Sunday, March 23, 2014

Objectivists For Welfare

Mmost Objectivists (such as Harry Binswanger) support virtually unlimited immigration (although I’m told that Binswanger exempts Israel from his belief in open borders).  Well, this was apparently the featured post recently on Binswanger’s email list
A young man named Jan Koum was raised by immigrants who were on welfare and food stamps--exactly what the anti-immigration advocates warn us about.
Except that he grew up and became a software developer, and just sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion.

Being anti-immigration is very short-sighted, to say the least.

Also, I see no reason at all why immigrants should be treated differently with regard to welfare: if anything, I suspect they tend to be morally superior and more eager to not depend on handouts, than the Americans who take them. Or at least the next generation makes it, which is so often not the case with Americans on welfare. 

     —  Chip Joyce

Immigrants – even when they are on welfare – are morally superior to the rest of us.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amazon Review: How We Know

I posted a brief review of Harry Binswanger's new book on Amazon.Com.

Harry Binswanger is a philosopher who was associated with Ayn Rand in her later life. This is his long awaited book on epistemology written from the perspective of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. It covers most of the major topics in epistemology, including some that Rand didn't comment on, such as propositions.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed this book. Although Binswanger is a rather dogmatic Objectivist, the tone is surprisingly mild. More than the typical Objectivist he tries to understand the ideas with which he disagrees and present them in a fair manner.

The heart of the book is an exposition of Rand's theory of concept formation, which her acolytes consider her greatest achievement. She developed an elaborate theory of "measurement omission" in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. I'm not persuaded that all concepts are formed on the basis of measurement omission (what measurements are omitted when we form the concept "justice"?), but Binswanger makes a decent effort. Unfortunately, he presents no evidence that the Objectivist theory of concepts is true. I'd like to see the psychological studies that adults (much less children) form concepts the way Rand and Binswanger claim. Indeed I suspect that we often form concepts without having two or more examples and a "foil." If I'm wandering in Borneo and see an animal that no one has seen before, do I need to see another one to conceptualize it?

On the negative side, Binswanger appears to believe the urban legend that people in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat. I was surprised that he doesn't mention David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses, an important Objectivist work on epistemology

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How We Know - Harry Binswanger's New Book

Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger's new book, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation is out.  I've started reading it and it's quite good.

A few preliminary comments:

1. The tone is actually surprising.  Although he disagrees with other views, it’s not in the snarky tone of something like OPAR.
2. He generally says “Rand” and not “Ayn Rand,” which was quite a relief.
3. No mention of Branden, Kelley or any published criticisisms of Rand.  I guess that’s not a surprise.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ten Questions for Open Immigration Objectivists

According to open immigration Objectivists such as Craig Biddle, Harry Binswanger and Diana Hsieh, a person should be free to emigrate from country A to country B as long as he doesn't have a criminal record, an infectious disease, and isn't a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer.

I have a few questions.

1. In the modern age it's easy for anyone to come to the US. You can hop on a plane and be here in 24 hours or less. If the US had open immigration, what would its population be in ten, twenty, thirty years?

2. What are the potential negative effects, if any, of what might be the largest population transfer in human history?

3. What would happen to wage rates in the US if tens of millions of low income workers arrive in a short period of time? Wouldn't it reduce the wage rates of US citizens, in particular low skilled workers?

4. There are countries such as Greece and Israel which border much more populous Islamic nations. Should they have open immigration? Will the world be a better place when Greece becomes "Greekistan" and Israel "Palestine"?

5. There are cities in Europe that are approaching 20% Islamic population. Has this been good for Europe? Would Europe be better if country after country eventually turned majority Islamic? Isn't this a distinct possibility given the low birth rate of the natives and the high birth rates of Moslems?

6. Is the creation of "no go" zones in major European cities related to immigration?

7. How should the US determine if a potential immigrant has a criminal record? Do Afghanistan and Pakistan keep good records? Are their officials in this area not subject to bribery?

8. How do we screen out potential terrorists? Assume someone from a pro-Taliban region of Pakistan wants to come to the US. Explain the process by which we determine if he is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.

9. California has become a one party leftist controlled state thanks to immigration. Wouldn't this happen to every other state if the US opened its southern border?

10. What would have prevented the Boston Massacre - restricting immigration or bombing Iran?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ari Armstrong Standard

The Objective Standard was once something of the house organ of the Ayn Rand Institute.  However, following the McCaskey schism (which resulted in Yaron Brook resigning from the magazine) it appears that many former writers associated with the ARI no longer publish there.  As of late Ari Armstrong, a friend of Dr. Diana ("Did I tell you I have a Ph.D.?") Hsieh, Ph.D., seems to have become a mainstay.  The current issue has twelve articles by Armstrong. 

