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Everything posted by khaight

  1. A lot of people have been recommending non-fiction books. While I'm a big fan of non-fiction, it's never going to have the sheer emotional power of a great work of art. That isn't its function. So, some fiction recommendations. First, the Sparrowhawk series by Ed Cline. It's a six-book saga about the genesis of the American Revolution, and it's absolutely superb. The author is, in my opinion, the most talented Objectivist novelist since Rand. The highest praise I can pay him is that his writing never sounds like hers. That isn't a criticism of Rand's writing style; it's a criticism of many other Objectivist writers. They often sound like they're just retreading the thematic and stylistic ground that Rand mapped out -- in extreme cases they sound like they're trying to channel her from beyond the grave. (Terry Goodkind, I'm looking at you.) Ed Cline doesn't sound like Rand, he sounds like Ed Cline. Second, my favorite novel by a non-Objectivist writer: Watership Down by Richard Adams. It's a tale of high adventure, survival in the face of disaster, triumph over an evil totalitarian regime, and it's about rabbits. Just read it, already. Third, and more historical, books by the French Romantics. Rand was a huge fan of Victor Hugo. I haven't read all his novels, but I liked Les Miserables. Other famous books by Hugo include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Man Who Laughs and Ninety-Three. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas are lesser works, but still cracking good reads, as is Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. I haven't read any of Sabatini's other books, but they're on my to-read list, alone with Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. (In case you haven't guessed I have a weakness for swashbucklers.) Most if not all of these books are out of copyright and therefore available in free on-line editions from Project Gutenberg. Finally, on a more contemporary front, just about any novel by Lois McMaster Bujold. Barrayar, Mirror Dance, Memory, A Civil Campaign, The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls are probably her best works, although you need to be careful with the first four because they're part of a longer series that should really be read in its entirety. Most of Bujold's science-fiction work is freely and legally available on the net courtesy of her publisher, Baen Books. You can find them here. That should be enough to keep you busy for a while.
  2. I think there may be something deeper going on as well. An increasing number of people in the country have a malevolent sense of life. For such people, the 'unsavory' is what feels natural and right. They expect to see failure and misery, and so when they do their emotional reaction is "See? That's what the world is like." The desire to read and watch negative events is not hard-wired into human psychology. The media may be responding to immediate economic incentives, but those incentives reflect the philosophical premises with which the country is saturated and the kind of psychology that develops out of those premises.
  3. Might be. I own a Tivo and watch very little television, so if it is I wasn't aware.
  4. And this is a good thing, IMHO. Remember the other part of Rand's analysis of compromise: when principles are stated clearly it benefits the rational.
  5. I laid out my votes and my reasoning in detail here.
  6. When my wife and I were dating we had a number of political disagreements -- particularly on environmental issues. So we argued them, and what we found was that our disputes were based on differences in factual knowledge and on the application of shared principles. Over time and with discussion our concrete political views converged, because we did share the same underlying political values. My conclusion is that disagreement on concrete political issues in the early stages of a relationship can stem from a number of different causes. If it's a result of fundamentally incompatible political values, that's a bad sign. If it's a question of ignorance or tactics, that's less significant.
  7. Yes. Of course, all of this was made possible by -- and depends on -- continued funding from the Anthem Foundation. So if you like what they're doing, get thee forth and give them some money!
  8. I know there is an emerging cluster of Objectivist intellectuals in the Raleigh-Durham area now. Greg Salmieri and Jason Rheins both hold Anthem fellowships at UNC Chapel Hill, and John Lewis holds one at Duke. (Also, is Gary Hull still at Duke? I haven't heard anything from him in some time.) Whether there is significant community or student activity I couldn't say, but the Objectivist academic quotient is off the charts (by Objectivist standards, at least).
  9. Your family isn't necessarily entitled to know the details of your financial situation; rather than lie to them outright just tell them it isn't any of their business. (Your spouse is obviously an exception to this rule.) However, if you are financially capable of supporting them but do not wish to do so I think honesty requires you to tell them that, rather than lie and say you want to but can't afford it. If your motivation for lying is to preserve some relationship which you value, but which would be destroyed if they knew the truth, then you're trying to gain a value by faking reality. (As an aside, these kinds of questions would go really well on the new Objectivist Answers website. Hint hint.)
  10. Heh... right. We must be xenophobes who object to the person who thought up the ideas, rather than the contents of the ideas themselves. These people are so stunted by pragmatism that they have no choice but to reduce everything to character and personality.
  11. And yet these people have no trouble with Karl Marx. Um, isn't he one of those dead white males we're supposed to be shoving down the memory hole?
  12. A minor point: McCaskey wasn't dismissed. He resigned in the face of Peikoff's ultimatum. Peikoff placed ARI in the position of having to choose between his continued support and McCaskey's continued service on the board of directors, writing that "someone has to go, and someone will go. It is your [ARI's] prerogative to decide whom." McCaskey responded to this by resigning, writing that he "believe[d] it would be damaging to the Institute if the Institute acted either way, either acceding to his demand or rejecting it. So I decided to resign from the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute and of the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship." As far as I know the administration at ARI did not make the decision one way or the other, McCaskey did.
