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Sean O'Connor

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  1. What is value? Value is an abstract concept. A value as such is a place within a particular hierarchy. To value something is to judge where within a particular hierarchy a particular thing is. Ayn Rand asserted that a value is that which one acts to gain or keep however she confuses “value” here with a few other concepts. Her confusion is innocent however ironic. I say it is ironic because it was she who discovered precisely how to define a concept. “When in doubt about the meaning or the definition of a concept, the best method of clarification is to look for its referents-i.e., to ask oneself: What fact or facts of reality gave rise to this concept? What distinguishes it from all other concepts? ” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) So indeed, what facts give rise to the concept “value”? “Value” is used in many contexts and yet always holds the same characteristic in each context. It is used in all numerical contexts. A numerical value is always positive or negative. “1” is a “value”. “-17,000,000,000,000” is also a “value.” “Value” is used also in philosophical contexts. If something is moral, i.e., in one’s rational self interest, it is of positive “value” to one’s life; it is highly valuable. If something is immoral it is of negative value to one’s life; it is destructive. What then distinguishes the primary use of “value” from all other concepts? ... (Clean here To finish reading "On The Definition Of Value")
  2. tadmjones, Why do you assert something but refuse to prove it? I am curious- when you make an unsubstantiated statement, what do you expect somebody's response to be? Did you expect me to take your unexplained assertion on faith? Why would you expect that? It is quite disrespectful. Why? Because you talk at people, as if they are supposed to take what you say on faith; you treat them as unworthy of your rationality. This implies that you are the one who needs to check your premises. You also ought to define your terms. What is "existence"? Existence is the state of being. How do you know something exists? Because you perceive things, i.e., you are conscious of something. That something, which is, i.e., which exists, is concrete. What is "concrete"? That which exists independent of the mind. I.e., that which you can perceive. Can you perceive existence? If you cannot perceive existence that would mean you are devoid of perception, and awareness, in which case you, qua human, would not exist. To make the definition of concrete clearer for you, I shall provide for you, the definition of "abstract". "Abstract" is that which is based on a mental record of a concrete. For example, a cat is a concrete concept. You can point to it; you can see it. Existence, also is a concrete. You can point to it, you can see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch it. Ayn Rand and I agree on this. She wrote "To define 'existence' one would have to sweep one's arm around and say 'I mean this'". ("Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology"; p.41) What then is an example of something "abstract"? "Capitalism". What makes capitalism abstract? Because one cannot perceive capitalism as such. You might argue that one could perceive capitalism in action, but it would be just that...an abstract ideal and principle, in action, not as such, qua thing.
  3. Nicky, Thank you for your response and your honesty. I have to say, however, that I was disappointed when I read that you don't care about the definition of philosophy and that you also didn't care to explain why you don't care. So I shall ask you now: why not? If you don't care about the definition of philosophy then you implicitly don't care about clear communication. You furthermore imply that my assertion is "beneath you" , and again, you don't explain why- which Nicky, is by all means an insult. I have no problem with discussing disagreements but I take major issue to insults because insults evade the actual assertions and issues. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt however, and thus I am guessing, based on the fact that you commented, and asked me to list my disagreements with Ayn Rand, that you had no conscious intention to insult me. Am I correct? Now, if you believe I am playing a "word game"and that "definition is not a valid argument" why do you refuse to prove your assertion? You have a tendency to say things but then not explain yourself. You claim that my claim is illogical but you didn't identify a single contradiction! Before I share with you my list of disagreements I must address my disagreement with you. Definitions absolutely matter! They don't merely affect the truth: a definition is a fact, i.e, a true, actual identification! If you say that definition doesn't matter then you say that identification and logic and rationality don't matter. And on this issue, Ayn Rand and I are in profound agreement. Observe the fact that in many of Ayn Rand's essays she says "I shall define my terms". She ascribes more importance to definitions than just that. She wrote an entire essay on it in "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology". I referred to this essay in an earlier response on this thread which you ought to give a read. But, specifically, regarding the rich value of definition, Ayn Rand wrote "What is necessary is a knowledge of the rules by which the definitions can be formulated; and what is urgently necessary is a clear grasp of that dividing line beyond which ostensive definitions are no longer sufficient. (That dividing line begins at the point where a man uses words with the feeling 'I kinda know what I mean') Most people have no grasp of that line and no inkling of the necessity to grasp it- and the disastrous, paralyzing, stultifying consequences are the greatest single cause of mankind's intellectual erosion. (As an illustration, observe what Bertrand Russell was able to perpetrate because people thought they 'kinda knew' the meaning of the concept 'number'- and what the collectivists were able to perpetuate because people did not even pretend to know the meaning of the concept "man". (p. 50-51) As for my disagreements with Ayn Rand, I shall list them for you. Before I proceed, note that Ayn Rand and I do not completely disagree about the actual definition of philosophy. She provides two general definitions. One definition is correct and the other is wrong. Philosophy as the field of science which studies existence is correct. Philosophy as an ideology is incorrect. 1) Ayn Rand misdefines value. She says a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. Here she confuses "value" (which is a place within a hierarchy) with possessions, priorities, and objects of pursuit. 2) The definition of thought. She says thought is "an act of consciousness that draws conclusions". A thought is a distinct connection between concepts and anti-concepts. (For more on this I refer you to an excerpt from "An Epistle to Dr. Nathaniel Branden" which I have posted on this forum under the title "The Definition of Thought" 3)I agree with Nathanial Branden's disagreements with Ayn Rand as well: A)that she is guilty of finding all acts of immorality as contemptible, (all acts of immorality are to be condemned but condemnation and contempt are quite different and not all immoral acts are contemptible), that she is guilty of encouraging repression C) that she is guilty of encouraging dogmatism D) that she was wrong to refer to hypnosis as irrational nonsense (for a fuller explanation on these please read "An Epistle To Dr. Branden") 4) She says abstractions as such do not exist but they do. What is an abstraction. I covered this in an earlier comment on this thread. An abstraction is a mental impression of a concrete. Mental impressions exist. If they didn't your mind would have no means of knowledge, no means of referring to anything in reality, no means of identifying anything. 5) She does not acknowledge that economics and psychology are branches of philosophy but they are. (And regarding economics- she says Aesthetics as a branch of philosophy, but really, aesthetics is an economic issue since economics deals with production and consumption, and art is produced and consumed). Note that politics says that man has the right to be free. Economics asks, "what do I do with my freedom", i.e, since I am free, and I exist in a universe of resources, what do I do with them? Psychology asks, how do I get the most fulfillment out of it, which implies a)optimal navigation of one's mind and b)understanding personal meaning and value (do not confuse the issue of means of fulfillment which is psychological, with morality, which discusses how you are to act and treat your life more generally, i.e., morality explains why you exist for your own sake. Psychology explains how to get all the happiness you can!) I certainly hope that you, and others come to agree with me and Dr. Nathaniel Branden that "Ayn Rand might turn over in her grave to hear me say it, but she really did have the right to be wrong sometimes. No need for us to become hysterical about it or to behave like petulant eight-year-olds. Growing up means being able to see our parents realistically. Growing up relative to Ayn Rand means being able to see her realistically — to see the greatness and to see the shortcomings. If we see only the greatness and deny the shortcomings or if we see only the shortcomings and deny the greatness, we remain blind. “She has so much that is truly marvelous to offer us. So much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. So much clarification. Let us say ‘thank you’ for that, acknowledge the errors and mistakes when we see them, and proceed on our own path — realizing that, ultimately, each of us has to make the journey alone, anyway.” ("The Benefits and Hazards of Ayn Rand") I furthermore hope you are interested in my ideas, assertions, discoveries, and comments because they are true. And you should take tremendous interest in truth.
