When I first responded to this thread, I said that I am as sure as I can be that there is no god or anything else supernatural, but that as a mere carbon based life form, I could be wrong. After reading all these posts, I am now 100% sure there is no god.
LOL yes, it's always good bringing up debate in AN.... it really takes you to the edge! LOL
MCT, you are writing about things I don't understand and want to. Looking up law of identity I discover I am way over my head if I am to understand you. You may decline the task of educating me and if so, I understand. On the other hand, if you could restate you logic and abstraction into concrete terms, I might catch on. In the meantime, you cause me to take yet another adventure of discovery.
I took logic in college and the only thing I remember is the prof. assigned 12 philosophers to read and I whote a proposal that I wanted to add a woman philosopher. His response was that there are no women philosophers worthy of reading.
You ask for more concrete language with stories. I think you've got this wrong. While a metaphor may help us understand each other by establishing an idea or two to begin working with, I believe that communication is clearest when story telling and metaphor are minimized. Metaphor is important for induction, where we must see how a new concept or perception might be like something else in certain ways, in order to begin to make sense of it, but must be realized as necessarily an incomplete source for knowledge. As I said, metaphor, or describing something in terms of something else that it is not, can be very useful, but always includes nonessential characteristics. This is why to gain knowledge we must integrate our perceptions and concepts using literal meanings and concrete language. Where concepts include only the essential characteristics that make an entity a part of that groups of concepts. This is the way I attempt to communicate. I try to minimize metaphor and describe things the way they are, in terms of perceptual evidence or first or second order abstractions, and not as what they are like or how they may make us feel. There is no metaphorical truth. There is only literal truth. The only way to gain this truth or knowledge about how some idea compares to what actually is in reality, is the noncontradictory integration of perceptual evidence. In other words, reason and logic are the only guides to knowledge. Not feelings, not revelations, not prayer, not hope, not intuition, not metaphors, not innate ideas. There is no way to learn more or obtain knowledge other than reason. You say that we have not ended our discovery with reason and logic and that there is more to learn, when reason and logic are the only means of knowledge acquisition. If one somehow got an idea and needed to know if it represents reality, they would have to think about it. The idea is then discarded if it is not logically consistent. If it is, then observations may be done to verify, but it is not knowledge if it has not been integrated without contradiction by reason.
The field of philosophy is jam packed with 'scholars' that make very little sense and contradict themselves regularly. Well, if you like my ideas and you wish to read a woman philosopher, then you must know about Ayn Rand. My philosophy is most closely aligned with her philosophy of Objectivism. I do not like calling it her philosophy, because I think it is more just a relatively accurate description of the nature of reality and the way the mind makes sense of it. A single objective completely causal universe (or multiverse) that never began, with locally distinct self-aware rational pattern recognition machines that operate on the basis of perceived rational self-interest, is the world view with the least contradiction. I think AR was wrong about freewill and a few other things. And she was a bit sexist, she was born in Russia in the early 20 century. I recommend Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. If you haven't heard of her, I am surprised. Many people hate her and her idea that selfishness is good. I think this egoism is very well supported by current cognitive neuroscience as well as by thinking rationally about it. I believe we are causal machines that are simply interacting with our environment. That we are aware of it lends an evolutionary advantage that involves instincts, then emotions as a basic rough guide to action and in the case of humans, a more precise guide in reason which allows knowledge. Objectivist epistemology is very consistent with the ways in which we humans are building artificial intelligences to think and process ifnormation and understanding the cerebral cortex and and today's most modern theories in physics and cosmology are easiest understood in the setting of an objective, noncontradictory, nonrandom, causal and eternal metaphysics.
Also, I have posted a few blogs on these topics, here at Atheist Nexus, check my page.
MCI, thank you for your prompt reply. You correctly state the weakness of metaphor, but some subjects just do not make sense to me. For example, I flunked my first statistics college course. Had to take it over and I started drawing pictures of employers, employees, business buildings, money, and banks and could begin to decipher the information. My prof put stat principles into metaphors any mother could understand instead of his sports metaphors. I passed the second course with flying colors. I am sure I do not understand stats as you or mathematicians do, but at least I get the picture.
