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  1. 4 points

    White Supremacist Protest Violence

    I do happen to believe they are the same, morally speaking. I had some experience with some Antifa groups, both online and at some protests. I naively thought they could be open to libertarian and individualist ideas, much in the way that objectivists hoped to influence the tea party groups in this way. After my interactions with them, I find them very similar to neo-Nazi types. Let me first explain a bit of history. Antifa, at least in so far as they claim, has its history in the KDP, the communist party of Germany during the Weimar years. Most of you are probably familiar with the stories of red shirts fighting brown shirts in the streets, which originated as the Sparticist Leage, and is basically a Bolshevik group that wants a communist dictatorship. The party is banned in Germany to this day. This is the intellectual heritage they claim and logos they use. It was resurrected in the 1980s by punk rock types and leftist agitators to fight against anything right wing using violence. It is not a singular organized group with a single goal or philosophy, much like the occupy movement, but are a disparate group of loosely networking individuals that get together for protests. I was drawn to them for the protest aspect. Many objectivists, I find, either put too much stock in voting and democratic politics, or are just too intellectual to be involved in practical action. I am interested in agorism and building alternative institutions, so naturally a group claiming to be about anti fascist action sounded promising. Objectivists, I still do believe, should be the real Antifa. They are also anti racism, anti sexism, anti bigotry, what are we if not all of those things? So I thought they were about using private, voluntary, and non-state means to fight these things through protests, boycotts, social pressure, doxing, etc, which sounded great. I thought, like many left-liberals dissatisfied with the Democratic Party establishment, they would be young, intellectual, and interested in fighting oppression and injustice, and I could influence them towards liberty and individualism. I knew many of them were left-libertarians or left-anarchists, but I had success in the past interacting with them. What I found was a group of extreme, violent anti-liberal racial collectivists who are basically social misfits and losers. Many of them are, in fact, extremely racists, much like the BLM folks I interacted with. Events such as "white people stay home day" on campus were endorsed. Yaron mentions this in his podcast, and I can confirm, yes violent leftist agitators were roaming around looking for white people to club. During a protest in California, there was a targeting of anyone who was white in a certain area because it was assumed they were pro-Trump. Many of them believe in some sort of reparation scheme, whereby all whites, regardless of their position in society, must be expropriated to repay for historical oppression. And, this is anecdotal, but I was interacting with an Antifa member who felt comfortable confiding in me, lamentably, that they couldn't openly support extermination of whites. When pushed on this, he circled and said he meant through promoting interracial marriage (except not marriage cause that's oppressive), which is a common thing you hear, that all whites would be technically gone and that would be a good thing. They are also virulently anti-Israel, and to such a point that they want to see it destroyed, and it's not hard to see how that turns into a general hatred of Jews. I think there's also a psychological aspect here and the analysis isn't complete without that. As many have pointed out, the type of person drawn to violent political extremism tends to be someone who is an outcast, is socially awkward or ignored in some way, people who just enjoy being edgy and contrarian, thumb their noses at established norms, and people who have psychopathic personality types. We can probably understand how easy it is, for some young people to be disasstisfied with mainstream conservatism, for example, and join the alt right or patriot type movements, only to be disgusted with them, then read Richard Spencer or something and become a full blown Nazi. Without a principled philosophy, this person is just drifting toward a cult or gang like group until they are embraced by the worst. The same thing happens on the left. Many were disgusted at the betrayal of the Bernie Sanders movement and looked for a better home that would embrace their psychopathic and nihilistic personalities. And the types I found numerous times. I saw a young girl pepper spray an elderly woman who she supposed was a Trump supporter. I saw kids, disabled people, women, moms and dads, random bystanders, etc. attacked with batons or sticks, or hit with projectiles. When I asked her if this was morally okay to her, I got the usual anti-conceptual "revolution isn't pretty" type response and was told this many times. "Break some eggs, if you want to make an omelette" slogan was repeated to me. I saw the group full of these punk rocker types and various social misfits that had no problem hitting women or elderly people. To the extent that I found anyone receptive to ethical egoism, I only found support of the egoism of Max Stirner, who believed that morality and law were artificial and limiting constructs, and supported a subjectivist and emotionalist type of egoism. But in generally, I found them to be anti-intellectual and not interested in ideas. Evaluation of whether something is threatening to me isn't a numerical comparison of sins, such that I would go "Antifa: socialists, Nazis: socialists + racists" that's two sins versus one, so Nazis are more immoral. Based on the foregoing, I do put Antifa in the same category as the Klan or Nazi type groups. Both involve bringing in people with nutjob views, dysfunctional personality types, social awkwardness, etc into the cultlike embrace of the group, and derive enjoyment from transgressing established norms of society. Both are racialist and both want socialist dictatorships. Both are perfectly fine with using violence to achieve that goal. Both are, in my view, one step removed from being domestic terrorist groups. Both are a danger to themselves and to me and to society as a whole. Im not sure how much political power they have, but Hilary Clinton was opposed by the Sanders movement, incredibly popular with young people. Many of those people moved on to Antifa and BLM groups. They have a way of infiltrating any leftist gathering and scouting for new recruits. I believe they are Soros funded and their actions whitewashed by the media. That's how we see things like mainstream liberal types who just think we need more peace and love protesting right next to a hardened left agitator with a hammer and sickle flag and nobody questions it. But everyone immediately knows Nazis are bad. One thing is certain, don't let your kids or friends join these groups, and don't go to these protests. Just stay away.
  2. 3 points