  4. Ruveyn1, In my last response to you, I asked if you read Leonard Peikoff's essay "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" and you did not answer, which disappoints me. What progress can be made in a discussion when you talk at people (as opposed to "to them"), evade their points, and then make new ones? It is also a bit disrespectful and is not a discussion. Why should I continue to take anything you say seriously and show you respect if I can predict that you are going to evade my responses and change the subject? That would be illogical! Nonetheless, I love defending my assertions and I am so happy that people have been reading this thread so I shall respond to your latest set of comments. 1) You claim that there are no proper or improper definitions and that they arise from consensus and common use of words. There are several contradictions that statement. I shall list them for you. If there are no proper or improper definitions then there can be no cogent, even semi-rational means of communication since your statement, based on its own premise, is devoid of any definition! According to you, your words neither refer to anything or don't refer to anything- which is really just a psychological confession which translates implicitly, in English, to "I am confused". I am not going to call you contemptible for being confused but that is what your statement in fact reveals. You say that there are no proper or improper definitions, and yet you then say they arise from consensus and common use of words. What does? You said first that there are no proper or improper definitions, which means that even the word "definition" refers to nothing. I am however going to take a guess that you tried to imply is that "a definition is determined by the masses". One, among the many problems with that assertion: if "definition" is based on arbitrary whims of the masses use of it, then, fundamentally, the word "definition" is merely a series of letters that will refer to some other series of letters- letters which the masses arbitrarily group into sounds which refer to this or that aspect of reality, temporarily. You don't find that irrational? Or do you not hold reason as your epistemological principle. And on that note, have you read "Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology"? Whether or not you have, you claim to reject the chapter on definitions, yet you haven't made a single reference to it. Why not? Do you typically reject ideas without trying to actually refute the actual idea? If you really wanted somebody to take your rejection seriously, I would think that you would offer a very thorough refutation so that we would have the proof that your ideas are clear. 2) For the sake of context, I shall define "definition"- which you claim cannot be defined, which means you claim there is no "actual" definition to "definition" beyond the wreckage of the consensus. In the "Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology" Ayn Rand writes "A definition is a statement that identifies the nature of units subsumed under a concept" (p.40) If you reject this definition, you are saying you do not believe units subsumed under a concept can be identified, which means you believe that there is no such thing as "concept", or "the law of identity", which means you think all of perception is one big indeterminate blur, which you nonetheless, have the magical ability to explain in words- words which have no actual definition and refer to nothing other than the consensus which also refers to nothing. That is quite literally irrational and evasive. Based on your claim there is no intellectual basis for language whatsoever (but yet you nonetheless intellectualize it! Why?) and furthermore, clarity of thought is not your goal when you communicate. 3) To base anything- whether it is definition (or in your case the arbitrary thing a word temporarily refers to) or legislation- on consensus is altruism. It means you surrender your reason to the whim of some other, which means to surrender your mind. If you want a full understanding of how catastrophic your surrender to consensus is, I refer you to "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus" and "The Wreckage of the Consensus" both written by Ayn Rand in her book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" 4) Regarding the nature of changed definitions, I shall quote Ayn Rand, from "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology". "All definitions are contextual, and a primitive definition does not contradict a more advanced one: the latter merely expands the former. As an example, let us trace the development of the concept 'man'." She explains that a very young child with almost no knowledge will define a man as "a thing that moves and makes noises". She writes "within the context of his awareness, this is a valid definition". Then she explains how his definition changes he learns of animals and other various objects. The definition becomes "a living being that speaks and does things no other living being can do". Then she explains, as the child gains more and more knowledge, and grows up, he or she learns that a man is defined as a "rational animal". (p. 43-44)
  5. Eiuol, Regarding the question of the abstractness and/or concreteness of existence there are two separate issues. One is existence as such, and furthermore the axiom "existence exists" and the other is the vast expanse of existence. Existence as such as about as concrete as anything since consciousness itself exists. To try and describe the most basic psychological experience one can have, it more or less would express itself-implicitly of course- as "something exists". I see this computer screen. The fact that it exists is as concrete as anything can be. But then there is a second issue, and that is the expanse of existence which is abstract. What is the expanse of existence? The unexplored, unknown space of the universe, that which we do not yet know about existence, unrealized possibility, et cetera. You said "philosophy is the 'what' of existence. I would like to add that philosophy is furthermore the regard for and treatment of existence, and obviously, especially human existence. I think this is important because it emphasizes what is most enlightening about philosophy: how, in the most basic, fundamental, principled way, we are to think and live our lives. And the key implications here: those principles can be proven true by logic, so those principles exist qua facts on a given, concrete subject (a subject concerning lifestyle ultimately), which is philosophy, which is then a science, and not to be confused with false principles on how one should live one's life (an ideology/ religion). "Philosophy of biology" would be an anti-concept. Philosophy concerns living in general. But let me address, specifically, what you suggest would be a question that the "philosophy of biology" deals with: "Philosophy of biology would consider 'what' questions, like what does evolution imply for how the world is classified if entities are changing all the time?" That, would be a taxonomic question. The New Oxford American Dictionary corroborates this. "taxonomy |takˈsänəmē| noun chiefly Biology the branch of science concerned with classification, esp. of organisms; systematics. • the classification of something, esp. organisms : the taxonomy of these fossils. • a scheme of classification : a taxonomy of smells." My only criticism of their definition is they could be more succinct! But it is true that when one studies biology, (or anything) that philosophical issues will arise. The most fundamental question would be "what does this new fact I have just learned or discovered mean to me?" or "what do I want to know about x that I do not yet know? And why?" And- in fact- this transitions me right to your next point about the inevitable cross over when discussing branches of philosophy. Here I should like to say that philosophical statements consist of an integrated knowledge of philosophical principles. John Galt's speech obviously demonstrates this perfectly. Galt doesn't only discuss politics. He doesn't only discuss ethics. And furthermore, each advanced branch of philosophy obviously depends on its antecedent branches. Once you say reality is an objective absolute, you prove how you know so, once you understand your means of knowledge you say, so now that I know how I know things, how the hell am I to live my life? How am I to act? What am I to do with myself? How do I treat others? Once you say, well I know how we ought to live- both how we treat ourselves and we ought to treat others, the next question is- how do we morally keep "law and order" (so to speak) and thus we enter politics. Once we know how a society-and to what severe limit(!)- society ought to be organized, one may ask- what should I produce and what should I consume. (I understand that this could seem more like a moral question than an "economic" one - but it would "seem" so in the same way politics would- since politics is still an implementation of rational self interest. But I think rational self interest in the basic moral sense is more geared towards behavior as such and not specifically an in depth analysis of production and consumption. Maybe a clearer way to explain economics would emphasize treatment of resources. Then once we know what we ought to produce the question is: "how do I optimize my mind; how do I navigate it as succinctly as possible?" One may argue that this is epistemological, and say, "obviously the answer is 'think rationally' but that overlooks the prospect of concentrating on enhancing visualization, working with one's subconscious, efficient introspection, et cetera- which the field of psychology deals with. I wanted to show the full hierarchy of philosophical advancement here to demonstrate- as I think you were getting at- that each advanced branch is consistent with the antecedent principles and that discussing any philosophical issue, thus, is going to have crossovers. You pointed out something quite profound that I confess I had never realized- and so I must thank you for it. That is your statement that "Postmodernism certainly is the logical conclusion of all the Hegelians, and is more dangerous than communism ever was. Not only is there a destructive element to it of denying any truth whatsoever, there are no leaders to it." Indeed, postmodernism necessarily implies an anarchic political system since it really is just a chaotic riot of one person's power versus another person's power (as we see in practice via special interest groups and the freaks of occupy wall street, and the terrorists, etc). That being said, communists nonetheless use the postmodern and nihilistic metaphysics to say "nothing is of any value- not on an ideological level, and not on an economic level. Your believe is worth nothing. My belief is worth nothing. That computer you build is worth the same amount of money as an illegal immigrant's 4 hour dish washing shift. You'll both be paid the same." In other words, I am saying that communists "steal" from postmodernism (by teaching it in public colleges) as means to indoctrinate their evil socialist-communist agenda.
  6. bluecherry, I shall preface this response by submitting a principle for wording a concept: no more than one concept per word. This may seem unnecessary but it would prevent word usage from inevitably succumbing to ambiguity. More specifically, it is logical in the most literal sense, it is strict "non-contradiction", i.e., "this word will never contradict the concept it refers to". Some may argue that giving a word two concepts is not a contradiction but in fact it is because once that word, in use, refers to something other than its first concept, that is by nature, a contradictory instance. We are used to looking up definitions to words, and seeing 2,3,4, sometimes 7,8, 9 or more definitions! That's extremely sloppy language and it does not have to stay this way. Can a language be sharpened over night? Obviously not. And of course I know that you know I am not proposing that! Should a language, however, be reduced? Absolutely! Especially if, say, the word freedom is said to be defined as "self determination" by capitalists, but is said, by Socialists, socialists such as president Barack Obama, to be defined as "absence of need for general sustenance (ranging from perhaps a small monthly check -or job for all guaranteed by law, food stamps, government facilitated housing, health care, etc) Or here is another example: when an atheist socialist goes about referring to himself as rational on the one hand, an objectivist then, on the other hand, is saying "no, I'm rational!". Obviously both are using different definitions and are making communication much more confusing than it could and ought to be. You said that the definition I submit for science, which is the study of the aspects of the universe is overly broad? By what standards do you deem something as too broad? Or which term in that definition do you think makes it overly broad? Is the definition overly broad, or is the reach of science simply extremely wide- as wide as the universe is massive? I love one question in particular Ayn Rand asks when discussing concept formation and definition. "To what in reality does the concept refer?". Do you know exactly what I am referring to when I say "the study of the aspects of the universe"? Let us do a little experiment. Tell me, when you read that definition, what precisely do you picture in your mind. I picture a person examining something, and identifying and discovering facts about it- whatever those facts may be. I think the only possible confusion/ambiguity/equivocation one could accuse me of there is "what exactly does 'study' mean? I think I said in a prior response that when I say "study" I mean "discover and/or learn a fact or facts about a particular subject". Now, the dictionary on my computer- The New Oxford American Dictionary- offers nine different definitions for the word study. One such definition is "devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge on (an academic subject), esp. by means of books : she studied biology and botany." (Again, why the hell would I want to sort through nine Goddamn definitions if I can ultimately enjoy the luxury of one very clear, exact definition? I'm a busy man! :-P) If you dispute my definition of study, I would be open to that argument. But returning to science, and what the word "science" refers to- it refers specifically to" discovering and organizing facts about the aspects of the universe." A perfect example of how this definition works: what is it that a "science" teacher teaches? Facts, about some particular aspects of the universe. What is it Einstein set out to discover, fundamentally? Facts. Facts about particular aspects of the universe. As for the fact that I am on the only one submitting particular definitions that is because I am a pioneer! Pioneers always discover something, or invent something nobody else has. And if it opens up a vast amount of new work to be done, such as say, clarifying the English language and reducing words to a single concept: it is a vast undertaking, but not an irrational one. Ayn Rand did the right thing by clarifying "selfishness" and as you've said, many-actually most- people still will not accept the proper definition. But most people also won't accept the fact that nobody has the right to violate private property; that nobody has the right to violate an individual's self determination. They are a little bit slow but that doesn't mean we, the scientists and inventors should slow down! Quite the opposite. Let's produce knowledge and inventions their state university's don't know as incentive for people to start going to private universities of more advanced knowledge and technology. Everything in philosophy can be tested and proven via logic. "Despite what [a theorist named Dr. Julian] Friedland implies, he contradicts himself and fabricates a definition of philosophy towards the end of his article. He writes that philosophy 'employs the tools of logical analysis and conceptual clarification in lieu of empirical measurement. And this approach, when carefully carried out, can yield knowledge at times more reliable and enduring than science' What is logical analysis? What is logic? He does not define either. Why not? Because then he can use it as a blank word to mean whatever he attaches it to. [A point I referred to earlier](This is comparable to fiat money which claims to have a specific value, but is based on nothing other than the public’s submission to it.) Logic, again, is the art of non-contradictory identification. This means “logical analysis” is the identification and removal of contradictions. Furthermore, what does one 'logically analyze'? A particular aspect of the universe. Logical analysis is an element of science. When Friedland says 'in lieu of empirical measurement' he evades a fact which philosopher Leonard Peikoff articulates perfectly: 'There is no distinction between the ‘logically’ and the ‘empirically’ possible (or impossible). All truths…are the product of a logical identification of the facts of experience. This applies as much to the identification of possibilities as of actualities'. (“The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy”)"(From my essay "A Brief On The Definition Of Philosophy For The Purpose Of Advancing Freedom And Thriving") How does existence, the fundamental state of the universe, apply to ethics? The answer is: ethics tells you how to regard/treat existence as such, human existence, and specifically your existence, i.e., the existence of the individual person. Another example of philosophy's reach: economics-it helps us understand that existence and its aspects are resources, what we should produce and consume and why. Like politics, economics obviously depends on ethics, as ethics depends on epistemology which depends on metaphysics.