I mentioned the physicist Lawrence Krauss, who uses metaphors with caution to emphasize they do not tell the whole story, nor do they entirely represent the subject, but at least an opening occurs where I can begin to understand his meanings.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, makes astronomy fun, although he gets tiresome after I understand the concepts.
Carl Sagan, astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator, inspires my imagination, even as I understand some other scientists discount his work. I experience him, still, as a valuable guide to linking science and wonder.
Religion provided me with too many unhealthy, ethical, and moral problems and became a millstone around my brain. That is a metaphor, isn't it! Well, it describes my impression perfectly.
As for Ayn Rand, my dad was a devout fan of hers; he and I argued continually over her principles when I was in high school. Her ideas just did not stand up to the big picture, not taking into account limitations of some people; not providing processes for owners of labor to benefit by their labor; giving great opportunity to those who own capital. Her selfishness and individualism just do not stand up to scrutiny. I know, if "success, financially" is one's goal in life, Rand, Greenspan, Geithner, Summers, Reagan, Bushes, Milton Friedman, the Brandons, Clinton and now Obama have demonstrated the invalidity of her philosophy.
According to Ayn Rand, the moral purpose of any individual's life is his own happiness. Does she include women? Does she include wives, handicapped, very young, elderly, mentally ill, people who own small business, people who tend to the needs of others, to the Earth?
Laissez-faire capitalism is a failure. We go through booms and busts created by people who believe as Rand. Free markets are not free and never have been. Free enterprise is not free and never has been.
When was USA most productive? I mean in real numbers. Employed, living wages, access to housing, access to education, access to health care, plans for retirement, access to childcare. Are we headed toward a better USA or a more conflicted one?
Who believes wealthy are wealthy because they earned it? Who believes poor are poor because they deserve it? Who believes profit trumps people? Who exploits workers without care for consequences. Who is willing to go to other nations for near-slave labor and feel good about it. Who stashes away huge sums of money where homeowners and small business cannot access. Who earns too little to pay their mortgages, food, education, health care costs? How many small business closed their doors with "bankruptcy" signs?
NO! Ayn Rand does not have the answers. There are some people and some ideas we can just "Delete" from conversation.
So, you're for institutionalized violence. I think that is immoral. I think you do not understand the concept of rational self-interest, if you are asking if individuals include women and handicapped people. I think you, like so many others, are emotionally swayed by need and therefore value it more than production. Need is not a value. And equality is not possible. Money ceases to have value if you give it away based on need. You have never seen laissez-faire capitalism. Every failure of the system is due to government intervention or a government sanctioned support of the federal reserve bank.
And what scrutiny are you referring to? You do not have a proper foundation to even have an opinion on AR's philosophy, as you do not yet fully grasp even the law of identity, let alone more than a few additional concepts, which are basic and foundational, and need to be understood to even see why a limited government that values individual rights is moral. How can you have moral certainty and not even understand the nature of concept formation and knowledge acquisition? You use metaphor as a basis of knowledge. I think if we are talking about what we can know about the metaphysical nature of reality and the epistemological nature of the mind, we can have knowledge about morality, which is objective and based on the structure of our mind, and how individuals are of concern in morality, since morality is a single person's guide to life. When you group people together and talk about moral decisions, you are talking metaphor. These people might be alike in some ways, but are necessarily different and unequal in others. The only thing we share in terms of morality is our singular consciousness and our need to operate in an autonomous rational way to be happy. The nature of humans and happiness is such that you need to obtain happiness by achieving your own goals. It does not help to give out money, after it goes through the necessarily corrupt lobbyists, governmental officials and intermediaries, to the needy without discrimination or judgment. Giving out money based on need fosters and grows the welfare state.The organization of institutionalized violence is not equipped to help people make more of themselves.
