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KyaryPamyu

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  1. Two Philosophers

    "Imagine the whole of Nature stretched blooming at my feet; a line of blue, misty hills encompassed the horizon in the east; the sun was sinking in the west; all Nature's temple lay before our enchanted eyes. Like Thetis, I could have flown down, and sunk into those flowery rivers. [...] At length, when the sun had just set, a mass of blossoming spring roses came floating up out of the dying rays - the tops of the mountains glowing, the woods all aflame - and illimitable Nature melted into soft rosy tints; and as I was gazing into this ocean of purple, [...] all stood enchanted before me, and sweetly smiled at me." — Robert Schumann, from a letter to a friend, dated Aug. 29, 1827 If all life were to disappear off the face of the earth, would beauty still exist? Obviously not. Beauty is an evaluation, made by a mind whose nature allows it to experience the phenomenon of beauty. Thus, one philosopher concludes: "beauty does not actually exist in the world. When the Poet says that roses are beautiful, he is not referring to something that exists out there. He describes a subjective mental construct. To him, either beauty exists out there in the world, just like trees and stars do, or it only exists in man's mind. Only non-mental things are real, and to be of a mental nature automatically means to not have reality or substance. But all mental experiences - whether we refer to sensory form, beauty, intuition, freedom, the grasp of poetic allegory - are real, as real as trees and mountains and stars. Man comes to know them through the ostensive process that stands at the base of all knowledge: direct experience. While his consciousness provides him with valid information about the world, he cannot ever step outside of consciousness. Every experience that he goes through during the span of his life is an experience of consciousness, but for some reason, that dimension has no reality for the philosopher. And nothing is more dangerous for a man's proper functioning than to doubt or deny the validity of his own consciousness. According to our philosopher, only descriptive statements, such as "Today is raining", can be factual. As soon as we enter the realm of consciousness, we aren't talking about reality anymore - we venture into the world of subjective experience. But man's mental faculties are not separate from nature, they are as much a part of it as everything else. The Poet, then, is right. When the Poet's consciousness encounters roses, a real and distinct phenomenon of consciousness occurs. The rose, as perceived and evaluated by a particular man, is beautiful. Or, certain types of daffodils, as perceived by a specific kind of consciousness, are yellow. And further, if life has identity, then its chemical origin and mechanism must be similar on every planet that can give rise to life. And if there are life forms on other planets, their emotions (or equivalent faculties) probably pertain to the exact same categories as earth's animals possess: fear of threats, desire for values, pain, pleasure and so on. If existence is identity, evaluations are not arbitrary. Our philosopher prides himself in doing whatever he can to perceive reality as it really is, without tainting it with his own mental nature. And in doing so, he's willfully suffocating his consciousness. He represses his spontaneous emotional reactions, intuitions and connotative associations. He struggles to express himself in the driest, most 'objective' way possible - after all, he equates the evaluative with the unreal. For each category of value, there are countless options that are just as good as the others - in fact, some tastes and preferences might be randomly shaped by childhood experiences or determined by genetic differences. And this makes the philosopher feel that his personal infrastructure of chosen values is a subjective construct. Feeling emotionally invested into any such infrastructure would mean non-objectivity, an evasion of the arbitrary nature of his choices. Consequently, life to him is just a play, a pretense. In his attempts at making objective choices, he is not aware that objectivity encompasses the entire context - including his psychological makeup and what is possible to him in a world that has identity. When our philosopher discovered that volition can shape man's character and psychology, he formed the unchecked premise that his mind and subconscious do not have a specific nature at all - that they are identity-less and entirely shaped by the self (or the environment). He thinks that there is no need to pay much attention to his own consciousness, because going through a series of proper conceptual and physical motions will eventually culminate in involuntary happiness and conscious-subconscious harmony. In doing so, he misses heaps of important and ostensively available details about himself, information that can be known only by direct introspection. One of the philosopher's contemporaries and friends is a German Idealist. His eccentric and poetically-minded friend believes that reality