    The Royal Family of Nominalism

    In the November 1966 issue of The Objectivist, Ayn Rand wrote: It might be said that fifty years ago nominalists self-identified as "non-binary definitionists." True and false pertained to propositions, but not definitions. A proposition suggests mere possibility, but a definition suggests actual certainty. And certainty implies knowledge of reality. If the goal is to enslave people's minds, then you certainly don't want to encourage them to pursue knowledge of reality. Fast forward fifty years to today, and the nominalists' appetite for slavery has turned to the social-political realm. Now they self-identify as "non-binary genderists." Male and female pertain to propositions, but not definitions; the mind, which possibly reflects reality, but not the body, which certainly reflects reality. If the goal is to enslave people's bodies, then you certainly don't want to encourage them to pursue knowledge of reality. Slavery is about controlling people's minds and bodies. Nominalism is a philosophy of slavery. A nominalist wants to be a master, a ruler of humans. And so he places himself above normal humans, both mentally and physically. Mentally he is a "non-binary" word-maker, whose speech must not be questioned. And physically he is a "non-binary" entity, whose very identity must not be questioned. When he says he is this or that, then he is this or that. And if he orders you to call him she or they, then your duty is to call him she or they. For he is the master, and you are the slave. He is a member of the "non-binary" royal family. And you are part of the lowly, unenlightened "binary" or "cisgender" class. If Rand were alive, she might say that nominalism has managed to reach an even deeper depth than anyone ever imagined possible. Verbal and sexual aberrants are being crowned as intellectual and moral superiors. And we, the normal ones, are the tolerated clown jesters of the circus kingdom. Drag queens and miladyboys. Bow down to your new rulers!
  3. 3 points

    A Complex Standard of Value

    There has been some great discussion about values lately, and so I'd like to present a brief case for my notion of a complex standard of value. Any feedback or criticism would be appreciated. This is only the beginning of a work in progress. I start with the idea that humans have three basic aspects: the physical, the mental, and the biological. Also, for each aspect we can hold a separate standard of value. For the physical it's pleasure over pain; for the mental, it's knowledge over ignorance; and for the biological, it's health over sickness. Next, many people seem to believe that man is primarily one of these aspects, while the others are secondary. They argue for what I call a simple standard of value. If man is primarily physical, then his standard of value is pleasure. If he's primarily mental, then his standard is knowledge. And if man is primarily biological, then the standard is health. I call such positions the Simple Man Fallacy. It means taking the standard of value for one aspect of man and applying it to the whole person. I suppose it's an example of the fallacy of composition. I believe it is critical that we form a complex standard of value which integrates the three standards of man's existence: pleasure, knowledge, and health. Rand of course argued for the standard of value being man's life. But there is much confusion over what that means precisely. She said it means: "that which is required for man's survival qua man." And what does that mean? She explained: This is a complex answer that is difficult to digest. For example, how do we figure out which terms, methods, conditions and goals are required for our survival as a rational being? Well, to answer that question, I suggest we consider in equal measure the three basic aspects of our existence: the physical, the mental, and the biological. We should formulate a complex standard of value which integrates our critical needs for pleasure, knowledge, and health.
  4. 3 points

    The Law of Identity

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -- Process Philosophy --Johanna Seibt (2017) The Activity of Being --Aryeh Kosman (2013) / From the publisher: “For Aristotle, to ask “what something is” is to inquire into a specific mode of its being, something ordinarily regarded as its “substance.” But to understand substance, we need the concept of energeia―a Greek term usually translated as “actuality.” In a move of far-reaching consequence, Kosman explains that the correct translation of energeia is not “actuality” but “activity.” We have subtly misunderstood the Metaphysics on this crucial point, says Kosman. Aristotle conceives of substance as a kind of dynamic activity, not some inert quality. Substance is something actively being what it is.” / This book from Kosman is not an argument over what is true in the matter, only over what Aristotle thought true in the matter. As for true in the matter, I think Aristotle (under this interpretation of him) was wrong, although one doesn’t have to go back to Plato or Parmenides and pals to get things right. And I take Rand as by her philosophy to agree with me in all that. I’d like to add to the other thought in this thread that on the mere face of ‘A is A’ one can say ‘change is change’ even while ignoring ties of change to stasis or to other categories of existence, such as entity (in the Randian sense of that term). But one is then saying much less than one who is saying ‘change is change’ while keeping those ties in mind. At Metaphysics 1030a25–27, Aristotle allows ‘nonbeing is nonbeing’. But he takes such a statement to say far less than were one to say ‘substance is substance’. Those of us who, like Rand, take ‘A is A’ to be making an assertion about existence of A, take A to have ties to other things (counting its own parts as one type of other thing), to have a nature, to have identity (in Rand’s broader sense of the term). For us, saying ‘nonexistence is nonexistence’ is only a sameness of words, a metaphysical zero.
  5. 3 points
    To briefly get back to the original question, it is clear that Peikoff rejects the standard philosophical concept "tautology". The problem with the transcription which KyaryPamyu cited is that it doesn't represent what Peikoff wrote, it's what he said. In his writings, you can see that he abjures the term because he always puts scare quotes around it (plus, of course, what he says about so-called tautologies). It's possible but unlikely that he did air quotes when he said "tautology", and the quotes were not transcribed. "Tautology" is an invalid concept (though you may plead for validity, by removing the thing that makes it invalid). To be valid, there has to be a definition: it has to identify a specific range of things. We don't know what "tautology" refers to, and until we do, it's pointless to get into an extended discussion of it. Since the term is widely used in philosophy, I am inclined to attribute some meaning to it, thus I would more or less accept William O's initial quote from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy: it is The pure form of these statements does not render them always true. A formula which is "always true" is something like "P ∨ ¬ P", but these are meaningless formulas. The proffered tautologies are not of this form. In the Cambridge examples, there might be a valid method of translating the statements into a symbolic form such that these are "tautologies". For example, you have to add a special stipulation of referential identity in these cases (see the last example: we must additionally assert that the first Socrates is the same individual as the second Socrates – we're not mixing Socrates the philosopher and Socrates my dog). Examples like "A brother is a male" is "tautological" not by dint of the form, but because of what we know of the referents of words "male" and "brother", and we know that experientially. It is particularly obvious that one cannot arrive at a formalization of "tautology" by simply inserting the definition of a word, when you are dealing with names, which have no definition. As for concepts and proper nouns, to quote ITOE, "A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition". A noun is the label by which we access a concept. A proper noun is a noun identifying units that name that name – they have no CCD. "Cow" identifies a range of existents with certain characteristics; "William" simply is a conventional label that some people have.
  6. 3 points


