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Why Community Matters 305

Rusty of Kuro5hin has a written a great Op-Ed piece about reality and belief. It deserves the widest possible dissemination - tell your friends, make them think about it.
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Why Community Matters

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If only we moderated news items along with posts, this one would be modded to (Score:-1, Flamebait).
  • They aren't hosted on OSDN. Know before you speak.
  • I don't count. I write for plenty of media that have nothing to do with OSDN, and anything I send to K5 has to go through the same moderation process as anyone else's work.

    - Robin

  • An almost universal failing among those of all political stripes: thinking that "most people" agree with oneself. Hence groups like the "Moral Majority", who whether they were moral or not, were certainly not a majority.

    I suspect slashdot has a greater percentage of self-described "libertarians" than the population at large, but "for the most part"? I doubt it. For the most part, we're mainstream liberals and conservatives, like the rest of the country, with all the diversity of opinion that this entails.
  • Great points! I'd just like to emphasise the importance of Madison- everyone ought to check out Federalist #10, which he wrote.

    The deal is, it's not just about _fear_ of power. In Federalist #10, Madison makes a compelling case that there can be no dominating, majority power that does not also step on smaller factions and cut off their air supply: the difference between this and the generic 'anarcho-capitalist' Objectivist viewpoint, is that Madison correctly sees this as a Bad Thing, because Madison is looking at the health of an entire society, not just isolated members of it.

    The idea is as follows: yes, more powerful members of society can stomp on weaker ones, but where some would say 'good! give 'em hell!', Madison views this in historical perspective, drawing the conclusion that this unchecked, natural tendency inevitably leads towards feudalism, rebellion and upheaval. It's like cancer: having the meanest cells grow fastest has little to do with the true health of the organism, and could be a serious liability. In government, it sets up imbalances and tensions that eventually lead to warfare and revolution, and the thing is this is not theory- Europe had been trying out different sorts of government for centuries, since the Dark Ages, and giving the toughest factions their way NEVER WORKED. All it did was further feudalism and set up revolutions.

    So, Madison made the compelling plea in Federalist #10 for support of the weak... something that flies in the face of a lot of 'modern' thinking, but it's made from a thoroughly practical view of history. If you see to it that a little faction, or a weak and unfit person, gets supported, they may possibly benefit society in some way. Or not- but they probably won't be throwing bombs or plotting revolution either. It's not so much a fixed intent to prop up the weak, either- it is more an acknowledgement that the strong will tend to stomp all over everyone else- and a mature and merciless judgement that this behavior is BAD for society, not good.

    To Madison (and myself, obviously), if you are an 800 pound gorilla, you have to be extra damn careful where you sit- because you could squish somebody very easily. And if you won't be extra careful and take extra responsibility for your 800-poundness, then you are in the wrong: because society is not about you. Society is the interaction between you and others, and if you're just beating them up that does not count as interaction- that makes you a drain on society, because you're doing damage that you cannot correct.

    There are one _hell_ of a lot of corporations out there being drains on society, right now- too damn many. And quite a few individuals at all economic levels doing the same. If it doesn't stop, society's gonna suffer more and more.

    As Madison (or Franklin) might have said- what have you done lately for your fellow man? That is not a trick question... or a joke...

  • It's just that capitalism mustn't be allowed to take precedence over the needs of society. If that's a commie viewpoint then so be it. Otherwise, it's like saying that because growing is good, cancer is better because it's super-cell-growth! It should be held up as an example for all cells! *metastasize*
  • Hi Ayn. Check out the 'User #' on your user ID, and on mine.

    We socialist anarchists were here first! ;P :)

  • - "Indeed, are often legally prohibited form taking a moral stance." As it should be. I really question if a corporation -should- be taking moral stances / performing social responsibility. Doing such things falls out of the realm of its own competence, and they can cause more damage than if they just did nothing.

    The above assumes that the already do nothing, but that's not true -- they donate to charitable causes & NGO's that *do* make it their #1 competence to help society.

    This (very old) argument falls a little flat in that you're claiming that a corporation is some soul-less beast. It's not. A company is made up of people - it's an organization. Taking away legal rights from a group of people just because they band together is kind of a totalitarian perspective.

    A corporation is just an organization with a singular purpose entrusted to it by society: combine capital, labor, and knowledge, and make it productive. People have been trying to wrest control of this purpose and make corporations serve more "moral or social" ends, but it never works, plainly because that's not what corporations are supposed to be doing.

    If you want to promote your view of morals and/or social/political beliefs, start an NGO.
  • But surely a corporation does speak with its own voice. Yes, an employee is the mechanism of communication, but I can hardly believe that public statements made by corporate representatives reflect anything but official (collectively determined) company perspective. Surely, someone who stands up and, in his/her company's name states opinions and views which are at odds with the company's perspective would be justifiably fired.

    This is an extreme stereotype and only descriptive of a minority of corporations (i.e. those that are large and stupid.)

    There are many employees that say things that disagree with their management's views. These people don't get fired, unless of course, they claimed that THEIR views were their company's. Then it's a different story. also has an interesting perspective on this. The marketplace will evolve to the point that corporations will have to start speaking with a more human voice, or they'll perish. Some companies are already doing this.

    But my basic point remains: corporations are in a special position to accumulate power far beyond...

    /s/corporations/organizations. "Two heads are better than one". It's not unique to corporations.

    A person who both wields an abnormally large amount of power, and has no scruples or social conscience, is traditionally and rightfully despised in America. And yet a corporation is given special help to attain just this status.

    Disagree. You're mixing the intent of the "corp == person" law, the reasoning & history behind it with your own observation that a minority of corporations abuse this position. This position is mainly about allowing the corporation to be sued distinctively from its employees, and to allow its existence to transcend the lives of its founders (which actually is very rare in practice). It has little to do with corporations taking moral stances / being socially responsible / having a concentration of power.

    Society gives power over capital & human resources to corporations on purpose, because without a societal organism dedicated to making such resources productive, we'd be stuck in a world without economic progress.

    Certainly there are other, more effective ways of limiting abuse of corporate power: campaign finance reform, for one.

  • The article is much sub-Katzian navel-gazing of the lowest order.

    Navel-gazing... I like the connotation given by that word combination. Describes some people I know perfectly.

  • Face it, streetlawyer, you're the pot calling the kettle black.
  • yeah, that and no stupid /. spammers

    Feh...they're there; they just spam the submissions queue with "geek love" wanking.

  • It's interesting, but you've just provided yet another example of the problem with reality.

    Your reality states that the Erin Brockovich story is false.

    Yet every reality I have encountered suggests it is true, that PG&E did release toxics into the water.

    The difference is, that I don't read neo-conservative right-wing anti-environmental sites for my news.

    I think this is the problem and the danger with the internet, you can allow yourself to only be subjected to news stories you agree with, rather than getting a nice balance of points for and against your own views.

  • Modernist teachings depend on logical fallacies, like circular reasoning.

    To which fallacies do you refer? If you buy Nietzsche's Death of God, sure, but if you take a Cartesian guarantee then the logic is not circular. It seems a very naive view, yes, but it is not circular if you have God, or say, a Platonic realm, guaranteeing your observations.

    My point is you have to have a prior commitment to sophisticated representationalism and empiricism to commit the fallacy here. Of course, this is a straw man because I'm not sure what your point actually was... so I thought I'd just do a little thought exercise for the day.


  • ...of the transition between the Institutional Balance and the Interindividual Balance, morality (and even reality) can appear to be relative.

    This is because they define themselves as institutions, and they are beginning to see the limitations of such a model. They scream out in their existential angst, "There is no reality because institutions can deceive me about reality!" And yet they cannot let go of their own sense of self long enough to build a new one.

    But the reality which they see as socially constructed is, in fact, something more: It is socially emergent. Their own angst-ridden selves have emerged from a social environment and could not have existed in their advanced form without the social institutions from which they have emerged. That does not mean they are socially constructed.

    Yet, if they believe they are socially constructed, any other idea (including that idea which their selves most need to find) threatens their very existence.

    Once they realize it's possible for rights and principles and even minds to emerge from institutionally-defined reality without being constructed by the institutions, they will be freed into the Interindividual Balance and their need to rail against corporation will dissipate (without giving in to any corporate reality).

    All of which does not obviate the need for community because community (as Kiro5hin seems to define it) is, in fact, the institution most conducive to emergence into the intimate state of self.
  • Your response would have been interesting, except for the fact that you've based it on an utter falsehood, that there is an objective reality.

    There is no objective reality, neither in physics nor in society:

    (i) In physics, in the small we cannot even separate object from observer, and in the large it is impossible for us to get to know reality herself: all we can do is study her behaviour with probes (virtually all our daily interaction is electromagnetic, eg. physical or optical), create models of the idealized behaviour, and then think of that as "the reality". Well, of course it isn't, it's merely an idea that behaves like reality seems to. We have no means of discovering what reality really consists of, which is why science is interesting and open-ended.

    (ii) In society, it goes even further than what the article described, in that not only is the corporate reality a fabricated one, but every human reality is. The Tibetan monk's reality is utterly different from that of the average westerner, and so is (as an example) mine, simply because I have made a point of not watching the telly and therefore not assimilating the bulk of media-manufactured reality. The one objective reality to which you allude simply does not exist.

    One doesn't have to be a destructive nihilist to accept that objectivism is a figment of our imaginations --- that's just another type of fundamentalism, and all fundamentalisms tend to be destructive. But to reject the natural uncertainties of the world in favour of a comforting but mythical objective construct is to voyage into the self delusion of believing that everyone else inhabits your own mental universe.
  • ... but as to physics I recommend you read Intellectual Impostures (Alan Sokal + Jean Bricmont) for a pretty thorough debunking of radical subjectivism.

    Debunk away all you like, but it still won't give us access to the actual structure of reality.

    Sokal and Bricmont did well to debunk the more ridiculous ideas of that group of nutty philosophers, but no scientist that understands the nature of the scientific method would ever postulate the existence of an objective reality, except possibly when talking down to non-scientists. The idea runs counter to everything that's taught from Physics 101 upwards. Heck, we certainly don't teach students that electrons are real! Like everything else in the world of the physicist, they're just a model.

    Unless someone can come up with a magic wand outside of physics with which we can poke about in reality's innards, then we're forever stuck in a (wonderful) cycle of modelling, testing and observation that operates through our only interface to reality, the various forces. It's like trying to probe atomic orbitals on a particular atom using a banana, except that I'm out in the disparity by 20 orders of magnitude at least.

    Nope, there is no objective reality to be found whatsoever, at any price, and there may never be. The scientific models will become very good, but a model is not a reality, let alone objective.
  • I'd argue that d00dz are just as much creatures of a local reality consensus as the Britney-buying dupes. Both groups appear to me to be equally without critical thought. One likes Britney Spears in part because she's manufactured to be likeable. The other wants to steal software because they've misunderstood some cool-sounding line about how information wants to be free. One group conforms with the corporate-sponsored social norms, and the other conforms with the non-conformists.

    Very true! However, no insightful op-ed by Rusty nor anything else will ever alter this state of affairs. Capatilism has already won the Darwinian war for the future. My point is that even a statement of beliefs as important as The GNU manifesto (something I believe in strongly, BTW) has done little more than stir academic interest in intellectual property rights. Something like the Communist Manifesto would never fly nowadays. The only way to get anything to change (outside the system at least) is to Fuck Shit Up. For the first time, computers allow FSU'ers to do so effectively, by identifying social trends and exploiting them, stealing from the capitalist's bag of tricks.
  • Didn't someone once say that writing about revolution was like dancing about sauerkraut or something?

    It's not that I disagree with his points - it is indeed true that peer-to-peer communication allows us to bypass Chomskian media filters.

    But this article is clearly preaching to the choir. Even if it is disseminated to a larger audience, the language is the kind that tends to attract English majors to the scene (just what we need, an army of Jonkatzes preaching the virtues of p-2-p to people who have been living it since the day they discovered that what ATS0=1 did.)

    Linux and Napster has already proven that the era of manifestos is over. Actions (or shipping code, rather) speaks louder than any words ever could. Linux may be GPLed, but if that was enough, HURD would be the next big thing. Napster arrived with little fanfare, it was just software that filled a desire so strong, people were willing to ignore some of the crappier parts of the interface. DivX :-) was a hack, *still* is a hack, but by sheer strength of 14-year olds d00dz who want a free copy of The Matrix, it may be the end of the movie industry.

    Indeed, the era of the manifesto is over. "Smash the state" is even beginning to look a bit wordy. Here is our future: an army of silent coders - fighting battles won by the quality of their code, by the savvyness of their program logic, and their abject glee at throwing rocks at a hornet's nest and seeing what happens.
  • I was just wondering, seeing as how there's an Ayn Rand account on /., if there isn't an L. Ron Hubbard acount too? Lunacy deserves company, after all. I would go and use the search form, but I can't be bothered.
  • I have my doubts about capitalism and I *certainly* ain't libertarian. Please don't try to speak for "we at slashdot".

