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The Laws of Biology

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  1. Whereas most or much of the world views the word and concept of "selfishness" as a vice and a sin, Ayn Rand reversed 6,000 years of history (at least the predominate philosophy therein) and declared "The Virtue of Selfishness." So, I wonder: Is there implicit in Ayn Rand's Objectivism a similar reversal of values regarding the term and concept of "narcissism." Ought one be proud to be viewed (by oneself and/or by others) as a narcissist? Does being viewed as a narcissist simply mean that you are living ethically, that is, as a person who refuses to sacrifice his/her happiness, survival, or well-being to the demands of the mob (the collective, or the government) or to the demands of family members, and that you are living as a person who regards themselves as the sum and center of his/her own universe and experience, and that you are living as a person who regards his/her personal excellence as the most important thing. I have been unable to find any writing or speaking by Ayn Rand that uses the terms "narcissism" or "narcissist." Perhaps those terms were not much in wide circulation during Ayn Rand's lifetime. In sum: Based on the principles of Objectivism, can we legitimately suppose that Ayn Rand would approve of the phrase "The Virtue of Narcissism"?
  2. The following excerpt seems to explain how Ayn Rand obtained from the Soviet government a travel visa to visit the USA. The following excerpt is from a 2004 biography titled Ayn Rand, by Jeff Britting. Page 29 “With the fear constantly in mind that Rand's vocalization of her frustration could put her in prison, Anna Borisovna [Ayn Rand’s mother] — to Rand's eternal gratitude — proposed a visit to Chicago by her oldest daughter. The timing of this suggestion was fortunate: Lenin's "War Communism" had been replaced by the more liberal New Economic Policy (NEP), and travel restrictions for students wishing to study abroad had been temporarily eased. In addition, the Rosenbaums learned that their American relatives owned a theater exhibiting silent films. The official purpose of Rand's visit would be to study the film industry first-hand and then to return and contribute the fruits of this research toward the advancement of Soviet film. This stated purpose, however, was a ruse; Rand planned to make her American visit permanent, "crossing over the lake" (in the words of her mother) to Canada, if necessary, to avoid returning to Russia. Her goal was first to establish herself as a screenwriter, thereafter "graduating into literature" — as she would later put it in her 1936 unfinished "An Attempt at the Beginning of an Autobiography"…”
  3. I suppose the broader question of interest, to me, is whether any researcher or biographer, who is fluent in Russian and lives in Russia or has traveled to Russia, has conducted searches in the government document archives of the old USSR, to see what, if anything, can be found about Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand's 1925 application for a travel visa to leave the USSR for a visit to relatives in the USA might still exist in some file somewhere. As a point of general comparison, regarding the discoverability of old government documents, I have seen an online scan of an original letter written in German by Friedrich Trump (Donald J. Trump's grandfather), in which he appeals the decision by the German government to deport him. The year of that letter was 1905, I believe. Some researcher found that letter in the archives of the German government.
  4. According to Wikipedia, Ayn Rand got her visa in 1925 and left in 1926. Lenin died in 1924. Stalin was the main leader in 1925 and 1926, but I believe Stalin had not yet consolidated his dictatorial powers yet (that happened in 1927, according to Wikipedia). Nevertheless, I had thought it was always hard to escape the Soviet Union. I always thought that the Soviet Union was like George Orwell's novel "1984," with no one free and everyone afraid and a slave. And yet, Ayn Rand apparently escaped the USSR with great ease. She got on a ship and got off in New York City. From there she made a stop in Chicago before heading to Hollywood. How many Soviet citizens got on a boat to Hollywood? Not many, I suspect. That makes me wonder: How did Ayn Rand escape the Soviet Union with such great ease? Were Soviet authorities trying to get rid of her because she was known in her university as being anti-collectivist? Wikipedia says this about Ayn Rand: "Along with many other bourgeois students, she was purged from the university shortly before graduating. After complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, many of the purged students were reinstated in the university. Rand was among these reinstated students and she completed her studies at the renamed Leningrad State University in October 1924." Or is is possible that that some Soviet official, perhaps a relative of Ayn Rand's, or a friend of the family in the pre-Soviet days, broke the Soviet rules to give Ayn Rand her visa to visit the USA? I just watched the 1965 movie "Dr. Zhivago," and early in that story (based on true events) the main character, Dr. Zhivago, is granted a travel visa due to the intervention of a Communist Party member and police office who was Dr. Zhivago's half-brother and childhood pal. That visa allowed Dr. Zhivago and his wife and father-in-law to leave Moscow and resettle somewhere past the Ural Mountains, at the family's country estate near a very tiny village. Later in the movie, Dr. Zhivago's wife and father-in-law (who were very wealthy in the pre-Soviet era) seem to gain permission from Soviet authorities to permanently resettle in France.