    We all know how awkward Thanksgiving can be at that moment when some family member asks all to state what they are "thankful" for. Particularly if you want to be completely honest and you are somewhat suspect of what others might consider "thankfulness" to be. While regretfully awaiting your turn... and after having counted the number of people in the "round the table" queue, you begin to ponder: Thankful to whom and for what? For that matter what does it mean to be "full" of thanks? What are these "thanks" you are full of? Are these left over pleasantries that you've gathered up like obligations and IOUs: there's that nice summer day I should have thanked the universe for, oh and that old guy kept the door open for me I should have said something to him, and the grocer lowered her price on bread which I really like I should have given her an innocent pat on the back, oh and my employees, clients/customers, and employer all rationally pursued their self-interest generating economic value all around, which is ALL good... I should have really said something to all of them (over and above eagerly and professionally participating in the value generating interactions themselves??...). A pile of pleasantries indeed... Then again, without a doubt I am proud, proud of myself and my accomplishments, and the bounty of my metaphorical harvests (which do not necessarily coincide with autumn), and proud of my family and friends, for what they have accomplished, who they are, and for the fact that they are my family and friends and that we have made strides and grown together. Without a doubt I am appreciative, appreciative of reality and of many others and their actions, appreciative in the sense that I fully recognize and treat rationally and with justice all that I deal with. And upon a reflection I realize that I already do generally try to exercise justice on a day to day basis, which requires that in every interaction just values in both matter and in spirit are exchanged, but that I could do better... So what is thanksgiving really? Is it a pile of pleasant IOUs to be balanced through a cosmic confessional around a dead turkey or is it a celebration and a reflection on life and its bounty? I think it is more the latter than the former, but perhaps as a small tribute to both, Thankgiving can be seen as a recognition and a celebration of life and a reflection of all its bounty and also an opportunity to resolve to go forward consciously keeping all of it in perspective so that, day to day, in all our interactions, value is created with everyone we deal with, in both matter and spirit, while we all pursue the happiness and life that is ours for the making. Happy LifeCelebMaking! EDIT: So what do you say when finally your turn arrives? Without being too picky about what thankfulness IS (to whom?) and the little cognitive white lie of actually using the term in order to ignore the concept's "inadequacies", the story could proceed as follows: Finally, after your uncle quips something about being thankful for Scotch, with his disarmingly odd smile, and looks your way, you stand up, and raising your glass, you clear your throat, and smile thoughtfully, "To be honest, I'm 'thankful' for this moment in time, a moment to celebrate life and all its bounty, to say how proud I am of us and all of you and everything we and each of us has accomplished and become, and I'm 'thankful' for the opportunity to reflect and resolve to go forward pursuing the happiness and the life that is all, each of ours for the making, and it is you, all of you, I 'thank' for being here, all together, for making this moment and opportunity possible. Thank you!"
  7. 3 points
    For one, that's the liberal left. The Communist left does not like identity politics and engages in class warfare. For the sake of identifying threats properly, you need to know who you're arguing against - we don't want to fight Communism by fighting liberals. The racial stuff is mostly liberal, filled with contradictions. The more important thing to do, at least when making arguments, is to state the position rationally. It would be better to dismantle an ideology alongside an alternative, rather than only point out stupid ideas. If people don't engage you, that's their problem. By doing that, you attract persuadable individuals. Yes, they exist. There's no need to say you'd need a therapist to do that. Appeals to rationality are appeals to people who might care, even the minority of good people who in fact will make a difference. Appeals with memes attracts the lowest common denominator, the people who don't care to think deeply. Sure, they are amusing sometimes, maybe even correct. The issue is that they are still shallow. This is what propaganda relies on, hoping you don't care where it came from, getting you to think the issue is as simple as the image. This is fine to a small degree as motivation where an issue really is that simple. Except, Nazis get that the issue is complex. So they simplify. Make it sound benign. Let people who don't know better keep saying IOTBW, they won't know the point is to slowly make white identity seem important and dominate the race war. No, most people who say IOTBW aren't neo-Nazis. That's the point. It hides the fact that neo-Nazis are running that dialogue. It makes the phrase defendable. An important thesis of Objectivism is that philosophy drives the course of history. It matters where ideas come from. It matters that IOTBW is from neo-Nazis. For this reason, we need a better strategy than to regurgitate a neo-Nazi phrase. The worst reply would be to say you don't care where IOTBW came from. You'd be saying origins of ideas don't matter.
  8. 3 points
    A man from deserts afar wrote this as he gazed to the stars: "There is no greater love than that which comes from god above. Pray the Lord your soul to keep do not thine understanding seek." A boy from Georgia read that book but never took a deeper look. If God's love was real inside this boy, Then why did it seem to steal his joy? He could not feel this god above. He did not know the truth of love. Was lost as those around him said, "You'll find your heaven in the end." For years he searched, blind and sad. Was love in this world not to be had? A woman from tundra afar wrote this as she gazed to the stars: "There is no greater love than what a man for himself does. Pull pride and reason off the shelf and let your guidance be yourself." The lost boy, then a man become Knew that his search was now done. He felt the love inside his soul; for his own sake, he was made whole. For the first time since his birth, he could have heaven here on earth. No waiting on a realm unseen, when this world can fulfill man's dreams. There is no greater love than this: to live life here in selfish bliss.
  9. 3 points
    I don't think philosophy is all that dissimilar to other ideas through history: man made flight, electricity, combustion engine etc., etc. All these ideas became popular because they resulted in worthwhile concretes. They weren't ideas the general public could've successfully been presented with, in theory alone. There was a need for concrete achievements, to go along with the ideas themselves. So that's the key: to go along with all the activism, people who like the ideas should live good lives, and that achievement will cause interest in the ideas that shaped that life. That doesn't mean activism is useless, but activists need to be conscious of the full range of their communication: both the intended and the unintended messages. For instance, an Oist activist focused on pointing out the flaws of the political system may think he's just communicating political ideas, but, in reality, to the average person, he projects a sense of isolation and even fatalism (us vs. them, as SN put it). When there's a contradiction between a more concrete and a more abstract message, people (rightfully) give more weight to the former. So that activist is hurting more than he's helping. To effectively control the message, and only communicate what he intends to, an activist needs to be well versed in communication and dedicated to the work full time. Even if you're naturally charismatic and an effective leader in your day job, it's not enough. Your message, no matter how convincing, can still be presented selectively, or misrepresented, by others (both in the traditional media and on social media). So you still have to be deliberate about everything you do and discerning about who you talk to...and that takes a lot of expertise and tedious research. Just to be clear: you don't have to be "fun", charming, or even nice and friendly, to be an effective communicator. Trump's an effective communicator...I doubt even his minions would ever accuse him of any of those four things. But you need to be aware of the times when you might be perceived as unhappy or a pessimist (as well as of the many other unintended messages we send out on a daily basis).