The sheer number of patients I have seen in the emergency department who use it as their primary care office because we cannot turn them away is nothing less than an immense and horrific waste of time and money, that doesn't help the people that use the system this way. And they look at me like I'm an asshole, when I question how 2 seconds ago they told me that 2 days ago they were walking, talking, thinking, speaking, eating, drinking, peeing and pooping normally and that they collect disability or unemployment for a living, because they were in a car accident 15 years ago and have chronic back pain that they do not see a doctor for or know the status of. They have multiple children, have IPhones, tatoos, piercings, new shoes, gold teeth, nails did and what-not talking about how, in this economy, they can't find a job. Yeah right, Walmart and McDonalds stop hiring? They can jump up and down, text and laugh, but they can't find a job or aren't able to work. Thousands, I've seen personally, thousands, in my so far very short career as an ER doc.
Yeah, the rich are so because they deserve it; they earned it. And with their own labor, not with that of their employees, the employess get paid for their work. An agreed upon wage is not exploitation. Soliciting the government for other people's money is exploitation. Private enterprise can do everything that government can do and better, save for the monopolization of retaliatory force, the government's only proper function. Nothing wrong with charity or philanthropy, but sacrifice is evil, theft by mob rule is evil.
Profit trumping people is just about the worst false dichotomy I have ever heard. People are best left to earn what they can, based on their ability. Paying people for their need, out of the pockets of those who earn it, creates this shit we have here. Saying that free markets and free trade aren't free is ignoring the very meaning of them. One, they have never existed. Government money went into education super early in America's history. Thomas Jefferson's idea. Government intervention has increased ever since. And then when the robber barons and bankers got together with the government in the early 20th century, created the Fed. And we have the industrial-military complex. All our major impedance to progress is because of too much government. Not, not enough. Two, the whole concept of political freedom is that the only thing we all have in common is our autonomous nature, to be free is to be free of the force of another. The complex processes of an economy or trade between autonomous entities cannot be improved upon by penalizing profit and subsidizing welfare. This free society certainly won't work well for those who wish to live off of others, but less people in the economy willing to work would be unsuccessful, if they could keep their earnings and get paid for what they do. And we don't need the government for those who are truly unfortunate enough to not be able to or willing to fend for themselves. Your ideas of people's limitations and what ever excuse to value need and suffering instead of achievement and productivity are moot in a free society with a very small government.
Whether you wish to believe it or not, you do not have a choice about it, your moral purpose of your life is your own personal happiness. It is the only thing that is an ends in itself. All other values are obtained for your happiness, even when you are giving your last piece of bread to your child. Altruism is a fallacy and perceived rational self-interest is actually what happens inside the human brain. Regardless of what you think your moral code is.
Oh, my. MCT, I'm with you when you assert that the probability of the impossible is precisely 0.0%. What else could it be? And all the definitions of god I've ever seen are clearly logically impossible. But I'm afraid you've jumped the shark with Ayn Rand. If she had stuck with Objectivism as a philosophy of epistemology, she might have been all right, but her megalomania and her utter, swinish contempt for her fellow humans did her in as a moral philosopher. It must have been tough to have lived under Stalin's fist, but she rather drastically overcompensated in a way that's largely indistinguishable from the regime she hated so much.
Rand's grasp of healthy human nature was nonexistent. All the supposedly sympathetic characters in her novels were megalomaniacal narcissistic creeps, just like her. You appear to be some sort of doctor. Watch the Mike Wallace interview with her and tell me she wasn't a certifiable sociopath.
No disrespect to any ER professional, but an ER hardly provides a statistically valid sampling of humanity from which to draw any conclusions about much besides health issues. Even then, anecdotal recall is simply not a valid research methodology.
Taxation is not theft, regardless of how often libertarians (feudalists) say that it is. Libertarianism is not capable of producing a utopia, because it is just another name for feudalism. In any anarchic social system, gangs inevitably form around strongmen and then you just have the same old shit that's been tried for most of human history and found severely wanting. Ask yourself why libertarianism has never actually been observed in the wild, and the obvious answer is because throughout history we have called that kind of arrangement feudalism.
Our problem now is not too much government, it is too much corporate power. There can be no such thing as a truly free market, because it is never the case that one participant has exactly the same amount of market power as another participant. In particular, producers always hold more cards than consumers. Consumers are always at a disadvantage, so power inevitably concentrates in the hands of a few, leading to repressive regimes every bit as unresponsive to the concerns of the little guy as Stalinism was. By ignoring inequalities in market power, you retreat into a libertarian fantasy.
