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Snarky rebuttal to altruism on House, M.D.

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You did not answer my question again, Sophia.

I'm no longer seeking a discussion. Instead I will only present my ideas.

_____________________________________________________________

As for justice: Justice means granting to others what they deserve - from you. Not what they "deserve" - there is no such thing as "deserve" without a second person.

So following your personal values, you grant to someone what they deserve from you. You treat them according to your knowledge and the things you value, and how they fit it.

This is why following your own hierarchy of personal values does not contradict the virtue of justice. It follows from being selfish. Being just is not a debt you owe to others - it is your way of being true to what you value and like (or dislike).

Now if I were to follow your logic on what a rational, psychologically healthy, fully integrated man should do, I would find myself always nice to everybody. If I happen to dislike someone upon meeting them, I should follow the moral bill they present to me and be nice anyway, since I cannot immediately identify any flaw, I should assume the best, ignore whatever feelings I may have, and make myself a servant to the virtue of justice (don't want to give a man what he doesn't deserve... it's very important, more important than my own emotions). While not failing to be nice to them, I shall search for my mistake/psychological problem. After all, benevolent feeling should be my reaction, and yet here I am disliking someone/being bored by them after just meeting them.

After a while, the rational, psychologically healthy, fully integrated individual learns to repress any negative reaction to strangers he might have, and keep up a nice attitude which his emotions do not support, feeling like a fake without realizing why.

The correct approach is to act toward people according to your knowledge of them, and the value that they are to you. What people deserve from you is dictated by the value that they are to you. If upon first encounter, you dislike someone, there is no reason on earth why you should go against your emotions and be nice to them. Their emotions are not an obligation for you or a primary concern. As a selfish man, you are primarily concerned with what you want to give, not with what someone else deserves to get. Your actions are an investment in your values, not a debt to be paid to society.

As a selfish man, you want to make sure you do not act on whim. You make sure that your emotional reactions indeed reflect your values (and that your values are correctly chosen to serve your well being), and so you act in harmony with your emotions. Never faking a smile (or faking dislike).

Each man has his own methods and ability to learn about others he meets, and his own hierarchy of values, and so different people can selfishly desire different interactions with people. Someone can be indifferent to most people he meets (like Howard Roark who was bored by most people), and someone can understand and value people differently and desire a more affectionate interaction. For a selfish, rational man, there is no single way of interacting with people that is correct. The only correct way is by him being selfish and rational.

Edited by ifatart

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Ifat,

You appear to be positing two principles:

1. Trust your emotions: When faced an emotional reaction, not yet validated conceptually, act as if the emotional judgment is correct.

2. Value others with reference to yourself: Deal with people relative to their dealings with you and not as if you were St. Peter (i.e. not using some generalized evaluation of their total value as human beings.

First, on emotions, of course it is wrong to insist on complete verbalized knowledge before taking action. However, it does not follow that one simply acts with on the emotions if those are all you have. This is a specific example of a more general question: how to act when one's knowledge is not completely verified yet. For instance, suppose one has some small amount of evidence that a particular treatment can help someone, it does not follow that one should go with that treatment. One has to evaluate the degree of remaining uncertainty, and the possible costs/benefits of being right or wrong.

It is almost always possible to act in a way that takes into account the incomplete knowledge, while also taking into account the fact that it is incomplete.

Second, one must judge people with reference to yourself. However, how people act flows from something more basic about them. So, very often, when a rational person people reacts to others based on more general attributes, or based on observed interaction with third-parties, what they are really doing is this: they are extrapolating that the underlying character can bite them someday, even though it has not already done so.

(P.S. I haven't seen "House", so these remarks are general, not a reference to the show.)

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Ifat, it sounds to me like you are advocating a kind of initial neutrality toward other people. The idea being that since you don't know anything about them they should all be treated the same.

Is this assumption of your approach correct?

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Justice is the application of rationality to the evaluation and treatment of other men. A crucial element of justice is that evaluations of others must be objective. A rational person considers all relevant evidence and uses logic as a method of evaluating that evidence.

We do not single-handedly control the success of our quest for values. Other people can and do affect the fate of our values, in small or large ways, directly or indirectly.