is a mental construct. To him, Nature's objects, the mind’s abstractions and his evaluative emotional experiences are all equally real and spring from the same source: a supernal productive imagination. Though his philosophy is factually wrong, he is much happier than the first philosopher, as his characteristic way of facing life seems to suggest. So, is it true that ignorance is bliss? If there is no God, immortality or primacy of consciousness, doesn't that make reality... stale? A pointless cycle of survival and reproduction? Our first philosopher objects: you can have all of these things without indulging in mystic fantasies. But in truth, deep down he doesn't feel that this is true. He does feel that his existence is a bit dry and pointless. A man's beliefs about the world shape the way he perceives his environment. His philosophy doesn't affect the raw sensory data, but it does control how he relates to it, what he experiences in his mind's eye. It's not a surprise, then, that when the two philosophers took a stroll through a nearby forest and discussed metaphysics at length, they saw the forest in completely different ways - even though their eyes and minds took in the same sensory data. If we tried to illustrate what went on in their mind's eye, the result would probably look something like this: The first philosopher saw a lifeless chunk of matter. The second philosopher saw Poetry made visible. Their subconsciously integrated and automated philosophy has stylized their consciousness, imbuing objects with connotative meaning, giving Nature beauty and staleness; it made the two men focus on certain aspects that affirmed their own worldview, while ignoring the aspects that seemed to contradict it. The two quintessential preconditions of human happiness are a world that is auspicious to joy, and an exalted view of man's nature. And for some reason, our first philosopher feels that the world is stale and pointless, while the second philosopher is intoxicated by it. Philosophy and religion are important and invaluable sources of information about human psychology. A lot of philosophical systems distort the truth not because man is blind to ostensively self-evident axioms; in truth, a lot of people are afraid that they'll end up like our first philosopher. They create systems that rationalize what they want to be true, worlds in which they intuitively feel they would be happy in. The proper attitude is not to shun those philosophies - but to study them, and learn which human needs are so compelling that they end up tempting people to discard the 'unpleasant truth'. A German Idealist proposes an organic system of Nature, where everything (including inanimate matter) is alive, and all concrete existence is an expression of Self's productive imagination. Why is that appealing to him? Because if everything is a part of him, he is not a tiny little man anymore - he is an all-powerful creative intelligence striving for self-awareness by objectifying himself to himself. This prospect makes his own self-esteem and view of man go up. If what he previously thought of as dead matter is actually organic in some way, he acquires a feeling of kinship between him and the entire Universe. If everything in existence strives for the same goal, the universe ceases to appear frightening or alien to him - it takes on the mantle of a benevolent and even exotic or elevated realm. If pleasure has a forbidden quality to it, values seem to become more tantalizing than if no mind-body breach existed. If the entirety of the universe and human life can be rationalistically deduced and contained by a crow-friendly system, he is at an advantage - because reason is his means of knowledge, and he longs for that type of crystal-clear and unshakably certain conceptual guidance - his need of self-esteem is again peeking through the curtain. What about religion? Man's nature as an integrator pushes him to unify his life into infrastructures such as culture, subculture and religion, infrastructures that integrate most or all aspects of his life (including ethics and very identifiable ways of dressing and behaving) into single, coherent systems. And the prevailing epistemological errors? Some philosophers intuitively feel that a world in which concepts merely classify the world - instead of shaping it – would mean that the nature of the external world is sharply different from the way their own consciousness is naturally built. They perceive a threat to the potency of their consciousness - to their self-esteem. And wouldn't it be nicer if Nature actually was as we perceived it, if sensory form was a myth? That would certainly give objective validity to what goes on in one's inner eye. Man would never have to doubt the metaphysical validity of his richly evaluative experience. A wrong system of philosophy can comfort man in the short-term, but will ultimately lead to existential and psychological turmoil. And a largely correct system of philosophy that was not properly integrated into his mind, can lead to worldly success, but also to the inability to enjoy that success. As man's nature dictates, if he implicitly believes and feels that the truth clashes