  • This article does not deserver dissemination. It is a lot of hot air. It's, in the plainest terms, a lot of bullshit.

    Oh, well, if you say so, then I guess it must be.

    It's so nice to see such insightful and well-phrased commentary on Slashdot modded up, just as it should be.

  • Assume reality is objective.

    What are these objects of reality? Can they all be quantified and measured? How can there be proof that a single system or method will provide the best "approximate" perception of reality if we admit that it is an open system?

    Is reality not objective unless it can be observed by everyone? Unless it has been documented by a scientist?

    It goes back to the question: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to see it...

    The thing about reality is that it still has to be believed in. The problem with beliefs is that people have a hard time changing them.

    When any belief or perception about reality changes in a person, it indicates that the previously held belief was based on some sort of flawed proof. In essence, this person never truly "knew" the thing to be true, but had supposed their perception coincided with the objective reality.

    Some people call this belief in something truly unknown "delusion". Other people call it "faith". Whatever the case is, the tendency for the perception to differ from reality exists just as much in the scientific world as it does in the religious world.

    When a man of science, or man of religion, can forget his arrogance and allow his beliefs to change, then he will see the true power of his faith. Then he will understand that it is the faith that helped him to see the possibilities.

    Your assertion that objective reality can only be quantified by the scientific method is foolish. Religion does not quantify the same elements that science does. Where they overlap, there you may argue. It may be that religion quantifies something very real, but you wouldn't percieve that unless you had experienced religious faith firsthand. Otherwise, you are not qualified to make a statement about it.
  • But it's awfully long, and burdened with a lot of the usual lefty/pomo jargon. I mean really: Human reality is socially constructed. Some of it is, some of it isn't, and it isn't clear why this an interesting thing to say in context.

    Some day I'm going to sit down and write a persuasive anti-libertarian argument, but when I do I'm going to try and talk about things the way libertarians do.

    If I were going to take a stab at it, I would cover the ground a little differently. The point would be that while an institution like "private property" is clearly very useful in many ways, the details of what that really means aren't engraved in stone anywhere. Libertarians like very simple statements of principle, perhaps something like "you're free to do what you like with your property, as long as you don't infringe on other's freedom", but the exact boundaries of where the infringement begins aren't exactly clear. (It would seem, for example, that you guys driving around in your cars really shouldn't be allowed to poison me with your exhaust, but for some reason libertarians really like "private" cars (despite the heavy government subsidies running all through the auto transit system).

    And once you recognize that there isn't any obvious one correct way that "capitalism" has to be set-up, there are a lot of things that are open to question. You do not, for example have to be a communist to wonder if the limited liability corporation is really that great an idea (if it's so useful for corporations to have limits put on their liability to protect them from frivolous law suits, why not grant the same liability limits to individuals?).

    Nor do you need to be a communist to wonder if "intellectual property" is exactly the same beast as physical property (you steal my bike, I can't ride anywhere, you steal a song I wrote, I can still sing it... but on the other hand I *might* lose income because of that "theft". I might quit writing songs. Should the legal system be set up to protect *my* interest in this case, or in yours? How original was the material in those songs I wrote, anyway? Maybe I used a standard chord progression, lifted a riff here and there... how do we decide who wrote what?)

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @03:33PM (#301463) Homepage Journal

    I pretty much agree with you, but I don't think you're going far enough.

    Why even let limited liability (in the form of corporations) exist at all? All I can see it's good for is that it lets greedy people act without accountability.

    Capitalism didn't go wrong, it just needs a free market in order to work. That market doesn't really exist because government has eliminated a vital market force: consequences for one's actions.

  • Well, non-objectivism (i.e., there is no external reality independant of the observer) is one of the interpretations under which quantum mechanics can me made consistent. And that's pretty good, since, as I understand, there are only five basic approaches that are consistent with it. But that doesn't actually mean that you can do anything with it.

    I suppose one could create a critique on it based on one I used to use about Existentialism. To whit:
    A true existentialist couldn't walk across the room. Because in order to take a step, he would need to suppose that when he did so, there would be a floor to stand on.

    It's self-consistent, but it isn't useful. This is not to claim that some more restricted form of it might not be useful, but nobody's bothered to do the work of developing it.

    Now in the case of post-modernism all I can say is, I've never come across a convincing argument that this basic approach is a reasonable one to take. But this is, you may note, self-referrential. Such arguments may exist. Or you may be convinced by different arguments than I would be. etc.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • This is probably your point, but to be clear (at least to me):

    The sky is normally a mixture of colors. Some of the colors fall into the range normally called blue.

    There exist conditions under which the predominant hue of the sky is a color which fall into the area of the spectrum normally called green.

    The two preceeding statements seem to me to be facts which are both true. The second one describes phenomena which are present with much less frequency than the first one.

    However, I apply the term "fact" to describe features of the world which are appearant to me. I don't know what others see, but only the fragmentary reports of same that I receive. And having tried to get users to describe the computer errors that they have encountered, I am quite skeptical of anything with greater variety or less predictability.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Human nature looks out for number one, me.

    And who made that mirror you look at? Do you really have no compassion? I'm not saying that these feelings should override your selfishness, but to discount them totally leaves you with conclusions like your sig. Haven't you ever had a good ROI for caring?

  • What is a 'meta-physicist'? How is that different from the old-fashioned physics we know and love?
  • ... by taking many of my old, bright, geeky friends and turning them into crashing bores.

    Seriously, pomo has some useful attributes. It gives people a framework in which to question many kinds of assumptions, such as the entanglement of liberty and guns in the American viewpoint. So far so good.

    But it does two really bad things to many of its adherents.

    (1) Questioning the nature of reality corrupts their reasoning process like a badly written self modifying program. Specifically, it is one thing to accept the truth that much of what we take for reality is socially constructed and to question assumptions that you would otherwise take for granted. It is another thing when you take this to mean you can believe whatever you want if enough of the right people agree with you. It is a bad thing for the intellectual fashions of a small clique become the touchstone for an idea's value. The striking thing to me is how ironically parochial many of the more enthusiastic adherents of pomo become. The people who fall into this pitfall radiate the ecstatic and impenetrable certainty of the religious fanatic. Pomo seems to open a some minds and close others.

    (2) Pomo adherents are often unnecessarily incoherent. The linguistic trappings of pomo are as ugly as sin. Pomo writing is turgid, dense with overwrought, pseudotechnical terminology that obscures the meaning and inflates simple ideas beyond recognition.

    The example in the kuro5hin org is a perfect example of what is good and bad about pomo.

    He raises a good but rather self evident point -- given corporate control of media and advertising, we should seek alternative sources of information, particularly we should talk to other people.

    He then dresses this idea up so it is unrecognizable, and supports it with hypothetical examples citing unchecked and incorrect facts. And he misses the opportunity to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various ways of putting his program into action. For example, he doesn't mention you should seek out and learn from people who are not like you -- a communist should seek to understand the viewpoint of a capitalist rather than to caricature them, and vice versa. Missing the importance of this point is typical pomo. Diversity may be valued only in its superficial forms (color and ethnicity), but not in ways of thinking.

  • Lot's of philosophy is incoherent and stupidly overwritten. I think when you spend 10 years of your life earning a PhD, you don't want others thinking what you learned was actually simple :-)

    Perhaps it was always true of philosophy, but this problem has infected other disciplines as well.

    I don't think questioning the nature of reality corrupts anyone's thinking.

    I disagree -- at least with your universally qualified assertion. For example, questioning what you assume to be reality is a key ingredient in many brainwashing programs. I don't mean to equate legitimate inquiry with brainwashing, but they both pass through the same place. Superficial intellectal fashion, the need to please an close knit and insular group of teachers and advisors, uncertainty over your professional future and the attendent time pressures can and do sometimes combine to produce an effect very much like brainwashing.

    I think I'd suggest that anyone for whom that appears to be true, perhaps their thinking talents weren't too great to begin with.

    Well, you would suggest wrongly in this case. I would suggest that anyone who thinks that questioning the nature of reality is not a dangerous business hasn't thought it through thoroughly. Nature abhors a vacuum, and what replaces your old world view critically affects whether the excercise is good for you or not.

    Please note that I don't suggest that all folk who get the po-mo treatment end up unable to think straight. Some of my friends are respected, tenured academics with a po-mo viewpoint, and their reasoning apparatus is clearly highly functional. I don't even suggest that most folk come out of po-mo programs brainwashed, since I haven't done anything like a statistical survey. But it is also undeniable that many bright students go into po-mo dominated liberal arts program and come out with more than the garden variety of academic dullness and insularity.

    If you choose to take those critiques as meaning you can think anything and be right,

    I don't choose to take those criticisms that way, but can you honestly say you haven't met an alarming number of people who identify themselves with po-mo who think that if enough people believe something, it is effectively true?

    that's your choice, but it really has nothing to do with postmodernism. I'd prefer you blame the people rather than the philosophy.

    That is precisely what I was doing. I don't claim ot have the technical background to criticize postmodern philosophy. I can only say that po-mo infused education produces wildly mixed results.

    Perhaps it would be useful to separate out po-mo philosophy from the general intellectual fashion that borrows from it.

  • Jefferson wanted "The pursuit of happiness" to read "The pursuit of property". Without the institution of private property, there is no happiness anyway.
  • When I submit a story with links in it to /. I have the courtesy to tell the site I link to that I have done so. Wonder if Mikey does the same?

    Gotten some neat t-shirts from thankful sys admins that way, btw.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @08:31AM (#301489) Journal
    It's MLP.
  • I've never come across a convincing argument that this basic approach is a reasonable one to take

    What makes something reasonable or not is an interesting question. You seem to be taking the viewpoint of that which successfully gets you through the day is reasonable. (I get this from your critique of existentialism that seems to suggest that you have at least that one litmus test for any philosophy).

    So how does post-modernism help us through the day? It's essentially a defensive measure against the dangers of absolutism. If you believe science describes the real world perfectly, and if you believe that the scientific method is an infallible method that can be used to understand everything, then science isn't much different from any other religion for you - with all the inherent problems. If you understand the post-modern critiques of science, you begin to understand the ways in which subjectivism and context creep into the theories of science. The more you understand these possibilities, the less likely you'll be fooled when they occur, and the more likely you'll catch new information when it comes around in different guises.

    Post-modernism is not the final point of philosophy, in any case. After understand it, you can choose to return to a modernistic philosophy (with eyes opened a bit wider), or to a pragmatic philosophy (such as described by Richard Rorty).

    If you believe in logic, then I'd suggest you have to accept post-modernist teachings, because they depend on logic. Modernist teachings depend on logical fallacies, like circular reasoning.
  • Circular reasoning is just one possible logical fallacy, though perhaps the most common. Introducing an assumption is tricky business, because you have to be real careful that you don't work your arguments around to the point where you are proving those assumptions (but, only after long ago initially assuming them to be true). The Cartesian guarantee may not be circular, but it may not have anything to do with reality, either. The "I think, therefore I am" assumes causality that it cannot prove. There are many assumptions snuck in throughout Descartes philosophy that need questioning.

    If you assume a God, or a Platonic realm, then you run into other problems, like dualism, which really do lead down a path that ends in nihilism and the impossibility of knowing anything outside yourself. Those strategies don't give real solutions to the problem (the problem being: how do we know anything?).

    PostModernism isn't really doing much more than pointing out that, theoretically, it's impossible to be 100% sure, and, more importantly, it's points out a myriad of ways in which we have screwed up and continue to screw up in our thinking.

    My point was that shutting the door on postmodernism simply because you don't like the message is not a rational attitude. Learning the message and then moving on with things has value. At some point, you learn that people sometimes lie. But you learn that and go on, and you choose when to believe and when to distrust, hopefully with a little more awareness than before.

  • Lot's of philosophy is incoherent and stupidly overwritten. I think when you spend 10 years of your life earning a PhD, you don't want others thinking what you learned was actually simple :-)

    I don't think questioning the nature of reality corrupts anyone's thinking. I think I'd suggest that anyone for whom that appears to be true, perhaps their thinking talents weren't too great to begin with. Also, postmodernism doesn't mean you can reasonably go thinking whatever you want. Postmodernism is a rigorous, logical critique of modernist philosophy (ie, the philosophies of Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Locke, etc). If you choose to take those critiques as meaning you can think anything and be right, that's your choice, but it really has nothing to do with postmodernism. I'd prefer you blame the people rather than the philosophy.
  • I'm 10 years from my degree in philosophy, and, frankly, the reason I ditched it after college for computers is because I can't stand over-complexification (hehe!) when simplicity will do.

