Monday, February 29, 2016

History is made by minorities

“It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of  man’s proper stature–and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning–and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray: it is their own souls.”

~ Ayn Rand in the introduction to The Fountainhead 

"History is made by minorities—or, more precisely, history is made by intellectual movements, which are created by minorities. Who belongs to these minorities? Anyone who is able and willing actively to concern himself with intellectual issues. Here, it is not quantity, but quality that counts (the quality—and consistency—of the ideas one is advocating)."

~ Ayn Rand in “What Can One Do?” Philosophy: Who Needs It

Star Trek - Horizon: Full Film

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Harry Binswanger on The Objective vs the Intrinsic and the Subjective

'So why can't the intrinsic and the subjective schools accept the idea of rights? Well, the intrinsic theory holds that rights, if they exist, are an intrinsic feature or possession of man. But you can't perceive them. Where are his rights? I can see his hair. I see his eyeglasses. I see his arms. I don't see his rights. Well, can I bring in some scientific equipment, a fluoroscope or something, and find his rights? No. So they're mystical, and indeed the intrinsic theory typically takes rights to be bestowed by God.

'The enlightenment view called them natural rights. But the term natural is a package deal here. It's a package of factual description of actual attributes, like he's six feet one with dark hair, with moral judgments about what ought to be and ought not to be. So you can't get around it by saying, "Well, rights aren't attributes, but they're natural." That's incoherent. And as a result actual rights, became dismissed by the intellectual world shortly after they had been launched by John Locke. Only a century later, Jeremy Bentham described rights as "nonsense upon stilts." You know, worse than regular nonsense, it's nonsense raised up on stilts, nonsense upon nonsense. And he got no opposition with that view. That was the mainstream view.

'And of course the subjectivists convert rights into permissions granted by society. And we all know that view. That doesn't need elaboration. It's the false alternative of rights as some kind of mystical feature in you versus rights as social conventions that Galt blasts when he says, "you swing in impotent evasiveness between the claim that rights are a gift of God, a supernatural gift to be taken on faith, or the claim that rights are the gift of society, to be broken at its arbitrary whim." That's the intrinsic and the subjective.

'The objective theory of rights hold that rights are neither intrinsic attributes nor social conventions but facts in relation to a standard of value. Rights are moral principles. Moral principles. That genus of Ayn Rand's definition is as much a revolution in her theory of rights as any other aspect of it. Rights are moral principles. They are not something you have. Nor are they something granted to you. They are moral principles about how men should interact, based on their attributes, but also relating it to their survival. The facts alone without a standard of value don't tell us how men should treat each other or how society should be organized. To settle those issues, you need a standard of morality applied to the facts. So as moral principles, rights have the same metaphysical status as the good, i.e., objective, not intrinsic or subjective. Rights are simply the extension of individual morality to social existence. They demarcate the individual's rightful sphere of independent action . . . .'


On Artificial Intelligence

"The nonbiological perspective stands markedly revealed in the common question: is it possible to develop a computer that can think? My answer is: before a computer could think, it would have to be able to understand ideas (concepts); before it could understand ideas, it would have to be able to perceive the world and to feel emotions, such as pleasure and pain, desire and fear; before it could perceive and feel emotions, it would have to be alive — i.e., be engaged in action to sustain itself. We can dismiss notions about a thinking computer until one is built that is alive — and then it wouldn’t be a computer but a living organism, a man-made one."

(Source: 'How we Know' by Harry Binswanger; Chapter - 'Consciousness: Four Fundamentals'; Page 40-41)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dictatorships love sports spectacles

"Dictatorships love sports spectacles. A chance to bask in global attention, push propaganda, & distract the oppressed. (And steal billions.)" ~ Garry Kasparov

Apple - 1984

Friday, February 26, 2016

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourselfany direction you choose. 
Oh, the Places You'll Go! 

