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Tag Archives: world
Posted: August 23, 2016 at 9:23 am
Quick note: I gave a brief interview at Fallen and Flawed.
Clearly, atheism is not a religion, but there has been much talk in the comments about whether or not atheism is a worldview.
So, lets check the definitions of atheism and of worldview and see if one might be a species of the other.
atheism disbelief in the existence of a god or gods
worldview1. a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world 2. a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group
I do not see how atheism can be a worldview.
I have compared atheism to a-unicornism: disbelief in the existence of unicorns. How is a-unicornism a worldview? Its not. Atheism and a-unicornism are each a single belief about one thing. Neither of these positions tell you anything else about the person who holds them: their morals values, their political views, their driving purpose, their explanations for life or the universe, their beliefs about magic or ghosts or elves, their rationality or their intelligence.
But, Bobmo wrote:
In other words, if there is no God, then x must be true (e.g. matter is eternal, or a multiverse exists; there is no absolute morality, etc.) The same cannot be said for A-unicornism, since the non-existence of unicorns carries no serious implications.
I deny that atheism has such implications. None of Bobmos examples follow from the non-existence of gods. They may be true, but they are not entailed by atheism. As toweltowel replied: Supposing that theism implies p, and that atheism is the denial of theism, it obviously does not follow that atheism implies [not-p].
Neither an atheist nor an a-unicornist must believe in eternal matter, a multiverse, or moral relativism. And in fact, Id bet millions of them dont.
Adiel Corchado has another try:
The difference between atheism and [a-unicornism] is that unicorns provide no answers to why the world exists, why we exist, whether morality is objective or subjective, what happens after you die, etc. If unicorns dont exist that changes nothing. If unicorns do exist that changes nothing. Gods existence or non-existence on the other hand changes everything.
I have never seen a definition of worldview that uses Adiels criteria for something being a worldview. Both bare atheism and bare theism have no answers to why the world exists, why the world exists, whether morality is objective or subjective, or what happens after you die. For you to start answering those questions you have to adopt a worldview, like a particular brand of worldview naturalism or Christianity or extropianism.
Yes, even theism in the bare sense that is the opposite of atheism is not a worldview. Like atheism, theism is a single belief about one thing: the existence of a god or gods.
What else is entailed by belief in a god or gods? Absolute morality? The origins of life or the universe? The afterlife? The purpose of life? None of these things are entailed by theism, not even the origins of the universe. Not all gods are thought to be eternal, or creative. And not all theistic religions think that the gods can explain the origins of the universe, for example many varieties of Buddhism.
Atheism is the mere opposite of theism, and neither of these entail a long list of beliefs like a worldview does.
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Posted: August 14, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Question: “What is Christian Rationalism?”
According to the Christian Rationalism website, thousands of years ago great men driven by ideals of reform tried with their teachings to enlighten humanity. Men such as Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and Mohammed taught similar spiritual principles; however, they were not truly understood and ended up being deified by the illiterate masses. Once the idea of divinization took hold, the respective religions were created, each preaching a different form of speculative worship, and the followers of each flocked together. All of them taught the principles that Christian Rationalism now teaches and thus, despite their name, they have nothing to do with the biblical Jesus Christ.
According to its adherents, Christian Rationalism deals with physical and psychic phenomena, philosophical and psychological issues, reincarnation, incorporeal life, space and the universe, the power of thought, evolution, gods and religions, force and matter, the aura, ethics, family and children. Quite a vast array of topics are incorporated into Christian rationalism, many of which are clearly occult in nature, in particular psychic phenomena and reincarnation.
