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rdenoncourt

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    Rich Denoncourt
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  1. So, I'm thinking about going to graduate school in English literature. I already have professors who will recommend me and I know that I want to study romantic realism. Any ideas of professors savvy in this field who teach at respectable universities? Know of any good programs? What about other paths that will support an interest in romantic realism? I want to start looking around as soon as possible. Thanks.
  2. I thought the people on this forum could help me out. I'm a big Ayn Rand aficionado and am looking for other writers who present Objectivist (specifically capitalist) themes in any of their short stories or poems. They could be symbolic of a capitalist system or directly related to free markets. They have to be by authors who are somewhat well known (i.e. not some guy who published a short story on a blog). Thanks everyone.
  3. Maybe you should try not spoiling the child. When she cries for no reason or seeks other ways to get attention that are not legitimate, don't give it to her. I think this is called negative reinforcement. You take away something (attention) in order to reinforce certain behavior (knowing that crying wont get you what you want). Also, never treat your child like he or she is never in the wrong. If your child makes a mistake, punish them accordingly (without ever spanking or using other forms of violence, of course). Most importantly, it is with attention that a child that young responds to. Sometimes taking it away is the worst punishment. However, this should only be used when asolutely necessary. Conversely, a parent should lavish attention on a child when he or she does something good.
  4. I was just curious if there are any families in this country that have made it public that they are raising their children according to strict Objectivist values. I would like to know what kind of effect that would have. I, for one, was raised in a Catholic family that valued reason and productivity just as equally as it valued respecting self-sacrifice and God. I (grudgingly) went to church with my parents almost every sunday until I was in high school and was even forced to become a confirmed catholic by my father, who is a businessman who enjoyed explaining concepts like the holy spirit and the holy trinity in seemingly rational ways. Out of this hodgepodge of reason and faith that characterized my home life, I emerged an Objectivist. Obviously, one can be raised in a religious household and still find Rand's ideas to be the right ones. But I wonder what kids who have grown up with parents that read them Anthem at night and teach them to reject religion and irrationality turn out to be like years later. I would personally like to raise my kids under Objectivist values and plan on reading them books like Anthem and The Girl Who Owned a City, etc.
  5. Although I'm sure no one would ever want to be in a vegetative state, I'm also sure that there are those who would want to be kept alive for religious reasons. I dont know what religion Schiavo was nor the degree to which she practiced it, but I do know that Christianity rejects any form of suicide, both assisted and unassisted. Although I wholeheartedly disagree with Christian philosophy, I do know for a fact that people are told to live out their lives regardless of what happens and that any sort of injury or tragedy is simply a test from God (or something like that). Who knows? Maybe Schiavo would have wanted to be kept alive simply because "it was God's will." It's ridiculous, I know, but not unlikely.
  6. You don't say... An unconscious item CAN express something although not through its actions. Instead, it expresses a value judgment through its appearance. The reason why we can say that it expresses something is because it must work in conjunction with the viewer to form an understanding. If the object did not express anything at all, the viewer would be doing all the work and every unique individual that looked at a painting would have a radically different idea of what it represented. This is not the case since it is possible for large numbers of people to come to the same conclusions about a piece of art without every consulting each other. In other words, the creator expresses something through the piece of art which then expresses something (which may be altogether different from what the creator had in mind) to the viewer. A work of art and a piece of decoration are different in that the work of art will always be better crafted and will usually be more effective in representing a more profound value judgment. A decoration is a mere trinket that adds to the mood of a setting; a work of art is a mood in itself. Re-read my article and pay attention to the aspect of craft. Also, realize that a work of art can and should express something profound and meaningful, even if different viewers will interpret it differently. Anything can be art AS LONG AS it represents a value judgment and is crafted beautifully or exquisitely. It doesnt just have to be the paintings and sculptures you find at Cordair. Someone could create a piece of art that represents the ideal world as one where individuality is wholly suppressed. This too would be art (as long as it was crafted well enough), although one would have to denounce such a blatantly false value judgment (but that is another issue).