  10. 3 points
    I think this smuggles in the premise that pursuing survival (the 'pure' type) would never require you to temporarily diminish your momentary wellbeing for the sake of increased survival later on. In reality, pursuing survival pretty much requires you to incur 'hits' to your momentary survival. As the norm, I might add. A while ago I heard an anecdote by Harry Binswanger in which Ayn Rand was arguing with somebody who denied the law of Identity (A=A) on the grounds that a moving object has no particular spatial position. Every time you look at the object, it is in a different position, so where is it? Ayn Rand replied that the particular object isn't anywhere, it is in transition. Its identity is that it is changing its location. I think that the same thing can be applied to ethics. In fact, it was captured by Rand in her definition of life: 'A process of self-sustaining, self-generated action'. While it may appear a stationary definition, it is exactly the opposite. Survival is not merely a process of staying alive - it is a constant, never ending departure from your current position to a better state. This fact seems to have a expression in the way our brains are made: once you get where you want, you always have to move higher and higher, because you become progressively desensitized to what you currently have. If you suddenly find yourself without intellectual challenge, or doing the same things over and over, you become bored out of your mind. A lot of enjoyment is derived from the process of moving forward itself, from gaining values as well as enjoying values. Just to be clear, I agree with SL (and even Kelley) that flourishing is not the goal of life. To sunder the two is to ignore the hierarchy: life -> value -> survival -> moving forward (flourshing). Ayn Rand understood survival to be a state of transition from a lower state of robustness to a higher one. Death is also a state of transition, which is why you can't judge somebody's course by the claim that he is 'happy'. If his happiness is a slow march into the Lion's den, he's wilfully undergoing a process of slow death, no matter how well he tends to his physical health in the meantime. The excessive prudence that the' survivalist' displays is the result of his Gryllsian view of survival. He don't see the fact that life is actually a broad timeline filled with factors that cannot be separated from each other. Flourishers, on the other hand, tend to speak on the unstated, or unidentified premise that reality is full of things that conflict with survival while enabling flourishing. The flourishing-survival dichotomy is similar to the classical variants of the mind-body break: love vs sex, percepts vs. concepts. In reality, the thrill seeking & cool things that flourishers say they want to do (insteading of being tied to the 'boring' survivalist view) ARE what survival entails. A lack of pleasure and excitement is anti-life in the sense that it moves you away from survival and proper functioning. Rand captured this in the virtue of Pride: a person of unsundered rationality not only has the best life possible to him at any given moment in time, but he's also necessarily in a state of 'transition' to even higher self-esteem, wealth, health etc. Stilness means death, in the sense that every time somebody tries to remain where he already is ('freezing' his survival in place), he is actively hurting his survival, not maintaining it. In the example above, the hero does not gain five years of life by giving up his dream. Instead, he becomes spiritualy diseased. A person who shortens his life for a fuller experience does not forfeit survival, he acts exclusively on the principle of survival. This is not a negation of A=A. Ayn Rand was clear that the standard of value is survival as a specific kind of being. Survival as man does not mean merely longevity. It means pleasure, challenge, hobbies, love, art, friendship, constantly moving forward and other factors relevant to what he is. The values that man needs qua man are his actual means to longevity. A lot of people turn longevity into a contextless standard and then proceed to seek it in ways that not only hurts their own goal, but makes them survive not as men, but as diseased forms of life. Ayn Rand used the term 'metaphysical monstruosity' in Galt's Speech, and gave the example of a bird struggling to break its own wings, or a plant trying to destroy its own roots. So we can identfiy yet another dichotomy here: the longevity vs identity dichotomy. I think Rand would have agreed with me, since she put some examples in her books. For example, the before-mention Galt suicide threat, which appears in the same book as Galt's speech. Surely she must have counted on the fact that Galt's actions would shed some context on her abstract presentation. Galt is not choosing between death (suicide) and survival. He is choosing between two different types of death: by slow torture, or instantaneous. Galt is not motivated by any flourishing-survival dichotomy. His best use of reason told him that he has legitimate grounds to be 100% convinced that his life would become a living embodiment of precisely the thing that his own ethical code condemned. So paradoxically, his suicide over Dagny was a statement of a moral choice, in total agreement with survival qua man. There are legitimate cases where a change to a different course really isn't possible. Let's look at Galt. He longed for Dagny for a decade, a process that slowly imprinted her into his psyche as each day passed. Every time he had trouble getting motivated, he used her as fuel. He watched her go into the beds of two men he admired. He then got her, but.. what if she died at the hands of a bunch of petty people that represent what he despises the most? 10 years of striving and emotional investment, negated in an instant. A decade of his life, wasted. He probably understood the repercussions on his psychology that her death would have caused. He would lose desire to do anything, no matter how heroically he'd try to get on track. Implying he then wasted 5 more years in depression, and that eventually his desire for women returned, what competiton would there be? If another mercilessly-rational woman with the brains and character to build the John Galt line in a collapsing country was around, he would have known about her. For him, it's either the vice-president or nothing. It would haunt him forever. So, contra SL, I would say that sometimes, but not always, 'pursuing a different dream' can be anti-life. I will go on a limb and say that the pure survivalist, Kelley-type position is really the absolute same as the flourisher position, when all of the factors are brought into question. The most ardent Flourisher is actually the most ardent, pure and bare-bones Survivalist. And all 'self-actualization'-based ethical systems are useless unless people understand that self-actualization is not an intrinsic end in itself, but the effect, the natural result of a survivalist ethics. The alternative is accidentaly pursuing 'self-actualization' in a way that goes against its root (survival), which leads to consequences that are too obvious to mention. The self-realization vs survival dichotomy.
  11. 3 points