The basic beliefs of the Christian Rationalists are contrary to Scripture, beginning with their concept of God as a universal spiritual force, or a universal intelligence, not a Person. CR adherents see God as made up of billions and billions of intelligent spiritual particles, of which man is part. That means that each one of us is a particle of that universal force which is God. This philosophy is rampant among New Age cults and false religions. The belief that man can be God is very appealing to our fallen nature, originating in the Garden of Eden with the first lie told by Satan: you shall be as God (Genesis 3:5). Jesus, according to the Christian Rationalists, was not God incarnate as Scripture states, but simply a good, moral man who said good things. He is not the one and only Savior of the world, despite His own claims to be the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life and the only access to the Father (John 14:6). To the adherents of CR philosophy, a Christian is not one who believes in the biblical Jesus for salvation, following and obeying Him. Rather, a Christian is one whose behavior lines up with Christian morality, but the word non-biblical is added to the statement, causing one to wonder where they find the morality they call Christian, if not in the Bible.
Christian Rationalism is just another part of Satan’s attempt to deceive people into thinking that they are gods and can find their own identity and meaning through his pseudo world. It is, of course, completely against the teaching of the Bible and the God-man, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, and coming King of the world, and the One whom true believers will worship and serve for all eternity.
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Posted: July 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm
There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobiles–all staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems.
A singularity is a sign that your model doesn’t apply past a certain point, not infinity arriving in real life
A singularity, as most commonly used, is a point at which expected rules break down. The term comes from mathematics, where a point on a curve that has a sudden break in slope is considered to have a slope of undefined or infinite value; such a point is known as a singularity.
The term has extended into other fields; the most notable use is in astrophysics, where a singularity is a point (usually, but perhaps not exclusively, at the center a of black hole) where curvature of spacetime approaches infinity.
This article, however, is not about the mathematical or physics uses of the term, but rather the borrowing of it by various futurists. They define a technological singularity as the point beyond which we can know nothing about the world. So, of course, they then write at length on the world after that time.
It’s intelligent design for the IQ 140 people. This proposition that we’re heading to this point at which everything is going to be just unimaginably different – it’s fundamentally, in my view, driven by a religious impulse. And all of the frantic arm-waving can’t obscure that fact for me, no matter what numbers he marshals in favor of it. He’s very good at having a lot of curves that point up to the right.
In transhumanist belief, the “technological singularity” refers to a hypothetical point beyond which human technology and civilization is no longer comprehensible to the current human mind. The theory of technological singularity states that at some point in time humans will invent a machine that through the use of artificial intelligence will be smarter than any human could ever be. This machine in turn will be capable of inventing new technologies that are even smarter. This event will trigger an exponential explosion of technological advances of which the outcome and effect on humankind is heavily debated by transhumanists and singularists.
Many proponents of the theory believe that the machines eventually will see no use for humans on Earth and simply wipe us out their intelligence being far superior to humans, there would be probably nothing we could do about it. They also fear that the use of extremely intelligent machines to solve complex mathematical problems may lead to our extinction. The machine may theoretically respond to our question by turning all matter in our solar system or our galaxy into a giant calculator, thus destroying all of humankind.
Critics, however, believe that humans will never be able to invent a machine that will match human intelligence, let alone exceed it. They also attack the methodology that is used to “prove” the theory by suggesting that Moore’s Law may be subject to the law of diminishing returns, or that other metrics used by proponents to measure progress are totally subjective and meaningless. Theorists like Theodore Modis argue that progress measured in metrics such as CPU clock speeds is decreasing, refuting Moore’s Law. (As of 2015, not only Moore’s Law is beginning to stall, Dennard scaling is also long dead, returns in raw compute power from transistors is subjected to diminishing returns as we use more and more of them, there is also Amdahl’s Law and Wirth’s law to take into account, and also that raw computing power simply doesn’t scale up linearly at providing real marginal utility. Then even after all those things, we still haven’t taken into account of the fundamental limitations of conventional computing architecture. Moore’s law suddenly doesn’t look to be the panacea to our problems now, does it?)
