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Everything posted by mwickens

  1. Just in case anyone stopped listening to the recordings because of the poor audio quality, this has been rectified in the latest installments.
  2. Some of you may be familiar with my website, Randex, which tracks online media mentions of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. It's been going since February 2005 and now has a database of almost 2000 articles. Well, now I've made it easy for those of you with your own blogs and other websites to include the latest Rand-related news on your site. Just visit this page for all the details. Mark
  3. The site is probably using Amazon's "Omakase" ads. These work based, in part, on Amazon's knowledge about you (past purchases, for example). Here's a description from their affiliates site: Mark http://randex.org/
  4. To be exact, it's based on the idea that living things face a fundamental alternative: life or death. Nothing about "drives" there. And if by "drives" you mean unchosen, instinctual behavior, then ethics could not be based on them, seeing as ethics makes sense only when a choice is possible. For a man, whose actions are the result of the choices he makes, the fundamental alternative of life or death entails making certain kinds of choices if he is to survive and flourish. It's these choices that ethics is concerned with, according to Objectivism. Mark
  5. Re blackdiamond's poll, I have two words: Frank O'Connor.
  6. This piece from 60 Minutes might be of interest to people following this thread. It was interesting to me, at any rate. http://audio.cbsnews.com/2006/03/12/audio1391769.mp3
  7. I haven't Read Don's article, so I don't know the context of that quote. More importantly what he has to say is irrelevant to this discussion. I'm arguing with your statements and still think that, at the very least, they are unclear and focus on inessential, if not nonexistent, aspects of the case. In any instance of injustice, unless there is positive evidence to indicate a default of responsibility on the part of the victim that contributed to the situation, it is inappropriate to concentrate on the their supposed failure to avoid the infringement of their rights. Your position seems to be that the very fact that an injustice occurred indicates some culpability on the part of the victim. That position is absurd. It's akin to saying a rape victim was "asking for it" because she chose to wear revealing clothing. But worse, because there's no evidence the poor internet user did anything that could provide a shred of justification for what happened to him. Finally, let me say that a major element of doing all one can to make sure that we have a proper government is denouncing those who commit rights violations. In the case that started this thread, it's clear my time is better spent pronouncing judgment on the "brownshirts," not the people they are harrassing. Mark
  8. Daedalus, you are attacking a straw man. No one is arguing against the self-evident proposition that failure to gain political freedom means suffering the consequences. No one here is asking to be freed from any legitimate responsibility. And no one is whining about anything. Mark
  9. No one is claiming groups have responsibilities separate from individuals, just that there are certain things that simply cannot be accomplished until a large number of individuals independently choose to do what's necessary to accomplish it. If one of those individuals is doing all he can, the fact that the rest are refusing to see the light and cooperate is no reflection on him. Mark
  10. We're getting nowhere. You ignored the substance of my response and are now making unwarranted assumptions about how I "choose to see" myself. Here's another quote Ayn Rand liked: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Mark
  11. The individual's responsibility is to do what he can. If by "we" you mean the culture as a whole, yes, it's self-evident, but irrelevant to your point and to the argument being made against it. An individual has no power to change the culture single-handedly. Not only is philosophical change a difficult and long-range project, other men -- the ones you need to convince -- have free will. If you or I do everything in our power to stop fascism, but the culture still drifts toward fascism, we have not defaulted on our responsibility. Again, we, as individuals have no power to "make sure" that our government does not violate our rights. Mark
  12. What was it about the example of two government thugs arresting a person for surfing the internet that caused you to concentrate on the "responsibility" of the victim? What is it about this case that warrants such an emphasis on his responsibility? Saying that "the library Internet user must ultimately assume responsibility for what happened to him" might be appropriate if he had actively campaigned for for censorship laws. And you might say he bears some responsibility if it was known that he avoid politics altogether. But we have no such information about the victim. So why do you think the important aspect to point out in this case is that people are responsible for their government? You also said "He should have made sure he had a government that wouldn't harrass him." As at least one