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Burgess Laughlin, July 4, 1944 - August 29, 2014

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Burgess Laughlin was the author of "The Aristotle Adventure" and "The Power and the Glory". He was also the founder of "Study Groups for Objectivists"

 

An obituary message has been posted on his main website:
http://www.reasonversusmysticism.com/

If you would like to make a comment, please do so at his blog:
http://aristotleadventure.blogspot.com/
 

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I only met Burgess once, but from that one time, and from our later online exchanges, he struck me as someone who had figured out -- for his personal life -- the right mix of the two ingredients that philosophers have been trying to reconcile for millennia.

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Thank you for creating this thread.

Burgess has a 1,400-post history at our forum, which can be found here. Just one example of his patient thoughtfulness is demonstrated in an ancient thread on writer's block

What do you do as soon as you get an idea for a story? Do you carry a notebook with you? Do you jot down the initial idea and any other ideas that pop out of your subconscious mind? Do you enter the idea into a journal and begin asking yourself questions? For example, if you begin with the fourth "door" into The Story Room, a whole situation (such as a tsunami hitting a town), you might immediately start thinking about and writing down such questions as:

- Wait a minute, why does this intrigue me so much? Well, because it is a terrifying fact of overpowering destruction by nature, and I am fascinated with how different people with different values react to facts of nature.

- Okay, now I see a bit of a THEME emerging (facts and values), so what kind of CHARACTERS would inhabit a story like that? Well, I would certainly need a range of characters to show a range of reactions. And their divergent reactions would easily set up the story for ...

- PLOT! Yeah, I see, the conflicts between the characters about what to do to save the town, which the main character loves, would make the backbone of the plot. But where should I start? With the wave itself? No, probably I need to set up a conflict ahead of time. Maybe I could ... and so forth.

Do you see? No planning has started yet. It won't until you have simmered and stewed and brainstormed and researched. (How fast do tsunmais really move? What can stop them? What sort of geography represents the greatest threat and the best opportunities for prevention? Etc.) This intermediate period is not wasted. It is absolutely crucial for getting to the next stage, planning. Your conscious mind can't plan, a mostly conscious activity, if you have not stoked the boiler, the subconscious, with plenty of wood.

You can't plan until you have done your homework. You must have facts and insights and imaginings and what-ifs from which to work before you can do any more than the simplest planning.

Burgess also blogged

http://aristotleadventure.blogspot.com

http://reasonversusmysticism.blogspot.com

And here is his description of his methodical and steadfast dedication to "making progress" on a lifetime of uncommon and numerous health issues

https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/health-science/stars/stars-written/burgess-laughlin/

I never met Burgess, nor interacted with him very much online. In our infrequent exchanges, he was kind and helpful, and I'm grateful for that. He was someone I admired.

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Burgess Laughlin was my best friend, a guide, a mentor, even though we had never met. Separated by thousands of miles, I took to his blogs, personal correspondance and then the books of Burgess, when my professional life was in crisis. His emphasis on "Central Purpose of Life" as the primary determinant of one's actions, anchored my life when I needed it the most.

If I were to select the most salient feature of his writings, it would be his vision of Heroism among the intellectuals. Ever since he was young, it was Ayn Rand's title essay in her book "For The New Intellectual" that inspired him the most. He found heroic elements not just in rational intellectuals like Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and Locke. But even among Kant, Augustine, Porphyry. It was his dedication and passion for those who had passion and dedication for ideas that enabled him to reinvent his life at an age when most people give up on their dreams. It was this dedication that created "Study Groups for Objectivists" and deeply challenging, engaging, learning, fulfilling studies that followed.

His works have potential to create an army of committed rational intellectuals, who can usher in new era of enlightenment.

I am deeply saddened by his loss. Part of him will remain with us in his blogs, books, and online posts. But it is the loss of a friend which would be impossible to fulfill.

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I only met Burgess once, but from that one time, and from our later online exchanges, he struck me as someone who had figured out -- for his personal life -- the right mix of the two ingredients that philosophers have been trying to reconcile for millennia.

What are those two ingredients?

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What are those two ingredients?

Sorry, I just remembered you'd asked this. What I was thinking of was "ambition vs. acceptance".

 

Whatever human beings say is their explicit philosophy, the bulk of us actively pursue values. In this pursuit, we have to figure out what values we aim for, and we have to deal with the negatives of underachievement and loss. An Epicurean may advise men not to be too ambitious, but rather to be happy with the simple pleasures of life. A Stoic may advise him to go full steam ahead, but to see achievement as a duty with limited personal investment in the outcome. The Gita can combine these both, telling people to renounce this world, but -- as long as they do not -- to pursue work as duty, not for personal reward. The Buddhist may say that all sadness comes from loss of values, and advise avoiding all worldly ambition. A Christian may rationalize acceptance by saying God has a deeper plan. A pagan may figure he just didn't offer up a good enough sacrifice this year.

 

In our personal lives, we're each well advised to be ambitious to a point, and yet to be accepting of the realities of the world and ourselves.... even of the man-made things which we cannot change, and which may as well be metaphysical as far as the context of our lives are concerned. Aiming too low and aiming too high both have their drawbacks. 

 

A more complete treatment would probably need a thread of its own.

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