesn't prove it! And here are examples where it isn't!" What he seems clueless about is that Rand, like any philosopher, requires a more rigorous terminology than a person might use in everyday speech. And she is defining the word "value" as "that which one acts to gain and/or keep."

Heumer's inability to understand the difference between defining a specialized terminology and making claims about terms as they are used on the street makes his whole article a complete non sequitur. It may be a refutation, but certainly not of anything Rand wrote.

I've now read your post contra Huemer(sic)'s contra the Objectivist Ethics..
..and gone through his original - again - again..
..and I have a (bit of a (?)) different analysis:

I'd say that AR's definition of "value" /is/ in fact a(n implicit) claim.
(that value is "agent-relative")

The thing is, she goes on to prove that.
(show that/why it is true)
(contra H's "she offers no argument for it")

...but the rest of H's critique shows that his reading of AR was with an eye to finding a number of things that he could say she /seems/ to be saying, and that he could then demolish..
..rather than trying to understand what she was saying.

And so thereby he was able to write something that looks..
(to someone who is anti-AR to begin with)

..like a nice upstanding academic philosopher work..

..which people who also don't actually care to understand her work can point to as an official demolishing of her.

(I realize that that will not convince anyone. I'm learning that to be convincing..
(to people who are coming from a position that AR was just BS - even if they are amenable to convincing)

..one has to somehow manage to present the arguments for them..
(ie, as opposed to just pointing to her presentation)

..in terms that they will understand.
(on first reading)

That is incredibly difficult to do - as I would venture to guess has been demonstrated many times here.

But I'm going to try just a little bit:

I myself had a hard time understanding why in the world she defined "value" that way - as opposed to just going with the colloquial.

I think the reason is that the point of ethics is to guide human choice - and human choice is for the purpose of action..
..at least in the context of ethics, which is built upon the observation that Man has to act in order to survive.

So it's fine to sit around and think that one "values" something -- but absent action, that is sterile.

I'd be happy to go on like this if anyone is interested.

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Destineer
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What's your opinion on the inconsistency Sam points out in Rand's discussion of the hypothetical immortal robot?

quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:

Again, I give you the big immortal robot:

quote:
To make this point fully clear, try to imagine an immortal, indestructible robot, an entity which moves and acts, but which cannot be affected by anything, which cannot be changed in any respect, which cannot be damaged, injured or destroyed. Such an entity would not be able to have any values; it would have nothing to gain or to lose; it could not regard anything as for or against it, as serving or threatening its welfare, as fulfilling or frustrating its interests. It could have no interests and no goals.

Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.

Now, it's also fun to note that if the meaning of "value" that Rand is inherently working with, as you point out here in your dismissal of the author, is "that which one acts to gain and/or keep" — then even the assertions about the robot are false on their face. If it moves and acts, is capable of moving and acting, it can surely act to gain and/or keep anything it's programmed to take or build. Therefore, such an entity is clearly able to have "values(rand)." What a strange, convoluted-to-reconcile issue to have in a statement in the opener of the summation of the ethics of objectivism!


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Itsame
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As a follow up, I think that the argument can be made slightly more powerful: "If it moves and acts, is capable of moving and acting, it can surely act to gain and/or keep anything it's programmed to take or build."

This is well taken, but let us imagine that it is not programmed to take or build anything. Let us only focus on the fact that it moves and acts. These are end driven things. Particularly in a machine, there is no action without purpose and there is no purpose without "value". The fact that it acts implies value.

Perhaps Rand would want to say that it is merely capable of moving and acting, but it does not. If, however, Rand's point is taken seriously, then essentially the robot does not do so. I also take cognitive functioning as a form of action. If we eliminate all these things, then the robot is no longer intelligent and the example is moot. So it seems, at least to me, that Rand's view is incoherent.

Edit to fix ambiguous pronoun.

[ March 08, 2011, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: JonHecht ]

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King of Men
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Why is the robot immortal and indestructible? Or conversely, why is the immortal, indestructible being a robot? It seems to me that Rand is arguing from immortal-and-indestructible part that the entity can have no values, and then turning around and saying that it's because it's a robot. If the robot were not indestructible it could act to prevent its own destruction, and that would be a value by Rand's standard; conversely if it were organic but immortal, it could not have the value of preventing its own death. Making it a robot at the same time as you make it immortal confuses the issue.
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Destineer
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Yeah, there are many problems with the way the thought experiment is employed in her argument.
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PMH
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:

Now, it's also fun to note that if the meaning of "value" that Rand is inherently working with, as you point out here in your dismissal of the author, is "that which one acts to gain and/or keep" — then even the assertions about the robot are false on their face. If it moves and acts, is capable of moving and acting, it can surely act to gain and/or keep anything it's programmed to take or build. Therefore, such an entity is clearly able to have "values(rand)." What a strange, convoluted-to-reconcile issue to have in a statement in the opener of the summation of the ethics of objectivism!

I myself found the immortal robot thought experiment somewhat less than immediately convincing.

I had to imagine myself - a conscious entity with free will - as immortal (& indestructible, &c).

Doing so, I saw that I would then /not/ have any reason to act so as further my continued existence -- and then, further, my kind, Man, would not have evolved with the pleasure/pain mechanisms that underly all of our considering things to be more or less desirable.

That's still not unavoidably convincing, is it?

Let's look at it some other ways:

Is it controversial that the concept value arises only in the context of life? Surely, absent life, there would be no value - and non-living things don't value.

I only recently realized that ethics does not address the issue of whether to choose life or death. If one doesn't choose to live, if one doesn't care whether he lives or dies, then ethics has nothing to say to him.
(If one chooses positively to die, then there could well be something like ethics that could guide him along that path. Since that's a lot easier than living, there wouldn't be much to it, but...)

One is free to choose whatever values he wants to. In the sense of acting to gain and/or keep. He can choose to go for whatever he happens to feel like at the moment. Question is, what is likely to be the case at the next moment? Ethics doesn't guide such choices; there's nothing to guide. It's only when one has a goal that's longer range than the current moment that any thinking, any planning, any ethics is needed.

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Raymond Arnold
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Non-SENTIENT things don't value. Plants included.

Most of my values have nothing to do with preserving my life. They have to do with improving the quality of it.

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King of Men
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quote:
Is it controversial that the concept value arises only in the context of life? Surely, absent life, there would be no value - and non-living things don't value.
You are assuming the definition of life. Is an immortal being alive? If not, what does it mean that it is 'immortal'? Is a robot alive? And incidentally, just what do you mean by 'robot' in this context? Is being constructed of metal or plastic or semiconductors sufficient to make it a dead thing, or is there some other quality you're looking at? If you're going to appeal to free will, please define it in such a way that it's clear that humans have it, noting that the operations of human brains are bound by the laws of physics.

quote:
One is free to choose whatever values he wants to.
No, because you cannot choose the system by which you choose your values.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Doing so, I saw that I would then /not/ have any reason to act so as further my continued existence -- and then, further, my kind, Man, would not have evolved with the pleasure/pain mechanisms that underly all of our considering things to be more or less desirable.
value, or the capacity to value things, is not a trait that has to be inherently tied to you via certain evolutionary processes. As noted before, the immortal robot can possess values(rand). It does not need to have evolved. It could have been programmed with these values whole-cloth.
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Destineer
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Right. Think of Frankenstein's monster: a being who didn't evolve, but who undeniably has desires and can act to satisfy them.
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