Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by DonAthos

  1. The Royal Family of Nominalism

    It happens that I have a five year old daughter. She also identifies as female, and strongly so, insofar as I can tell such a thing. Do you think that what's on her mind, in her identification, is her genitalia? We were playing the other day with a stuffed animal and a hairband that had a bow on it. When she put the hairband over the animal's head, it was a girl; when she dropped it down over the animal's neck so that the bow made a bow tie, it was a boy. A few days before that, she was looking at these utterly abstract cartoon faces (drawn on crayons, it happens), informing me that some were boys and others were girls. The girls had eyelashes drawn on; otherwise all of the faces were utterly identical. When I pointed out that I -- a man -- also have eyelashes, she informed me that they are not so long as a girl's. (A claim which I can neither confirm nor dispute, as such, but it seems unlikely to me that she's in a position to make the claim either; yet I enjoyed her rationalization as evidence of "thinking on her feet.") She's aware of the existence of genitalia, of course, and she's been told of how boys and girls are different in that way, but she identified herself as a girl before having any understanding of this (probably due to being called a girl since birth), and I am convinced that this particular biological difference is not on her mind at all when she thinks in terms of gender. She watches (and loves) the cartoon PJ Masks. As is typical of her, her favorite hero is the girl, Owlette, and her favorite villain is the girl, Luna Girl. I expect that it's never crossed her mind to wonder about the plumbing of these cartoon characters. In my opinion, she is responding to the fact of similarity (in that she knows she is a girl, and she knows that they are girls, too), and all of the other things that we associate with gender (higher pitched voices, hair styles, associated colors, etc). Of the things that she associates with gender, and identifies herself with, I would guess that about .05 percent of it has to do with genitalia -- and that is me being generous. In truth, I doubt it enters her mind at all. What if, given all of the same information, she strongly identified herself (at this point) with boys, or even as a boy? I don't know. I'm glad I don't have to figure that out to a practical degree, and I don't envy the people who do.
  2. The Law of Identity

    No, the nature of your critique was not clear to me. And actually, it still isn't. Whatever it is you are arguing centrally is not completely clear to me (even as I recognize clear errors along the way). What do we care about "the proper form of happiness"? Is the reason why we care about such a thing because... we want to achieve happiness? If so, then I agree, and I think that you're wrong to criticize Rand's identification of happiness as man's highest moral purpose. It is that we wish to be happy that we care about the "proper form" to achieve it, or what underlies it or produces it. (Happiness is its own justification; we do not need a justification to seek out/pursue our own happiness; it is an end in itself.) Perhaps that's what you're criticizing, and the manner in which you're attempting it, but you are mistaken to do so. The only reason why "proper form" matters at all is because the emotional reward (which is, again, happiness; "man's highest moral purpose") is the most important issue. In fact, we may call a given form "proper" only because it results in happiness. Central errors will radiate outwards, and yes, you're also wrong to critique the fact that Rand's fictional heroes enjoy sexual relationships (if that is in fact your critique; as I say, it is still unclear to me...). But I provided you with some real life examples of the very sorts of phenomena I meant, including "sense of life," "gender identity" and "sexual orientation." So put some meat on those bones. I'd asked whether you know how to will yourself to be gay, if you are straight, or straight, if you are gay. Do you? Yes. Exactly. Never mind all of that. If we do not have the technology to change from straight to gay, or gay to straight, male-identifying to female-identifying, or back, then it does not matter about "the entire historical existence of Homo sapiens sapiens as a sexually reproducing species" (with respect to those issues, at least). It further doesn't matter whether you believe that such technology -- in medicinal form, or psychotherapeutic form, or what-have-you -- theoretically could (or should) exist. What matters is that individuals must make actual choices, in their actual, specific context, for the sake of their own happiness. And