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  1. 4 likes
    It is hard when something is mixed. Sometimes one's immediate feeling toward it comes from whatever side of it you're seeing that day. A couple of years ago, I was in a small mid-western resort town on July 4th and thousands of tourists (mostly from elsewhere in the state) had turned out to see the fireworks. Trucks streamed in from all the nearby little towns and farms. The atmosphere was festive. There was benevolence all around. The red-white-and blue was respected, not as a symbol of something above us on an altar, but as a symbol of who we are. Not on a pedestal to be saluted -- though that too -- but, in casual clothing, in funny head-dress, in flashing lights to be worn for the evening. All around was a feeling of family and of sharing a value. Very few cops in sight, and yet the thousands self-organizing in very orderly ways. If you asked those people, in that moment, if freedom was their top value, if the individual is important, if we should recognize the individual's right to his own life and happiness...you'd probably find lots of agreement. It's all good, but it is mostly emotional. As you peel away and understand the intellectual roots, contradictions appear. I won't say the emotions are unfounded, that there is no "there there". When Hollywood makes a movie of a maverick going up against the world and winning, huge audiences love the theme. It is who they are: sometimes, on some topics, and in some emotional states. Nationalism is dangerous when it goes beyond a general benevolent celebration of sharing good values like freedom and individualism. It usually does, and we have a good person like Robert E. Lee rejecting Lincoln's attempt to get him to lead a Union Army, even though he could "anticipate no greater calamity for the country than dissolution" and thought "secession is nothing but revolution". Why? For "honor" -- which really translates to honoring a convention where you are loyal to your home state. Throw in ideas about the role of government in helping people in all sorts of situations. Thrown in ideas about inequality being caused by oppression. And faulty ideas about economics. And suspicions about bankers running the world. Add back the occasional cheering of the maverick who defies authority; but also add back the desire to control other people's behavior: if they're gay, or marrying someone of another race, or smoking pot, or even having a beer when they're 20 years and 11 months! That is the contradiction that is America. Still, you should feel free to choose what emotions you wish to invest in symbols like the flag. You do not have to salute a flag and think you're saluting a tortured contradiction that is eating itself from the inside out . You can salute it for the right reasons, or for what you think it once stood for.
  2. 2 likes
    Welcome to the board. I hope you benefit from your time here. As a lazy answer, I don't think it can be questioned that Rand's experiences in Russia/the USSR had enormous influence on her, just as I expect that any individual is enormously influenced by the circumstances of their upbringing. But to the extent that Objectivism is "atheistic" and "materialistic," I think it would be a mistake to try to find the reason(s) for that in the fact that Rand hailed from a particular country (if that is the proposed project); Rand typically gives incredibly thought-out and painstakingly argued reasons for her positions on sundry topics, and those reasons -- right or wrong -- stand without respect to the origin of author (or reader). That said, I'm certain that Rand's early experiences and education emphasized certain readings or access to specific intellectual strains of thought, or etc., and perhaps that's what you're after, to trace the intellectual history of her ideas. Rand herself chiefly acknowledged Aristotle, though I have heard that she was influenced by Nietzsche early on... But come to that, others here are Rand scholars who can offer much more insight into this question than I. I'm not certain what you mean by "Socialist Objectivism," but let me try to speak to "altruism." Yes, Objectivists use "altruism" in a rather narrow, specific way, which is the idea that actions are considered moral to the extent that they benefit others (in contrast to selfish actions, which benefit the self). Rand on "altruism": "Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil." Rand on "selfishness": "[T]he exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word 'selfishness' is: concern with one’s own interests. [...] The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. [...] Since selfishness is 'concern with one’s own interests,' the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense." This is what Rand (and knowledgeable Objectivists) mean when using those terms. There are yet many actions (which we could roundly describe as "kind" or "benevolent" or even "charitable") which society would sometimes consider "altruistic" that are not contrary to Rand's selfishness -- but are, in fact, quite selfish. Rand writes, for instance, "Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime." And this is just so. (If you take away from this that an Objectivist could morally give a dime to a beggar, in a given context, I would say that you are correct.) Some people try to point out the supposed hypocrisy of Objectivists by noting, for instance, that the Ayn Rand Institute is "non-profit" (and donates books to schools!), or that one of the Atlas Shrugged movies used Kickstarter as a partial source of funding, or etc. Those people do not understand what Objectivists believe, though this does not appear to give them any pause in their invective. So, good on you for trying! Climate change is a matter for scientists, and while philosophy sets the ground rules for scientific thought, Objectivism qua philosophy does not have a position on whether the climate is changing, or what the cause is, or etc. Accordingly, you will find diverse opinions among Objectivists on those sorts of questions. Personally, I'm not sufficiently educated about climate change to hold forth on it to any great extent, though I am impressed (and distressed) by the seeming scientific consensus. I