Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Days Won


Everything posted by 425

  1. I think the issue of collateral damage in war can be better understood by looking at a comparable concrete involving individuals, because on the whole the principle is the same. Imagine we have an armed terrorist in a public place who takes three hostages. He holds one of the hostages in front of him as a human shield and places the other two on either side of him. You happen to be carrying a gun yourself. As you draw your weapon, the terrorist sees you. You know he won't hesitate to shoot and kill you, and probably others. However, the only available shot to the terrorist is through the civilian (in this instance you have a high caliber weapon that will allow you to kill the terrorist by shooting through the civilian). What is the right decision? It's clear that if you are to act in a self-interested manner, you need to take the shot. Your priority is self-defense against an armed maniac who will kill you and other innocent people around you. It is a tragedy that the civilian will die in this instance once you shoot through him, but it is the only way to save your own life and those of the other civilians around you. This is the same principle that governs civilian casualties in a war. Civilians in Imperial Japan unfortunately had to die when the U.S. went into neutralize the armed threat. A few things other principles and scenarios in this analogy are worthy of note: 1) The blood of the civilian is squarely and solely on the hands of the terrorist. Even though you pulled the trigger of the weapon that killed him, his death is not your fault. The terrorist forced your hand by coercing you and bears responsibility for the death of this innocent. Because the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary measures for the U.S. to take to neutralize the threat of imperial Japan (a land invasion would have been costly for the lives of American troops, so that decision would have been immoral for government when the bomb remained an effective option), and because the Japanese forced the hand of President Truman by attacking the United States, the blood of those killed in those bombings is on the hands of the Japanese emperor. 2) In our scenario, you probably have time for just one shot before the terrorist is able to fire a shot at you. Because you would be unlikely to hit and would almost certainly die if you missed (and perhaps even if you hit), it would be immoral to shoot to wound the terrorist's exposed leg rather than taking the shot to kill through the civilian. For the same reason, it would be immoral for the United States to have gone out of their way to avoid civilian casualties to the detriment of its ability to win the war. 3) In our scenario, the terrorist has three hostages. Since only one of them must be killed in order to kill the terrorist, it would also be immoral to kill all three regardless. For the same reason, it would be immoral for the United States to have gratuitously bombed Japanese cities after the Emperor offered his surrender. In this instance, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the one civilian right in front of the terrorist, and the other two civilians are the rest of Japan. Civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to die for the U.S. to neutralize a violent, oppressive and irrational government, but once the Japanese surrendered, the U.S. properly did not cause any unnecessary civilian deaths. I hope this analogy is at least a bit helpful or thought provoking when considering foreign policy issues. Thinking about things more in this way helped convince me to support the strong foreign policies of Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Brook instead of the non-interventionism of Ron Paul and other libertarians.
  2. I'll wager that Brat is better than Cantor, but I am somewhat uncomfortable with a congressman who so explicitly rests his political and economic views on a religious basis. Even—and perhaps especially—if the positions he holds are the correct ones. Brat may be better than Cantor, and he's probably even better than most Republican members of Congress, but I would shy away from tying my wagon too closely to his campaign. If I lived in his district, I would probably vote for him but not campaign for him. There is hope, though, I suppose, that he could pave the way for more people who hold similar positions on economics to run for Congress and win elections, possibly even including some who don't promote their religious views quite so aggressively.
  3. Certainly. The requirement that you understood and agreed with Rand's identifications and arguments in ITOE was implicit, but it suits me fine if you want to make it explicit. However, most of the identifications I'm specifically talking about are fairly evidently true once you understand the arguments for the,, so I would consider disagreement a relatively unlikely scenario. In most cases, a word was assigned to a concept by popular usage. No one can pinpoint the first person to call a table a table, but at some point that word entered popular usage for that concept. Once that happened, it became the case that in English, the word "table" has an objective meaning as it refers to a specific concept. Note that the objective meaning of "table" has nothing to do with "well, it's part of the nature of this object that it must be called by the name "table." If the word "guitar" entered into popular usage to refer to the concept of "table," then "guitar" would objectively mean a piece of furniture with legs and a flat surface on which objects are placed. Additionally, this does not exclude other languages. In Spanish, "mesa" means "table." The word "mesa" and the word "table" both refer to the same concept, and both objectively refer to that concept. Which word you use to refer to that concept only depends on whether you are speaking Spanish or English. It is also true that one person can devise a word to represent a concept. This is the case in scientific discovery, where new concepts are identified. At some point, a particular person or group of people discovered the neutrino. So they were the ones who gave the word that referred to that concept. Once that word entered popular use (here referring to popular use among scientists) to refer to that concept, it became the case that the word objectively refers to that concept. If the scientists who discovered the neutrino decided to name it the "tiger" instead, their name would not have been popularly accepted because "tiger" already refers to an entirely different concept. So "tiger" would not begin to objectively mean the neutrino. A word has to enter popular usage among people who refer to a particular concept. The word "neutrino" has entered popular usage among those who talk about neutrinos, so it is now objectively the word that refers to that concept. The word "nonsense" and "emergency" have long ago obtained the same status among people who speak English and talk about the concepts to which these refer. Therefore, these words objectively mean those concepts. You summarized the views of three other posters earlier: I agree with all three.
  4. Well, the central idea of the question in your original post is "how can we know _________ if _________?" That question is in itself an epistemological one. When we talk about what we know in the field of morality, then, yes, that is a question in the field of ethics, but when we're talking about how we know certain things about morality, then we're discussing epistemology. The main reason I raised the question of whether you had read ITOE was because you were making a few errors in your arguments that I would probably not have made after reading ITOE and Rand's other work on epistemology. For one thing, the relationship between human knowledge and reality. This manifested itself when we talked about being certain, when I kept emphasizing that and explaining how being certain and being right are two different things. I remember explaining this several times, so it did seem to me that you were not understanding this (if you were I apologize). This has everything to do with the relationship between ideas and reality, because a correct idea corresponds perfectly to the facts of reality, and a person who holds an idea with certainty is merely someone who can think of no facts that contradict his idea. Another thing I noticed you apparently not understanding entirely is the idea of objectivity with regard to concepts. This was clear when you were suggesting to me that I might arbitrarily declare every moment of my life to be an "emergency" or when you argued that "nonsense" was an arbitrarily label. The thing you were missing here was that these words, like all words that are correctly understood and clearly defined concepts, have objective meaning. Once a word has been assigned to a concept like "emergency," that word has an objective meaning for all those who speak the same language, and it is an improper mode of thought if one person arbitrarily assigns the word a different meaning. This error becomes more egregious in the field of philosophy, especially when the word whose definition you are changing describes a particular context in which a certain action may be taken. That was the biggest red flag to me that you had an epistemological problem: when you tried to suggest to me that a ) an emergency could be "declared" by an individual without regard to its definitions (i.e. as a permanent state of affairs) and b ) the label "nonsense" is arbitrary.
  5. Thank you! I can't be quite sure that I came up with that, but I've long used architectural metaphors in thinking about philosophical systems.
