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Ifat Glassman

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  1. Ifat Glassman


    I think it's a great question. Before I talk about what focus is, however, it's important to ask what one should be focusing ON. What principle or criteria to use to determine the content? Otherwise, without identifying the criterion, one can claim that we should focus on anything and everything random. Focus on the birds at the side of the road, or on what the teacher is saying, or whatnot. So being focused has to come after a standard. The standard is your life or your happiness (the big, abstract goal, which is the abstraction behind all your daily occurrences, such as working, talking to a friend, etc'). So being focused means that the method of cognitive functioning you function on is such that puts effort into achieving mental clarity on those things which are relevant to your well being (small or large, of the immediate moment or that belong to your long term happiness). For example: You are playing a game, the hour is getting late and you know you need to get up early the next day for work. You can either insist to hold the correct knowledge in the forefront of your mind, or to unfocus and continue playing. (I am assuming here that this work is a value which is more important to you than playing. Let's not get into "what if it's not" because that will not serve to illustrate the point). Another example: Your wife, which you've been married to for a long time, starts acting irrationally. You can choose to inquire and study the subject, or passively unfocus and continue your daily routine, even though it means you are neglecting your pursuit of happiness. Another example: You are at school, learning to be an engineer. The teacher is teaching a new subject which you know is relevant to what you want to do. You can either focus on it (maintain mental effort to make connections and make sense of the material) or unfocus and just write the formulas down. Note: I think relaxation and fun are important activities which enhance productivity. I do not think a man should be a study-machine 24/7. This is why your well being comes first - it sets the standard on when to focus and what to focus on. Any attempt to judge one's focus outside that standard will be futile and can lead to a demand to be a "robot" to be perfect, (as many Objectivists hold) - that a moral man is a productivity beast, without a moment of relaxation and enjoyment. But that is not selfish at all, it is an attempt to gratify an external standard without actually pursuing one's well being or happiness. So anyways, that's my answer. It's good, isn't it? I know. It's because I listen to Peikoff's lectures and I think a lot on my own, about a lot of things. I maintain a very high degree of focus
  2. I'd like to add a quote by Ayn Rand regarding what is and is not art, to demonstrate why Jonathan's view has nothing to do with Objectivism (or with reality), and to also provide an answer to those who claimed that any "selective recreation of reality" (such as a smiley icon) is art: The quote is a small part of a huge discussion which supports and illustrates this point. The core of the book describes what art is and what is its function - which is - to concretize man's widest abstractions and allow him to contemplate them outside his mind by experiencing them in some physical, concrete form. So while a hamburger is a selective creation of materials, as many other things, a hamburger (to some people's amazement, perhaps) is not art. Furthermore, Ayn Rand identifies the psychology of those who like abstract paintings. She explains that the style of an artist reveals his method of cognitive functioning with which he feels at home. She explains that clarity of the subject in art is a demonstration of a mind that functions in focus and with cognitive effort, while those works which are unfocused and unclear are evidence of an unfocused mind. She says that modern art is an attempt to escape from identity and to get away with faking reality. I agree. It's exactly what it is. __________ A while back I've made several great posts analyzing paintings and explaining what metaphysical abstractions they communicate by analyzing the subject and style of rendering. It would be far better to read those than to just quote Ayn Rand. However, I can't find those posts anymore (seems like all content before a certain time is no longer available?), so the above is all I can offer now. However, I understand what art is very well. I understand what Ayn Rand is describing in full and I can demonstrate it by analyzing works of art. In other words, my knowledge of the subject is reality-based, not just book based. It would take time and effort I don't have, but I may start a blog about it.
  3. My tip is: Find what it is you do not like about yourself and apply discipline and a plan to change it to what you do like and find inspiring. This kind of lethargy comes when you don't find being with yourself much fun, when you don't find yourself inspiring.
