Sunday, January 01, 2006

Knowledge

I started writing this post for the purpose of pointing out a recent Michael Crichton lecture, Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century (TFHT: Carson Fire of Winger) because the time only religion really torques me off are when they harm people, like Environmentalism does on a regular basis by presenting itself as grounded in science. It may be derivative of science, but it's grounded in hysteria. I found the discussion objectivism tangentially relevant, especially given the conversations I've had recently.

Environmentalism doesn't take complexity of systems into account, according to Crichton. That is, we are often told that something must be done or the Earth and all human life is doomed in 20 years, but the information used by the tree-huggers does not (can not?) take into account every force that acts on the system they are panicking about, or everything said system acts upon, and are 100% wrong as a result. A lot of less hysterical, more reasonable people are likely foiled by this complexity as well.

Crichton uses the example of elk and bears overpopulating Yelowstone National Park due to efforts by park rangers to preserve the species by killing predators and suppressing forest fires. Environmentalist didn't take into account that the whole ecosystem was interdependent upon the predators, especially in keeping the elk population under control. We have the same problem in Minnesota (and many other places) with deer. They push other animals out of the ecosystem and with those animals, other animals dependent upon them.

These people think they KNOW what nature needs, when in reality, nature is perfectly capable of taking care of itself - at least would be able to compensate better if we'd stop poking it with metaphorical sticks. This in itself is an excellent topic for discussion, but wait, there's more!

Lately, I seem to be finding myself in a lot of philosophical discussions, mainly due to my lack of religiosity. I understand that many folks here are religious types, and if you've been reading (or care to page back through the archives), you'll know that I absolutely support your freedom to believe what you believe, share it here and with others. I can't (I refuse to) tell you what to do, anymore than I am going to let someone proselytize me. So as long as we understand each other, consider this a safe place to express your point of view, though I may disagree. Are we cool?

I've been reading Ayn Rand lately, you may have noticed, and think she's on the right track. I've said recently the "we can't really KNOW anything" (if I may misquote myself), which is not really true. Rand said:
Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.
which is sort of an offshoot of Aristotlean thinking, from what I gather. This feeds into what knowledge is, according to objectivist philosophy. Dr Leonard Piekoff writes,
Existence and consciousness are facts implicit in every perception. They are the base of all knowledge (and the precondition of proof): knowledge presupposes something to know and someone to know it. They are absolutes which cannot be questioned or escaped: every human utterance, including the denial of these axioms, implies their use and acceptance.
Knowledge can be attained due to the fact that we perceive the world around us. I know that my desk is made of glass and that I just ate leftover chili for dinner. I know that reliable scientific research indicates life on Earth undergoes some sort of evolutionary process. I know that any knowledge we obtain is not absolute and may be flawed or incomplete.

The problem is that people have trouble vetting facts for themselves and deciding what they think on their own without regurgitating what is fed to them by other people, who in turn do not think for themselves. I'm as guilty as anyone, look at me quoting Ayn Rand, for Pete's sake. But I'm trying to think philosophically about things and put into words what I think. I quote Ayn Rand and objectivist philosophers because I'm attempting to understand the concepts that I've had on my own, but haven't been able to put into words.

We think we know things that can't be known, oversimplify the complex, and complicate simple ideas. Since Ayn Rand was smarter than me, here is the concept of objectivism as she describes it:
1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed" or "Wishing won't make it so." 2. "You can't eat your cake and have it, too." 3. "Man is an end in himself." 4. "Give me liberty or give me death."
... (empasis mine)

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses) is man's only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
What do you think?

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3 Comments:

Blogger NEO, SOC bloody well said...

Very interesting robosquirrel. I had too laugh, because I was thinking about you quoting people as ironic and came upon your acknowledgment of it. In reading your objectivism, I agree with statement #1. #2 can be agreed upon, yet you know I can't escape the reality of metaphysics and instruction for higher beings. #4 sounded like something out of Silent America by Bill Whittle. #3 is where I want to poke and prod for a bit. This view sounds Buddhist to me. I will elaborate more here. For now, I am giving you an eHug. :D

04 January, 2006 13:16  
Blogger NEO, SOC bloody well said...

robosquirrel; I just want to thank you for you presenting your position and sticking with it. There may be times where I will misinterpret you, and at those times I apologize as I expect you to do the same for me. I like our dialogue and look forward to our many new discussions to come. Take care!

Your Christian Fanatical eBuddy
NEO, SOC

04 January, 2006 17:41  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

Well, I'm not a pure objectivist by any means, just as I am not a pure libertarian. I've been trying to muddle through my basic principles and express them in words. Rand comes close to what I would like to say. There's a contradiction, of course, if you have to espouse other people's philosophies instead of coming up with your own. I'm working on it, but I tend to agree with Rand philisophically.

Interestingly, the thing that most helps me deal with reality is the 12 years I spent in the Boy Scouts. Especially the Scout Law, Oath, Motto and Slogan.

I find your response to #2 contradictory, because in my opinion, pure reason would find metaphysics and instruction for higher beings diametrically opposed to reality. Yet, I think there is some wiggle room for the unexplained. Just because something is unexplained doesn't make it supernatural, but one can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, magic, aliens or Bigfoot, since there's no evidence supporting either position.

I'll drop you a comment, thanks for stopping by!

04 January, 2006 19:39  

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