~ Dr. Seuss

Ayn Rand on Reification of Zero

A vulgar variant of concept stealing, prevalent among avowed mystics and irrationalists, is a fallacy I call the Reification of the Zero. It consists of regarding “nothing” as a thing, as a special, different kind of existent. (For example, see Existentialism.) This fallacy breeds such symptoms as the notion that presence and absence, or being and non-being, are metaphysical forces of equal power, and that being is the absence of non-being. E.g., “Nothingness is prior to being.” (Sartre)—“Human finitude is the presence of the not in the being of man.” (William Barrett)—“Nothing is more real than nothing.” (Samuel Beckett)—”Das Nichts nichtet” or “Nothing noughts.” (Heidegger). Consciousness, then, is not a stuff, but a negation. The subject is not a thing, but a non-thing. The subject carves its own world out of Being by means of negative determinations. Sartre describes consciousness as a ‘noughting nought’ (néant néantisant). It is a form of being other than its own: a mode ‘which has yet to be what it is, that is to say, which is what it is, that is to say, which is what it is not and which is not what it is.’” (Hector Hawton, The Feast of Unreason, London: Watts & Co., 1952, p. 162.)

(The motive? “Genuine utterances about the nothing must always remain unusual. It cannot be made common. It dissolves when it is placed in the cheap acid of mere logical acumen.” Heidegger.)

~ Ayn Rand in (Axiomatic Concepts) Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eric Hoffer on Intellectuals

"One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputation. The intellectuals who idolized Stalin while he was purging millions and stifling the least stirring of freedom have not been discredited. They are still holding forth on every topic under the sun and are listened to with deference. Sartre returned in 1939 from Germany, where he studied philosophy, and told the world that there was little to choose between Hitler's Germany and France. Yet Sartre went on to become an intellectual pope revered by the educated in every land. The metaphysical grammarian Noam Chomsky, who went to Hanoi to worship there at the altar of human rights and democracy, was not discredited and silenced when the humanitarian communists staged their nightmare in South Vietnam and Cambodia. Is there a greater freedom than the right to be wrong?" ~ Eric Hoffer in Before the Sabbath (1979)

John Stossel - Economic Myths

Monday, February 22, 2016

On the lure of socialism - Thomas Sowell

"Government giveaways polarize society into segments, each trying to get what it wants at somebody else's expense, creating mutual bitterness that can tear a society apart. Some seem to blithely assume that "the rich" can be taxed to pay for what they want — as if "the rich" don't see what is coming and take their wealth elsewhere."

~ Thomas Sowell in The Lure of Socialism

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Paine on Preserving Liberty

I shall conclude this discourse with offering some observations on the means of preserving liberty; for it is not only necessary that we establish it, but that we preserve it.

It is, in the first place, necessary that we distinguish between the means made use of to overthrow despotism, in order to prepare the way for the establishment of liberty, and the means to be used after the despotism is overthrown. The means made use of in the first case are justified by necessity. Those means are, in general, insurrections; for while the established government of despotism continues in any country it is scarcely possible that any other means can be used. It is also certain that in the commencement of a revolution, the revolutionary party permit to themselves a discretionary exercise of power regulated more by circumstances than by principle, which, were the practise to continue, liberty would never be established, or if established would soon be overthrown. It is never to be expected in a revolution that every man is to change his opinion at the same moment.

There never yet was any truth or any principle so irresistibly obvious that all men believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have not a right to persecute others, on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy. Had a constitution been established two years ago (as ought to have been done), the violences that have since desolated France and injured the character of the Revolution, would, in my opinion, have been prevented. The nation would then have had a bond of union, and every individual would have known the line of conduct he was to follow. But, instead of this, a revolutionary government, a thing without either principle or authority, was substituted in its place; virtue and crime depended upon accident; and that which was patriotism one day became treason the next.