with the requirements of his life or consciousness, truth will become his enemy. The solution is to identify and correct those faulty integrations, the ones that made the first philosopher discard, among others, the realm of poetry and emotional investment. In poetry, metaphor does not equal non-objectivity - poetic language describes facts of reality, as grasped by a human mind that relates everything to his own life, a consciousness that needs to clarify meaning by comparisons to other objects to which he attaches symbolic meaning. A proper human consciousness is staunchly anthropocentric. In the case of emotional investment, optionality does not equal the arbitrary. The nature of man and the universe dictates that he must achieve and settle for what is, to his current knowledge, the absolute best he can get. If he believes that 'everything could have been different', he is factually wrong - he can only live one life, not an unspecified number of parallel existences. And he is weakening his will to live, because he can't wantonly dive into the pond of Life while not being fully convinced that his particular values allow him to actually make the most out of his existence. Equally important is the issue of human greatness. Does he think it actually exists in reality? Or are humans just cavemen with high pretensions? The truth-loving philosopher does not need to make peace with the staleness of the world. After all, he lives in the exact same universe as his life-loving friend, and if the German Idealist can be happy, he can be happier than him. To unlock the beauty of the world, he must award the same reality to his own inner world as he does to the external world. He must give free reign to the natural realm of his emotions, inclinations, fears, desires, intuitions, yearnings. In every moment and issue of his life, he must be focused not only on growing and optimizing his practical excellence, but also on making the most out of his inner experience. After a full system of philosophy, psychology is the most crucial science that man must develop and master if he is to be fully guided in his life. He must understand the psychological causes of joy in all of its myriad forms: love, excitement, importance, luxury, humor, the Sublime, affection, curiosity, the exotic, the unusual, the cool, the beautiful, the idealized - as well as the nature of personal taste. In doing so, he will eventually tie them back to the two fundamental preconditions of happiness: the feeling that the universe is auspicious, and that man is an exalted being. "Miss Rand used to be a strong advocate of what she called 'the pleasure-purpose principle.' She meant the idea that on any level, whether we're talking about thought or action, you cannot function without a purpose that brings you pleasure, something you want to achieve, that you enjoy achieving. You can see this in an everyday example in the contrast between getting up on a day when there's something that you like [...] as against that kind of gray, dragging yourself through some dutiful routine, which can only go on for a limited period of time, after which you either end up giving up action and giving up generally, or else you say, 'I can't stand philosophy,' and you become an emotionalist. The point here is that pleasure - and we mean here personal pleasure, personal interests, your likes and dislikes - is essential to your functioning, in action and in thought". — Leonard Peikoff, Understanding Objectivism: Lecture Ten "Learn to be at home and well acquainted - I would almost say, be on intimate terms with your emotions. [...] After you've become acquainted with yourself emotionally, when you no longer have any great mysteries to yourself, then you can start to identify your sense of life. And the best - perhaps the only way to identify it - is by observing your own reactions to art." — Ayn Rand, 1974 Q&A session "How comes it that, to every tolerably cultivated taste, imitations of the so-called Actual, even though carried to deception, appear in the last degree untrue - nay, produce the impression of spectres; whilst a work in which the idea is predominant strikes us with the full force of truth, conveying us then only to the genuinely actual world?" — F. W. J. Schelling - On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature (speech on the celebration of the 12th October, 1807, as the Name-Day of the King of Bavaria) The most important insight that a rational philosophy can give you is this: the profound efficacy of consciousness. Here, I am not confining myself to the ability to acquire objective knowledge. I am referring to the whole of human consciousness, including, among others, the perceptual, conceptual, subconscious, evaluative and emotional levels. Life is not a series of empty abstractions and standards of value. Abstractions stand for a rich symphony of specific values and content. Man's god is set by his nature: Joy - or survival, which cannot be legitimately sundered from Joy. His Religion is his particular value infrastructure, his love for everything that he strives to live here on earth. And his philosophy and heroes are the signposts that guide his footsteps.