thus far it seems as though straight people cannot will themselves gay, and gay people cannot will themselves straight. Thus, a gay man or woman must act as a gay man or woman, and damn whatever you think their "nature" to otherwise be. Don't settle for empty verbiage. Go ahead and provide some practical examples: demonstrate what you mean, for the sake of clarity, if nothing else. Yes, in some cases, I would advise taking the "emotional end-result" (though this seems a poor label for the sorts of things I've mentioned) as the metaphysically given and unchangeable; homosexuality is my running example, so I would like to see you address it directly: I presume* that you take homosexuality as being against "man's nature." So in such a case... you would recommend "changing your views and ultimately your feelings," rather than seeking happiness in same-sex relationships, etc.? Is that your sort of meaning? Cards on the table, please. __________________________________ * It is the nature of such presumptions, of course, that I may be mistaken. And please advise me if I am. But given "the genetically, hormonally, anatomically, and psychologically distinctive male and female forms" to which you've referred, your cryptic reference to how marriage/procreation "completes" a person, and etc., I think my errant presumption -- if indeed I am in error -- is at least understandable. This is incorrect. Yes, I understand your argument. I'm deeply familiar with it. This sort of math depends upon a misunderstanding/equivocation of "life as the standard of value," which is, unfortunately, endemic throughout the Objectivist community. It is replacing "life" in the full sense Rand intended ("qua man") with "survival," which is a misinterpretation supported (again unfortunately) by some of Rand's writings, and developed at length, explicitly, by David Kelley. It is mistaken. LOL, oh you! Well, when I leave Objectivism for subjectivism, I suppose I will be welcomed by Rand, Peikoff, et al., who have also endorsed suicide under certain conditions. But you're right that you don't see any counterargument here. I don't intend on arguing suicide again, or not for awhile, at least. Yet my arguments on this topic -- and the many rebuttals they've drawn -- are strewn all across the forum: Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die Spies Who Commit Suicide Reification and Suicide I'm certain there are others...
  3. The Law of Identity

    I get the idea that you think what you're saying is consistent with Objectivism (correct if I'm mistaken)? But didn't Rand hold that man's "highest moral purpose" is the achievement of his own happiness? No, this is wrong. Wrong if you're talking about me, at least -- and inconsistent with my understanding of morality as well. My purpose in sex is not about "carrying out the core functions" of my being; I am not trying to "fully express my nature"; but I am seeking pleasure and intimacy, and (yes) happiness. If I thought that there were some conflict between "fully expressing my nature" and the pursuit of my own happiness (though I'm not certain that there is; it depends, perhaps, on what we believe "my nature" to consist of -- a fraught subject), then sucks to my nature. The "substance" you describe is barren and sterile. Meaningless. We do not act so as to "fulfill our nature," or for the sake of "proper form." Who the hell cares about that? (And the implication that one requires either marriage or procreation to be complete is disturbing. This is why I caveat "my nature" above; people can slip in all sorts of stuff.) Yes, "emotional reward" (i.e. happiness) is the most important issue. Happiness is the point to what we do. There is nothing more important than the individual's achievement of his own happiness -- no higher moral purpose than that. Not going to speak to Hsieh, because I'm not sufficiently familiar with her arguments on this score, but there are aspects of "changing the mind" which are not necessarily straight forward, including "sense of life." I don't know where "gender identity" rests, but it may be fairly deep -- not to say that the mind is an "irreducible black box," but that I'm not certain that we know how to access such things, or change them directly, in later life. See also: "sexual orientation." If you are straight, would you know how to "will yourself" to be gay, or vice-versa? If not, that doesn't make you a subjectivist. I cannot revisit this at the moment, not after the one bajillion threads dedicated to discussing it directly, but yes: sometimes suicide is a good solution. Some people do have wrong beliefs and need therapy, but that does not mean that all suicidal feelings must be following from some wrong belief about themselves or the world.