  4. [Cross posted at my blog, Psychology of Selfishness] The psychology of taking Pleasure in challenges vs. Fear of failure One crucial choice of approach to life we all face as children is how to deal with challenges. The approach one develops and practices over the years affects one's self-esteem and one's ability to pursue one's values and goals. Some adults find intense pleasure in complex challenges that take a long time to achieve, while others feel intimidated by them and shy away from them. The reason for the difference is one's subconscious evaluation of one's ability to succeed, to acquire skills. The man who takes pleasure in challenges feels pleasure because he judges what he is doing as being on a road to proving his own worth once more. The one who dreads the challenge has the subconscious evaluation of themselves as being on the way to failure, of which every difficult step is further proof of that impending failure. In reality they may have everything it takes to succeed had they had different motivation, but their motivation can be such a great barrier that they will never achieve that goal and start building their confidence. It all starts in childhood when a child faces their first few challenges. At an early stage kids seek immediate satisfaction without delay. If they solve challenges, they are of a simple, short-duration nature. If a child succeed in solving challenges with gradually increasing durations, eventually they learn that it pays off sometimes to pick tasks with delayed satisfaction. It starts from putting a cube through the right hole, to arranging some pictures in the right order, to building Lego models of an airplane (which takes an even longer time to complete) - to more complex tasks like programming. It is not all a smooth sail - every kid faces those challenges in which they fails a number of times, and here comes the crucial waypoint where the two opposite approaches form. The child, having failed several times, and still having the frame of mind of pursuing immediate gratification will face the decision to persist and try again or to give up and go back to the familiar, easy stuff they know how to do. They have not yet experienced, at this stage, the value of delayed satisfaction and they barely have yet a concept of their own ability, because confidence develops based on success in challenges like the one they are facing in this case. Here is where the parents have a crucial role in guiding their kids in the right direction. The parents can encourage the child to give up and go back to "fun stuff", or they can push him and slightly help the child persist in the goal. They can teach the child that persistence in pursuing goals is a virtue, create a comfortable atmosphere for failing (so long as the child tries again) or teach the kid to take the easy road so that they don't have to see the kid upset. Even given the right idea, a child still faces the choice of insisting on succeeding in a challenge or giving up, but having the right emotional background and (non-verbal) approach play a central role in what would occur to a child to choose. A child learns a great deal what emotional reaction is appropriate for a situation. You often see kids look at the parent's faces after some occurrence to observe their parent's expression and learn how they should react. If they look at the parent's face after failing and see fear, they are likely to decide that this is the right response. But if the see a smile and quiet confidence, they learn that the right approach (or emotional background) is patience and calamity. The reason this waypoint is so crucial is because those first attempts at a challenge are the base for a child's confidence and attitude toward challenges. A child that has overcome the initial negative emotions and succeeded several times, develops a positive view of their own ability, of challenges, and learns to associate challenges with reward and self-esteem at the end. A child that has repeatedly given up, on the other hand, forms a pattern and learns to associate challenges with failure and pain, creating a loop which cannot be broken until and unless the child (or the adult) decides to "do it anyway" and keep on doing it until they succeed. So the conclusion? If you have a child, teach them that the appropriate emotional background to challenges is relaxation and patience. If you are an adult with a fear of failure (as I am, to some degree): Pick some tasks which you want to succeed in, and stick to them. Break them down to small steps which gradually increase in duration and go for it. It is only after succeeding over and over again despite temporary difficulties (or failure) that you will eventually build your confidence and learn to associate challenges with pleasure. Your feeling about yourself and about what is possible for you in the world depends on it, so the investment is well worth the time. ______________________________________________ If you enjoyed this post you can share this piece or follow the blog (on Facebook/ Google reader/ Yahoo and other stuff). Just visit the blog (link) and brows the right tab for the options.
  5. Metaphorically, yes, but virtues are only fundamental principles of action and they relate both to a man's character (automatized state of mind) and to the actions that follow from that. So cleaning my house is not a virtue - but being rational and persistent in doing what I think is right is (the second is fundamental and relates to one's character, the first does not). OK now to actually get to the points you were asking: The easiest one for me to start with is self-esteem and pride. Self-esteem is a state of mind and an emotional state. Pride, on the other hand is the fundamental action of pursuing moral perfection - the perfection of one's character. This means stuff like automatizing honesty in one's thinking, insisting on thinking ideas through instead of passively accepting them (independence), developing one's career and skills, training one's subconscious not to give up values under pressure and so on. All those actions are pursuit of moral perfection and the result is the value of self-esteem. As for rationality and reason. I am less sure here, but I think she means again, the action of deciding to think and use logic - the long and continuous process of training one's mind to function in a certain way (rational) and the result is having reason (the faculty of perceiving reality). Purpose and productiveness: One obtains a purpose in life by being productive (that's all I can say). I can only see how you would say that about reason and rationality, but not about the others. No one is born with a purpose in life or with self-esteem. Reason is somewhat automatic, only in the very first stages of a child's development. Low level concepts like "chair" "dog" etc' happen almost automatically. Higher level concepts however require mental effort and focus and are not automatic - that's where the virtue come into play because a choice is involved. Something like "the nature of human beings" is not an automatic concept it requires a lot of thought. End.
  6. "Why is life not intrinsically good?" Well, good for whom? Is the life of an owl good? If you're enjoying its beauty - yes. If you need to eat it in an emergency situation - no. A value has to be value for someone.
  7. That some people care about other people's opinion as a substitution for their own judgment is a different problem, but we must not form a false dichotomy of: either one cares what other people think as a substitution for one's judgment or we we don't focus on what they think of us at all and we are first handed. Other people are a big part of reality, why should we not focus on them and what they think, how they feel and so on? (especially what they think of us). When receiving criticism, if we value the source, it makes sense to listen thoroughly and consider it, not to take an approach of "I'm independent therefore I don't care what you think of this". Not sure if this is what you think is ideal, but it seems like it is. OK, this is a weird view. If one is focused on reality and has independent judgment, why would this mean that other people become an intrusion? Also, this is not always the case... good friends, for example, are not intruding our world view, they share it. So there is no general "people are an intrusion".
