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Post 20

Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 4:33pmSanction this postReply
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DB wrote:
>>Really, the problem is not in this particular solution, but the question itself. The question shouldn't be "what is the best form of government?", but instead "What is the best way to ensure government is 1) open to criticism and 2) removable without violence".

Matthew replied:
>That's completely wrong.

Not at all. The government's fundamental job is simply to maintain peace and freedom. Should it fail to do that it should be:
1)criticised, so improvements can be made (ie: the government might be made smaller for example)
2) removed peacefully if the government refuses to accept public criticism.

Reformulating the question in this way is designed to get away from all the waffle that surrounds "what is...?" questions, and focus on formulating proposals. Too often political debate becomes rather like two starving philosophers in the desert, who fiercely debate whether it would be better to have soup or steak for dinner, despite the fact they can have neither.

>Under this system, the only voting would be over who ran the government, and not what the government would do.

This sort of question-begging is precisely what I mean. Matthew, if the government could be so arranged that the people who ran it could make no difference to its actions, could you explain why would you need to vote *at all*?

- Daniel








Post 21

Thursday, April 1, 2004 - 10:04pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Barnes writes:

 

But when you say one cannot "become" a true Objectivist - that one can only be "born" one - you are saying *exactly* that! True Objectivism is therefore A Priori. Nothing less!

In fact, your argument amounts to saying you can only be a "true" Objectivist if you don't earn it!

 

Actually, A priori doesn't involve choice. I said that a person CHOOSES to be rational. Therefore, I am not talking about A priori. A priori involves inborn knowledge, but I am not talking about actual physical birth. Did I not say this before?

 

Choosing to be rational isn't really enough. If you really choose to be rational, this would involve acting rational. Then you would earn the right to be called an Objectivist. You earn it by choosing to act rational, and actually acting rational.

 

Forget the "born" statement. Out of my experience and using common sense, this is what I determined:

 

To be realistic, an irrational person, for instance, Hitler, couldn't have stopped and realized that he was so wrong after years of being irrational. You can't become an Objectivist like this. This is what I mean when I say you can't "become" an Objectivist.

 

 If a person would ever want to be rational, he/she would do so as soon as possible. It would be near adolescence/teenage years, when a full desire to know about the world/ the ability to comprehend the world, etc., develops. There is no excuse to do otherwise. To do otherwise would mean that the person does not care about life enough to make sure his/her philosophy is right, which is unlike an Objectivist. 

 

At this time, a rational person would be pressed to know about what to do and not to do. This would be the time to choose to be rational or not, to choose what philosophy to follow. This choice would rely somewhat on views chosen before in life like that life is good, common sense is good, man should be happy and free, it is good to question everything, etc.(and why would a irrational person think otherwise? Why would a person choose to be irrational on purpose?) This is basically what I mean when I talked about the "born" thing.

 

 




Post 22

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 4:55amSanction this postReply
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Daniel (quotes from you in italics, my responses in normal text):

Not at all. The government's fundamental job is simply to maintain peace and freedom. Should it fail to do that it should be:
1)criticised, so improvements can be made (ie: the government might be made smaller for example)
2) removed peacefully if the government refuses to accept public criticism.

If the government's fundamental job is to maintain peace and freedom (or uphold individual rights or however its worded - I assume we mean the same thing) then the priority is to set up a system where the government is restricted to that role. Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding you, but you seem to be implying that its ok for the government to go beyond its fundamental role as long as its open to criticism and can be removed by election. How is this different from the mess we presently have in western countries?

This sort of question-begging is precisely what I mean. Matthew, if the government could be so arranged that the people who ran it could make no difference to its actions, could you explain why would you need to vote *at all*?

It would arguably be necessary to have *some form* of election just to choose the best person for the job.




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Post 23

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 12:55pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Matthew,

The issue for me is crystallised in your statement:

>Under this system, the only voting would be over who ran the government, and not what the government would do.

Now, this statement gives the comforting impression that a political system can be designed so that a government's policies are basically pre-determined, and require only some skillful and rather anonymous functionaries to ensure these policies are carried out. These functionaries need replacement from time to time, and this is the sole reason to vote - there is little or no debate over what the government actually *does* ie: its policies.