other person has pointed out, this is simply false. You are demanding the impossible because no individual has this power. Imagine that the person arrested for surfing the internet were Leonard Peikoff or Yaron Brook -- to name two people who are unimpeachable in living up to their responsibility to fight for the respect of individual rights. Would you have made the same comments about his requirement to "ultimately assume responsibility for what happened to him"? Would you say he "should have made sure he had a government that wouldn't harrass him"? If so, why? If not, why not. In fact, I have a better, real-life example. A few years ago, Leonard Peikoff had two manuscript pages stolen from him by the Library of Congress. Does he bear the ultimate responsibility for this theft? How should he have "made sure the government wouldn't harrass him"? How do you think he would react if your first response to him upon learning of the theft was to talk about how he is ultimately responsible for it? Mark
  13. Exactly. A survivalist, sitting in a bunker surrounded by enough food and water to last 20 years, would be another good concretization of this view of responsibility. Mark
  14. The "neglect, ignorance, or helplessness" quote is about citizens of a nation that is in danger of being attacked in war because their government is engaging in actions that are an objective threat to the rights of a free country. The "price" they pay is due to a free country protecting the rights of its citizens. In the case of the internet user, we are talking about a "price" paid due to the government violating the rights of its citizens. Yes, there are consequences to be suffered in either case, but the prime responsibility in the latter case is that of the one unjustly initiating force -- i.e., the government. Now, if it were clear that the internet users knew they were breaking the law, but did it anyway, they certainly bear some responsibility for their actions. And if we were to find out that these people are ardent statists, who advocate laws restricting free speech, they have little to complain about. But in general, if upon seeing a case of clear rights violation, you immediately start talking about the responsibility of the victim, you have -- at the very least -- a warped view of responsibility -- and justice. Mark
  15. I found this quote in Ayn Rand Answers and thought it may have indicated a change in AR's thinking on the topic, but I checked the dates and found that this answer was from 1968, while the bald "I regard it as immoral" answer was from 1971. So if the answers do show a change, it's in the direction of a more general evaluation. However, I don't think such brief answers can tell us anything definitive either way. One thing I do find interesting is that Robert Mayhew chose to omit the 1971 answer from his book and include the 1968 one. Without asking Dr. Mayhew, we don't know why, but he has said that he consulted with Leonard Peikoff on the selection and editing and that "Dr. Peikoff did not want the book to present anything that contradicted or could be taken to contradict what he knew to be AR's views on some topic." So perhaps Dr. Peikoff knew her evaluation of the immorality of homosexuality to be less broadly applicable than the 1971 answer would indicate. Mark
  16. There is no reason for the difference between the sexes. The difference just is. People (and God, if He existed) have reasons, nature does not. Mark
  17. blackdiamond, Wikipedia is definitely wrong when it says that "Leonard Peikoff, the executor of Ayn Rand's estate and her intellectual heir promotes Objectivism as a "closed system" that consists merely of "what Rand herself wrote and said" -- wrong or very sloppy. This is far too widely encompassing. An Ayn Rand religion might have that as a definition, but certainly not a philosophy dedicated to reason and the discovery of the truth by each individual who accepts it. The question you might ask yourself is why any rational person would accept that definition and then propose forum ground rules based upon it. This has nothing to do with whether I believe Ayn Rand was "serious" when she made any statement, it has to do with whether she could expect a rational person to take adopt a philosophical position based on her explanation. Philosophy does not not consist of pronouncements, but supported conclusions that other rational minds can evaluate and then accept or reject based on the arguments given. Dr. Peikoff writes in OPAR that "'Objectivism' is the name of Ayn Rand's philosophy as presented in the material she herself wrote or endorsed" and says that OPAR is "the definitive statement of Ayn Rand's philosophy." You will not find a word about the immorality of homosexuality in OPAR -- and properly so. Anyway, that's all I have to say on the topic. If the moderators here think that any discussion of homosexuality must start from the "default position" that it is immoral, they can say so. Until they do, I'll continue to operate under the "default position" that homosexuality is innocent until proven guilty. (I will also add that if ARI is supposed to hold the position that homosexuality is immoral, it is very interesting that they employ open homosexuals, promote their works, and invite them to be speakers at their conferences.)