  4. The Law of Identity

    Yes -- I think this hits closer to the mark, though I would not go so far as to describe it as a "mentality" (necessarily, in every case); but when we describe gender as a "social construct," insofar as it is one, I think that Rand's description of the process is fairly apt: "an indiscriminate accumulation of sundry concretes, random facts, and unidentified feelings, piled into unlabeled mental file folders." I think this is what's going on, essentially, and this is why I referred to this as being "where the true debate lies." Yes, I think this is accurate. With respect to gender, after all, how is one to know what it is "like" to be male or female? I suppose we might say that I must know what it is like to be male -- being me, being of male sex, whatever my experiences are must be the experiences of "maleness," of male gender, for whatever it's worth. Even supposing that it would be possible for my experiences to actually be "female" in nature, somehow -- even supposing that this would refer to something real -- how would I ever know it or become aware of it? At what point would I be justified in believing that my experiences were not of maleness? But suppose I bought into this idea that being male must mean that I will experience the world in a particular way (or within some range) -- and then suppose that this is not true of my experience. If I'd also been told that being female means some set of other experiences (or associations), and if that seemed more reflective of my personal experience, then I could come to understand how someone would identify himself with the feminine, or even as female. This is how I'd tried to describe it, initially: So I think that the root of this is subscribing to the notion that "men are this way, women are that way." And I should note that I don't think this is something that my hypothetical trans person does, alone, or that it is strictly characteristic of an "anti-conceptual mentality" (however we come to regard "gender"). I think that it is endemic in society and throughout history (and actually well-represented on this very board). I think this is why it's stressed that gender and sex are separate -- we identify female (sex) through genitalia. But how do you identify a gender? How do you put your finger on it? Well, that's how someone winds up with "infinite genders" and so forth. So is "gender" (apart from sex) an "anti-concept" then? I suspect that it might be. But I think it's worthwhile to look at what people are reacting to, to better understand the context in which people are developing these ideas. There's a lot that's "gendered" in the world -- things which have either nothing to do with biological sex, or if there is a connection, it is remote and tenuous and may have nothing at all to do with an individual's experience of the world. Yet this idea of gender, in many of these manifestations, is taken very seriously and enforced by all sorts of social codes. Sometimes legal codes as well. Whether or not one takes seriously that he identifies as "male" or "female," or even ascribes any meaning to it at all, there are many very real repercussions for how one presents oneself, with respect to "gender." I suspect that those repercussions might themselves inspire people to take the whole thing quite seriously, regardless of their actual, lived experience. Maybe I can approach this by way of analogy... Earlier I'd referenced the tie, and how I don't understand it (or fashion more generally). It boggles me in contemplation, but I do believe it that there are people in the world who actually believe that wearing a tie (that is to say, a strip of fabric dangling from the neck) carries with it some sense of professionalism. That isn't what I see, personally, when I see someone wearing a tie: I don't see a professional, I see someone "going along to get along" (if I'm describing it charitably); yet I also understand, again, that many of these folks are true believers. When they see a tie, or when they wear one themselves, they see/think/feel professional. It makes them feel like a big boy. Well, where in the world are they getting that from? I suspect it is the same place that many of us get our ideas about gender. And since tie-wearing is so ubiquitous among the professional population, so well-represented in media, enforced by numerous dress codes, and etc., I think that it propagates itself, and even those otherwise inclined to be skeptical as to the actual relationship between tie-wearing and professionalism will often buy into the notion to some extent, or at least they will be content to let these ideas lie unexamined. For after all, there are stakes. A rejection of professional dress code may mean losing business or one's job (and if I still worked in a career where tie-wearing was ubiquitous, which thankfully I no longer do, I likely would still wear one, accordingly). I suspect that for many people, the stakes of gender identity (whether one expresses himself in ways which are generally considered "male" or "female") are much, much higher.
  5. The Law of Identity

    There's no conflict between one's sense of identity and reality in this case; the man who seeks a sex change operation is fully aware that he has a penis -- that's why he's undergoing the surgery. He knows that he identifies himself as female according to whatever other associations we make with male vs. female (which is where the true debate lies, imo), he knows that his biology/appearance does not reflect this identification, and so he's making changes accordingly. That's fully working with reality.