    So, the simplest definition is that PostModernism is the collection of philosophical works that critique the modernist philosophies (of Kant, Descartes, Hegel, Locke, etc). It points out logical fallacies used to support the modern philosophies. Points out cultural biases that crept in as self-evident assumptions. Assumptions that are introduced to achieve a certain desired result, but which are often unnecessary, and complicate the picture.

    To me, it's what comes after post-modernism that's really interesting. Modernist philosophies now seem so quaint, so obviously wrong-headed and naive. You read Locke and he writes point blank about various things that just have to be true because he can't imagine it any other way. It's like watching a 50's movie - there's no entertainment value, but it's a great lesson in history.

    But after postmodernism, we get some really interesting responses - either a modernist attempt to answer the critiques of post-modernism (and by answer I mean they accept the validity of the critiques and try to construct a philosophy that doesn't make the same mistakes), or a pragmatic philosophy that wants to leave metaphysics behind altogether and concentrate on how best to get with living.

  • Exactly! You don't stop with post-modernism. But it's a tool you shouldn't discard simply because you don't like it. It is indeed like dynamite - and where would we be without dynamite? You have to destroy sometimes to make progress. Otherwise you'd forever be stuck with old, failing buildings, with no room for new shiny ones.
  • by speek ( 53416 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @10:16AM (#301497)
    You discount postmodernism without acknowledging its value. You say, don't assume there is no objective reality, but then neglect to point out that the statement "there is an objective reality" is an assumption, and should be treated as such. It's not that post-modernism wants to convince you to assume there is no objective reality, but it wants you to recognize where your assumptions lie, and to be careful with them.

    You also say that our approximate knowledge of objective reality can be perfected via the scientific method, but, since you have discounted all of postmodernism, you fail to account for all the assumptions that go into science, and all aspects of it that make it susceptible to error and distortion.

    To accept the validity of postmodernism does not mean you have to give up on everything - it's just another tool in your possession. It's like the saying, "don't believe everything you read". Doesn't mean everything you read is lies, but just, be careful.

  • I know it's way to late in /. time to post something that anyone is going to see. Heck there are already over 300 posts to this article. But I can't let this one go by w/out comment.

    money has no reality beyond that which we collectively grant it. In American capitalism, money is exchangeable for property, and vice versa.

    This is completely true. But in the very next sentance he says,

    The reality of money is founded in our belief that the ownership of property is a fundamental right.

    This is way off base. The reality of money is founded in our belief that members of society must work or create some kind of value in order to survive. And upon creating that value, or working, you have earned the right to property ownership.

    Money is a convenient and arbitrary way for people to exchange anything for work or creativity or something of value. On the one hand he says that the value of money is arbitrary, then in the next breath, he says that it only corresponds to property. This is the falacy that leads people to believe that there is a fixed amount of money in the world, and if some people have more, they must have taken it from those who have less.

    The richest people in the world, of previous generations, would give most of their entire kingdoms to have the facilities that the common person has today: instant communication, quick and efficient travel to anywhere in the world. The common person today is richer than the royalty of 300 years ago. In other words, we have all become richer w/out some corresponding huge population of us becoming poorer.

    Money is the catalyst that has allowed this tranformation to take place. Money says nothing about society's beliefs about the rights of property ownership. It says that society requires work, or creativity, or something of value in order for individuals w/in the society to survive. Which can then be passed on to future generations.

    It works like this:

    • want something? need money.
    • want money? provide something of value which you can exchange for money (typically work)
    • use money for whatever you want, but now the world has twice the value that it had before: the thing of value or work that you created + the money that paid for it.

    I am, of course, grossly oversimplifying. And for the most part I agree with this guy when he says that communication is necessasary in order to prevent the blind submission of our rights to corporate entities. But money isn't evil, even if it is just a social contract. And the social contract that money represents is not what this guy thinks it is.

  • Oh, this sucks. How the hell am I supposed to find out what iGrrl did to the chicken brains this morning!?!?

  • No, the correct quote is:

    "You can lead a whore to vassar, but you can't make her think".

  • You bastard! I clicked on that, expecting to get a perfectly innocent link, and instead end up seeing something horribly filth and obscene!
  • "Why community matters": Yeah it does, but community only lasts as long as dissenting opinion is allowed. In the case of Slashdot those who disagree are moderated down immediately, just because their viewpoint is not liked. Slashdot has become a community of Yes-men.

    This post will be moderated down.


  • doesn't mean they aren't real. How about this instead:

    1. Rights are not a primitive moral reality, but are rooted in considerations about conditions required to pursue the human good, including the conditions required to pursue the truth about that good.

    2. Property rights are rooted in the universal ordination of material goods to the common good, and are therefore not absolute.

    3. Property rights are nonetheless real, and it's nonsense to say they're "socially constructed," whatever that might mean.

    In any case, the line of reasoning I've outlined is in the mainstream of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, and is to be preferred to sophomoric attempts to create a moral theory out of thin air.

    Argh. I hate the op-ed format! Doesn't anyone read books anymore?

  • Kuro5hin is an OSDN partner. (I believe nearly totally funded by OSDN) OSDN is owned by VA Linux. Andover is owned by VA Linux. They are essentially owned by the same parent company. Even though kuro5hin isn't really owned by VA Linux, it is probably could be financially controlled if VA Linux so wished.
  • If what I've heard is true, and "everyone has left slashdot for K5", then how can K5 still get slashdotted?
  • American society is essentially capitalist. Capital is another one of those social fictions which has effaced its own socially-constructed nature to the point that most people accept it as "real," in and of itself, and beyond their ability to control. Like murder, though, money has no reality beyond that which we collectively grant it.

    This is false. Money buys protection against punishment for nonpayment of taxes and taxes are not "collectively" collected -- they are collected by sadistic police-power:

    Federal Reserve + IRS = The Protection Racket Coup of 1913 []

    by Jim Bowery [mailto]
    Jim Bowery [], January 13, 2001 -- The author grants the right to copy, without modification.


    Federal Reserve money buys protection from punishment. You are punished if you don't pay taxes. This has become the Federal Reserve's primary monetary authority. The moral hazard of basing monetary authority on punishment has now been realized in the systemic and out-of-control gang rapes of prisoners in the US. All other unlawful acts by US governments are now overshadowed by the murderous, sexually sadistic character of governmental authority that has developed in US penal systems. Federal Reserve money is now protection racket money, or, if you prefer "punishment protection money". Calling it "fiat money", "debt money" or even "legal tender" obscures its true character. The transition to this form of money began in 1913, when the 16th Amendment [] dramatically expanded the potential need for legal tender in the form of taxes while, in that same year, the Federal Reserve Act [] started the process of removing from legal tender any backing value other than the protection it affords against punishment. That the redefinition of "legal tender" was unconstitutional(1) [] has become only a minor dimension of the massive decay in legitimacy and moral leadership during the 20th century triggered by these acts of 1913. These acts were largely in the interest of continental European banking concerns doing business under the name of J. P. Morgan. As vital interests of the United States were sacrificed on their behalf, those foreign interests are reasonably called "enemies of the United States", the acts of U.S. citizens on their behalf "treasons", and all such citizens "traitors".


    Legitimate governments provide assurance that we are secure in our lives and properties by protecting our legal rights in exchange for taxes and other duties. The most legitimate governments will even back up their commitment by providing some sort of compensation if our legal rights are breached, much the same as insurance companies do when they pay out on an insurance policy. But there is a fine line between protection rackets and insurance companies. Indeed, gangsters frequently call their protection rackets "insurance" and the payments they extort from their victims "insurance premiums". That fine line between protector and protection racket is crossed when "moral hazard" tempts the "protector" beyond the limits of his character.

    In conventional insurance terminology, "moral hazard" is the temptation to artificially increase hazards. A classic case of moral hazard is an otherwise unprofitable business buying lots of fire insurance and then hiring an arsonist to burn down the place of business.

    Insurers, too, can profit by increasing hazards if it is the uninsured who suffer the exposure to risk. A classic example of an insurer's moral hazard is the temptation to parasitize a productive business by threatening it with destruction unless the owners pay regular "insurance premiums".

    And that brings us to the morality of governance.

    The most profound moral hazard for governance is the penal system combined with taxation.

    The framers of the US Constitution included prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment []. They also made it difficult to parasitize productive States. This they did by requiring that taxation on a State's citizenry be proportional to the State's population under Article. 1. Section. 2. Clause 3 []. and Article. 1. Section. 9. Clause 4. [] Making taxes proportional to State population helps control the moral hazard of governance at the Federal level by making it difficult for the Federal government to transfer wealth to States that are politically active from States that are economically productive. Also, States are more capable of defending themselves from the Federal government than are individuals. Unfortunately, the requirement for taxation proportional to State population ("with apportionment" and "with regard to the census") was removed by the 16th Amendment [], thereby promoting political porkbarrel at the Federal level and punishing productivity. In the same year the Federal Reserve Act [] gave license to gradually reduce legal tender's reliance on gold and silver as backing value, leaving the protection legal tender afforded against government punishment it's primary backing value. (Shortly thereafter, the 17th Amendment also removed from the States the power to elect Senators, further eroding the States' ability to protect their citizens from the federal government.)

    These acts of treason have produced profound moral hazard at the Federal level, and set the stage for the relentless and radical decay of moral leadership during the 20th century.


    The proper role of government is protection against force and fraud. Therefore, to keep it honest, government's source of revenue should be insurance premiums against loss due to force and fraud. Said premiums could be payable in notes issued by the insurer/protector, but the insurer/protector should merely cancel the insurance policy and cease protecting those who do not pay. An insurer/protector should not generate the market for their own notes by threatening to punish those who do not pay -- as that is a protection racket, even if the insurer/protector honorably indemnifies those who do pay in the event of a covered loss. Such insurance premiums and corresponding insurance coverage would, necessarily, stipulate other conditions under which the insurance/protection continued to be provided at the agreed upon rates. This amounts to taxation on asset value, adjusted for various conditions that may affect risk -- with the added guarantee of indemnification in the event that asset value is lost due to force or fraud.

    Such a system actually eliminates governance, as we know it. I call it "warrior insurance".

    Under warrior insurance, reinsurance networks take the place of existing international treaties and alliances. Intelligent warrior reinsurance networks will check loss of asset value resulting from gang, or "protection racket" formation well in advance of any need for warfare. Warrior insurance premiums eliminate taxation. Competition between warrior insurance companies creates checks and balances supporting liberty. Formation of mass armies on ideological/political grounds is suppressed by exposing the underlying quid-pro-quo of reciprocal altruism that actually exists between people and their sovereignties -- over-extended kin identification, the basis of political and religious warfare as well as one-world ideology, is rendered less viable. Warrior insurance companies are much like the original sovereignties that defended newly formed civilizations -- they are, in fact, quite traditional. Empires subsumed the original sovereignties because trade, communication and literacy were so centralized. In the information age, this is decreasingly the case. What is increasingly necessary is a strong, distributed militia living lives bonded to their communities and lands from generation to generation, who value honor above their own lives. Unlike systems of taxation, warrior insurers will compensate those who are bonded for conscription in time of war, or deputized in times of civil emergency. Those so bonded would naturally demand a vote, or representation, in declarations of war or civil emergency.

    Under warrior insurance, the citizens' militias traditionally enjoy tax relief, since they are in effect, protecting themselves. In Scotland, rather than forming a Yeoman class from the "kindly tenants", "feu fees" were imposed to pay for foreign war debts during the Protestant Reformation, thereby dispossessing ancient families of their lands to make way for revenue generating land use such as wool-producing sheep. Kindly tenants were kindred or clan members who had traditionally been given relief from economic rent/taxation in exchange for sworn allegiance to their clans' militias under the command of their chiefs. But the clan chiefs were corrupted by the royalty which had become more interested foreign adventures than they were in allowing the clans to support and protect themselves and their families on their own lands. The royal war debts began consuming the livelihoods of the folk. Many were forced to flee for their lives. This was the primary origin of the Scotch-Irish pioneers who attempted to create a society in "the New World", free from such betrayals of clan loyalty. The earliest pioneers suffered a 25% mortality rate in the first year of migration in their desperation to create that "New World". This was not merely the moral equivalent of war -- it was death on a massive scale in a struggle with nature herself (war with natives was not the primary cause of these deaths), on the one hand, and tyranny on the other. As usual mostly men went to the frontier to risk everything for their new lands, but many women and children also suffered similar fates. As a consequence, the founders of the United States, folk memory still fresh, thought the avoidance of foreign wars to be common sense. This gave rise to the Monroe Doctrine and the avoidance of foreign wars.

    Compare and contrast such a system to the internationally adventurous protection racket posing as a government we have today.


    The US Federal Government, by basing its monetary authority on punishment protection with the treasons of 1913, has degenerated into an irredeemably murderous and sexually sadistic regime operating without lawful authority.