It is a fact that human beings survive by crating values rather than by finding them readymade (that is what Rand meant by the essence of human existence). In principle, virtuous actions are the kinds that bring values to he world. This means that other's virtue (which is a function of their rationality) contributes to an environment from which we stand to benefit. Virtuous strangers expand the pool of values in the world. We all stand to gain from actions that create or nourish values. We benefit from stranger's rationality whether we acknowledge that or not.

Anyone who is sincerely committed to his own happiness must evaluate other individuals objectively and treat them in ways that serve his values which means with justice. Because we all stand to benefit from values in the world, it is rational to repay virtue with values. That is why a rational person does so.

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I absolutely love the character. But I suppose his premise reveals most in one instance when he's treating a woman who he thinks is going to die, and she has a daughter with whom she's completely honest. There is an instance when the conversation goes thus (paraphrased, I don't remember the exact words):

Mother: It's going to be alright.

Daughter: No, mom, you're going to die. It's not going to be alright.

House later comments this to his friend with the words (also paraphrased):

House: I'm honest because I don't care. She cared and she told the truth regardless.

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Ifat,

You appear to be positing two principles:

1. Trust your emotions: When faced an emotional reaction, not yet validated conceptually, act as if the emotional judgment is correct.

2. Value others with reference to yourself: Deal with people relative to their dealings with you and not as if you were St. Peter (i.e. not using some generalized evaluation of their total value as human beings.

First, on emotions, of course it is wrong to insist on complete verbalized knowledge before taking action. However, it does not follow that one simply acts with on the emotions if those are all you have. This is a specific example of a more general question: how to act when one's knowledge is not completely verified yet. For instance, suppose one has some small amount of evidence that a particular treatment can help someone, it does not follow that one should go with that treatment. One has to evaluate the degree of remaining uncertainty, and the possible costs/benefits of being right or wrong.

1. You are dropping the context there, resulting in an over-generalization of what I say. The context is pursuit of values which are unique to you (i.e. not like water or shelter, but stuff like friends, movies), when a course of action is chosen in a short duration of time. You meet someone, how should you act? And in this context, your emotions are your main indicator for the value that a new person is to you. Even in this context, I do not say "blindly trust your emotions". I say "make sure you can trust your emotions by validating them in the long term, and then act in harmony with your emotions" (again in the context of short decision time and a value which is unique for you).

To illustrate the significance of using emotions in this manner (and not going against them), think of the way you choose what T.V. channel to watch. If you had to use reason, try to logically connect every possible show to life as the standard of value and then deciding based on that; you'd get lost, and lose all the fun. Your emotions in this case guide you to these values which are unique to you. If someone told you that you should not watch T.V. until you can prove how it is Objectively good for you, you'd probably tell them to piss off. Why should this be any different in pursuing a similar unique value - other people? There is no reason on earth why someone should set aside the way they feel about someone to put on a happy face until finishing their treatise on who the person in front of them is. So hopefully, this has answered the problem you raised about a treatment. Of course, in that case the context is different. The consequences of taking the treatment are different than consequences of not smiling at someone. You have more time to decide how to act. The value involved is not determined by who you are and therefore does not require the aid of emotions to indicate the value that this treatment is to you. In other words, the context is completely different.

Second, one must judge people with reference to yourself. However, how people act flows from something more basic about them. So, very often, when a rational person people reacts to others based on more general attributes, or based on observed interaction with third-parties, what they are really doing is this: they are extrapolating that the underlying character can bite them someday, even though it has not already done so.

I have no idea what you are talking about here :) I read it twice. No idea. :)

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And to add to my last post (in relation to Sophia's last post) - When given more time and more information about someone, you judge them according to that. There is no obligation on your part to pursue that information - you are not morally obligated to learn everything about everyone. As a selfish being, you pursue information that is beneficiary to your life. But once you do have such information, you do not ignore it and attempt to act on how you feel. You do not ignore your emotions either and fake a behavior contrary to your emotions. You judge all the information you have and decide on an appropriate course of action, again keeping your emotions in sync with your knowledge and actions.

In any case, Your guiding line is always the pursuit of your values. You do not have an obligation to actively grant to people what they "deserve" (that is a mistaken concept). Justice means that you recognize that people's character cannot be faked, and you do not attempt to fake your evaluation of them. By doing so, you grant them what they deserve from you.

