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DonAthos

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  1. DonAthos

    The Case for Open Objectivism

    I think it's even more simple, actually. I think that there are within Rand's corpus certain essential positions -- and agreement with those positions (which does not include a specific stand re: modern art) is what makes one an Objectivist. I agree. The need to keep Rand's work distinct from other contributors is, as I'd put it in my initial contribution to this thread, more "a matter of record keeping, or footnoting," or as you say, the province of a historian. I don't think such work is valueless, exactly, but it's not my first interest, or my second. Let me answer the last question first. I don't particularly care about the label, qua label. Indeed, in most contexts, describing myself as an Objectivist is quite more trouble than it seems to be worth. I would have been perfectly happy, if I could have discussed philosophy over the length of my life without having had to descend to discussions about William Hickman or who slept with whom. I've had to learn so much that I did not ever care to know. And what wouldn't I give, not to be associated with the many assholes who go around calling themselves Objectivist, and who routinely leave such a powerful negative impression on all and sundry. When I choose to describe myself as Objectivist to someone new, I always hope against hope that they have not yet encountered one in the wild -- because if they have, I am nauseatingly confident in the reaction I'm bound to receive, and all of the false assumptions I will have to strive to overcome. But I take on the label as I do because I think it accurate, and there are contexts in which that accuracy serves me: "mostly for the sake of communication or community," as I'd said earlier. In short, I identify as Objectivist for the same reason I identify as male or human: because I think it is apt. (Whether others agree or not is their own prerogative, as with every other matter.) The reason why I discuss labeling in this specific manner, in this thread, laying out the criteria I employ and my reasons for doing so, and especially with respect to the open/closed system debate, is because there is a history here to consider. A cultural context. In other circumstances, I might not care whether I was considered aristocrat or peasant, but if the guillotine is deployed, then I suppose I should give the matter a moment's thought, so that I know whether to send for the Pimpernel. And I was dragged into the open/closed debate, as with so many other petty controversies, initially as a (surprised and depressed) witness to bickering and ostracizations and denunciations and the like, and then charting the course of essay to counter-essay to counter-counter-essay, trying to sift the remains of a seemingly personal history. Over time, the conclusion that I've reached is that this is one of those things that has diluted the potential impact of Objectivism on the culture and world, more generally; an impediment towards the better tomorrow I'd ideally like to witness, but probably must resolve myself to bequeathing to my descendants. So as to why I care about the label (apart from the minor point, again, of simple accuracy), my answer is two-fold: 1) if it's true that one side is the Evil Empire and the other side the plucky Rebel Alliance -- as is sometimes suggested -- or if one side are the guardians of the pure and uncorrupted, and the other side are the poison, the cancer, the wolves in sheep's clothing -- as is sometimes suggested -- then in all cases, I should like to align myself with the forces of good, truth and right; and 2) I would like to work towards the restoration of the Objectivist community such that the meager resources it possesses can be devoted towards the improvement of the world, for the sake of myself, my daughter, and later generations. I'd like to find a way to put this silly business behind us all, because I think it does little good yet much harm, and I suspect that the only way eventually out is through. As for the rest, I have no particular position about modern art: I'm more questions than resolutions on that point, really. But Jonathan13 has a distinct and forceful position on modern art and it probably is quite opposed to KyaryPamyu's, but for my money, both are (or potentially might be, at least) Objectivists. Which of their positions represents the Objectivist position? More telling than one's answer to that question, imo, is the methodology employed to resolve it: I do not think it is, "Who agrees with Ayn Rand?" but "Which position best accords with the essential Objectivist principles?" and most centrally, with reason and reality. To say more than that would be to argue the subject of modern art, which, as I've said, I'm not interested in doing here and now. I did not say that it was a "primary," I said that it was philosophy. Insofar as it is philosophy, and (properly understood as) the "Objectivist solution" to a philosophical problem (even if you disagree that the "problem" is problematic; even if the purported "solution" avows that the "problem" is not a problem at all), it is a part of Objectivism. If Rand had written similarly, I don't expect you would disagree that Rand's writings on induction were properly considered a part of the philosophy: so I think it's not the source of the matter between us that you consider the subject "derivative," or outside the bounds of some metaphorical encyclopedia, but the authorship. Earlier, you'd set the terms of the "closed system" as excluding those ideas "not part of what Rand actually left in writing or publicly endorsed," but I think that's the wrong place to draw the line (and it has the potentially unfortunate consequence of leaving Peikoff's work out). It is not "that which Rand left in writing" that constitutes the body of philosophy which is Objectivism, but that philosophy which is consonant with the fundamental principles of Objectivism. And with that -- and because one of the great lessons this forum has taught me is to strictly control the extent of my participation, for the sake of my greater well-being -- I will thank you gentlemen for the discussion. Perhaps I'll pick it up again in the future.
  2. DonAthos