Transhumanist thinkers see a chance of the technological singularity arriving on Earth within the twenty first century, a concept that most[Who?]rationalists either consider a little too messianic in nature or ignore outright. Some of the wishful thinking may simply be the expression of a desire to avoid death, since the singularity is supposed to bring the technology to reverse human aging, or to upload human minds into computers. However, recent research, supported by singularitarian organizations including MIRI and the Future of Humanity Institute, does not support the hypothesis that near-term predictions of the singularity are motivated by a desire to avoid death, but instead provides some evidence that many optimistic predications about the timing of a singularity are motivated by a desire to “gain credit for working on something that will be of relevance, but without any possibility that their prediction could be shown to be false within their current career”.
Don’t bother quoting Ray Kurzweil to anyone who knows a damn thing about human cognition or, indeed, biology. He’s a computer science genius who has difficulty in perceiving when he’s well out of his area of expertise.
Eliezer Yudkowsky identifies three major schools of thinking when it comes to the singularity. While all share common ground in advancing intelligence and rapidly developing technology, they differ in how the singularity will occur and the evidence to support the position.
Under this school of thought, it is assumed that change and development of technology and human (or AI assisted) intelligence will accelerate at an exponential rate. So change a decade ago was much faster than change a century ago, which was faster than a millennium ago. While thinking in exponential terms can lead to predictions about the future and the developments that will occur, it does mean that past events are an unreliable source of evidence for making these predictions.
The “event horizon” school posits that the post-singularity world would be unpredictable. Here, the creation of a super-human artificial intelligence will change the world so dramatically that it would bear no resemblance to the current world, or even the wildest science fiction. This school of thought sees the singularity most like a single point event rather than a process indeed, it is this thesis that spawned the term “singularity.” However, this view of the singularity does treat transhuman intelligence as some kind of magic.
This posits that the singularity is driven by a feedback cycle between intelligence enhancing technology and intelligence itself. As Yudkowsky (who endorses this view) “What would humans with brain-computer interfaces do with their augmented intelligence? One good bet is that theyd design the next generation of brain-computer interfaces.” When this feedback loop of technology and intelligence begins to increase rapidly, the singularity is upon us.
There is also a fourth singularity school which is much more popular than the other three: It’s all a load of baloney! This position is not popular with high-tech billionaires.
This is largely dependent on your definition of “singularity”.
The intelligence explosion singularity is by far the most unlikely. According to present calculations, a hypothetical future supercomputer may well not be able to replicate a human brain in real time. We presently don’t even understand how intelligence works, and there is no evidence that intelligence is self-iterative in this manner – indeed, it is not unlikely that improvements on intelligence are actually more difficult the smarter you become, meaning that each improvement on intelligence is increasingly difficult to execute. Indeed, how much smarter it is possible for something to even be than a human being is an open question. Energy requirements are another issue; humans can run off of Doritos and Mountain Dew Dr. Pepper, while supercomputers require vast amounts of energy to function. Unless such an intelligence can solve problems better than groups of humans, its greater intelligence may well not matter, as it may not be as efficient as groups of humans working together to solve problems.
Another major issue arises from the nature of intellectual development; if an artificial intelligence needs to be raised and trained, it may well take twenty years or more between generations of artificial intelligences to get further improvements. More intelligent animals seem to generally require longer to mature, which may put another limitation on any such “explosion”.
Accelerating change is questionable; in real life, the rate of patents per capita actually peaked in the 20th century, with a minor decline since then, despite the fact that human beings have gotten more intelligent and gotten superior tools. As noted above, Moore’s Law has been in decline, and outside of the realm of computers, the rate of increase in other things has not been exponential – airplanes and cars continue to improve, but they do not improve at the ridiculous rate of computers. It is likely that once computers hit physical limits of transistor density, their rate of improvement will fall off dramatically, and already even today, computers which are “good enough” continue to operate for many years, something which was unheard of in the 1990s, where old computers were rapidly and obviously obsoleted by new ones.
According to this point of view, the Singularity is a past event, and we live in a post-Singularity world.