  5. Given that Ayn Rand/Alisa Rosenbaum was a Russian emigre who became very famous in the U.S. for denouncing the political philosophy of the government of the USSR, it sure seems like the government of the USSR would have tracked her actvities, at the very least.
  6. I apologize. I do see that I have let my emotions run amuck. I regret that. I appreciate the reminder about basic courtesy. I did need it. If I post again, I will try to do better. Best wishes to all.
  7. I hate it when people ask others in discussion forums to explain things that might take many hours and many pages to explain. So, I'll do my own research on this question. I suspect that Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff have addressed this issue. The fact that I am unaware of how they addressed it is the fault of me alone. So, I will investigate. I have seen Ayn Rand write that the duty of honesty is not a social duty done for the benefit of others, but is rather a duty to oneself, a striving to maintain one's personal integrity. But I wonder if that really provides a sufficient justification for Objectivism's doctrine of Universal Rights. But, as I've said, I will educate myself on this matter, and draw my own conclusions, to the best of my ability. I fully admit that I am insufficiently educated in the field of philosophy. I often don't know the right terms for things.
  8. I have always assumed that Ethical Egoist involves the individual making calculations about what to do or not do, in each particular personal circumstance, based on Rational Self Interest. But Objectivism, with its insistence on a strict and absolute ethical duty to always respect the rights of every other person living on the earth, forbids the individual from making a Rational Self Interest calculation in particular situations about whether to steal, to deceive, or initiate violence. Thus, Objectivism seems to be a form of Ethical Egoism with an element of Altruism built into it. Well, I suppose that is not how Objectivists would view this. Okay. So, how then do Objectivists justify removing from individuals the right and freedom to choose, i.e., to make personal, individual Rational Self Interest calculations about whether to steal, to deceive, or initiate violence in a given set of circumstances? (P.S. I am NOT advocating in favor of anyone stealing, deceiving, or initiating violence! But my opposition to those things is not based on Ethical Egoism, but on my own personal, sentimental feelings of goodwill and good wishes to the whole of humanity, past, present, and future. I.e., I indulge in spirituality, religion, mythology, legends of heroes and saints, utopianism, and so on.)
  9. Under the philosophy of ethical egoism, the aim is to always act in ways that maximize one's personal survival, pleasure, and satisfaction. Under the philosophy of ethical egoism, you do not factor in the good of the whole society of strangers. And so, it seems logical to me that the best way to maximize one's personal survival, pleasure, and satisfaction is to always pretend to respect the rights of others, but to definitely not respect the rights of others whenever you estimate that respecting the rights of others would hobble your ability to survive or prosper or be happy. Why so? Because under the philosophy of ethical egoism. the one and only TEST of the goodness or rightness of an act is whether it promotes your survival, well-being, and satisfaction. And so, I suppose I am coming to the conclusion that the philosophy found in the book The Prince by Machiavelli is the pure ethical egoism. That book recommends that a man be deceptive, violent, and steal whenever he estimates that doing so will promote his own survival, well-being, and satisfaction. Any philosophy, such as Objectivism, that demands that people always respect the rights of other all other people (i.e., don't steal from them; don't intiate violence against them; don't deceive them when they have a right to know the truth), is requiring people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the well-being of other people, and is promoting a way of life that lessens a mans ability to survive and prosper. I'm not saying that people must or should be Machiavellians. I'm just saying that Machiavellianism seems to be the only pure, unadulterated ethical egoism. I'm saying that we need to be intellectually honest and accurate about what various philosophical systems are teaching. I, for one, want to see reality as clearly as possible. In politics, one expects all sorts of deception, "spinning," and so on. But philosophers must lay it all out as honesty and clearly as possible, no matter who this pleases or displeases, and no matter what the consequences for the political system. Socrates modeled this approach, I think. To me, a philosopher should be a reality revealer, not a mythmaker.