  6. I'm just going to say again what I've said before and what DonAthos also just said: FredAnyman, have you read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology? The fact of the matter is, I think we're going to have a hard time continuing this discussion until you've read or re-read it, because there seems to be a fundamental disconnect in that you don't seem to have a strong grasp on the Objectivist epistemology. And realistically, it is not possible to understand a theory of ethics until you understand the epistemology that serves as its framework. Think of a philosophical system as the Statue of Liberty. Before you can start constructing the outer copper layer in the form of the statue, you have to first build the pedestal and the frame, which are like the metaphysics and epistemology. Then you can construct the outer layer, which is like the ethical system, and then you can add the crown of politics and the torch of aesthetics. But if you try to just construct the outer layer without first building the frame, the statue will crumble the first time its structural integrity is even slightly tested. You have to have a good grasp on epistemology first. And I think most of your problems in this conversation are in dealing with topics that are epistemological, not ethical.
  7. Yes, given a particular context (meaning that it's not a vague question where the answer is "well it's moral when x but immoral when y"), there is only one correct moral answer. The correct answer given a particular context is objective, and it will be either "moral," "immoral" or "not a question of morality" ("amoral," if you prefer; an example of this would be "chocolate ice cream vs. vanilla ice cream," which is not a dilemma to which ethics applies).
  8. So long as your logical methods actually are airtight. As DonAthos has pointed out, it is possible for someone to start from good premises, perhaps be an Objectivist, and still make an error in logic without knowing it. Odds are if you are a good philosopher and have good premises, you'll discover that error upon "checking your work," so to speak, but it is still possible for you to miss it. But you are correct in that if you gather all the evidence available and use airtight logic, then you can conclude that a certain action is moral. I would reiterate the same basic thing that I said above, but if my evidence is complete and my logic is airtight, then I could draw the conclusion that a certain action is immoral. Right. Since contradictions do not exist in reality, this means basically one of two things: 1. One of us is missing pertinent information (or, I suppose, has inaccurate information) regarding the particular action X or the context of that action. 2. One of us has made an error in our logic. So yes, if the two of us were discussing this issue and came to opposite conclusions, ideally we would each evaluate our own and each other's arguments in search of either 1) incompleteness or inaccuracy of information or 2) logical errors. I agree with this part, and I agree with most aspects of your entire summary. I have noted my quibbles above, but yes, I think you've done well at outlining the process. I would just briefly add that realistically, if we were debating a relatively minor issue (like the morality of eating food from McDonald's or something, as opposed to the morality of breaking and entering), this would be type of scenario where we would probably agree to disagree. Edit: I want to add that my quibbles with regard to the difference between the action of "ensuring that your logic is airtight" versus your logic actually being airtight is essentially the same as what DonAthos said in response to the very similar question you asked him. I also think he did better than I in accounting for the possibility of outside information unavailable to us. I agree entirely with his post #53.
  9. My answer to the original post is the same as that of the other posters. When making decisions about morality, one must gather all of the evidence available and ensure that his own logical methods are airtight. It is always going to be, as one of them put it, a "guess-and-check" method. I believe our current conversation is a result of diversions taken by both of us onto tangential but related topics. I'm quite certain that Muslim terrorists are not right. When I talk about agreeing to disagree or prescribing moral judgements, I'm referring to my conduct according to the Objectivist morality, not their conduct according to Islamic morality. I imagine that their position in this situation would be that I am an infidel who has insulted Allah and the prophet Mohammad and therefore deserve death. My position is that I should choose between a few actions: a) agree to disagree and choose another topic of conversation; b ) agree to disagree, but determine that my opponents are dishonest and therefore not worth any more of my time; or c) determine that my opponents intend to initiate the use of force and inform the proper authorities for my safety and that of other innocents. Each of these three scenarios requires first the conclusion of my moral judgement. In the first, I conclude that my opponent is mistaken but not dishonest, immoral or a force user. In the second, I conclude that my opponent is dishonest but not a force user, at least not in the immediate sense. In the third, I conclude that my opponent intends to initiate force. In the Muslim terrorist example, I'm probably choosing the third option. So I am passing moral judgement on them, saying that they are immoral, and I'm also calling the authorities because I believe it is likely that they will initiate force. This is correct. However, I must again reiterate that being certain and being correct are two very different things. To provide a stronger illustration: Imagine a schizophrenic person who believes that you have hidden cameras in his house. You know well that you have not done this. He's absolutely certain that you have, because he's, you know, neurotic. You're absolutely certain that you haven't. Even though both of you are certain, it is clear who is correct. His thought method is not a rational one. He's listening to his paranoid neuroses and jumping to completely unreasonable conclusions. No matter how certain he is in his belief that you hid cameras in his house, he is still wrong, because you did not. That was a dramatization, but it illustrates the difference between being certain and being right. In a slightly less crazy example, look at our Muslim terrorists. They're certain they are right. But what is their thought process? They're taking the word of clerics and an old book that there is a supreme being who wants them to follow a whole set of rules, including the murder of infidels. This is not at all a rational thought process, this is the use of blind faith to replace reason. Since reason is the only method by which man can learn about reality, this process for determining moral principles is flawed as well. Then, as DonAthos so wisely pointed out, there's the matter of Objectivists disagreeing because one made an honest mistake. In this case, the mode of thought for the party that is incorrect is still a good mode of thought, but with a slight error in the process or a gap in knowledge. But still, in this case, it is clear that it is possible to be certain but wrong, even if the way in which you are wrong is a minor logical error instead of a completely incorrect mode of thought. Follow the pattern here. Of course the certain schizophrenic in my example is wrong, that's as clear as day. So why can't the certain Muslim terrorist also be wrong? Or the mistaken but certain Objectivist? Just because the way in which these people are wrong isn't as obvious as it is for the schizophrenic, this does not mean that we can't identify where they go wrong and thus label their ideas as wrong ones?