There is nothing more terrible than a person faking positive emotions for destruction of his self esteem. If someone does not feel genuine positive feelings toward someone, then using a smile as a social gesture is an act of faking.

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Ifatart, you are creating dichotomies where there are none and invent straw man arguments regarding points which have been already explained.

Treating strangers with rudeness and default contempt because they happen to have a facial expression which strikes you as empty or boring is not Objectivism. You are free to treat others as you like but you are not allowed to pass your confusions as rational philosophy.

You wrote about not faking another's character but you are doing exactly that (faking it to yourself) when you are evaluting others based on non objective standards (which is clear from what you wrote). What you believe of them in such cases is not necessarily (most likely it is not) reality.

One's emotions are a reasult of premisses a person has accepted which are stored in one's subconscious mind. If one has accepted that most people are rotten and should not be bothered with, for example, then they will have negative emotional response to most people they encounter. This has nothing to do with the actual identitiy of the stranger.

I hope you choose to pick up my reading recommendation.

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To illustrate the significance of using emotions in this manner (and not going against them), think of the way you choose what T.V. channel to watch. If you had to use reason, try to logically connect every possible show to life as the standard of value and then deciding based on that; you'd get lost, and lose all the fun. Your emotions in this case guide you to these values which are unique to you. If someone told you that you should not watch T.V. until you can prove how it is Objectively good for you, you'd probably tell them to piss off. Why should this be any different in pursuing a similar unique value - other people? There is no reason on earth why

I just happened to write this on the Fav TV shows thread:

I do actually "choose" what shows I watch, by means of what they can make me feel and learn, but I don't chose them by means of emotions, but by rational evaluation. Sitting there in front of a TV with your finger on the channel changer button is just sad.

Take a taste test: read a book for an hour. Then watch an hour of any TV. (do not reverse the order)

Compare your feeling of satisfation and efficaciousness.

At the best of times, TV is a mixed bag. Choice is your only standard.

=============================

I primarily watch scifi, but it is hit and miss right now.

I've started to follow the current seasons of Dr. Who, but what is even better by many magnitudes is its spinoff: Torchwood. British actors, plots, and it seems like the writers have actually read some of the great old scifi stories.

BSG: cuz it's shot locally, and cuz I'm waiting to find out who's who and what's what.

Long time fan and supporter of Babylon5 and all things related.

I tape & watch Sarah Connor, but only for the character development, not the Frankensteinian plot-theme.

I didn't like Fringe to start with, but it is exploring areas that I have some knowledge of, and they are doing their homework, which I respect given most of the crap out there.

I wish there were more hard science shows available, as Nova seems to be about the current quaint environmental context now, or supporting mainstream tenured government "science". I think they've lost their way.

Guilty Pleasures:

2.5 Men - so sue me. The funniest eps are when the entire family gets into the act.

Lipstick Jungle - Smart, strong, passionate, hot women. What's not to like.

News:

Charlie Rose

Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert

News Hour - MacNeil Lehrer

60 Minutes

Sunday interview shows

CSPAN

Drama & related:

House, cuz, well, he's House. (and if people get pissed at or object to the truth as being cruel, well then chose the alternative. He cares about the lifesaving answer, not the patient - get over it, and live to whine another day)

24: Because if we are to believe people like Jack should exist, then they should be held to the Spiderman standard of being obligated to make the right moral choices. He usually does, given how many corrupt people are trying to tie him down and make him fail for their own petty blindnesses, and I'm not even talking about the terrorists.

New Tricks: Retired UK cops recalled to work old cases, interesting because it often illuminates how things have changed across the generations, and how basic decency wins in the end.

NCIS/The Unit, when I have time and the story revolves around moral questions and not just proby abuse.

I left the best for last: The Sandbaggers

The best espionage drama ever, and one that poses a moral conflict in each ep that is resolved often by exposing some bureacrats hypocricy or finding a clever mole or somesuch. It has been called a cross between Yes Minister and James Bond (Connery). The show was shot in the late 70's, and broadcast in the UK and Canada, and NZ/Oz soon thereafter, but due to a grassroots fandom, was finally cut to DVD in the 90s. Only twenty episodes, but every one a gem. And for those who think House is abrasive and hard to take, you haven't met Neil Burnside.