    When Pennsylvania Quakers established the original penitentiaries, they were places where a man was to spend time alone in a room with a bible to contemplate the error of his ways. Now they are the source of most acts of rape in our society as well as a primary dissemination point of the deadly Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS(2) [].

    This is so much the case that a standard book on preparing for prison life "You Are Going to Prison" by Jim Hogshire [], answers the question "Will I get butt-fucked?" quite simply and in the affirmative. Government itself routinely uses the EXPLICIT threat of gang rape in 'crime prevention' programs aimed at youth, such as that depicted in the public television broadcast of "Scared Straight"(3) [] where youth offenders are warned about their fate as sex slaves if they go to prison. Awareness is so widespread that Hollywood movies routinely make light of the pervasive nature of prisoner rape. Until recently, federal officials have avoided, like the AIDS epidemic they help spread, any indication that they are conscious of the fact that their authority relies, in large measure, upon cruel and unusual punishment. But even that taboo may be crumbling(4) [].

    Any reasonable man must ask and demand an answer to this question:

    "How has the Quaker conception of the penitentiary been so perverted that the threat of HIV-infected gang rape of prisoners is now a primary component of the government's authority?"

    The answer is simple yet profound. It lies in the distinction between the two bases of money:

    Reward VS Punishment protection

    Everyone is familiar with the concept of reward money -- money issued with a promise from the issuer to reward the bearer usually with some commodity, such as gold or silver, upon presentation to the issuer.

    The concept of money backed by punishment protection sounds unfamiliar to all but a very few scattered individuals. It is unfamiliar even to Nobel Prize winning economists, let alone the vast pool of PhDs from whence they are chosen.

    Yet punishment protection money is as simple and obvious as it is pervasive:

    Money issued with a promise from the issuer to protect the bearer from punishment upon presentation to the issuer.

    Forget the Clothes --The Emperor is a Murdering Rapist Run Amok

    Many critics of President Clinton accused him of being a murdering rapist. But President Clinton was simply the by-product of an epic perversion that has overtaken the lawful government of the United States. It would be understatement to call this perversion a criminal gang. Criminal gangs only occasionally commit rape and murder against their own community. They don't pretend to be a lawful authorities in public. They don't issue their own currency as protection racket money and then demand it as "legal tender". They may rationalize their criminal conduct, but they don't convince themselves that what they are doing is lawful. They admit to themselves that they are gangsters. At least they are that honest. But, perhaps this is simply because gangsters are afraid to compete with the most massive criminal organization in history, whose roots extend back at least to 1913 when the Income Tax and Federal Reserve were created.

    The Federal Reserve was created in the same year as the Income Tax for one simple reason:

    The US Federal Government was shifting from Reward to Punishment Protection as the basis for its monetary authority.

    Federal Reserve Notes are promises to reduce the bearer's risk of punishment for tax code violation, upon presentation to its collection agency, the IRS, in the form of Income Tax.

    Note here that it is impossible to reduce the risk of punishment for violation of the income tax code to a level commensurate to the threat of prisoner gang-rape(5) []. This has become the foundation of the IRS/Fed's all-pervasive aura of fear(6) [] upon which their punishment protection money is based. The Income tax code is so complex that not even the IRS with all its private contractors from law and accounting firms, can reliably and reproducibly interpret it. This makes it possible only to _reduce_ the risk of punishment -- no matter how much wealth you turn over to the IRS.

    In this manner the federal government creates demand for the Federal Reserve's otherwise worthless paper(7) []. Under the evil monetary basis of punishment protection, the government's monetary authority is limited only by the degree to which it can create pervasive terror of its prison system in the hearts of nonviolent potential tax code "offenders" -- and that means you.

    With punishment protection as the basis of its monetary authority, and therefore its ability to buy votes, it was only a matter of time before the US Federal Government, as though an animal trained by operant conditioning, would find ways of increasing the severity and cruelty of its punishments.

    But like rat in a maze, the US Federal Government had a problem to solve:

    How to impose cruel and unusual punishment without arousing the wrath of a people whose ancestors had risked a 1 in 4 chance of dying in the first year of migration to the New World in order to escape just such evils?

    The solution, reached without conscious intent (conspiracy) of individuals was a form of punishment so cruel and unusual -- SO TABOO -- that no decent human being would even want to think about it, let alone use freedom of speech and the press to talk about it:

    Gradually cultivate prisoner rape as the basis of government authority.

    By replacing pillory, open corporeal punishments and work restitution, so common before the 20th century, with an environment in which Mafiosi and other gangster types are protected from prisoner rape while the American pioneer cultures, less prone to prison gang formation, are systemically gang-raped, an ethnic bias was created against the very peoples who founded the country to escape government predation. The actual bias is apparent as at least 3 out of 4 prisoner rapes involve blacks victimizing men of Protestant heritage while Mediterranean Mafiosi are somehow immune.

    The ruthlessly pragmatic and sadistically sociopathic genius of this is that its very intensity, both as physical trauma and moral outrage, rendered it invisible.

    Such is the mentality of the child molester who relies on the traumatic nature of his crime to cover his tracks -- seemingly unable to control his subconscious urges. Such was the mentality of those men who, in 1913, gave us the Federal Reserve and the Income Tax.


    As with a molested child whose shame and guilt compound his trauma, so the American people have come to accept as, as fated, a life lived with this filthy family secret(8) []. The US Federal Government, now basing its authority on cruel and unusual punishment, cannot be considered legitimate by any reasonable man . The fundamental role that the application of force against citizens plays in defining legitimacy demands such a radical conclusion.

    Warrior insurance will be a crucial tool in the triumph of honor over the political will that has so corrupted the rule of law. But honorable warriors need something to protect. Pioneers risk their lives creating new lands. Women then risk their lives giving birth to new folk. Finally, warriors risk their lives protecting their lands and their folk.

    The burden of leadership falls, as it did after the feu fees that so motivated the Scotch-Irish, on pioneers.

    The dilemma, facing those of us who value the heritage of those early Americans who risked so much to escape sadistic authority in the old world, is not whether we are willing to risk our lives for freedom from such tyranny, but whether we can pioneer a 'New World' where our love of freedom can bear fruit in the face of death.


    (1) This is a consequence of the unlawful declaration that Federal Reserve Notes are "legal tender". "Legal tender" is called such because courts are required to accept it as money for legal purposes (by far, the largest legal purpose of money is payment of taxes). The US Constitution, under Article 1, Section 10 requires the States to use only gold and silver as payment for legally recognized debts. Article 1, section 8 does not give Congress power to make legal tender. Therefore, the declaration that Federal Reserve Notes are "legal tender for all debts public and private" is unlawful. The best counter arguments to this generally ignore the fact that the paper currency issued by the original central banks were presumed to not be backed by legal tender's value as protection against punishment, let alone cruel and unusual punishment.

    (2) See []

    (3) The "Scared Straight" program from the 1970s is still going strong as evidenced by this April 5, 1997 article from the Lubbock Avalance- Journal: m []

    An excerpt:

    "DALLAS (AP) - A grand jury has refused to indict prison inmates in connection
    with a ''scared straight'' prison visit during which several boys claimed to have been molested."

    (4) Assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Zubrod from Harrisburg, PA made the following public statement to 3 suspects who fled to Canada (this statement was captured for the public record during a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview):

    "You're going to be the boyfriend of a very bad man if you wait out your extradition."

    (5) Look at the classic paper on the value of human life by Nobel prize winning economist George Stigler of the University of Chicago School of Business. He measured the effect of danger on wage rates in different professions. Prison is more of a danger in some lines of activity than others. We should be able to apply similar analytic techniques to the relationship between taxation and the prison system.

    (6) "Prison Rape: Every Man's Greatest Fear", August 1995, Penthouse.

    (7) Although the thesis of this paper does not necessarily predict it, an increase in the rate of prisoner suicide negatively correlating with the rate of inflation would be supportive.

    (8) A final anecdote on silence: When the author of this white paper was called in for an audit by the IRS in 1994, he sought a tax attorney to represent him. During an interview with a prospective attorney the author told the attorney he thought the audit might have been politically motivated. When asked for details, the author related that the author had published articles on the Internet advocating a judical review of the legitimacy of the ratification of the 16th Amendment about one month prior to the notice of audit. The attorney then told the author that he could not represent the author. According to this tax attorney, he had attended a seminar given by the IRS in which the distinct impression was given that "tax protesters" were not to be defended and that any attorney who defended a "tax protester" would be subjected to a lifetime of audits. This was later confirmed during an interaction with a prominent southern California tax attorney when it became known that the IRS auditor had verbally admitted to his consulting accountant that the author was being audited because of his advocacy of a judicial review of the 16th Amendment's ratification.

    In a related situation currently ongoing in China, a spokesperson for the Falun Gong Practitioners in North America has stated that: "lawyers in China have already been told not to defend these innocent civilians unless they agree with the government propaganda." The U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions on 1999-NOV-18 and 19 which criticized the Chinese government for its crackdown of the Falun Gong.

  • How in the hell is this insightful? There is no qualifying of any of the statements.

    Ok the article is a lot of hot air, how and why?
  • I couldn't get past the first paragraph. "Facts" are socially constructed? "Facts" may not be true? I thought facts were by definition true -- if a proposition is false it can't be a fact. "Rights" may not be true? How can a right be true or false? The first paragraph makes it transparently obvious that the writer has no idea what a right is, or even what the relevant disagreements are regarding what rights are, nor any idea what a fact is (or even the what the relevant disagreements are concerning how we know things). It's the classic example of a geek thinking that because he can write code that makes him an expert on philosophy (or economics or anything else).
  • by briancarnell ( 94247 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:23AM (#301543) Homepage
    It is odd that he embraces the Declaration of Independence's "pursuit of happiness" line but then seems dismissive of private property. In fact Jefferson changed this line from pursuit of property to pursuit of happiness because he thought that it was clear that the pursuit of property was simply an obvious instance of the pursuit of happiness.

    It is certainly possible to criticize many of the current regimins of property -- in the U.S., for example, there is too little truly private property, with even large corporations relying on the state-sponsored expropriation of property -- but Rusty's article is not a very well thought out look at the issues relating to property rights.
  • atheist, anarchist, anti-capitalist.

    never met a libertarian who wasn't bollocks to the eyeballs.

    mark it a flame, please.
  • by Galvatron ( 115029 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @08:59AM (#301561)
    The article is trash of the lowest order. Communist countries did away with the fiction of private property? Bull! That was one of Russia's downfalls. They COULDN'T convince people, despite generations of state controlled propaganda, that communal ownership really existed. They never did away with currency, as they had originally planned to after 10 years, and they never got people to stop believing that they owned property.

    Michael really ought to take a philosophy course, or even a political science course, and listen to what people who spend more than 30 seconds thinking about their belief system can come up with.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • Surely we at slashdot are for the most part, capitalist and libertarian.

    That's hard to tell; posters are, by their nature, self-selected. I can say that whenever things like taxation come up, I regularly see postings from redistributionists and people who appear to actually think taxation is ethical--so it's not at all clear that things are as you say.

  • The US has an unusually strong notion of private property rights. Most countries in the developed world don't go as far as the US does. Britain, for example, has much weaker trespass laws than the US, and allows squatters to obtain services like mail and power. Germany requires union representation on corporate boards. There are other examples.

    The reason for this is historical. The US, unlike Europe, never had feudalism. Most of Europe went through a stage where the barons owned essentially all the land. When Europe went from feudalism to monarchy to democracy (a process related to progress in weaponry that made knights and castles ineffective), along with democracy came land reform. The US (except for Hawaii) has never had land reform in that sense.

    The other reason the US has such strong property law is the US law derived mostly from Blackstone, whose book was published widely in the US. Blackstone was a minor figure in European law, but somehow his book happened to be the most available lawbook in early American history.

    Enough for now. This is a complex subject, but the above should convince people that there's more than one way to view property rights.

  • In the case of Slashdot those who disagree are moderated down immediately, just because their viewpoint is not liked.

    Have you looked at what's below your threshold, lately?

    The only things down there are trolls, crapfloods, and ACs posting at 0. Go look for yourself. I dare you to find one dissenting opinion that isn't flamebait and faulty logic. The truth is that "dissenting opinions" (assuming you even know what you mean by that term) at worst simply don't get modded up. Or maybe the worst case scenario is your own post, which did get modded up. . .

  • by Electric Angst ( 138229 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @08:29AM (#301573)

    Damnit, you Slashdoting bastards just had to put up this article today, just as I was about to get into a really interesting article on another section of the site. Now K5's responding about as slow as a 'Virgin for Jesus' on prom night, all so that you underappreciative bastards can have a look and not get it!

    Fucking Bastards!

  • Oh yeah, Black is white, up is down, slavery is freedom. That's right George Orwell already wrote about this.