  6. The Law of Identity

    Right. Agreed. I'm not certain that this stance is justified (more or less than we would take anyone else at their word, at least). Well, all right. If his rationale requires individual attention, then I don't think that we should make an off-the-cuff or prejudicial decision that a trans person has something terribly wrong with him or that he cannot be taken at his word. I believe those sorts of things should yet be assessed individually. It may be a mistake to try to answer for someone else, hypothetical or no, but suppose that the purpose is to manifest physically in a way that is consonant with one's sense of being or identity? To look in reality how one envisions one looking, ideally. Honestly, there are a lot of things I don't understand about the choices people make in terms of appearance, personal style, and what not. Fashion, as a rule, is beyond me. I further do not understand the tie, or why one would ever wear such a thing... (except in response to threats, cajoling and peer pressure, which seems to me to be how that particular wear survives into the modern era.) I do understand that how one appears has something to do with both personal expression, and also how one is received by the world. If I saw myself as female, fundamentally (whatever that means to me; though speaking personally, I don't expect it would mean a hell of a lot), then I guess I could understand the desire to both express myself as a female, and for the world to respond to me accordingly, as I see myself. I don't want to say that it's as simple as fashion -- I don't think that's it (if, in fact, fashion is all that simple... which despite my ignorance of the subject, it might not be). But I suspect that there may be commonalities. Exactly. And, not to speak for him, but I believe that these are the issues that 2046 is driving at when he refers to "social construct." The penis, and whether one has one, is a metaphysical condition. But everything that we associate with "being a man"? That, I suspect, is a grab bag of metaphysical and man-made. And if we hold these ideas of "being a man" or "being a woman" above and beyond the simple possession of certain physical genitalia, and etc., and if one is identified in one category but considers himself to belong to the other, on the basis of these other qualities, that's the point at which I say that we can at least begin to understand the desire to "transition." This is largely what I'm referring to by "the state of the science." But -- and this may be the tip of the iceberg here -- I'm not certain that the possession of all of the physical genitalia is central to our idea of "sex," or to most people who seek to transition. For instance, the ability to nourish and develop a fetus. I don't know whether that's of genuine importance to this subject (though of course it may be very important to a given individual), but my initial inclination says that it is largely immaterial. In saying "I consider myself a woman," I don't think that most trans folks are saying that they desire to have a functioning uterus, though perhaps they would avail themselves of that, if the science made it possible; and when some people respond, "no -- you're not a woman," I don't think they're saying that they don't have a functioning uterus, or that it would matter to them if science did make that possible.
  7. The Law of Identity

    Perhaps you think it too generous/positive? I don't know; I'm spitballing on other peoples' motives, and probably I tend to look for or ascribe reasonable ones (or as close to it, as possible). I'm no expert on the subject (not even in a lay capacity), and I'm sure that different people make decisions for various reasons -- some better than others, as always -- but it's what seems most likely to me, speaking very generally. Ehh, you may refer to things as you'd like, and I'll do my best to keep up with your meaning. In a sense, I agree with you -- but in another, I'd again advise caution with "destroy." Some of this is bound to be the state of the science -- which is important context for real life decision making -- but to isolate the idea of transgenderism itself, can we imagine (for the sake of argument) that the science is better, such that it really is closer to a transformation of penis to vagina, or vice versa, than a "destruction" of sex organs? Changing one's hair color is not sensibly a "destruction" of "one's true self," or anything, and neither in my opinion is breast augmentation, and so far as I know, neither is hormonal treatments resulting in a change to secondary sexual characteristics (or whatever). So let's initially deal with this process on that level, at least for the time being, and then we can reintroduce the actual state of sex change surgery. What I've heard more is that they typically already consider themselves a woman; that it is less "destroying" and more confirming their already existing sense of identity, and then taking action to make their external/visible self conform to their self-image. But there is something in what you say that reminds me of various transformations that people make throughout their lives, in sort of a Campbellian sense, if you will... say from youth to adolescence to maturity, and etc. People often ritualize "destroying/becoming" or "death/rebirth" in many ways, but even using that language, I don't know that it is inherently negative. I don't recommend self-hatred, and given self-hatred, I don't expect a sex change will make a difference. Whether this is true of some portion of those who seek a sex change, as I expect it is, I wouldn't say it's necessarily true of everyone who does. (I've only been close to one person to claim transgenderism openly -- and she does not, and never has, struck me as self-loathing at all -- though I suppose diagnoses like that might require more information and expertise than I have) Whether "a man can become a woman," well, it does rather depend on what we mean by "man" and "woman" and, again, the state of the science. Mental illness -- which is, again, not something I'm particularly competent to diagnose -- ought to be dealt with by mental health professionals.