    The Case for Open Objectivism

    If Peikoff is "merely using the basic blocks in order to figure out what the solution might be," that sounds to me like original work in philosophy, and I don't see that there's anything "mere" about it. It further describes the process by which all philosophy happens, the "basic blocks" being the reality that we all use in order to find such solutions as we can. We are all expanding upon A=A, but again, it's not a "mere" act. If Rand did not substantively address induction in print -- and I suppose we are equally in agreement, and perhaps equally in ignorance, holding that she did not -- then this is Peikoff's work, no matter whether he was inspired by Rand or not (just as Rand's work is Rand's work, and not Aristotle's). Further, I'd guess that Rand would have liked to work out something on induction, had she been able. However "implicit" you might find Peikoff's conclusions in Rand's writing, it seems important to me that she did not herself make these matters explicit, nor to my knowledge make any claim that the solution to induction was hiding somewhere in her extant writings. Perhaps she did not herself understand what you would now say is implicit in her writing, despite the advantage of having written it herself? And where were the people before Peikoff made his own solution available, to find this in Rand's writing? Were they not listening to Rand carefully enough (did she not inspire that level of analysis or attention, in the philosophically minded who were drawn to read her)? Or did they not care to weigh in on an unimportant and trifling matter, like developing a theory of induction, and complete -- as Peikoff's website has it -- the "validation of reason"? In any event, are you saying that a theory of induction is not philosophy, per se? Surely you agree that this is a philosophical matter, and that philosophers addressing themselves to understanding and describing induction are philosophizing? I would say we call the resultant work of philosophizers philosophizing on a philosophical matter... philosophy. Philosophy is not an all-encompassing encyclopedia, no -- it does not hold to a particular theory of gravity, for instance -- but I would say that a comprehensive philosophy (such as I believe we hold Objectivism to be) would eventually address all those major areas of philosophy that a person needs for the purpose of living on earth, or growing out the encyclopedia such as you address, and by which a person might come to hold a theory of gravity. This seems to me to describe induction. Philosophy is not an all-encompassing encyclopedia, no -- but whatever sort of reference work you might imagine it to be, there is undoubtedly a chapter entitled "Induction." If Rand left those pages blank, it does not mean they must eternally remain so. The notion that Peikoff's theory of induction (granting for the sake of discussion that it is consonant with Rand's fundamentals; fully in accord with reason and reality) might be "an Objectivist solution" but not Objectivism seems to me to be abstruse at the very, very least, and the sort of thing I imagine Rand tearing down rather than proposing. A philosophical solution to a philosophical problem, made within the framework of a given philosophy, and fully consonant with that philosophy, is part and parcel to that philosophy. But who judges when a person has a "true understanding of the principles" as opposed to "acceptance based on how reasonable they sound"? There is yet no source higher than one's own use of reason -- and I'm not entirely sure that there's some magical moment where one progresses from "accepting" Rand's principles initially to "true understanding" of them. Rather, that seems to me to describe the journey Rand hints at when she writes, "to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought." Volumes of thought is a lot of thought. It happens in time and space. It requires energy and will. It is subject to error. I would argue that what we are talking about is no less than the role philosophy plays over the course of an entire lifetime -- that we never reach some point at which our personal work in philosophy, in understanding, defining, proving and applying our principles (and thereby thinking) is complete. Perhaps we can relate one's "understanding" of a given principle to the facility one has to applying it to various circumstances, and etc., but again, regardless of one's mastery, the work of applying that principle to fresh circumstances is never complete. There remains the possibility of error in every single case (innocent mistakes and evasions alike, if these exhaust the category). And in this way, even a master may find cause to refine his own understanding, even unto the end of his life. A neophyte Objectivist is bound to get many, many things wrong. While we may view this as some failure in his understanding -- and doubtless that's true -- it is more to the point that this represents the way in which he will grow in his understanding, and move from some more shallow level of acceptance, or even simple curiosity, towards a deeper and truer mastery of the subject. (Or perhaps an ultimate rejection of Objectivism.) I would agree that, at a minimum, no one should call himself Objectivist if he does not believe himself to understand the fundamentals of Objectivism. And I think most people wouldn't. Most people, I suspect, wouldn't read Rand's "philosophy on one foot" presentation and decide he was an Objectivist on that basis alone, and I would be immediately suspect of the man who claimed otherwise. But if the threshold is believing oneself to understand the fundamentals of Objectivism, and agreeing with these, and setting out to live one's life accordingly ("to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them" and the volumes of thought this necessarily entails), then I think that any person who believes himself to be so doing is entitled to the title Objectivist, up to and until he decides to do differently. Even if I think he errs across several applications, and even if I believe my own understanding of the fundamentals of Objectivism to be better or deeper or more nuanced than his. No doubt. (Though I'm not certain I've met many people, on this site or elsewhere, who have a particularly easy time either recognizing or correcting their own errors. Addressing oneself to error -- internal error as opposed to external error -- remains to me the crucial work Objectivists need to tackle moving forward.) To clarify, in not wanting to digress to a discussion of modern art, here and now, I don't mean to suggest that aesthetics are either "optional" or "irrelevant." (Though it is interesting to note that Rand's "one foot" presentation does not address itself to the subject at all, or even raise it as a category.) I know that aesthetics are of particular interest to you, and I'm sincere in that I would love to discuss modern art with you in the future -- but again, in a more appropriate thread. Regardless, I continue to maintain that two Objectivists can disagree about the subject of modern art and yet be two Objectivists. I haven't studied Kelley to the point where I could say whether I consider him to be an Objectivist or not. I looked into him briefly for the purpose of assessing "closed" versus "open systems," and found him generally misunderstood at the time, and I've subsequently looked into select parts of the Logical Structure of Objectivism to suss out questions about ethics which seem to me to continue to bedevil the Objectivist community -- and I certainly and profoundly disagree with him on that score. But in all events, I would myself hesitate before making too many pronouncements on his beliefs and his character, on the basis of a skim read of some portion of his work, lest I myself be careless.
  3. DonAthos