  7. I don't think that the phrase "recreation of reality" is as limiting as you think. Even the most fantastical and abstract image or thing can be a recreation of reality as long as it expresses some kind of value judgment. This is because that value is part of reality, therefore any judgment of it, concretized in a paiting or sculpture or poem, would necessarily be a recreation of the reality of that judgment or of the reality in which the value is contextualized (as viewed by the artist). At least, this is how I see it. I agree that true Art can be more than just Cordair pieces and Rand book covers.
  8. The story of Terry Schiavo has been smeared all across televisions and newspapers nationwide as the struggle of one woman to stay alive in the face of apathy and insensitivity to life, right? This is how people would have you look at it. Pro-life fanatics parade around Schiavo's hospital with red tape over their mouths in order to rub their opinion in our faces, which is that every human being deserves to live, even if it is at the expense of others. Well I strongly disagree. Terry Schiavo has every right to live so long as there are people willing to voluntarily support her. Otherwise, it is the sad truth that no one deserves to be given a lifeline using money that was taken forcefully from taxpayers. What this means is that Schaivo's family can decide to keep her alive out of their own pockets, but not out of our pockets. Schiavo has become a symbol that has divided this nation once again. Should people in vegetative states be kept alive or shouldn't they? That should not be the question. Rather: Should people in vegetative states be supported by our tax money? We should strongly reject any ideology or political agenda that lays claim on our tax money to support those who cannot support themselves. Tibor Machan writes: "Free men and women...are not owned by anyone other than themselves. Nor is their labor, nor their resources, available, morally speaking, to be seized by others, even those who are in dire straits. That is the price of liberty — not being able to take from others what others refuse to give of their own free will."(1) No matter how hungry Schiavo gets, it is not our moral or legal duty as American citizens to feed her. I suggest we all keep in mind that forcing those who are better off to pay for those less well off is similar to forced labor. The money that would be used to pay for these thousands of individuals in vegetative states (assuming they do not use personal funds or funds that were voluntarily provided) would have to come from taxpayers, and taxpayers must work to make that money. Forcing a dollar out of someone who makes 6 dollars an hour is similar to forcing that person to work 10 minutes for no pay. While there is nothing wrong with feeling bad for Terry Schiavo, there is something wrong in supporting forced labor on others so that her body can continue to pump blood. UPDATE: According to www.terrisfight.net, a website dedicated to prolonging Schiavo's life, "Terri was awarded nearly one million dollars by a malpractice jury and an out-of-court malpractice settlement which was designated for future medical expenses."(2) Her husband and legal guardian has decided to allow for Schiavo's life to end naturally, stating that this is what she would have wanted. No one knows for sure what Schiavo would want since she lacks upper brain functioning (supposedly) and cannot communicate. However, the point is that as long as there are private funds available to support her, the government should NOT get involved. This is a family issue and President Bush should have no influence in the matter unless it is in the protection of the individual rights of someone being victimized. That is not the case here. Schiavo's husband should be allowed to disavow himself of any responsibility for her care. This can either mean letting her die naturally, or shifting that responsibility to someone else who wants it. Her family wants it and should have the ability to keep Terry alive so long as they pay for it. But there are those who would have taxpayers pay for it. For example, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin claims that "[the] measure of a nation's commitment to the sanctity of life is reflected in its laws and to the extent those laws honor and defend its most vulnerable citizens...When a person's intentions regarding whether to receive lifesaving treatment are unclear, the responsibility of a compassionate nation is to affirm that person's right to life. In our public actions, we must build a culture of life that welcomes and defends all human life."(3) He can only mean one thing by "defend its most vulnerable citizens:" Money. The only way to defend someone like Schiavo is to keep her alive. This costs money. What happens when her private funds run out? She could very well live another 30 years. Having doctors come check on her and feed her is expensive. If the family cannot afford this expense, who should have to pay for it? Here is where I have a problem. As long as the funds are private, she has every right to live. As soon as someone else is forced to pay for her (a "duty" that many Republicans would force on the taxpayer), the issue becomes morally reversed: now the taxpayers are the victims. One more thing: Florida Statute 744.3215 Rights of persons determined incapacitated: (1) A person who has been determined to be incapacitated retains the right (i) To receive necessary services and rehabilitation. What is this supposed to mean? If all of those deemed "incapacitated" unconditionally retain "the right" to receive services and rehabilitation necessary to their relative well-being, this can only mean that taxpayers will have to involuntary uphold this right through the redistribution of their wealth. This is what I am arguing against. Schiavo is no exception. Keeping incapacitated individuals alive at the expense of the taxpayer is a moral transgression, plain and simple. As long as Schiavo is being privately supported, there is no problem. My only disagreement is with those who believe that it is the moral duty of the nation to keep her alive at its own expense. (1) Machan, Tibor. "Terry Schiavo's Sad Saga." The Atlasphere, 23 March 2005. <http://www.theatlasphere.com/columns/050323-machan-shiavo.php> (2) The Schindler Family. (3) Cable News Network LP, LLLP. "Emergency vote puts Schiavo case in federal court."21 March 2005 [Deleted unnecessary advertising of blog.]
