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DonAthos

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  1. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    In what way? If this is what you mean, no debate around here (or as far as I can tell, in the world) is ever settled such that all parties are agreed. It's easy enough to say that, from the point of view of the innocents harmed, blowing up a bus is immoral. But ethics, per Objectivism, are based upon self-interest. The moral prohibition against the initiation of the use of force is meant to be as self-interested as anything else -- not fashioned to protect "others," or the wider world, but for the sake of the person who abides by it. But does the suicidal man stand to gain anything (in reason) by refraining from hurting others upon his exit? (I say that he does.) Right, that's the way the logic goes. So when you've decided that you're no longer playing to win (or that you cannot play football), then you can run any formation you'd like; you may even blow up the stadium. It's anything goes from there on out. In theory, this should also mean that a person with a terminal illness is no longer bound by morality (because they understand that they are never going to play football again, no matter what play they run). Some suggest that such a person will continue to drift along on their habits... and so we shouldn't expect too much chaos. However, someone who has given these matters sufficient thought (and with the proper philosophical perspective) ought to be able to recognize their changed context... Yes -- this is my essential answer. "Legacy" runs the risk of implying that this is "for others," but then you continue to identify the true root of it: that it is the experience of value in the present, the pride, the pleasure, the happiness that moral action brings, which continues to make our decisions morally significant, even in the face of (nigh) instantaneous death. In another thread, discussing this same issue, I raised the Buddhist parable "The Monk, the Tiger and the Strawberry " as an example of moral action in the face of extremity. I believe that, so long as there is a self -- so long as life remains, so long as choice remains, and so long as our choices matter to our experience of life -- then there is the possibility of moral action, to wring out for ourselves the best possible experience of life, whatever our present context happens to be.
  2. All About Evasion

    It's the honorable thing to do...
  3. All About Evasion

    Bingo. Honing the ability to identify that which is correct (whether in yourself or another) and accept it. [...] As to the use of "proven wrong", it seems a "negative" way of expressing what what appears to be a description of the same phenomenon. And yet the specific endeavor of identifying that which is correct -- and moreover rejecting that which was previously held to be correct, but now recognized as incorrect -- which I think is fairly described as being "proven wrong," has, in my opinion, the potential to trigger the specific subconscious defense mechanism of evasion. I am reminded of a passage in a book I'm currently reading, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, wherein he relates an anecdote (pp 320-1): In both the old man's description of himself as having been "wrong," and in his attitude -- his gratitude of being shown wrong, proven wrong -- I find a concrete presentation of both what I advocate, and the results I aim for.
  4. All About Evasion

    Since it is in some respects the raison d'etre of this thread, I'd like to highlight this sort of behavior as being decidedly anti-evasion. I suspect that you may hear something more in "proven wrong" than I intend. I'm unsure. But suppose you attempt some math problem and arrive at an answer -- do you think it fair to say, at such a point, that you believe that the answer to the problem is X? Then, however, your teacher comes to your desk to check your work and demonstrates that you have made an error in your calculations. The teacher shows you how to arrive at the correct answer, Y. In coming to understand that the answer is Y, you are making good on your ability to identify whether the proposition X or Y is right/in accord with reality. There is no moral failure here, nothing to be feared or lamented; in offering correction, the teacher is your ally and your benefactor. (But do some children resent being corrected in this manner? Yes, some do. Some teachers resent being corrected as well, and if you're ever interested, I have some stories...) Yet with respect to the belief that you'd once held, that X is correct, I think it's fair to say that you were "proven wrong." If that still sounds threatening, I guess my point is that it should not be considered so. It's more cause for celebration than mourning. (Though I'd guess that the celebration at correcting one's math problem would be... fairly muted.) And hopefully to head off the potential for continued misunderstanding on this point, I should specify that the above does not require a teacher, or more than one person at all; one may equally believe something to be true on a desert island, or anywhere else, and be "proven wrong" by the results of one's actions/further evidence/reality. Your own reckoning is all that you have... and "superior reasoning skills" are not necessarily required for one person to be right, another wrong, on any given topic; given evasion, given compartmentalization, given alone the self-generated requirements of honest thought, etc., etc., a man can have outstanding reasoning skills -- and yet be wrong with respect to a given point. A man with fewer such skills may be right. If you are ever to recognize yourself as wrong, well, you must be the one to do it, no matter what anyone else has to say or how you account their reasoning skills. And yet, when your own reason is appealed to (just as I am attempting to do), this is rightly described as being proved wrong (or "shown wrong," if you would prefer to reserve "proven" for more specific applications) should it result in the abandonment of some once-held belief X for some new belief Y. Insofar as your reason leads you to prefer Y to X, believing Y to better accord to reality, then there is no reason for you to want not to be proven wrong in this fashion, or to call it something other than what it is. There is (or ought to be) no loss of ego here. It is not a loss to let go of wrong belief, no matter if someone else has helped you along the way; it is still an individual, personal victory. Before I read Ayn Rand, I held many beliefs that later turned out to be wrong. Rand proved me wrong. And I take full credit for my own reasoning skills, and reckoning, by which I came to recognize the truth of her arguments and cast aside my earlier errors. Had I held onto my old errors (because they were accounted "mine," the products of my own precious reasoning, and bound to my ego), well, we would not be having this conversation today, and I would be much the worse for it.