    The Case for Open Objectivism

    That's true, but that also shows their misunderstanding of what was always meant by the 'closed system' approach. I agree to an extent. When I initially looked into these matters, one of the conclusions I drew was that Peikoff seemed often misunderstood/misrepresented... and so did Kelley. I don't mean to try to explicate the opinions of two other men who aren't here to speak for themselves, but what I will say is that I don't think there's only one thing that was "always meant by the 'closed system' approach"; I believe I've seen a variety of opinions and arguments offered under the aegis of both "open system" and "closed system," by various people contributing to the discussion. If someone is arguing against something they believe to be "the closed system" -- or "the open system," for that matter -- but they misunderstand what Peikoff meant originally, or Kelley, that doesn't mean that they are incorrect with respect to the essentials of the argument(s) that they make or reject; though they may be mistaken in their use of terms, or their understanding of Peikoff, Kelley, etc. Previously, when discussing these things in depth, and to try to be a bit more careful, I often took pains to refer to "the open system... as it is commonly represented," and etc. Suffice it to say, that portion of Fact and Value you've quoted, I agree with. Agreed on all counts. And if the Objectivist theory of rights were in conflict with the Objectivist metaphysics, then we could say that Objectivism, as a philosophy, is not correct (though in such a case, perhaps the theory of rights would remain correct, or perhaps the metaphysics, or perhaps neither). A person who reached such a conclusion would be correct to reject Objectivism and adopt or develop some other, more true philosophy to take its place. I agree, only with the proviso that I don't know enough about Kant to speak to him or his philosophy. Yes. I mean, it's always been telling to me that she titled her monograph Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; it seems to suggest that there remains more epistemology (and perhaps much more) to be discovered and described. Now, it's a question that I believe directly pertains to this discussion as to whether or not someone, post- Rand, could contribute to specifically Objectivist epistemology. This is where I potentially diverge from the closed system (as is typically represented, etc.), so to present my own view, I'll state that I believe so. I think that someone other than Rand could today, or tomorrow, contribute to Objectivist epistemology. Allow me to try to demonstrate: It's my understanding that Rand herself did not do much work (that she published, at least) on induction. Or if she did, I'm not greatly aware of it. On Leonard Peikoff's website, he presents "Induction in Physics and Philosophy," which the site describes saying, "These historic lectures present, for the first time, the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction—and thereby complete, in every essential respect, the validation of reason." I don't know the provenance of these lectures. I don't know if they reflect conversations he might have had with Rand, or work she oversaw at some point, or etc. But let us suppose that Rand did not play any direct role in the salient content of these lectures -- that it represents original work on Peikoff's part. Would it still be appropriate for him to describe it as "the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction"? I think potentially so, yes. And if I were to imagine some student of Objectivism who reads all of Rand -- and let's say agrees with her to the letter -- and then listens to Peikoff's lectures on induction, and agrees with those, too, and integrates that knowledge with the rest (assuming that Peikoff is correct, and that his ideas on induction integrate seamlessly with Rand's philosophy)... well, what should that student call this resultant philosophy that he holds -- being the fundamentals of Objectivism along with the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction? Is there any title that makes sense apart from Objectivism? Any rejection of Objectivism's fundamentals is not Objectivism. An "addition" that contradicts the fundamentals either must eventually be eliminated, or result in a fundamental change (which would result in a new/different philosophy). However, we may also imagine an addition that does not contradict the fundamentals, but is consonant with them. And it is in this spirit that I allow Peikoff's work on induction may well be Objectivist, even if not personally supervised or endorsed by Ayn Rand. It's interesting, the idea that "those who deviate indirectly" from the fundamentals are not truly Objectivists, whether they are consciously aware of this or not. I would rather say that they are not correct, and that they have work to do (whether that work results in a reformulation of their "deviation," their fundamentals, or both -- and irrespective of what we title the result). If I imagine a person who agrees with the fundamentals of Objectivism, arrives at some addition (say an approach to induction) that contradicts the fundamentals, but is not aware of it -- I would say that this person should certainly call himself an Objectivist. He has no higher authority to consult on the topic, after all, apart from his own use of reason. Is he wrong (in some absolute, omniscient sense) to do so? I don't believe so. If he is made aware of the conflict between his fundamental beliefs and this addition, and seeks to rectify this contradiction (as he should, and as I would imagine a self-described Objectivist would), then he will eventually either have to reject his addition... or some fundamental Objectivist belief, or both. In the latter two cases, he is at that point no longer an Objectivist. But beforehand? He is an Objectivist. An Objectivist in error on a particular point, perhaps, but an Objectivist nonetheless. And this error may speak to a "poor understanding" of some fundamental, as such, but does not necessarily do so, I don't believe; the integration, relationship and application of philosophical fundamentals to other ideas and situations, is a fraught and self-directed process, frequently difficult, and potentially errant -- even if the fundamental itself is well understood. Or to put this another way, understanding some philosophical idea does not necessarily mean understanding that idea's application in every possible context and circumstance, let alone understanding every application effortlessly or without the capacity for error. One last note to make here: we've been speaking of an "addition" that contradicts the fundamentals, but everything we've said applies equally to some established Objectivist belief, should it contradict the fundamentals. The Objectivist who believes Rand wrong about modern art (more on which below) seeks to prevent the very destruction of the system that you describe; and in such a case -- if this person is correct re: modern art, and Rand wrong -- it is those who defend the established view that spawn more corrupted parts, in the effort to defend their view regarding modern art (a disheartening process I believe I have witnessed with respect to other topics, at least). Some of those who champion what they regard to be an "open system" are looking to thwart, address and correct this very potential for destruction. There is a ton of work to be done, both academically and popularly -- not only more than Rand accomplished in her lifetime, but more than any one person could accomplish in a lifetime -- and I am certain that Rand was aware of this, too. I don't mean to argue modern art with you just now. Actually, I chose that as my example in part because I'm a touch ambivalent on the subject -- I wanted to avoid being baited into the tangent, lol, and merely wanted to find a placeholder subject to explore the idea of disagreement itself, in this context -- but I know of at least one other Objectivist (by my reckoning, at least, lest I beg the question) who does feel quite strongly that Rand was incorrect about modern art. After arguing with him at length, over time, my own assessment as it stands is that I'm undecided on the point, and wish to investigate the matter further (so you see, I would be happy to argue modern art with you in the future, in a more appropriate thread). But I think it's fine that you consider her assessment of modern art to be fully consistent with her ideas (or more to the point, her fundamental ideas -- those fundamental, essential ideas that I believe describe Objectivism). With respect to the current discussion, I would make the following observations: Either it is true that Rand's assessment of modern art is fully consistent with the fundamentals of Objectivism, or it is true that her assessment of modern art is not fully consistent with the fundamentals of Objectivism. If you and I disagreed on this point -- though I don't honestly know whether we do, because I am not yet completely settled in my own views -- I hold that we could still both be Objectivists, with one of us (at minimum) in error. If Rand was mistaken regarding modern art, I would not take this to mean that Objectivism is a flawed philosophy that needs rejection -- because I associate Objectivism with its fundamentals. A would continue to be A, reason would continue to be reason, and it would actually be due to my holding fast to the fundamentals of Objectivism that I would reject the later, errant view regarding modern art, as being contradictory to reason and reality. If Rand's beliefs on modern art conflicted with her more fundamental philosophical views (whether Rand was consciously aware of this discrepancy or not), I would not say that Rand herself was not really an Objectivist. I'd say, rather, that Rand was an Objectivist who was mistaken on that issue.
  4. DonAthos