For more info, go to The Ops Room (www.opsroom.org)

Stay Focused,

<*>aj

There is nothing more terrible than a person faking positive emotions for destruction of his self esteem. If someone does not feel genuine positive feelings toward someone, then using a smile as a social gesture is an act of faking.

Now that I *can* agree with.

<*>aj

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Objectivism does state which one is right (true).

Dr. Peikoff in one of his lectures said, for example:

If you hold the wrong ideas on any fundamental philosophic issue, that will undercut or destroy the benevolent universe premise.

(bold mine)

How does this translate into the moral requirement to act pleasant or respectful toward strangers, and not merely responsive but indifferent. Neither proves one endorses a malevolent universe theory. I don't see yet the connection to objectivist life qua man based ethics in suggesting a responsive considerate benevolent reaction to a stranger that I see in it morally forbiding pejorative machiavellian exploitation of others.

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How does this translate into the moral requirement to act pleasant or respectful toward strangers, and not merely responsive but indifferent. Neither proves one endorses a malevolent universe theory. I don't see yet the connection to objectivist life qua man based ethics in suggesting a responsive considerate benevolent reaction to a stranger that I see in it morally forbiding pejorative machiavellian exploitation of others.

Sorry, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the outlook on life. MUP arises as a result of some type of a mistake one is making.

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As for justice: Justice means granting to others what they deserve - from you. Not what they "deserve" - there is no such thing as "deserve" without a second person.

So following your personal values, you grant to someone what they deserve from you. You treat them according to your knowledge and the things you value, and how they fit it. This is why following your own hierarchy of personal values does not contradict the virtue of justice. It follows from being selfish. Being just is not a debt you owe to others - it is your way of being true to what you value and like (or dislike).

I question the validity of this assessment and see a life qua man eudaemonic justification for fundamental benevolence toward strangers.

Rearden says in his courtroom speech "When you violate the rights of one man, you violate the rights of all" He says this because it is in your own long term rational self interest to evaluate men not ONLY what they do TO YOU, but on the total sum of their character, which obviously includes what they've done to others. An assault on the right's of one man is an assault on the concept of rights and allowing it or being indifferent to it, only promulgates the violation of rights in any society, and will eventually come back to bite you. Vigorous opposition to any assaults on your values, or those similiar of an ally, is always proper. What someone deserves 'from you' is not just your emotionalized reaction operating on the range of the moment, but an integrated summation of the moral evaluation of all rational men as estimated by you on their behalf in their absence.

Just as you do not insist a thief actually steal from YOU in order to support the pooled resources that your voluntary financial contribution was a part of to apprehended, sequester, and punish him, so is the opposite true that you do not wait for a demonstration that a stranger is of beneficial value TO YOU before you act in a manner that suggests he probably is, by extending basic courtesy and benevolence, or that he will contribute to a world that is.

The manifestion of justice and your existence as a rational life loving entity in a voluntarily co-operative world in the face of a violent criminal is your moral condemnation of him - even if he never assaulted you directly. "Justice is the judgment of the character of men made with a respect for the truth and an incorruptible vision by a pure and rational process'" Similarly the manifestation of the benevolent universe premise is that strangers are probably benevolent and will ultimately contribute to your long term well being, and your default interaction with them, without any other knowledge, should be in kind. In the context of human interaction and the desire for a good existence on this planet which you share with strangers, it is rational to presume a stance of benevolenct respect toward strangers, partly because as ~Sophia~ says "Other people can and do affect the fate of our values, in small or large ways, directly or indirectly" but also because it is beneficial to you to cultivate a world whose premise is of benevolence and respect toward strangers.

The correct approach is to act toward people according to your knowledge of them, and the value that they are to you.

But not based on the range of the moment nor an indifferent or malevolent universe premise. Your immediate emotional evaluation of someone may not be accurate.

~Sophia~ writes - "This means that other's virtue (which is a function of their rationality) contributes to an environment from which we stand to benefit" This is the fundamental gist of it, if you embrace a benevolent universe premise, that others are not detrimental entities out to harm you, then your reaction to strangers should be one conducive to the assumption of their benevolence, and an establishment of yours, both in order to cultivate the values that other peoples virtues bring to you.