  5. All About Evasion

    This still strikes me as an inversion. It stems from the knowledge that being right is not automatic. It is a choice. Once that choice to be right is selected, this sets in motion the identification of what elements need be in place to be right. Insofar as "being right is a choice," as you say, we must identify the requisite elements to be right (inclusive of all that man requires habitually to be right). The mindset I advocate is not an "inversion" of this, but an expression of it. Or in other words, if you choose to be right (generally speaking, or characteristically), then you should not despise the experience of being proven wrong, but value it -- because I believe that such a mindset or orientation will assist you in the lifelong project of recognizing contradictions among your thoughts. And insofar as you despise the experience of being wrong, or being shown wrong, as so many do, I believe you will be more prone to the phenomenon of evasion, which is not under direct conscious control but can be addressed obliquely through the conscious choices you make, and the attitudes you cultivate within yourself. But this is taking responsibility for one's own rightness. To get recursive for a moment, if I am right about this (as I believe that I am) and you do not heed me (accounting to a lack of focus), then you have failed yourself in your responsibility; you will not be correct, so often or so much as you could have been -- accounting to your own choice. It's not a question of delegating one's responsibility to others. That's like saying that the CEO delegates the success of his concern to his workers; but no, it is through the rational management of his workers (in part) that the CEO accepts responsibility for the success of his concern and fulfills it. The phrase "being proven wrong by others" is furthermore specific to the context of debate and conversation (such as this forum hosts), which I thought particularly relevant and worthy of consideration, but that's not the only context in which the mindset I describe is necessary. A man alone on a desert island must be searching for his mistakes just as much, or more, and he must greet the discovery of these mistakes (so long as he can survive them) with something like gratitude; it is the scientist's mindset, who does not look at the "failure" of a given hypothesis as bad, but as knowledge gained, and a necessary step taken towards further or eventual success. (I would expect that in the history of science, there have been scientists who either so desperately wanted to be right -- or not to be wrong -- that they made critical and uncharacteristic failures in their interpretation of vital results; fundamentally, this is the same sort of phenomenon.) Evasion, at its heart, is a kind of "looking away." And I maintain that the reason why people look away in this fashion -- albeit subconsciously -- is because they do not want to be wrong, on a deep level. And so, I believe that one large part (though not the entirety) of the battle against evasion is to cultivate an appreciation for the experience of being wrong -- said appreciation to be gained by understanding the vital role of being sometimes wrong in the pursuit of knowledge, and finally being right.