    The Case for Open Objectivism

    I've always thought this was a sort of strange approach. It's not that I disagree entirely with what I take you to be saying here. But it approaches the "closed system" debate as a matter of record keeping, or footnoting. I'm not certain that most "open system" advocates think that's the true matter of the discussion. And though I do not consider myself to be an advocate for either "closed" or "open" systems (because I believe that these do not exhaust the range of fundamental approaches), I don't believe that such record keeping is what truly animates most of this debate, either, on either side. There may be some value in knowing what was specifically endorsed or "created" by Ayn Rand (though I'm tempted to say that philosophy, insofar as it is true, is more a "discovery" than a "creation": Ayn Rand discovered that A = A, she did not make it so; she did not create it), or Leonard Peikoff, or Nathaniel Branden -- but speaking personally, I care much more what is true, rather than who first identified it (or wrote it down, or anthologized it), and in this pursuit I try to be guided by reason, to the best of my ability. That is the sole criterion (aspirationally, if nothing else) for those beliefs which I hold, and which collectively constitute "my philosophy." For many or most purposes, I don't think there's much call to give a name to the sum total of my philosophical belief. Insofar as I do, and mostly for the sake of communication or community, "Objectivism" makes the most sense for a variety of reasons (which I could discuss further if need be). It's funny to me, the idea that if I should disagree with Rand on some matter (let's say her assessment of modern art), then I need to reject the label altogether, and find some new moniker. Then, imagining a thousand "Objectivists" who each might harbor some similar difference of opinion on a thousand different issues, ought we have a thousand names for what we suppose is a thousand different philosophies? I don't see how that would serve any good purpose. When I say that I am an "Objectivist," what I mean is that I agree with Ayn Rand, fundamentally, when she wrote: She continued, "If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life." And I concur. If this "full philosophical system" she describes were given a name, I think "Objectivism" is just as good as any other, and more apropos than most since that is the name that Rand supplied to describe it. And so, as regards anyone else who agrees with me (and by extension, Rand) about these fundamentals, these essentials, and seeks to hold them with total consistency as the base of their convictions, I think that "Objectivist" is the fitting label to describe their philosophy, irrespective of their position on modern art.
  5. "It isn't about this at all"? All right, let's review then: The OP (along with the thread title) is not about "comparing governments," but dealing with the difficulties of living in a system where "the majority of people" support policies that -- in some cases -- make actual human life impossible. The first response that happiness received -- that "there is nowhere better than here" -- is not necessarily true. It may be true that there is nowhere better than here for DavidOdden, just as it may be true for me that "there is nothing better to eat than a peanut butter sandwich," but neither of these are universally true, and to say that they are (in the name of "objectivity") is to forget the role that context plays in objective thought. For instance, if happiness could secure the treatments he needs in some other country then it may well be better for him to move to that country to receive those treatments. Is "nowhere better than here"? Not necessarily for happiness, not necessarily in that case. (Note that I am here employing happiness in a completely hypothetical capacity; I've no idea about whether this is likely, or possible, and do not mean to comment on his actual situation.) Then JASKN wondered whether the US is truly evil (or "over-the-top evil") and he concluded that it is not, because he is still somewhat free (he "can still get on the internet and badmouth any branch of the government," and etc.). These comprise the two main responses. (Well... there is also Nicky's "response" of "most board members disagree" and "all the rational people I know can handle reading the news," which, in a better forum, would have been called out well before now; but I have already given him enough attention.) So if the response is, "but it is better here than elsewhere," that may be true (or it may not -- more in a second), but it doesn't actually speak to the matter at hand. If the response is, "things aren't so bad for me; therefore, things aren't so bad for you," then it is an utter failure. Yes, it is possible to evaluate two governments -- or to reason that X is better than Y -- but not without a context. Value requires a valuer, and Singapore (or the United States) may be the best option for some yet not for others. For the sake of further precision (albeit risking a touch of clarity), let me amend that slightly to say that it may be possible to evaluate two governments without a personal context, but not in any meaningful fashion. Evaluation is not some activity disconnected from life -- we evaluate things for a purpose, and that purpose guides and shapes our process of evaluation. If a person "evaluates" two countries from a standpoint outside of his own context, then he may well conclude that "this is the best/better country to live in" and be correct in all cases except for himself. This is pointless at best, and at worst lands the drug smuggler in a Singapore prison for life, and -- as I've imagined it -- spending his time singing the praises of the "relatively free" government there. Besides which, some "comparative" approach does not render the evil actions of any given government, Singapore or the US, less