    Cav Pilot's Reference Page []
  • "Vocal" is the keyword. Libertarians are in an extreme minority, but they tend to be a lot more louder than everyone else. Most of you probably remember a few years ago the Modern Library released a list of the top 100 novels of the 20th century; they also had a web poll on the same subject. First place: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Second place: The Fountainhead, by same. Now if you have any literary or philosophical background you probably consider those particular volumes as jokes, but the objectivist/libertarian contingent voted en masse for it. Does it mean that it's the most popular novel of the 20th century? Of course not, it just means the proponents of the ideology it follows were more likely to vote, then vote again, then tell their friends to vote for it than everyone else. Libertarians are even more vocal than scientologists it seems (Battlefield Earth was in third place).
  • The fact that K5 has been so easily slashdotted points out a flaw in what some have argued, namely that it doesn't matter whether collaborative media are -technically- centralized or decentralized. The problems are obvious:

    • Once communities scale beyond a certain size, bandwidth becomes too expensive. This problem isn't likely to go away anytime soon because collaborative media will have to use videos and images (maybe even 3D data) in the future to emotionally compete with corporate media. In other words, while bandwidth will become cheaper, more of it will be necessary. The cost problem can be at least partially solved through voluntary payments, subscription etc., but the more obvious solution is to directly spread distribution costs over the users by using decentralized networks.
    • Centralized discussion forums are very vulnerable to censorship and other forms of corporate control. The Scientology incident is only one example of this. K5 has not yet experirenced it, and it makes sense for Rusty to ignore this problem (or even to justify the censorship, as he has done, like many others, in the Scientology case), but that won't make it go away.
    • Let me point out that I am not just anticopyright because I want "free stuff". Copyright is an effective instrument of censorship, especially if it can be transferred from the original creators. But even they may desire the removal of their works from the public when pressured many years later (I could give you examples of this). One of the key problems of free, collaborative media will also be the creation of visual content. In doing this, it is often inevitable to violate someone's copyright. The erosion of fair use and strict persecution of copyright violators will have the same effects on collaborative writing that software patents have on open source software development. A decentralized network can give better protection to its users and avoid the forced removal of content with the help of copyright, either for economic or ideological reasons.
    For these, and other reasons [] (I just realized that I'm repeating myself), it is essential that the media with which we plan to liberate ourselves are free from centralized control. Slashdot and Kuro5hin must, eventually, die and be replaced by better solutions. Of course we can learn a lot from the past (Usenet and the Internet architecture itself, for example), but we will also have to invent a lot of new cool stuff.


  • No, not yet. But in 2-3 years, maybe.


  • What is your opinion on this article []?


  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:44AM (#301583)
    You're right. The editorial selection of content is the main problem of Slashdot. I have experienced that many times myself, when I still thought that Slashdot was the best thing since sliced bread and submitted stories fairly often. Slashdot editors could improve the situation greatly by simply adding one of several standard reasons (and possibly a free form text in special cases) to story rejection -- at least this would avoid user frustration (and even decrease workload by reducing angry e-mail). Of course it wouldn't solve the problem that Slashdot's editors are far from perfect and their standards for selection are hardly the best.

    The whole "Slashdot sucks" attitude (which contributes to the trolling problem) can probably be partially traced back to this. The cold, reasonless rejection of stories removes the humanity from the site and creates a tension between the editors and the readers. You may think that I am exaggerating. If you submit stories to /. regularly, you probably agree.

    But you're wrong in suggesting that this story is a troll. In fact it's one of the more positive examples of a Slashdot story. While most stories just link to ZDNet, Yahoo, CNN, Wired etc., this one links directly to a non-corporate competitor, to a non-mainstream analysis which is actually fairly interesting. Michael should be applauded for posting this. By discouraging this story, what you promote is basically nothing but a digest from approved mainstream media. Anything that is not backed up by an authority is dangerous because it might get flamed by the masses (or even be factually incorrect).

    If Slashdot develops further in that direction, I will stop reading it. There are tools to create automatic linklists to the latest stories on other sites, I don't need Slashdot for that. Slashdot should be a site that mainly links to the stuff that is interesting and which you only read about everywhere else after it has been slashdotted.

    The flames by a significant part of Slashdot users could be avoided if Slashdot editors would more actively participate in the discussion. Their usual passivity and lack of commentary (or apology in the case of an obvious mistake) only increases the tension between editors and readers.

    All that being said, it is unlikely that Slashdot will change anytime soon. When was the last major change to the way Slashdot works? That's the problem -- the site has reached a state of stagnation. Changes are not implemented for fear of the technical and social problems they might cause.

    Therefore it's time to move on to more developed communities and let this one die. Some of its contributions have been great, but now it has to be replaced by more open, useful and friendly solutions. That's the way of evolution.


  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:06AM (#301584)
    .. is good, but it is not excellent. The reason it is so easily discounted as a "katzish" article (which it isn't -- Rusty is, if anything, a true Anti-Katz) is that a lot of interesting facts are hidden under a rather mundane (and flawed) sociological analysis.

    The facts are that corporations can manipulate the perception of reality of many people, and thereby, eventually, in some ways, reality itself. Those who don't believe this should read Toxic Sludge is Good For You [] and, as an intro into what you may expect, The PR Plot to Overheat the Earth []. Toxic Sludge should be required reading in high school. It points out the many ways in which corporations are actively spreading disinformation and distorting our perception of reality, to maximize their profits -- often with deadly results. It easily refutes the most basic flaw in libertarian ideology, that free and informed decisions are possible in a centralized, corporate media world.

    Rusty makes a valid point; namely, that the only way to fix this problem is by allowing people, instead of corporations interested only in maximizing profit (and speaking through corporate media), to inform other people -- building "communities" (a word which I merely put in quotes because of its [ab]use by others).

    What is less interesting (but probably important to Rusty himself, who seems to only recently have discovered these facts) is the discussion of reality and what makes it. Unfortunately, this is the intro to the article, so many may stop reading there. Also unfortunately, the meatier parts are not backed up with sources. The truth about reality vs. perception is pretty easy to sum up:

    • There is an objective reality.
    • Our perception of reality tends to be an approximation, since reality is not a closed system, yet our information about it is limited. (The only method by which this approximation can be perfected is the scientific one, as compared to religious belief, which is basically guessing.)

    Things get really messy once you start questioning the idea that there is actually an objective reality to begin with. Don't do that. If you assume that there is no objective reality, the first assumption you make is subject to this theory. That means it's both wrong and right at the same time. That means it's worthless. Constructivism and postmodernism are, therefore, bullshit. Rusty's arguments go a bit in the postmodern direction (or at least sound like it), but not too much.

    All in all, I would have preferred more interesting real-life examples of mass manipulation and a neurophysiological explanation of the mechanisms of manipulation, but if I want to read that, I probably have to write it myself. Those of you who want to talk about the actual solutions to the discussed problems should subscribe to p2pj [], a mailing list about peer-to-peer journalism (or "collaborative media", if you prefer that) which I have created.


  • by Ovidius ( 144915 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @10:25AM (#301585) Homepage
    The only method by which this approximation can be perfected is the scientific one.

    Things get really messy once you start questioning the idea that there is actually an objective reality to begin with. Don't do that. If you assume that there is no objective reality, the first assumption you make is subject to this theory

    What we need to understand is that if you assume there is an objective reality, the first assumption you make is subject to that theory. That doesn't mean that acting like there is an objective reality doesn't work almost all of the time. It just means that that assumption may cause problems further down the line, say when you get into politics

    This is the big problem with science and the modern world. We see a lot of concrete progress thanks to science and scientists, but we forget that the scientific method is philosophical and at it's heart theoretical. Because what we observe accords with what we expected to observe doesn't mean that we have observed anything in its totality. To even say that our "approximation" can be perfected through science makes a big assumption about the horizon of reality. I mean, in quantum mechanics we've already come to the point where the link between science and observation is much more complicated, since the scientist has to take his/her own observation into account. Once we arrive at this point we can no longer accept the objectivity of our observation as a simple fact--it doesn't mean it's gone, just much more complicated and something we have to theorize about!

    Anyway, that was too much of a digression. What I'm saying is that science can alsways be used to support an ideology because we will never perfect our approximation. Just because it's science doesn't mean it isn't guessing. If you believe uncritically in the objectivity of science -- not "science" the abstract ideal but "science" the human, social, and not-ideal activity, you are very naive and need to think more critically. Scientific thinking is, by necessity, reductivist (you have to reduce the issue to a question you can answer experimentally), but in politics scienctific reduction can be used to exclude questions you don't want to answer. "Product X is harmless", you might say, knowing you didn't test it on women. children, or in combination with product Y, though you know most people use the two in combination. It is a fact that Product X showed no harmful effects in the study. It is not the totality of the situation. It is not objective reality.

    That fact that tobacco-company employed scientists can make scientific observations which just happen to back up the interests of their employer should make us think about the interconnections of money, power, and what we choose to construe as "scientific" and "factual". Science in politics is just like statistics in the newspaper, people massage their data-gathering to prove their own point and call it "fact".

    Just consider: the opposite of the tobacco-company scientist is equally true, so if you happen to hate the tobacco companies and are backed up by your science, how are we to decide between duelling analyses? More science! How do you do more science? Spend money! Who's got the most money? The corporations!

    What Rusty is pointing out is that it is increasingly more difficult to break out of that particular vicious circle as more and more of our science, culture, and politics becomes intertwined with corporations. We have to make decisions for ourselves, but, as a political society, we are less now the makers of informed decisions, and more the consumers of canned debate between the "left" and the "right", with any other viewpoints eschewed as "crap", "communist" or "postmodern" (BTW, while Rusty's arguments are relativist, they are not really postmodern) and that online communities hold a promise for getting around corporate media, the centralized disseminators of ideas and opinions which all too often are really those ideas which best benefit the corporation who disseminate them. How is that "crap" as so many here have called it.

  • Unless you want to listen to existential angst about 'communities' and the like. Surely we at slashdot are for the most part, capitalist and libertarian. So why would we waste time reading left wing arguements for 'community' which we have already intellectually discounted years ago ?

    Also, although it demonstrates 'community spirit' do you think slashdot can survive for very much longer if it directs its readers to its major competitor ?

    Or is Kuro5hin about to be bought out by Andover so they can have a microsoft-style monopoly on whining rich white geek sites ?

  • If I understood the agreement correctly, all OSDN is doing is serving up ads on k5. For example, the agreement that rusty et. al. has with OSDN allows k5 to forbid certain ads, etc. Rusty, Inoshiro and a few others are being paid for ad views but that is the extent of the OSDN influence (not accounting for the sporadic article from Roblimo).
  • At least you're getting more work done today than I am.... ;-)


  • MLP=Mindless Link Propagation. Articles that have very little writeup and one or more links that you must follow to understand the main point are classified as such (similar to the majority of /. stories).

    Thusly, there's always readers who argue in editorial posts wether or not an article qualifies for such a classification because of the length of the writeup.

  • There is no initial moderation. It just so happens that of the thousands of people looking at /. at any given moment someone sees a post you made and mods it. I sometimes get responses to posts within a few minutes. Does that mean that there are people doing "initial responses" nope it just means that there are a great many people reading /. at anyone moment.
  • by tringstad ( 168599 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @12:04PM (#301600)
    Disclaimer: I haven't read the article yet. I just felt the need to flame this "Insightful" poster.

    I thought facts were by definition true

    I'm not sure where you went to school, or even if you did, but somewhere back in the 2nd or 3rd grade, we were taught the differences between facts and opinions, which have absolutely nothing to do with true or false, right or wrong. There were many little boys and girls that struggled with that, and so we review again...

    A fact is a statement of something being actual, whereas an opinion is an appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.

    As an example of a fact, I make the following statement...

    &nbsp&nbsp You are an ignorant troll.

    I can not prove this true or false at the moment, but it is a statement of fact, be it true or false. You may disprove it, but it becomes an untrue fact, which is still a fact.

    As an example of a opinion, I make the following statement...

    &nbsp&nbsp I believe that you are an ignorant troll.

    There is nothing you can do about my opinion, as it is an appraisal formed in my mind about a particular matter, so no matter if you manage to prove it true or false, I can choose to believe it regardless if I wish, as it is my opinion.


  • Metaphysics is the area of philosophy that tries to answer questions about "supernatural" ideas: gods, life after death, souls and other similar things. I minored in philosophy in college, but have never heard someone refer to themselves as a "meta-physicist." Most philosophers just call themselves philosophers. It is quite possible the poster in question has never studied metaphysics.