  8. [link to article on my blog] The value of privacy Would you have a problem living in a house with glass walls? How about having all your conversations audible to all who are interested? Most people, if not all, would find it very disturbing. Why is it that people care so much about other eyes and other ears invading their space? Is it a weakness that needs to be overcome? An indication that one is not confident enough or that one does not have an independent mind? Is it because one is ashamed of certain things and wants to deceive the world or hide one's identity? No - to all of those. Not as the general answer to the question of the value of privacy. Privacy is required for the protection of one's mental experience from foreign elements that can interfere, damage or destroy it. I am not talking here of obvious things such as noise or people physically standing in one's way. Obviously, if a place is so crowded as to not allow one to spend time standing comfortably next to someone else or hear what they say, that is a disvalue. To understand the value of privacy as such I eliminate such conditions and concentrate only on the silent presence of the consciousness of other people, similar to how it would be like if your life were recorded and broadcasted over the internet. So when I say that the presence of the consciousness of others is enough to disturb an experience, that is the sort of situation I am talking about. In what way, you may ask, can the consciousness of others disturb our mental experience? These people are, in this hypothetical situation, just sitting there. The answer is that keeping in mind the mental experience of others creates an emotional response which will mix with the emotional response to any experience. For example, suppose you are dancing to a favorite song of yours, you think you are all alone and let yourself loosen up and express your feelings when all of a sudden you spot someone looking at you, smiling. Their expression introduces into your mind a whole different universe than your own - a different way of looking at things, of judging things and feeling about them. So while you may value your dance a lot and see it as something precious, the person you caught looking at you may see it as something silly. While it may be entirely OK with you for someone else to consider something you do silly, at that moment of experiencing your own world so ecstatically, having the emotional view of someone else shoved into your mind is the mental equivalent of a punch to the face. Holding the two sets of emotions at the same time regarding something precious to you is very unpleasant. In the rare case of having one's world view shared by a stranger the experience of "invasion of privacy" will be significantly reduced. However, in general privacy is a value because one cannot assume that strangers out there in the street share one's view of life or share the understanding of the meaning of one's actions. Even if one has a fiercely independent mind, sharing one's emotions about a value (like being in love) with someone who would not understand it (or even ridicule it) would be a very unpleasant experience simply because of experiencing colliding emotions simultaneously. You may ask further, why would anyone consider the experience of someone else? So what if I spotted this person looking at me - do I have to think about their expression? The answer is; yes, we do. We do this automatically. We don't have to think further of the meaning of the expression we saw, but the initial understanding of what it stands for happens automatically in our subconscious. Privacy is a value because we can act and pursue our values knowing that our experience will not be disturbed by foreign elements. This remains true for wanting privacy with someone else. A couple having sex, for example, ideally share each other's world perfectly. Knowing what the other is experiencing is a celebration of one's own experience - an enhancement of it. But if a group of strangers were to gather around in a stadium-like arrangement watching the act, that would introduce a foreign element. Those strangers can never possibly share the mutual understanding the couple has. The content of the crowd's mind is a foreign element that interferes with the concentration on the mind of the partner. So... does it make sense to share your vulnerable moments and your precious experiences only with your close friends or those you trust would understand it? Yes, it does. Does honesty requires that one broadcasts everything openly to all? It most certainly does not. Honesty as a virtue has its context - and the context is a selfish pursuit of one's values. [The rest is an attachment or a note] In light of all of this, I find two more related topics interesting to analyze. One is artists - especially of the performing arts. Art, unlike other professions, involves an open expression of the artist's emotions, view of life and personality. One can dance or perform mechanically, but to make it good one must open up and express fully one's emotions. In the performing arts the dancer or actor must do it in front of a live audience. There is no privacy shielding one's inner world from others, save the fact that the setting is such that everyone expects the performer to act this way, and one is necessarily aware that others are watching their actions. I think a good dancer/ actor must therefore have the following two components: 1. The ability to maintain focus on their inner world despite a watching audience. 2. A positive view, as a whole, of the audience. Without a recognition that somebody out there understands what the performer is doing and can admire it, there would be no motivation to "open up" and offer what one has inside to the world. Second is pornography. In writing this piece I've come across the question of how come the people who play porn have no problem with the lack of privacy in having sex? The answer is, I believe, that they seek intimacy with a collective, based on a very shallow level of values. When a couple requires privacy it's because they want to guard the mutual understanding that they have about each other, and they want to be admired for those things they understand about each other. When one is having sex with a stranger for all to see - one has no understanding with a partner. Instead what they seek is admiration from a collective - being wanted by an abstraction represented by an unknown collective - based on the value of their physical appearance. They might even project on the crowd whatever values they want to be had for, but there is no need for privacy because in this sort of sex there is nothing to guard. In fact, if somebody shows up that knows the porn star well, that might be what they would want to guard themselves against, because that, ironically, threatens the abstract sexual relationship with people "out there". ____________________________________________ If you liked the article, hopefully you'd consider following my blog (or even donating). To do this you can follow this link and brows the side bar for all the options.
  9. First, this is not the concept of art Ayn Rand is describing. This is a subjective concept, saying, essentially, that everything someone happens to feel something about is art. Secondly, this description does not work because it is too broad - there are many thing that people do that express their feelings, but nobody classifies them as art. Like decoration on bicycle or a ring with a sentimental value or just kicking someone - that's an expression of feelings as well but it's not dancing. Thirdly, "important and worth experiencing" is subjective as well - important to whom? What makes something worth experiencing?
  10. I'm a magician - I can make people disappear!
  11. How about you explain it to me in your own words? What do sculptures, music, paintings, dancing all have in common to be called "art"? Please don't quote Ayn Rand.