All these things have followed from the want of a constitution; for it is the nature and intention of a constitution to prevent governing by party, by establishing a common principle that shall limit and control the power and impulse of party, and that says to all parties, thus far shalt thou go and no further. But in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle. An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

– Thomas Paine, A Dissertation on the First Principles of Government (1795)

On rational interpretation of law

“Rational interpretation of law requires that judges engage in philosophical thought; it does not require that they assume the role of philosopher kings. Judges’ role is not to devise the philosophy that will inform the law, nor to choose the laws by which to implement that philosophy. The Rule of Law — even in a legal system that is grounded on sound moral and political philosophy — must be respected by judges as the rule of law.” ~ Tara Smith

(Source: Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System by Tara Smith; Chapter: Judicial Review—The Reigning Accounts’ Failure; Page: 199)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reason is a reality-seeking device ~ Tara Smith

“What dictators cannot do, however, is control what a person does with his mind. And this is what is critical. Force cannot induce a person to think rational thoughts, reach rational conclusions, or gain genuine knowledge — understanding of a subject that is based on logical examination of relevant evidence. If a person is denied access to the full nature of existents because certain lanes of inquiry are forbidden, he cannot reach rational conclusions about the associated subjects. His conclusions — concerning genetics or geophysics, the solar system or an economic system, his beliefs about how an illness is contracted or how a generator is built — will be distorted by the constricted vision that he is permitted. Exactly how distorted, and whether certain author’s fiction (as opposed to nonfiction) might still offer value, will depend on the degree of repression. But the basic truth remains: Reason is a reality-seeking device. That is its mission — to help man gain knowledge of reality.”

(Source: Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System by Tara Smith; Chapter - The Moral Authority Beneath the Law; Page - 104)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Objectivity in a Legal System

“Errors in understanding the proper scope of a legal system’s authority naturally lead to the adoption of laws whose substance is not objectively valid. These, in turn, lead to failures of objectivity in the administration of law. And when laws cannot be enforced according to purely objective standards, those responsible for enforcing them are invited — indeed, required — to employ subjective criteria. Over time, the effect of this is to normalize the reign of inappropriate bases for determining the application of laws, which only further distorts people’s understanding of what proper laws and proper administration are.” ~ Tara Smith

(Source: Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System by Tara Smith; Chapter - Objectivity in a Legal System; Page - 64)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thomas Sowell on Entitlement

The reality is that the human race is not entitled to anything, not even the food we need to stay alive. If we don't produce food, we are just going to starve. If we don't build housing, then we are not going to have housing, "affordable" or otherwise.

Particular individuals or groups can be given many things, to which politicians say they are "entitled," only if other people are forced by the government to provide those things to people who don't need to lift a finger to earn them. All the fancy talk about "entitlement" means simply forcing some people to work to produce things for other people, who have no obligation to work.

It gets worse. If we are all "entitled" to things, irrespective of whether we produce anything ourselves, then the question becomes: Why are some people getting so much more than others?

People who are producing nothing can feel a sense of grievance against those who are producing much, and being rewarded for it, if our basis for receiving economic benefits is supposed to be what we are all "entitled" to, rather than what we have worked to earn.

Read the complete article

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How to tell if you believe in bullshit

Why Leonardo da Vinci was a genius

If we step back from the individual inventions, we can see that his [Leonardo da Vinci] genius as an engineer rests on three foundations.

The first is that he saw clearly how the design of machines must be informed by the mathematical laws of physics rather than just relying upon practice. For instance, he realised that if the power of an unwinding spring diminished according to a mathematical ratio, any device to compensate for this must be designed in accordance with the mathematics. As such, he invented a series of conical and spiral gears that could be mounted on the axle of a barrel-spring to counteract the unwinding.

He was also the first to design separate components that could be deployed in a variety of devices. His “elements of machines” ranged from complex units such as the gears for barrel springs and ring bearings for axles to relatively simple hinges.

And no-one ever drew machines with more attention to reality. The mental “sculpture” that he conducted in his mind was transmitted on to the paper with total conviction. He knew that such “portraits” of devices did not necessarily clarify all the details of construction, and needed to be amplified with drawings of the individual parts. The solid section above the barrel spring brilliantly shows how two cylindrical sleeves at either end of the axle of the conical lantern gear slide on the vertical shaft to accommodate its climb up the helter-skelter ramp.