    Donald Trump

    A philosophy of Objectivism that distorts itself and compromises its principles for the sake of wider acceptance is not what I want. Have children and raise them rationally, that is one method that can help gain some additional practitioners without compromising.
  12. 3 points
    Okay, in the spirit of the OP's request, this is my two cents: There is the psychological plane of existence, the experience of life, pain pleasure, happiness. Then there is the epistemological plane, the abstraction of life, the concept of flourishing and the moral code. And then the metaphysical plane, the organism, existence or nonexistence. From the metaphysical plane, the main thing that I learned from Rand was that there was no "my reality" vs. "your reality". There was just reality and the search for the truth is honorable. From the psychological/experiential plane: Objectivism taught me that I have a right to my life. I understood that when someone calls me selfish "they want something". I learned to strive for greatness rather than strive to look great. I found that if I held onto things that didn't make sense, if I went along for too long, I suddenly drowned in anxiety. I learned that living as a parasite can creep up on people. Objectivism gave me a path to follow to find my way back, to happiness. She awoke me to the existence of unearned guilt. I learn that when I have a sense of having achieved something, the pleasure was moral, it was good. And of course, I learned that the good was not what religion said and what a majority believed did not mean wisdom. Ultimately, with her attack on altruism, I learned that defining my boundaries, determining who I am and what I want was my fundamental responsibility and a never-ending task. She reminded me that the merging and melding with others, at the cost of my core self, was being dead before my time. And in the process, I have fought to hold on to who I am, to be myself. And now, I am here to learn what I put aside for later.
  13. 3 points

    Why Objectivism is so unpopular

    I think the problem really starts because self-improvement is not the focus. I think you're both right. The outward/political focus versus self-improvement or the pursuit of personal happiness, and also the combative style... though not necessarily so much Rand's (though that's part of the issue), as that of Objectivists who try to ape her style. In my experience, most Objectivists have no idea how to talk to people outside of the Objectivist community, and no apparent desire to try to distinguish those who might be fundamentally open to reason, yet mistaken on one or several points. How to talk to people, to discuss ideas, to persuade -- both within and outside of Objectivism -- is a topic that is not only under-explored, but is regarded with outright suspicion by some. Some people seem content to pass moral judgement and condemn others to hell, rather than the (admittedly more difficult) project of examining their own methods of communication. I have found that many Objectivists have the reputation of being "assholes"; so much so that it's arguably regarded as characteristic. I don't think it's even undeserved. But it doesn't have to be so. I've known many utterly pleasant and polite Objectivists, and I see no reason why someone cannot be both correct and nice. Even our expressions of anger, where merited, can stand critical examination and improvement. Above all, I think that empathy is a vital characteristic (I would not go so far as to say that it is a "virtue," because I am not prepared for the argument -- but I'm not dismissing it either). I've used this analogy before, and I think it still serves: Objectivists have the best product on the market. We have truth. We have reason and reality on our side -- and despite what you may have heard (and despite humanity's checkered history), reason and reality are fairly persuasive forces. They keep all of us alive, every day, and have formed the basis for all of humanity's many achievements. So despite everything we're working against (deeply ingrained cultural forces, including academia, the media, and political institutions), I think Objectivism stands poised to remake the world. What we need -- what any great product needs -- is sales. We need to examine and re-examine (and re-examine again) our means and methods of communicating our ideas to a world which is frankly starving for reason, for peace, for happiness. We must continue to improve upon our approach until we succeed.
  14. 3 points

    White Supremacist Protest Violence

    There's a meta aspect to this White Supremacist vs. BLM argument, which one sees repeatedly in similar fights across time and geography: Protestant vs. Catholic in Ireland, Hindu vs. Muslim along the Indo-Pakistan border, and many other such conflicts. The aspect is this: the more extreme elements are a small minority around which there is a larger set of people who identify with them to some extent. If one considers the larger group, people on both sides have different ideas, but would likely move closer toward each other's position if they would talk, would probably be willing to talk, and would likely be able to find a workable solution even while disagreeing. However, the extremes are the loudest voices, and this keeps the (larger) group around them polarized, rather than listening and attempting to understand the situation rationally. Often, there will be some specific issue that the larger groups disagree on: it could be confederacy statues in this case, it could be cows and pigs in another case, it could be religious affirmative action in another. The more extreme elements will take an all-or-nothing position, and that's the loudest position. If members of the larger group around them say anything else, they're branded as traitors to the cause. On top of this, the extreme elements on both sides will try to provoke physical violations: perhaps using police to enforce what they want, perhaps using private thugs, or perhaps using violence against members of the "enemy" group. This is further polarizing. Once the battle reaches a certain point where people think dialog isn't going to get them anywhere -- because the opposition will use violence in response -- then they do the "rational thing" by cheering on when their own side uses violence. From one perspective, white supremacists almost do not exist; from another, millions of white supremacists are out there. If we're speaking of people who want to get rid of blacks, they're a tiny minority. If we threw them all in jail, we'd still have disproportionately more black folk in jails. However, if we expand the definition to include people who think there's probably something biological/genetic about black people that makes them inferior, we now have a slightly bigger set. If we expand this further to include people who think there's probably something cultural about many black people that makes them inferior (in effect, even if not inevitably), then we have a pretty big set: many millions across all states. Similarly, the set of people who think these statues should stay up is far larger than the racist hard-core. If nobody addresses their views and their arguments with words, it is no surprise they will give a secret, guilty thumbs up to the thugs enforcing their wishes with force. It is also no surprise that they will point to the thugs on the other side as their primary argument.
  15. 2 points
    Bertrand Russell ( 1872 -1970 ) famed British mathematician and philosopher once remarked to a large lecture audience at Cambridge that “....nobody can be certain of anything!” contrary to his insistence on previous occasions that mathematical knowledge was a certain and a provable science. He wasn't being funny. He of course was being very serious. How his epistamology changed we can only speculate but his lecture did proclaim to the whole world that no absolutes can exist, the tree you see or the car you drive or the meal you eat is not real, forgetting substanuously and unknowingly that he was uttering an absolute of his own.This type of evasion is like stating that the pursuit of knowledge is not only fruitless but pointless at best:that reality is unknowable, that the syllogism is corruptible and prone to error and that thee brain doesn't work; therefore rendering the mind impotent. If one accepts Russell’s quotation above as true, the logical conclusion would be that, if nobody can be certain of anything then everybody can be certain of everything that he pleases. Since nothing can be refuted anything and everything would be permissible. In politics this is called the “double twist” used to confuse voters into accepting facts that are not only untrue but to fall into the condition where a voter voluntarily gives up his independent judgement and concedes to the politician in question that he/she must know something better/more than I do (regardless of the true facts) This is the biggest reason America is falling into an ever lowering ring of fatalism that she may not be able to recover from and that my fellow Objectivists would truly be a shame.
  16. 2 points