  9. Robert W. Tracinski, editor of The Intellectual Activist, wrote that "[there] is an important forum in which we take [our moral inventory] every year...and broadcast it to the entire world. Our moral inventory is the Academy Awards, when Hollywood names the films it regards as its best, most important, most uplifting products."(1) Each year, the selections represent what "the Academy"considers to be the finest examples of the various aspects of the art and craft of film. Often, these selections provide us with a window into the moral fabric of our culture. Movies are products of this fabric and of intellectual trends that are dominant in our culture. Through movies, we see examples of all sorts of moral trends. One of these moral trends is evident in the popularity of Spiderman, the altruistic hero who literally sweeps in from the sky to protect the lives and liberties of others at the expense of his own well-being. This morality is even more pronounced in Spiderman 2 where the protagonist, Peter Parker, finds that his "responsibility" as an altruistic hero who places the welfare of others before his own is interfering with his life as a productive student and photographer. He is faced with a dilemma: abandon altruism and lead a life of rational self-interest, or don the tights once again and resume a life of self-sacrifice in order to guarantee the well-being of an entire city. Thankfully, Spiderman 2 was not nominated for Best Picture this year. An example of a movie that represents a diametrically opposing moral trend is Shawshank Redemption (one of my all time favorites). The protagonist, Andy Dufresne, was once a banker (already hinting towards the Capitalist ideal) who becomes wrongfully imprisoned (has his individual rights forcefully taken away). Through rational deliberation, he finally wins back his freedom and justly condemns the "looters" who have imprisoned him and are using cheap prison (slave) labor to exploit the market and undermine fair competition. The protagonist is strongly reminiscent of the Objectivist ideal hero. Towards the end, Dufresne sums up the moral drive behind his actions with the powerful line: "Get busy livin', or get busy dying." Sadly, Shawshank lost the award for Best Picture in 1994 to Forrest Gump, a highly sentimental film about the life of a retarded man who acts without thinking and whose highly successful venture into the Capitalist market is the result of blind luck (his shrimping boat magically survives a storm that demolishes all of the other boats). Although I can't say that I was completely satisfied with the outcome of the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony, I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the selection of nominees for Best Picture (The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways). I did not see Finding Neverland and will therefore refrain from commenting on it. However, I noticed that the Academy succeeded in nominating at least four other films that manage to portray a sense of life that praises the rational man and rewards individualism. I will provide a brief synopsis of each film: The Aviator is based on the life of Howard Hughes, the controversial movie producer, pilot, and Hollywood playboy who battles with mental illness to create the fastest plane on earth. Million Dollar Baby is the tragic but life affirming story of a headstrong 30-something year-old waitress who dreams of becoming a professional boxer and finally realizes that dream after years of training and the discouragement of her peers. Ray is the story of beloved piano player Ray Charles, who overcomes blindness, racism, and drug addiction to become one of the most successful black musicians in American history. Sideways is the story of two college buddies who go on a wine-tasting trip while one struggles to publish his novel and, after failing to do so, realizes that in order to be happy he must realize his own self-worth and go after the woman that he loves. This woman embodies his ideals and is independent and ambitious. With the exception of Sideways, which portrays a very weak man who just barely manages to hold on to his dignity at the very