For a selfish, rational man, there is no single way of interacting with people that is correct. The only correct way is by him being selfish and rational

If he wishes to live in the most rewarding and beneficial world for himself and his values then yes there is a basic, proper, long term rational self interested way to interact, that of fundamental benevolence toward strangers.

Edited by Matus1976

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I don't see much that is redeemable about House M.D., the character. He is, at most, a Straw Vulcan Trope that is just another example of how "nobody can be truly rational" and that it is impossible to be a logical person while at the same time have a healthy emotional life.

I'll keep watching "Murder, She Wrote", at least Jessica Fletcher is not a dissociated neurotic like House, and her character is a prime example of how I like my characters written: Witty, intelligent, uncompromising but gracious, and who always turn to their minds to find the answer.

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Kainscalia, thanks so much for the link to tvtropes.org! That is such a cool site. I had never heard the word "trope" before, and I often detect tropes that appeal to me in stories. (I'm going to search for what I'd call the "Free at last" trope. If there's not article for it, I should write one. It is shared by a lot of fiction that I love. It's where the hero finds out that he doesn't have to take it anymore. Examples range from Office Space to the mother of them all, Atlas Shrugged.)

Anyway, I see your point with the Straw Vulcan, but there is a reason why the Vulcan, or the House M.D., is appealing to some (including me). It's a different trope, again one that I'm not sure has been identified yet. Maybe it's not so much a trope as a fantasy in the mind of some of the viewers! Call it "I could straighten him out" maybe? Or "He'd be different ... with me!" :) Women such as myself are strongly attracted to the intelligence and logic of a Spock or a House, despite their flaws. I have the feeling with Spock that, oh, if only I were in his life, I could teach him that reason and emotion need not be at odds! Or, if only I were in House's life, he'd find the happiness he deserves and he could become a better person.

If you're only interested in fiction depicting the Ideal Man, then House is definitely not for you. He is not meant to be ideal, he's meant to be intriguing. I admit that the quality is uneven; some episodes and some of the lines are great, some are just stupid. But overall, the show hits its target with a lot of people.

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If you're only interested in fiction depicting the Ideal Man, then House is definitely not for you. He is not meant to be ideal, he's meant to be intriguing. I admit that the quality is uneven; some episodes and some of the lines are great, some are just stupid. But overall, the show hits its target with a lot of people.

This last part is an excellent summation of my position on the show also. Think of it like this guys, House is definitely NOT an Objectivist, but he is a rational man living mostly by a generally rational implicit philosophy in what is a pretty close approximation of real life situations and while dealing with varying degrees of rationality in others. That he gets it right most of the time without having an explicit rational philosophy is what makes him cool, and the show very good. The part that is annoying about the show is everyone around him trying to change him into some "nice" guy, or complaining about how he isn't one all the time. The thing is the guys not really a jerk (usually), he just tells it like it is without evasion, this is why he is disliked, and it's a horrible reason to dislike someone or not want to "be like him".

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Few quotes supporting my position. (bold mine in all, errors mine)

OPAR p.284

The conventional view is that justice consist of primarily in punishing the wicked. This view stems from the idea that evil is metaphysically powerful while virtue is merely " impractical idealism". In the Objectivist philosophy, however, vice is the attribute to be scorned as impractical. For us, therefore, the order of priority is reversed. Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring.

Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics

The justice that Rand advocates does not demand cynicism or hostility toward others, however. Because the purpose of justice is the achievement of value, its impetus is actually positive. "Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring." Peikoff writes. The person is not poised to criticize or eager to harp on others' shortcomings. Rather, Peikoff portrays justice as "human prospecting," a search for what is good in people while, of necessity, remaining alert to what is bad... The exercise of justice, accordingly, does not entail accentuating defects of feeling superior by finding fault in others.

then later

Sometimes, a person will not have enough information about a person to warrant a conclusion. The only responsible course in such cases is to reserve judgment until acquires the necessary knowledge. This does not mean that a person must refrain from greeting passers-by until he has conducted an extensive investigation.... Justice allows granting others the benefit of the doubt as long as one has no specific grounds for doubts about their character. "Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally," Rand reasons, "a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proved guilty." The more significant the relatioship a person contemplates having with another person, however - the more prolonged, the closer, the higher the stakes involved - the more reason he has to inquire into the other person's character.
Edited by ~Sophia~

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Think of it like this guys, House is definitely NOT an Objectivist, but he is a rational man living mostly by a generally rational implicit philosophy in what is a pretty close approximation of real life situations and while dealing with varying degrees of rationality in others.