  7. I wrote "In Condemnation Of Apathy" because I realized that nothing bothered me more than the rampant apathy in our culture... posted it on my website (then seanoconnoressays.com and now seanoconnorliterature.com), which I persistently promoted on Facebook. I also recorded a video of myself reading the essay and uploaded it onto youtube and promoted that video on Facebook. And of course, I told people I know about the essay and requested that they give it a read. My point here is: I had something to important to say about the problem of apathy and I presented this statement to many people on many forums and I was rather surprised- in hindsight the surprise was due to naivety- how few people deemed an essay with such a title worth reading. After all, our culture is plagued by rampant apathy and it ought to be condemned. This was not even a technical, controversial, metaphysical, epistemological assertion. It is a very blatant problem that people of various ideologies can easily grasp without wavering from their theism or their selective use of their reason. I wonder: is the magnitude of apathy in our culture worse than I thought it was? (I do have to say, I am very pleased with the objectivismonline.com forum. Many of the people on this forum do care, are quite receptive, discuss issues respectfully, and quite intelligently.... (from "An Epistle To Dr. Nathaniel Branden")
  8. Have you read both Ayn Rand's statement about her break with Dr. Branden, and his statement? The most interesting difference between the two is that, quite out of character on the part of Ayn Rand, she expects us to take on faith, that Dr. Branden wrote her a letter that was "irrational and impossible"- as she does not identify what, within that letter, was "irrational". In Dr. Branden's statement, he explains every assertion. Regarding the moral issue: our guiding moral principle is rational self interest. Was it in Ayn Rand's rational self-interest to have an affair with Dr. Branden, and in the manner she did? If she was deeply happy in her marriage, and say, wanted to have meaningful and rich sex, while, perhaps her husband was in some way disconnected from her in that respect- and she told him she was satisfying a personal need, and he ultimate said "okay" then that cannot be deemed immoral.
  9. "'…If, as a staunch determinist such as Baron Holbach states in his System of Nature, man’s ‘ideas come to him involuntarily’- if man is ‘wise or foolish, reasonable or irrational, without his will being for anything in these various states”- then by what right does he or any other determinist claim his ‘involuntary‘ ideas as knowledge? A determinist can only announce: ‘Destiny forces me to believe’, etc. He cannot claim to know anything.” ('The Contradiction of Determinism" by Nathaniel Branden) I had never realized that knowledge itself implies the fact that humans possess free will. Prior to reading this essay, my understanding of free will was based on the fact that if humans do not possess free will then existence would have to be, quite literally, pure chaos. It would have to be pure chaos because every experience of consciousness would have to be a) not really an experience of consciousness and b ) arbitrary; then even the arbitrary belief in an awareness of consciousness is just some arbitrary occurrence but it is contradictory for consciousness to be both arbitrary and aware of the fact that it is arbitrary. In hindsight I see that I failed to identify the fact that a contradiction can be identified and thus implies the existence of knowledge. You explained free will on a much more fundamental level and reiterated the importance of examining all ideas from the most fundamental level possible... As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a determinist. In fact, I remember a specific phone conversation I had with my mother when I was attending Florida Gulf Coast University. I spoke to her of my intense depression, and dread over my belief that I was doomed for misery. It was that sense of doom that had always haunted me. A year and a half later (after a temporary absence from college) I attended a community college and took an introductory philosophy course. At this time I was only curious about philosophy. I was not consciously passionate about it. My passion at the time was poetry. I thought however that a good poet ought to have a sufficient understanding of philosophy. Ironically, I didn’t even know the definition of philosophy. I won’t tell you every disturbing detail about that course, or that college, (I’m sure the existence of community college itself saddens you; it saddens me!) but I must tell you about a question I asked my professor. The professor’s name is Dr. Jamey Heit. The particular course Dr. Heit was teaching was called “Moral Choices; An Introduction to Philosophy”. Now one day I rose my hand and asked my professor the following question: If we have free will, is it limited or does it include the free will to choose our beliefs? His answer was “that is a topic for a more advanced course”. This disturbed me tremendously since one cannot discuss morality without first knowing if one even has the free will to understand morality and furthermore act on that understanding. Furthermore, I remained uncertain about the nature of my free will or lack there of since even though I did believe I had free will I didn’t know it. “The Contradiction of Determinism” is the most eloquent, thorough discussion on free will that I have read. I can now most certainly say “I know I have free will”. Again, thank you. (It is true that Ayn Rand notes the fact that we have free will, and notes the implications, but so far as I am aware, she never wrote an in depth essay on free will as such.)" ("An Epistle To Dr. Nathaniel Branden" )
  10. moralist, That is an excellent point and really provides clarified insight into an ideal thought process. I really like the image that comes with "observe thought" as it implies more than just arbitrary thinking. I had written a previous comment here but omitted it because I wasn't clear. I want to give a better response. In regards to describing types of thoughts, speaking on the most basic level, there are logical thoughts and illogical thoughts- but then beyond that, as we advance our study of thoughts qua entities we can identify all the various types of thoughts, two of which you have implicitly identified: "introspective thought" and "intellectual thought". I do love that especially because it clarifies the contrasting images of passive, elementary thought- that which would stream through the mind of an apathetic- and logical, constructive thought and not only that, but thought of other various thoughts. Ultimately my favorite thing here is the treatment of thought qua an entity as far too many people think thoughts do not even exist (and yet hypocritically use the term!) Thanks for your comments!
  11. bluecherry, Don't worry about your rough definitions and writing as you are tired. You were nontheless, exceptionally thorough which is quite praise worthy and indicative of how rich you are spiritually. With that being said, I shall get right to our disagreement. I actually want to begin with the definition of science because I can't prove philosophy is a science if I don't define science. Science is the study of the aspects of the universe. I believe I explained in a prior responce, the distinction between the universe and existence. As we know, "existence exists". Existence is the state of being. That is obviously the "fundamental state" of the universe. (I here use the expression "fundamental state" because obviously there can be no other "fundamental" state since a thing can only exist. The issue of secondary states is a different issue) So what is it that a "scientist" does? A scientist discovers facts, or tries to. The actual science is the set of facts. If you were to teach Meteorology, for example, you would teach me facts about the atmosphere and weather, et cetera. The key point is that it is about facts. A particular field of science is a particular, distinct set of facts on a very specific subject. Now, I have said that existence as such is a state of being. It is the fundamental state of all things. It is an aspect of the universe. It is its own subject. It gets its own "field" of science. That is philosophy. In epistemological terms, philosophy, refers specifically to facts about existence qua state which are discovered, and taught and applied. When somebody then, say Nietzsche, starts tossing these ideas about meaninglessness into the culture and labels it part of "philosophy" or identifies it as "his philosophy" that is simply a lie. Nihilism and the will to power- that is is his ideology, his system of beliefs. The distinction has to be made otherwise a lie is being furthered. A fair question arises: what is the problem of teaching philosophy as a mix of facts, mistakes and lies, and thus referring to our belief systems as our philosophy? Let us use the exact same principle- the principle and implicitly postmodern premise- for another question. "what is the problem with teaching false theories and futile principles in math, which is the field of science which studies measurement and saying 'My Math, Seanism teaches that 1+1=3'"? (That definition of mathematics is based on the one Ayn Rand gives in "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology".) It is, in the most literal sence, illogical since Math isn't an ideology. It is a field of science. (And 1+1=2) To say "my philosophy, Seanism" or "oconnorism" is to say "my belief system is philosophy as such, i.e., speaking universally.". I shall make this even clearer by bringing up the law of identity. A is A. A is only A. I is not A, and B, and C. The nature of A can only be the nature of A. A and B may have certain things in common, such as the fact that they are both letters used in the English language but each has its own identity and it's own nature. So the nature of philosophy cannot be the field of science which studies existence and also a synonym for my ideology. To assert that is illogical, i.e, one contradicts the other.