know there are skeptical challenges to various models, and use of data, and etc., but again, I'm not sufficiently educated on these topics to be able to say much more. I take it for granted that catastrophic climate change is a real possibility for planet Earth, whether man-made or not, because obviously the climate has changed in the past (in ways I would regard as "catastrophic" for human life, if repeated), and I expect it could again. If technological innovation has the potential to help mankind combat such catastrophic outcomes, should they threaten -- and I would suppose that such innovation is our best hope, speaking generally -- then I would want man to be unfettered to think and work and pursue those innovations. This "unfettering" refers to political "liberty," which is what Objectivists mean when referring to "capitalism," which thus primarily refers to a political system and not economics, as such. This said, there are specific scenarios related to the environment which I believe would justify "interventions in the marketplace," by which I mean regulatory laws (or criminal laws, or civil lawsuits). If we were to determine that polluting the ocean (which is a common resource; or at least, I don't know of any proposal to privatize it yet) to whatever extent is bound to exterminate the world's algae, let's say, and thus choke off all of our oxygen, or what-have-you, then yes, we cannot be allowed to pollute the ocean like that (though such a discussion would be heavily nuanced and context-dependent). If this makes me a heretic in the eyes of other Objectivists, so be it, but my policy is to keep breathing. Edited to add: As to the question of whether climate change (real or imagined) could lead to totalitarianism, well yeah. But the power hungry have never wanted for reasons to impose their wills on others, and totalitarianism has seemed to exist in every age. If climate change could spark a resurgence in totalitarianism (and it certainly seems to me to have that potential), the path will have been paved by centuries of philosophical thought which have argued for self-sacrifice (in the interests of the state, or God, or the race, or etc.) and against the rights and happiness of individual human beings. There is no Objectivist dictum like "free markets lead to free societies," so far as I am aware, and I would redirect you to what I've said above, which is that Objectivism is primarily concerned with a moral political system (which we find in protecting individual rights, which we call "liberty"/capitalism) and not economic outcomes, as such. (Though many Objectivists may appeal to various economists who have argued that such liberty does generally result in prosperity, and etc.) That said, a "free market" is not simply an absence of state authority... and in fact, a "free market" is not possible without some state authority to protect people in the use of their individual rights, whether in producing goods, trading them, or consuming them. The market is not "free" (and not truly a "market"), for instance, if you can steal from me with impunity. That's not an example of a free society, either, and such lawlessness is not what Objectivists regard as either moral or desirable. I never would have described myself as Marxist-Communist, or an anarchist, but I was certainly a liberal in my youth. The experiences that led me to shift are probably too numerous to mention, but as a quick reduction I'll say that I read a number of influential books (including Rand, but not exclusively written by her), and I've spent many years applying ideas, testing them out in my own life, reviewing the results, studying history and my own past, and etc. It is a complex process. Throughout my intellectual development (which began when I was a liberal, and many years before discovering Objectivism), and despite the pride of place I now give to "happiness" and "self-esteem," I was led onward in the main by a passion for discovering the truth of things. I watched Wall Street when I was young, and I cannot tell you what impression it made on me (because I do not remember). I imagine that the stereotypical "businessman world-beater" aesthetic did not do much for me at the time, as, quite frankly, it does not do much for me now.
  3. 2 likes
    An acquaintance of mine replied on the circulating video used as part of the case: As I've always said, if your' going to carry or just own a gun, you're obligated to train and practice. One thing you have to consider in carrying is encounters with law enforcement. In states where I don't have to I don't inform the officer I have a gun unless asked.(like AZ) I don't. In states where I'm required to do so (like MI) I do. In either case when I'm pulled over, before the officer is out of his car, I have my license, registration and proof of insurance out and ready. Then if I do have to inform I'm not reaching for my wallet, making the cop uncomfortable. I can tell him I'm reaching for my ID but why should he believe me? I keep both hands in sight at all times. One MI officer requested I keep both hands out the window and visible to him while he went back to the car to run me.. If you didn't get your ID out ahead of time, and have to tell him you have a gun, both hands on the wheel and ask him how he wants you to proceed. That way no one gets carried away. Yes the cop needed better training. Personally when the driver started reaching I'd have warned him while drawing my weapon and aiming at him. I still would have had time to shoot were he to start to bring up a weapon. Mistakes were made by both. Plan ahead folks.
  4. 1 like
    Based on your posts in the past, I don't think you and I differ too much wrt history. I do think that the history of early Christianity and the formation of the Christian Church(s) is far too complex (and too unknown) to sum up as done in the above. The point I made about Calvin's Geneva and Thomas More's Utopia is to agree with you that there have been strains of Socialism in Christianity - but that it is different from Marx's. And I wouldn't just reduce either of them to a desire for "self-sacrifice". That's really ALL that I meant by it being a "lazy" term. Engles has a work called Socialism:  Utopian and Scientific which is interesting.
