Monday, April 30, 2012

At Its Heart...

...the core of Objectivist philosophy is thus:

Do what you think is right.  Objectivism is first and foremost moral fortitude.

Ayn Rand's heroes included communists and tyrants, murderers and rapists, as much as they included capitalists and entrepreneurs.  The closest thing to a moral directive in Objectivism is to think for yourself.

Anybody who thinks Objectivism is precisely what Ayn Rand decided it would be, and nothing more, missed the point.  Anybody who thinks Objectivism is inherently a libertarian philosophy, even, misses the point.

It is an individualistic philosophy.  Full stop.

If you can derive something different without lying to yourself, you can be an Objectivist and a communist at the same time.  It's my well-endowed philosophic position you'll have made a mistake somewhere, but there's nothing inherent to Objectivism which demands laissez-faire capitalism; it isn't written into the axioms of the philosophy, but derived from their application.

This puts me at odds with canonical Objectivism, precisely because I deny there is canon.  Ayn Rand gave us a starting place; it's my observation that the philosophy has largely (but not entirely!) languished since then, caught up in philosophic holy wars over whether or not Ayn Rand's word is to be the final authority on the matter, and by so doing, opposing its sole directive.

Objectivism is a necessarily incomplete philosophy; it can never be completed on the whole, we must each complete it ourselves.

Which is why it is at least partially right, even if the name has been corrupted to mean something which is wrong.

Inspired By...

This: Link

This is an apt demonstration of why I regard morality to be an objective measure.  (As I state in the comments!)

It requires certain axioms to work.  The first is that morale behavior maximizes morale value - that morality is moral, in short.  The second is that moral value exists respective only to a moral agent (a rock cannot be immoral, for it possesses no agency, nor can it be possessed of moral concerns; this relativity also implies that my moral bearing is not impacted by the decisions of other moral agents).  The third is that moral value exists respective only to moral behavior - that is, specific decisions.  (That is, moral value doesn't enter into situations over which I have no control.)  The fourth is that moral agents may only have moral value while they are possessed of moral agency - to whit, a dead moral agent has no more moral relevance than a rock.

Because a rock cannot be possessed of a moral sense, morality cannot be universal - Ayn Rand used the word "intrinsic" rather than "universal" to describe this quality of morality.  I prefer universal; I find it more accurate, if less precise.

But morality may still be objective, and I think this case aptly demonstrates why.  As a corollary of the first axiom and fourth axioms, a moral agent has a moral obligation to exist, provided the moral value of that agent, and its continued existence, is greater than zero.  (Demonstrating that this is the case is outside the scope of this argument, so for here, I will let it lay that a moral agent who has decided otherwise is morally free to cease existing.)

I'm not setting out to create a moral framework by which to interact with other living things - suffice to say, the cost of continued existence for all living things is extracted from other living things.  Ecology is a zero-sum game.  Insofar as it has morality, that morality is evolutionary fitness, the sole value which ecology seeks to maximize.  Fitness, however, is without agency; a creature is fit or not fit without respect to its own decisions.  Ecology lacks agency.

There is therefore no morality in ecology; whatever moral costs lay in killing the cow, the cow was burdened with for its existence prior to its death, for its own existence ruled another creature's existence out, who in turn would have ruled another's out.  There is neither intrinsic nor objective morality in ecology; the moral costs exist solely with respect to ourselves, in determination with the moral framework we each have created in dealing with other creatures.

But only where we have agency.  If our ecological existence requires the flesh of a cow, then there is no morality, or more specifically immorality, in consuming it.

(My personal determination is that we do the cow an amoral service by consuming it; we maximize its fitness, for we raise it to those ends.  Fitness I judge to be the cows sole domain of value, albeit an amoral value, for it was its sole domain of value before we interfered, and we have not sought to raise the cow to agency or awareness.  Therefore the act of eating meat is an amoral act.  Cruelty is another matter altogether.)