  12. moralist, First of all, I apologize for the typo on your name. You made a profound point here; especially if we are going to have any success in the short term regarding the advancement of freedom in this country since true Christians are capitalists! A true Christian does not even support legislation banning abortion. Instead, the Christian would merely condemn it and insits that people choose not to have abortions because, according to the Bible it is "sinful". I would say we can "condemn religion as a whole" but I don't think we can find religion as a whole "contemptible". "there is a difference between contempt- deeming someone a threat to others and/or deserving of severe punishment/misfortune- and condemnation- expression of complete disapproval- and I assert that everything must be either condemned- if it is illogical- or praised- if it is logical. The reason I say this is because, in reference to the three types of immorality -self destructive, insulting, and violent- those who are self destructive but not insulting or violent have at least some remnant of respect for humanity; thus while they must absolutely be condemned they are not yet contemptible. Once a person becomes insulting and/or violent and thus renounces whatever tiny remnant of respect he or she used to have for humanity he or she thus explicitly confesses and demonstrates the fact that he or she is contemptible; this is evident because if somebody has no respect for humanity he or she can have no respect for him or herself and is in essence saying “I’m contemptible so you are as well! We are all contemptible!”." (from "An Epistle To Dr. Nathaniel Branden") Excellent quote on Jesus that you cited. I think it is especially excellent since we cannot prove that Jesus uttered a single word he is said to have uttered.
  13. And of course the basis of my writing, and my being here is to address basic, as well as complex, philosophical ideas. I have to confess, I felt- and to a slight degree still feel- nervous about communicating on this forum. Not as a matter of insecurity, but rather, precisely because of what you wrote- that people would get offended, then angry, and insulting at the sight of philosophical-ideological ideas that they have no interest in accepting. One of the worst trends in our culture, due to irrationality, lack of understanding the meanings of things, poor value judgements, et cetera, is that people fire insults at each other like anarchic freaks shooting machine guns! It is so rampant that family members of mine are this way, people where I work for are this way, and even my damn landlord is this way! Indeed, it really is time to address the problem of rampant insults head on! I am glad that there is not "too much" of that here. I wrote in the apology " I want to help you understand my discoveries and ideas and indeed inspire discussion/debate. (You might think I have contradicted myself somewhere and if you do, that's okay. To quote my hero, Dr. Nathaniel Branden, "I'm open to learning. But let's be clear about what I have said and not said"...The only thing I don't tolerate, or entertain is an insult. I mean every word of that. I have discovered, as I have asserted in other posts, that the defintion of philosophy tends to be misapplied and severely misunderstood and taught. I do not assert this because I want to cause a dramatic, arbitrary and semantical argument with Objectivists. I do it because I highly admire Objectivists, and want to impart, not the dismantling of objectivism in terms of most of its principles, but rather, the advancement of philosophy. By advancing philosophy we give it more substance and relevance. We make it more interesting! And we can thus interest others in it.
  14. bluecherry, Thank you for your responce, and again, I apologize for the length of time it took me to respond. The delay, like that which makes it difficult for you to concentrate on long texts, is due to current circumstances. So little time is terribly frustrating! There is indeed a lot of literature being presented to us throughout the world and it is certainly essential to be aware of it and be able to judge it. In my own life I am quite overwhelmed in my struggle to read as much as I can. I study objectivist literature, I want to study Dr. Nathaniel Branden's books and Dr. Leonard Peikoff's books, I want to study other ideologies as well, study the news, art, history and biographies, study the special sciences and answer as many questions of mine as I can and this is terribly, terribly time consuming- especially as I also must pay bills and promote my literature. You wrote: "everybody I know who might have any interest is already here. There's nobody else I know to make any recommendations to"- that is both depressing and comforting. It is obvious why it is depressing! A perfect concretization of how depressing it is: the fact that today we have to endure President Obama's second inauguration and the majority of the country's immoral "celebration" of socialism's progress in America. But as I said, I am also comforted and thus feel confidence in our future. I feel tremendous pleasure here. Perhaps your cirumstances are similar to mine. If they are not, then I am glad! For me: "There is no one I interact with in person- other than my girlfriend- who agrees with me on fundamental, ideological issues..it brings me sadness and frustration. But every time I get the opportunity to communicate with or read from someone I agree with- at least to a significant extent- ideologically, I feel exhilaration and tremendous confidence in humanity’s future; I get to experience the beauty of virtue, intelligence, wealth and truth; it is like a strangely warm day in the brunt of winter; it is luxurious!" (from "An Epistle To Dr. Nathaniel Branden)
  15. Now out of all the responses to this essay I have gotten thus far there has not been one acknowledgement of the abstract, ideological- philosophical points I raised; the discoveries I shared; not one acknowledgement of the psychological insight I offered; not even an acknowledgement of the political and economic meaning of what I wrote! Even if the readers did not deem me worthy of their assistance I deserve at least a show of respect for the introduction of that letter, especially considering the downward political and economic trends in this country; especially because so many people are demanding entitlements. I wrote “I must ask you for your help. I must also tell you I passionately hate that I should be in need of help, for I take tremendous pride in my independence. I have never applied for food stamps or any other form of government assistance because I am opposed to any form of subsidy obtained by coercion; whether governmental or criminal, and thus refuse to be a beneficiary of any such subsidy.... “Since I am petitioning for your assistance it would be logical for you to wonder why; and furthermore, why and if there is any reason for you to help me. I shall explain myself thoroughly and succinctly.” It is crucial that I emphasize the meaning of that because the fact that so many people fail to understand it has so much to do with why our economy is so poor and getting poorer. Furthermore, this serves as an additional response to your point that too little is said on the subject of benevolence. I demonstrated the ideals of capitalism, independence, and personal responsibility. Some people might say 'good for you' and stop reading, thinking to themselves 'I’m capitalistic, independent, and I am responsible for myself too. What does that have to do with any reason why I should help this guy?' Well, first of all, clearly then such a person would know that we are to some degree 'on the same page' -as the expression goes- when it comes to political, psychological, economic ideals. Such a person would also know that such ideals are presently under attack; no president in American history has done more damage to America than president Barack Obama (you yourself said in a recent interview for “The Daily Bell” that Obama is “the worst disaster this country has had to cope with”) and thus independent, personally responsible capitalists are of especially high value to one another; it is worth considering then, that independent, responsible capitalists might indeed be worthy of help. That raises my next point: if you need help, you have a moral obligation to yourself to ask for it and prove that you deserve help. I need help and I’m determined to prove that I am worthy of it; I’m appealing fundamentally to the reader’s reason and explicitly saying so. Here I have lived up to another ideal: following the principle of rational self interest. Those who value their own rational self interest and have read my letter up that point should then take note that I am presenting myself; my case; my request, quite virtuously! The fact that that is so should then prompt the reader to ask him or herself, the following question: 'is it in my self interest to help someone who morally presents his request for help?'. Now obviously nobody should ever offer any form of assistance when that assistance is beyond their means, but what kind of help did I ask for? I wrote: 'If, in your judgement, I am worthy of your assistance, would you please give my stories and essays a read, share my literature with your friends, co-workers, and family? If you do, and enough people read and furthermore enjoy my literature, and discuss it, and want to read more, it could very likely land me a book publishing deal which could give me the opportunity to quit my job at the grocery store and devote myself to writing and studying.' That is certainly not an audacious thing to ask. Yes, reading requires time and thought. That is true. But considering the fact that I have demonstrated that I am a rational man, it is rational to suspect that my literature is based on reason and what better thing can one person present to others than his or her reason? It disappoints me that many people who have responded to me about the essay spent most of the time discussing the fact that I asked for money. Now it is true that I wrote 'I am open to other forms of assistance: your donation or sponsorship, a place to live; maybe something you have in mind which I have failed to consider.'; but I put very little emphasis on that, stating that I was open to it! What semi-rational person would not be? The next point I have to raise: I don’t merely say I need help and explain my literature. I don’t merely present myself as a victim of a cruel society and appeal to the reader’s pity. I confess that in my past I was a fool and that the irrationality of my past actions is part of the reason why my circumstances (although thankfully not my psychological state-despite my frustration) are unfortunate. I explain my most fundamental mistakes. And I analyze the ideological-psychological nature of those mistakes as well; something very few people have the courage to do before the public at large. I do not mean to suggest that a mere confession accompanied by contriteness is highly compelling. What I insist however, is that rationally presenting the ideological-psychological nature of one’s fundamental mistakes is 1) courageous and 2)worth studying. Why do I say “A Letter to Readers” is courageous? Because it can be quite upsetting to retell the stories about past mistakes! I was deeply saddened and ashamed when I wrote about my old marijuana habit, and how I misspent over $40,000- but I faced the unpleasantness and I wrote it. That is courageous. Yes, it is true that I felt pleasure as I condemned my mistakes; I was proud to pronounce my moral judgement- however, that doesn’t take away the regret and it doesn’t take away the embarrassment. Why do I insist that the letter is worth studying? Because it is an enlightening analysis on how one’s ideology affects one’s psychology and circumstances. Before I proceed, I must say that I agree with you that one’s ideological premises are not the only factors to consider when analyzing one’s psychological state. One’s ideological premises however have great influence. Here is one example. I wrote 'Throughout my freshman year of college- at Kean University- since I was essentially anti-social (with the exception of a few people I had pseudo-intellectual conversations with) all I did during my free time was read and write. That, and cultivating a sense of identity as a hippie, were my only priorities. What do I mean by cultivating a sense of identify as a hippie? I mean, I grew infatuated with the hippie image: the ‘peace and love’ mantra, the long hair, the facial hair, the folk and psychedelic music (John Lennon, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix, et cetera). I was infatuated with this image, this style, because I thought it was based on the cultivation and preservation of psychological and cultural peace.” This vague understanding of altruism was a firmly held ideological conviction. Now, keeping in mind this hippie-peace and love notion that I so passionately loved, and also my ambition to become a famous, genius poet, note how based on those two considerations, along with the fact that I began smoking marijuana (as I held no conscious convictions which would cause me to assume I absolutely should not smoke marijuana) my psychological state drastically declined. 