  10. As just a friendly note, could you consider using the quote feature in the future instead of putting my remarks in quotation marks? It would make your posts far easier to read. Okay, you're missing that one can objectively determine something to be nonsense. That isn't an arbitrary declaration. A claim makes sense if it refers to real, properly understood concepts and follows the laws of identity and causality as they apply to the concepts it uses. "A giraffe is able to eat leaves from the tops of trees because of its long neck" is a claim that makes sense. It refers to a number of concepts, all of which are well understood, and it makes a claim that is consistent with the laws of identity and causality as they apply to all of those concepts (for example, the identity of a giraffe as having a long neck and the causal connection between a long neck and being able to eat things that are high off the ground). A nonsensical claim would refer to concepts that are misunderstood or to anticoncepts (intentionally vague words that are meant to mimic real concepts but are never clearly defined; usually used maliciously in political debates) or violate the laws of identity or causality. To use an extreme example of a nonsensical claim: "The giraffe turned into a strawberry and flew over the color purple." This claim can be OBJECTIVELY stated to be nonsensical; it is not an arbitrary declaration that I am making. The statement contradicts the identity of color purple, since that is not an entity but an attribute, and one cannot fly over an attribute. It also contradicts the law of causality as it pertains to giraffes, because there is no mechanism by which a giraffe can turn into a strawberry. It also contradicts the identity of strawberries, because they are unable to fly. One of the issues in your thinking that I'm noticing is that you seem to consider the act of labeling particular claims or situations to be arbitrary. You stated before that you could just arbitrarily declare an emergency, and now you're talking about me arbitrarily claiming things to be nonsensical. I would recommend looking more into epistemology, which serves as the building blocks for the rest of philosophy. I would strongly recommend reading the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand. That book explains how concepts are formed, which would help in understanding why concepts like "emergency" or "nonsense" have objective meanings and cannot be applied at whim. I will repeat yet again that "certain" and "correct" have very different meanings. I can say that something is nonsense all day, but that does not mean that I am correct. I can be certain of a claim, but that does not make the claim true. You may not like this answer, but all you can do is make sure that you are checking all of your premises and every step of your logical process. There's just no convincing some people, and in those situations you'll have to either agree to disagree or make a moral judgement depending on the situation. For example, Muslim terrorists are certain they are right. They are not right, but however much you teach them Objectivism, they're almost certainly not going to change their thinking. In this case, you have to think to yourself, "is my time better spent trying to change the minds of Muslim terrorists, or is it better spent putting them in prison?" For a less extreme example, we could talk about a hypothetical friend of yours who is a devout Christian. Is your time better spent causing antagonism by trying to change the mind of a friend whose mind will not change, or is it better spent enjoying your friend's company and talking about things that you do have in common? Well, it's the definition of the word! It comes from the fact that people needed a term to describe temporary and abnormally dangerous situations, so they assigned to that definition the word "emergency." So that's what the word means. "Temporary" refers to something that lasts only for a limited time. This distinguishes an emergency from a long-term bad state of affairs. So life in North Korea is not an emergency because it is not temporary. Ayn Rand clarified, in "Ethics of Emergencies," further on the "abnormally dangerous" label, saying that an emergency "creates conditions under which human survival is impossible" and that one of the main goals in combating such a situation is to "restore normal conditions." She further clarifies: "By 'normal' conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire." And I'll reiterate what I've said before, as to your question about disagreement over what constitutes an emergency. Two people may disagree, but since the word emergency has an objective meaning, one of them is wrong. I don't really understand why you're so hung up on this point. But to give an example, "trapped in a burning building" is an emergency. A burning building is a temporary event that certainly entails conditions in which humans cannot survive. If someone says "trapped in a burning building" is not an emergency situation, that person is simply incorrect. "Daily life in the suburbs" is not an emergency. It is not a temporary situation, and it does not involve conditions that prevent human survival. If some especially non-objective person were to claim that "daily life in the suburbs" is an emergency, that person would, quite plainly, be wrong. Morality is different in an emergency scenario simply because morality is contextual. An emergency situation is a distinct context with vastly different conditions than other contexts, so morality changes far more significantly in that context. In such a situation, the primary moral objective is to "restore normal conditions," as Ayn Rand put it. This may mean that it is permissible for shipwreck victims to temporarily intrude on private property if it is the only dry land available and if they strive to cause no harm and to end the intrusion as quickly as possible. Again, however, this is a discussion for a whole different thread. My purpose in bringing up ethics of emergencies in the first place was to show how morality is contextual, not to enter a discussion about what constitutes an emergency or to detail the rules for one. If you are interested in further discussion on this topic, may I suggest opening another thread?
  11. If the context of your knowledge is so minute that you are unable to conceive of the idea of individual rights, then in making that statement you are certain in the context of your knowledge, but that does not mean you are right. I've been thinking about this over the last day or so, and I've come to the following realization: certainty is an epistemological rather than a metaphysical state. When you are certain of something, you are completely of the conviction that that thing is true. There is no doubt in your head; you've gathered all the relevant evidence that is available to you and all of it points to that conclusion. This does not at all mean you are correct; it is entirely possible that there is data that contradicts your claim. The idea is that when you ask someone if they are certain, you're not asking them if there is evidence contradicting their claim, you're asking them: "in the context of your knowledge, is this claim conclusively true, i.e. do you think there is any possibility that the knowledge you have points you to a different conclusion?" Men are not omniscient, so no one can claim certainty in the Platonic sense, where there is no possibility of being wrong. When you say "I'm certain," what you're saying is "I've examined the evidence and this is the only conclusion that can be drawn from it. None of the evidence supports any other conclusion." Try reading this; it's what I've been using as a resource in trying to understand the meaning of "certainty": http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/certainty.html The ability to imagine something that would make your conclusion false does not render it false. Again, the answer to this is context. Imagine the following situation: Imagine I have just come out of a bathroom and closed the door behind me. When I was in the bathroom, I was the only one in there. You ask me, "is anyone in there?" I reply that there is no one in there. You ask if I am certain, and I say that yes, I am certain. Then, a third person points out that there is another door used to access that bathroom from a different room that I had not noticed when I was in there, and it's possible that someone has just entered the bathroom without my knowledge. Then, the proper thing for me to do is to amend my claim. "Given that new context of knowledge, no, I am no longer certain. I think that it is probable that no one is in there, but I am not certain since, in my current context of knowledge, I now know that there is a possibility that someone has entered there without my knowing." That's a situation where, given knowledge of a new possibility, I have to amend a claim to where I am no longer certain. However, consider the following, where I wouldn't: Imagine the same situation, except the door I have just exited is now the only door to that bathroom (imagine also that the bathroom lacks windows or air-conditioning vents large enough for a person to pass through). I tell you that I am certain that there is no one in the bathroom. This time, another person comes up tells me, "No, you aren't! It's possible that a person's molecules could arrange in such a way that he could pass through a wall like it was not even there!" I would tell this person: "That's absurd! No one has ever been known to do that before! You've suggested an entirely implausible alternative! I am certain that no one is in there." While the claim that the other person suggested is a possible one, it is so absurd that I remain certain in my conclusion. The addition of that possibility does not alter the context of my knowledge because it is such an unlikely possibility that it has actually never before been observed. The same idea applies to moral claims. If I claim that it is immoral to drink bacon grease everyday because it will give you a heart attack, and then someone shows me evidence that drinking bacon grease everyday improves coronary health, then I'll amend my claim. If someone tells me that it is possible that there is a God of Bacon Grease who is appeased by daily drinkers of such grease and will grant them eternal life, then I'm not amending my claim just because someone suggested some slightly possible but completely nonsense alternative. No. Emergency ethics is not something you can just declare arbitrarily. There are specific situations that qualify as an emergency and to which normal ethics do not apply (there are still guiding principles for these emergencies, keep in mind, all I mean is that normal ethical rules don't apply in their usual form). An emergency is, by definition, a temporary and abnormally dangerous situation. "Daily life in the suburbs" is not an emergency, even if you are a character in third-rate postmodern fiction. "Trapped in a flaming building" is. And in saying that normal moral rules don't apply in such a situation, I do not mean that it is acceptable to kill your family and order a bank heist over the phone. I mean that if it is necessary for you to travel onto your neighbor's property to survive, you should do it, instead of dying because you don't want to commit a minor and temporary violation of his property rights. If you have not already and you are interested in this topic, you should read Ayn Rand's essay "The Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness.