  2. A similar question came up during a Q&A session of the 1976 Objectivism course. I am quoting the exerpt bellow:
  3. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    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.
  4. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    I'll give it a try (speaking as myself). Happiness is an emotional state accompanying the periods of time when things are going well for you, existentially and psychologically. It would be a contradiction in terms to say that happiness is a means to survival, since in the causal chain, happiness is the result of survival. Legitimate happiness cannot ever be in conflict with (or periclitate) survival, period. One of the major virtues of the Objectivist ethics is that it respects the epistemological principle of context. You cannot make valid ethical judgements, unless 1). you hold the entire lifespan in mind, and 2). you hold the entire hierarchy of your (proper) values in mind. In other words, Objectivism is not concerned with half of a lifespan, or with three quarters of it, or with a single year of it. And it recognizes that there are no isolated facts, that nothing can ever happen outside of a context. The need to sacrifice lower values in order to pursue higher values is metaphysicaly inherent in the universe. Time is finite, so you're bound to make compromises upon compromises in order to make all of your values play togheter well. Not all pain is wrong, and not all 'happiness' is right. That you are happy now might be irrelevant - your next 10 years of happiness might lead to disastruous consequences later on, consequences that you cannot justify to your own self. If you endure suffering right now, your effort might lead to a bright future that will be worth every single moment of misery that you endured. How are you to decide? The full context. In some cases, it is right to shorten your lifespan. In some, it is outright insane. Some compromises are worth it, some aren't. Let's assume that the Hero's dream is some kind of career. There are legitimate situations where you might love something so intensely (maybe the love became part of your psyche during your formative childhood years) that you simply can't find a replacement, no matter how long and conscientiously you try. Let's do some horizontal integration and scan for other factors. Quitting his dream in order to live five years longer will not make the Hero live five years longer. The Hero will have to earn a living. If he doesn't resent his new job for always reminding him of his compromise, he will spend around 1850 hours every year doing something that will never give him the same intellectual and spiritual fulfillment that his other job would have given him. His self esteem will run into the ground. His personal sense of identity will suffer, since he can't identity with the job he truly loves. His recreation will become an escape, not a complement and reward for his achievements. He probably won't have the same types of friends or lovers he would have if he had the other job. Your central purpose is a sensitive subject, since it controls an exceptionaly vast array of things in your life. When a person acts immoraly, a chain of factors start to domino into every aspect of his existential and psychological situation. Which in time corrodes his desire to live, as well as his physical and mental health. After many years, the pain might become too great, and the hero might say: 'I could have lived the best life possible to me. Yet, I am here - by my own fault'. If the pain overrides his rationalist/dutiful approach to ethics, he might find himself drinking a lot and escaping into the antipodes of his mind via certain substances - which will further speed up his demise. When people mention survival, they do not actually refer to survival. Their definition is limited to the Bear Grylls type of context where you eat bugs to remain alive for yet another day. If staying alive was the pupose of ethics, everyone in the world right now is a master of the Objectivist ethics. Things change if you expand 'survival' to include the best possible functioning and resillience to adverse conditions, taking in consideration both the mind and the body. When the Hero will understand that each action he takes will get him either closer, or further away from that state, he will know what to do.
  5. Randy, Have you read her own journal entry for September 18, 1943? It's titled Theorem I: The Basic Alternative. As I said above, to my knowledge the claims of those 'philosophical enemies' of Rand are accurate.
  6. It is not my own analysis, but to my knowledge it is accurate. You can read more about it in an article called Ayn Rand’s Ethics - From The Fountainhead to Atlas Shrugged by Darryl Wright. A general discussion of her evolving view of the virtues can also be found on page 12 of this exerpt.