Laissez-Faire Capitalism... not the answer.  It's not even -an- answer.  It solves nothing, it corrects nothing, it does absolutely nothing to make the world a better place.

It doesn't put a single plate on a single table.  It doesn't alleviate poverty, it doesn't alleviate misery, it doesn't make the poor rich or the rich kind.

It doesn't protect rainforests, it doesn't maintain the population of fish, it doesn't ensure that topsoil won't blow away in the wind.  It can't save the spotted owl or run a water main to your house.  It doesn't stop sewage from being dumped in waterways, it doesn't build factories or clear forests or construct houses.

It doesn't do a goddamn thing, doesn't solve a single problem.

And that is exactly why it is right.

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit : The Errors of Socialism

Crazy Thought for the Day...

...if I had been an immoral person in charge of the US government for the last eight years with the primary aim of solving fiscal insolvency, I think my government would look suspiciously like what we have now.

A half trillion dollars allocated to economic recovery, most of which have apparently yet to be actually spent?

Inflationary policies?

A government which quietly purchased half a trillion dollars in hard assets - gold, silver, steel, tungsten, copper - which then deliberately inflated its currency, and then sold off those assets, could zero out its debts and then some.

How much has the price of gold risen in the past three years, anyways?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Frivolous Suits

Been pondering the notion of anti-SLAPP suits (essentially, frivolous lawsuits which attack free speech; see Popehat for information).

And I've come to a rather curious conclusion.

Anti-SLAPP statutes don't go far enough.  Statues in general protecting against frivolous lawsuits don't go far enough.  It's not enough that when the threat is brought to bear that there be repercussions - the threat itself is an act which suppresses and harms freedom.

The -threat- of a frivolous suit should be treated as the threat of physical violence that underlays it.  To whit, it should be treated no differently from a threat of physical violence, subject to the same laws which govern threats of physical violence.

Does anyone see a reason why such threats shouldn't?

Okay people...

...I'm disturbed by my audience and where a significant percentage of them are coming from.  So let's take a page out of Munchkin Wrangler's book, only with more mockery and less helpfulness.

"Orphan porn" - Really?  I'm just a little squicked by this, because the word "orphan" in that context makes me think of Annie.  I'll be generous and assume you're fine with adult orphans, although at that point it's kind of like preferring Jewish porn, which in the US at least is going to be largely indistinguishable from anything else.  Unless they do something weird with a Star of David.  Don't want to know, don't want to know, don't tell me.

"Alcohol abuse blog" - When I'm not on a diet, this blog could probably be a case study, but the fact that I have no issue giving up alcohol to lose weight suggests this isn't the place for you.

"affirmative action for orphans" - I'm curious who was looking this up and why.  I don't believe parentage is something companies put in their standard question form.  If somebody is, they're probably looking to -make- some of the aforementioned orphan porn.

"most boring topics of conversation" - You've come to the right place.  You don't really want to go out with that girl/guy on Tuesday, do you?  Well, have no fear.  Memorize any one of my posts and start spouting it off without giving them a chance to respond and I guarantee you'll wriggle out of any future dates.  I recommend one with lots of cussing.

"misogyny misanthropy" - In my experience misogyny is merely mislabeled misanthropy.  Men and women who hate women generally hate men as well, they just hate them differently, but when you hate men for stereotypical reasons you're just supporting the patriarchy (somehow), so hey, it's misogyny.

"free porn videos" - Try redtube or wankdb.  My "Porn" post isn't actually erotica, at least for most people.  If it's erotica for you, well, okay then.  If it looks like a video, you need to cut back on the mushrooms.


I've heard the idea kicked around by some people, primarily in dismissing the Tea Party and like-minded groups, that "These people just want some of that white privilege they've heard so much about," or some variant on that theme.

Then there's the idea of "underprivileged" - which generally means either poor or belonging to a minority group.

Then there's "male privilege."