  12. Well, I am not omniscient, but I think it's noteworthy that I am incapable of projecting the existence of information that would overturn the non-initiation of force principle. By that I mean that I can't even imagine what that information would be. With other moral claims, there could easily be information about the context or about the effects of the actions that I had not known when making the claim that would render it false. In those types of situations, I could easily project what that information would be. In saying that, I mean that I could easily imagine "if I found out x, then principle y would be wrong." I can't project something like that regarding the initiation of force, which is why I afford that principle a higher level of certainty than I would to one that depends more on context. I think there is a relevant conversation to be had about the use of the word "certainty." Leonard Peikoff argued that certainty also applies within a given context of knowledge, saying: "Idea X is “certain” if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative..." I think this can be a valid use of the term, and certainly (ha!) my statements on the principle barring initiation of force could fall into this realm. Also, though this is tangential, it is relevant that the principle of non-initiation of force is contextual: It applies to the context of social interactions among human beings. The existence of ethics of emergencies is also somewhat relevant in that in these types of extreme situations, morality does not apply. It is a different topic entirely, but an example of such an application might be a scenario where one is swimming away from a shark and crawls up onto the nearest available dry land, even if that land is private property.
  13. I can't speak for JASKN, but here's my response to your post addressed to him: Keep in mind that Objectivism is very particular and very certain about which laws should exist. The data exists to claim with (near-?)certainty that man has rights and that the purpose of government is to protect (through retaliatory force) these rights and not to violate them. In the Objectivist view, though there are certainly moral principles beyond "don't initiate force," none of these principles are to become laws. The principles governing initiation of force are principles about which we are fairly certain. I personally could not imagine a piece of information existing that would require us to reconsider the principles of man's rights, and I'm therefore pretty confident that none exists. The principles that are based more on "guess-and-check" are principles governing behavior in your personal life, when rights are not a consideration, and the main question is "does this benefit a man's life qua man or does it detract from it." That's because these principles vary a lot more depending on context than the principles of man's rights. So the principles on which we can be said to be mostly "guessing and checking" with a relatively low degree of certainty aren't ones on the basis of which we're imprisoning people.
  14. An important thing to recall is that morality, in addition to being objective, is contextual. Unlike religious moralities, Objectivism doesn't tend to make blanket statements about morality. Certainly there are acts that are immoral regardless of the context (leaving aside for a minute ethics of emergencies, since that's an entirely different conversation), such as initiation of force. But many other actions are not always moral or always immoral—it's contextual, depending on the situation or event. That can be the cause for disagreements among individuals on the morality of a particular action: each of them is imagining a different context. Remember that the standard of value in the Objectivist ethics is man's life. With this as a guide, it's easy to imagine certain actions as being moral sometimes and immoral other times. As an exaggerated example, drinking alcohol is immoral when one is about to operate heavy machinery since it puts one's life in danger, but it may be perfectly moral in the privacy of one's house when one has no intention of doing anything risky. So one cannot universally state "drinking is moral" or "drinking is immoral"—the answer depends on the context. Another big example: it's perfectly moral to obscure information about one's personal life from a prying acquaintance, but not from one's own lover or spouse, because the former merely entails the establishment of a personal barrier of privacy while the latter involves deceit. So this can be one cause of confusion and apparent contradiction between the moral claims of different individuals. If you already knew all this, I apologize for condescending to you, but the way you stated "If I think that a concept is moral and you think the concept is moral, are we both correct?" suggested to me that you may have been trying to prescribe more wide-ranging, a-contextual moral rules than it is rational to do. In other situations, where people are dealing with the same context for a moral question and they disagree, yes, one of them is wrong and holds mistaken premises. You are right in suggesting that the solution to this is to search for erroneous premises and let reality determine who is right. If neither individual can determine that one of their premises is mistaken, it may be necessary to let the question rest and agree to disagree. This does not mean that they are both right. One of them is in fact wrong, and hopefully they'll soon find out which so they know the correct answer, but for the time being it may not be possible. It is certainly possible that you hold ideas that are incorrect (that don't properly correlate with the facts of reality). As you noted, no one is omniscient. All you can do is do your very best to make sure that there are no mistaken premises or contradictions in your reasoning and that all your ideas are grounded in the facts of reality. While this does not guarantee that you won't find that you've been in error later on, it's the best you can do to make that as unlikely as possible (and since most people do not do this, you'll be in a much better position in this respect than the majority). As to your final question: Any time anyone makes a claim of knowledge, one is to assume that they are speaking from the present context of their knowledge. Of course, they should make every attempt to find all relevant information available to them before making such a claim (in order to avoid a situation such as one where a foreigner comes to the United States and, after buying something and receiving a dime, a nickel and a quarter in change, makes the claim that all American coins are silver in color), but the assumption remains that they are making that claim only given their context of knowledge. The same standard applies to claims about morality. What this allows for is errors of knowledge—where you make an incorrect claim on the basis of incomplete information. Errors of knowledge are not moral errors, though there are situations where it is a moral error to fail to admit to an error of knowledge after discovering one. In summary: When someone says that something is moral or immoral, yes, there is a possibility that they are wrong. However, a claim can be made with certainty if there are no relevant facts that could have possibly been left out. So when we state that in all situations where morality applies (again this puts to the side the question of ethics of emergencies), it is immoral to murder someone, it is possible to make that claim with certainty because we have all the relevant facts on that one. In less certain situations, moral claims may be wrong due to errors of knowledge, but we can minimize that by being rigorous in our evaluation of the facts and premises that constitute these claims.
  15. I've listened to all the songs that have been posted so far. Good stuff! I quite liked the Fountainhead song and the piece from the Apollo 13 soundtrack. As for myself, I'm an avid fan of progressive rock and metal music myself. One band in particular that I would like to share has quite the sense of life, while being brilliant musicians, composers and lyricists. This band is called Dream Theater, and they have released 12 albums of some of the most brilliant music I've ever heard. Of particular note is their second studio album, Images and Words. This is the single album I've heard with the most blindingly benevolent sense of life. I really cannot recommend the entire disc highly enough, but I'll just share a couple of choice cuts right now. Dream Theater – Learning to Live This song is an 11-and-a-half-minute progressive rock tour de force. Lyrically, I would point out the first few lines: There was no time for pain No energy for anger The sightlessness of hatred slips away Walking through winter streets alone He stops and takes a breath With confidence and self control Which are a paraphrase of a few lines from Atlas Shrugged, which describe Rearden's reaction after he sells all his properties aside from Rearden Steel: "He had no time for pain, no energy for anger... the blinding stabs of hatred ceased and did not return. He was back in confident self control..." This one is kind of an interesting one musically, full of a kind of childlike joy that turns over the course of a song into a serious expression of confidence. The lyrics are actually written in pieces by all the members of the band as a reflection on the preceding few years, in which they struggled to find a new singer and a new recrod label; and together represent in a lot of ways what basically is a proper reaction for a rational man to adversity. The whole album is full of great songs like this. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock music and is interested in finding some very well written music with a positive sense of life. And if you like it, you can go on to find 11 more albums of great material from the same artists! So that I can do my best to inundate this thread with prog rock, I'll share a couple of songs from other artists: Transatlantic, a supergroup of sorts which includes the drummer who played on that Dream Theater album, specializes in writing tremendously long multi-part compositions. I believe that the lyrics that Neal Morse writes actually refer to his own Christianity, but they tend to be written ambiguously enough that the non-Christian listener can apply them to his own life regardless. This song forms a story generally about overcoming periods of malaise by recognizing your personal values and recovering a more benevolent outlook. One of the most incredible verses is this, from around 20 and a half minutes in: Pressed to the wall of the rail station hall is the Venus de Milo You walk through the park 'til the clouds seem to darken the sky And you wish you could soften your mind But you feel like they've locked you in time And you think you'll be perfectly fine once you get to the water Suddenly you stop 'cause your feet just won't walk Like there's someone awaiting The moon seems alive and looks down on your life just to say It's alright Innocence and undying love will reign Innocence and undying love will reign A shorter song after some of those longer ones! Haken is a fairly new band that has the distinction of putting out three brilliant albums in the last four years. The newest one, The Mountain, is probably the most Objectivist-like one lyrically, though my favorite is the debut, Aquarius. Anyway, Because It's There is a gorgeous short piece that is, again, overcoming-adversity-themed.