And I'm sorry, but this is just a laughable statement: "All our major impedance to progress is because of too much government." Utter bilge. Corporations and wealthy people have caused plenty of problems and tend to do so in proportion to how much market power they have.
It's also laughable to claim that the rich are so because they earned it and deserve it. While this may be partially true in some cases, all rich people are standing on the shoulders of others, their parents, teachers, employees, road-builders, swindle victims, etc. People do not exist in a vacuum. Economic actors do not act in a vacuum. Rich people get rich because of other people, even if they treat those other people honorably to a fault.
Morality is about people living together. Morality doesn't exist when one person is considered in isolation. One person's happiness, therefore, cannot be the basis of morality. Morality is all about human interaction, so other human's needs must be taken into account. Libertarianism (feudalism) is a moral and political failure from the outset, because it can never satisfy the needs of more than a tiny percentage of humanity. Whether you wish to believe it or not, we are all in this together. Many people behave irresponsibly by leeching off the system (from small time welfare queens to corproate welfare queens to outright Ponzi schemers). Many others behave irresponsibly by rejecting the very idea of compassion.
I have no doubt that I will never be able to sway you from your position on this, MCT, but you're pretty much in the wrong line of work if you're a fan of Ayn Rand.
The Mike Wallace interviews were my very first introduction to AR actually. And I was very impressed with her intellectual honesty. And her appeal to reason instead of emotion. And I agree with almost everything she says in those videos. Most people's arguments against her stem on how she is mean and selfish. They call her, or her characters narcissistic, egomaniacal and so on. Her opponents rail in insult from her being swinish to selfish to uncaring as if she created suffering and is responsible for it. I understand that life can be painful, but doing more harm after that, by frocefully, yes under the very real threat of incarceration, forcefully taking money from those who make the world a better place. Her opponents appeal to compassion really is simply just a demonstration of negative emotions that stem from not being able to integrate the proper meaning of selfishness.
A narcissistic person has a personality disorder and the problem is that they think of themselves only and not in how they relate to others. They are unaware of their disorder. The proper objective understanding of the concepts of selfishness and rational self-interest are within a contextual framework that involves fair interaction with other people. That's the whole point. People are most moral, free, happy, when they are not forced to do anything by others. Free trade is based on the relationship between individuals and why the government just can't help, morally and actually. Objectivism explicitly delineates its rational self-interested nature, it is not narcissistic.
I think what you understand about the socioeconomic issues in an emergency room could probably just about fit into the Grand Canyon. First of all, every walk of life at some point enters the emergency room. Those who take care of themselves, whose parents decided to get an education or financial stability before having ten kids, who brush their teeth daily, who have medical insurance, who go to their follow up appointments, who have a primary care doctor, likely come less, but they do come. I originally went into emergency medicine for the emergencies, which these people come in with, regardless of their moral choices in life or how fortunate they are. You can't avoid going to the ER. And then there is a very large group of people, empowered by the US government, to use this system to make their own lives worse, because they can and don't know any better. We are literally paying millions of Americans to sit on their asses and make bad choices. There is no need for a prospective double-blinded randomized study to accurately assert that this colossal fail is because of bad governmental policy. I am a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians and have spent time in many ER's throughout the country and have been to conferences throughout the country as well, where it is openly discussed as a drain on society. So, I know that this phenomenon is ubiquitous in every town in America that is bigger than a bread-basket. That's what you people are buying with my money. I am not saying that there aren't a few thousand people who do good with whatever support is stolen from the hard-working people of this country, but that it doesn't matter. It is institutionalized aggression.
You do not have the higher moral ground, when it is you, the socialist, that must, first and foremost, violate the rights of one person to give to another. It is most certainly theft, institutionalized, sure, but theft nonetheless, at a very real threat of violence.
I am not for feudalism. I am for a small government that is only concerned with individual rights. It is there to uphold them. Every single individual's rights as an individual. You don't get more points for being part of a particular group. It is the institution of monopolization of retaliatory force. It is very clearly not feudalism and not anarchy. Maybe you need to learn a little bit more about egoism and capitalism. Because, so far, I'm 'hearing' that AR's ideas are mean, people with money are mean and corporations are mean because you think you can divide groups of people arbitrarily and say that it is the the producers fault and responsibility to do something about the arbitrary dichotomies you make. People will be mean sometimes, that's one thing, institutionalizing the government's ability to rape the rich and then 'get into bed' with some other rich people/corporation while claiming it is a lack of taxes that is the cause of the people's misery and not the government itself, is just corrupt and immoral, but apparently a perfect smoke screen for people like you.