  6. All About Evasion

    I've not yet watched Onkar's presentation. Perhaps I will in the future and comment on it. I'm not certain that "accidental" is the right word for how I view evasion, but I believe that it is subconscious. That means that it is not a conscious choice -- to evade or not to evade -- but that it happens on a level apart from our conscious decision-making process. (If it ever occurred to you, "should I evade this right now?" then, whatever it is you're doing -- you're not evading! ) Perhaps there is also the phenomenon "drifting," which functions somewhat differently (in fact, I'd say that sounds right), but that doesn't make "evasion" a conscious process. If it did (as the possibility I grant in what you've quoted of me) then evasion would not be evasion. It wouldn't be the phenomenon described by Rand; it might be something else, like "denial," or I don't know, but it wouldn't be the same beast, and actually at that point it would be right to say, "evasion does not exist." As it happens, I believe that evasion exists. I think it explains a lot about what I've observed over the course of my life, and the difficulty that (at the very least the vast majority of) people have in recognizing their own errors, and how they struggle -- especially in the context of argument -- against recognizing or correcting their mistakes. Heh, if only it were that simple! I don't doubt that Objectivists of all people would be the first to abandon evasion, if it came down to a simple choice like that. And then we would see much, much greater agreement between Objectivists; but as this board stands testament, there is great disagreement between Objectivists about all sorts of topics... and I think that the root cause of this (though not the only cause, by any means) is: evasion. And I think that the reason why this condition persists -- though none of us wishes to evade, or would choose to do it, as such -- is because it is mostly hidden from our own view, and at a remove from our ordinary, conscious decision-making process. If it were completely hidden from view, then we would be SOL (though also, at such a point, it would be reasonable to conclude that "there is no such thing as evasion"). My essential argument, however, is that we can come to recognize evasion, in ourselves and others, through some of its secondary effects; and that ideally, by addressing ourselves to some of those secondary effects -- as well as through what I've begun to describe as "mindset," which I suspect creates a more or less fertile ground for evasion -- we can use our conscious mind to deal with it. If I had to hazard a guess about "drifting," I would say that the characteristic difference between that and "evasion" is how evasion works as a self-defense mechanism, as I'd described. Thus the practical difference is, one may "drift" with respect to anything, and we might expect drifting to be a rather haphazard phenomenon accordingly. A scattering of error through insufficient focus, if you will. But evasion we can expect to cluster around specific topics -- with something like purpose -- resulting in the phenomenon that we sometimes describe as "compartmentalization," where a person may be extraordinarily clear-sighted in certain areas of thought, and impossibly cloudy in others. There's more to that than simple "drift."
  7. All About Evasion

    That's my idea of, er, humor. See? I'm a fun guy! This is an inversion of how I've sought to identify error in my thinking. That potentially gives us something to discuss. I agree that "the potential to be wrong" isn't grounds for thinking that we hold any wrong belief, in specific. But I do believe that this potential necessitates a certain general mindset which is constantly on guard for, and even probing for, the possibility of error. Besides which... how can I put this...? Sometime ago, when discussing the arbitrary, I raised the question as to whether the (somewhat absurd) statement of, "At the moment, someone in Sweden is eating an egg," is a proper example of the "arbitrary." For I would lay money on the claim that there is someone in Sweden eating an egg, right at this very moment, although I have no specific evidence of any individual currently doing so. Yet perhaps it is evidence of a kind in knowing how many people there are in Sweden, and knowing human dietary habits, and so forth, which justifies that sort of claim. And so, while I don't know the contents of anyone's mind in total, such that I could enumerate every last belief (not even my own), I feel confident in saying that among that vast multitude of beliefs, with respect to any individual, some beliefs are bound to be wrong. Or another way of approaching this is, consider this forum. Note the multiplicity of opinions here, and disagreements -- and this is among people who (at least to some degree) identify with the same core philosophy. I would dare say that an average adult human holds what we might consider to be thousands (or perhaps orders of magnitude more) of distinct beliefs. And if you were to compare the beliefs of any two people -- any two people in the world -- the odds are strongly against their aligning perfectly, down to the very last. Now I suppose, even given all of this, it is possible that one individual may, in his beliefs, be 100% correct. Perhaps that person is you. Or perhaps it is me. But even were it me (and I do consider myself correct in all of the beliefs I currently hold; that's the very thing it means to "believe" them), I would still want to be on guard against the possibility of error, just as I may have the constitution to be able to smoke, eat, drink, never exercise, and still live to 100, fit as a fiddle... but regardless, I still plan on exercising, refraining from smoking, eating sensibly, and etc. Just as we should have good physical habits, should we wish to remain healthy, we also need good mental habits, to guard against error. Agreed. I agree with you that, should a person discover an internal contradiction and fail to correct it (to the extent that he is able), this would represent a moral failure. The thing is, with respect to this thread, that evasion works against an individual's ability to recognize that he is holding a contradiction in the first place, by keeping him from focusing on some particular evidence, argument or what have you, sufficiently to see it. And so, we cannot wait for the insight of seeing an explicit contradiction among our conscious thoughts -- not if we mean to work against our own potential to evade. We must be sensitive to more subtle clues, focusing and guiding our thoughts accordingly, such that we can come to discover any contradictions in our thought -- and then work to correct them. I think that what I mean by pursing the experience of being proven wrong by others is to create a general attitude or mindset that fosters the ability to recognize a contradiction; so I don't see this as choosing one versus the other, but aspects of the same general approach. This is in contrast to those who dread being proven wrong (I suspect a common condition), which I think hampers and impairs the ability to recognize a contradiction through evasion.