  16. Repairman, I agree with what you said and appreciate the time you obviously gave to what I posted. I personally don't mind good pop music, and even enjoy it, but it doesn't inspire me or stay with me like progressive music does. With a lot of pop music, in fairness, it is intended to be more of a backdrop to a party or to driving in the car, and I think a lot of it does work well for that purpose. But for pure listening experience, it just does not hold a candle to progressive music. But I like good benevolent pop music a lot better than music by those whose attitude seems to be that complexity and ambition in music is a pointless pursuit and intend to proclaim that their three-chord songs are superior to Rush's 2112. While I can understand why people might like the music of some of these bands, like Nirvana, I cannot stomach them because of the attitude expressed by their creators. In the end, though, I tend to agree with your last paragraph about enjoying music at your own discretion. Spiral Architect, metal is probably my favorite genre as well for the same reason, though I tend now towards progressive anything, whether that be progressive metal or rock. I haven't listened much to extreme metal, but I do have a copy of Blackwater Park in transit to me, so I'll see if I can enjoy that. I have yet to see Dream Theater live, but hope to one day, even though it probably won't be the same without Mike Portnoy.
  17. I also want to point out, with regards to the metal style, that the time when metal could be characterized solely as angry or just plain silly "macho" music, if there ever really was such a time, is long passed. I would say that bands in the genre now could be split between those who are primarily concerned with more superficial things like making aggressive music, and those who are genuine artists. The genuine artists, many of whom can be found in the progressive and symphonic metal subgenres, are simply some of today's best musicians. Take Dream Theater, who were among the pioneers of the progressive metal subgenre. Their music is indisputably metal—Iron Maiden and Metallica are obvious influences. But I could count on one hand the number of actually angry songs they've written. I challenge you to find an album with a better sense of life than their sophomore effort, Images and Words. Many of the songs that they've written throughout their career are nothing less than compositional masterpieces—in the heavy metal style. To name a few: Learning to Live, Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium, The Count of Tuscany and Breaking All Illusions. One song, the sixteen-minute composition A Nightmare to Remember, uses a very heavy style, including a passage of near-growled singing, to tell a comprehensive story that simply could not have been told without the metal elements. Or Nightwish, a metal band led by composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen that plays rather pop-oriented metal—except that the lead singer is a woman and... oh, yes, they're backed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Theirs is a slightly darker and less complex style, but they've still produced some truly brilliant compositions, such as the songs Beauty of the Beast and Ghost Love Score and the entire album Imaginaerum. There are plenty of other bands that use metal to great compositional effect. Haken. Symphony X. Epica. Opeth, even, which is one of the darker progressive metal bands. The composers for these bands are nothing if not brilliant. I just thought I'd bring this up since metal has been brought up a few times and Spiral Architect brought up the issue of simplicity versus complexity.
  18. I agree in part with both sides. I think it's possible to lay down in stone judgements of a piece of art's sense of life. For example, I think it's clear to everyone that a feature film whose theme was that mankind is innately evil and will always tend towards violence has a very malevolent sense of life. But I think that while we can judge with certainty a piece of art to be malevolent or benevolent, we cannot make the same judgement of a person based solely on that knowledge. Ayn Rand, of course, appreciated Dostoevsky (whose sense of life was, according to her own description, the opposite of hers) on the basis of his literary merit. Obviously porn isn't the same as great works of literature and it is art only in the most basic sense. But I don't see why the same basic principle shouldn't apply. We can most certainly judge most mainstream pornography to have a malevolent view of sex. But I don't think we can extrapolate from that judgement the judgement that a particular consumer of it, perhaps one who dislikes the sense of life of such porn but enjoys it just for the quality of sex or attractiveness of the performers(?), has a malevolent view of sex. I also want again to point out that art is a selective recreation of reality (and porn, as a selective recreation of reality, is art, though it is obviously art with a rather narrow theme and generally of relatively lower quality) and therefore that you cannot draw a line of "rape is wrong therefore watching rape porn is wrong." It's like Howard Roark destroying the housing project. It's wrong to blow up a building that you do not own, but it is not wrong to read a book about it and even to enjoy it when the character does it. Now, it is significant that Roark is established as a sympathetic character who stands for significant positive values in the novel—it is demonstrated that he is not a nihilist. Reading a novel about a nihilist who destroys buildings would be of questionable value, and enjoying the actions of this nihilist would probably be considerable evidence that a person has a malevolent sense of life. I think the similar idea would go for violent porn. I think it would be highly questionable what value one would gain from watching a nihilist rape women, and I think that the person who enjoyed this material probably have some seriously bad premises—though he would not necessarily be acting immorally. However, I have already cited an example of a depiction of violent sex where the aggressor is displayed sympathetically and the overall sequence depicts a positive sense of life. That, of course, is the "rape by engraved invitation" in The Fountainhead. Roark is quite violent towards Dominique in that scene, and in return she is violent towards him. But the scene portrays a benevolent view of sex and still holds Howard Roark in a positive light. And I see no reason why someone could not make a pornographic film that conveyed this same general idea, even if it perhaps was not this well-developed.
  19. Now isn't that interesting? What does it say about Iraq culturally that those who view porn in that country experience such a strong overall preference for pain and "classic forced sex" (whatever that means?). I agree. Yet the attitude I cited is what makes a lot of mainstream porn personally somewhat distasteful to me. And X-Art does stand as proof that you can depict "quick satisfaction of the sex drive" (their videos aren't plot-heavy or anything of that sort, they just depict two or three or however many people having sex) that has a benevolent sense of life resulting from its generally positive and reverent view of sex.