  8. The Law of Identity

    Probably because he buys into the idea -- at least on some level -- that "men are this way, women are that way." And if he finds himself being "that way," and if he believes "that way" to be female, then he comes to see himself as being "really a woman," and then wishes to express this recognition of his nature visually, etc. I think this is careless: "destroying who they are." Getting breast implants is not "destroying who you are," it is getting breast implants. "Who you are," in that case, is someone who gets breast implants. (The same holds for chopping off one's penis, or converting it into a "vagina," though it is more emotionally charged.) The law of identity says that A is A, but it makes no demands on what that "A" must be. Describing a sex change as "destroying who you are" is presumptive in all the wrong ways.
  9. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Let me begin this response by conceding that you've put your finger on a true source of tension. I don't want to say "contradiction" yet -- either on your part or Rand's -- but there's something here that's worth exploring, as deeply (and clearly) as we can manage. I think that this is the wrong track, and Craig24's response is spot on. If we are discussing rights which are "alienable," then we're not talking about rights (in the sense that Ayn Rand means). I agree that it is hard to imagine a government without the power of conducting searches or arrest -- and that this extends to subpoena. But let us also remember that you agreed with me that the consistent application of your arguments justifies the draft (within select circumstances; so if we can agree that this is the context, let us also agree that you are arguing for the draft). Would, then, you say that the right to abstain from conscription, etc., is one of those rights which "do not exist"? I.e. that it is not a right at all: that the individual and his life may be properly used* by the government, when necessary. (*I am trying to refrain from saying "sacrificed," so as to not beg the question) And I know that you've also appealed to an idea that this is only so in an "emergency" situation. So then, would you say that Rand was simply wrong, not alone for her use of "inalienable," but in her description, when she'd written (as quoted above), "When we say that we hold individual rights to be inalienable, we must mean just that. Inalienable means that which we may not take away, suspend, infringe, restrict or violate -- not ever, not at any time, not for any purpose whatsoever. "You cannot say that 'man has inalienable rights except in cold weather and on every second Tuesday,' just as you cannot say that 'man has inalienable rights except in an emergency,' or 'man's rights cannot be violated except for a good purpose.'" For it seems to me that your position is not merely some minor divergence from Rand's, but its complete opposite. That you are saying that what we might ordinarily consider "man's rights" (which you consider alienable) may be "violated" for a good purpose, or in an emergency. That this could conceivably extend to his right to liberty (which subpoena would otherwise threaten), property (taxation and eminent domain), and life itself (conscription). Do you agree with my assessment? (And for some personal context, I should note that there are places where I starkly disagree with Rand; I don't mean to frighten you off or cow you, as some do, when noting such a disagreement -- but I do want to be clear about what it is we're discussing, and it is more, in my opinion, than a simple alteration to the wording of Rand's prohibition against the initiation of force. I think this runs much deeper than that.)