    All About Evasion

    I've threatened to do this for quite some time... so I guess now is as good a time as any. There's been some discussion on this topic recently, and I'm not opposed to importing quotes -- but for this OP, I'd like to start fresh. I don't have a particular thesis or argument, but I would like to explore the topic of "evasion," and importantly how it intersects with ethics. That is, given "evasion" (however we conceive of it, though obviously that's central to the discussion) what do we do about it? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in others? How do we recognize and deal with evasion in ourselves. Let me back up for a moment. The first time I ever dealt with evasion, and recognized it as such, was long before reading Rand/discovering Objectivism. I'm sure I didn't use the word "evasion" to describe the phenomenon -- probably something like "denial" would have been quicker to my mind -- but I was debating the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden with a Christian friend of mine, and I wished to make a point by reference to the text of Genesis. I didn't have a copy on-hand, but I was certain that my friend must keep a copy (and we were at his home). I asked him to break out his Bible, so that I could demonstrate the textual basis of my argument -- show that the Bible really did say what I claimed that it did -- and... my friend refused. He did not want to look at the Bible, to see whether I was right or wrong. He didn't want to know. Now, I know that many people will think that this is besides the point. "Evasion" is an internal phenomenon, a subconscious phenomenon, and so it is. You can't see it happen. I agree. But I have come to believe that evasion often has surface features and effects which may be recognized and addressed. It's kind of like a "tell" in poker: you can't see the other person's cards, but you can see their reaction to their cards, and often people have a characteristic reaction, depending on their hand. That is information, and just like any information, we can try to make sense of it through our best use of reason (bearing in mind the context that we may easily make mistakes in doing so; and sometimes you bet in poker on the basis of what you think you know, and lose). Usually, this doesn't take the form of someone specifically refusing to look at something -- refusing to look through the proverbial (or literal) telescope -- though sometimes it does. But especially through a long history of debate and conversation, on this forum and elsewhere, what I've found is more often a pronounced reluctance or resistance to specific argument. There are untold arguments where someone has made a claim of, "I will get to that point soon," and then they never, ever do. Not even if it is brought up time and again, or made a point of emphasis. This is not, in itself, proof of anything, let alone "evasion," but especially in context I consider it my best means of determining when a partner in conversation is focused and oriented (in the manner that they would need to be to determine their own error, should I be correct) or otherwise. When examples go unaddressed, when my arguments are paraphrased incorrectly (sometimes wildly so), when questions are asked but never answered, and so forth, it is all information that helps me to see whether someone is engaging with the discussion... or perhaps deflecting it. And then, in myself, I wonder: how should I know it, if I evade? Because I take it for granted (though perhaps I shouldn't) that a person does not have conscious awareness of his own evasion; if he had conscious awareness, it wouldn't be evasion. That's what makes it so damned troublesome! What I have found in others, I look for in myself. I look for the effects of evasion, rather than counting on my ability to detect it, as such (or rather than what I fear most do, which is to implicitly assume that I am the only human on earth somehow immune to evasion, of my nature). When I feel reluctant to address some argument or answer some question directly, I try to make it a point of emphasis to do exactly what I am initially disinclined to do. If a question is asked of me, and I fear that my answer will somehow put me at a rhetorical disadvantage, because my instinctive answer somehow "sounds bad" for me or the point I'm trying to make, I consider it doubly important to answer the question directly, and to try to assess whether what I consider a "rhetorical disadvantage" isn't actually just me being wrong about something. I may also choose to answer such a question at length, in an attempt to explain myself more fully, or provide the proper context for interpreting my answer, but I don't let it pass unaddressed because it seems "easier" or feels more comfortable. I fear that those emotional cues, sometimes, may actually be symptoms of an attempt at evasion. For as I'd recently mentioned elsewhere, I have come to regard evasion as a sort of psychological self-defense mechanism. I think no one is immune. When I try to imagine the extremes of evasion, what I come up with is something like "dissociative identity disorder." To be very honest, I'm not certain whether that's a real phenomenon or not (or the extent, at least, of its "reality"). But suppose that it is. My layman's perspective on it is that it might make sense for a person, in a given context, to "go to war with reality" to some certain extent in order to preserve one's sanity otherwise. To pretend that some outrageous forms of abuse (especially in early childhood) are not truly happening to the self, but "someone else." It is a desperate measure in the face of the truly horrendous, and it portends a lifetime of difficulty and recovery, but in some cases it might still be better than the alternative. I think that, to lesser or greater extents, evasion is a subconscious means of such self or "ego" preservation. With my Christian friend (and I sorely wish that I had this level of insight then), it's worth asking: what would he need to defend? What vested interest does a teenager (as we both were) have in the details of the story of bleeding Genesis, such that his emotions would scream at him to avoid looking at his own professed Holy Book? Well, only everything. He'd been raised Christian, in a Christian family, in a Christian community. Though it may not be so simple as this, he regarded his own understanding of the universe -- and his own morality, his own self -- as being based upon his beliefs in the Bible. So... if he were wrong about that, even to the smallest degree, what would that mean for... his beliefs about literally everything else? What would it mean for his regard for his family, for his friends, for himself (in that he had been so thoroughly taken in)? Having been so wrong about this, how could he ever again trust himself going forward? It's an immensity to consider. And I think that this lies at the heart of the pushback against thought, against evidence, that evasion fundamentally represents. Our survival, our happiness, our lives and all that this represents, depends upon our ability to think, and to be right. And so the possibility of being wrong (and sometimes thoroughly wrong) feels like an attack on our very lives. Evasion, then, is the fear of pain that being wrong, and all that it entails, made manifest at the subconscious level... and then represented at the conscious level by emotional reactions and biases that shade our responses, choices and actions, whether it be something so striking and obvious as an explicit "refusal to look," or something so subtle as an indirect answer to a direct question. Beyond looking for the "tells" I'd mentioned, resolving to answer questions directly, and etc., what can one do to fight against this tendency? I think that some of my conscious convictions have helped (or at least, so I hope). My conviction, for instance, that being wrong is no moral crime. That it is, in fact, a wondrous joy to discover my own errors -- not a slight against my ego or value, but a tribute to my ability and intelligence. This is how I have come to view debate and argument, not as a contest between enemies, but as a collaboration between allies. I do not feel put off by challenging material; I am drawn to it. (And indeed, I read Rand initially, not because I thought she would agree with me or provide me with some defense of already-held arguments... but because I thought she would disagree with me utterly, and I looked forward to the project of identifying her errors!) There is an analogy to be made here with my experience of playing games with my daughter. She does not like to lose. Of course. Nobody does. But over the course of my life -- and reflective of what I hope to instill in her early on -- I have come to view losing at games (or "failures" more generally) as being instrumental to the course of improvement... and eventual winning/success. So it is with being wrong. We are all wrong, at times. We are all probably wrong, right now, with respect to some of our beliefs. It is no moral failure to be wrong about things. But the right way of viewing this, in my opinion, is to deeply value the experience of being proved wrong. To then put ourselves in the best position possible to be proved wrong, and to embrace that feeling, embrace the difficult emotions associated with a stern challenge to one's ego, as being part of the true path towards success. And then, also, to look for the concrete manifestations that I have mentioned -- and seek out and discover others, and amend our actions accordingly. It ain't easy. I'm not always successful, either. But I believe that it's the key to addressing one's own evasion and pushing past it to discover and embrace the truth.
  17. 2 points