  20. I don't disagree that most porn is a malevolent representation of sex, but I disagree that violence in and of itself is a reason for that. "He took a step forward and her shoulders fell. She huddled lower, closer to the table. He let her wait. Then he approached. He lifted her without effort. She let her teeth sink into his hand and felt blood on the tip of her tongue. He pulled her head back and he forced her mouth open against his. "She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew that it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness. He had thrown her down on the bed and she felt the blood beating in her throat, in her eyes, the hatred, the helpless terror in her blood. She felt the hatred and his hands; his hands moving over her body, the hands that broke granite. She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up, through her body, to her throat, and she screamed. Then she lay still. "It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him—and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted. Then she felt him shaking with the agony of a pleasure unbearable even to him, she knew that she had given that to him, that it came from her, from her body, and she bit his lips and she knew what he had wanted her to know." This, of course, is a very violent sex scene written by Ayn Rand for The Fountainhead. The problem with most porn, in my opinion, is that it treats sex far too casually, as something you just do with whoever is attractive and available. There is one website, called X-Art (obviously don't search for it if you don't want to see, you know, porn), that—while not perfect—goes a long way towards producing videos of sex that do not have these problems. Though we know that the people in the video are paid actors, the way they act towards one another is not at all like how porn stars on other, more "mainstream" porn sites act towards each other. The actors for X-Art tend to treat each other, and the act of sex itself, as important values, not as casual receptacles for momentary amusement.
  21. First, let me say that there is simply too much here for me to give a detailed response to every point made by all three of you. I would be up all night if I were to attempt to do so. Since DonAthos shared his personal context for this, and I found it valuable to understanding where he is coming from in this conversation, I will do the same right now. I do agree with a great deal of this: I had read Atlas, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal before I became significantly involved in reading any Objectivist forums that dealt with issues of Ayn Rand's personal life (this forum does not, and I give it immense credit for its ability to carry out its intended focus on ideas and general exclusion of discussions on personal relationships, except for in a few self-contained threads like this one; but other forums like SOLO Passion and Objectivist Living focus a great deal on the personal relationships). And I was very happy knowing little more about Miss Rand than what was written in these books (and her other works which I was planning to read). I knew of the existence of The Passion of Ayn Rand, but I had no significant interest in reading such a biography. As far as I was concerned, all I needed to know about Ayn Rand's character was that she was the woman who wrote Atlas Shrugged (this, by the way, has been one of Leonard Peikoff's most common replies to questions about her character, something on the order of "she was the person she had to be to write Atlas Shrugged). Here is where our pasts differ. When I discovered the issues of the affair, the Peikoff/Kelley split, and worse, the Hickman smear and the Medicare smear, I also found myself despairing. But it was not solely because these issues are not relevant to "a philosophy for living on earth"—though they are and it was in part. It was because they shattered my image of Ayn Rand. Of course, my image of her would have been very little affected by finding out that she was afraid of the dark or that she sometimes got angry when someone insulted her work or that she sometimes committed an error in her thinking, because the fact that she wrote "The Objectivist Ethics" and The Fountainhead and Anthem makes all things of that variety seem trivial in comparison. But the claims that she was an esthetic fascist who would purge any student of Objectivism who didn't like Rachmaninoff, or worse claims like the Hickman one did damage my view of her. Why? Ayn Rand's novels show a vast intellect, but also a vast benevolence. Even Atlas Shrugged and Anthem, both about worlds dominated by irrationality, feature uplifting depictions of heroic characters who maintain benevolence despite the obstacles before them. Just from reading these novels, I got the very strong sense that Rand herself was this benevolent and this heroic—she would have to have been, it seemed, to create these characters. But after reading some of the claims of the Brandens, I was troubled. My view of Rand was conflicted by the immensity of her published works and the seeming neurosis of her personal life as described by the Brandens, among others. And that's why these are important to me. If none of this stuff was out there, I probably wouldn't make a big deal about Miss Rand's personal life at all. But because of the prevalence of a number of claims about her that seem to contradict everything she seems from her novels to have been as a person. I'm not looking for a perfect human being or a goddess in Miss Rand, but I am looking for a hero, which I think is a justified view to hold in light of her published works. But the claims that were out there contradict a heroic view of Ayn Rand. I have read PARC and evaluated the claims independently and found them to be dishonest. I was prepared to be content, actually, with Ayn Rand was a hero with a feet of clay. As hard is it was to believe those claims, I felt that I had to admit they were true. I started reading PARC online half-expecting to find it to be as dishonest and weak as its opponents have claimed it is. When I did read it, though, I was shocked by Mr. Valliant's intellect and honesty. I credit him with restoring my heroic image of Ayn Rand and putting aside my major doubts about Objectivism that stemmed from that. That's part of why I have felt the need to have a response to them. Miss Rand is, put simply, one of my personal heroes, and I feel an emotional impulse to defend her from what I see as unjust attacks. That may be why I initially attached such importance to Objectivist responses to issues like the affair. I still do think it is better to have something to say about it than nothing, but I now realize that I may have overemphasized the need to respond, probably on account of my emotional impulse in response to certain claims. I apologize, by the way, for the poor quality of my writing tonight. Sometimes I'm on, sometimes I'm off, and tonight I'm off. However, I want to respond tonight because otherwise I fear I will never get it done. I now agree with you with regards to the effects on the specific person to whom one is responding. Your argument is quite convincing. However, I still do have concerns about onlookers who are undecided (and perhaps not very knowledgeable) about Ayn Rand who read these online conversations without partaking in them. Most people have busy lives and don't have time to investigate an unknown philosophy very much in depth. I would hazard a guess that most people will decide whether or not to look deeper into Objectivism solely on the basis of their first significant impression of Ayn Rand, choosing to perhaps pick up The Fountainhead if it is a positive impression or choosing to ignore her entirely if it is a negative impression. I fear that such an unknowledgeable person, of mixed morality, might come to a negative first impression of her upon reading something about the affair to which the only Objectivist response is "it isn't relevant." I think that our onlooker is more likely to come to a positive impression of Rand, or at least to be interested enough to pick up one of her books and make a more detailed judgement for himself, if the Objectivist response to an attempt to smear Rand by way of the affair is something on the order of "Ayn Rand did have an affair, but she had it with the consent of her spouse and her lover's spouse, she had a rational ethical system that justified her decision to attempt it, and a large part of the reason for the outcome is the fact that her lover turned out to be quite dishonest." I think, the more that I do consider it, that that first impression is vitally important. One of my middle school teachers gave me Anthem to read because he thought I would like it. I had never heard the name Ayn Rand before I read that book. I loved it, and a year later, when I became more interested in politics, that overwhelmingly positive first impression of the author led me to pick up Atlas Shrugged, and the rest was, of course, history. Whereas people I know who have heard of her before and have heard bad things about her are generally people who I've had a harder time convincing to give her works a chance. ------------------------------------ This is another good point, and I agree that it is fraught with danger, which is why one should not attempt it unless they know they have the facts straight. Also, I think any attempt to rebut the claims of Miss Rand's detractors should be coupled by a strong statement that