The rate of advancement has actually been in decline in recent times, as patents per-capita has gone down, and the rate of increase of technology has declined rather than risen, though the basal rate is higher than it was in centuries past. According to this point of view, the intelligence explosion and increasing rate of change already happened with computers, and now that everyone has handheld computing devices, the rate of increase is going to decline as we hit natural barriers in how much additional benefit we gain out of additional computing power. The densification of transistors on microchips has slowed by about a third, and the absolute limit to transistors is approaching – a true, physical barrier which cannot be bypassed or broken, and which would require an entirely different means of computing to create a denser still microchip.
From the point of view of travel, humans have gone from walking to sailing to railroads to highways to airplanes, but communication has now reached the point where a lot of travel is obsolete – the Internet is omnipresent and allows us to effectively communicate with people on any corner of the planet without travelling at all. From this point of view, there is no further point of advancement, because we’re already at the point where we can be anywhere on the planet instantly for many purposes, and with improvements in automation, the amount of physical travel necessary for the average human being has declined over recent years. Instant global communication and the ability to communicate and do calculations from anywhere are a natural physical barrier, beyond which further advancement is less meaningful, as it is mostly just making things more convenient – the cost is already extremely low.
The prevalence of computers and communications devices has completely changed the world, as has the presence of cheap, high-speed transportation technology. The world of the 21st century is almost unrecognizable to people from the founding of the United States in the latter half of the 18th century, or even to people from the height of the industrial era at the turn of the 20th century.
Extraterrestrial technological singularities might become evident from acts of stellar/cosmic engineering. One such possibility for example would be the construction of Dyson Spheres that would result in the altering of a star’s electromagnetic spectrum in a way detectable from Earth. Both SETI and Fermilab have incorporated that possibility into their searches for alien life. 
A different view of the concept of singularity is explored in the science fiction book Dragon’s Egg by Robert Lull Forward, in which an alien civilization on the surface of a neutron star, being observed by human space explorers, goes from Stone Age to technological singularity in the space of about an hour in human time, leaving behind a large quantity of encrypted data for the human explorers that are expected to take over a million years (for humanity) to even develop the technology to decrypt.
No signs of extraterrestrial civilizations have been found as of 2016.
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Posted: July 12, 2016 at 6:16 am
(Photo: Peter Hapak/New York Magazine; Hair by Kelsey Bauer, Make-up by Amber Doty/Mirror Mirror)
Martine prefers not to limit herself to available words: Shes suggested using Pn., for person, in place of Mr. and Ms., and spice to mean husband or wife. But trans is a prefix she likes a lot, for it contains her self-image as an explorer who crosses barriers into strange new lands. (When she feels a connection to a new acquaintance, she says that she transcends.) And these days Martine sees herself less as transgender and more as what is known as transhumanist, a particular kind of futurist who believes that technology can liberate humans from the limits of their biologyincluding infertility, disease, and decay, but also, incredibly, death. Now, in her spare time, when shes not running a $5 billion company, or flying her new helicopter up and down the East Coast, or attending to her large family and three dogs, shes tinkering with ways that technology might push back that ultimate limit. She believes in a foreseeable future in which the beloved dead will live again as digital beings, reanimated by sophisticated artificial-intelligence programs that will be as cheap and accessible to every person as iTunes. I know this sounds messianic or even childlike, she wrote to me in one of many emails over the summer. But I believe it is simply practical and technologically inevitable.
During our first conversation, in the beige United Therapuetics outpost in Burlington, Vermont, Martine made a distinction between boundaries and borders. Borders, denials, limitsthese are Martines siren calls, pulling her toward and beyond them even as she, a pharma executive responsible to shareholders and a board, must survive every day within regulations and laws. She was sprawled across from me on a sectional couch, her hair in a ponytail and her long legs before her. At times I sort of feel like Queen Elizabeth, she said. You know, she lives in a world of limitations, having the appearance of great authority and being able to transcend any limitations. But in reality she is in a little cage.