But none of these are accurate.  Privilege is a legal term; it's not the opportunity to do something, it's the specific and legally granted right to do so.

Normalcy is not a privilege.  Being able to walk is not a privilege; I'm not privileged because I can walk through a door.  It's not an advantage I have.  People who are unable to walk are -disadvantaged-.  They are handicapped, in the literal meaning of the word.

Normalcy does not and should not begin at the worst state of being imaginable, which is what arguments in favor of things like "white privilege" come down to; somebody is privileged because they -aren't- disadvantaged in a particular way.  Such a mindset is that of somebody who pursues single-mindedly as a semblance of normalcy that is which wrong with themselves and with others.

As with affirmative action, the language and philosophy of privilege is such that, if everybody were systematically reduced to the worst state of being imaginable, the problem would be solved.  Meaning that it is a morally bankrupt philosophy and a poor criteria by which to define social problems.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Every Programmer...

...goes through this experience at some point:

You're going through some infrequently used code, and stumble across something idiotic.  Something mind-numbingly stupid you cannot believe anybody could possibly have done.  You pull down the revision tree...

...and discover that it was you who wrote it.

That was me just now.  I suppose a little humility every now and then can't hurt.

Federal War on Men


Page 18, 19. Compare rape statistics for women against "Forced envelopment" statistics for men.

"Forced envelopment" is what female-on-male rape is called by a Federal Government which refuses to acknowledge it as rape.

There are cases of male victims of rape being forced to pay child support to their rapists - quite a few, in fact.  How messed up is that?

This, right here, is why I regard feminism as a morally bankrupt ideology.

That's all.

I don't usually do link posts, but...

Link, for whatever of my readers aren't already a follower of Aretae.  It's worth it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I have...

...a complicated relationship with the paranormal.

On the one hand, it is completely and totally bogus.

On the other hand, I have accumulated, and continue to accumulate, a lot of very weird personal experiences, to the point where I wonder if my own outright rejection is justifiable any longer.

It could be chalked up to - I've lived so many years, I should expect a certain number of weird happenings, and I simply remember them so clearly (by virtue of their relative oddness) that their number is inflated by comparison to my other, less memorable, experiences.  But this isn't intellectually satisfying.  It's waving away evidence on the basis that there's not more evidence available - without any basis for deciding what an appropriate level of evidence would be.

Of particular concern to me is that the weird events are -not- randomly distributed.  My last home was weirdly full of them.  Waking up one morning to discover the oven turned on and an object placed inside, for example (and very obviously very recently - it had only just started to melt).  Twenty year old medical documents belonging to a previous occupant of the house (presumably, they weren't mine) showing up on a floor that had been clean the night before.  Night terrors, which I haven't had before or since, involving shadowy figures standing over my bed and staring down at me.  (I had two of those, one night after another.  The first was a typical night terror.  I wasn't afraid or in dread on the second, however, which is atypical - in fact I was irritated about being woken up for this crap again, and took it out on the shadowy figure.  That it didn't happen again, after happening two nights in a row, I count as a third oddity.)  Other extremely atypical dreams, including one in which I died.  Footsteps on floorboards, odd scratching noises, places in the house which felt fundamentally wrong, odd behavior of electrical devices, other things, all of which could be individually dismissed, but which amounted to a very bizarre period in my life, which ended as soon as I moved out of that house.

Those were hardly the only moments, but they were the most pronounced; while the non-randomness of the oddities throughout my life generally suggest against the possible explanation of Littlewood's Law, the extremely high degree of clustering of bizarre events in that house outright denies it.

There are other things I feel more reluctant to get into, relating to the relationship between my intuitions and the world at large; these at least, in most cases, have plausible explanation in that I'm simply extraordinarily good at thinking.

But as I have grown older I have grown decreasingly inclined to dismiss outright those with unsubstantiable beliefs.  If nothing else, I see with increasingly clarity how one could believe those things, even if my own preference and position is that they do not hold true.