Now I have heard this idea touted often enough. Unfortunately, I hold that despite being superficially plausible, this idea is almost entirely *false*. I say that designing such a system is impossible; that we can only have very rough principles with which to work with, and these will need to be constantly adapted to cope with the future, which cannot be predicted. Thus the people who run the system are critical to its success or failure. You see, the whole point of voting for someone is *what they would do once in government*. What policies they propose, what principles they stand for, what difference they would make. To "run" the system is to make decisions as to its actions. Thus in voting for someone, you are *always* voting for "what the government will do"!!! To think otherwise is a complete fallacy.

I will give a very simple example. Now we know a basic duty of government is to uphold rule of law. Let us say that we have two candidates for Minister of Justice. One wants to increase the police force by 10,000 to be more effective against crime. He also proposes increasing the number of bureaucrats so the extra force can be properly managed. The other does not - he fears that too many police will lead to the emergence of the police state, and that the increase in management required also signals an unhealthy increase in the size of government to boot - not to mention an extra drain on an already voluntary exchequer!

So here we have a government that will have to *do* something - to enact a policy one way or the other - in a way that cannot be predetermined. Some people are going to have to make some important decisions about government action - both candidates, *and* voters - that will have consequences for both peace and liberty.

So it turns out this idea is built on an imaginary premise, and that in reality it is people who must decide policy; and they cannot invent a policy or system of policies that will do their decision making for them, and allow them to merely "run" it. I admit it is an appealing fantasy - after all, it removes a heavy moral and intellectual burden from all of our shoulders - but sadly it is a fantasy all the same.

- Daniel









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Post 24

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 1:10pmSanction this postReply
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Eric wrote:
>Why would a person choose to be irrational on purpose? This is >basically what I mean when I talked about the "born" thing.

I think you have your finger on a very important issue here.

- Daniel



Post 25

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 3:22pmSanction this postReply
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"If a person would ever want to be rational, he/she would do so as soon as possible. It would be near adolescence/teenage years, when a full desire to know about the world/ the ability to comprehend the world, etc., develops. There is no excuse to do otherwise. To do otherwise would mean that the person does not care about life enough to make sure his/her philosophy is right, which is unlike an Objectivist."
 
Maybe I'm confused on this one, but it seems that age has nothing to do with our ability to come to the realization that choosing rationality and acting rationally are what is best for us.  This despite days, months, or even years of acting otherwise.  It took me twenty-five years before I grasped and acted on the concepts of objectivism, and now, at age thirty-six, I'm still learning and working to learn how to apply these concepts across the board.  To state that a person must be "young" to best grasp objectivism seems to be unduly limiting.

"If you see somebody who may be receptive to the truth, sit down with them and tell them the truth."
 
I think this statement works for anyone at any age.

By the way, loved the article.

Rick P.
 




Post 26

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 4:04pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel, I have to say I think you're taking my comments out of context here.

Of course there will be arguments over the best way to uphold liberty, individual rights etc - that's the point of choosing the best of two (or more) candidates!!  What I'm getting at is that the government be unable to do anything that violates individual rights, for example wealth redistribution, drug prohibition, trade tariffs, laws governing consensual sexual conduct and so on. The extra policing example would fall under the above category of arguing over the best way (though under this system, a police state as such would be impossible, regardless of how many policemen there were).

I do agree that it is something of a fantasy - but only in the current cultural climate. I would hope that such a system could thrive in a predominantly Objectivist culture.

Edited due to poor phrasing :-)

(Edited by Matthew Humphreys on 4/02, 5:56pm)




Post 27

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 7:44pmSanction this postReply
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I think you have your finger on a very important issue here.

- Daniel

Thank you Daniel.




Post 28

Saturday, April 3, 2004 - 8:24amSanction this postReply
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Matthew, yours is perhaps the best article I have ever seen on SOLOHQ.

The U.S. Constitution and original Bill of Rights is probably the most important document ever written, and it is essentially perfect as written. Pure democracy sucks, of course. But a Constitutional Democracy is great, because in it, you define what rights are inviolable, cannot be touched by a majority vote. When all of your fundamental rights are protected, you can live, earn and love as you choose, and anyone who interferes goes to jail. Go read the proposed Constitution on the Free Radical web page (well, it used to be there, I dont know if its been moved), which is nothing if not a more-clear iteration of the US Constitution.