    As for the k5 article, it sounds to me like someone was feeling a little guilty about using napster. ;>

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @06:31PM (#301608) Homepage
    Some interesting issues that intersect here:
    1. Libertarians generally build theories where property rights are supreme; anarchists generally build theories where individual freedom is supreme - which is why libertarians are more often allied with Republicans, and anarchists, while disgusted with both major parties, sometimes find individual Democrats to be natural allies.
    2. Jefferson originally wrote "life, liberty and property," but changed the last to "the pursuit of happiness" because his favorite philosopher was Francis Hutcheson, whose An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue contains an extensive argument that accumulation of property is only virtuous to the degree that it truly serves happiness. Hutcheson is also where Jefferson got the notion of "inalienable rights." (If you're going to read Hutcheson, get a copy with the original capitalization - a lot is lost in ironing it out into modern lower case and loss of italics &c. Oh, and Hutcheson was also Adam Smith's teacher.)
    3. If you think the accumulation of wealth and property by the richest among us truly serves their happiness, you haven't read any of the psychological studies showing it largely doesn't - or grown up with rich kids and seen how miserably neurotic most of them are (although if school killings have ever made it above middle class, that has been kept out of the news).
    4. If you really like the libertarian property-is-the-essential-right argument, you need to explain what you're going to do when someone buys so much property that everyone else becomes tenants on it - they don't have rights there anymore, right? That's feudalism, not capitalism.
    5. On the other hand, if you, like Jefferson, think life, liberty and happiness come first, and property is only of secondary concern to the degree that we need to own our tooth brush and perhaps enough land to grow our own crops - hmm, I suppose he'd favor land distribution in the banana republics? - this is not unAmerican.
    6. Communism has failed. But individual liberty is always at the mercy of large organizations, be they governments or corporations or the local slave-holders club. Individual liberty requires the right to form your own business; but that's not the same thing as the right to bully others through governments or corporations or the club. Bullies in capitalist societies will always accuse their victims, should they complain, of being against capitalism.
    7. The economy did well under Clinton because somehow his style of government was compatible with an openness to invention and experiment (of course, he invented and experimented a bit himself). Cheney-Bush sent the ecomony reeling when it saw them coming because they really would just as soon that we follow older roads, the ones the preserve the power of their friends, even if that means we're not, as a whole, as prosperous as in times when businesses really do take great risks on invention and innovation.
    8. 'Community' by itself is an empty value. Consider the modern campus, where the community actively stifles incorrect speech. What's needed is more, IMHO, the action of individuals encouraging other individuals to invent futures and dreams that go outside the bounds and terms presently favored by governments, corporations, and yes communities. Only by doing that can we require those larger organisms to, as a necessity of their own prosperity, accommodate the sort of creative individual who is the well from which good government, good business and good community might arise.
    9. This is risky as hell. Not doing it is even riskier.
  • Indeed, if something is a fact, it is true everywhere, this a meta-statement about the meaning of the word 'fact'. But the philosophical theory about facts and social construction deals with the way a statement becomes accepted as a fact. "The earth turns around the sun" is a fact today. but the fact is, ( forgive the pun) that it took the world some two thousand years of written reflection on the cosmos ( and quite a few wrecked lives) to construct this simple fact. The construction involved not just looking at the sky, but some amazingly complex social elements, such as the change in the pay structure of different faculties in the medieval university, the complex relationship between the papal administration and the Florentine Medici court, the effects of the introduction of artilary on the art of war, the educational theories of the early Jesuits, and so on. Without the confluence of this amazing complexity, I might have written today that "it is a fact that the sun turns around the earth", and you would have nodded in assent.

    This is a fascinating aspect of contemporary philosophy of science and I am amazed that slashdoters, who seem to care so much about science, are completely ignorant of its very existence.

  • You are playing around with words. The social construction of facts is precisely the process through which hypoteses/theories turn into facts. Every scientific fact started its life at some point as a hypothesis. We take proven scientific truths to be facts. We think it is a fact that smoking contributes to lung cancer. By this we means that the evidence is conclusive. Until not long ago tobaco executives claimed it was just a theory. Scientists consider human contribution to global warming a fact, but Exxon Mobile and the White House think it is 'just' a theory, etc. Galileo was tried and found guilty because he argued that the motion of the earth around the sun is a fact, while the Jesuit scholars thought it was an intresting mathematical hypothesis but not a fact.

    You may want to suggest that the difference is between 'simple' statements of sensation such as 'the sky is blue now' and scientific theory 'the sky is blue because of the way air refracts light'. This isn't much help because, first, if we accept this limitation on facts, nothing of importance would count as fact. In particular, no piece of scientific truth would be factual. This saves the bathtub by throwing away the baby. Second, our scientific evidence is arrived at by using instruments that expands our senses. Every doubt that can be raised against the result of scientific experimentation can be raised against the simple senses as well. In fact, we often trust science more than our senses. So this distinction between 'facts' and 'theory' leads inexorably to the, in my humble opinion absurd, position, that the only true facts are statement about our senses, such as 'When I feel my head is tilted up, in a place that seems to be open, I tend to have a strong sensation of blue in my eyes'. Again, with these kind of "facts", we don't need hypotheses, and that is why I suggest it makes more sense to treat the statement like 'the earth turns around the sun' in the common-sensish way, as a fact.

    If you still do not agree that this is the common sense idea of facts, look at trials. The role of the jury is to do 'fact finding'. what facts are found? The prosecution and the defense present competing theories, one of which is found by the jury to be a fact, the other is discarded. Again, the difference between facts and theories is gradual, contextual, and bridgeable in principle.

    PS. There is nothing relativistic about this position. But that is another story.

  • It is part of the meaning of 'facts', that they are true even in the absence of our awareness of them. You started by saying that facts are true in the world and are not constructed, and you differentiated them from theories that are constructed. Let's go back to H in a manner that I'll try to make as exact as possible why this distinction is not as useful as it seems.

    H is the case in the world regardless of our awareness. "H" is the former meta-statement. and 'H' is the statement that states H. We know that "H" because we have a theory Th that makes a statement 'H' and subtantiate it in a conclusive way.

    Hence, Th implies 'H',
    ('H' by definition implies H.)
    And the implication Th -> 'H' implies "H".

    Now, you seem to agree that the coming into existence of Th is a process into which a variety of social events, processes and facts provide crucial input. Without that input we might have today held another theory Tj that implies 'J' and we would have believed "J". And we would have argued "J" ( namely that 'j' is true independent of our awareness) as vehemently as we argue now "H".

    Of course we would have been wrong, because J is false and H is true, but our ignorance would only be available to someone outside human history, God perhaps. When I say facts are socially constructed, I mean that "H" ( our awareness that H is true independently of our awareness) is the product of a specific human history. The fact that I call socially constructed is not the content of the fact ( H ), but the statement 'H' that claims this fact, as well as our understanding of its facticity ("H"). I don't mean that H is socially constructed, but that is simply because H has no practical relevance to a theory of knowledge. Speaking about H outside of Th, 'H' and "H" is a pure theological exercise.

    Social construction is a fancy academic way to say that something (Th, "H" and 'H'), are the product of a specific human history. Social constructivism claims that the claim that certain truths are eternal and independent of our awareness is, in fact, itself not independent of human history. It says nothing about these truths in themselves.

    PS. this is oversimplified, but to quote, 'Hic Slashdot, hic salta!'

    PS2. The one political implication of social constructivism is not that western science is bunk (altough it is painted as that by conservatives), but that western science is a fragile miracle that came to being under very specific historical circumstances. And therefore, the believe that science is immune to deterioration is dangerous. It is an open dabate how resilent to social change Western science really is. But the political point of constructivism, IMHO, is to make us realize that it is theoretically possible that western science becomes something else, and not necessarily better.

  • I'm using one definition and you are using another. The definiton I am using doesn't allow for playing with words, your's does.

    No, mine doesn't, I define facts as statements that claim that a state of affairs obtains in reality independent of our awareness, and whose claim is accepted by relevant authorities. I claim such statements are the product of human history, and in that sense they are "constructed" ( in exactly the same sense that it is said that the Empire State Building is constructed ).

    "Every scientific fact started its life at some point as a hypothesis."

    Are you saying that a fact didn't exist until it was hypothesised? then how did anything get done before the creation of the scientific method?

    See my definition above. I make no claim about the way the world behaved before the scientific revolution. The way the world behaves is the domain of physicists, and I accept whatever they tell me. I only make claim about the process by which certain physicists came to make certain claims and others came to accept them.

    Oh crap, this is one o the reasons that people yell about conciet of the Western thoughts and ideals, because people are careless in thier thoughts and language and say things like this.

    People yell because they are afraid of new ideas and because they don't bother paying attention. People yell at social constructivism; people yelled at the copernican theory; so what? Thank God, they stopped burning people with ideas they dislike. ( OK, I got worked out, actually the reason why people yell is always social. It is part of the strength of the theory of social constructivism that it usually gives better explanation why people yell at each other ( or burn each other) over ideas).

    1.That Facts are absolutes, they are always true, if at some point they aren't true, then they either weren't facts in the first place or something is wrong. ... 3.Hypothesis may never be proven, but empirical results can provide the basis for confidence in a hypothesis.

    In your definition, science is a web of theories, none of which can claim the truth status of a fact, with a lot of trivial facts at the border. The vast majority of 'evidence' is not factual by this definition either, because evidence is almost always the product of measurement. And measurement is done by measuring instrument whose functioning is explained by yet another theory, and so on. I can speak within this definition ( altough I think it is unnecessarily cumbersome). I would say then that theories and the confidence accorded to them is socially constructed, and be silent about facts because they are not interesting enough to warrant discussion.

  • I define facts as statements that claim that a state of affairs obtains in reality independent of our awareness, and whose claim in accepted by relevant authorities. I claim such statements are the product of human history, and in that sense they are "constructed"

    It appears that your "relevent authority" is history. Your definiton states a "reality independent of our awareness", then you claim it as the result of history. History might be a place to find facts, based on a temporal measure ...

    No, the relavant authority for physical theory is peer reviewed journals of physics. Could you please,pluuese, read, think, post in that order?

    Let me repeat myself. Facts, in my definition are a subclass of propositions/statements, not a subclass of physically observable phenomena. In addition to being statements, (subclass) facts are distinguished from other non-facts statements in that

    • they refer to observable phenomena
    • they make a truth claim
    • their truth claim has been blessed with the assent of the relevant authorities.
    "The earth turns around the sun" is a fact. I.e. it is a statement, refering to the observable phenomena of the earth turning around the sun, that makes a truth claim about the phenomena, and this truth claim is accepted by scientific authorities.

    In addition, facts differ from theories: theories also make truth claims about phenomena, but they are recognized only as potentially true by the relavant authorities. The difference is a matter of degree only.

    I don't claim that reality independent of our awareness is the product of our history, but that the facts, as defined above, i.e. the statements that we make about what is independent of our awareness, are the product of history. I have nothing to say about planetary motion, either today or 1000 years ago, because I am not a physicist. I only discuss the statement that are made about planetary motions. These statements would not have existed, i.e. would not have been said or accepted, but for a particular history.

    Science IS a web of theories. Science IS based on facts. A theory is an attempt to explain a set of observations, those facts available. A hypothesis is a specific application of that theory. Based on theory A, this phenomena should occur and result in X. An experiment is an attempt to answer the question of whether a hypothesis is correct. The experimental evidence are the Facts. They attempt to draw a very hard line and answer yes or no. Therefore a theory is not a fact in and of itself, but a description premised on facts.

    Your discription of science is common-sensical. Unfortunately it squares badly with attempts to observe how science works in practice. It assumes that the evidence observed is of a different order than the theories supported by the evidence. This is not the case. Evidence is provided by measuring instruments and measuring instruments are only trustworthy because of the acceptability of the theories that explain them. Thus, almost all scientific evidence is not factual by your definition, because it depends on the validity of theories that, as you said, cannot be proven ( though this evidence is factual according to my definition.) Consider a theory, the big bang. Now consider a piece of evidence, the speed and direction of galaxies. that piece of evidence depends ot our theory of light, relativity theory, chemisty, our theory of the composition of stars, atomic theory, optical geometry, etc. Analyze each theory and you will find theories all the way down.

    Nor are crucial experiments logically crucial. Crucial experiments leave scientists with a choice between adopting a new theory and patching the old one with a minor ad-hoc hypothesis that explains away the anamoly. The second choice is the one made almost always. The first choice is the rare scientific thunderstorm.

    The problem with the categorical distinction between observable facts and unobservable theories is that, under close scrutiny, it leaves us knowing nothing scientifically, because no statement made by scientists can survive the requirement of not being dependent on some theoretical assumption. It is conceptually possible to go this way. But it is unhelpful. We want science to make definite statements about reality. When it succeeds we want to treat the result as we treat every other simple fact. I believe, for example, that water can be decomposed in two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen with the same level of certainty that I believe CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner. Calling the second a fact and the first a theory serves no purpose. We live our life based on the assumption that they are both factual. I.E. our actions are informed by the belief that both statements will be true even if we were not aware of them. Why have a linguistic practice that fail to express this constant? So I think both are facts, both depend on huge theoretical constructs in order to mean anything at all, not to mention to be true. Both are true. And both facts ( statements, not phenomena ) came to be through in a complex social process. ( In the CNN case, the refered reality is as social as the statement, but that is not the point here. )

  • I did read your post, several times, and at no point did you say "peer reviewed journals". You did say "history". Should I make a note that these are now synonyms?