    The Royal Family of Nominalism

    I completely agree with this. They usually provide two (mutually contradictory) justifications for why nobody can contradict them: 1) From evolutionary psychology: the idea that this "feeling" (actually: identification) of who they are is obtained through genes or some means other than perception. Such inheritance can be random, is not derived from reality and may eventually be discovered to be in conflict with physical reality. They may claim that they are physically a man but their brain comes with the identification that they are a woman. Since the identification is obtained through means other than perception and "cannot be helped", they claim that these identifications (of themselves as male or female) are as valid as a person whose genetic consciousness is "cis" (people who get a transmitted consciousness which identifies their biological sex correctly but don't have a choice in their identification either, since that part of the consciousness [which identifies their own biological sex] is transmitted genetically and is not derived from perception). 2) The idea that gender has nothing to do with biological sex and is a social convention. Under this paradigm, gender is a man-made concept. Hence, it is arbitrary. Hence, they're all equally valid. The concepts are considered to be derived from reality but in a loose sense: through social agreement. What is considered is "normal" or correct is also part of this agreement and has no basis in reality and must be fought. The latter argument can also be applied to all concepts: all concepts are man-made (true) and hence, arbitrary (false) but are given meaning and made "real" by society (false). Both justifications cut off consciousness (identification) from reality (one says identifications are hereditary; other says they are arbitrary.) and they contradict each other. There are still more (less important) arguments. Definitions: sex and gender are two different concepts but your sex determines your gender. Some heuristic definitions can be given: sex: biological sex of all animals gender: biological sex of humans male sex: male & animal female sex: female & animal male gender = male & human female gender = female & human man = male & human & 18+ boy = male & human & 18- woman = female & human & 18+ girl = female & human & 18- For example, a cow is female but not a woman. A bull is male but not a man. This is the only distinction between sex and gender. Humans can be referred to by their sex as well as gender. Your biological sex and the fact that you are human (and hence your gender) are determined by your physiology and is not an arbitrary choice open to debate. Note: saying something like "that female offered me candy" is a bit dehumanizing so the latter is more preferred [gender contains the implication that you are human]. But both are correct. This doesn't mean that gender has any additional special non-physiological attributes. Gender is preferred over sex (when referring to people) for the same reason that "those gay men are playing in the field" is preferred over "those gays are playing in the field". The only thing gender adds to sex (and "gay men" adds to "gays") is personhood (the fact that you are human). The addition (of personhood) makes sure that you are not reduced to your biological sex or sexual orientation while somebody else is referring to your biological sex or sexual orientation. It is a respectful way of addressing people (but it is not a title or indication of social status as some "constructionists" would want you to believe). There is no mystical undefinable element. Gender is a respectful way of referring to a person's biological sex by including the fact that they are human. The same thing happens with "gay men" or "gay person" as opposed to just "gays". Both sex and gender refer to biological sex but for different classes of species. Sometimes the word "man" refers to all humans emphasizing the personhood and getting rid of the biological sex. This is more evidence that what the words man/woman add to the table is the concept of being human, not some BS social convention. Also, English isn't my first language, but this is how I understand these words (male, female, man, boy, woman, girl). It seems extremely simple to me. But pretty much all native speakers seem to have some problems with this. I don't understand what their objections are to this (I have heard some say that since gender roles are made-up and different throughout the world [eg: marumakkathayam in Kerala], the concept of gender is false. That's faulty logic. Gender and gender roles are two separate concepts. The validity of gender roles has no implications for the validity of the concept of gender). To summarize: gender is a different concept from sex (which is broader) but if you are human, your sex determines your gender.
  18. 2 points
    Fraud A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner. Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner’s consent, under false pretenses or false promises. This is a perfectly legitimate identification of an indirect use of physical force. A civil mechanism, authorized to use retaliatory force once breach of contract or fraud is established in order to neutralize the indirect force initiated by the perpetrator via refusing to give up physical possession of the material value.
  19. 2 points

    What are you listening at the moment?