Read more.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ayn Rand explains the Non-Aggression Principle

206 word marathon in Descartes’s The Principles of Philosophy

“Notwithstanding this, I am in no degree desirous to lessen the honour which each of them can justly claim; I am only constrained to say, for the consolation of those who have not given their attention to study, that just as in travelling, when we turn our back upon the place to which we were going, we recede the farther from it in proportion as we proceed in the new direction for a greater length of time and with greater speed, so that, though we may be afterwards brought back to the right way, we cannot nevertheless arrive at the destined place as soon as if we had not moved backwards at all; so in philosophy, when we make use of false principles, we depart the farther from the knowledge of truth and wisdom exactly in proportion to the care with which we cultivate them, and apply ourselves to the deduction of diverse consequences from them, thinking that we are philosophizing well, while we are only departing the farther from the truth; from which it must be inferred that they who have learned the least of all that has been hitherto distinguished by the name of philosophy are the most fitted for the apprehension of truth.” ~ Rene Descartes

(Source: The Principles of Philosophy by Descartes; Chapter: Letter of the Author)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ayn Rand: ‘Progress or Sacrifice'

“Parasites seek to the taken care of, but producers seek the responsibility - of choice and decision. Parasites do not look beyond the range of the immediate moment, but producers have to see and plan long-range. Parasites rely on the good will and the capricious favor of the benefactor—but producers do not live by favor and cannot function or build gigantic industries which the whim of a ruler may wipe out at any moment. What the producers need is not handouts, but freedom. And freedom is not among the gifts that the welfare state has the power to dispense.”

~ Ayn Rand in the column ‘Progress or Sacrifice' (Published in LA Times on July 1, 1962)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Can There be an "After Socialism"? - Alan Charles Kors

The goal of socialism was to reap the cultural, scientific, creative, and communal rewards of abolishing private property and free markets, and to end human tyranny. Using the command of the state, Communism sought to create this socialist society. What in fact occurred was the achievement of power by a group of inhumane despots: Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Mengistu, Ceausescu, Hoxha, and so on, and so on.

We are invited now to discuss what follows these tyrants, and what lessons we have learned from them, and what sort of world might emerge from the loss of belief in Communism. There is one problem, however: the bodies.We are surrounded by slain innocents, and the scale is wholly new. This is not the thousands killed during the Inquisition; it is not the thousands of American lynching. This is not the six million dead from Nazi extermination. The best scholarship yields numbers that the mind must try to comprehend: scores, and scores, and scores, and scores of millions of bodies.

All around us. If we count those who died of starvation during Communists' experiments with human interactions—twenty to forty million in three years in China alone—we may add scores of millions more. Shot; dead by deliberate exposure; starved; and murdered in work camps and prisons meant to extract every last fiber of labor from human beings and then kill them. And all around us, widows and widowers and orphans.


Ayn Rand on Hume's philosophy

“If it were possible for an animal to describe the content of his consciousness, the result would be a transcript of Hume’s philosophy. Hume’s conclusions would be the conclusions of a consciousness limited to the perceptual level of awareness, passively reacting to the experience of immediate concretes, with no capacity to form abstractions, to integrate perceptions into concepts, waiting in vain for the appearance of an object labeled “causality” (except that such a consciousness would not be able to draw conclusions).”

~ Ayn Rand in For The New Intellectual

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stephen Hicks: Liberalism: The Fifteen Best Arguments

In the article “Liberalism: The Fifteen Best Arguments”, published in Reason Papers, Stephen Hicks gives a description of 15 best arguments for liberalism:

1. Liberalism increases freedom
2. People work harder in liberal systems
3. People work smarter under liberalism
4. Liberalism increases individuality and creativity
5. Liberalism increases the average standard of living
6. The poor are better off under liberalism
7. Liberalism generates more philanthropy
8. More outstanding individuals flourish under liberalism
9. Liberalism’s individualism increases happiness
10. Liberal societies are more interesting
11. Tolerance increases under liberalism
12. Sexism and racism decrease under liberalism
13. Liberalism leads to international peace
14. Liberalism is the most just system
15. Liberalism is more moral in its political practice

Read more.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

New evidence supports premise that Earth produces endless supply of oil

A study published in Science Magazine today presents new evidence supporting the abiotic theory for the origin of oil, which asserts oil is a natural product the Earth generates constantly rather than a “fossil fuel” derived from decaying ancient forests and dead dinosaurs.