These groups of people you claim the producers are standing on the shoulders of are abstract and metaphorical, not real like every single individual. There is no hive mind, that is an oxymoron, there is no social consciousness, that to makes no sense. Only individuals think and decide, not groups. The shoulder metaphor is just that. The teachers and whoever got paid for their work. They don't get more pay, because you think they should have it. Economic interaction entails making agreements and then honoring them. You want whoever is less successful in life to get more than their fair share of the trade. You'll agree to work for a wage and then demand more from other people that earned more. It is pathetic and we humans, well some of us, are better than that and don't need the government to foster the size of groups of large numbers of need and 'entitled' people. It does not matter that they are needed to purchase the goods the producer makes, they got the goods, when they bought them, they don't morally get more after because they are a consumer. Feudalism, anarchy, classes, all arbitrary metaphorical likes, not actual descriptions of anything but, government by land owner, no government at all and simple statistics, classes don't exist like people do.
Oppressive are such only through government assistance, not because of fair trade. People will, by definition, always be unequal. The only way to make as fair as possible is to respect everyone's rights the same, not some more than others dependent on their need and ability.
Morality most certainly concerns the individual. Every moral decision ever made was made by an individual and in respect to their perceived self interest. If you were alone on a desert island, you would still need a set of rules to guide your decision making process.
We really can do better than institutionalizing violence. Private business, charity, philanthropy and so on can do anything a government can and should other than keeping the peace, based on our personal freedom.
I do not reject compassion. Respecting everyone's individual rights to their own life is more compassionate that robbing the rich to give to the poor. The poor cannot be helped by giving them little government assistances here and there. They can only achieve their own happiness. It cannot be bought. But their dependence on welfare can be enabled. And as for my job, I went into and still value emergency medicine immensely because of the knowledge, experience and money that I gain in return. It just so happens that I also value greatly the personal fulfillment I get in being able to help many people on a regular basis in the most difficult times in their lives. My patient's emotional well-being is very important to me. This is not a secret to those I work with. I love my job and this is very consistent with an egoistic personal philosophy and a necessarily egoist morality.
Sorry, MCT, but that's all just bullshit rationalization. We have a social contract. Taxation is how we pay for it. In a democracy, we get to help decide how to allocate the taxes. You can call it theft until you're blue in the face, but grownups know it isn't theft. And successful people in any economy very much depend on actual, real people: parents, teachers, customers, employees, etc, etc, etc. Nobody at all gets anywhere in life without lots of help from lots of people, not anywhere close to all of it compensated financially. It is seriously delusional to suggest otherwise. The self-made man is a pure myth.
And libertarianism is precisely feudalism. For all the tripe I've heard spewed in defense of libertarian ideals, I've never once heard anybody explain how it would actually work in practice without a powerful government there to enforce contracts, keep the peace, protect individuals and small groups from predation by larger or more powerful individuals or groups, and, hey! That sounds kinda like big government!
And again, if libertarianism is such a great idea, so workable in practice, why has it never been observed in the wild? Surely it can't be because of all of us powerless welfare recipient leeches, unworthy to lick the boots of the deserving. No, it has never been observed because it always turns into feudalism. It really is sort of amazing that libertarians refuse to admit that any such system in practice is no more than a collection of fiefdoms with powerful people at the top of each one. All the little guys would have to swear allegiance to one of the big boys or be gobbled up. Government would simply do the bidding of the oligarchs. Come to think of it, that's kinda what we have now. You're just irritable because we actually have instituted your glorious dystopia and you don't like it, because it doesn't work the way you wanted, or because you don't happen to be one of the powerful. I guess you don't deserve it.
In any event, this has just about zero to do with the thread topic. Ayn Rand had no rational link from atheism to anarcho-capitalism, and neither do we.