Software Nerd

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Applause Button

Post moved to my new blog

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hold that Contradiction

A contradiction is a bad thing, but an arbitrary resolution could be worse.

No rational person is going to claim that A is non-A. Real-life contradictions are more indirect. Say...

1) A is true
2) B is true
3) A implies C
4) B implies non-C

Resolving this means figuring where one made the error. Does A imply C? Does B imply non-C? Is C something that is always true or can it be that C is true in some contexts and non-C in others? What are those contexts?

Thinking takes time and effort. What if one does not expect to be encountered with a situation where the one has to decide between A or B? In this case what is the best way to store this in one's mind?

The way I would store it is: A appears true, B appears true, etc. (i.e. as uncertain knowledge and as an unresolved contradiction).

A bad approach would be this: "I know contradictions cannot exist, and I am slightly more certain that A is true, so I'll simply conclude that B is false and ignore the evidence to the contrary."

This invites disintegration.

If one has to act and choose, one must do so to the best of one's knowledge. However, one does not need to corrupt one's mind by accepting uncertain knowledge as being certain. So, be proud to hold your contradictions, as long as you realize that is what they are!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I just want to talk

We've all heard the expression "I just want to talk". Talking helps, even when your listener has no solutions to offer, because it puts half-formed thoughts into words. Like writing, the spoken words are open to analysis, unlike the mix of perceptions, emotions and half-formed thoughts that lead to those words.

A helpful listener will ask the right questions, prompting you to make your thoughts more explicit.

Talking in this fashion is similar to writing a blog or a journal to help clarify one's thoughts.

If keeping such a journal can make you more intelligent, perhaps talking to someone can do the same?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Let's grant you your false premises

Every now and then we get some anti-Objectivists at Objectivism Online. If they're polite, they might stay awhile and even learn a thing or two from us. Now and then, they just wander by, post abusive messages and have no interest in rational conversation. One such communist posted some garbage. After he was banned, I noticed him in the new Chat room.

I prefer to dissuade such people into not trying to come back, because I know there are no technical means to stop a determined person from returning incognito. I didn't want to get into a Capitalism-vs-Communism debate, so I went forth with a different approach -- grant him all his basic premises. Here's how it went:

Me: Hello!
Commie: Hi!
Me: Just want to say that the members have asked that you leave.
Commie: Why?
Me: Well, I'm not privy to all the reasons. Not that it matters; it's the will of the people, and all that, you know.
Commie: I came here to discuss Capitalism. What happened to freedom of speech.
Me: Doesn't freedom of speech sucks? How can one person claim he's right, if the many are saying otherwise?
Commie: But, there must be a reason.
Me: Sure, but if you mean a good, rational reason, then I can't guarantee that. You know how people decide things -- not always logical, right?
Commie: But, that's mob rule.
Me: Any better solutions? After all, that's democracy, right?
Commie: Are you trying to tell me that all the members voted.
Me: Oh no, that wasn't what I meant. That would be inefficient. The group that controls things has to decide what's best for the members.
Commie: Damn Capitalists!! Good bye.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Integrating Objectivism

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea of "a self-help guide to understanding Objectivism, integrating it, avoiding common errors, and make the "passing stage" as short as humanly possible. " Jennifer even came up with a working title: "On Topic Objectivism".

I agree with Myrhaf, that the author must know Objectivism. The author should have integrated Objectivism well; but, I don't think it requires in-depth knowledge of philosophy. The reason is that any such book should use examples that are fairly uncontroversial to someone who has integrated Objectivism. I think the starting point is to gather together a variety of common mis-integrations that newbies make.

As Jennifer said, Objectivim Online has a wealth of examples. About a year ago, someone on OO.net asked: "Does Objectivism make you Happy?" As part of that thread, I gathered together examples (mostly from the forum itself) of mis-integrations that people make (here's that post). looking back, not all those examples are good ones; but, since then, there have been other examples on OO.net, e.g. a discussion about masturbation with some people who would make the pope proud, and the most recent example where someone equated Objectivism with not letting a drop of liquor on his lips. [A while ago, d'Anconia posted a similar list.]

My poem example is another. I wonder if one could come up with examples of popular movies that are pretty good, but that a newbie might be tempted to reject as "inappropriate". In UO, Dr. Peikoff uses the example of E.T. The point, of course, is not "here is a movie you must like"; the point would be "you can be a good Objectivist and still like this movie".

Once one has gathered many more real-life examples, one would have to think about them to see if there are different types of mistakes. I wonder what one might discover, are there a few different classes of error? With all the funny self-evaluation questionnaires, it might even be fun (but corny?) to start with a little 5 question quiz: "So you think you understand Objectivism?", complete with a graphic to post to one's blog :)

Telling someone to think objectively won't do the trick. One has to take baby-examples and let them practice thinking objectively on those. Hopefully, each particular integration will strengthen the overall method.

Let's get serious

When an Objectivist newbie said he didn't like poetry, I gave him a few good examples. He liked them and asked for more. So, in a chat room, a little later, I gave him and one other newbie (good guys, both) a poem with a simpler theme, about a dad taking a break to play with his daughters -- simple fun, no big message.

My paraphrase of their reactions: one asked "what's the point of such a poem?" The other thought it denigrated work and productiveness, comparing it to a scene in the Fountainhead about people trying to get away from work.

Now, from everything else I know, these are both good guys, very sensible. Also, when I said, "Come on guys, it's a dad taking a break to play with his kids... Life is such fun... etc." they agreed almost immediately, revising their first reaction. Neither moved to a positive evaluation, but seemed neutral.

This is one tiny example; but, I think it may be typical of some people who are still in the process of integrating Objectivism. This -- along with some more serious examples -- has got me thinking that there is an unfilled need in Objectivist literature: a self-help guide to understanding Objectivism, integrating it, avoiding common errors, and make the "passing stage" as short as humanly possible. [Dr. Peikoff's UO lecture is a good manifesto to start the process. I think much more detailed "workbook" style. case-study style examples from everyday life are needed.]