    Nor did I ever say that history was a scientific authority. I said "such statements are the product of human history."

    OK that's your definition of facts. Mine is facts ARE a subclass observable phenomena, for common use they are the observed subclass, The unobserved are still facts by definition, the observable portion has not been completed. Propositions and statements are just that, propositions and statements, they might describe a fact or refer to a fact, but are not "facts".

    Good, as long as you remember that when social constructivists talk amout facts, they mean some variation of what I call facts. You can argue with that definition, after you parsed the reason they prefer it. You can argue with the conclusion. You can argue with the evidence ( after you parse it). But calling it crap because it makes no sense when parsed with the wrong dictionary is not the kind of intellectual endeavor that a rational person should encourage.

    In the defintion I am using a fact may not make a claim of truth, they must be true. A "claim" of truth is not truth, and allows for the possibility that the fact is false and therefore not a fact.

    And this is one reason why this definition is not helpful for the analysis of science. Facts[you], unlike facts[mine], do not let themselves to meta-analysis, because they are not accessible. If they were accesible, science would be true in an absolute godlike manner. I am only interested in the truth claims scientist makes, and that is why, when these claims are accepted, I call them facts.

    Again with the dependency on some form of Human acceptance, relying on some form of perception. Since your definition allows for the posibility of falsehood in your "facts" it now becomes needed. Mine still doesn't.

    My definition indeed allows two kinds of falshood. The first is existential. We may have the highest confidence in the fact "smoking contributes to lung cancer", yet we may be wrong. Since our "wrongness" is not available to anyone who isn't God. And since our wrong belief is yet fully rational, this kind of falshood is possible but minimally interesting. It simply expresses the limits of human knowledge. The other kind of falsehood appears when a fact is demoted as a result of new evidence, re-interpretation, etc.. We used to have a fact, "Salt contributes to high blood pressure". That fact has been recently demoted. It is now only a theory. The process of demotion and promotion, i.e. changes in the degree of confidence accorded to scientific statements, is one of the main fields of empirical studies for social constructivists.

    The other problem you mentioned if I understand is that I define facts in a way that depends on human acceptance. Indeed, that is the point. It is an empirical observation that truth claims are generated and become accepted in a complex social and institutional process. The point in defining facts in that way is to make sense of this empirical observation and to accomodate it within a coherent understanding of the way science functions.

    "In addition, facts differ from theories: theories also make truth claims about phenomena, but they are recognized only as potentially true by the relavant authorities."

    You are now agreeing with me on theories? What happened to the asertion that nothing can operate under this condition, where it only introduces uncertainty? This is what I've said, a theory isn't a fact because it can be false or wrong. The empirical evidence, the facts, do not make it a fact.

    I did not challenge the existence of uncertain theories in science. However, in my definition of facts, when scientists stop arguing about a theory, when it stops being explained in scientific journals and starts appearing in high school textbooks, it becomes a fact. people accept it as a matter of fact, live their lives as if it were a fact, and that is reason enough for calling it a fact. I maintain that the only uncertainty that exists at that stage is what I called above "existential". Calling it a theory suggests that this existetial level of uncertainly is somehow worth our attention when in fact it doesn't. You will notice that the only people who fight tooth and nail to have evolution described as a theory are people who do not accept it. As I said earlier I believe the distinction between empirical evidence and supposedly non-empirical theories is soft. Yesturday's theories are built into new technology that provides evidence ("facts") for tommorow's theories. But the facts are only as factual as the theory behind the technology. I don't accept that purely factual scientific evidence exists.

    Ok, so replace "fact" with statement and we'll all be happy. I can discuss the "statement" but not the "fact". A fact implies a certainty which is more then a "claim" can justify. The certainty that is implied with "fact", I call confidence. The "truth" of the "claim", I'll call honesty.

    While we at least we traveled the contour of some of our beef, we don't agree, and I am not going to use your definition of facts in expressing my thoughts, because this definition is not useful for the kind of analysis I am interesting in. I will use your definitions to interpret what you mean, and if more people did the same there would have been less headers coontaining the word 'crap' on slashdot. ( Utopia, (sigh) )

    The results of experimentaion are facts, the intepretations of them are not. When someone comes up with the theory of everything and proves it, then I'll conceed.

    Depend on what you mean by "the results of experimentation". If you mean, "the needle appears above the digit 2" that is a fact in your definition, but it isn't a very interesting one. If you mean "The current was 2mA" I disagree. That statement depends on a whole electromagnetic theory, a theory about how ampermeters work, and a whole set of assumption about how much of optical inacurracy in looking at a dial can be ignored ( assumptions that are based on some theoretical understandings of both optical geometry and electromagnetic theory). Because of all these assumptions "The current was 2mA", is not a fact by your definition, it is a theory. It (the statement) is a fact by my definition, because all these assumptions are blessed as facts according to my definition.

    Of course. And they are supported by confidence in each of them, not in the certainty that they are facts. My lack of certainty doesn't stop my having confidence in the same thing. That confidence allows me to draw conclusions and postulate new theories based on my confidence in the others.

    The problem with your approach is that you see a difference between, "the highest degree of confidence possible" and "certainty". This distinction has no practical meaning, and I am a positivist on this. If there is no practical difference, then I see no difference, and reserving the word "certainty" to a level of confidence that is impossible is a waste of a fine and otherwise useful word. Whenever practical (as opposed to existential) doubt is considered irrational, I prefer to say we are certain.

    I do not subscribe to the fallacy that any of them are fact. The fallacy is a form of intelectual shorthand, which while usefull for the most part and effective in walking down the street, can a) lead to errors and b) be dishonest.

    I can't see how a choice of words can be fallacious. A choice of words can be misleading, but only an argument can be fallacious. In addition, it is common theoretical practice that words are defined in some particularity that might be misleading if one fails to notice that the word is used in a technical context ( not to mention that this context is reasoned on the basis of non-technical practice). I don't think people who talk about "the social construction of facts" have to apologize because other people don't take the trouble to identify the vocabulary. I also don't see how we can avoid intellectual shorthand. Using shorthand is practically essential in intellectual discussions. Of course it can lead to errors and dishonesty, that is reason to be careful, not to avoid it. If I were to substitute my definition of facts everywhere I say "fact", I would be incomprehensible even to myself. The charge of dishonesty is a heavy charge. And it is too lightly used in the context of the so-called "science wars". We are all human beings, we all have hidden agendas, we all have careers, mortgage bills, axes to grind, psychological wounds, etc. So in one sense or the other we are all "dishonest". Yet, the astrological superstitions and personal arrogance of Newton did not prevent him from laying the foundations of modern science. It is in the best interest of intellectual honesty that the charge of "dishonesty" should a rarely used in intellectual arguments, not because we are all saints, but precisely because we are not. As long as a theory is argued, there should be a presumption of honesty, with the implication that the only honest reply is an argument based on careful reading.

    "The problem with the categorical distinction between observable facts and unobservable theories is that, under close scrutiny, it leaves us knowing nothing scientifically, because no requirement of not being dependent on some theoretical assumption. It is conceptually possible to go this way"

    It is perfectly possible to be known scientifically. It puts everything on the same plane. It provides a common premise for everything described. It doesn't allow for mistaken certainty when there is no reason for it. It is when the subjective feeling of certainty is removed and not relabeled as confidence that the premise is not understood and uncertainty results.

    I am sorry, but I just don't follow you here, can you rephrase that?

  • Rusty writes that in today's society, capital is valued more than life. He implies that the alternative, to be preferred, is to value life over capital.

    But the situtation is a quantitative one, not qualitative. It is not life over capital vs. capital over life, but rather the relative value placed on each.

    What would happen if we valued life as an absolute, over any amount of wealth or profit motive? Sounds great at first, until you consider that we would have no cars (they cause tens of thousands of deaths every year). How many of us would be noble enough to agree to live the rest of our lives in utter poverty to save the life of a single stranger?

    The question is where we strike the balance. Might our society be tilted too much towards capital and too far from life? Perhaps. But it's a question of what level we strike the balance at, and not an either/or question as Rusty suggests.

  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @10:36AM (#301627) Homepage

    If there's one hard lesson I've learned, it's that you can't force people to think.

    Okay, so this is a bit of a side issue -- but my point is very important, especially to a forum like Slashdot, where there an article such as this urges readers to influence the world at large by saying "make them think".

    The "Age of Communication" bombards people with causes and issues; the noise is driving people insane, so they tune out. Even if you can raise your cause above the cacophany, the average person doesn't want to think about "big issues". In the U.S., at least, time is precious and few people have any room for recreational thinking. They much prefer to react as needed, answering "yes" or "no" according to dogma.

    The average person does not want to think about "questions of great import." Understand that, and you'll realize why few people look down the road to the consequences of today's actions.

    Community is damned dimportant, and Slashdot does well to bring up such articles -- but realize that no one is going to make anyone consider the issue, because the vast majority of folk just don't want to think.

    Certainly there is much in the world that people should think about -- but to instigate real change, you need to find a route that doesn't involve "making" people think.

    Scott Robert Ladd
    Master of Complexity
    Destroyer of Order and Chaos

  • Almost every week I tell my friends and loved ones "There's an article on Slashdot that points to this great page, but you can't see it, because it's Slashdotted". They don't care anymore.
  • by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <> on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:01AM (#301635)
    Why Community Matters (Op-Ed [])

    By rusty []
    Mon Apr 9th, 2001 at 06:46:50 AM EST

    Human reality is socially constructed. That is, most of the "facts" that determine our daily lives are socially constructed facts, which are true as long as enough people believe them to be true. The right to own property, the right to not be murdered, indeed the right to continue to live at all; all of these are socially constructed rights, which are true only as long as enough of us believe in them.

    American society has created for itself a Mobius-like reality by privileging capital, or property rights, above all else. This has granted corporations the power to purchase the reality that best suits them, and corporations in turn recreate the reality that privileges money. Communities -- places, real or virtual, where people speak directly to each other, without corporate mediation -- are the only hope we have to reassert control over our own reality, and place it back in the hands of people, instead of the fictional entities we call corporations.

    The United States Declaration of Independence [] reads, in part, as follows:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
    While Jefferson ultimately attributes the source of humanity's "inalienable rights" to the "Creator," he recognizes that the only way for humanity to maintain these rights is by self-governance. That is, whether you are granted rights by God or not is essentially irrelevant, since the actual exercise of those rights is a social phenomenon.

    "Human rights" are fundamentally a social construct. Your individual right to continue to live is maintained only as long as there is not a more powerful individual or group who wishes to cause your death. Humans have no natural predators -- that is, no species other than humanity itself supports its existence by killing humans.

    This puts us in the unusual position of being able to determine a large proportion of "reality" as we experience it. Obviously, if I jump off a tall building, I will likely be killed on impact with the ground, no matter how many people believe I won't be. Reality, and existence, for me, is over. But what this event means to the people who didn't actually jump off the building with me has yet to be constructed. What the majority of others think about this event will determine the socially constructed reality of the event. That is, "what actually happened" is determined by common agreement.

    If enough people believe I was pushed off that building, the individual they believe pushed me will go to jail. Buried in that sentence are a whole host of other socially constructed "truths", among which are that pushing someone off a building is murder, that murder is wrong, and that society may physically and behaviorally confine those who commit murder. None of these things are fundamentally "true" to any greater extent than that they are made true by enough people believing in them.

    Take a different example. I die of pancreatic cancer. As with the first example, it makes no difference to me whatsoever what caused this event, since I am dead. But again, the larger meaning of this event, the "what actually happened" has yet to be determined, and in this case, it may become a lot more complex. You see, before I died of pancreatic cancer, I was a small farmer in Colorado. To save costs, I accepted cakes of processed sewage sludge from New York City, which I used to fertilize my tree farm. This was legal, because American society, acting through the EPA, has determined that "sludge farming" is an acceptable way to dispose of combined human and industrial wastes, despite the fact that these sludge cakes contain extremely high concentrations of heavy metals, petroleum byproducts, and carcinogenic chemicals.

    An autopsy determines that my pancreatic cancer was the result of high concentrations of nickel and lead in my body. The concentrations of nickel and lead in the soil of my farm are hundreds of times the base levels in other soil in the area. It takes little imagination to conclude that my death was a result of the toxic sludge that I've been using to fertilize my farm.