  8. 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.
  9. Holy cow, I just made the time to watch this. He refers to the word "mensch," and man, imo that's what Yaron is: a mensch. What a wonderful presentation. I don't agree with him on every point, here or elsewhere (but then, there is no human I've ever encountered with whom I could claim total agreement), but he is my kind of Objectivist.
  10. I don't know what would qualify as "evidence" for this sort of large-scale speculation (imho, it's a bit like asking for evidence for one's vision of a counterfactual history; like, man, can you prove that this is what the world would've been like, if the Confederacy had won the Civil War...? Er, probably not). Whatever "evidence" I have is really probably just a principled approach -- a principled rejection of fatalism and predestination, and a belief that people can change their beliefs and change their ways, because people have volition. Perhaps this is even more "sense of life" than belief, strictly speaking; I'm unsure, but it is my honest perspective... Anyways, I think we would agree that the world is in a lot of trouble at the moment and that things are getting worse. Culturally, for all I can tell, the US is in the worst shape it's been in my lifetime, though perhaps not the worst shape in its history (the aforementioned Confederacy coming during a time when people were literally owned, as chattel, and a nation was created -- for the purpose of defending actual, literal human slavery... which triggered the bloodiest war in our history; that was bad, too). But the reason why I believe that Objectivists can do something about the state of the world, specifically, is because I believe that Objectivists have truth on their side; I believe in the unrivaled power of this ally, and that -- as I've said -- philosophy has the power to move the world. Whatever problems we have now can largely be accounted to bad philosophy; the cure, then, is good philosophy -- and that puts Objectivists in a unique position, because I regard Objectivism as not only the best philosophy, but the only true philosophy. Now... that doesn't mean we have a magic wand we can wave and right wrongs. You're right that the idea of turning the world around is a difficult proposal and one that will take time. In fact, before Objectivists can do something about the world, we first probably have to do something about making the Objectivist community itself better and stronger (though at heart this may be the very same project)... But if the rebirth of the world is going to happen, it has to start somewhere, somehow. I'm not giving up on that. After all, this is my world. You're right that the spread of ideas takes time, although I would guess that it's never been easier than right now, or potentially faster, due to the great leverage of technology. Regardless, that's the direction we need to travel. If it takes longer than my lifetime to achieve our end goal (as it certainly would, even if we Objectivists were all on the same page, and armed with great ideas and resources), then we can still make things better, or as best as we can, for ourselves and our children. I'm reminded of Rand's famous quote, "Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today." I think there's great poetic truth to that sentiment, but the key is: we must fight for the future. Again, I think it's the wrong frame of reference to approach this as "taking responsibility for others' thoughts"; yes, thought belongs to the thinker. But we absolutely can (and must) take responsibility for our own efforts, in communicating our ideas. I attempted to draw an analogy between this and teaching. I think it is apt, and I would invite you to consider it. We would not discourage a teacher looking to sharpen his approach, even if the student must take responsibility for his own efforts in learning. And that's as much as I am proposing. If the point is, well, some people will never be reached... then maybe I agree with that. But I don't think it follows that better efforts will not produce better results. I think better efforts would. I think better efforts means more Objectivists, a better penetration of Objectivism into the culture, into the classroom, and eventually a better world. But the "direction of history" is made of individual souls. And even if all we are discussing is sweeping up the occasional soul, who knows what one such soul might contribute to that direction of history? Ayn Rand was, herself, one such soul. We probably would not have predicted her, had we lived before she did. (And as to whether her efforts have significantly affected the direction of history, I have no idea; I have no idea what the US, for instance, would have been like without her efforts... without her influence on libertarianism, and conservatism, and perhaps even liberalism. It doesn't have to be recognized or acknowledged to be real.) This may seem a left-field example, but Christianity really only needed one convert, Constantine, to utterly remake the world. Our context is (to put it rather lightly) different. But still, I would not underestimate the power of a single voice in the darkness. A fountainhead, if you will. I'm not familiar with Parker otherwise, but what a great line. I don't see any great disparity between reaching those few people (hopefully more than otherwise, through improved methods) and effecting meaningful social change. The change could be incremental or it could be exponential -- as we acquire greater footholds in culture, media, academia, etc., then it is possible that even the unconvinced will be more open to reason, as such, closer to our way of thinking (even while holding explicit disagreement). And thus we might find that our efforts are met with greater and greater success as we go forward, just as a stone may start small at the top of the hill, yet snowball as it descends. But you're right that our current methods -- the approach of our predecessors -- probably is insufficient to get that ball to speed. As much as I love the ARI-sponsored essay contests, for instance, that doesn't seem to be making sufficient headway against the cultural tide. So that's the project: to find new (ideally better) ways of promoting Objectivism. I think that's surer to work than not promoting it at all.