the philosophy does not rise or fall based on her personal life. But I do still believe that such a thing is worth attempting, because of the above stated impact on the onlooker getting his first impression of Ayn Rand. Ah, sorry, that was an instance of me unthinkingly using a term that I assumed people would know when they actually would have no real reason to know it. "Tolerationists" was referring to students of the David Kelley, Atlas Society, "Truth and Toleration" stripe of Objectivist-related thought. I have often seen them refer to people like me who support the closed system, generally agree with Leonard Peikoff, and generally reject the Brandens' picture of Ayn Rand, as "ARI cultists," implying, of course, that I blindly worship the Ayn Rand Institute. However, I did not mean to suggest that you had accused me of anything of the kind, I was merely intending to further separate myself from any possible perception that I am a blind follower of the Institute and to deny any advocacy of cult-like memorized answers on my part. ------------------------------------ I disagree that Mr. Valliant's work is "needlessly lengthy," but that is a side issue, as is the issue of the extent to which he provides historical content versus psychological conjecture (I disagree also with your estimated percentages). I personally don't think Mr. Valliant is that great of a writer, either (he holds his own well enough much of the time, but sometimes he goes for metaphors that end up being rather... tortured). However, this is not relevant to the purpose of PARC, which is not intended as a pleasure-read or unbiased historical account (the subtitle is, after all, "The Case Against the Brandens"). The fact is, as illustrated by PARC, that Ms. Branden got the story of Ayn Rand's name wrong. And the fact is, as you will see if you read more of the book, that this is far from the only thing or the biggest thing that she got wrong. This is PARC's value—it demonstrates what Mr. Valliant sees as fallacies in the Brandens' accounts and provides, in the second part (which is unfortunately not available online), Ayn Rand's side of the story through her private journal entries. First, I don't think either Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Binswanger has claimed that "Ayn Rand was flawless." It seems improbable to me that either made any sort of claim on that order, so I will want to see some solid evidence before granting that premise. I also want to say that the fact that the Brandens' account shows both them and Rand making errors in approximately equal proportion does not make this account fair. If they actually made, for example, 90% of the errors and Ayn Rand made 10%, then they can only gain from saying that 60% were their fault and 40% were hers, and so on. I know Mr. Valliant, for his part, has attributed at least one error of knowledge specifically regarding the affair to Ayn Rand: the decision to trust Nathaniel Branden for as long as she did (I think Ms. Branden, given her stated view that Mr. Branden was dishonest to Miss Rand, would have agreed with Mr. Valliant on this count). Besides, the affair was not the only area in which the Brandens did injustice to Ayn Rand in their accounts. Mr. Valliant shows, for instance, that Ms. Branden's claim that Rand was a "repressor" is based on VERY specious evidence but is made with the utmost confidence, despite evidence to the contrary, evidence Mr. Valliant provides in PARC. One particularly damning section of PARC, as an example, is the chapter "Rand and Non-Rand, at the Same Time and in the Same Respect," where Mr. Valliant shows instance of PAR contradicting itself regarding the personality traits of Ayn Rand. I'm just not sure that you can justify the claim that "when Ayn Rand told people that she was married to Frank O'Connor, the statement implied that she was not sleeping with anyone else at the time, therefore she was lying." Merriam-Webster defines "marriage" as "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law." By this definition, Ayn Rand was certainly not lying if she said she was married to Mr. O'Connor while in a sexual relationship with Mr. Branden. In fact, this definition says nothing at all about sexual relations. And everything in the O'Connor's marriage was consensual, they were united (they lived together) and their marriage was a contractual one, and recognized by the law. I don't have access right now an Oxford English Dictionary, but I will tell you that Dictionary.com also does not mention sexual relations in its definition of marriage. This is to say nothing of the growing trend among some people of engaging in "open marriages," where a couple is married but each partner is permitted sexual non-exclusivity in varying degrees by the other partner. Unless you can show that the state of being married necessarily implies sexual exclusivity, the claim that Ayn Rand lied in this regard falls flat. And the fact that she had the affair would not color my view of her at all. In fact, I'm not so sure yet that she wasn't onto something. As I quoted earlier, she certainly thought that "we were right to try in the first place." And my other point is that I don't think she did lie as part of any effort to keep the affair secret, and her acquaintances certainly did not have the "right to know" that the affair was ongoing (actually, since some people mentioned it, I will assert that her husband did have a right to know, since she had presumably previously agreed to be sexually exclusive with him, so failure to obtain his permission in this regard would constitute dishonesty through breech of a verbal contract). ------------------------------------ I think you, also, make a very good point, and this is good advice in general of what premises to take care to avoid granting in these types of discussions. As I said earlier, though, I do think that these types of discussion have a valid purpose regardless of the ability to reason with one's opponent because of what I said about giving people positive first impressions of Ayn Rand.
  22. Here is my point: If you are in a conversation where someone brings put the affair, of course it is a valid argument to say that Ayn Rand's personal life is irrelevant to her philosophy and that anyone who brings it up is committing ad hominem. However, a lot of people in today's world simply won't understand what you mean by that and perceive what happened as you refusing to respond to a valid criticism. Many people will also claim "if Ayn Rand didn't live by her own philosophy, why should we believe anything she says?" Now, you can say that we don't need these people, and you might be right, but like it or not, they exist and will continue to spread falsehoods about Ayn Rand. I say that for every one that we can correct, there is one less person out there smearing Objectivism through Rand. I'm not asking anyone to have a memorized "Official Answer" or anything. I am not what tolerationists call an "ARI cultist" (though even if I was, that would be an argument ad hominem). And given that the official answer of the ARI regarding the affair amounts to "No comment," I am certainly not advocating the ARI position. In any case, what I am asking of Objectivists is to a) be knowledgeable about the basic details of the affair, so that they can correct any outright falsehoods their opponents commit, and to b ) know what their own reply is, based on Objectivist principles. Whether that be that Rand was in error or whether it is a defense of her decision based on the Objectivist ethics. It simply doesn't look good when Objectivists get blindsided by the affair and ignore it without making a studied response. My perspective is, however much you want to ignore it, it is not going away. This applies also to any of the other common smears ("Took Medicare!" "Idealized a killer!"). Look up Ayn Rand on the internet, find a recent news article about her, and look in the comments to see how many of them mention either Hickman, Medicare or the affair versus how many respond coherently to some Objectivist idea or another. These are the facts as they are, and I would prefer Objectivists be able to say "No, that's not entirely accurate and here's why, now, would you like to talk about ideas instead of engaging in smears?" That's my perspective on it as someone who has spent a rather significant amount of time in the "trenches." With regard to "and I mean it": Of course this does not mean that Ayn Rand was automatically always moral. However, this statement does mean that her personal life can either give a major boost to or detract significantly from arguments in favor of her philosophy. This doesn't mean that we should cover up Miss Rand's personal failings, but it does mean that we should take care to be absolutely sure that they are failings before we even come close to accepting the premise that they are. The former is not necessarily true. Ayn Rand was still legally married to Frank O'Connor and did not violate the contract of their marriage since she "renegotiated" that contract by obtaining his consent for the affair to occur. The people around them did not have a right to know that Ayn Rand was sleeping with Nathaniel Branden, and the idea that they did is preposterous. If she was going around telling other people that Frank was the only man she had ever loved, that would be dishonest, but there is no evidence that she did this. Again, since Ayn Rand remained married to Frank O'Connor during the affair, he