  18. I disagree with basically everything here. To put the developed, published philosophical works of Ayn Rand -- those that comprise Objectivism -- on the same level as her brief, extemporaneous answers to questions on topics covered nowhere in Objectivism proper, is ridiculous. The answer we are talking about, even in the context of her developed philosophy, does not come anywhere near to being a philosophical justification for her judgment. Demanding that any Objectivist here who disagrees with her statement prove the morality of homosexuality, or show how she was wrong on this issue, is therefore unreasonable. If someone wants to take that germ of an argument, integrate it with the rest of Objectivism, and make a proper case for the immorality of homosexuality, I wish him good luck. I agree, and therefore, unlike most of her moral positions -- the ones that comprise the Objectivist ethics -- we don't have a philosophical justification for her opinion on homosexuality. Which is why it's unreasonable to demand that Objectivist discussions of the issue assume the truth of that opinion or show how it's false. Well, if you don't expect Objectivists to see the answer (in the context of the rest of the philosophy) as proof of the immorality of homosexuality, then why would it be assumed as a 'default position'? Mark
  19. And your point? These statements are consistent. Mark
  20. The quote of mine you are responding to says "I believe AR's only statement [...] was an assertion". Since writing that post I've seen the actual quote. Now that I've seen the one-sentence response, I'd say that she gives only a hint as to the reasons for her evaluation. But please let's stop quibbling and get to back to your claim. Is it your position that the statement qualifies as a sufficient philosophical explanation of why homosexuality is immoral? And is it your position that AR's judgment of homosexuality as immoral is part of Objectivism? And is it your position that any Objectivist who denies the immorality of homosexuality must "show why they think [AR] was wrong?" That in any discussion with Objectivists, those who think homosexuality is immoral need no more justification for their position than to point to these one or two sentences from a Q&A? Mark
  21. Objectivism is not "what Ayn Rand said and wrote." It is those fundamental philosophical positions for which she explained her reasons. I believe AR's only statement on the immorality homosexuality was an assertion in a Q & A period, with no justification of that assertion. It's unreasonable (and distinctly non-Objectivist) to ask that we show why Ayn Rand was wrong on an issue when she never explained why she thought she was right. Objectivism is not a religion. (Leonard Peikoff, incidentally, agrees that Objectivism has nothing to say about the morality of homosexuality. Objectivism's position on sex, he says, is that it's good.) So, as others have pointed out, the onus of proof remains on those who claim homosexuality is immoral. Mark
  22. If it's not stating the obvious, what has to be shown is that it is either rational or irrational for a particular individual to live his or her life as a homosexual. The talk about homosexuality being "natural" or "unnatural" reeks of a rationalistic approach to the subject. "Men and women were obviously designed to complement each other -- their parts fit together, they were 'meant' to procreate," etc., and it's therefore always unnatural to act against these facts. This eliminates at the outset (to name just two potentially relevant factors) any possible individual biological differences between individuals as well as individual, deep-seated psychological factors that may arise from early childhood experiences. (Arguing that homosexuality is or is not in "an individual's nature" is better.) Most importantly, those who appeal to man's nature as proof of homosexuality's immorality tend to omit the crucial step of showing how that nature makes homosexuality harmful. Nature is just the start of morality. Morality is about showing that given the nature of man, acting a certain way has corresponding life-enhancing or diminishing effects. For example, Ayn Rand never said the failure to be productive is "unnatural." She showed that the nature of man is that he is self-supporting. And she demonstrated that because of this fact, being productive clearly furthers his life. She showed that it is immoral to be unproductive because given his nature, any man will stagnate or die following that course. Since I've been participating in this thread, I've seen appeals to what's "natural" and "unnatural," but I've yet to see anyone show how man's nature makes homosexuality harmful to his life.
  23. Regardless of the filmmakers' intentions, I do not agree that it presents "reality as seen by the New Left". The movie was set in the mid-1960s. The premise that society did not tolerate gay cowboys settling down and living happily ever after is undoubtedly a sound one. However, the movie does not say that the characters were forced to live a lie because of this atmosphere. On the contrary, I think it uses this environment as a dramatic setting in which the characters (particularly Ennis) must choose to pursue their values (or face the terrible consequences) even when it is difficult. I don't see the main point (or even a minor point) of the movie as being a "look what happens when homophobia dominates a culture" thing. Which is not to say that some leftists don't read that into it. Mark
  24. Dan, you should probably add a spoiler alert to your last message.
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