'I regret to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being high. Why? My awareness of the beauty of existence was intensely heightened. [Why should one need a drug to heighten one’s awareness of existence’s beauty? No one should. Knowledge, and specifically the identification, rational pursuit, and achievement of ideals optimize one’s awareness. But my ideology at the time did not provide me with that principle] I wanted to feel that intense existential love again, so a few days later I smoked marijuana again. This time the experience was the complete opposite. I felt pure paranoia; in fact I felt certain that I was dying. I believed I was dying because existence seemed suddenly too beautiful and wonderful. [What is ‘too beautiful?’ My ideology at the time did not provide me with a suggested answer to that. Instead it provided me with irrational ideas to vaguely rationalize my fears] I believed that it was a level of sentimentality that one could only be capable of feeling upon the knowledge that he is seconds away from dying.' Why would I have such a ridiculous belief? Because my ideological convictions did not provide me with any intellectual, cognitive defense against what ever arbitrary thoughts streamed into my consciousness and became suddenly an assumption about reality. 'Despite the almost unbearable paranoia and depression I felt, words came to me quicker than they ever had before. I was completely connected to my subconscious. Smoking marijuana, I believed, helped my writing tremendously. Thus, I decided to begin smoking habitually for the purpose of enhancing my writing…. 'Smoking marijuana remained a priority for the following three years and it caused me serious intellectual, and psychological damage as I grew more and more oblivious to everything. In fact, oblivion became yet another priority throughout those three years. The state of oblivion, I believed, was the state of complete enlightenment. 'One of the worst consequences of my oblivion was that at one point I was nearly homeless. Had it not been for the charity of a man- the innkeeper of a hostel- I may have starved to death on the streets of Tampa… 'I shan’t tell you here all the details of my experience at the hostel (perhaps another time and in another context), however what I will say, as to stick to my point about the consequence of my oblivion [and furthermore the consequence of my false, and poorly defined ideology], was that on my walks through Ybor City, searching for a job, and jotting down obscure poetry lines whilst walking, and walking aimlessly unfortunately due to the intense states of oblivion I fell into, I would stare at the homeless people I passed, thinking, I may soon live and die with these people, as there is nothing on this Earth for me but my exotic poems (that was how I described them to myself ultimately) and my burning desire to do nothing but write, get paid for writing, and get high. 'Little did I know that the surrealism of an oblivious consciousness was a trap; a trap woven by ignorance.' Again, obviously the basis of my ignorance was my ignorant ideology. I offer proof in that letter that indeed, the accuracy or lack there of, the definition or lack there of, and the substance or lack there of, of your ideology profoundly impacts your psychology and your circumstances. This challenges the popular, postmodern notion that 'you should think what ever you want'. It asserts, 'you should think rationally. I thought irrationally and look at the consequences and what I learned from those consequences.' To put this in even more perspective, I want to bring up America’s economic circumstances. Since we know that ideology affects psychology and circumstances, and we know that far too many Americans are suffering from psychological illness (which I discuss at length in my essay 'In Condemnation of Apathy') we furthermore know that America’s economic circumstances are severely depressed (and depressing): this makes it quite obvious that, as I wrote in the conclusion of my letter, we ought to '[c]onsider what it is that causes people to be unproductive, wasteful, and violent. It is not arbitrary. It comes from their ideology; their fundamental principles; their priorities; and how they spend their money, their time, their thoughts. I demonstrated that throughout the course of this letter; specifically the first part of it, where I explain my major mistakes, and what I was thinking when I made those mistakes. The root of today’s federal debt and the violent behavior of those most responsible for the constant increase of that debt consists of: irrational principles, poor priorities, and no awareness of… ideals. 'My literature is all about the rational pursuit of ideals.' In all of the responses I got to this letter, not one person, other than my girlfriend- a wonderful, rational lady- has given me credit for clearly pointing that out and for presenting a solution! Instead they say 'I see that you are asking for money'; 'I see you have learned from some of your mistakes.'. I find that quite insulting and indicative of certain flawed principles that are indeed key factors in the cause of psychological and economic depression plaguing much of humanity at present! I have one last point that I want to make about that essay. I provide an honest judgement on the nature of my poverty! At a time when there is so much poverty, and all most people have to say about it is the fact that there is so much poverty and that we should take these political actions or those political actions to magically 'solve' the problem, or we should follow altruist principles and give to these people or give to those people, it would be quite beneficial if we started actually examining why some individuals are poor, and others are wealthy. Sometimes people are poor because the value of their productivity is ignored! Sometimes people are poor because they are lazy. Sometimes people are poor because they make mistakes. It would do others a lot of good if they thoroughly examined their own financial circumstances; and by that I do not only mean their expenditures, their bills, et cetera. I mean if they thoroughly examined the objective value, i.e., the virtue or immorality of their productivity and the extent to which they are or are not efficiently promoting the virtues of their productivity and getting paid what they deserve to be paid. Imagine if somebody very poor wrote a rational letter to his or her boss proving that he or she is being underpaid. I’m not going to assert that this will convince the boss to pay his or her employee a bit more, but I am going to assert that if a large number of people follow my suggestion, and bosses are flooded with letters proving that they are being under valued, at some point, they’ll either get the hint, or people will start sending copies of their letters to websites, newspapers, and magazines, exposing the poor values of today’s CEOs (as opposed to complaining to congress and prompting the government to force employers to do this or that). This would prompt the majority of CEOs and bosses to reevaluate their employees as most of them are quite altruistic and don’t want to upset the public! Ultimately, if more people started writing letters like the one I did, it would stimulate an economic movement of sorts which would be centered on the producer’s initiative to take a step beyond mere advertisement and in fact prove to other producers, i.e., his or her prospective consumers or employers, that his or her product or service is indeed quite valuable! Dr. Branden, I shan’t expound a full response to all my critics here (I will do so in other pieces) as the focus of this letter is my reverence for your brilliance, and key ideas I wish to submit for your judgement, however this is the context in which my frustration and anger brews, which I may now connect back to your point about Ayn Rand’s lack of explanation for Howard Roark’s miraculous poise and my personal struggle for that state which Ayn Rand nonetheless projects...." (From: "An Epistle To Dr. Nathaniel Branden". You may read the entire epistle at http://seanoconnorliterature.com/2013/01/20/an-epistle-to-dr-nathaniel-branden/ )
  16. Your essay “The Contradiction of Determinism” taught me a lot. Before I share with you all that I have learned from that essay I have one very important point to make regarding a matter on which we seem to disagree. I shall preface this by stating that there are only a few things you have written that I disagree with. I am aware of the meaning of the context here; a young man writing to one of humanity’s most profound geniuses, in fact, his hero, and addressing a disagreement with his hero. You have stated however, that “If someone wants to challenge my theory of self-esteem, I will welcome the opportunity to learn. But first, let’s be clear on what I’ve said and not said.” ( “For The Record”) I assume that this is your principle for discussing disagreements in general. I have immense respect for the optimism and confidence in that statement, sir! Some people are so frightened of the prospect that someone might identify a contradiction they hold that they evade any comment that challenges their convictions. You revealed this implicitly about Ayn Rand when you pointed out that she ultimately encouraged dogmatism. You demonstrate your commitment to reason; to truth. As I submit this to you I want to emphasize that I value your judgement very highly and also, if you disagree with my judgement, if you want to challenge my idea, hopefully it is obvious that “I am open to learning”. Now. I must convey to you as explicitly as possible that the following assertion is a product of my reason; it is not in anyway a pretentious, disrespectful game of semantics. In fact, those who evade word choice and definition are literally doing just that; evading. You have said yourself, definitions are crucial. The issue here is the exact definition of the concepts “think” and “thought” and thus the use of these concepts. In your genius essay “The Contradiction of Determinism” you quote from Atlas Shrugged: “the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think’”. I submit that the question ought to be “to think logically or not to think logically?”