  10. My preliminary thought is that Ayn Rand's ethical system does not take into consideration the phenomenon of Scarcity, as described in sciences of Biology and Economics. The phenomenon of the Scarcity of resources a profoundly important aspect of the sciences of Biology and Economics. Scarcity gives rise to what economist call competition and what Darwin called "the struggle for existence." As far as I know, Ayn Rand did not acknowledge that an ethical man would ever think competitive thoughts, feel competitive feelings, or have competitive intentions, in his work and in his dealings with other men. Here is Ayn Rand explaining her view of competitiveness: "Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." (SOURCE: The Moratorium on Brains,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 2, 4, as found on http://aynrandlexicon.com/ ) If one assumes that Scarcity is a fiction or a lie or a false doctrine of a false philosophy, then one can imagine that men are never necessarily and unavoidably (just as a result of being a living, biological being) in life-or-death conflict with one another. And so, one can then imagine that respecting the rights of other men would never undermine one's own ability to survive and prosper. One can imagine that there is always and naturally enough "stuff" (land, food, water, medicine, potential reproductive mates, etc.) for everyone, so there never need be an life-or-death conflict between men (unless someone initiates force). I think Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy, and also some forms of Libertarianism, do hold that perpetual and inherent Scarcity is a fiction or a lie or a false doctrine of a false philosophy. I think they think that Scarcity is a lie invented by Collectivists to justify the intervention of the Government to fairly distribute the Scarce resources, so that the right of all to live may be protected and actualized. But is Scarcity a fiction, or is it an undeniable, scientifically verified, and universal phenomenon of reality? As far as I know, Scarcity is a perpetual, profound, undeniable, scientifically verified, and universal phenomenon of reality. If that is so, I think it logically follows that always respecting the rights of others, no matter the circumstances or the stakes, will reduce one's ability to survive and prosper. And so, Objectivism's ethical rule of always respecting the rights of all others is a rule that requires self-sacrifice for the sake of other people, just as in Socialism, Altruism, Christianity, etc. I think this is all logical.
  11. Why should anyone feel compelled to believe that every man has the same and equal right to live, right to be free, right to pursue his own happiness, and that all men are seriously and absolutely ethically BOUND to respect these rights of other all other men in all circumstances, even if respecting these rights sometimes undermines an individuals ability to survive and prosper? I mean, religious prophets have declared things on the authority of a supposed immortal deity who lives on a mountain or in the heavens. The U.S. Declaration of Independence pronounced some of these rights, but so what; it is just a document written by some particular men in a particular circumstance. Why should anyone who believes in ethical egoism and individualism ever sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men? Once a person accepts, as a matter of principle, that it is sometimes righteous, legitimate, and necessary to sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, and his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men, how then can such a person criticize Socialism for likewise promoting the ethical principle that it is sometimes righteous, legitimate, and necessary to sacrifice or endanger his life, his liberty, his wealth, or his well-being for the sake of the abstract rights supposedly held by all other men. Objectivism seems to have a Socialist or Christian or Altruistic premise at its core. The scope of the Socialism within Objectivism is much reduced as compared to Marxist-Leninist Communism. But, in this obeisance to the doctrine of universal rights, the basic principle of "love of neighbor" (Altruism, Socialism) seems to be there in Objectivism, just as it is in Socialism, Christianity, Judaism, Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Buddhism, etc. At least, so it seems to me at this time. I can't see any other logical way to interpret this matter.