I haven't ever looked at the show this way before, so I don't know the answer to this, but if he is so rational, why is he (seemingly?) so unhappy? Again, I haven't thought about this point specifically while watching the show, though I will next time I see it. Why does he choose to have such a strained relationship with his only friend? Does he not desire to have any friends or romantic partners, does he live in a world where it is impossible for him to have any, or does he just not know how to do it? Why does he give in and do clinic duty when 1) he hates it; and 2) he would be much more productive doing something more important? Shouldn't he lay out a rational case for being exempt from clinic duty, refuse to budge, and go out and start his own practice if his ultimatum fails and no one else will hire him?

You say house is rational. Do you also believe he is selfish?

I have to agree with the depiction of him as a nihilist. I still find the show enjoyable, and House has a lot of good one-liners, especially with regard to religion, but the show doesn't seem to present any essentially good characters, including House.

"You can have all the faith you want in spirits, and the afterlife, and heaven and hell, but when it comes to this world, don't be an idiot. Cause you can tell me you put your faith in God to put you through the day, but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways."

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Women such as myself are strongly attracted to the intelligence and logic of a Spock or a House, despite their flaws. I have the feeling with Spock that, oh, if only I were in his life, I could teach him that reason and emotion need not be at odds! Or, if only I were in House's life, he'd find the happiness he deserves and he could become a better person.

If you're only interested in fiction depicting the Ideal Man, then House is definitely not for you. He is not meant to be ideal, he's meant to be intriguing. I admit that the quality is uneven; some episodes and some of the lines are great, some are just stupid. But overall, the show hits its target with a lot of people.

Yes, I understand that's not an uncommon fantasy. Though I have never really shared it, in that I usually see someone as House as fractured and not that interesting. Spock, on the other hand, eventually becomes more comfortable balancing emotions and logic- although the whole Vulcan philosophy is one of altruism ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few").

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Ifatart, you are creating dichotomies where there are none and invent straw man arguments regarding points which have been already explained.

Treating strangers with rudeness and default contempt because they happen to have a facial expression which strikes you as empty or boring is not Objectivism. You are free to treat others as you like but you are not allowed to pass your confusions as rational philosophy.

I don't know what kind of illusion your mind is going through to come to the conclusion that you are in control of what I am allowed or not allowed to do, but I find it sad and interesting as it demonstrates something about your method of thinking.

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I have a different take on this series. I started watching House halfway through the first season by accident, my first reaction was positive and I became an immediate fan of the early characters personality. While I still watch the show my view has changed and I have developed somewhat of a conspiracy theorist view of the shows motivation.

The character of House seems to intentionally come across (at least to me) as someone’s, colored and of course flawed notion of how Objectivists can seem to the vanilla culture of emotionalism. There seems to be an intentional plot to “correct” him by the other characters who consider themselves friends and working in his best interest. I have been leaning the past couple seasons toward the notion that the eventual result will be the “salvation” of House as he learns to become more acceptable to others and allows his emotions to take a greater control than his rational mind. However, whenever we see House seeming to waver towards consideration of their arguments and possibly having some internal self doubt as to whether they may be right he always turns out to be a step ahead and rejects the “lesson” or never was really buying in but using it as part of his game of screwing with their heads. While the formulaic style of each episode has become a bit predictable the sub plots keep me interested enough to watch. I definitely suspect that if the show runs long enough and to any conclusion it will be that the character will learn the error of his ways and become more “human”. This "lesson" might be a veiled attack on rationalism if not Objectivism specifically. Then again like I said it is a conspiracy theory.

I’ve quite enjoyed the considerable interchange here. To throw in my own very simplistic view:

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt upon meeting and always use common courtesy. There is after all a value proposition in common courtesy. An immediate dislike, does not call for broadcast or confrontation and you have no moral obligation to announce your feelings.

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