evil; and if we mean to speak to the OP or even simply the title of this thread, it does not necessarily help us to understand how to live in a country where such evil is tolerated or promulgated by our fellow citizens. What value is this comparative approach, then? It appears to be meant as a palliative, because "there is no such place as Galt’s Gulch." But some people are working towards the creation of Galt's Gulch, or something like it, because they do find the present situation intolerable. Those who are content with the status quo have no real reason to struggle against it -- and I mean that as no criticism. But let's not tell others that they must be content, as well, especially when their situation/context is potentially different from our own. For I maintain that those who say that the US is "not so bad" are able to do so, in part, because they have been fortunate in their experiences; there are other people for whom the US is so bad. (They are the people in "The Lottery" whose number has not been drawn... yet.) In point of fact, I do not expect that someone rotting in a Singapore prison for life, for "crimes" which ought not be crimes, will be constructing odes to the supposed relative merits of their system. He will be too intimately familiar with its failures -- and the personal consequences of those failures -- for that. And if you think that's what "objectivity" requires -- for the chained-and-whipped slave in the Antebellum US, say, to praise the US government because of the relative degree of freedom it allows for the people in the North -- then I fear that your approach to both "objectivity" and judgement are mistaken. It is not about assessing things according to some average, or some generic "everyman," or (ahem) "EVERYONE. Equally.", it is about assessing things according to whether they further your personal, individual life and happiness -- and then acting accordingly.
  6. This misses the purpose, and thus the proper means, of evaluation. You do not judge (i.e. evaluate morally) a system, or anything else, "based on how it does by EVERYONE. Equally." The purpose of evaluation is action, and insofar as your actions are meant to benefit the self, your evaluation must be according to the self as well. Is a peanut butter sandwich a healthy snack/meal? It depends. It depends on who you are -- your personal context. If you are deathly allergic to peanuts, then no, a peanut butter sandwich is not healthy. Not for you, not in your situation. The allergic may yet recognize that other people, in other contexts, may eat and enjoy peanuts and peanut butter; but his own evaluation of the healthfulness of eating a peanut butter sandwich is negative, as it must be if evaluation is to perform its role: which is a guide to action for the purpose of living, happiness, etc. An Objectivist sees no conflict between the fact that he is personally affected by a given subject (which is, per "Fact and Value," for instance, all of them) and his ability to assess that subject objectively. What I've described above is objective. What objectivity does not require is some "value of a peanut butter sandwich" for some abstract "everyman" who does not, in fact, even exist. This is why softwareNerd is correct, when he writes: This however... ...is bizarre and has nothing to do with the purpose of evaluation, etc. I imagine someone sitting in a Singapore prison for life (for something which ought not be a crime), singing the praises of their government, because of how it is supposedly better for "EVERYONE. Equally." (than what? Venezuela? is that the standard?) as opposed to the factual destroyer of his actual, one-time-only life on Earth. And yes, sometimes people need direct personal experience to give them perspective, particularly when lacking in any (or all) of information, imagination or empathy.
  7. Come on now. A few house slaves aside, most were denied use of their masters' internet. This has been a sticking point for me, in these kinds of conversations, for a while now. Of course the poster has a personal context relevant to this question. There doesn't exist a person without a personal context, and anyone's answer to this sort of question will necessarily reflect that context. The idea that a question like this can be meaningfully answered (or "interpreted") in some abstract "general 'average person' context" is suspect, at least, and in several discussions I've put to you that assessing the morality of the US legal system, or etc., depends greatly on who you happen to be. If you -- or a loved one -- is rotting in jail due to unjust drug laws, for instance, then it's probably not going to look like such a great system. An "average person" (by which we mean -- what, exactly? white? male? middle-aged?) needs to be able to take this sort of thing into account. It's as though saying that the society in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" wasn't so bad... so long as your number doesn't come up. And perhaps it's equally true that the person who feels the scourge of society should remember that things aren't so bad for many others in the community, but I guess it's sensible that we will all be biased towards our own experiences, for better or worse. The slave in a Roman mine won't be greatly heartened to know, I don't expect, that his forced labor furnishes someone else's villa. So if we're insisting on someone like happiness providing "personal context," then maybe the folks who constantly come in with "this country and its laws aren't so bad" also need to provide their personal reminder of "for me, in my situation." When we recognize that there yet remains institutionalized injustice, in our system or any other, that means that real evil is being visited upon some actual person. If you can live well enough with the tax laws, or whatever, then you can and more power to you, but let's not neglect the fact that not everyone emerges unscathed.
  8. DonAthos

    Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    At present, this is my position. I understood your humor, and I appreciate it. Humor is a good thing. But also... you know, as I continue to try to peel back the layers of things like evasion, and proper discussion, and so forth, I've become aware of some of the various ways we sometimes go wrong, or prevent ourselves from drawing some pertinent conclusion, or etc. One of the things we can hear, I am convinced, in an argument that "what you are saying is wrong (or here: 'statist')" is instead "there is something deficient about you (here: 'you are a statist' or even 'you are evil')." Sometimes that's no mistake in understanding; sometimes that's truly what's intended, and sometimes it is even stated explicitly. But in my continued opinion, this has the effect of setting up obstacles to understanding. If we hear our "opponent" saying "you are a statist," and we know that this is not true of ourselves, it may disincline us to give the nuance of their arguments much consideration. (Let alone "you are evil," which I frankly believe is a sentiment that no fundamentally rational person is going to take seriously. Consequently, I think that sort of rhetoric tends to shortcircuit debate altogether.) This is why I endeavor to be clear in what I'm contending -- and to either clarify or correct earlier statements, where necessary, in the process. Given the thrust of your humor, especially, I thought it necessary to state outright that I do not think that you are a statist, but the arguments that you've made with respect to rights throughout this thread -- yes, I believe that amounts to statism. I think that the arguments you've made, at least at times, leave individual rights to be a meaningless concept, and I have endeavored to demonstrate why (whether or not I have yet done so to your satisfaction). With respect, I'd earlier decided to try to step back from this conversation for a while. You'd then asked some questions about whether one has the right to respond to theft, outside of some established government, and I responded in some fashion (though not yet so fully or directly as I would otherwise like), and then, too, regarding some pertinent quotes by Rand and Peikoff... but I still don't know whether I wish to revisit, let alone recapitulate, the several arguments already made. At the moment -- whether this makes me a "purist" in any sense (though I doubt it) -- I do contend that force may only be used in response to the initiation of force; if that is inconsistent with your position, then we remain at issue, but I can be content with this impasse for the time being. Perhaps I will sometime be motivated to return to the breach. You always have the right to change your mind; it need not be reserved. And for the sake of further clarity, you should know that I do not consider myself as contending with you, so much, as with the arguments you've presented. When I take note of some change or inconsistency in your argument (as I see it), it is not for the sake of personal impeachment, but to highlight the discrepancy for the sake of further examination or elaboration. If you were to abandon your current arguments tomorrow and agree unreservedly with me, it would not satisfy me any more or less than my current ability to establish my point of view to my own satisfaction (or not much more, at least; I'm no saint). At that point, I would only hope that we were both now correct, and that you had not abandoned your case too quickly...
  9. DonAthos

