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Phoenix

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  1. Just wondering what everyone else thinks of these two films: The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The Incredibles is one that I often hear promoted as a work of individualism. On the surface, and at the beginning of the movie, I can see why this conclusion might seem justifiable, but anyone who's watched the film from beginning to end would realize this is not the case. Near the beginning of the movie, the main conflict is that the Incredible family's talents are being suppressed by a bureaucratic society. They are not legally permitted to use their superpowers, and Mr Incredible, a former superhero, is reduced to working in insurance claims. He and his wife, in their naive attempts to "fit in" in society, encourage their children to hide their talents and refuse to profit from them. This could be the setup of a brilliant film, and after the first ten minutes or so, I was extremely excited to see where the story would go next. However, it all fell apart when the main villain was introduced, Syndrome. The "evil plot" of this man, which the Incredible family must foil? Legally selling devices on the free market that would enable all people to obtain superpowers. The justification for their stopping him, which made me literally groan out loud, was "if everyone's super, then no one will be." The unanswered question, of course, is why it is important that there is a hierarchy of talents in society as long as no one is sacrificed. This seems to me like nothing short of crypto-racism. On the other hand, Ratatouille is sometimes maligned because of its admittedly ridiculous premise -- that of a rat working in a gourmet restaurant. But the premise is the setup for one of the many gratifying moral messages within the film -- in this case, "anyone is capable of success, as long as he or she is willing to put in the effort." The rat, Remy, comes from a large clan of rats where his special talent, a heightened sense of smell and taste, is considered worthless until it is realized that it can be used to detect poisons, at which point he is put to work sniffing food for potential toxins. Remy wants to be a gourmet chef, and idolizes Chef Gusteau, a chef whose motto, when he was alive, was "anyone can cook". (It's obvious from the context that this does not mean that anyone's cooking, at any time, is acceptable, but that anyone, if he or she is willing to have exacting standards, can learn to cook well.) He also disagrees with his family's sole method of acquiring food, theft -- he wants to consume only what he's produced himself. To that end, he runs away to Paris where, through a long series of (frankly hilarious) events, he learns to communicate with a busboy in Gusteau's now-failing restaurant, and uses his skills as a chef to help restore it to its former glory. I won't get into all the plot details here, but it's one of the funniest and most uplifting movies I have ever seen, and I strongly recommend it.
  2. Another member expressed reservations about this line in the chat room, too. I now understand that I phrased it poorly. Although the mind evolved to sustain the body, I believe that we use the body to sustain the mind, because the self is per se the mind. I don't think this is the mind/body dichotomy: a disembodied mind is contextless and impossible, and the mind and body are not in opposition. The body is a tool of the mind. I am my mind and my mind is me, but the same is not true of my body. I am just as much myself if I lose my arm, but not if I lose one of my cognitive faculties. FYI I have no idea what Ayn Rand had to say about this, if anything, so please feel free to introduce some quotes on the subject. Would "The self is the end to which all actions aim" be sufficient?
  3. I'm interested in some feedback on this, my statement of purpose for application to the Objectivist Academic Centre. It's not finished, so the end is not intended to be a conclusion. Tips, pointers, advice, all welcome. Emily Dickinson wrote that "the brain is wider than the sky", referring to its ability to engage the broadest abstraction and the most minuscule concrete. The mechanism of this, the most marvelous machine in the universe, has remained entirely unclear until very recently in human history -- and even now, the veil is only beginning to be lifted. The nature of the human brain and the human mind in turn is the key to unlocking both our own natures, allowing humans to reach the fullest heights of our potential, and the nature of intelligence itself, allowing us to build better machines which can accomplish more for human ends. The field of cognitive science, as an interdisciplinary field combining philosophy and psychology, is the root of all answers to the problem of how to live on Earth. An objective knowledge of what human beings are and how they must live is necessary to determining how those goals must be accomplished. It is with this fervent belief that I have chosen to make cognitive science my subject of study in university, and pursue a career in writing and research in this area. The mind is the end to which all actions aim, whether that aim is creation or destruction. A human can choose actions that strengthen, train and nurture his or her mind or she can choose actions that degrade and malnourish her mind -- it is a strict dichotomy: one cannot avoid one outcome or the other. Having a mind is like the Red Queen's race, in which one must run to stay in place. Without constant production, discipline and effort, the brain stagnates and fails. I choose to run. I choose creation, and I choose to fight to rescue the mind from those who would deny its existence, cripple its functioning or diminish its importance, whether in religion and mysticism, in the scheme of "behavioural economics," or in environmentalist nihilism. The ideas of Ayn Rand and her intellectual heirs are the only rational means available to conquer the fear, darkness and uncertainty of mind-denial and flood it with the light of consciousness. The OAC will be the education I never had, and may never otherwise have due to my attendance in public schools and a fully collectivist-altruist university. I am paying for a degree to learn the tools of my trade, to learn how experts in this field think so that I can separate the wheat from the chaff -- but to learn the task of separating wheat from chaff, I require instruction that no university I know of can give.
  4. This is a good time in my life. At 20 years old, I'm finally graduating high school and moving on to university, after years of struggling with depression that interfered with my studies. I'm also becoming more interested in Objectivism and applying to study at the Objectivist Academic Centre this summer. That's why I chose the username "Phoenix" -- to symbolize my rebirth from my own self-immolation. I still don't consider myself an Objectivist (don't know enough about the epistemology, have issues with AR's account of concept formation blablabla) but I'm becoming less and less able to tolerate interaction with anyone other than Objectivists. I'm in desperate need of some like minds, which is why I joined this forum. I found it on a Google search about the practical problems of roads in a free market, and I was impressed with the knowledgeability, insight and level-headedness of the members. I look forward to getting to know you all better.
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