. Here is why: what does it mean, in the clearest terms possible, to think? To the full extent of my awareness, the accepted Objectivist definition of “thought” is “drawing conclusions from evidence”. This is the implied definition when Ayn Rand writes in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology : “when he stops to watch her and draws conclusions, from the evidence about her character, age, social position, etc., the action of his consciousness is thought” (p. 30) I note however, that “thought” can be even more explicitly defined as “a distinct connection of concepts and/or anti-concepts”. In reference to this definition it could be noted then that there are two types of thoughts: logical ones, and illogical ones. I shall offer my reasoning. We humans do on occasion, illogically connect concepts by mistake, or, if we are in the process of logically connecting concepts, within that process, we have in our minds; our consciousnesses- fragmented sentences or visions composed of connected concepts /anti-concepts; fragments not yet perfected, not yet clear, and thus illogical. In the most fundamental- metaphysical-psychological- cognitive sense a human’s primary “action of consciousness” is connecting concepts, and to call that “thinking” provides us with the most precise abstraction of what a thought qua a thing is. Without this explicit definition, when someone says that we should “think” that use of “think” is ambiguous. How does one “draw conclusions from evidence”? What is the precise mental action? Suppose I want to “draw the conclusion” that “I love this hotel”. What on the metaphysical and psychological level does the product of the drawn conclusion and sentence “I love this hotel” consist of? Concepts. We can break this content down bit by bit, piece by piece, and see it, as if examining under a microscope. I: the concept I use in reference to myself. Love: the concept I use in reference to how highly I value this hypothetical hotel (where I wish I was as I write this!). This: the concept I use in reference to pointing out the particular hotel I am referring to. Hotel: the concept in reference to the place accommodating thousands of tourists and I. Whether that connection of concepts is logical is a different story, but qua an entity, qua a thing which merits a concept referring to it, a distinct connection of concepts and/or anti-concepts must be identified and to the full extent of my awareness no word in the English language is closer to this exact thing in reality than “thought”. In response to the charge that “to think” necessarily implies a logical act of consciousness, what is it someone is doing when he or she thinks that a “god” exists, i.e., connects the concepts, and the anti-concept “there- is- a- God”? If you would say that that is not a thought but rather a connection of concepts and an anti-concept based on the absence of thought, which concept refers to isolated, consciously/ subconsciously connected concepts and anti-concepts? If I understand you correctly, you would call this an “evasion” however when one evades, one is consciously refusing to acknowledge a fact and this is quite different than somebody who fails to understand a fact. As ironic as it is, a simple axiom like “existence exists”, and all of the implications of “existence exists” can be quite challenging to grasp. If somebody believes that a God exists because he or she doesn’t understand why that is impossible, but consciously, and earnestly contemplates and debates the argument, then we can be certain that he or she is striving for truth. If we were to refer to that as evasion (and thus immoral) we could not prove it. To be fair, I have considered the issue of subconsciously evaded facts however there are two distinct considerations here. 1)Subconscious disinterest in the truth about something (and thus truth as such) and 2)Subconscious disinterest in learning a particular but non-essential idea or skill. The implication, if we were to assume that both circumstances constitute evasion, would be that the nature of evasion is rooted in subconscious disinterest in anything. If this were the case then, if you tried to teach me how to play the piano, but in all honesty, I told you, “I’m not interested in playing the piano, I don’t want to learn, it’s not in my self interest, I would rather write”, that would have to then be classified as “evasion” which it is not; it is merely preference- personal value judgement-personal meaning- personal priorities... (You may read the entire epistle at http://seanoconnorli...haniel-branden/)
  17. Dear Dr. Nathaniel Branden, I don’t know if you will read this however I hope you do because it pays tribute to you; because you deserve to know what your essays mean to me. As you know, the philosophical, psychological and political facts you explain in your essays are extremely relevant to the most fundamental aspects of human life. Because some people evade what is relevant to their well-being, the meaning of your essays and the issues you write about- and furthermore all abstract and intellectual matters- are sometimes regarded as trivial, or relevant only to “intellectuals”. That deeply saddens me. As I explain what your essays mean to me it will be more blatant than ever before that “an intellectual” is not simply a “type of person”. To the contrary, “intellectualizing” -and ultimately reasoning- is indicative of psychological health which should not be an ideal that only a few people strive for. To the contrary, it is a universal ideal! Due to the extraordinarily high caliber of your eloquence and thoroughness, writing to you sir, I must confess, is quite an ambitious and challenging task. To be clearer: it isn’t enough to merely offer you my compliments and tell you just a little bit about myself. I am an especially ambitious and optimistic man so no thought or action of mine is cheap and served quickly. My ideals, you see, reach beyond the Milky Way galaxy, and in fact, that makes me feel great pride. For the purpose of being more concrete, and also, to provide you with a clearer idea of the man who is writing you this epistle, I shall tell you a few of my personal ideals. I want to be one of the richest and longest living men in human history. I want to revolutionize the way people think about philosophy. Mentioning to you that those are some of my many ideals not only serves here as a general description of myself and my aims; it also more precisely establishes the necessary context behind my rationale for writing you. For the sake of identifying all I plan to achieve in my life I keep several lists. One of those lists consists of essay topics. Some of the topics I plan on writing about in the near future include: meaning and value, the freedom of speech, guns, Vivaldi and Bach, the movies “Phenomenon” and “Limitless” and my education. Although I am still configuring the order in which I shall write about these topics I realized several weeks ago, in the midst of configuring, that writing you this epistle takes priority. I label this memorandum an “epistle” because a mere “open letter” does not suffice. I had never thought of using the term “epistle” before however it flashed in my mind. I looked up the precise definition of the the term and learned that an “Epistle” is “a formal, literary letter”, and throughout human history “epistles” have often been the medium for profound spiritual- ideological discussion. The term “open letter” however does not imply the same degree of timeless, literary grandeur as the term “epistle”. Cicero the Roman Philosopher, Paul the Apostle, Hazrat Ali the fourth Caliph of Islam- they wrote epistles. (I confess that I have not read them all) Who writes open letters? Anyone with anything to say. I am not merely “someone” writing “someone else” about “whatever”. I, Sean O’Connor, am writing to you, Dr. Nathaniel Branden and I am discussing philosophy. Dr. Branden, you are indeed one of the most brilliant men alive and I revere your brilliance. In fact, you are my hero. I am grateful that I have both the fortune of being a secondary beneficiary of the knowledge you have discovered and the opportunity to read your genius essays. It is fair to ask “what do you mean by genius?” since today many people evade definitions and use their words loosely and sometimes even arbitrarily to such an extent that discourse often gets muddled. (Addressing issue of definition; clarifying definitions; making them more exact- this is one of my top priorities as a philosopher) I know you agree that this is a necessary philosophical priority because you wrote, in regard to the definition of self esteem, quite profoundly that “if the research was to have value one would need to know what the writers meant by ‘self-esteem’ and if all the writers were working with the same concept. Otherwise, it would be a Tower of Babel, and what merit could their conclusions have?” So by genius I mean 1)an individual who clearly presents an ideal, and proves that it is ideal; 2)a word referring to a clearly presented ideal and the proof that verifies that the ideal is indeed ideal. (A good friend of mine helped me reach this definition) You rationally present, and explain self esteem- which is obviously an ideal- by addressing it from its root- which is volition- and upwards. Since one of my favorite things to do is praise those I admire it is of course logical that I issue you my praise, and that I do so in as direct and thorough a manner as possible. I will also submit to you a few ideas of mine for your judgement- ideas I am quite proud of- and ask you some questions. Before I proceed I must address one thing. On October 25th, 2012, I sent you a message on Facebook and although some of what I wrote in that message is legitimate and will be discussed here, it was nonetheless- I regret to say- extremely rushed, subjective and improper- I was in a state of anxiety about our culture; specifically the constantly worsening political situation. It was so rushed in fact, that I accidentally addressed you as “Mr. Branden”, instead of Dr. Branden. On December 13th, 2012, I wrote to you on Facebook again, to apologize and explain the fact that I was indeed very anxious when I wrote to you the first time and that I wanted to carefully outline and draft a much more formal letter to you. I want to emphatically reiterate my apology because those two earlier messages were cheap. If someone is going to petition for your time he or she better make it time well spent! I am pleased to say that I took a fair amount of time to prepare this epistle. It has been outlined, and the original outline was revised twice. The actual writing has also been drafted, revised, and then perfected. That is my essay writing process. My praise begins with your judgement of Ayn Rand. You raised some extremely important points in your essay “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. The following sentences of yours perfectly summarize an accurate judgement of Ayn Rand’s principles and sufficiently establishes the ideological context from which I am writing to you: “Ayn Rand might turn over in her grave to hear me say it, but she really did have the right to be wrong sometimes. No need for us to become hysterical about it or to behave like petulant eight-year-olds. Growing up means being able to see our parents realistically. Growing up relative to Ayn Rand means being able to see her realistically — to see the greatness and