  11. I do agree that doing the same thing that's been done while expecting a different outcome isn't rational, very generally speaking, but not that there's nothing that Objectivists can do about the state of the world, or the direction it's currently heading in. (Medieval Europe, perhaps, didn't look so rosy until Aristotle's rediscovery; why oughtn't the world enjoy a Randian Renaissance?) I think, rather, that Objectivists should take stock of the methods we've used, our approach in engaging the wider world, the way we communicate ourselves and our ideas, and make some changes. One of my takeaways from reading Rand is that philosophy has the power to move the world; I still believe that's true. Are we including Rand's own efforts in writing essays to describe her philosophy, and etc.? Because as far as I can tell, she designed arguments in order to convince others of what she believed to be true, which is part and parcel to what I consider "proselytization." For what it's worth, that worked for me. I believe that changing peoples' minds is a difficult task, but if we instead frame this in terms of learning how to make arguments (and other sorts of presentations; "argument," as I conceive of it, need not be so formal as an essay or a debate), how to approach people and groups diplomatically or tactfully, how to make better use of academic infrastructure or the media, how to make inroads into the culture, and such -- if that's how we think of our efforts, then I think we stand a better shot of success, on our own terms. It's kind of like, if I ask how I can force students to learn some given material... well, that's a difficult notion. Just like you can lead a whore to culture (which conjures Allen's Whore of Mensa to my mind) but you cannot make her think, so too you cannot make a student learn. Yet teachers can (and ideally do) strive to sharpen their pedagogical skills, so that they can make the best use of whatever skills the students provide, leverage whatever efforts the student is willing to perform, and hopefully incite further effort. There are reasonable people in the world, some to a lesser extent, some to a high degree -- and not all of them are Objectivists (to put it lightly). I'm not satisfied that, because we have not yet figured out the best means of outreach, that means that we will not be able to do so going forward. You're doing fine. I'm weighing my options about starting the thread I've long had in mind... but I enjoy and appreciate the conversation in the meantime.
  12. I don't think this is true. I think it's an interesting notion, being "committed to evasion." Someday -- and it's sooner now than ever -- I plan on opening up a topic to really try to explore evasion... but in the meantime, do we think it's true that people are committed to evasion? Were it so, how could any of us survive? We depend upon reason for survival itself (whether or not we account "survival," in any sense, the standard of value ). And so I think that we in the West, as elsewhere, must be open to reason to some certain extent. And if we manage marvels, like constructing skyscrapers, conquering disease, etc. -- and we do -- then that is all the more evidence that reason carries great sway among men. And Objectivism, as truth, has literally everything worth valuing to offer. If we can get it right -- as we must attempt to do for ourselves, our own sakes, let alone proselytization -- then we have the formula for earthly happiness, inclusive of all values and virtues, including "fun." I'm taking a bit of a flyer, and I'd rather discuss this in full when I do commit to a topic on evasion, but I suspect that it does not come out of nowhere, unmotivated. I suspect that it's something like a psychological defense mechanism... and as such, I think that there are means by which we may come to understand evasion, such that we could be more or less effective in communicating our message. I don't think it's hopeless or fruitless. I think we can do better.