  12. Ayn Rand's view, as I understand it, is that music objectively communicates specific emotions - and those emotions, in turn, are tied to concepts, ideas and a story in the listener's mind. She said that the emotion communicated may be experienced as pleasant or unpleasant depending on the listener's sense of life. The part which requires further establishment is the physiology of the brain in translating certain sounds and combination of sounds into specific emotions. However, even without this understanding it is still visible that music does communicate certain emotions that correspond to a certain sense of life - a certain view of man and man's place in the world. Trans music for example, communicates that the world is a big, scary place, alien to man's existence and unknowable to man. It communicates a state of mind of someone under the influence of hallucination drugs - a feeling of being lost in a vast, strange world. Now, no one has the understanding in what way that combination of sounds triggers the emotion of estrangement and loss of control, but denying that it does is just going against what IS available for us to perceive. IMO facial expressions are the same. People may interpret them differently - and there is no study to show which combination of muscles communicates what emotion, however, one would have to be some kind of emotional retard not to be able to identify a joyous smile contrasted with a tragic face. The only communication going on is a wishful one or one of an indoctrinated mind, trained to strain itself to see meaning where there is none. One can only extract meaning from a blob of paint if one is engaging in self-deception (either intentionally, or unknowingly, as a result of accepting modern philosophy). I have a question for you though. Could you explain what criteria you use to determine what is art and what is not? Why, for example, do you call sculpture and dancing art - what do they have in common to deserve being put under the same category?
  13. So the choice is either dogma or disagreement with her viewpoint? This is a common false dichotomy which leaves no option for rational agreement with her viewpoint stemming from understanding it. Denying that music is art can only come as a result of having no inductive understanding of what art is. It's like saying "until we can understand what specific genes evolved to get one species from another, we will deny any evidence that evolution is real. The characteristics of art is that it tells something about the nature of man and of the world, about what kind of entity man is, what kind of world man lives in. It communicates abstractions though physically perceivable things like vocal vibrations, a painting, physical movements (in dance) and so on. If something does not do that - it is not art. Not because "Rand said so" - but because this is the essence of art. If you lose sight of this common denominator you are left with no concept of art at all and then all you can have as a definition is "well, art is something with a frame, that you hang on a wall and it has colors and shapes, or it is a bunch of people moving while standing on a stage, or it is sounds which someone plays on the radio and it takes roughly 5 minutes and the broadcaster says it is music". Well, good luck with that! But I'll tell you, it is this kind of distinction of what art "is" that belong with a "stickler's" mind.
  14. Sure, but trust me, I have a very good, selfish purpose for doing it
  15. "The premise of objectivity is literally to remove the observer from what it is that is being observed and simply to report what "is." However, that is an impossibility. It cannot be done. In fact, there is nothing that "is," separate from the observer or multiple observers who construct and interpret what that reality is. One could argue that the only one who's really objective is God, and that's because God is omniscient or all-knowing (that is, if you believe in God)." <Jaw drop>. I can't believe he is saying such things in public. I guess things are not good enough yet for this sort of statement to be embarrassing.
  16. Because self-esteem is the feeling and recognition that one is fit to live, to achieve things. People without self esteem feel dread, they are afraid of taking on any task. Self-esteem is therefore also a precondition of happiness. A man that lives in dread all the time cannot feel happy. Self esteem is required for motivation in everything we do. Without some minimal self esteem no one would be even able to type at the computer or ask questions or try to think - the motivation for all these actions is made possible by a subconscious recognition that one is capable of taking those actions successfully. It tells men that they cannot discover the world on their own, that they must surrender their mind to the authority of god. This makes men feel that their means of survival are to beg to god to let them live, that their power to exist comes from an external being, not from within, not from relying on their power to know and decide. It is no wonder that art encouraged by religion shows human beings as ugly, scared, crawling creatures. Because it is concession of one's means of survival and self-assertion. All our values are achieved by our ability to think. If you want a house you need to think, to create. How would you be able to create if you were convinced that you must believe someone else knows better than you and you must reject your conclusions to function? You would not. Men are only able to create and support their existence to the extent they are allowed to think and judge on their own, with their own mind. Had religion became more invasive, then they would have to confess total impotence to think and cope with the world. When someone thinks deep down inside "who am I to know? I should surrender to what god says is true" they are giving up their only path to confidence. Religious people try to place their confidence in a source outside themselves - that is the opposite of self-esteem, it is saying, in effect "I am powerless, god will save me, I must obey".