The US Constitution clarifies that all people have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Government and Church should be separate. No laws against free speech. The government can't take your stuff, house their soldiers in your home, or take away your ability to protect yourself. The government has to give you due process if you are accused of violating someone's rights. Government power is broken up into 3 branches, and different people get to wield various powers at various times. So far, so good, right?

All of the objections I have read pertain to the interpretation and addition to what it laid out pretty explicitly in the Constitution. Where are government handouts to be found in the Constitution? Where is the provision which states that the Federal, State, County, and Local governments can come up with as many taxes as they want and you have to pay them? Where does it say that prosperity requires contribution to the well-being of others? Where does it say that the Courts may uphold laws and interpret the Constitution in politically-advantageous ways that are in clear conflict of the general edict of that Constitution that the government shall not interfere with the individual's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

The Founding Fathers had a profound appreciation for History, Politics, Philosophy, and were wonderful students of human nature. It is clear on the face of Constitution that these fellows understood that the minute it was passed, it would be sorely tested. (Remember the Articles of Confederation?) They specifically provided for unassailable protected rights, and then provided mechanisms by which all of the less important crap could be decided (what color to paint the flagpole, etc.). The Constitution does not contemplate a massive, bloated Federal government. The Constitution does not contemplate career politicians, who these days are merely pull-peddlers and ill-gotten-gain collectors. So year after year, in search of their turn at the ever-expanding government teat, these unscrupulous clowns line up to hold public office and make promises to give more, if only they are elected. Well, they are elected, and they have to make good on their promises. So they create new departments to employ their constituents. They ensure government funding for their friend's project. They push bad legislation through, even though they know it will assail the inalienable rights of their fellow citizens. After after 200+ years of this, the government as applied in no way resembles the framework of the Constitution.

Changing voting percentages to allow laws to pass, making each dollar a vote, changing the checks and balances system? All interesting ideas, but none address the fundamental reality of the flaw here. We must roll back legislation and enforce the Constitution as written. We must enforce a 4 year public elected official cap (no person may hold any public office at any level of government for more than 4 years in their lifetime, total, inclusive) to eliminate the career politician. Then, we must staunchly defend against any attempt to assail the fundamental rights found in the Constitution.

Honestly, what sort of Constitution do you think you would get if the current one was repealed right now, with the parasites that infest government? The 'right to be safe from handguns' and 'the right to have beautiful forests' and the 'right to education, a home, and a job'? Repealing the Constitution would mean the end of the world's only hope for an eventual utopia of individual freedom.





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Post 29

Saturday, April 3, 2004 - 1:13pmSanction this postReply
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Matthew writes:
>Daniel, I have to say I think you're taking my comments out of context here....

Hi Matthew,

I've tried not to - rather just find the statement that best summarises what I think is a wrong position. And I must admit that re-reading your previous comments seems to reinforce my impression eg:

>....The extra policing example would fall under the above category of arguing over the best way (*though under this system, a police state as such would be impossible*, regardless of how many policemen there were). (emphasis added by DB)

What I'm trying to point out that is that this is very wrong. I repeat: there is no *system* that will make, say, a police state impossible. It's a fundamental error to believe this. Yes, a well-designed system is very important to the running of any state - and you can introduce proposals that will make a police state (for example) less - or more! - likely. But the *critical ingredient* is the people who design and run the system - and therefore, the people who *vote* for them too. The responsibility therefore *always lies with us*.

Of course, you may just be using the word "impossible" as a loose figure of speech, and you may actually mean "less likely" or similar. But, as with the previous statement I quoted, I am taking you at your word here.

- Daniel







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Post 30

Saturday, April 3, 2004 - 2:30pmSanction this postReply
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DB wrote:
>I think you have your finger on a very important issue here.

Eric replied
>Thank you Daniel.

Shall we discuss it a little further then? The problem as you put it is:
"Why would a person choose to be irrational?"

I will confess in advance I do not know the answer to this. But to try to clarify the issue, I will consider "irrationality" as an *attitude*: specifically, the attitude of having *fundamentally fixed views*, views that are not amenable in any way to change or argument.