end, all of the films nominated (and I'm assuming Finding Neverland falls into the same category since it is about the author of one of the most memorable characters in fiction) seem to be influenced by Objectivist ideals (in other words, ideals that portray the ideal man as a rationally self-interested individual whose highest goal in life is the attainment of his own happiness). Even Sideways manages to create a character who, at least in comparison to his more obnoxious and impulsive buddy, realizes that there is more to life than rejection and unfulfillment. Fortunately, Million Dollar Baby ended up winning, although I'd say it was a close call between that and The Aviator. I especially liked MDB because the heroine of the film overcame the adversity and sexism of her peers and went from being a no talent overaged waitress to a professional boxer. She trained like a madwoman, never giving up sometimes staying in the gym after closing to work on her technique. Although the movie has a tragic ending, she maintains her life-affirming message and is proud of herself for accomplishing her ultimate goal in life, something most people will never be able to say for themselves. If the outcome of the Best Picture category is at all indicative of America's dominant moral trends, then it feels good to be an American. (Seriously, I haven't been this content since I found out that The Passion of the Christ was not nominated for Best Picture like many people thought it would be). (1) Tracinski, Robert W. "Hollywood's War on Moralism." Capitalism Magazine 26 May 2001. <http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=431> [Deleted unnecessary advertising of blog.]
  10. I recently took an introductory class in writing poetry. One day we were all discussing the value of Art and I came to the conclusion that when it comes to Art, most people are afraid to draw lines (excuse the pun). Have you ever heard someone say "Anything can be art"? This is sometimes said after one criticizes the hideously warped metal structures outside of corporate buildings. There are two rules to remember when it comes to art: (1) It's ok to be elitist when judging so-called works of art, and (2) never forget the importance of craftsmanship. Relatively speaking, very few man-made objects deserve to be called Art (keeping in mind that there are probably billions of pieces out there being created). For example, I have been drawing pencil sketches of portraits for years. I often print out a full-size copy of the photograph, trace very lightly where the eyes, nose, and ears are supposed to go, and then I shade it according to how I perceive the shadows to have fallen in the picture. I'm good at it and people often tell me that I have a rare talent. They would be shocked to find that although I claim to have artistic ability, I dont consider my drawings art. So what is Art? Ayn Rand said it best: "Art is the selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments." Whoa, what the hell does that mean? Basically, an artist must create something that re-presents reality in some way that is consistent with a judgment that he or she attaches to a value such as love. Whether it is a painting, statue, poem, or song, it must represent a judgment of a value (i.e. "Man is a hero" or "Love heals" or "Life is ultimately meaningless"). The painting or poem is a vessel that conveys the importance or the realization of this judgment. So what is craft? Craft is basically everything else that goes into an "artistic" pursuit (Note: my sketches, while not qualifying as Art, can still be deemed 'artistic' in that they present an ability that I have. This ability would allow for me to craft pieces that represent a judgment and thus contain artistic value). I would consider myself a good craftsman rather than a good Artist if I were to judge on the sole basis of my sketches. My hand and my eyes work well to draw the lines and to create shades that blend to form a face. There is little to no creativity involved. I am not expressing what I think about the face or what it means to me. I am simply recreating it using skill. This is akin to building a motor or a birdhouse. All