  17. Modern art, Religion and self-esteem [A link to this article on the blog] I will start with an interesting quote from Juliette Aristides's book, "Classical Painting Atelier", where she expresses her belief that modern art is rooted in a view of man as meaningless in a vast universe while art of the Renaissance was rooted in the belief that man is significant and eternal: "In previous eras, artistic production was colored by the subtext that human beings, as children of God, have divine origins and that our existence is not transitory but eternal. This belief provided not only hope for the future, but the deep assurance of the intrinsic value of a human life. Artists reflected this vision of reality in their artwork, which enabled them to glimpse beauty in the face of tragedy and to portray monumental views of human life. This is why Sandro Botticelli could paint his ethereal goddesses, revealing a reality only hinted at in the world as the black plague ravaged Europe. The postmodern skeptic, faced with an unflinchingly pragmatic and scientific worldview, has no hope of an eternal future. Humanity, crawling out of the primordial soup, living briefly, and, returning to the mud, wrestles with a cosmic insignificance that is reflected in the art of our time. Beautiful figure paintings look hopelessly naive and outmoded in many art circles precisely because they no longer represent the predominating beliefs of the artistic and intellectual elite - the end of man is not glory but dust. Thus the art of the modern epoch has been largely nonrepresentational, characterized by a marred, earthbound, fragmented view of the human being. Beauty, eternity, and truth seem to have faded into a bygone era." I find this quote to be a very interesting, and a largely true analysis, identifying the nature of art as stemming from the artist's view of the nature of the universe and man's place in it - from the artist's metaphysics. I applaud Juliette's identification of the role of philosophy in art and explaining it so eloquently, but I am also glad to offer this correction to the (understandable) mistakes. It is precisely the opposite: logic - which allowed great art to exist, when the terms are well defined. It is not religion that provided the positive influence - the idea that a mystic belief in eternal life was responsible for all the good, while the so called ruthless "logic" and "scientific method" of our age has made men "disillusioned" with human grandeur is incorrect. This is what I wish to explain in this post. For starters, it is not the length of our lives, nor facing the fact of their end that makes men glorious or insignificant. It is religion that has made men search for significance in the impossible - in that which is NOT man's nature that is responsible for this idea that eternal life is a condition for significance. It is precisely religion that has made men attempt to calculate their worth by eyes outside their own body - by how much 'the universe" "cares" for them, by how physically big they are compared to something... something which is not them. It is religion that teaches men to feel small and to be humble - not beautiful and proud. A view of humans as "the children of god" is a twisted compliment. First, religion teaches men to seek significance outside themselves, bowing down, being humble before a great being - then they allow them a glimpse of self-esteem by being the creation of this superior being. Stomp them down, then offer them significance by allowing them to serve you. It is reason - as an idea - as an identified method of how man gains knowledge and power over reality that has boosted men's self esteem - that made them feel big, important, potent. That has taught them to judge their worth through their own eyes - not through the eyes of some eternal, superior, impossible being. The idea of "logic" she is presenting is the idea of modern philosophy, specifically Emmanuel Kant's idea of logic. According to him logic amounts to the recognition that man's senses distort reality and that we are incapable of knowledge. This view, which is total skepticism, may be non-religious, but it is just as devoid of values, just as belittling to human existence as religion is (or even more), because it tells men, in effect, that they are powerless to know anything, except that they can know nothing. It is proper logic, discovered by Aristotle, preserved and revived through history that is responsible for any beauty people saw in human existence. A creature, crawling with fear before an unknowable universe cannot feel beautiful or regard other human beings as beautiful. It is only a being equipped with the power to know that can feel confident, that can use this confidence to wander into mystical paths, trying to bring their power of cognition into those realms - still, it is not mysticism that is responsible for their sense of confidence, but the idea that they are capable of knowing - of understanding the universe, and as a result capable of survival, success, enjoyment, values. Philosophically, it is indeed this view of man as little and insignificant that has brought forth modern art. Accepting the view that virtue consists of recognizing their cognitive impotency - they present their distorted paintings as if they were a source of pride. Psychologically, these paintings are the cry of men desperate for self esteem and a sense of importance and personal identity, which they seek by screaming at the world that no one can know anything, that they are special because they recognize it and manage to present "nothingness" better than anyone else. Indeed, they do present human "nothingness" better than anyone else, though that is hardly a compliment. Lastly, Aristides mentions that human life has "intrinsic value". This, is again a mistaken view stemming from religion. To whom would human life be "of value"? The only answer according to religion is "god" or "the universe". However, those entities are not conscious. "The universe" does not value. Only human beings do. And indeed, to each human being individually, life, when the conditions allow happiness, are worth living. The value, however, is not intrinsic. Well, a religion mind thinks, "if human beings are not important to god or to the universe - how can they be important?". "If human life has no such intrinsic value- how can anyone view them as significant at all?" The answer is made possible by self-esteem, which is supported by logic. What makes human life worth living - what makes them a value to any particular individual? It is priceless moments of enjoyment - it is a moment of feeling pride at one's own creation, moments of having a great laugh or admiring a friend or enjoying the admiration of a lover; it is times of resting at one's home or walking outside and thinking that the world is wonderful - it is everything good that is possible for us to experience. This good is made possible by our power to know, and, as a result; to create, judge and appreciate that which is around us. Philosophically - the main idea is whether we, as human beings, have the power to know or not. Psychologically, this translate to a feeling of self esteem or its lack. In art, this translates into beautiful figures or corrupt and ugly ones (or to the total decay or random shapes). ________________________________ If you enjoyed this, you can support the blog by following it or linking it. Thanks.
  18. I think you guys are confused. If I prefer to kill people and drink their blood for dinner rather than play games in my spare time, that may be a fact - a man-made fact, but it is certainly an immoral act if I act on it and an indication of an immoral person - such that has automatized values of death. I'm not going to go into the discussion, I just saw this and decided to leave a short comment.
  19. Well, that depends on the game (I see your point). But even in games which are demanding, both physically and mentally one still gets recharged by playing, or has a feeling of being rested. In any case... at the risk of pushing personal publicity - - I wrote an essay about the nature of games: Work, games and self esteem. I just noticed I didn't put it up here on Objectivism Online - I'll do it later and then we can have a discussion there (I think it will be a good introductory post for the nature of games, but if you prefer you can start another thread/ find an existing one). Thank you. I'll try to continue to justify this judgment/ feeling in the future.