For example, someone may believe himself to be Napoleon, and we may judge the extent of his delusion - the degree of his irrationality - by how far he is prepared to change his views. For we may argue that he cannot be, as Napoleon was born in 1769, and a man cannot live for 230 years. If he accepts this, then we can judge that his delusion is not too bad; and that given time, and more arguments, he may come to change his position. Thus he is not entirely irrational.

However, should he reply that he can live for hundreds of years - or perhaps that it is *we* who are all deluded, and that we actually still live in the 19th Century - then we may judge his irrationality is very bad indeed.

So on closer examination, it seems the the key test of irrationality is not so much the mistakenness of belief - because anyone can believe mistaken things - but the *fixity with which one holds it*.

This is quite different from our usual reluctance to change well supported beliefs, and is more akin to something like religious fundamentalism. It becomes clear that while the religion is bad (believing you're Napoleon) the fundamentalism is worse!!

- Daniel





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Post 31

Sunday, April 4, 2004 - 1:07amSanction this postReply
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Matthew - I saw the fuss going on about your article, but just now got round to reading it. Allow me to add my congratulations to those of others. Beautiful progressions from the concrete to the abstract. It's true that idiots *still* won't get it, but in this case, they've no excuse. Your point is at once accessible & irresistible. Bravo!

And don't worry about Daniel. He's a Popperian - hung up on the "openness" of democracy & blind (as yet - I'm confident he'll come right :-)) to the violations of individual rights that democracy permits & "legitimises." I think I'll set Marcus Bachler on him - *he* used to be like that!! :-)

Linz



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Post 32

Sunday, April 4, 2004 - 1:30pmSanction this postReply
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I think I ended up debating with Mattthew H not Matthew G?

My views, of course, are always "open" to amendment by a better argument ...;-)

- Daniel



Post 33

Monday, April 5, 2004 - 5:02pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

 

I am partly sorry that I didn’t discuss this off the bat, but I guess I was a little hesitant because it seems there isn’t a final answer to this question.

 

I would also say that I truly don't know the answer to this either. But I have come to some sort of conclusion.

 

The essential question is, why are irrational people irrational? A person would believe something irrational if they think that what they are doing is the right thing.

 

 If they truly studied and questioned their views, they would realize that they are false. They do not do this because they don’t care about life enough to take the time to prove their views, they aren’t aware of the ability to question, or they are just scared. This is all because they are ignorance. They are ignorant of the facts that they should be able to prove what they believe in to be true, that proving their views is essential to happiness and is therefore worth their attention, and that they should be always up to questioning anything.

 

Why are they ignorant? Why do they not know no-brainer truisms like questioning everything? Why don’t they just discover the world?

 

I guess it’s A=A. The irrational are irrational because they just are. There will always be more irrational people than rational people. I guess irrational people are a part of nature, even though they choose to be so.

 

A person’s degree of irrationality depends where in what area of knowledge a mistake is made.

 

If someone is mistaken in their metaphysical-epistemological base, they are very irrational, and usually do not change their views or always remain irrational in someway (such as belief in god/faith for many years, believing that existence doesn’t exist, truth doesn’t exist, etc.).

 

If someone is mistaken in politics and/or aesthetics, the mistake is usually smaller and more innocent at times. If these views are irrational, their bases are worse.

 

I would say that if someone thinks they are seriously Napoleon for any reason, at anytime, anywhere, they are insane (irrational), and most probably wouldn’t be persuaded to think otherwise.

 

It does depend on the “fixity with which one holds it”, and it also depends on what they believe in.

 

 




Post 34

Monday, April 5, 2004 - 7:47pmSanction this postReply
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Eric,

You say "The essential question is, why are irrational people irrational?".  I'm not sure from the context how you mean this.  What is an irrational person?  Someone who is ever irrational?  Someone who doesn't see a problem with being irrational?  Or someone who is often irrational?  I think the answer matters because it changes the problem you're trying to work at.  If you're trying to figure out why irrationality is a good thing, you could focus on their confusion.  If you're wondering why someone would choose to be irrational in any particular event, you could focus on the motivations for that event.