  7. Abstractions as such do not exist?

    Abstractions point to things in reality, but they are not the things that they point out to. For example, the concept 'cat' is not a cat - it is a mental entity. The concept 'abstraction' is an abstraction of the process of abstraction. It points to the method, but it is not the method itself. The concept and the process it refers to are separate. Abstractions exist - as mental entities. Outside of your head, there are only the concretes that your abstractions are meant to classify. For example, you cannot point your finger to 'mammal' or 'art', only to specific instances - such as a cow or a painting.
  8. These three are actually the values that make up the Objectivist code of ethics. In The Objectivist Ethics, these values are related to the virtues as follows: Productiveness corresponds to Purpose Pride corresponds to Self-Esteem Rationality, Honesty, Independence, Integrity and Justice correspond to Reason At the time she wrote that list, she considered Independence to be the primary virtue - the others beings aspects of it. Later, she developed her mature ethical theory, which states that you can only pursue your self interest in consonance with reality - not it every way that might sound right to you. Therefore, the primary (and only) real virtue becomes rationality, and the others, including idependence, become aspects of rationality - of acting in consonance with reality. After quickly scanning the list above, courage and strenght are aspects of Integrity. Honor, self-confidence & self-respect are aspects of Pride. Wisdom is a result of being rational. According to Peikoff in his Advanced Seminars on OPAR, Rand didn't claim that her list of virtues was complete. She was open to additions as long as somebody could prove that something was a virtue. Based on her own life experience, she never discovered another principle that was a genuine virtue.
  9. Is existing a type of action, the same way rolling, flowing, walking and exploding is? In this case, the phenomenon of action must exist before anything engages in the specific action of existing. If you see 'it exists' not as an action, but as information about something - this cookie is brown, it's made of sugar, it exists (you're not bluffling, there's actually a cookie), then we're on the same page. Or perhaps you're thinking about living organisms, which act in a goal-directed way in order to preserve their life. But is a cookie also engaged in the action of existing?
  10. 'Existence' is a collective noun, and 'exists' is an adjective, not a verb. As in: existence is vast, existence is varied, existence is real, existence exists. In the dictionary, 'exist' is classified as a verb. Do you also see it as a verb?
  11. Yes, agreed. This is not the same thing at all. Existing is not an action or quality, it is a concept meant to help us distinguish between what is actually out there and what isn't. If you use existence to refer to that which is (as opposed to that which isn't), existence is every entity, every trait, every action, every doing. You don't do existing. Existence is the doing. To see what I mean more clearly, contrast 'existence is an action' with 'existence is the action' - substituting 'action' with any specific kind of action that you can think of.
  12. Existing is not an aspect of a thing's identity. By making this claim, you are starting with something existing (identity) and then you're adding to it an extra feature, 'existing,' to complement its other features. Existence is not an action, a property or a feature, it is the action, property or feature - and anything else that constitutes the universe. Existence is identity. When you say that something doesn't exist, you don't mean that something (existing in a state of existential limbo) is not engaged in the action of existing. What you mean is that it actually isn't there. Existing, acting and identity are abstractions. They can only be separated by a conceptual mind, as they are simultaneous metaphysically.
  13. This reminds me of the question, 'why is there something, rather than nothing?'. Suppose you answered, 'because of factor X'. But if factor X exists, you have not answered anything, because you're trying to figure out what caused everything that exists - including factor X. Nothing precedes existence. Before we philosophize about action, it must first exist.
  14. Nope. I didn't even hint at such an idea. What I said is that existing is not a type of action; rather, action is a type phenomenon that exists. Things change, move around and interact with each other. Based on this observation, you can form concepts such as movement, interaction etc., and unite them under the concept action. But actions are not platonic entites, they are aspects of a thing's identity. Actions are actions of things that exist. Existing is not an action, it is the precondition of action.
  15. No. If 'existing' was a type of action, actions would hold metaphysical primacy. In other words, first there would be the platonic form of action, from which its numerous manifestations (including 'existing') would spring. But actions can't have metaphysical primacy. Let's say for a moment that existing is a type of action. But what is the most fundamental thing you can say about action? That it exists. Entities that exist, act. Entities that do not exist, do not act.
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