  13. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    Yes, that's also what I got from the podcast. But it appears to have been a central aspect of his labors -- so much so that he's glad to field the question whether he himself is happy, now that he can finally answer in the affirmative. I am unconvinced of this, though I doubt that Peikoff would ever have described himself as miserable, generally (or at least, I hope not). But I think that there are many miserable people in the world who manage to live very long lives, and perhaps even lives that are "successful" by many measures, and to all outward appearances. Yet I do not call a life of misery a "success," not even if one lasts. Lasting isn't the point. It's a good question. But again, what I can say about this personally is: if I was dreading doing something (let alone every day) it would compel me immediately to find some alternative (i.e. as soon as I could identify it), because I would not be content with such a situation. It would certainly be worth it to me to try new things. In a way, it comes back around to our view of "consequences," and how that factors into our ethical thinking. We cannot say that, if a man is unhappy into his 80s (not that this describes Peikoff), therefore he must have made some kind of mistake; maybe he was on the right track the whole time and, circumstances being what they were, it simply took that long to get there (not being fortunate enough to be introduced to a certain discipline, for instance, although I have reason to believe that Peikoff was introduced to fiction writing early enough, and in a noteworthy way). But in this case, given who Peikoff is, it nevertheless strikes me as rather alarming; it's like, if it was this hard for Peikoff to achieve happiness, given what we might grant is an unusual level of insight, of introspective ability, of education, of knowledge of ethical theory, etc., etc., then what chance do the rest of us stand? But my own answer to that is: perhaps, despite all of his other substantial advantages, he was looking at things in slightly the wrong way. At the very least, perhaps there is a difference between how he views "life as the standard of value," and applies it to his circumstances, as against my own views and application. I admire it as well. Oh, there are so many ways I could respond to this... But I'll put it this way: whatever challenges this forum presents me (and they are many), they are not central enough to my life such that this forum could cause me to hesitate on the question of whether or not I am happy overall. If it were that central (like my profession), and if it were causing me misery, I would drop it in a hot minute. (To be very honest, even given the level of participation I have, there are times when I sincerely question my investment; there is no other area in my life where I am quite as close to "shrugging" as trying to have reasonable and pleasant conversations with folks who, in theory, should be quite reasonable... and, dare I say it, even pleasant.) I have my college degree and a five year old child; I'm quite familiar with tolerating pain for the sake of achievement. But even in my quest for the truth -- which began in earnest when I was quite young -- I have found and adopted pleasant means to that end. I think it fitting that this should be so, because I have come to hold that even the "quest for truth" is not an end in itself, but that it serves the greater purpose of enjoying a good life (rhetorical emphasis on "enjoy"). I am willing to tolerate great pains, after all, for the sake of greater pleasures, and chiefly happiness. But that is the end towards which I am oriented, and as such is my orientation, I look to reduce or eliminate my experience of pain along the way -- and increase my experience of pleasure -- insofar as I am able, because that is how I mean to achieve my end. Life isn't exclusively some "future" end: life is right now and all the time, and so, as far as I can reckon, if I am not fundamentally happy right now, I am doing something wrong. If my daily activities, especially, are not bringing me happiness, then there is a problem which needs addressing (whether the "problem" in question is one of the activity, itself, or my perspective on it; the experience of emotion is information, but as it is not a "tool of cognition," the specific course of action remains to be determined through reason). But that's just it. I'm not convinced that all Objectivists are "actively pursuing" happiness; I think that there are some people who are convinced (to greater and lesser extents, implicitly or consciously) that one does not actively pursue happiness at all, but rather pursues things according to some other standard (even bare-bones survival)... and then happiness will (hopefully) be the pleasant byproduct of achieving one's values. But I don't think this describes reality. I don't think it's a good recipe to achieve happiness. I'm not so concerned about the idea of people who consider themselves happy, but are not; it's true that emotions take knowledge and skill to identify correctly (not through evasion alone; as a parent, it has been an interesting endeavor to teach my daughter how to recognize and describe her internal states), but I am mostly interested in how one achieves actual happiness in reality. In any event, I do not think that my experience of happiness and that of the mystic (as such) is equivalent, or that it is right to describe even the pleasant emotions the mystic (again, as such) feels as happiness. I think that happiness is a real, objective phenomenon, and that it requires knowledge and effort to achieve it. It requires a science: the science of ethics. I hear you and I agree with you to a large extent (the challenges people face in modern society are enormous, and Objectivists are not immune). But still, there's something to be said for considering one's profession (even if only to some large degree) as dreary or what have you, such that you dread your daily efforts, and how inimical this is to human happiness. And if human happiness is your goal, as I believe it ought to be, then, given the proper ethical stance, I think it should inspire change. As for Peikoff, it did in the end; but were it me, I would not wait so long. And I think differences in approach of this sort -- and their results -- are down in large part to how we view and value our daily experience of life, our pleasures and our pains, and how we incorporate that sort of information into our ethics and decision making. That's why I want to get this right. Me too, and I am happy for him. Hear hear.