Martin Rothblatt was raised by observant Jewish parents in a working-class suburb of San Diego; his father was a dentist. His mother, Rosa Lee, says she always believed her first child was destined for greatness. Days after Martins birth, I was walking back and forth in the living room and I was holding him like a football. And I remember saying, Menashe, honeythats his Hebrew nameI dont know what it is, but theres something special about you. You will make a difference in this world. And she is.
The Rothblatts were the only Jewish family in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, and Martin grew up obsessed with difference, seeking out families unlike his own. Rosa Lee remembers her child as a fanatical reader, the kind of kid who would spend an entire family vacation with his nose in Siddhartha, and Martine herself sent me a list of the books that as an adolescent had been influential: Exodus, by Leon Uris; anything by Isaac Asimov; and especially Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. But Martin was an unmotivated student and dropped out of UCLA after freshman year, because he wanted to see the world; he had read that the Seychelles were like a paradise, and with a few hundred dollars in his pocket he made his way there.
The Seychelles disappointed. Cockroaches covered the floor of his hut at night, and when he turned on the light, moths or locusts would swarm in through the open windows. But a friend of a friend was working at an Air Force base tracking satellites for NASA, and one day Martin was invited to visit. Outside, there was a big, giant, satellite dish. Inside, it was like we stepped into the future, Martine told me. Everything was crisp and clean, she said, like a vision out of science fiction made real. It seemed to me the satellite engineer was making the whole world come together. Like that was the center of the world. Martin hightailed it back to California to re-enroll at UCLA and transform himself into an expert in the law of space.
Martin first met Bina at a networking event in Hollywood in 1979. There was a DJ, and the music started, and there was a disco ball and a dance floor, Martine remembers. I saw Bina sitting over there, and I just felt an enormous attraction to her and just walked over and asked her to dance. And she agreed to dance. We danced, we sat down, talked, and weve been together ever since. They were from different worlds: Martin was a white Jewish man on his way to getting a J.D.-M.B.A.; Bina, who is African-American, grew up in Compton and was working as a real-estate agent. But they had much in commonstarting with the fact that they were both single parents. Martin had met a woman in Kenya on his way home from the Seychelles; the relationship had not worked out, but had produced a son, Eli, who was 3. Binas daughter, Sunee, was about the same age.
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Martine Rothblatt Is the Highest-Paid Female CEO in …
Posted: July 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm
Human evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years.
One of the earliest defining human traits, bipedalism — the ability to walk on two legs — evolved over 4 million years ago. Other important human characteristics — such as a large and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, and the capacity for language — developed more recently. Many advanced traits — including complex symbolic expression, art, and elaborate cultural diversity — emerged mainly during the past 100,000 years.
Humans are primates. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species, Homo sapiens, has a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes (large apes) of Africa — chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called pygmy chimpanzees) and gorillas — share a common ancestor that lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. Humans first evolved in Africa, and much of human evolution occurred on that continent. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 and 2 million years ago come entirely from Africa.
Most scientists currently recognize some 15 to 20 different species of early humans. Scientists do not all agree, however, about how these species are related or which ones simply died out. Many early human species — certainly the majority of them left no living descendants. Scientists also debate over how to identify and classify particular species of early humans, and about what factors influenced the evolution and extinction of each species.
Early humans first migrated out of Africa into Asia probably between 2 million and 1.8 million years ago. They entered Europe somewhat later, between 1.5 million and 1 million years. Species of modern humans populated many parts of the world much later. For instance, people first came to Australia probably within the past 60,000 years and to the Americas within the past 30,000 years or so. The beginnings of agriculture and the rise of the first civilizations occurred within the past 12,000 years.
Paleoanthropology is the scientific study of human evolution. Paleoanthropology is a subfield of anthropology, the study of human culture, society, and biology. The field involves an understanding of the similarities and differences between humans and other species in their genes, body form, physiology, and behavior. Paleoanthropologists search for the roots of human physical traits and behavior. They seek to discover how evolution has shaped the potentials, tendencies, and limitations of all people. For many people, paleoanthropology is an exciting scientific field because it investigates the origin, over millions of years, of the universal and defining traits of our species. However, some people find the concept of human evolution troubling because it can seem not to fit with religious and other traditional beliefs about how people, other living things, and the world came to be. Nevertheless, many people have come to reconcile their beliefs with the scientific evidence.