  20. I have come across a good example to illustrate my view here: art (and a second example: Playing games). Most people (even Objectivists) do not understand in what way art promotes man's life, they don't understand the cognitive role it plays nor the role it plays in concretizing ethics and so on. It takes a genius and many years to figure out in what way the value of art actually promotes man's life (man's physical survival). Yet people need to make decisions all the time about going to see movies, watching T.V. or other art forms. They cannot possibly reduce this subject to "man's life as the standard" in full philosophical terms. The best people can do is notice that art makes them feel enjoyment and perhaps also that it has an overall positive effect on their life long-term (though that is hard to notice as well). So all that is available to most people is that they feel an emotional need for art (music or movies) and that they enjoy it, and the effects it has on their life (does it depress them or encourage them and so on). People need to make a decision based on that. So, in my view, if a person goes after the enjoyment of art, having considered the total effect it has on their life - they are taking their life as a standard of value. They need not understand that art integrates their conceptual faculty with their senses, nor that art concretizes ethics, nor that it promotes man's physical survival through all these things. That is the task of a philosopher, not of your regular Joe. What Joe does need to do is make sure that this source of enjoyment has an overall positive effect on their life. If they use art as an escape from reality, for example, then it has a net negative effect on their life, despite the pleasure it might provide in the present. What one needs to keep in mind is one's happiness, both short term and long term and aim for that enjoyment which satisfies both. Art viewed in the right amount provides inspiration - which is both enjoyment in the short-term and improvement of life in the long-term (to contrast with someone who escapes into books or other art forms). The focus therefore, is one's emotions - the achievement of positive emotions and not one's physical survival (although that is certainly a requirement for being happy). My view is that having this goal in mind and making decisions based on their full consequences and based on the full context IS using one's life as a standard to judge what is of value to one. Another example is playing games. One may not realize in philosophical terms what role games play in one's life (that they provide a sense of accomplishment and efficacy in a 'short-term' reward environment), and may not see how they have a net positive influence on "man's life". What IS available to one is that playing games is fun. That one enjoys them in the present time of playing them and that one feels well rested as a result. This is enough to make a decision to play qualify as "using one's life as one's standard of value". If, however, one is playing games as an escape from reality and tries to use it to replace productivity (even though one is capable, psychologically to be productive) then one is not using one's life as one's standard of value. Point being, again, that the meaning of "using life as the standard" is to consider the total effects of something on one's emotions short and long term (= the effects on one's life, since we cash in and experience life through emotions).
  21. I should add though that even though kids are vulnerable to ideas which involve big abstractions - the vulnerability does intensify the less self-reliant, thinking and confident a child is. If a child learns to take on challenges and rely on his or her own thinking from a young age, then they are less likely to accept ideas from their parents or the environment by default even if they involve abstractions greater than their power to digest.
  22. So, I'm now almost done reading 'social Metaphysics' by Nathaniel Branden and I thought I'd comment. He described a phenomenon in which people, for various reasons, give up their independent judgement and make decisions based on other people's world of ideas. This is basically, as I understand it, a description of the psychology of a second hander and how it comes to be. So once a person gives up (out of fear or a desire to 'belong') their own thinking they begin to become primarily or even exclusively concerned with the world of ideas of other men and they make their choices and decisions while taking other people's ideas as REALITY - as their epistemological frame of reference as Branden calls it. He is describing a process which has nothing to do with altruism (the same results could be brought about by altruism, but the process he describes is not related to altruism). What I do have to say though, is that I think in some cases the egg comes before the chicken - meaning that in some cases people accept the idea (during childhood) that their worth is to be measured by the degree of their acceptance by others and as a result they give up judgment. Kids are especially vulnerable to this idea because they are at a stage of learning, of having a whole world unknown to them and they look up to adults and the environment to teach them. So it is understandable why, if a kid is taught that to be good he must be 'like the other kids' that he could accept such an idea as true (until he grows up and accumulates enough knowledge to revisit this idea and decide if it is true or false). Another example of this is how kids usually accept their parent's idea that masturbation is shameful - proper judgment about this involves huge scale integrations and so many kids simply accept what their parents teach them as right. So I think in many cases kids accept the idea that they are good if they are 'normal', 'like the other kids' and as a result they suspend their judgment when it collides with others for the fear of "not being good". I can think of several cases where a person does exercise independent judgement in the realm of ethics and yet they have this compulsion to be accepted, 'like the others' and they see it as a fundamental flaw of theirs if they are not such. So it seems like there are some cases in which giving up thinking is secondary, not a primary. End of thoughts on the topic. Note: you might need to read the essay to get what I'm talking about. I read it from 'The psychology of Self Esteem' by Nathaniel Branden (it is probably also available in other places).
  23. Noooo... living selfishly is much more demanding than just "not accepting altruism". Dominique did not accept altruism - but was she living selfishly? No - she was trying to run away from happiness and values and selfishness consists of putting one's happiness as one's goal (To add more to my point, I wrote "what is selfishness" just 2 days ago and I have plenty of examples there). and Selfishness is not the automatic result of rejecting altruism. Sounds right. I still need to read about "social metaphysics" to get the whole picture of the quotes you provided (thanks for taking the time to do that, btw!).
  24. What would you prefer in art, a statue of a man who is just capable of lifting something off the ground, or someone who is capable of handling physical tasks with ease? Take this statue for example: How much of your enjoyment would be taken away if this guy had flat muscles? How about if he had so much muscle mass that his head would look like a little raisin? There is, IMO, a certain level of muscles which appears attractive. In our modern age we normally don't require the amount of muscles that this discus thrower has (unless you do sports more intensively) but the look of a skinny pale nerd sitting at the computer is not exactly my idea of an attractive fellow, if you know what I mean. Our mind requires some material evidence of spiritual perfection, since there is no way to "see" such things as strength of character, bravery, pride and so on. A physical body and the way that body moves and looks is the only way that those traits can be brought into view. So solid muscles can stand in our mind for strength. This is the phenomenon you see in art and why it is important to make the discus thrower well built, even though it is possible to throw a discus well and still have a belly and less muscle mass. So by investing in our body we allow others to enjoy us as if we were a piece of art. I personally do work on my body for this reason - go to the gym, do sit ups, push ups and so on. Another relevant thing is that physical activity is important for an active mind and for a good feeling, so it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view that people would see physical fitness as a sign of an individual fit to live. I also wrote a blog post about it currently discussed here: Good looks as a rational value (link to the thread).