    Dealing with the Hostile Reader

    Everything exists within some context. These posts, too. Presumably we compose them and post them for some purpose -- to achieve some effect in the world. And so I wonder, what do the people behind these posts intend to achieve, here and now? I'm gratified to have been raised as a positive example in the OP. I'm certain I don't always deserve praise, but I do honestly try my best to be a productive member of this community. I believe strongly in ideas, in truth, in reason -- and also in the potential value of debate, discussion, argument. I think that this community has the potential to foster such argument that leads the individuals who participate in it (and perhaps others, too) closer to truth, to right ideas, to a philosophy of reason. But to do this -- if it is our end -- we must take care to structure the community to that end. We must treat the community as a machine, designed according to the function we intend it to serve, and we must tailor our own contributions accordingly. "Judge, and prepare to be judged," yes. But the expression of such judgement (whether a particular judgement is expressed at all, and then its particular manner) is a separate question. If we mean to make this community the best it can be (according to the standard of fostering the sort of discussion that may lead individuals to truth), then we must give attention as well to how and when we express our judgements of one another, and we must continue to ask the question -- does this particular communication further the goals we've set for this community? Personally, when I look at a thread like this, I see something of a mistake... or perhaps it is better seen as an opportunity for further reflection and improvement. Discussing the manner by which we communicate with one another is important. I don't mean to dissuade such discussions, at all, and I have started more than one thread myself in an attempt to raise them (as, for example, here and here). Yet they are fraught and potentially explosive, especially (as is only natural/fitting) when drawing upon the examples of experiences with others on this very board. None of this is easy, and I don't mean to claim that I have it figured out. I still struggle with it, I'm still learning, and I make mistakes in this regard -- all the time. But I would like to try to aim us more towards trying to understand one another, than the kinds of insulting, shunning, blocking, banning, and so forth, that has characterized the still-young Objectivist community, and, imo, made it mostly impotent.
  10. DonAthos

    A Complex Standard of Value

    Ill-health is not the "introduction of a mind/body dichotomy." It could be evasion, which is not recommended. It could also be a choice -- to shorten one's lifespan (or to risk such a shortening, at the very least) for the gain of values along the way. I'm not going to argue the morality of such a choice here and now, but I've argued it elsewhere, many times, including the thread I'd already linked in an earlier post. Suffice it to say that some people are willing to experience a shorter life, if, in their opinion, it is a richer/better life. Whatever sort of choice that is, and whether you agree or disagree with it, it is not evasion.
  11. DonAthos

    A Complex Standard of Value

    Yes -- fat people can be happy, productive and rational. (For that matter, a happy, productive life is not often stumbled into by whim, or on accident...) And the larger point is that, in prioritizing values according to individual interests and context (including time spent exercising, for instance), we should not expect rational people to value the same things, or even where commonalities exist, not necessarily to the same degree.
  12. DonAthos

    The Law of Identity

    I don't believe that the law of identity, as such, has much to say about anything particular. It says that a thing is what it is (and that it is not what it is not), but it makes no further demands as to what a thing is or ought to be. With that said, does my identity include how I was made? I think so. I think my identity sensibly includes everything that is true about me: I am everything that I am, and my history is a part of that. Insofar as one's DNA is fundamental to all of one's physical being, I'd say that there is no "differentiation" between DNA and the self... except that the self (including "impulses" as normally understood) is experienced on a "higher level," in terms of thoughts and emotions and sensations and etc. Objectivism as a philosophy addresses itself to those thoughts and emotions and sensations and the stuff of living as a human. If your contention is that DNA makes some other demand on us through other means, then I guess that's the matter that needs to be investigated, though I would consider myself skeptical... just as I would be skeptical if, say, someone made a claim that, because we are composed of atoms, we should all be buzzing around like electrons. If you're saying that the core Objectivist literature doesn't fully address itself to everything that people routinely desire or need, I heartily agree. There's much, much more to be said and written and investigated (and I think Rand said as much, as well) -- and then any given individual must discover all of this for himself, regardless of what's been written by others. Are people "social/political animals"? Is there a need for intimacy? I'd say so. There's much value in family, too, or potentially so. (For context, I'm married and I have a child.) But it's still another kind of claim to make that people owe something to their DNA, or their family line, or to future generations, or etc. The pleasures I take in both intimacy and family are selfish; I pursue them fundamentally for the sake of enjoying my own singular experience of life on earth, not because I believe myself to be beholden to humanity's past -- or future. Yes, there's a lot of nonsense on the topic... which is only to be expected, I suppose, given how close the topic of procreation strikes at the heart of humanity. It's bound to draw out people's most highly charged responses, for better and worse. What is the "current Objectivist stance on procreation"? I'm asking honestly; as far as I'm concerned, Objectivism has no stance on procreation, as such, neither encouraging nor discouraging, but arguing that people should be free to pursue their own interests. If you find value in fighting for the world of 12017 CE, and think that your procreative decisions today speak to that far future, then I'm not going to try to talk you out of it... But in my experience, fighting for the next hundred years or so (or hell, the next few years, the next month, or with a five year old, a single night's rest) is plenty to keep me occupied.
  13. DonAthos