  5. 1 like
    Leaving out the reference to "early" Christianity, Calvin's Geneva did resemble what was to become Christian Socialism. A quote from a wonderful book, The Western Intellectual Tradition that I think you would love based on your interest in history: The regime Calvin imposed on Geneva was in many ways similar to that in More's Utopia. (p. 94) Both Luther and Calvin opposed not only the new art but the developing science of their time as well. In many ways, they were more fiercely antiscientific in their attitude than was the Church of Rome, and it has often been pointed out that Galileo, although he was badly treated by the Inquisition in Rome, would have suffered more severely if he had been unfortunate enough to live in the Geneva of Calvin's regime. Later, the twists and turns of history were to make the Puritans staunch supporters of the new science; but none of this was intended by Calvin's doctrine and discipline. (p. 95) Predestination was a problem from day-one in both Lutheranism and Calvinism and did get modified pretty quickly. Regarding "self-sacrifice" and the role it plays in Christianity, I think it's a fairly lazy term that can mean pretty much what anyone wants it to mean. Much of the early Church was formed along the lines of Neoplatonism. The line of demarcation between when early Christians "quit" following Greek philosophy and became "Christians" is not so sharp - and in fact, Christian theologically never really did exist independent of it.
  6. 1 like
    "Even when it proclaims itself to be atheist, the socialism of Marx, of Trotsky, of Ernst Bloch, is directly rooted in messianic eschatology. Nothing is more religious, nothing is closer to the ecstatic rage for justice in the prophets, than the socialist vision of the destruction of the bourgeois Gomorrah and the creation of a new, clean city for man." - George Steiner Giving up religion is hard, but keep at it if you ever hope to be sane again.
  7. 1 like
    Laika said: Laika, there are a few things anyone who takes Objectivism seriously would need to know about your context before engaging in this discussion. How old are you? Do you currently consider yourself a Communist? If so, are you saying you are doubting Communism as a philosophy as a result of your awareness of the outcomes of it in practice? You should note that just because you are getting answers from members here doesnt mean they are Objectivist and, or, are presenting Objectivism in their responses. That is why studying Rand for yourself is the best approach to any questions about Oism.
  8. 1 like
    Laika: In answer to your OP I would offer the following as my take on the most important takeaways from Rand's Objectivism re politics. You and your life belong to you and no one else. Likewise you have no rightful claim to anyone else or their lives. Any initiation of force injected into interactions between men is thus immoral. Force is only moral in retaliation and in the protection of individual rights. There is plenty more believe me but as far as important basics these are the ones which stand out to me.
  9. 1 like
    Laika, Welcome to the Forum; I find your statements above particularly interesting. It would not be the first time I have engaged a self-identifying Communist here, but you seem to be questioning your own rationale regarding Marx. You must understand by now that there is no utopian paradise, nor any process of achieving one, at least in the sense intended by Marx. Objectivism does not promise utopia. Rather, it is a philosophy detailing a path to personal fulfillment and possibly the creation of the most just society possible under a purely capitalist system, separating economic activity from government action. We may never arrive at the later, but you have every opportunity to discover more about the former. I am unable to offer any recommendations with regard to your depression, only to say that in my youth, I could only see the bleak outcome of social and political trends, if carried to their extremes, and it frightened me. I knew nothing about Ayn Rand or her Objectivism, only the absurdity of social, political, and cultural norms. I knew about Marx; I always considered him to have been a fraud, as well as an easy target for Right-Wing pundits and common place conversation. But one of the great contributing factors to the problems of our times is that few if any people question their own notions of right and wrong, let alone seek out a philosophical school of thought. It is apparent from your posts that you have put a great deal of thought into your philosophical outlook. As for your list of six questions opening this thread, I will limit my response to only number six: Gordon Gekko is a fictional character, a caricature created by Oliver Stone. If you look at Stone's body of works, you see many films critical of American militarism, capitalism, and Right-Wing points of view in general with no regard for honesty. Objectivism does not support Right-Wing politics any more than it supports Left-Wing politics. Inasmuch as I hope you will keep examining the works of Ayn Rand, I hope you find the honesty lacking in Marx, and possibly even your happiness.