Also, the normal Objectivist answer to this kind of problem hinges on the idea of evasion, not mistakes.  If someone makes a mistake, their just wrong.  It's when they are given the information to know better, and still persist, that we call them irrational.  This is sort of in line with what Daniel is saying about rigidity of beliefs.  I disagree with that because it's too general.  Is it irrational to accept the Law of Identity?  If someone performs a magic trick, should you dismiss science because there seemed to be magic?  Which is irrational?

But the 'fixity' is true in the sense that a person is refusing to acknowledge facts or ideas.  He's refusing to use his reasoning ability.  That can come in a lot of forms.  It can be not explicitly integrating ideas you think are probably related.  It can be the ignoring of a contradiction you know exists (think of something else, quick!).  It can be trusting your emotions to guide you.  There are lots of forms of irrationality, but they're all just ways of circumventing your reasoning mind.

So then motivations?  The most obvious to me is emotions.  Since they are motivators in a very real sense, it makes sense that your emotions can motivate you to stop thinking.  If a girl loves her abusive boyfriend, she doesn't want to think about it!  She loves him!!!  If a guy wants to make money at any cost, ignore the guilt of doing something wrong!

In every case, he may know something, but doesn't want to think about it.  He goes with his emotions.  The truth, which he as access to and has the ability to use, is ignored.  He instead focuses his mind on something else.  Some reassurance, perhaps.  "Nobody will know, so it's okay".  "All of my friends would do it, so nobody can say I'm bad".  "He deserves this kind of treatment".  "I'll just do it this once".  "Who cares what morality says...I'll benefit from it (in the short run)".

Any thoughts?




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Post 35

Monday, April 5, 2004 - 9:03pmSanction this postReply
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Joe wrote (about the reasons for irrationalism):
>So then motivations?  The most obvious to me is emotions. 

I think Joe is quite right: this is a good possibility. People often get cemented to their beliefs due to powerful emotional or personal experiences.

This is understandable. But perhaps easier to criticise - and running below the surface of a lot of persistently wrong beliefs - is the broader intellectual habit of thinking "clinging" is necessary.

This habit can be seen most clearly in, say, the radical subjectivist, who nonetheless clings to his subjectivism as if it were gospel!

- Daniel



Post 36

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 1:21amSanction this postReply
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El Director,

           

All of this stemmed from me pointing out that a rational person would think life affirming things like: life is good, man should be happy, use common sense (reason), question everything.

 

These all seem so obviously true and require little thought to accept them.

 

I asked why a person would ever think otherwise.

 

Yes, you are right, I need to define an irrational person.

 

An irrational person is a person that is not rational. A person that doesn’t follow Objectivism. Which means, of course, a person that does not act according to Objectivism. It’s all black and white. (Wouldn’t you agree that all people are either good or bad by the way?)

 

When you talk about mistakes/evasions, I would consider that general. The (philosophical) mistake may be believing in Objectivism in everyway except for seeing how exactly art is totally essential to man, or believing that god exists or altruism is moral. The latter two are mistakes that shouldn’t be ‘forgiven’. Remember, time is also an issue here. If a child thinks god exists, it may be an “honest” mistake, because the child may not be able to fully reason (simply doesn’t know what he/she is doing) or just hasn’t taken enough time to think about the issue, yet the child is still irrational. If an old man believes in god after years upon years of being able to use his active mind, then he is also irrational and should never be ‘forgiven’, he wouldn’t change his ways.

 

What I mean with the ‘forgiven’ thing is that if that mistake was corrected, there would still be a lot of problems. A person builds their entire lives on that view. If it is taken away, the chaos build on top of it will collapse into even more chaos.

 

The latter two are so irrational, so grave a mistake/evasion, that the people that believe them would rather cling to them than accept their falseness most of the time. The people that believe them wouldn’t accept the truth, even if you hit them in the face with it, most of the time. (Actually, my experiences with this are mostly with teenagers I guess, and teenagers can be very stubborn/stupid compared to other people. Perhaps my experience with this is not large enough. What are your experiences with persuading others?)

 

An irrational person that would accept the truth after being told about it really isn’t an irrational person. They are, but a different kind. They are more temporarily irrational, I’d say. A person that isn’t aware of the truth in non-metaphysical-epistemological issues. They think, but not as much as they should.

