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  1. C20710

    Ew, pragmatism

    I think I speak for all Objectivist hardliners here when I denounce pragmatism as described by Rand, for the purposes that pragmatists generally try to action (everything belonging to the "distribution of..." category). Right now I'm in a rather large debate in another community. I created a thread that got over 900 replies two weeks ago, and ever since then the whole board has been buzzing with libertarian subjects. Most of them are very cut and dry, as Objectivism has clear and consistent answers to fundamental problems. However, lately some part of the debate has moved in a better direction. While many remain hostile to the idea of free markets, some have made tentative steps to come on board. Recently, the question was raised about access to information. Someone mentioned the UN's move to declare broadband internet access a basic right, and as a related subject - access to books and newspapers. My response was what you'd expect. I said that these things have to be produced by somebody's time and effort and that nobody has a basic "right" to what is produced by others. However, the way the question was framed is what made the next part interesting. In despotic, backwards nations, the only hope of improvement comes from the development of the right kinds of ideas - philosophy and economics amiable to the development of good government and the production of wealth. I was asked if it was right for the UN to put pressure on these nations to have broadband internet access made available at places like public libraries. I started running the context through my head immediately. For starters, the kinds of nations that need the most work typically have governments that would be resistant to any ideas inimical to their regime. Because of that, even if the internet was made available, I would anticipate so many content restrictions as to severely limit what good it might do anyways. Quite likely, at best, all that would be managed is that some company (probably even a public one) would be legally obliged to install the lines (or print and distribute the books/newspapers), wasting money on goods that would be heavily censored. So, probably case closed right there? But he was angling at something else that IS interesting. Unlike the usual sort of hypotheticals thrown at Objectivists (like those in "The Ethics of Emergencies"), this one is more realistic. It's the style of problem that DOES exist in the general challenge of transitioning from what is, to what should be. That is to say, on the trip from "X" (where "X" is any existing society today) to an Objectivist paradise, there are real transitional problems inherited from past injustices. So, let's assume then, hypothetically, that you could bring the right ideas into a part of the world that sorely needs it by successfully pressuring those governments to spend public funds making those ideas freely available. The hope is that this would speed the removal of bad government, and develop the protection of genuine liberty rights years in advance of what otherwise would have transpired, ultimately culminating in the removal of something as silly as "a right to internet", along with a whole host of bad statist effects. This would be a sort of pragmatism though; but of the type employed for genuinely good purposes. Personally I think the answer is clear: it should be done, given those assumptions. Anybody disagree?
  2. I will open the floor with this: People already work less than they used to, but their work is worth a lot more. The 40 hour a week schedule is pretty standard in North America, and it's a pretty good deal when you contrast it to say...the medieval era when people worked from sun up to sun down every day for their barest subsistence - what we would call inhuman squalor today. Back then you could have made essentially the same argument if they had been able to conceive of the technology we have today. Did it turn out that way? Heck no! In the future, people might live 100 times better than we do today but only work an hour a week. Doesn't seem far fetched given the trend. What will they be working on though? Well, we'll still have things robots could never do, ie. art. And even if you imagine robots farming the land, manufacturing our clothes, building our cities...don't they have to be programmed? They will still have to be given instruction you know, which means we'll still need people trained in all the professions we have today even if they wouldn't have to do much physical labor themselves - and that's a good thing. I LIKE having all the labor saving devices I use in my daily life, and furthermore, those labor saving devices are the very things that give physical labor it's value in the first place.
  3. I found the quote - it was from Galt's Speech of all places. Really I should have known. As follows: Ok, so let me try to lay this bag of snakes out straight. In the same speech just one page earlier Rand talks about mystics quite a bit. The mystic is the second-hander, the one who chooses the authority of others, the one who chooses to believe rather than to think. So that's Rand's take on power-lust, and I do agree with it. I guess it's clear now why I didn't have a concrete example to give from real life - the quote was taken from a work of fiction, ironically the same work of fiction I referenced in my first response to you. As far as applying a real-life example though, I thought of a good one from Capitalism: "The Cashing-In: The Student Rebellion". It's about the student rebellion at University of California at Berkeley in 1964. The University had banned political activity - specifically , the recruiting, fund-raising and organizing of students for political action off-campus on a certain strip of ground adjoining the campus. Claiming their rights had been violated, the rebels rallied thousands of students under the title of the "Free Speech Movement". They staged sit-in protests and other acts of physical force such as assaults on the police and the seizure of a police car for use as a rostrum. Time to bang out another quote: Ok, so here we have an example of something I said earlier about rationalizing the pursuit of power for power's sake. To quote myself from earlier: "When people dream of power apart from the power to do SOMETHING, then the something merely becomes rationalization for the real goal: power as an end in itself". And that's pretty much bang on. The something in this case was the FSM's publicly stated goals, which when met prompted the rebel leader to grab the power back by prolonging the rebellion in the name of things like "'idealism' and 'commitment' to political action" (pure rationalization). To tidy up as quickly as I can, it is things like this that help you to form the concept of the power-seeker. And the concept of power itself - specifically coercive power - is derived from observing a kind of relationship between men. When you see that one man is bigger than another and can use his size to boss the smaller one around, that is what you would call coercive power. When you see a group of men have an army or a secret police force that can be used to boss around an even larger but disunited and disarmed group, that is also what you would call coercive power. Strictly speaking though, you can abstract from the concept of power alone because the concept implies that there is a person who has power over one or more other people. Realizing that a person can choose anything as a goal, when you suggest power as a goal, the only logical conclusion is that you will end up with a person who does anything he needs to to retain the power. It may not manifest itself literally as a reversal of position. In the case of the student rebellion what happened was that as soon as the first set of demands were met, another set of demands were made, and so on. To the best of my knowledge, this squares with Objectivist epistemology just fine. Oh, and I guess I lied about holding off on posting. Like a moth to the flame I guess.