    The physical facts of my death are now known. But the social reality of the event still has not been determined. Seeing a potential disaster in the works, SludgeCo, who were my source of toxic farm sludge, will inevitably swing the PR machine into action. Company spokes-people will insist that I chose, of my own free will, to use their safe, inexpensive fertilizer. They will point to other possible explanations of my cancer, and produce "independent" company-paid scientists to cast doubt on the link between heavy metals and cancer. "Grassroots" organizations of farmers, funded by the company, will protest that limiting the flow of cheap SludgeCo fertilizer will harm their ability to compete in the market, and damage the competitiveness of Colorado's agriculture industry.

    The point of all this public relations work is to create a socially accepted "reality" which does not make SludgeCo a murderer. This process is the bedrock on which American society creates its reality. Laws are made by representatives. Representatives act based upon what they believe are the opinions of their constituents. Constituents base their beliefs on information provided to them by media, such as television, radio, and newspapers. And at every level of this process, the public relations industry intervenes to create the "reality" that best suits their client.

    American society is essentially capitalist. Capital is another one of those social fictions which has effaced its own socially-constructed nature to the point that most people accept it as "real," in and of itself, and beyond their ability to control. Like murder, though, money has no reality beyond that which we collectively grant it. In American capitalism, money is exchangeable for property, and vice versa. The reality of money is founded in our belief that the ownership of property is a fundamental right. Communist revolutions all over the world have proven that individual ownership of property is not a fact of nature, but is a socially constructed reality that holds true only as long as a sufficient number of people believe in it. If a sufficient number of people believe that they own the property you previously considered "yours," then that becomes true.

    The base belief in individual ownership of property means that in order to continue to live, each of us must obtain money to purchase the basic things that enable that. That is, I have to get food, and in order to get food away from those who "own" it, I have to give them money. So life, in a capitalist society, is subordinate to property. My life, and yours, is sustained only at the pleasure of a social fiction. Because of our assent to this form of reality, those who hold the most property may dictate the views of the largest number of people, which in turn recreates and reinforces the reality which enables those property-holders to continue to hold property.

    There's the rub. The individuals who control the largest amount of property are without exception corporations. Corporations, in the American legal reality, act in a limited sense as individuals. But unlike you or I, whose opinions are not mandated by law (but instead are codified into law), corporations are individuals who must value certain things in order to exist. Public companies must "maximize shareholder value" over all other things, or risk being destroyed by lawsuits. Like humans are biological organisms that must obtain food, water, and air to survive, corporations are social organisms that must obtain money to survive. Corporations live in a completely social reality -- a meta-world which we constructed for them to inhabit. But by making our belief in the right for humans to live subordinate to our belief in the right for humans to own property, we have made our ability to control the existence of corporations weaker than their ability to control us.

    Belief in capitalism makes it a fact. Similarly, belief in the right of people to live would also make that a fact. American society privileges the former above the latter. Neither is more "real" than the other, indeed both are completely created and supported by the belief of people. But it will always be in capital's best interest to privilege property rights over any other socially constructed right, and if possible, to elevate that right to the status of "Natural Law" in order to maintain it as firmly as possible. The only way this can be reversed, the only way that people can reassert their control over the reality in which we exist, is by people speaking directly to each other, without capital mediating their voices.

    Right now, the "voice of the people" is assumed to be the news media. American media is corporate -- that is, all major organs of media are corporations, without exception. Corporations, as seen above, will always privilege capital over all else, since it is the only way they can continue to exist. Therefore, media is in fact not the voice of the people at all, but the voice of corporate reality. Corporate media speaks to you, not for you, and cannot be trusted to reflect the views of humans. Instead, it is the organ with which corporations will continue to recreate the reality that allows them to exist at our expense.

    This, finally, is why community matters. The only potential way out of this mousetrap we've created for ourselves is to actually speak directly to each other. Town meetings, open hearings, internet communities, places where people may actually speak as human individuals to other human individuals; these are the only places that we may examine what we have decided will be our reality, and the only places we may possibly decide to change that reality.

    To take one example which is already happening: Peer-to-peer file sharing. The essence of P2P is the fact that large numbers of individuals have decided that their reality does not recognize the so-called "right" for corporations to own the files on their computer. Swapping MP3s, in their view, is not "stealing" because those who share their files don't consider themselves to be gaining or losing property. That is, they are challenging the assumption that music is an object that can be owned, by an artist, a record company, or indeed anyone. The socially constructed nature of this phenomenon is very evident in this case, as the record companies struggle to define file sharing as "piracy," while file-sharers counter that it is "fair use." Both of these terms are social constructs -- one defines the act as "wrong," the other as "acceptable." The battle is over whose reality will ultimately be stronger and become true.

    What's striking about this struggle is that it is one of the few open battles directly waged by people against corporations. Few voices in corporate media have come out in defense of file-sharing, while the unfiltered voices of individuals have loudly and repeatedly, if not often eloquently, defended it. This is possibly the first time the internet has served as a means for individuals to attempt to change a basic social reality which was previously held to be unquestionably true.

    What other "truths" do we hold to be self-evident? Which of them do we privilege over the lives of other humans, over even our own lives? Which of your opinions determines the reality in which you live, and from where did you derive that opinion? Are we, as a species, satisfied with the reality we've constructed for ourselves? It is only by asking and truthfully answering these questions, like Jefferson did, that we can begin to reassert control over the basic facts of our existence. Community matters because communities are people, and people create reality. What world do you want to create?

  • It's amazing how fast dumb points of view are excluded in a moderation system.

    If this keeps up, eventually dumb perspectives will have no voice, and only intelligent and interesting perspectives will get a fair hearing. This can only mean one thing: better ideas.

    Lets tear this meritocracy down before it gets out of hand!

  • is that they will consider this article a success.

    But k5 is more (and less) than Slashdot's snot-nosed kid brother.

    The "reality" of the situation is this: tiresome hacks will always claim that they have a leadership role or some kind celebrity within a given online community. Katz seems to have made a go of it- convincing the outside media that ./ readers are interested in what he has to spew- er, say. It shouldn't be surprising that other tiresome hacks are lining up in the on-deck circle.

    Besides, I should know - I'm a tiresome hack as well. []

  • That's interesting (or maybe it isn't) because it seems from the quality of writing at k5 that you absolutely do.

    Good luck with banner ads, fellas. You'll need it. []

  • It seems k5 folks (or someone people using "we" and claiming to represent them) are posting defensive little missives [].

    Touchy, touchy.

    Here's some advice: never give a link pimp an even break []

  • Since I don't have moderator rights to meta-mod this post down I guess I'll rant.

    Until a poster actually reads past the first paragraph of a posted article I cannot see how anyone could suggest that he/she is Insightful, Informative, or Interesting.

    Until the poster makes the effort to actually inform themselves before forming an opinion, they are merely posting Trolls or Flamebait.

    I couldn't get past the first paragraph.


    The first paragraph makes it transparently obvious that the writer has no idea what a right is, or even what the relevant disagreements are regarding what rights are, nor any idea what a fact is...

    Here's a tip BBB - the first paragraph of any article is an introduction that gives a brief overview of a writer's position. They spend the rest of the article explaing/supporting their position. Next time, keep reading. Then post.


  • Four comments, all below +1. And the article is completely Slashdotted already?

    Or is it just more of that top-flight OSDN web hosting?

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @08:25AM (#301657) Homepage
    ...and the smoke clears to reveal:

    The sort of willfully ignorant, nonsensical, masturbatory blather that if I enjoyed, I'd be reading Kuro5hin (and compulsively talking about how I don't read Slashdot) instead of reading Slashdot.

    Thanks, Michael. For a better read, here's BBSpot on Kuro5hin [].

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by jabber01 ( 225154 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:38AM (#301659)
    Slashdot's parent company hosts K5. They know K5's bandwidth and traffic tolerance. They should have mirrored the article instead of taking K5 out for the count.

    As it stands, K5 is unavailable to it's regular readers, in all it's articles, because Rusty said something semi-intelligent and everyone wants to come and see for themselves.

    Slashdot, please consider mirroring content in cases where you know you will cripple the original site.

    Thank you.

    The REAL jabber has the /. user id: 13196

  • Ummm, there is a really intriguing analysis and response to the reality/belief essay several messages later, with the subject line of "Subjectivity is Objectivity for some Objects."
  • "I think we've pinpointed where the denial of service attack is coming from."



    "Figures. I knew I shouldn't have made that bet with Rob over the election..."
  • I don't think K5 has been slashdotted since the crapflooder rebellion of last year.

    Michael, why the heck are you using Rusty's socialist rantings, with which I most heartily concur, to make money for VALinux? You have the biggest case of cognitive dissonance that I have ever seen.

  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @08:57AM (#301698) Homepage Journal
    This post seems to assume that there is some kind of unified front dicating opinion at Slashdot. Get real, Geek - When I show up with Moderator privileges I pick a few stories at random and expend my points moderating as I see fit. Yes-Men? Saying yes to who, exactly? There are at least as many people who take every possible opportunity to slag Cmdr Taco, Hemos, Katz and other Slashdot heavies.

    Like so much open forum on the net, the main problem of Slashdot is that there's too much commentary, and too much of it says nothin' about nothin', for everything worthwhile to rise reliably to the top. But that's real community, Geek. You can't just not deal with people because you don't like how they act and react. Slashdot is far far far from perfect. But when I look at a given story, the comments consistently represent a pretty broad range of viewpoints. It'd be nice if less of them said "all yer yessmen are belong to us" or existed merely to link to goat porn, and that's why moderation exists. You'll notice your own comment didn't live up to your assumptions about moderation.

  • by Zal42 ( 311906 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @10:44AM (#301711)
    I'm actually a big supporter of capitalism. It isn't anywhere near perfect, nor will it lead to utpoia, but of the things we've seen so far in history, it seems to be the most useful framework.

    But, here's the problem in America, and this article fell right into this trap: In America, we artificially (through law) have declared corporations to be "persons". I.e., AT&T is just as much a citizen as you or me.

    This is a greivous error. People are complex entiries who have a myriad goals and are (generally) responsible for their actions.

    Corporations are machines of capitalist production. They have no conscience, no responsibility, and no goals other than accumulation of capital. Not that that's a bad thing -- but it makes them fundamentally different than people. Corporations are incapable of morality. Indeed, are often legally prohibited form taking a moral stance.

    It seems fair and right that we should consider corporations as something other than people. In exchange for the special priveledges we give to corps, we should strip them of rights reserved for the people -- that is, free speech, etc. I cringe every time I hear a sorp representative say that such-and-such would violate the corps basic right "x". They should have NONE. The fact that they are artificially "people" is clearly destroying the system we have here, and turning it into our new, modern, American version of fascism.

    Contrast this to a sole proprietorship, where the person running the show and the company are one and the same. Those type of companies _are_ people, and have all the usual rights people have.

  • Having some mathematical training, I learned that the definition of "fact" is not, in fact (!), dependent on whether I believe it. Or whether anyone else believes it, for that matter.

    He says things like, "The individuals who control the largest amount of property are without exception corporations", and then expects us to believe anything else he says. The largest private landowner in the U.S. is an individual named Ted Turner, not a corporation. I think that might constitute an exception.

    The whole rant is based on the jaded belief that corporations are big bad things and people are small good things. The little family business down the street might well be a corporation. Are they bad? That big developer who destroyed your whole neighborhood might well just be an individual. Is he good?

    There are shades of gray. There are good people with money and bad people without money. Deal with it!

    Why is it that the American dream is to start a business and make money, but when you do it you've "sold out" and become an "evil corporation"?

  • I thought Hume's enquiries were about epistemology (the study of the acquisition of knowledge - or something) - and that doesn't seem to be germane to the author's subject.

    "Facts" was in quotation marks at first because it wasn't meant to be taken literally throughout the rest of the paragraph. The problem I see when scientists or math people read humanity-discussions is that they often pretend they can't understand the structure of an argument whenever it might question their belief systems.
  • by 8934tioegkldxf ( 442242 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2001 @09:54AM (#301735)
    So, a lot of stuff here that can be picked apart, but to hit the highlights. In order to go along with this you have to ignore the fact that corporations are directed by humans and think of them as inhuman entities bent on their own ends. This might work when the robots take over, but it doesn't work with the megacorps. You also have to accept the fact that all corporations work together and that if Corp A makes poison babyfood, CNN and whoever else will cover it up. This assumes journalists have been subverted by their corps and aren't humans either.

    The blade of the jaunt is P2P, and that copying something someone doesn't want you to and only gave to you under the condition that you don't (again, another human and not an evil entity) is okay. In other words it's okay to lie that you won't copy something (it's implicit in buying music.) This is particularly funny after the author perscribes townhall meetings to get to the truth since (according to the author) journo corps will lie to you.

    Sure the megacorps might do some nasty stuff, but don't overestimate human decencany and think of corps as non-humans. It's still a human doing the nastieness. And the journos might be lieing and blathering, but they're not doing it from some conspiracy or corp kickback (generally) but simply from inability to do their job well. And just because the corps lie to you doesn't make it okay for you to lie to them. :P

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