  10. 1 like
    Her philosophy was very much influenced by her exposure to Marxism, both in the Soviet Union and the U.S. It can be seen as primarily a refutation of it. Both are materialist in the sense that there is no appeal to the "supernatural", but a primary difference between the two has to do with epistemology (see Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). Marx held an individual's ideas to be formed via a dialectic process between and individual and his class and it's relationship to the material means of production in any given age. Marx also saw history as unfolding to a finished state (Pure Communism). Rand's epistemology, on the other hand, does not posit any type of dialectic process in an individual's formation of knowledge. It is based sensations, percepts, concepts, the formation of abstractions-from-concretes and abstractions-from-abstractions, etc. Too much to explain here in detail. ITOE would be a good place to start if you are interested. The altruism that Rand opposes should not be confused with the "helping your neighbor raise a barn variety." In it's current, modern form, it is the virulent yet historical German idea that one's spirit may be free, but one's body belongs to the State. This can be traced back to at least Martin Luther and the German Prince's using the Protestant Reformation as a rallying cry to oppose not only the Church but also the Holy Roman Emporer. You might say that Hegel led to Hitler, and Marx - who switched the "state" to the "collective" - led to Stalin. I've been following the Global Warming debates for close to 9 years, and I see no evidence that any changes in temperature cannot be explained by natural variations within the limits of precision of measurement and a general warming trend that has been going on for a long while. But this Post would not be a place to debate it. If you want to, let's do it! The role of government is often debated among Objectivist. I think that since Objectivism does not believe that clashes are inevitable among reasonable Men (or "classes") nor is economics a zero-sum game, it is possible to create a fair and equitable government, and that one will always exist. A good government should be seen as a wonderful achievement of rational men. Rand had a great deal of respect for the U.S. Government and the Founding Fathers. I first read Rand around the age of 14 or 15, and in my youth, I was much more anarcho-capitalist than I am now. As I grew older, and began to participate in society and not just observe it, I grew to appreciate the important role that government plays in society. And per No. 4, I think it can be a net positive and not all negative. Others will have different opinions.
  11. 1 like
    Your stating things in terms like these makes me want to reply in kind. I am not "pro-cop" at all (though I believe I've encountered many "pro-cop" folks on this board), no more than I am "pro-criminal," "pro-worker" or "pro-businessman." I am pro-individual and pro-individual rights. I believe that no individual has the right to initiate the use of force against any other -- and I extend that to police officers, who I do believe are yet "individuals." Am I pro-law enforcement in principle? No, not as such. There was law enforcement in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany -- plenty of it -- but I don't consider myself a fan. I am pro-moral law, pro-objective law, and where there is moral and objective law, then I am in favor of enforcement (in an objective, structured, procedural manner). Where the law is immoral and in-objective, I'd rather that law remain unenforced. The system as it exists, within the culture as it exists, makes me wary of all prominent actors. Objectivists remain on the fringe for a reason: our devotion(s) to reason, reality, egoism, and liberty are not widely shared.
  12. 1 like
    I don't think the idea "both people made a mistake" is appropriate here at all. That can describe how certain romantic relationships end, perhaps, or similar, but in this sort of situation there is a gross difference between the role of a police officer and a citizen. The police officer has a responsibility to remain disciplined and act in a procedural fashion in a way that may ideally be true of a given citizen, but cannot rightly be expected. It falls upon the police officer's shoulders to remain calm in trying situations and act appropriately, even when the citizens they deal with do not (and I am not convinced that Castile fell short of reasonable expectations in this case, even if the African American community has otherwise taken to extreme measures of compliance in order to prevent zealous police officers from murdering them). That's what the training is for.
  13. 1 like
    What's typical round-trip from the U.S. to Tahiti?
  14. 1 like
    Selection is the key. I know such a thing is impossible now, but imagine in a society with a proper government with Military, Police, and Justice systems only... even at a fraction of the taxes paid now, these institutions could select for hire only excellent people, and train them well. Every police officer could be as well trained and as educated as an astronaut or fighter pilot of today. Strict education requirements, psychological as well as physical testing... high pay... only the best kinds of people should be entrusted with instruments of force and its proper use.
  15. 1 like
    So the response here is, "What was the cop supposed to do? Not shoot him!?" Yes, the cop was not supposed to shoot the law-abiding citizen reaching for his driver's license (as instructed). If there's a problem with that -- a problem brought on by the citizen having a permitted weapon (which is supposedly one of our fundamental, Constitutional rights) -- then the entire system needs review. It should not be on citizens, acting wholly within their rights and complying with law-enforcement officers' commands, to stop from accidentally tripping across officers' apparently over-developed zeal for shooting first and asking questions later.
  16. 1 like
    I was reading the introduction to the Kama-Sutra (really the only part of the book worth reading). Since the author is about to present a book about sex, he feels obliged to present a philosophy of sex, and explain why sex is an important value. In doing so, he tackles the mind-body dichotomy and says: reject it Within this introduction was a quote that reminded me of Rand's view of male and female. In a sense, this book is anticipating her by centuries, but of course there have been echoes forever. So, here's the quote, as an interesting, related tid-bit.