craft, no Art. But Art requires skillful craft in order to be good. Good Art, the kind that deserves to be in museums, is that which selectively recreates reality in a profoundly meaningful way and which presents the skill of the artist at its peak. Take Michelangelo's David for an example. The statue is of a perfectly formed man whose feet seem rooted to the earth and whose eyes are pointed off to the side as if proud of his graceful form and of the excellence of his abilities. The statue, inspired by the story of the young boy who slayed Goliath and became king, is a tribute to and testament of man's noble and strong spirit. David's muscles are beautifully developed, as if this is how man should look. His hands are disproportionately large, as if to draw attention to man's ability to build and create great things with the skillful coordination between a rational mind and a confident hand. The statue itself is carved in a way that causes one to stand in awe of the ability of man as creator (believe me, I've seen it up close). This is Art. This is a carefully and passionately crafted object of beauty that meant something to the artist and means something to the viewer. So when someone says that Michelangelo's David is a work of art and then claims that a street side "starving artist" who has just thrown balloons filled with paint at a canvas has also created a work of Art, it will become clear how many people will never understand that Art, just like any other thing, should be held against well defined standards. This unfortunate wave of subjectivism explains why so many museums are clogged with crap that is neither meaningful or beautifully crafted. This explains why there exist people who think that they are creating poetry by cutting words from a newspaper, placing them in a bag, shaking them, and then randomly arranging them on paper. This failure to draw lines and set rigid standards (or any standards, for that matter) is the reason why movements that promote abstract art have produced so many worthless pieces that people appreciate out of ignorance or out of some unnameable guilt that stems from a fear of any sort of elitism. Any person who randomly places paint or material objects in meaningless configurations and then hangs them up for all to see does not deserve to be called an artist. Usually these people aren't even good craftsmen. Most of the time, they only succeed in the steady production of Crap (e.g. an object that purports to be art yet is lacking in artistic value and fails to display good craftsmanship). [Deleted unnecessary advertising of blog.]
  11. If you consider yourself an objectivist (as I'm going to assume here), why would you despise Libertarian's? Any good reasons?
  12. I'm sure you've all heard that the rights have been acquired to make Atlas Shrugged into a movie (http://www.objectivistcenter.org/articles/annc_atlas-shrugged-film.asp). I wonder....who would be a convincing Dagny Taggart? How about Rearden and Francisco? James Taggart? Here's what I think. I picture Julianne Moore (from Hannibal, The Big Lebowski, The Forgotten) as Dagny Taggart. Something about the roles she has played and the way her face is shaped (great cheekbones) would (I think) make a convincing Objectivist heroine. For James Taggart, I see Stephen Dillane (who played Harker in Spy Game, opposite Robert Redford) as James Taggart. He has those dark, tired eyes and that prudish face... Rearden is trickier. We need someone tall, blonde, and stern looking. Maybe Alec aldwin could pull it off. I have no idea who would play Francisco. Sharon Stone (I think) would make a great Lillian Reardan. Did you see her in Casino? John Galt would have to be played by a "Golden Boy" of some sort. Galt is the quintessential Romantic hero and would have to be good looking, blonde, and well-built (even though he is a mechanic, oh well). I'm thinking Brad Pitt could do it. He has a deep, serious-sounding voice and eyes that aren't overly feminine or weepy. He has a serious face and can pull of the boyish vitality that I imagine John Galt would have. I just think his voice would be perfect over the radio. So there it is. Any suggestions?