The lead scientist on the study ? Giora Proskurowski of the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle ? says the hydrogen-rich fluids venting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the Lost City Hydrothermal Field were produced by the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in the mantle of the earth.

The abiotic theory of the origin of oil directly challenges the conventional scientific theory that hydrocarbons are organic in nature, created by the deterioration of biological material deposited millions of years ago in sedimentary rock and converted to hydrocarbons under intense heat and pressure.

Read more

Friday, February 5, 2016

Peikoff on ‘e pluribus unum’

Leonard Peikoff’s on the concept of ‘e pluribus unum’:

“All the key features of the capitalist state—its validation, its powers and limits, the prerogatives and interrelationships of its citizens—are unified, because all are derived from a single principle: the worldly self-preservation of the individual. In this view, the state is a form of connection among the Many—a connection made by the Many, and real only through their agreement. Here we see not a One transcending the Many, but a One in the Many. Or, putting Thales into Latin, ‘e pluribus unum’—the I formula.”

(Source: The Dim Hypothesis by Leonard Peikoff; Chapter: DIM in Modern Culture; Page: 161) 

On the capitalist state

"All the key features of the capitalist state—its validation, its powers and limits, the prerogatives and interrelationships of its citizens—are unified, because all are derived from a single principle: the worldly self-preservation of the individual." ~ Leonard Peikoff

(Source: The DIM Hypothesis, by Leonard Peikoff)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Writing Assignments...

The worse the coming future, the more it should motivate its opponents

“The high probability of a monstrous evil should not induce paralysis in those who see it coming. It should lead not to the end of action, but to the beginning. It is a paradox, but still a truth: The worse the coming future, the more it should motivate its opponents—the more it should strengthen their passion to defend themselves and their values against the approaching onslaught…” ~ Leonard Peikoff

(Source: The DIM Hypothesis, by Leonard Peikoff; Chapter: ‘What’s Next’; Page: 346)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On Egalitarianism

"The ambition of the egalitarian theory is all-encompassing; its target is not merely art, science, and education, but values as such, in any realm. Those who succeed in the pursuit of a value are to see the products of their action, spiritual and material, "spread around" to the non-succeeders, because they are non-succeeders. Value achievement leads a man to loss; non-achievement leads him to gain." ~ Leonard Peikoff

(Source: The DIM Hypothesis by Lenonard Peikoff; Chapter: Egalitarianism; Page: 176)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Leonard Peikoff on Einstein & Quantum Mechanics

In DIM Hypothesis there is a good discussion of the kind of science that Einstein practiced. This is followed by a discussion on this new trend towards Quantum Mechanics, which is partially inspired by Einstein’s works. Dr. Peikoff writes, “If Einstein dilutes the physical world, quantum mechanics dismisses it, substituting for it detached formalism presiding over limbo.”

Further, he writes, “Classical physics had studied material reality in order to discover objective, causal laws. Throw it all out, says the quantum credo. Reality is limbo; objectivity is pre-Kantian; causality can’t compete with Heisenberg; sensations arise by miracle; concepts are a detached formalism; mathematics is arbitrary; probabilities exist but not yet; Aristotelian logic is wrong; matter is passé; the science of physics does not investigate the physical. And quantum particles, whose study leads to all of this , do not exist.”

He goes on to say, “This is full-blown nihilism in the hitherto rational field of science.”

(Source: The DIM Hypothesis by Lenonard Peikoff; Chapter: DIM in Modern Culture; Page: 125-126)