  14. Is objectivism consequentialist?

    From another thread, I found this fascinating: I don't want to read too much into this podcast, or to put too much upon one man's experiences (even if that man is Leonard Peikoff), but really, I found this not only fascinating in itself but that it speaks directly to -- not necessarily the technical specifics of this ongoing conversation, but -- my basic approach and motivation. Peikoff describes himself as finally fully happy at age 81 (though I'm certain he must have enjoyed himself to some extent throughout his life), and he attributes this to having discovered what he "really wants to do in life" (as opposed to at least some portion of his work theretofore, which he "dreaded"). To me, in my life, such a thing is simply unacceptable. I would not want to wait until I'm 81 to be able to describe myself as "finally fully happy" and in fact I have not waited. Though I have challenges and setbacks from day to day, as I expect everyone must, and sometimes severe or lasting ones, I consider myself happy in all of the major areas of life. In part, I believe this is because I have always paid careful attention to my own experiences, cared about them, and have taken action accordingly. When I have pursued paths that I dreaded (and I have), including career aspirations or personal relationships, etc., I took that as a cue that there was something fundamentally amiss, and in need of investigation/change. I did not accept my own unhappiness as being somehow the price of moral action, but I sought (both without and within) to make things better for myself, as much as within my power, as soon as possible. I have put nothing higher than my own experience of life -- to make it as positive as possible -- and I think that this emphasis has rewarded me. If Peikoff could not have described himself as "fully happy" before this late juncture, then I suppose we must be thankful for his longevity. What a tragedy it would have been, had he died never being able to say that about himself. I'm middle-aged, myself. A week ago, I was involved in a car accident -- that's one of those pesky challenges/setbacks! -- and actually, it was a situation that I've often brought up in various discussion about ethics: I was stopped, behind some other cars, but another car (a couple back) failed to stop, and there was a domino effect, leading to my being rear-ended. No one was injured, thankfully, but sometimes things don't work out so well. Can we imagine if I were pursuing an ethics that might not lead me to happiness until I'm in my 80s (if ever)... and then I die decades beforehand, whilst dreading my daily work? What a waste that would be. No thank you. I would rather enjoy myself along the way, as much as possible, so that on the day I die (be it tomorrow or fifty years from now), it will always be correct to say that I was happy. From yet another thread, I recently found this: I don't know what dream_weaver had specifically in mind when he wrote this -- and frankly I don't know what to make of it, if we are disinclined to discuss various interpretations of Ayn Rand's wording on a board such as this -- but I will say that I believe it really, deeply matters how we understand and approach ethics. I think it can make the difference between being able to achieve happiness now, or having to wait until old age... if we ever reach it at all, if we don't die first, our attempts at "survival" notwithstanding. If the Objectivist community has a hard time winning converts -- and based on many threads here lately, and based on the overall state of the world, and the way things appear to be trending, I'd say that we do -- then maybe part of it is that we don't manage to produce very many well-adjusted, friendly, happy people. Maybe the confusion at the heart of our approach to ethics, a confusion reflected in this thread and many others on the board, is playing a role in that, inspiring people to fight for "survival" (whatever that should mean to them) at the cost of the things which might otherwise bring them happiness in the near(er) future or present. I'd say that if, when people met Objectivists, they were inspired to think, "Wow! That person really has life figured out; look how well they're doing! Look how happy!" that this would go at least as far as a free copy of Atlas Shrugged in convincing them to investigate the nature of the underlying philosophy. Maybe farther.
  15. Not through it yet, but this is effing brilliant. I'd love to see things like this -- or perhaps this guy specifically (if he's still active; I guess it's been a while since this was filmed) -- get some love in the culture, or financial backing, or ideally both.
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