  13. Before you read what I am about to say, understand that when I say "Closed Objectivism," I am using a completely original term used to describe a drastically modified version of (lowercase o) objectivism as it is discussed by philosophers such as Boyd and Mackie. This is not Randian Objectivism, although there are similarities. I am posting this abstract (the full paper is attached as well) because I am curious as to what people think of my ideas. This is a completely original idea and does not draw on the works of Ayn Rand, although I have read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and We the Living, and consider myself an Objectivist in the fullest sense. I am a junior at Colgate University and I wrote this paper for a class on Contemporary Moral Theory. "Closed Objectivism" is the idea that there exist objective moral properties outside of humans but not outside of humanity. Therefore, there is right and wrong, and ethics is not purely subjective. However, the moral properties exist because of human nature, not outside of it. Read the abstract first. If you like it and feel like reading something more challenging, try the final version of the paper. Let me know what you think. Better yet, let me know how "Closed Objectivism" fits with Rand's Objectivism (the latter of which I hold supreme). ------------------------------- Closed Objectivism and the Playground of Moral Properties In this paper, I will propose a strategy for understanding moral properties as objective in the sense that they exist in a reality “colored” by human understanding, which I will use to refer to the collective understanding that humans use to understand their own unique selves and perceive their own individual stances on reality. While this view might seem projectivist, it does not succumb to relativist interpretations (i.e. one that would allows for a variety of projections upon reality) because moral properties are to be understood in light of one singular human understanding, rather than those of different cultures, groups, or individuals. This faculty of understanding reality is “closed” in that humans must necessarily use it to understand reality. There is no going outside of human understanding and any attempts to understand reality outside of this faculty would be impossible without reason, the defining characteristic of said faculty. Since this “closed” human understanding forms the background for all human thought and perception and is embedded within an unchanging human nature that has its own inescapable laws and norms, moral properties (such as values) must be objective. One way to visualize how it is likely that moral properties have existed since the beginning of man and have influenced behavior is to look at the color red. Ancient man probably saw the color red much like we do today. Although he didn’t know how the eye worked to pick up light waves (at least on a biological level) and did not know that red was really just a portion of the light spectrum reflecting off of the object while other light waves were being absorbed, he did know that there were red berries and blueberries. This kind of discrimination probably helped him to learn which berries were for eating and which were poisonous. I argue that the same can be said about moral properties and that this is why human civilizations have consistently agreed on certain fundamentals of philosophical thought (i.e. that there is a difference between something being good and something being bad; that having a loved one suddenly die is bad and that achieving a goal is good). The faculty of human understanding may not give us what we need to know what these moral properties are or what they are composed of (just as ancient man did not know what the color red really consisted of or resulted from), but it has allowed us to interact with different moral properties to create moral norms that are fruitful. While it may be argued that there have been individuals and even cultures that have defied these norms, I claim that objective moral properties must exist (through the “lens” of human understanding) in order for the aforementioned ideas to persist throughout history and for philosophical debates concerning such fundamentals to exist. I call my view “Closed Objectivism” because it is based on the idea that a moral property can be called objective even though such a property can only be “moralized” through Human Understanding. This may seem like a subjectivist view since I agree with Mackie that there do not exist moral properties outside of humans that are embedded in the universe. The reason I can agree with Mackie and still call certain moral properties objective is because I am pioneering a new way of considering what is objective based on what I understand of Human Nature. I base my claims on the idea (which I can confidently say is right as Deism has not been proved) that humans created morality (and not God, Martians, animals, or spirits) and that this morality has always been and can only be understood through the faculty of Human Understanding that created it. This faculty is “closed” (thus I get “Closed” Objectivism) because Human Understanding (and reality) cannot be understood without a dependence on Human Understanding. This circular reasoning is important because if Human Understanding cannot be escaped (except through non-existence) and there are properties that have been consistent throughout human history (such as the value of reproduction), we can safely say that through Human Understanding (since there is nothing else that we use to comprehend reality) certain properties are objective, namely moral properties. Closed Objectivism claims that there are no objective moral properties that exist in the fabric of the universe. Such properties only come into existence through a shared Human Understanding, which all humans are subject to and depend on in order to understand reality, themselves, and morality. Unlike conventional subjectivism, these properties are objective in the sense that they exist outside of human beings, even if they do not exist outside of Human Understanding. Since individual humans and cultural groups cannot go outside of Human Understanding or change the fundamental world view that all humans share (which includes an interaction with set moral properties), it is necessary to admit the existence of these moral properties as being objective and unchanging. Such a view does away with any sort of nihilism or claim that morality is meaningless and arbitrary. Closed Objectivism allows for a fortified system of ethics that involves observing moral trends that have been consistent across time and culture and attempts to isolate fruitful interactions with moral properties, even if we cannot know individually what these properties are or what they are composed of. While many questions remain as to the nature of moral properties themselves, we must also admit that Human Nature and Human Understanding have yet to be perfectly understood and defined. Closed Objectivism offers a working framework that allows us to begin understanding the nature of morality as we continue to understand our nature and ourselves. Closed_Objectivism_FINAL_PAPER.doc
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