  25. What is selfishness [Link for the essay on my blog] First of all - why is it important to know what is selfishness and what is not? The reason is that selfishness is a fundamental principle required for life and happiness. One needs to understand it in order to be able to make the right choices in life and be guided by the right principles. How I judge what is "right" will be discussed next. Secondly, selfishness is an ethical issue. If one misidentifies what selfishness is, one can experience unearned guilt or live a life which is not as good as one could have. The common notion of selfishness is that of a person who lacks any concern for the values of others, someone who does not value other people, does not value fairness, justice, or does not see the need to return a value for a value. It is someone who always wants to get "favors" but at the same time cannot see why anyone would bother them asking for something in return. They can think of no good reason why they should not be served by others, for no benefit to them whatsoever. Someone who exploits others at the blink of an eye and can care for nothing but their own ends. This view of 'selfishnes' is lamped together with any kind of behavior that puts one's own pleasure before the pleasure of others, creating a devastating "package deal". The person who kills and steals and the person who produces and earns are considered as having the same moral quality, since they both do it to promote their own ends. Is it any wonder, then, that people condemn selfishness - and is it any wonder that so many people feel guilty for any kind of happiness or enjoyment they pursue for themselves, not for others? The fault here is in the basic understanding of what selfishness is, and in replacing "lack of value for human life" with "selfishness". One of Ayn Rand's greatest achievements was her identification of the true meaning of "selfishness". It redeemed morality, it created the basis on which people could be happy. It identified a concept which allows men to experience a moral sense of life, to be the hero of their own movie and at the same time pursue their own life and happiness. It allowed men to stand proud beside their achievements instead of apologizing for them - it allowed men to have self-esteem and to regard themselves as worthy of pleasure. So let us start with basic questions and get deeper into the concept of "selfishness" to get a clear understanding of what it IS. A selfish man is one who acts for his own sake - one whose actions are directed to benefit oneself. I would quickly summarize it by: "I am doing this for me". This, however, is not as simple as it sounds. What constitutes doing something "for yourself"? Is it gratification of emotions, regardless of their source? Is it pursuit of some ends, regardless of their nature? Is a man driven by chronic anxiety, trying to destroy other people's happiness a "selfish bastard"? The answer is not as simple as it first appears to be. To understand what it means to "do something for yourself" we need to know what constitutes an objective benefit to someone. If one is to be the beneficiary of one's own actions, one must first know what constitutes "benefit". If one has no idea what is good for oneself, then one's actions cannot logically be selfish, since "I am doing this for me" is empty of meaning if one has no idea if that action is good for one or not. Many regard selfishness as acting for the gratification of one's emotions. There is some truth to that, but only given the right context. The only meaning life has, the only thing that makes like worthwhile, that rewards us for living - is pleasurable emotions, like love, happiness, pride and so on. The selfish man indeed then goes after these positive emotions and the gratification of other emotions. Putting anything else above the achievement of one's happiness is not selfish - because by the nature of our body and mind, the only benefit we have for anything in life is positive emotions. This however, does not mean that "anything goes", that whatever emotions one happens to gratify are a selfish action. If a man feels chronic anxiety and jealousy and acts to gratify his need for destruction he is most definitely not selfish because he does not put his happiness as his highest goal. He rather lets whatever petty emotions and destructive premises he has take over his life, motivation and actions. He gives up on happiness entirely. He gives up self esteem. He gives up thinking and trying to decide what would be the best course of action. He replaces all of this with the ease of drifting on whatever emotions happen to come his way and the satisfaction and relief of jealousy and self-doubt. Selfishness, is actually demanding. Because happiness is demanding. Consider another example: someone who has adopted the idea of altruism as an ideal and feels a sense of satisfaction every time they sacrifice something for the sake of someone else. For example, they work for months saving up to buy something they want very much, and end up giving it to the son of their friends who happen to come over for a visit, because he really wants it. They feel pain for the loss of the item, but a feeling of satisfaction from "doing the right thing". Is that a selfish action, since they acted to gain satisfaction? No, because to be selfish means to actually ACT on the principle of doing that which is the best for one's life. The emotion is nothing but an expression of a subconsciously accepted altruism. If one acts to satisfy it one surrenders fully to altruism, and most definitely does NOT act selfishly. Selfishness is not satisfaction of emotions regardless of their cause - selfishness is satisfying one's emotions which are validated to be "on the right track". So now how does one measure what "the right track" is? Is it just a matter of arbitrary opinion of what one "should do"? No. Recall that in essence selfishness is acting to achieve pleasurable emotions - the best possible to you. Not everything will achieve a feeling of happiness, not everything achieves self esteem, which is a requirement of happiness. It follows then that a selfish man follows, to the best of his knowledge, the principles which would lead to his happiness and that he does not surrender to any "temptation" that could endanger his happiness. Let us look at a few examples. Suppose one is blamed that one is bad for wanting to keep something one values all to oneself. One is told that one should share. One may, out of good faith in people, think that one may indeed be doing something wrong and one is facing a danger of losing friends or the appreciation of the people who bring up the accusation. Here one faces a decision: Will one bypass one's judgment and follow that of others - should one give up that value based on the judgment of others that it is the right thing to do, or should one act based on one's own conclusions? These two are not equal, not both are selfish. If one decides to take others on their word, one gives up one's judgment and