  4. Like this: Then add a line here. And write something else. And so forth. "Do not use a nested quotes style, i.e., quote from above post and your comment; another quote from above post and your next comment, etc. I'm not posting again for a couple days at least. The thread's already been derailed enough.
  5. Maybe my problem is that I don't understand the question. Instead of trying to guess, could you ask it again? I can't promise I'll answer right away, but I'll try to in the next couple of days. edit: on another note, I'd like to quote the forum rules, under "forum etiquette": This doesn't relate to the essence of your questions and comments, but it's damn irritating.
  6. I want to add something for Hodge's as well that I didn't include in my last post: I'm glad to see you heeled the hostility. Anyways, I spent my free time today thinking about your question so I'll say what I came up with. We were talking specifically about the pursuit of power, yes? If so, my position is that the information is available in the concepts involved, without the need to cite a specific historical example. This all began because I mentioned a trait reflected in the character Toohey, namely the pursuit of power for power's sake. If a person's goal is power for power's sake and that is his only goal, it stands to reason that any stated goal is just a rationalization to throw people off the scent. I would be inclined to suggest that all dictatorships and all religious conflicts fall into that category. The people involved MAY be sincere about their stated goals, but never forget the means they pursue: power (physical force) over others. I quote Rand directly when I say "the most dreadful butchers were the most sincere". Anyways, the denunciation of seeking power for power's sake IS a belief that I do hold, and I hold it based on the deduction made from the concepts involved. I see no error in my logic, but if there is one, I want to know about it. Additionally, you are quite right in saying that imagining something fully impossible based on objective observation of the facts of reality and then forming a concept based on that fantasy is wrong. If a deduction is made based on a concept that in turn is based on a scenario that can't realistically be conceived of in reality then you should throw it out as mystical nonsense, but there's nothing wrong with a deduction made from legitimately formed concepts.
  7. Oh, ok, to contrast Wynand and Keating... Well the exact line Roark says in the book is "I haven't mentioned to him the worst second-hander of all - the man who goes after power". He also says to Wynand just a few lines earlier "that you weren't born to be a second-hander". Roark is saying that strictly as second-handers are concerned that Wynand is guiltier than Peter (and he doesn't know it). But I don't think that second-handing alone is the only criterion for evil. I assume that's why you mentioned Toohey in your thread title, because Toohey is not just a vicious second-hander but he's fully aware of it and fully intent on destroying Roark (and all greatness as witnessed in his various social clubs of mediocrity). Let me take a shot at contrasting Wynand and Keating alone though. Wynand, though a second-hander, is innovative, self-directed and hard-working. His second-handedness is recognized in the fact that he does seek power over others. This is illustrated much earlier on when you read about the idealistic people that Wynand bullied into working for him only to have them do jobs that were in full opposition to their beliefs, eventually breaking their spirits. Now lets look at Peter Keating. Keating lacks all of Wynand's positive attributes. All the notable buildings ascribed to Keating were done by Roark, and everything else he did was mediocre rehashes of old designs. He is not innovative - he copies Roark. He is not self-directed - he is motivated by fame and greatness in the eyes of others. And he's not particularly hard working, except for when he works hard to cover up his inadequacy. Peter is a complete flop but not as bad a second-hander as Wynand. Wynand has a lot of great attributes but the abuse of his power repulses Roark. My take on it is that Roark respects Wynand a lot more because he could have been a much greater man, whereas Keating couldn't have been. I think it's fair to say this: Wynand started out worse than Keating but ended better than Keating. Wynand's pursuit of power and abuse of power is worse than Keating's wormy second-handing, ie. his desire to be valued by others rather than to value himself. In the end though, Wynand tries his best to defend a value of his own: the defense of Roark (though he tries to do it through the power he thinks he has over others through his paper). He also discovers about himself what an ugly thing his pursuit of power was, and presumably it destroys him (I know in the movie, he kills himself - I wondered about that in the book). Does that help?