  12. Charles Darwin wrote this: “All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each, at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation, or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” (Origin of Species) Charles Darwin wrote this: "The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage. On the other hand, as Mr. Galton has remarked, if the prudent avoid marriage, whilst the reckless marry, the inferior members tend to supplant the better members of society. Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring. (The Descent of Man) Charles Darwin wrote this: "[Y]ou have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. … Lastly, I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world. (Letter to William Graham, July 3, 1881)
  13. It seems to me that true ethical egoism would respect the rights of others when it is advantageous to do so and would not respect the rights of others when it is advantageous to ignore other peoples' rights. If a person is dedicated to respecting the rights of others no matter what the circumstances or stakes in play, then such a person will, sooner or later, end up sacrificing himself and his survival and his well-being on the altar of the abstract rights of others. This sacrifice seems to be the essence of altruism and socialism. Thus, it seems that Ayn Rand's Objectivism concedes the core point of socialism, altruism, and Christianity, which is that there are circumstances in which it is legitimate, necessary, and righteous to sacrifice one's own life, survival, well-being, and happiness for the sake of other people. I think the true ethical egoist would follow the philosophy of Machiavelli, and thus make a pretence of always respecting the rights of others, but would not actually always respect the rights of others. Suppose you are a very wealth businessman who has been sued by an opponent. You are required by law to testify under oath in your case. You realize that if you answer questions honestly on the witness stand that you opponent will end up taking your entire fortune worth ten billion dollars, and you and your spouse and children will all end up with no money and no careers. You and your loved ones will lose everything. However, you know that if you lie on the witness stand that you will get alway with the lies, since there are no other witnesses or documentary evidence to contradict you. Now, should you tell the truth and lose everything? The other people in this trial (and the whole community) have a legal and moral RIGHT to receive honest testimony from you on the witness stand, since you are testifying under oath. But should you tell the truth and lose everything that you and your love ones possess? I think the true ethical egoist would lie on the witness stand and not sacrifice his well being and the well being of his loved ones on the altar of the abstract rights supposedly belonging to other people. Or what if a man is on trial for his life, and if he lies he can avoid the death penalty, but if he tells the truth on the witness stand, or if he declines to testify, he will get the gas chamber? Should he sacrifice his very life for the abstract principle of telling the truth when under oath? Here is Ayn Rand explaining her theory of universal rights: "Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another. For instance: a man has the right to live, but he has no right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but no right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery (or murder or robbery or enslavement) of another. The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man, and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do." (SOURCE: “Textbook of Americanism,” The Ayn Rand Column, 84, as provided on ) I think we can see from the above Ayn Rand quote that in Objectivism it is deemed right and proper that the supposed rights of others set limits on one's own ability to survive and prosper. See especially the line above from Ayn Rand that says "The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man, and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do." I am focusing on this part: "right of another man...to tell him what he may or MAY NOT DO." Well, isn't that Socialism, or Altuism, even if it is a form of Socialism or Altruism that is reduced in its scope? But the basic principle is there, of sacrificing for others for the sake of some abstract ethical ideal, isn't it? It's the heroic ideal of setting limits on my own survival for the sake of the well being others. That sure seems like Socialism or Christianity.
  14. This whole response is very well argued and very well written. I will have to study it and contemplate it further so that I may really grasp the flaws in my reasoning, in my data, or in my soul or character. My initial thought is that Ayn Rand and Aristotle disgreed with Darwin and Freud on the matter of human nature. Whereas Ayn Rand and Aristotle viewed human nature as essentially rational, just, ethical, and peaceable, Darwin and Freud viewed human nature as essentially and irredeemably irrational, injust, unethical, and aggressive. The view of Ayn Rand and Aristotle can be seen in the 1949 movie "The Fountainhead" (based on Ayn Rand's book). The view of Darwin and Freud can be seen in the 1968 movie "Planet of the Apes" (written by secular humanist Rod Serling and the one-time Communist Party member Michael Wilson). I find it fascinating that Shakespeare has his character Hamlet express both views of human nature in this passage (and elsewhere in the play, too): "What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me." But how shall any rational person decide, with integrity (and not arbitrarily, and not with mystical faith, and not with wishful thinking) between the optimistic and the pessimistic view of human nature? I have always thought that modern science, and empiricism, as found in modern biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, is the way to decide with integrity. (I.e., lots and lots of data; and data collected and organized meticulously and analyzed mathematically and statisitically, as per the modern scientific method; I think here of Francis Bacon's criticisms of those of his era who clung to the methods of Aristotle to reach their conclusions about phenomenon in nature and in Man) Also, the modern story of the history of humankind is helpful. Our modern historians know so much more than the ancient historians (e.g., the historians who wrote in the times of ancient Greece and Rome). But isn't there a danger that people with a pessimistic view of human nature will enact a "self fulfilling prophecy," and thereby prevent the creation of a better future society due exactly to that pessimism? Yes, that is a danger, and that danger is pointed out by the Ayn Rand Objectivists, and also by others, such as the Democratic Socialists, the Rosicrucians, the Catholics for Social Justice, Secular Humanists, and so on. As for me, I feel torn, like Hamlet. I want a better future. I want an ethical society. But I also want to shun delusions and noble lies. I'm tired of being deceived and deluded by all sorts of utopian and idealistic promises of a better world, and I don't want to join in movements and philosophies that deceive and delude others, even if doing so might be of some materialistic advantage to me. Furthermore, I tend to think that whatever better future is possible will be achieved by having leaders that shun delusions and noble lies, and who face and deal with the hard realities of existence for biological beings (in this vein, I think of Francis Bacon's praise of Machiavelli's book The Prince for reminding him of how men often or usually tend to act, even though Francis Bacon did not himself approve of cynical, dishonest, manipulative leadership).
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