still absolutely was "my husband." Also, I disagree with the implication that to be a person is to make moral errors. Errors of knowledge are all but inevitable, but I think it is entirely possible to live without ever intentionally acting dishonestly and thereby making an error of morality. Finally, I do want to register that Ayn Rand said that "we right to try in the first place" regarding the affair (this is apparently in one of the journals in The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics; unfortunately I do not have a copy of the book so I can't give you a page number, but James Valliant quotes it at about 42:35 of this interview). So she did not simply refuse to "admit" that the affair was wrong, but proclaimed that it was right, at least in theory (discounting Mr. Branden's deception of her). And I'm inclined to agree with her. I do wish that Mr. Valliant had withheld his judgement to the end. He had already reached his judgement of the Brandens' honesty by the time he wrote PARC and therefore injected that judgement into his speculation about possible motives for their untrue statements about Ayn Rand. The style of the book, therefore, reads like a prosecutor's argument (Mr. Valliant is a prosecuting attorney). However, notice that Mr. Valliant does not claim that Ms. Branden WAS implying that Rand was neurotic, only that she "may have been trying to" imply that. This simply does not amount to the fabrication of a motive, only speculation of a possible motive. It may be an abrasive style choice, one that makes PARC less accessible to those who sympathize at least in part with the Brandens, but it does not constitute a fallacy. Besides, you suggest no other possible motive for claiming that Rand never told her Russian family her new name when this was blatantly not the case. I'm sure there are other possible motives, but Mr. Valliant was not wrong to suggest this (especially considering the sum of the other observations he makes in the book) as a possible one. I want also to note that you implied something negative (you do not specify precisely what aside from making a drug reference that I, as a non-user, did not fully comprehend) regarding the length of PARC. I do want to emphasize that this is not an "article," as you called it, but a book. These are four chapters of Mr. Valliant's book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print, but fortunately, Mr. Valliant made parts of it available online, which is why I posted links instead. And I want to add that, while I certainly won't make any demands that you read all of PARC, I recommend you at least read some more of it. That one instance, the false claim about Rand's family never knowing her new name, is just the tip of the iceberg of fallacies in PAR that Mr. Valliant demonstrates in PARC. Perhaps his suggestion of a motive and hint of moral judgement will seem less improbable the more you read, even if you don't agree with his implied conclusions in those areas. And what was Mr. Valliant's point? As Mr. Valliant himself describes in the introduction I linked ("The Smearing of Ayn Rand"), he was fascinated with Ayn Rand, was recommended the Brandens' books, and found them to be highly dishonest. His book is intended to demonstrate this to anyone who obtains from their books what he sees as a false view of Ayn Rand.
  23. I completely agree that the conversations about Rand's personal life get tiring, but I think they are important for the reason cited above (Rand's "and I mean it;" an explanation of their importance, by the way, which I credit to James Valliant). Notice, by the way, that the LA Times obituary claims that the affair was a deliberate violation of Objectivist principles ("She swore the men and Branden to secrecy, never minding that one of the central tenets of objectivism [sic] was honesty."). This is why we, as Objectivists, have to study Rand's personal life as well as her philosophy. Our opponents will attempt to smear Rand with their impression of what the affair was, and most people simply won't differentiate between Rand and Objectivism. Now, after the publication of The Passion of Ayn Rand, defenders of Objectivism need to be armed with the details of the affair and the Objectivist principles that apply. In this case, one should reply that Rand did not violate any principles of Objectivism because not revealing personal information does not constitute dishonesty (no one other than Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's respective spouses had a claim to a right to be told about the affair).
  24. It is absolutely possible. However, when a major part of a person's life is their relationship with, break with, and subsequent biography of Ayn Rand, these must be considered when judging that person. As Mr. Boydstun pointed out, Barbara Branden was complicit with and a partner in Nathaniel Branden's long-term deception of Ayn Rand—while she was pretending to be Miss Rand's ally against Mr. Branden (see "To Whom It May Concern," and this part of the claim is not denied in "In Answer to Ayn Rand"). Then, there is question as to how honest her Rand biography was. In his book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, James S. Valliant indicates instances of what he considers to be dishonesty in Ms. Branden's biography. Obviously this is too lengthy to go over entirely here, and the book is out of print, but you can read several of the chapters online (and they are legally posted by Mr. Valliant himself), followed by his responses to his numerous and passionate critics. In my judgement, Mr. Valliant responds honestly to the criticism. I have yet to see a criticism damning Mr. Valliant's book or his honesty. Links to chapters of PARC: Chapter 1: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4420 Chapter 2: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4512 Chapter 3: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4787 Chapter 4: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4130 I think Nathaniel Branden can get some credit for his work in psychology, but then again, how many of his psychological theories can be credited to Objectivism and to his work with Ayn Rand? It's hard to say, and it certainly wouldn't make him immoral if he does owe her a significant intellectual debt, but I'm wondering why one would damn Dr. Binswanger for similarly owing Miss Rand a significant intellectual debt (he is coming out very soon with a book called How We Know which seems to elaborate fairly significantly on the Objectivist epistemology much like Branden elaborated significantly on Miss Rand's views on psychology. Except Steve Jobs did not create a "philosophy for living on Earth" and Steve Jobs did not say this: "My personal life is a postscript to my novels. It consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters." This, of course, does not mean that Objectivism stands or falls based on Ayn Rand's personal life, but especially given this statement, any major personal flaws exhibited by Miss Rand provide significant ammunition for her enemies. This is why we should examine any such claims and criticize them if they are mistaken or dishonest, as Mr. Valliant did. (Also note that I was not aware of this characterization of Jobs and that my silence on that particular point should not be taken as agreement, merely as a statement that it is not relevant to the issue at hand). Again, I'm not sure exactly what I think of Barbara Branden. I am certainly not happy that she died, but I wouldn't say I'm too sad, either. My general impression is that she was very much a person of mixed morality, but I do not know this for sure. I do want to maintain a level of respect, though, towards people who do value her.
  25. I do not share Dr. Binswanger's reaction (honestly, I'm not sure I can phrase how I feel about Ms. Branden's passing. I'm not sure I understand it myself). However, I would not be so quick to believe whatever Nathaniel Branden had to say about Dr. Binswanger, or really, about anything else. The man did, after all, lie to and about Ayn Rand for many years. And just where, pray tell, would either Branden be without Ayn Rand? Except Ayn Rand never permanently broke ties with and revoked her sanction of Dr. Binswanger. The only issue is, there are serious and legitimate concerns with regard to the accuracy of that film. If the only exposure to Ayn Rand in popular culture paints a false and needlessly negative picture of her, then there is a problem and Objectivists need to face it head on. I want to tread carefully because I don't think that Barbara Branden was an absolutely horrible person and I realize that there are people on this site who knew her and who are saddened by her passing. But there is another side to the story here, and that is that there is significant question about the honesty of Ms. Branden's account of Ayn Rand's life (and her former husband's). Certainly they owe their success to, in no small part, their biography of (in the case of Ms. Branden) and memoir about (in the case of Mr. Branden) a woman (and not just any woman, but Ayn Rand) who morally condemned both of them in very strong terms. There has to be at least some question as to whether their accounts were retaliation or attempts to save face. And there are people who have presented very strong arguments that this could be the case. Which is why I don't think Dr. Binswanger's reaction should be dismissed as completely irrational right out of hand.
  • Create New...