  8. My first post was to answer the original poster's question about The Fountainhead. I was using information available in that work, and answering it in the context of that work. Let's get that straight. I am repeating things that Rand said herself, and as soon as I find the statement I paraphrased if it is not in fact in The Fountainhead itself, I'll post the reference. This is me being generous because that is in fact not even necessary. Is is very much an Objectivist principle to denounce power for power's sake and that IS explicitly said in The Fountainhead and was mentioned in the OP's post. If you want to argue that fact, you won't be doing it with me because I did not originate the claim. The OP asked a question about Rand's work, and I am replying in that context. When I repeat a statement made by someone else, it is not my job to defend it, only to present it accurately and in context, which I have. I did not look for concrete examples to illustrate the concept because I was satisfied that I understood it. It is of no consequence to me what you need to be satisfied yourself. Quite likely some concrete examples were included with the concept when I formed it but I didn't retain them, only the concept. In demonstrating it for your benefit, I proposed an off-hand illustration of the slave driver who orders a slave to move a heavy load around needlessly. This does not mean that I imagined something from out of nowhere and then formed a concept around it. It means I had the concept originally and then imagined something that would illustrate it. Let's get that straight too. The concept was not the product of imagination. The imagined scenario was the product of the concept, and imagination is perfectly serviceable in that respect. Atlas Shrugged is a fictional story, but the concepts and ideas are all very much legitimate. I think that addresses your complete misunderstanding. To end, I have a very specific question I'd like to ask you: what, if anything, do you object to in my earlier posts? What are you trying to demonstrate here? edit: Thank you Mr. A
  9. I was paraphrasing something that Ayn Rand said herself, but now I can't remember where. I thought it might have been in The Fountainhead itself, or maybe in The Virtue of Selfishness but I'll be damned if I can find it. I've been trying for the last half hour. At any rate, I never did attempt to relate the idea of "power for power's sake" to any actual events because I understood the idea without a concrete illustration. I can imagine a slave driver ordering a slave to haul a pile of bricks from one place to another and then deciding he liked them better where they were originally. For that matter, I can imagine a young boy's older brother using his physical size to do the same thing. When it comes to governments and individuals in positions of power though, some kind of rationalization is needed. Indeed, Rand spoke specifically of Soviet Russia's need to spend a ton of money on propaganda to placate the masses. When exercising power for power's sake, I don't imagine you'll get away with it openly on a national scale (unless you've got a very large personal army, ie. any dictator), but behind some flimsy rationalization all you've got is a person who takes actions without enough thought because he can. He may not literally reverse himself, but he will never be satisfied. People pursuing power for power's sake never can be. If your power accomplishes it's avowed purpose (whatever it's claimed to be), then what happens? A person pursuing a purposeful goal would be satisfied. A person pursing power would find something else to put his power to use, and the goal never really was the purpose at all. That's what power seekers are. When people dream of power apart from the power to do SOMETHING, then the something merely becomes rationalization for the real goal: power as an end in itself. If you want to find concrete examples though, I would look at the records of dictators as I hinted at earlier.
  10. Toohey was pure evil. Toohey knew exactly what he was doing throughout the course of events in The Fountainhead. He sought to destroy greatness by destroying valuation. He knew fully what greatness was, and used that knowledge for the express purpose of destroying it. Toohey was seeking power for the sake of power, not really for the sake of doing something with it, but he was in no way ignorant of his own actions. He choose to be evil. Wynand on the other hand was ignorant. He was a person who could have been Roark, but lacked full knowledge of his actions. Wynand possessed many of the same qualities that Roark had - his will to succeed, his passion for his work, his total refusal to take "no" for an answer. However, Wynand was also a power-seeker who didn't intend to do anything in particular with his power, whereas Roark's abilities were always used for a specific purpose. Not until the end did Wynand try to use his paper for a cause HE believed in, only to discover that his circulation tanked and that he didn't have the power he thought he did. Objectivists recognize that seeking power for the sake of power ultimately results in a person like Toohey. Power seekers give orders, and if that order is completed, then they'll just reverse themselves to exercise their power again. The only power that people should seek is the power to pursue and accomplish a rational goal; not power over others, but only power over oneself. That statement describes Roark, but it doesn't describe Wynand, even if Wynand did have many other admirable qualities. In summary, Toohey is the anti-Roark. He is pure evil, and the embodiment of altruism taken to it's full and logical conclusion. Wynand made a big mistake, but he doesn't choose to be evil. He doesn't really choose to be anything. Wynand was merely rewarded for giving people what they wanted. His voice was never included in the Banner - it was just populist trash, whereas Roark is rewarded for pursuing his own vision for his own satisfaction. Did I miss anything?
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