to see the shortcomings. If we see only the greatness and deny the shortcomings or if we see only the shortcomings and deny the greatness, we remain blind. “She has so much that is truly marvelous to offer us. So much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. So much clarification. Let us say ‘thank you’ for that, acknowledge the errors and mistakes when we see them, and proceed on our own path — realizing that, ultimately, each of us has to make the journey alone, anyway.” Indeed Ayn Rand’s literature is “truly marvelous”. She is in fact, my heroine. However, as you said, indeed, she made errors, many of which you have identified and corrected. It is very comforting that you did, because in the midst of my study on Objectivism, I have found to my disappointment that some Objectivists, even certain prominent ones, merely parrot her sayings without the slightest criticism; without an interest in advancing the field of philosophy. One of Ayn Rand’s most ironic errors, which I was unaware of until reading your essay, is her denunciation of hypnosis. It is ironic because she ascribed so much importance to the subconscious, (comparing it to a computer program; describing it as designed by the premise of one’s ideology; emphasizing the importance of relying on one’s subconscious while writing, etc.) and yet she failed to consider that there could be a psychological technique by which the subconscious can be reached, open to suggestion, and alter a person’s behavior or habits. In regard to this, you wrote: “Ayn Rand knew, or believed she knew, that hypnosis was a fraud with no basis in reality; on the other hand, in 1960 Nathaniel Branden was the closest thing on earth to John Galt. And John Galt could hardly be dabbling in irrationalism. So this produced some very curious conversations between us. She was not yet prepared, as she was later, to announce that I was crazy, corrupt, and depraved. At the same time, she firmly believed that hypnosis was irrational nonsense. I persevered in my studies and learned that the human mind was capable of all kinds of processes beyond what I had previously believed. My efforts to reach Ayn on this subject were generally futile and I soon abandoned the attempt…” (“The Benefits and Hazard of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”; http://mol.redbarn.o...AndHazards.html) I cannot understand why she thought hypnosis was “a fraud with no basis in reality”. You explain this by stating “that she became very quick on the draw in response to anything that even had the superficial appearance of irrationalism, by which I mean, of anything that did not fit her particular understanding of ‘the reasonable [in contradistinction to the purely rational].” What aspect of hypnosis did not fit her understanding of ‘the reasonable’? Could it be because she thought of it in terms of a proposed thought process- in replacement of reasoning- as opposed to a psychological technique? I am particularly glad you made this point because not only is hypnosis as conducted by a psychotherapist an important technique; self hypnosis for the rational individual can also be very useful. I cannot yet say just how effective self hypnosis has been for me since I am not good enough at it yet, however the general practice of thinking ourselves into states of deep relaxation, and making rational suggestions to our subconscious, if only for the purpose of reiterating to ourselves self that despite what we have not yet achieved, we can relax and rest assured that we can achieve what we want to achieve, is a very healthy, self enhancing habit. If I had more time I would make a habit of it. Ayn Rand should have practiced self hypnosis! It could have helped her quit smoking. She should not have smoked as smoking is destructive to the her lungs (and other organs) and thus was not in her rational self interest (unless she was enduring excruciating psychological pain which no psychotherapist could help her alleviate and smoking was somehow her only means of relief). Another error of Ayn Rand’s that you noted is that she did not discuss benevolence “adequately” I agree. I wish, in particular, that she had been emphatic about the importance of benevolence between employers and employees, precisely because she was so emphatic (and virtuously so) about the importance of protecting an employer’s right to determine his or her company’s policies and the wages he or she wants to pay his or her employees. At present in our culture this particular issue (employer-employee relations) is very skewed; irrationally approached. The root of this problem is that many employers will not be benevolent to their employees unless the government forces them to (and likewise, employees often are only benevolent to their employers out of desperation; because they want to keep their job, get special treatment, et cetera) Employers tend to believe it is not in their interest, for example, to pay their employees sufficiently. (I suppose Henry Ford’s wisdom on this particular issue is typically regarded as an anachronism) The owner of the grocery store I work for doesn’t pay me enough to live in my own room somewhere and feed myself. (Thankfully my girlfriend and I make quite literally just enough money together) An employer might ask himself: “why is my employees’ sustenance and even his or her savings my problem?” The answer is: because he should want his employees to provide him with the utmost quality of labor. Sure, the employee can work to the best of his or her ability no matter how much the employer pays, because the employee needs the money and because it is virtuous to work to the best of one’s ability, but so long as the employer underpays and thus undervalues the employee he or she is stunting the ultimate value and efficacy of the employee’s labor since anxiety over financial problems stress and preoccupy the employee’s consciousness. I do not mean that an employer should spoil his or her employees with more money than the employee deserves, but an employer should pay his or her laborers at least enough money to afford a small room in somebody else’s house, condominium, townhouse, apartment, et cetera, and three meals a day. Most laborers unfortunately are not paid that much. Had the importance of benevolence been more accurately and widely discussed in our culture there would likely be less poverty, less resentment between employers and employees, there would be a higher quality of labor and production and less governmental coercion- which is what Ayn Rand was striving for in the first place! I also agree with your point that Objectivism encourages dogmatism. You wrote: “Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, ‘It’s all or nothing.’ Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don’t try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand’s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path.” I find this problematic- in fact absolutely frustrating- because although most of Ayn Rand’s assertions are correct she is indeed guilty of holding several contradictions. I say this is absolutely frustrating because I have shared my discoveries (discoveries which I shall unveil at various points throughout this epistle) with several Objectivists ( I make my essays available on my website seanoconnorliterature.com for free at this time, I promote my essays on Youtube, Facebook, I have also posted passages from those essays on an Objectivist forum and I have written to Dr. Peikoff and am awaiting his response. [i confess my emails to him were rushed but my points were clear]) and at present nobody is willing to explicitly acknowledge my discoveries. Some may simply struggle to understand, but others I suspect, are blinded by dogmatism. You are also correct that Ayn Rand’s moralizing is irrational. You wrote “Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt”. The basis of my agreement is the the fact that there are three types of immorality. Before I elaborate I want to be clear that there is a difference between contempt- deeming someone a threat to others and/or deserving of severe punishment/misfortune- and condemnation- expression of complete disapproval- and I assert that everything must be either condemned- if it is illogical- or praised- if it is logical. The reason I say this is because, in reference to the three types of immorality -self destructive, insulting, and violent- those who are self destructive but not insulting or violent have at least some remnant of respect for humanity; thus while they must absolutely be condemned they are not yet contemptible. Once a person becomes insulting and/or violent and thus renounces whatever tiny remnant of respect he or she used to have for humanity he or she thus explicitly confesses and demonstrates the fact that he or she is contemptible; this is evident because if somebody has no respect for humanity he or she can have no respect for him or herself and is in essence saying “I’m contemptible so you are as well! We are all contemptible!”. Yes, it is true that insulting and violent people can potentially change their ways but until and unless they do- they are contemptible. As for trying to convince them to indeed change their ways, you reveal how this is a worthwhile endeavor for interested (and ambitious) psychologists and that Ayn Rand evaded this fact. “She knew next to nothing about psychology. What neither of us understood, however, was how disastrous an omission that is in a philosopher in general and a moralist in particular. The most devastating single omission in her system and the one that causes most of the trouble for her followers is the absence of any real appreciation of human psychology and, more specifically, of developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve and become what they are and of how they can change.” Another important fact I have learned about morality is that it is crucial, when making our moral judgements, that we do not merely state that one action or another is “moral” or “immoral”; we have to be more specific and emphatically refer to each action as either life enhancing, self destructive, insulting, or violent. No, I would not go so far as to say we should avoid using the terms “moral” and “immoral” however I do assert that, if, for example, I told a drug addict, who is obviously evasive but not insulting (not insulting to anyone but him or herself), “You are hurting your body. You shouldn’t do that. I wish you wouldn’t as it decreases the value of your life and I know that your life is indeed quite valuable because when you’re not smoking yourself into oblivion you make a lot of sense. It is self destructive. You are wasting your intelligence.”- it is much clearer and will be much more effective than telling him, or her “your apathy is immoral! You’re evil! You’re evasive! You’re irrational!”.... (read more at http://seanoconnorli...haniel-branden/)
  18. Moralized, That is a perfect description of "what is generally regarded as Christianity". Oh the hypocrisy of the young woman who wears a cross necklace and sleeps around.
  19. tadmjones, It doesn't matter what Ayn Rand would have or would not have done or said. While she is a genius, and one of the greatest philosophers of all time, not everything she said was correct. And it is whether what she said is correct or incorrect that matters. That aside, Ayn Rand does explicitly state that "man's highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness". So, yes she did give humanity a purpose. And there is not much difference between happiness and thriving. Happiness refers to an emotion one feels when one is thriving. Last point: Ayn Rand was correct on this matter.