Early human fossils and archeological remains offer the most important clues about this ancient past. These remains include bones, tools and any other evidence (such as footprints, evidence of hearths, or butchery marks on animal bones) left by earlier people. Usually, the remains were buried and preserved naturally. They are then found either on the surface (exposed by rain, rivers, and wind erosion) or by digging in the ground. By studying fossilized bones, scientists learn about the physical appearance of earlier humans and how it changed. Bone size, shape, and markings left by muscles tell us how those predecessors moved around, held tools, and how the size of their brains changed over a long time. Archeological evidence refers to the things earlier people made and the places where scientists find them. By studying this type of evidence, archeologists can understand how early humans made and used tools and lived in their environments.
The process of evolution involves a series of natural changes that cause species (populations of different organisms) to arise, adapt to the environment, and become extinct. All species or organisms have originated through the process of biological evolution. In animals that reproduce sexually, including humans, the term species refers to a group whose adult members regularly interbreed, resulting in fertile offspring — that is, offspring themselves capable of reproducing. Scientists classify each species with a unique, two-part scientific name. In this system, modern humans are classified as Homo sapiens.
Evolution occurs when there is change in the genetic material — the chemical molecule, DNA — which is inherited from the parents, and especially in the proportions of different genes in a population. Genes represent the segments of DNA that provide the chemical code for producing proteins. Information contained in the DNA can change by a process known as mutation. The way particular genes are expressed that is, how they influence the body or behavior of an organism — can also change. Genes affect how the body and behavior of an organism develop during its life, and this is why genetically inherited characteristics can influence the likelihood of an organisms survival and reproduction.
Evolution does not change any single individual. Instead, it changes the inherited means of growth and development that typify a population (a group of individuals of the same species living in a particular habitat). Parents pass adaptive genetic changes to their offspring, and ultimately these changes become common throughout a population. As a result, the offspring inherit those genetic characteristics that enhance their chances of survival and ability to give birth, which may work well until the environment changes. Over time, genetic change can alter a species’ overall way of life, such as what it eats, how it grows, and where it can live. Human evolution took place as new genetic variations in early ancestor populations favored new abilities to adapt to environmental change and so altered the human way of life.
Dr. Rick Potts provides a video short introduction to some of the evidence for human evolution, in the form of fossils and artifacts.
Posted: July 3, 2016 at 12:22 pm
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On April 27, 2016, Sirena, the newest member of the Oceania Cruises fleet, was christened in Barcelona, Spain. Watch the event as it happened live, including opening remarks from Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague, Sirenas Godmother Claudine Ppin, the christening of the ship, and all the festivities!
Filled with a spectacular array of diverse and exotic destinations, your world awaits your discovery. There is simply no better way to explore it than aboard the elegant ships of Oceania Cruises. Our unique itineraries are wide-ranging, featuring the most fascinating destinations throughout the world. Regatta, Insignia, Nautica, Sirena, Marina and Riviera are all intimate and luxurious, with each calling on the worlds most desirable ports, from historic cities and modern meccas to seaside villages and faraway islands. On a voyage with Oceania Cruises, each day offers the rewarding opportunity to experience the history, culture and cuisine of a wondrous new destination.
Relax on board our luxurious ships and savor cuisine renowned as the finest at sea, rivaling even Michelin-starred restaurants ashore. Inspired by Master Chef Jacques Ppin, these culinary delights have always been a hallmark that distinguishes the Oceania Cruises experience from any other. Considering the uncompromising quality, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of an Oceania Cruises voyage is its incredible value. Lavish complimentary amenities abound, and there are never supplemental charges in any of the onboard restaurants. Value packages ensure that sipping a glass of vintage wine, surfing the Internet or enjoying a shore excursion is both convenient and affordable.