The three most recent blog posts on the magazine's website are by Armstrong.  They are: (1) a piece about someone who is running for Lt. Governor of a place called "North Virginia"; (2) a gadget that can help you find your lost keys; and (3) a recent study that shows that plenty of people still believe in the Devil.

Let's look at the post concerning Lt. Governor candidate E. W. Jackson

Why is it noteworthy that someone who believes in God and Christianity is running for office?  In addition to being pointless, it shows Armstrong doesn't understand the topic on which he is opining.

1. Jackson miraculously misses the obvious fact that some people reject all religion. I assume Jackson knows there are quite a few non-religious people out there.

2.  How does he deem any religion true or false?  He does so according to religious faith—that is, he believes it without reason. Well, I don't know why Jackson believes the way he does, but he may have what he considers good reasons.  Most religious believers I know think it is rational to believe the way they do.  Christians have been defending their faith with arguments from reason for centuries.  Maybe these arguments aren't very good, but Armstrong shouldn't attribute fideism to Jackson without evidence.

3.  On the same grounds, he believes, among other niceties, that the minds of homosexuals "are perverted." Maybe he has natural law reasons for believing homosexuality is immoral, like the greatest philosopher since Aristotle had.

4.  Does Jackson not know that the scriptures of other religions say that their religion is the correct one? It would seem so. I assume Jackson knows that many if not most religions maintain they are correct to the exclusion of others.

I'm sure Mr. Armstrong is a nice guy, but Craig Biddle needs to get some real talent.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cato Forum: What's Living and Dead in Ayn Rand's Moral and Politcal Thought

This was in 2010.  I hadn't seen it until recently.  Looks quite interesting.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In The Ayn Rand Archives

In this essay in the Raritan Quarterly, Jennifer Burns discusses her experience with the Ayn Rand Archives in Irvine, California. 

I'm not sure why she considers me a leader of a "neo-Objectivist" movement.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the Archives as Burns is.  In Ayn Rand Nation, Iris Bell is quoted as saying that she and others who were interviewed by the Archives were angered when they saw the transcripts of their interviews in 2010's 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand.

But when she saw an advanced copy of 100 Voices, she was annoyed to find that her interview had been just not abridged but expurgated.  "They had managed to find all these positive things I said," which had "nothing to do with the whole feel of the conversation I had with them."  Iris said she was in touch with a number of other people quoted in the book, and the same thing was done to them.

I review Gary Weiss's Ayn Rand Nation

In the most recent issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies I review Gary Weiss's Ayn Rand Nation.

New JARS - Issue 24, Final Pre-PSUP Issue!!!

It is one of the few books on Objectivism written by a non-Objectivist that you can learn a lot from.  I think, however, that he exaggerates the influence of Rand and Objectivism on contemporary American life and politics.

Ayn Rand Really, Really Hated C. S. Lewis - First Things Post

This brief post by Matthew Schmitz in First Things discusses Ayn Rand's comments  on C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.

I highly recommend Michael Prescott's post The Importance of Being Earnest which is a detailed critique of Rand's comments.  Most importantly, he points out that Robert "Rewrite" Mayhew's editing is suspect.

The synopses of The Abolition of Man provided by Marginalia's editor Robert Mayhew are sometimes inaccurate. For example, with a few words in square brackets Mayhew summarizes part of Lewis's argument in a quoted passage: "[Those who reject tradition] are not men at all: they are artefacts." But Mayhew has conflated two different sentences, which have two different subjects. The actual passage reads: "It is not that they [i.e., the Conditioners] are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts." 

Thus, while "they are not men at all" does refer to the Conditioners (whom Mayhew somewhat inadequately labels "those who reject tradition"), the words "they are artefacts" refer to the Conditioners' helpless victims, who have been remade (via eugenics, prenatal conditioning, education and propaganda) into something no longer human.

Perhaps such inaccuracies are explained by a comment Mayhew makes in his introduction. A true acolyte, he unabashedly praises Rand, writing, "I do not recall a single case [in her marginalia] where what she said was unfair." It's good to know that when Rand railed against Lewis as a bastard, monster, scum, etc., she wasn't being unfair. Mayhew continues, "In fact, I was often filled with admiration for her patience, and for the strength of her stomach, in being able to go through some truly horrible book that she had decided was worth reading. (I, for one, could never have completed C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.)"

I suppose if Mayhew wasn't actually able to read Lewis's book, he would have been hard-pressed to summarize it accurately.