 

I would agree that when a person is given the truth, but still chooses to evade, they are truly irrational.

 

Fixity itself isn’t bad. Objectivists have fixed views (which they choose because they are proven). It is when a person evades the truth and stays fixed to a bad philosophy, the fixation is bad.

 

After some thought, I would say that emotions are the only things that motivate irrationality. Everyone experiences emotions naturally and continuously, and they always confuse us at some time or another. Without a good understanding of the world, emotions can very easily throw someone into irrationality.

 

But what do irrational emotions rely on? Irrational values (beliefs). They believe irrational things because they don’t know better for some reason or another. It all boils down to ignorance. I guess they would try to become enlightened, but their emotions distract and confuse them. If they ever come close to finding the truth, they will be too scared to take the responsibilities of living a moral life, or will just be buried in doubt after years of chaos.

 

I wish I could communicate better, this is sort of hard to discuss. I try not to describe things in degrees (such as degrees of irrationality), because I try to lay things out black and white. I try to describe things objectively, not by what degree I feel something is.

 

 

 




Post 37

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 1:52amSanction this postReply
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Hi Eric,

I understand the desire to communicate it better.  That's one of the reasons the forum is here.  I encourage you to keep working on it until your satisfied.

Now defining the "irrational person" was more to avoid biting off too big a piece.  A person doesn't usually decide "I'm going to be an irrational person", meaning irrational as a pattern of behavior.  Who does that?  I'm guessing nobody.  Usually, it's one decision to be irrational at a time.  That's your regular case.  And that's where you should focus, because that is something you can explain.  You can look at the motivations involved.

After that, you can see that there are habits people form.  It often gets harder to clean up your act.  Take lying, for instance.  You tell a little white lie, no big deal, right?  But then you kinda get caught, so have to tell a few more to cover.  Then it gets bigger, and bigger.  You struggle to keep up with it.  The first white lie was something stupid like "No honey...I didn't go to the bar with my friends."  It seems easier than arguing over something you think is small.  But then the next lie is a big deal.  It's about trust.  If you get caught, whatever minor annoyance the bar might have been is nothing compared to the "I can't believe you lie to me!  How can I ever trust you!".  And the more your avoid that, the worse it is.

So you can see how certain irrational acts create incentives for further irrationality.  That would be another motivating factor, right?  So emotions is one.  But then incentives/punishments is potentially another.  And at some point, you might lose all desirable options.  I wrote an article on that topic:

http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Rowlands/Affording_to_be_Moral.shtml

And we could pursue that even further.  But I think you want to focus on mistakes that are fundamental, like altruism, faith in god, etc.  I think for many of these, they are self-reinforcing.

http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Rowlands/Self-Reinforcing_Ideas.shtml

In that case, it's not that the knowledge they have is so clear and they're just evading.  It's that they have an entire lifetime of experience that seems to support their view.  So that would be another reason they may be irrational.  That their horribly wrong views seem to be affirmed by how they interpreted the information.  Basically, bad ideas that are potent and not at all obvious that they're wrong (until you clearly see the correct alternative).

My view is that there isn't an easy answer to why people hold mistaken views, or act irrationally.  It comes in all kinds of forms, and there are all kinds of causes.  If you look for an all-encompassing solution, I think you'll look in vain.  Instead, look at particular forms of irrationality, and try to understand them.

"The people that believe them wouldn’t accept the truth, even if you hit them in the face with it".  I'd say that people won't accept it especially if you hit them in the face with it.

As for my own experience in persuasion, I admit to mixed results.  Some people don't want to know anything, and won't listen.  Others learn some, but fail to practice it consistently.  And a few change completely.  It varies.  My personal view on it is that the world is full of opportunities to spread our ideas.  Master your techniques, integrate it well for yourself, and then pick the low-hanging fruit off the trees.  Every person you reach is a success, and you continue to grow yourself in the process.  When you've got all the easy pickings, then work on expanding your reach.  It's still early, and that means we've got plenty of good opportunities ahead of us.




Post 38

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 9:51amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

Sorry for the delay getting back to you on this, my internet access is somewhat sporadic at the moment due to a serious fault with my laptop computer.