    A Complex Standard of Value

    If I were to take Peikoff literally in "Fact and Value," I'd say that everything is an objective factor to your enjoyment of life. Even if we consider that to be an overreach (or even a misinterpretation on my part), I think there's some sense to it. Everything is at least potentially an objective factor to your enjoyment of life, even those things you choose to take no notice of (and equally I mean you, personally; Nerian). Even those things of which you are utterly unaware. Yet people are limited in many ways. We are limited in our time and money and energy, our awareness and capacity to focus, etc. The resource that Howard Roark spends on architecture is resource he does not have to spend on other things, including things that are also objective factors to his enjoyment of life, and possibly including things that have "important and inescapable effects" on his quality of life. People make choices in this regard, prioritizing one thing over another, and the calculus involved (to the chagrin of many Objectivists, for some reason) is deeply personal. (Sometimes Objectivists aggrieved by this notion will describe the result as "subjective," but I prefer "individual.") The object of your criticism, in my opinion, are those who prioritize in different ways than you do (as against those who act out of ignorance, or knowingly against their own interests, e.g. altruistically). For after all, I'd guess that these Objectivists do not pay zero attention to health or fashion -- if that were literally true, they couldn't survive for long at all, given that human health requires constant maintenance... and then you would probably know them when they stepped out of the house, if they were naked, or wearing blankets, or what-not. Some thought is given to health, insofar some choices are being made for the purpose of longevity, or to avoid sickness, etc., and some thought is given to fashion, insofar some choices are being made as to dress, though perhaps not to the degree you would select for yourself in either area. The stereotypical image for fashion in this regard, perhaps, is the "absent-minded professor" who cannot be bothered to match his socks, but there we can see the very thing I'm talking about: he is so focused, so absorbed in his pursuits and passions that he has nothing left for caring about what he has on his feet. (Or not quite "nothing," again, given that he has managed to put something on his feet, after all, and presumably for some purpose.) You may believe that he's making a bad choice, caring insufficiently about how he "presents himself in society" -- and maybe, if you could make the case to him, he'd even agree -- but I think it's just as likely, at the least, that he would dismiss you as not caring sufficiently for his work, or for wasting your own time on how you're dressed versus other, more important pursuits. ("More important" from his perspective, you understand.) As for "eating oneself into obesity," it seems my destiny on this board to go to bat for the value of eating ice cream, and associated pleasures, time and again. (You and I have been involved in threads where I've already expressed some of this, I know, but here is a recent discussion touching on some of these issues.) While I wouldn't recommend "obesity," as such, it cannot be denied that there is some potential cost to a life of eating ice cream, or cheesecake, or etc. Are there people we would describe as "fat" or "obese" (which, I may be mistaken, but I believe is a medical term with objective criteria) who can lead happy, productive lives? As much as you may not be able to fathom such a thing, I think so. At the same time, are there some results so dire and inimical to what we'd otherwise describe as "the good life" that, without knowing anything else, we may condemn them as evidence of immorality? Perhaps. The people who wind up the focus of documentaries about being 900 pounds, and unable to get out of bed, come to mind. But short of that kind of extremity, I think it's unjust and dangerous to judge the choices of others sans their personal context, especially along the sorts of lines you've suggested: those insufficiently fashion-minded, etc. That isn't judgment so much as it is judgmentalism.
  14. DonAthos

    A Complex Standard of Value

    I don't mean to address, let alone take issue with, your entire thesis, but I wanted to comment on this part... I think it's a mistake to expect that Objectivists will share the same sorts of interests. While I believe that there are some mistakes habitually made with respect to "enjoying oneself" (based on a widespread misreading/misunderstanding of "life as the standard of value"), which can potentially result in some of what you're talking about, even if we all shared the same understanding of the same fundamental standard, there would still be Objectivists who would be more or less into fitness, more or less into fashion, more or less into intellectual pursuits, etc. There would still be Objectivists that wouldn't "make sense" to you in that way (just as you would not make sense to others). It's like: take architecture. Not really a big deal for me. Howard Roark and I may have some awkward moments at a cocktail party, searching for a topic of conversation. But that's okay: I respect his passion for that pursuit, even though I do not share it.
  15. DonAthos

    The Law of Identity

    You bring a fascinating perspective to this discussion, and I am thankful for it. That said, I'd like to highlight this (quoted portion), because I believe it says something with which I disagree strongly. I have found associated with discussions of transgenderism and gender -- and things regarding man's "nature" more generally -- that several people finally wind up coming to the conclusion that people (or women more specifically) have some sort of moral duty to bear children. I think this is both wrong in itself, and it points to some earlier error with respect to conceptualizing morality. An individual's only moral duty is to himself (or herself) and to his own happiness. He owes nothing to evolution, nor to his family line, nor to future generations. That a person has some physical architecture to have children -- or do anything else -- does not make it some moral imperative to have children, and it does not make it immoral to choose not to have children.
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