  20. I disagree with you when you say that I am equivocating as I am in fact especially explicit and definite in what I say to you. Now you are correct when you say that philosophy "focuses on abstractions" but that is not the distinguishing characteristic of philosophy. That is merely an aspect of it. As you stated earlier; it studies existence. Yes, it studies existence via abstractions, but existence is concrete and there are issues regarding existence which are furthermore concrete. Every branch of philosophy refers precisely to a concrete. There is a second issue here that needs to be addressed as well and that is the nature of abstracting and abstract thinking. To do this we have to understand the relationship between the mind, and that which the mind percieves. Only after you have percieved a concrete, and identified it as a concept via a explicitly defined word have you abstracted something. When we percieve something it is "impressed"or recoreded in the mind. That impression/record, once it is intelligable, and conceptualized, is it an abstraction, i.e, it literally abstracted from perception and is one's means of thinking, i.e., connecting concepts and/or anti-concepts. So in terms of abstractions there is not a fundamental difference between philosophy and "natural sciences" such as biology as the same exact psychological-neurological process is involved. As I stated in the essay, Leonard Peikoff writes an excellent essay himself, implying this. I demonstrate it's relevance. It is called "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy". Next: when you say that economics relates to ethics but not to philosophy that is a contradiction in terms since ethics is a branch of philosophy. Philosophy is the antecedent concept of ethics. This is just one example of why economics relates to philosophy. Were you meaning to imply something different than what I addressed here? If you were I should like to know. As for examples of the Postmodern- Communists I will again insist that you give the passages I provided a read as I make it very explicit. In fact, it is crucial that more people become aware of how these frauds are destroying weak minds and programming them into nihilistic, post modern, communist slaves. I will add a footenote to this however: and that is the implications of postmodernism. The implication and consequence is necessarily nihilistic, altruistic and communist and this can be understood metaphysically. If what's true for you is true for you and what's true for me is true for me than nobody's convictions are worth more/more valuable than anyone else's, which means nobody's products can be more or less value than any one else's and only a destructive tyrant would ever attempt to implant such a violent ideology into the minds of college students. ...and thank you for your link.
  21. Bluecherry, first, I wish to apologize for my delayed response as I take your comment seriously and wanted to address it as soon as possible. Now, who I have or have not met here is irrelevant. It is context dropping, and for the following reason: there is only one issue when are defining a concept: to identify the distinguishing characteristic of what we are referring to and ultimately wording. So the question then is this: what is the distinguishing characteristic of philosophy? That it is the study of the fundamental facts of existence. And the key word in the context of my response to you is "facts". If we were to say that philosophy is the study of "facts and false ideologies" we are implying, that unlike every other field of science (and by science, I mean the study of the aspects of the univere. And study does not mean "theorize" or "assert belief" it means "to fully retain and understand facts on a given subject"), the facts don't deserve to be studied in a field or dilineation of their own which is irrational on two counts. 1) The field of facts is distinct where as "facts and false beliefs" are not distinct as is evident by the fact that facts and false beliefs are two very, very distinct things, each meriting their own field. 2) In terms of evaluating facts and evaluating "false beliefs": facts are much more valuable---so valuable that they deserve special attention. And "false beliefs" are of negative value (i.e., they are destructive) and "fundamental lies of existence" and how to refute them (by means of having philosophical knowledge) require a seperate, distinct field of study.
  22. I owe everyone on this forum an apology. I hope you will consider forgiving me for a mistake I made. I failed to fully appreciate the fact that you are all here- or claim to be here- to discuss Objectivism which is quite admirable. I am very happy that this forum exists not only because it is devoted to discussing logical principles, but because also, there is far, far too little discussion of logical principles and philosophy elsewhere in the universe today. (I say Universe because people live on the International Space Station [i.S.S.] and their premises in fact are quite illogical since the context in which the I.S.S. presently exists is illogical; communistic ((you may refer to my essay "On The Official Establishment of U.S. Space Territory" if you want a further explanation of that assertion))) This forum is very valuable and expressing that judgement should have been in my first post, not my sixth! I am sorry. Now, because I failed to explicitly identify my value-judgement of this forum my first post "A Letter To Readers" was presented to you out of context, and it was in fact, an implicit insult to you. I shall explain what I mean by "implicit insult". I wrote "A Letter To Readers" to everyone who reads at present and anyone who ever will in the future. Most readers however are neither Objectivist nor advocates of any particular, fundamental principle of Objectivism. The implicit insult here is that I implied, when I posted "A Letter To Readers" here, that you ought to be regarded as just "anyone who reads" since you absolutely are not! As I said, this is a very valuable forum and thus it should be treated as such. I should have expressed my appreciation for this forum, properly introduced myself to you, and told you what I hoped to achieve here, at which point it would then have been logical to share "A Letter To Readers With You". Again, I am very sorry and I most certainly hope you will forgive me. With that now on record, I would like to formally introduce myself to you. My name is Sean O'Connor. I am a 26 year old philosopher and writer. (I write mostly essays, and on occasion I write a story). I have five priorities as a philosopher: 1) To discover as much as possible about meaning in general and the meaning of essential particulars. 2) To improve and clarify as many definitions as possible 3) To discover as much about the optimal navigation of the mind as possible 4) To present philosophy as a field of science and change the way it is taught, understood, and applied 5) To be one of the best essayists in history I have been writing since I was eight or nine. I have been studying literature (poetry, prose, and philosophical essays) since I was 18. I self published a book of short stories and word collages (that I now condemn) when I was 23. Last April I wrote the first essay I was proud of. It is called "In Condemnation of Apathy". After writing five essays I took a break and kept a study journal. (That didn't last long). I then began blogging and strictly on politics, and considered running for political office. I was not satisfied with the idea of being confined to potlics and experimented with photography and film. That didn't last long however. I then kept a daily philosophical video blog entitled "Thrive!". I didn't like blogging every day as I wanted more time to prepare my thoughts and visions and present them as clearly and thouroughly as possible so I began outling ideas, and taking my time. I wrote two short stories and then I began writing a third however I got an idea for an essay! That idea was unfortunately interuppted when I realized that I needed to find a new room to live in as the lease for the one I am currently living in has expired. Since I was low on cash, and was worried that I might not find a room, I decided to ask readers for help- specifically readership and promotion. (It is true that I said I was "open to donations or sponsorship" but readership matters to me much more than money and the fundamental task of the essay was not to raise money, but rather to discuss the issue of poverty, the relationship between ideology, psychology and circumstances how the relationship between those three concepts relates to our present economic disaster, to promote the ideals of independence, capitalism, responsibility, rationality, to discuss self investment, present my philosophical discoveries, and explain my literature). There are five things I want to achieve on this forum. 1) I want to share my discoveries and ideas with you. 2) I want to help you understand my discoveries and ideas and indeed inspire discussion/debate. (You might think I have contradicted myself somewhere and if you do, that's okay. To quote my hero, Dr. Nathaniel Branden, "I'm open to learning. But let's be clear about what I have said and not said" (I am presently completing an epistle to Dr. Branden which I shall share with you very soon). The only thing I don't tolerate, or entertain is an insult. 3) I want more and more people to appreciate philosophy in general- to think about it, and talk about it. I will, from time to time, promote discussions here on Facebook as part of an effort to achieve this goal. 4) I want to build an audience; I want to get enough people reading and talking about what I have written as to have evidence for an ambitious, virtuous book publisher to know for certain that my literature is marketable. 5) I want to convince you that my assertions and judgements are logical. I shall tell you a little more about myself because learning about someone's personality enhances our idea of him or her; it adds meaning to everything else he or she tells us. I live in East Windsor, New Jersey. I hate living here and for two reasons: the geography does not match my sense of life. (The tropics do) 2)Despite a "Republican" governnor, NJ is heavily Socialist and it is quite depressing. I want to live instead, on the U.S. Virgin Island: St. John- because I love the Caribbean and it is a politically free (or semi-free) American Island. Regarding my education: I have decided to write an essay on it because I take a lot of pride in it so I shall confine myself here to writers and philosophers I have studied (some in greater depth than others) in chronological order, as to provide you with a bit more context; an idea of "where I am coming from" so to speak; an indication, based on my interests and decisions of who I studied, of how I have evolved ideologically and what I have learned. I have studied The Bee Gees (yes I studied them) and other pop-music lyricists (They're not worth naming here) Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Hume, William James, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Fitzsgerald, Hemmingway, Henry Miller, The Bible, Kant, Napoleon Hill (and other writers on "The Law of Attraction"), James Joyce, Ayn Rand, Aristotle, Leonard Peikoff, Karl Marx, Obama, Hitler, and Nathanial Branden. (my education does extend beyond literature but I shall discuss that in my essay) I am still educating myself. My top hobby is watching movies and television shows. My favorite movies are "Atlas Shrugged Part 2", "Die Another Day" , "Atlas Shrugged Part 1", "Moonraker", "Phenomenon", and "Limitless". My favorite television programs are "Star Trek", "The West Wing" (not for its politics, but for its glimpse inside the West Wing, as I am interested in politics and how the government functions in general) and "The Glenn Beck Program" (despite his metaphysical and epistemological mistakes). My favorite musicians are "Vivaldi" and "Bach". Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for taking the time to read my introduction. I look foreword to having valuable discussions with you and I wish you achieved ideals, Sean O'Connor
  23. Ruveyn1, Have you visited my website and read the second half of the essay? The reason I ask is because on one count we agree. Traveling to the moon, building a lunar military base are priorities; priorities which come before traveling to Mars. There is of course, much to say on that, and I do hope you will give it a read. On another count, if you do read on you will see that I demonstrate why Mars is more lucrative than one would think, and not merely for the purpose of exploration. It is in fact, worth a lot of money.
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