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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A quick trip with the USENET time machine

I found what seems to be my oldest post (March 6, 1993) on alt.philosophy.objectivism (that's a newsgroup, kids -- it's how we mingled on-line before browsers were widespread; me, I used a 1200-baud modem to connect my green-text 8088 machine to the Oregon State University computer lab's server):
Path: sparky!uunet!uchinews!msuinfo!caen!batcomputer!reed!flop.ENGR.ORST.EDU!prism.CS.ORST.EDU!williab
From: williab@prism.CS.ORST.EDU (Williams Brad Scott)
Newsgroups: alt.philosophy.objectivism
Subject: Re: NOZICK
Date: 6 Mar 1993 05:47:40 GMT
Organization: Oregon State University, Computer Science Dept.
Lines: 18
Message-ID: <>
References: <> <>

In article <> (Just Another Deckchair on the Titanic) writes:
> There was little in Speicher's posting that wasn't
>itself a rather poor, sneeringly-carried out, illogical attack. Not
>something to be taken too seriously, IMO

I think that it is clear that Mr. Franzen is of the opinion that the
truthfulness of a philosophy is not the primary criterion in deciding
said philosophy's "value". In the case of *historical* value, this
is a perfectly reasonable position, but in the case of a philosophy's
*ultimate* value (i.e., whether it is right or wrong) it would require
an interesting defense. Indeed, Speicher indicated that she thinks it is
indefensible. Though she may have sneered a little, she was not illogical.

I would like Mr. Franzen to please explain either how I (we) have
"caricatured" him into a position that he does not take, or how he
defends this position (if he does).

Brad Williams

It is surprising to me that my first post wouldn't have been until March 1993, but I guess I'll trust what these archives say. I was finishing up my senior year at OSU just then. I must have finished Atlas sometime in the previous six months.

A couple things about this post make me cringe: "it would require an interesting defense" is just juvenile, even for a 22-year-old. The overall tone of the post is sort of huffy and pseudo-intellectual. Worst of all is the lack of purpose: "who cares?" I want to say to that me. I remember Franzen, he was very smart but very twisted, a sort of Toohey. I would not engage his sort in any way today.

Here's a post from Michael Huemer responding, in part, to me, 10 years and a day ago. I find this to be interesting trivia which I had completely forgotten, because Huemer is a big deal in academic philosophy these days. It would have been soon after this post, I think, that he posted his now infamous Why I Am Not An Objectivist, in which he makes what has become a common mistake criticizing Ayn Rand's theory of concept formation.

Here's something I posted 10 years ago next week, and I think it makes good use of the principle that knowledge is contextual to show how Libertarian political philosophy cannot be "the same" as Objectivist political philosophy:
From: (Brad S Williams)
Subject: Re: Is Ayn Rand's philosophy mean?
Date: 1996/05/02
Message-ID: <4malkm$>#1/1
X-Deja-AN: 152610784
references: <4le41h$> <4m8vlg$> <4m936t$> <4m9duo$>
organization: Teleport - Portland's Public Access (503) 220-1016
newsgroups: alt.philosophy.objectivism

Tony wrote:
>>Rand referred to the libertarians as "hippies of the right." They have
>>nothing to do with her or her philosophy. The Cato Institute is

Michael wrote:
>Nothing except the fact that they have the identical political
>philosophy -- if you count things like that.

"Identical?" I'd like to see that defended. To start with, isn't the
concept "man" (implicit or explicit) cardinal to a political philosophy?
And do Libertarianism and Objectivism agree on this?

Knowledge *is* interconnected. Perhaps we can whip out our exacto knives,
cut out specific pieces of different systems of thought and *begin* to
compare those pieces, but you can't get very far without bringing in the
rest (whether the rest is implicit or explicit), because the hierarchical
and contextual relationships within a system of knowledge are essential to
its being *knowledge*.

Brad Williams

I'm much more comfortable with this guy, he sounds more like the me of today. I had read OPAR (once or twice) by now, so I had the idea that knowledge is an interconnected whole. What I didn't really appreciate yet, and only have in recent years, is that knowledge is a fully real relationship between you and facts. Sounds obvious, and it is surely covered by OPAR, but I didn't really appreciate it until studying ITOE very seriously in the last couple of years.


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