I have to say your previous response to me reinforced my impression of you taking my comments out of context. 

What I'm trying to point out that is that this is very wrong. I repeat: there is no *system* that will make, say, a police state impossible. It's a fundamental error to believe this. Yes, a well-designed system is very important to the running of any state - and you can introduce proposals that will make a police state (for example) less - or more! - likely. But the *critical ingredient* is the people who design and run the system - and therefore, the people who *vote* for them too. The responsibility therefore *always lies with us*.

I've already stated that I fully accept that there are cultural preconditions necessary for what I am advocating to work. I would hope that in a culture where the majority (or even a sizeable minority) of people were Objectivists or Objectivist-sympathisers (neo-Aristotelian and neo-Thomist libertarians etc), something along these lines could work.

What I am advocating is a constitution restricting the government from violating individual rights. A constitution means having checks and balances, to ensure that the government sticks to its remit. (i.e some form of constitutional court). The US Founders tried to do this, but they didn't go nearly far enough. An Objectivist constitution ought to clearly and unambiguously state what rights the people have, what the government's duties to its citizens are, and what the state expressly can not do in seeking to fulfill its role. It would also state in equally clear terms the duties and powers of the constitutional court, and under what circumstances the court ought to step in. 

be using the word "impossible" as a loose figure of speech, and you may actually mean "less likely" or similar. But, as with the previous statement I quoted, I am taking you at your word here.

It would be impossible under my system in the sense that the minute the government sought to give the police extra powers which would allow them to violate the rights of innocent citizens, the constitutional court would step in, judge the policy to be contrary to the spirit and letter of the constitution, and prevent it becoming law.

MH






Post 39

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 4:28amSanction this postReply
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Joe wrote:
>This is sort of in line with what Daniel is saying about rigidity of
>beliefs.  I disagree with that because it's too general.  Is it
>irrational to accept the Law of Identity?  If someone performs a
>magic trick, should you dismiss science because there seemed to >be magic?  Which is irrational?

I'll phrase it a little better. I will say being rational is adopting the attitude of being open to argument and experience. Being irrational is, therefore, its opposite. So, to take this example, it would be irrational to dismiss science on the basis of apparent magic, because this would mean being closed to the very good arguments and evidence in support of science and only open to the weak arguments and feeble evidence for actual magic.

So I think this is a robust enough definition. So now we can examine the rather mysterious issue of why someone might choose to become closed to arguments and experience.

I think Joe's initial suggestion of emotional reasons is a strong one ie: people may have been subject to bad arguments and bad experiences, and that it may cause them to lose trust in both. (This is perhaps roughly the situation of the madman)

The other suggestion I would make, following Popper, is that there is a logical problem regarding being rational that has caused it to get a rather undeservedly bad name in intellectual circles.

That is, simply, that one cannot adopt a rational attitude for rational reasons - in other words, one cannot accept the need to be open to arguments and experience without being open to arguments and experience in the first place!!

This paradox is, I think, the problem that Eric is touching on - and he is not alone, though I don't think his genetic solution is at all tenable! As Popper remarks, this logical failure of what might be described as a "comprehensive" rationalism has meant a beating for rationalists in their favourite field with their favourite weapon, whenever an irrationalist took the trouble to turn it against them!

This has caused something like despair amongst the defenders of reason, and has pushed many of them into total irrationalism. But it turns out, such panic - once again, an emotional reaction - is unnecessary. We instead must simply have *faith* in reason, and by admitting this minor irrationalism - even giving it some priority - in our system we gain other advantages. For example, then the issue of the adoption of reason becomes open to criticism itself (and can therefore be defended via argument and experience, rather than as a manifest truth). Hence Popper calls this "critical" rationalism, as opposed to "comprehensive" or "uncritical" rationalism. Further, the adoption of a more or less rational attitude becomes a *moral* choice - you can choose it, but you are not compelled to by any mysterious higher authority or system.

So it seems the first step towards being rational consists of an irrational act: an act of faith. And while this idea is probably not in prima facie agreement with Objectivism, I think this goes quite some way to explaining Eric's chicken-and-egg dilemma.

- Daniel










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