  10. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Rand may or may not have "accepted the legitimacy of compulsory testimony" in such an interview, but I would be most interested in her reasoning on the subject, because I suspect I would find it hard to square with the rest of her political philosophy -- and not just in terms of how she framed her prohibition against the initiation of the use of force. For instance, you have given approval to the draft (if in times of extremity), when you'd written (bold emphasis added): I've had to elide quite a bit to point out your essential approval of the draft -- and please offer correction if I've taken you against your meaning in the process -- but I agree that this is consistent with the argument you've made. The government may not need particular soldiers, but an overall shortage of manpower (if hiring proves ineffective, in a given context) would justify a draft. Compare this against Rand, writing about the draft: This does not suggest to me that she would allow for a draft, given some shortage of manpower. And later, Rand says specifically, "It is often asked: 'But what if a country cannot find a sufficient number of volunteers?' Even so, this would not give the rest of the population a right to the lives of the country’s young men." Given this, and her equally principled opposition to compulsory taxation, it seems to me that, per her philosophy, even what some particular government is judged to "need" is no moral claim against individual men or their rights.
  11. In another recent thread (or possibly several), the idea has come up that the Objectivist community has not yet done a great job of setting the earth aflame with reason. Indeed, it seems to me that things are getting progressively worse. Leaving aside questions of "blame," or trying to dissect the history, and also setting aside the question of whether or not we ought to want to spread Objectivism, if we wanted to do a better job of spreading Objectivism -- what should we do? My initial thought is that a radical philosophy, running so against the cultural grain, will probably require something more than simply making books or lectures available, or writing the occasional op-ed. If we really want to make an impact, then we will have to come up with something more... compelling. So I'd like to dedicate this thread to some out-of-the-box thinking. Not every idea need to be perfect, and most of my own are probably flawed (maybe deeply so), but I'd like to see if we can generate something interesting through a brainstorm. Here are a few possibilities... In 2017, social media is a big deal. I'm a bit on the older side now, and much of it has passed me by or isn't very relevant to my day-to-day, but is there a way we could make compelling content for YouTube or other hip services? There's room for counter-cultural voices, I think, and some of them are successful. But where's the Objectivist Sargon of Akkad? Or how about learning from some of the older methods of proselytization? The Mormons (who have always struck me as being very friendly -- and I don't think I'm alone in that; I think it's part of their appeal) go door-to-door with literature, and they send missionaries to other countries. In fact, churches of all kinds seem to be big on missionaries. Perhaps they find that it works. Why not Objectivist missionaries? Maybe some of these ideas would be easier to spread elsewhere... Why not Objectivist charity in general? Providing daycare or preschool, or study services for youth (oriented towards critical thinking skills and reason), or even hot meals for the poor (perhaps specifically children of poor families) while promoting Objectivist ideas to them -- could that possibly be effective? I mean, I've gone to Las Vegas and put up with an interminable timeshare sales pitch for the sake of some free show tickets; and providing free books to schools is something along these lines -- so can more be done? Speaking of the essay contests, they're great. Seriously, I think it's a wonderful initiative. But do you know what the Scientologists do? They host the Writers of the Future contest. Every year, four times a year, they hold a fiction writing contest, and get hundreds of entries from all over the globe. What about something similar to that, perhaps an annual contest with a different theme each year, oriented towards some pro-reason, pro-egoism, pro-capitalism idea? If we can get young writers producing not alone essays, but art (which they will likely take and try to sell to other magazines, etc.), then wouldn't that have the potential to make an impact? Why is it left to the neo-Nazis and Antifa to make headlines for protesting some of the nuttiness that has been happening recently? Why is it the alt-right that's hosting "free speech" weeks at Berkeley? Where's our Milo Yiannopolous? This seems like a critical time, and the culture is wide open, people are looking for answers (some of them dropping into the laps of Trump, Sanders, et al.) -- and we actually have them. Why aren't we making more noise? Thoughts on my ideas? Any to add to the list?