    I've been into Johnny Cash' American Recordings, the last few weeks. Especially "Help Me", off his final album. It's a very religious collection of songs, this one especially...but just so ridiculously, brilliantly touching, from a man mourning his soulmate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv4i4t2hj2I It's one of his many Kris Kristofferson covers. I think Kris wrote most of his truly great songs. But John made them eternal...especially this song would've been totally forgotten.
  20. 2 points
    Regi F.

    What is Subjectivity?

    The question of, "What is Subjectivity?," has two answers, because the same word, "subjective," refers to two different things. The first refers to the nature of consciousness itself. Every conscious experience is subjective in the sense that it cannot be known to anyone except the individual having the conscious experience. Whatever one consciously perceives by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling it, or their perception of their own body by interoception, or their consciousness of their own thinking and feelings, are subjective experiences, because they cannot be known or examined or detected by anyone else. Every individual consciousness, in that sense, is totally subjective and private and beyond the ability of anyone else to perceive or know it. The other meaning of subjective pertains to how one thinks and makes their choices and is based on the difference between objective and subjective. The objective refers to the reality all conscious individuals perceive, however they perceive it. It is called objective reality because it exists and has the nature it has independently of anyone's consciousness or knowledge of it. It is that objective reality that determines what is true and not true. Objective, in contrast to subjective, means allowing nothing but one's knowledge of objective reality to be one's guide in all one's thinking and choices. Subjective, in that sense, means allowing one's own subjective experiences, their whims, their feelings, their desires, prejudices or sentiments to influence or determine what they think, believe, and choose, in defiance or ignorance of objective truth. Randy
  21. 2 points
    I can't quite agree that her starting point is question begging. It would seem to me that there is a set of principle data that the philosopher starts off with in every branch. A sort of foundation that any philosopher as such starts out with. The metaphysician starts by outward look at things and noticing that there is something rather than nothing, that he is a something, that he has questions. The epistemologist starts off with noticing that he has been correct sometimes, and incorrect other times, that he has selective awareness, that being wrong has consequences for him, and that he doesn't not automatically know which things are correct and incorrect. Unless he had noticed that he has fallen into error, he would not have reason to examine the processes that led him there. If we had a mode of operation that provided us with automatic knowledge, then we wouldn't need to distinguish between certitude and error, and thus wouldn't need epistemology. The ethicist proceeds in a similar manner. The ethicist must start from the fact of human action, that we deliberate between alternatives, say A or B, that we can't not act as long as we are alive and awake, and that our actions have consequences for us. Asking "why do we need ethics at all" is, in my view the exact right question. After all, maybe we don't need ethics, if we were provided with automatic action we wouldn't need to deliberate between alternatives. Or maybe our action automatically is aimed at life-sustainment or some other end. Rand follows Aristotle in starting with examining the concept of action, and differentiating between vegetative action, sensitive action (animals), and deliberative action. She does differentiate between types of action, volitional and non. Analyzing human action is just about the most non question begging way to start off ethics. In that she defines it as code of values, she doesn't mean values in a normative sense. As Smith points out, sometimes she uses "value" as "that which one ought to act for" and value as "that which one acts to gain/keep." But regardless, when she defines ethics as a code of values, value just definitionally refering to the object of action. "Values," descriptively, are interchangeable with "ends." Thus, saying it's a code of values is simply recognizing that man acts to attain ends, and deliberates about them. True there is deontology, divine command, consequentialism, emotivism, nihilism, Stoicism, all sorts of different codes, and that code man needs could be any of these things. But all of these things has to start out with the principle data, that the philosopher notices that man acts to attain ends (values), and has no automatic guide to them. This, I see as Rand's reformulating the first line of the Nicomachean Ethics, that every inquiry and activity aims at some good, into more modern language.
  22. 2 points
    "Virtue is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own reward or sacrificial fodder for the reward of evil. Life is the reward of virtue—and happiness is the goal and the reward of life." -John Galt (from John Galt's speech) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  23. 2 points

    Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I would go so far as to say almost all values (I am adhering here to the objective theory of values) in fact ARE instrumental, imho all but one value is instrumental, instrumental to the only value which is at once both an end in itself and a choice: life.
  24. 2 points
    Now that the meaning is sorted out, I have a question: what are the implications of the distinction? Is it possible that what is good -- in principle and always -- for each and every individual, is actually not good for me? If yes, could you provide an example. If not, are there additional things that are good for me, but not always good for each and every individual? I doubt this is possible as long as one expresses the latter abstractly enough, like "take the specific medicine related to your specific disease" , or even something more abstract like "take appropriate medicine when appropriate" For additional clarity, it might help to focus on some sub-set of human endeavor: say car maintenance. Is it possible that "good car maintenance" is at odds with "the maintenance that my particular car -- with all its idiosyncrasies -- needs"?
  25. 2 points

    The value of apologizing

    What you say is accurate, but I think the benefits of saying sorry are much bigger than what's being mentioned here. I find that when I say sorry on a frequent basis (and I make mistakes every single day), it inspires courage. I'm not afraid of being wrong, because I can trust myself to correct my mistakes. Because I know I'll make mistakes and can correct them, I can steam ahead and crash into walls and have the resiliency to get up very fast. I'm also not very worried about hurting people, because many times after I've hurt them and say sorry, the relationship to that person is actually improved. In other words, it's better to hurt them, acknowledge the mistake and fix it, then not taking any action at all. Saying sorry has so many benefits. Another is that the internal fear of being "discovered" goes away. "What if someone finds out" becomes a though of the past, and instead there comes the pride of "yes, I did this, and I stand by it, because I've corrected my mistake". So I'd say; make heaps of mistakes, learn from it, apologize, and go full throttle. Life is short, make the most of it. You cannot drive a formula 1 car with a lot of weights hanging behind it. Fix errors and move on.