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Posted: July 1, 2016 at 9:53 pm
A towering philosophical novel that is the summation of her Objectivist philosophy, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is the saga of the enigmatic John Galt, and his ambitious plan to ‘stop the motor of the world’, published in Penguin Modern Classics.
Opening with the enigmatic question ‘Who is John Galt?’, Atlas Shrugged envisions a world where the ‘men of talent’ – the great innovators, producers and creators – have mysteriously disappeared. With the US economy now faltering, businesswoman Dagny Taggart is struggling to get the transcontinental railroad up and running. For her John Galt is the enemy, but as she will learn, nothing in this situation is quite as it seems. Hugely influential and grand in scope, this story of a man who stopped the motor of the world expounds Rand’s controversial philosophy of Objectivism, which champions competition, creativity and human greatness.
Ayn Rand (1905-82), born Alisa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, emigrated to America with her family in January 1926, never to return to her native land. Her novel The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and eventually became a bestseller. Still occasionally working as a screenwriter, Rand moved to New York City in 1951 and published Atlas Shrugged in 1957. Her novels espoused what came to be called Objectivism, a philosophy that champions capitalism and the pre-eminence of the individual.
If you enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, you might like Rand’s The Fountainhead, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘A writer of great power … she writes brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly’ The New York Times
‘Atlas Shrugged … is a celebration of life and happiness’ Alan Greenspan
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Posted: at 9:47 pm
The human system can be quantified, manipulated, and optimized. The human drive to self-improve is timeless, but modern technologies now allow us to enhance in precise and measurable ways like never before.
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Our goal is to make nootropics for everyone. A smarter society is a better society, so lets build and live in that future together.
Posted: at 2:34 pm
This article is about the meta-ethical position. For a more general discussion of amoralism, see Amorality.
Moral nihilism (also known as ethical nihilism) is the meta-ethical view that nothing is intrinsically moral or immoral. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is neither inherently right nor inherently wrong. Moral nihilists consider morality to be constructed, a complex set of rules and recommendations that may give a psychological, social, or economical advantage to its adherents, but is otherwise without universal or even relative truth in any sense.
Moral nihilism is distinct from moral relativism, which does allow for actions to be right or wrong relative to a particular culture or individual, and moral universalism, which holds actions to be right or wrong in the same way for everyone everywhere. Insofar as only true statements can be known, moral nihilism implies moral skepticism.
According to Sinnott-Armstrong (2006a), the basic thesis of moral nihilism is that “nothing is morally wrong” (3.4). There are, however, several forms that this thesis can take (see Sinnott-Armstrong, 2006b, pp.3237 and Russ Shafer-Landau, 2003, pp.813). There are two important forms of moral nihilism: error theory and expressivism p.292.
One form of moral nihilism is expressivism. Expressivism denies the principle that our moral judgments try and fail to describe the moral features, because expressivists believe when someone says something is immoral they are not saying it is right or wrong. Expressivists are not trying to speak the truth when making moral judgments; they are simply trying to express their feelings. “We are not making an effort to describe the way the world is. We are not trying to report on the moral features possessed by various actions, motives, or policies. Instead, we are venting our emotions, commanding others to act in certain ways, or revealing a plan of action. When we condemn torture, for instance, we are expressing our opposition to it, indicating our disgust at it, publicizing our reluctance to perform it, and strongly encouraging others not to go in for it. We can do all of these things without trying to say anything that is true.” p.293.
This makes expressivism a form of non-cognitivism. Non-cognitivism in ethics is the view that moral statements lack truth-value and do not assert genuine propositions. This involves a rejection of the cognitivist claim, shared by other moral philosophies, that moral statements seek to “describe some feature of the world” (Garner 1967, 219-220). This position on its own is logically compatible with realism about moral values themselves. That is, one could reasonably hold that there are objective moral values but that we cannot know them and that our moral language does not seek to refer to them. This would amount to an endorsement of a type of moral skepticism, rather than nihilism.