replaces it with others'. Not only that, but one actually gives up one's material goods. the dominant feeling one can expect from such a choice is a sense of loss of control. If it is not one's mind leading one's decisions - whose mind is it? Can one feel secure sitting in a car driven by someone else? The second choice may be painful because it involves the loss of some people's approval - but one is making a selfish choice here, because acting based on one's own conclusions, not those of others, is a requirement of life and because one chooses to keep material values one has earned. In time one may discover what mistake those people made in demanding a sacrifice and cease to feel a sense of loss over their withdrawn approval. One's own approval of oneself must always be a primary and come before others' approval if one is to be happy. Whenever one acts on this principle, one is acting selfishly because one is putting one's happiness and mental health above all else. Or how about a case in which no other people are involved - just one man and his mind. One can be selfish or non-selfish even living completely alone. Suppose one day one experiences an emotion one considers to be a sign of someone lame of bad. It could be a feeling of helplessness, frustration, jealousy, fear and so on. One faces a choice here: To recognize the existence of the emotion, or to try to pretend as if the emotion never existed. No other people are involved in such a decision, yet only one path is selfish. Why? Because only one path puts one's happiness above all else. If one tries to pretend that one did not feel what one felt, one seals in the judgment of being bad, or not as good as one had expected. The judgment may be entirely unjustified or based on wrong premises, but if one never looks into it one can never rectify the situation. Choosing to run away from the situation may alleviate one's immediate fear, but it is not a selfish choice since it does not put one's happiness above all else. In fact running away is a choice that seals in self-doubt. This is the reason I call my blog "psychology of selfishness"; the central theme of the blog is how to live in a selfish way: in a way that puts your own happiness above all else. Here is another common choice we face in life: To think or not to think? In any given situation one has the choice to use one's mind to seek the truth or to use one's mind in a different way. For example, on a desert island one can choose to put effort into thinking how to improve one's life, comfort and chances of survival and rescue or one can choose to let self pity take over, hide behind a rock and wait for death. In modern society one can choose to discover the truth in every subject or to try to escape any recognition of failure. To close one's eyes and try to pretend that bad things are not happening. The selfish choice here, again, is one that puts one's happiness and one's life above all else - the choice to think. Because only by thinking and having knowledge, correct knowledge, can one act in an efficient way that actually promotes one's goals and life. Choosing not to think may provide a temporary escape but the price is a sense of loss of control, lack of self esteem and ultimately losing material property as well (or never gaining it). The selfish is acting to achieve that which is good for you. We may make mistakes identifying it in specific situations, but so long as one holds the right principles and acts by them, one is selfish. Take the case of Gail Wynand from Ayn Rand's book "The fountainhead". Gail was wrong on choosing the principle by which he lived. Gail thought he was acting in his self-interest by living the way he did, but despite his thought he lived an unselfish life and he was not happy. Growing up, Gail was a poor boy who worked at "dirty", low-level jobs receiving orders from people which were morally and intellectually inferior to him. Gail grew up to discover that many honest people do not survive in the world. He was furious that evil wins, and decided to let that become the ruling idea in his life. He was so focused on the injustice that he let go of every personal desire to focus only on one: Never to receive another order from a low life. Never to have less power than the others. He became the owner of a tabloid whose content he despised but which brought him a lot of money and power. His life's creation was one which he despised and he worked to give others what they please, but never what Gail Wynand pleased. Gail's mistake was not an error in an application of a principle, but error in the entire principle. The choice he made as a teenager was to base his life's goal not in his happiness, but in preventing evil from having financial superiority over him. It is an honest mistake, and one can easily understand how an honest man might feel so angry at the world - but when he made that anger into the ruling factor of his life he made his relation to other men the ruling idea and motivation of his life. He was no longer living for himself and indeed he spent his entire career writing things that pleased others. This example shows that it is not enough to think that one is acting in one's best interest. To be selfish one must actually adopt and live by principles that place one's happiness above all else. The conventional view of selfishness is wrong. Those people who have no grasp of the value of other people have a psychological problem. The "give me give me give me" mentality and "how rude, you expect something back?" is not the psychology of a selfish person but rather of an unhappy individual who receives no authentic enjoyment from the things he or she have. Those who are capable of understanding the values of others (that something can be precious to someone else) are those who experience such value themselves toward the things they love. By equating this mentality with any desire to enjoy that which one has earned, one is sentencing oneself to a lifetime of guilt. By saying that "everyone is selfish" because they act to gratify their emotions, one ends up ignoring the fact that happiness has specific requirements and demands. "Selfishness" means to act by the principle by which your actions are directed to benefit you, to make you happy. It means that the principles by which you lead your life place nothing above your happiness. Being selfish is both demanding, moral and good for you. Recommended reading (on which my writing is based on, or describes): "The virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand (specifically the article "Isn't everyone selfish" from that book) and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Related article: Selfishness in relationships from my blog. __________________________________________________ Visit the blog to browse other content: If you like the content you can follow it to get updates on Facebook Google reader and so on. Also donations are appreciated if the blog is worth enough to you to support.
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