  12. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    It's true that Rand did not use the term "inalienable" in what you've quoted. She did, however, use it elsewhere: "Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another." I don't know what this does for or against your case, but if if we'd like to know how the specific term "inalienable" applies to Rand's conception of rights, we might have to look beyond the quote you've provided. "Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values." Man's property rights are not "alienated" by the sale of a widget; rather, his voluntary sale of the widget is an expression of his property rights. If anyone has the relevant quotes or source, it might help illuminate the topic. My initial "instinct," however, is that I would rather lose subpoena than the prohibition against the initiation of the use of force.
  13. Your participation in this thread has been interesting -- the things you choose to respond to, or comment on (and the things that you do not) -- and I still don't quite know what you intend, overall. I agree with what you've written above. Many Objectivists are far too blase regarding the injustices (especially) of modern America, and I've had several arguments on this site with people who say, essentially, that "things aren't so bad." Well, to that I say it depends on who you are, and how directly you suffer from those injustices. But how do I take this observation together with the thread topic? Does this mean that it's appropriate to participate in a neo-Nazi campaign, to shake things up? I don't believe so. I think that lends support to the wrong people, and it increases the likelihood of things not only not getting better, but potentially getting far worse.
  14. I really don't know what you mean by "obligated to accept that meaning into our own brains," unless you're trying to describe the process of "understanding"? If so, then yes: to understand what another person means, you are obligated to accept that meaning (i.e. what they intend), with reference to relevant context, into your own brain. That's how you are able to understand another human being. Look, I'm sure you get this with respect to other things... it's like... take "Black Lives Matter." Is it a true statement that "black lives matter"? I'd guess (or hope) that we can all agree that it is. Yet in 2017, in our society, when someone says "black lives matter," they mean more than the simple identification of a true statement. And participating by, say, having a sign on your lawn which reads "black lives matter" is a political act which goes beyond the mere utterance of a true statement. It's not that you have to "use some guy's hateful screams" or have the idea that "black lives matter" redefined for yourself, or whatnot, it's just that you have to... you know, be aware of what's going on around you, and be aware of what you're communicating to others. If you're naive and ignorant, and wear a "Black Lives Matter" shirt because you say to yourself, "well, it's true enough that black lives matter... no harm in saying something true," then that's fine as far as it goes. You'll suffer the consequences you were ignorant of, as you lend support to that movement (even unawares) and as other people (in reason) group you together with that movement. But it is another thing altogether to be aware of what "black lives matter" means in context, and yet argue that the context doesn't matter. That you should be able to wear the shirt, or post the sign, and not care about the real world consequences of your action. That's arguing for the intentional dropping of context, and it is a very bad idea.
  15. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    This won't be a substantive critique, both because I don't think I understand your thesis well enough yet, and also because the turkey is almost done... But out of curiosity, how would you apply your ideas to conscription? What would happen if people could arbitrarily deprive the government of the manpower it needs to defend its territory or citizens? Or what of compulsory taxation? What would happen if people could arbitrarily deprive the government of the funds it requires... or eminent domain, where people arbitrarily deprive the government of facilities/infrastructure, or etc.
  16. "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." -- J.R.R. Tolkien and not Ayn Rand, of course, though I should mention that I believe I've also seen this quote from time to time on the site front page. It's not somehow better or more moral to leave things out, to ignore context, to pretend that we don't know something, or act as though something weren't true. "Full context" is just that -- full context. And you may not give a crap about the neo-Nazis, but it might well be the case that they have plans for you; given what I know about them, probably best not to support their efforts, if you can help it. Because this is how language and communication works. If someone invites you to "Netflix and chill," you're better off knowing what they mean, in context, rather than taking it literally on some principle and intentionally blinding yourself to their actual communication. All communication exists in some context, and that context is vital for understanding the meaning. If someone invites you to an "it's okay to be white" rally, probably you should pack a tiki torch.
  17. There's no doublethink involved, JASKN. It's not doublethink to understand that "it's okay to be white" (in the proper context) and to believe that one should simultaneously not participate in a neo-Nazi meme. Understanding that the meaning changes in different contexts is not doublethink -- just regular old think.