Typically, however, the rejection of the cognitivist thesis is combined with the thesis that there are, in fact, no moral facts (van Roojen, 2004). But if moral statements cannot be true, and if one cannot know something that is not true, non-cognitivism implies that moral knowledge is impossible (Garner 1967, 219-220).
Not all forms of non-cognitivism are forms of moral nihilism, however: notably, the universal prescriptivism of R.M. Hare is a non-cognitivist form of moral universalism, which holds that judgements about morality may be correct or not in a consistent, universal way, but do not attempt to describe features of reality and so are not, strictly speaking, truth-apt.
Error theory is built on three principles:
Thus, we always lapse into error when thinking in moral terms. We are trying to state the truth when we make moral judgments. But since there is no moral truth, all of our moral claims are mistaken. Hence the error. These three principles lead to the conclusion that there is no moral knowledge. Knowledge requires truth. If there is no moral truth, there can be no moral knowledge. Thus moral values are purely chimerical.
Error theorists combine the cognitivist thesis that moral language consists of truth-apt statements with the nihilist thesis that there are no moral facts. Like moral nihilism itself, however, error theory comes in more than one form: Global falsity and Presupposition failure.
The first, which one might call the global falsity form of error theory, claims that moral beliefs and assertions are false in that they claim that certain moral facts exist that in fact do not exist. J. L. Mackie (1977) argues for this form of moral nihilism. Mackie argues that moral assertions are only true if there are moral properties that are intrinsically motivating, but there is good reason to believe that there are no such intrinsically motivating properties (see the argument from queerness and motivational internalism).
The second form, which one might call the presupposition failure form of error theory, claims that moral beliefs and assertions are not true because they are neither true nor false. This is not a form of non-cognitivism, for moral assertions are still thought to be truth-apt. Rather, this form of moral nihilism claims that moral beliefs and assertions presuppose the existence of moral facts that do not exist. This is analogous to presupposition failure in cases of non-moral assertions. Take, for example, the claim that the present king of France is bald. Some argue[who?] that this claim is truth-apt in that it has the logical form of an assertion, but it is neither true nor false because it presupposes that there is currently a king of France, but there is not. The claim suffers from “presupposition failure.” Richard Joyce (2001) argues for this form of moral nihilism under the name “fictionalism.”
The philosophy of Niccol Machiavelli is sometimes presented as a model of moral nihilism, but this is at best ambiguous. His book Il Principe (The Prince) praised many acts of violence and deception, which shocked a European tradition that throughout the Middle Ages had inculcated moral lessons in its political philosophies. Machiavelli does say that the Prince must override traditional moral rules in favor of power-maintaining reasons of State, but he also says, particularly in his other works, that the successful ruler should be guided by Pagan rather than Christian virtues. Hence, Machiavelli presents an alternative to the ethical theories of his day, rather than an all-out rejection of all morality.
Closer to being an example of moral nihilism is Thrasymachus, as portrayed in Plato’s Republic. Thrasymachus argues, for example, that rules of justice are structured to benefit those who are able to dominate political and social institutions. Thrasymachus can, however, be interpreted as offering a revisionary account of justice, rather than a total rejection of morality and normative discourse.
Glover has cited realist views of amoralism held by early Athenians, and in some ethical positions affirmed by Joseph Stalin.
Criticisms of moral nihilism come primarily from moral realists, who argue that there are positive moral truths. Still, criticisms do arise out of the other anti-realist camps (i.e. subjectivists and relativists). Not only that, but each school of moral nihilism has its own criticisms of one another (e.g. the non-cognitivists’ critique of error theory for accepting the semantic thesis of moral realism).
Still other detractors deny that the basis of moral objectivity need be metaphysical. The moral naturalist, though a form of moral realist, agrees with the nihilists’ critique of metaphysical justifications for right and wrong. Moral naturalists prefer to define “morality” in terms of observables, some even appealing to a science of morality.
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