  18. Yes, absolutely, if saying it (in the particular fashion of a meme, like the one we're discussing) helped to further the agenda of that nefarious political group and/or suggested that we were affiliated with it or endorsed it. Can we continue to make a reasoned case that "profits are good" (in context; given liberty; as opposed to a group promoting "profits are good" for the purpose of supporting corporate subsidies, or etc.)? Of course, just as we can continue to argue against anti-white racism (and in that sense, that "it is okay to be white"). But it would be wrong to participate in the nefarious group's "profits are good" meme campaign, and it would be intellectually irresponsible to pretend like the specific context does not exist or does not matter.
  19. If Person A said, "it's okay to be white" and Person B said "that isn't true, because a neo-Nazi made the claim," that would be an example of the genetic fallacy. This is very different from the argument that it is improper to participate in a meme campaign orchestrated by neo-Nazis because it furthers their ends, and because it might lead to Objectivism being grouped together with neo-Nazis.
  20. Context matters. No quotes around context are necessary. Look, you can wear a swastika and say that you just think it's a nifty looking symbol. No need to bow to "groupthink" (which probably does deserve those quotation marks). But you're going to be interpreted as communicating something you may not intend, because the context that you've decided doesn't matter both exists and matters, whether you recognize it or not. If we defend Confederate statues and flags on the grounds of their historical significance (or whatever), and help to spread neo-Nazi propaganda on the grounds that the "literal" content of the message is acceptable (willfully ignoring the very context we're discussing, including the reason for the meme's initial propagation), then we can't cry foul when we're lumped together with the alt-right. It's not "non-thinking idiots" who will draw this conclusion, but thinking people who are trying to make sense of foreign belief systems and unfamiliar groups, and who don't necessarily have the time or inclination to personally interview every individual marching at the "it's okay to be white" rally alongside the actual skinheads and KKK. And furthermore, we don't actually want the neo-Nazis to be successful in their efforts, which we know are directed towards ends which are anti-life. We ought not help them, and spreading their memes thus seems contrary to our own social and political ends, whatever other moral exemptions we may wish to claim for ourselves.
  21. Saw this picked up by the lamestream media today. There are plenty of divides within the Objectivist community regarding race and racism, as this thread has made clear, but with respect to this particular meme, I believe it is possible to bridge the divide by recognizing that communication (as all else) takes place within a context. Truth-telling, being a type of communication, does too. While it may be true that "Anne Frank is hiding upstairs in the attic," proclaiming this truth may not be moral in every conceivable circumstance. The context matters. And while it is certainly true that "it is okay to be white" (in the sense that skin color does not matter to one's character or morality), if the context is that this is a meme being propagated by neo-Nazis for the purpose of furthering their agenda, then the specific decision to participate in that meme ought to take that context into account.
  22. 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.
  23. Maybe there's some better or more effective use of "rudeness" possible, but in my experience, yelling and using expletives neither accomplishes anything in these kinds of situations nor makes me feel better. Rather, it can make both worse.
  24. I never doubted it. I'm glad to hear it. If you ever see me fall short of this standard (whether in discussion with yourself or another), I'd ask that you contact me (preferably in private) to let me know. Perhaps that's what's often intended. My own views about evasion, and its relationship to morality, have become somewhat... nuanced over time. If you'd ever like to take up a discussion about that, my evasion thread stands ready. Mostly I agree, and discussions such as this board hosts ought to be focused on ideas rather than the people who advocate those ideas -- a standard that I try to hold myself to, though I'm certain I do not achieve it perfectly. My only caveat here is that I believe that there are some discussion contexts in which it might be appropriate for one person to -- not accuse (let alone condemn), but -- inform his discussion partner that he suspects evasion; part of my interest in creating the evasion thread, in fact, is in developing the conceptual context to allow this to happen in civility and reason. Because, if I were evading (and I judge this is possible to me), I would want to know it and to correct it.