  13. I think the real purpose of such demonstrations should be to illustrate the double-standard that the Islamic totalitarians are working to establish -- the idea that Muslims and Islamic symbols must be treated differently. Perhaps a 3-way book burning: Atlas Shrugged, the Bible and the Koran. Do them in that order, and hammer on the point that one should be equally offended (or not) at each case. Only burning the Koran allows people to blur the issue by talking about 'offensiveness'; it would be harder to carry out that evasion if the burner is also burning a book that he himself finds profoundly valuable.
  14. It's easy to bounce off OPAR. I don't think I managed to read the whole thing until last year, almost two decades after it was published, and I own an autographed first edition copy of the damn thing! Bernstein's Objectivism in One Lesson is a much easier overview. It's a bit light on the politics, but if you combine it with his other recent book Capitalism Unbound you'll get that too. Starting with the ethics is often useful because ethics is where the philosophical rubber meets the road in individual people's lives. It's the cash value of the system.
  15. Surely it matters whether one has a reasonable way of identifying the owner of the lost property. Items like wallets or cell phones usually have ownership trails that can be traced -- driver's licenses, phone numbers and the like. A large sum of money might have had its loss reported to local authorities -- if somebody tells the lost and found that they dropped five hundred bucks, and you found five hundred bucks, the odds are that it's theirs. But how are you going to track down the legitimate owner of the quarter you found on the ground? Ought implies can, and in this case you can't. Note that the logic changes, even with coins, in cases where you can identify the owner. Nobody would consider it OK to pick up and keep a quarter that was just dropped by the guy standing in front of you in the checkout line at the store. You know it's his, and he's right there in front of you.
  16. Which book to start with depends on your current knowledge and interests. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is Rand's most technical work, discussing her theory of concepts. It's very abstract and can be difficult to relate to one's own life and concerns, especially if one is relatively new to the philosophy. Rand's core discussion of the nature of individual rights is in her essay "Man's Rights" which is collected in The Virtue of Selfishness. It is also much easier for most people to grasp the connection between ethics and their own lives, insofar as the question "what should I do now?" is present in everyone's life at every waking moment. So given your stated interest I'd say VOS would be an excellent starting point. The lead essay "The Objectivist Ethics" is, along with Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged, one of the best overviews of her philosophy.
  17. Agreed. Ryan talks a good game from time to time, but he's a neo-conservative up-and-comer. If you've read Brad Thompson's Neo-Conservatism: An Obituary for an Idea you'll understand why that's bad news.
  18. You need to identify what your own interests are. Something abstract like 'defending your values' really isn't good enough. Defending them to whom, and for what purpose? Here are some possible reasons for speaking out: To provide intellectual ammunition to more honest lurkers. To strike fear into your enemies by showing them they face knowledgeable, principled opposition. To hone your own skills at debate. To study the nature of your opponents and their ideas 'in the wild'. Because you're so damn frustrated at the state of the world you have to lash out at a target, and they're available. Something else I haven't thought of. Your specific reason for speaking out sets the parameters for what you say and when. As an example, if your goal is to strike fear into your enemies then it can be appropriate to make the argument more personal, striking at emotional weak points and using provocative language, whereas if you are trying to provide ammunition to more honest lurkers such tactics would be counterproductive. Oh, and don't call them liberals if they're actually leftists.
  19. In fairness to the National Review crowd (and without a link I can't confirm one way or the other) they may have been making the point that behavior that gets rewarded gets emulated. If the government rewards those who riot when offended, then they're asking for more people to riot.
  20. A shame. The people doing the burning were unattractive loons, but this is yet another instance of a double-standard being applied to Muslims as opposed to everybody else. IMHO the situation is ripe for a group to stage a Koran-burning for the express purpose of attacking the double-standard. If you really wanted to have fun, do a triple-burn: the Bible, the Koran and (to keep it fair) Atlas Shrugged. The point being to focus attention specifically on the fact that the principle of free expression (and the right to give offense) applies to *all* ideas.
  21. Oh yes, definitely. Stallman's position is basically that property rights do not apply to software because its duplication costs are trivial. On his view, property rights are a socially-convenient mechanism for adjudicating competing claims to scarce resources. Physical objects like toothbrushes are scarce in that only one of us can use them at a time. If I take the toothbrush, you can't have it, and vice versa, so we need some way to figure out which one of us gets it. Software and digital media aren't like that. If you have Photoshop, and I make a copy, you still have yours. It isn't scarce in the relevant sense -- there is no need to adjudicate access because we can both have it, ergo no need for property rights. On this line of thinking if I have a piece of digital media and I refuse to let you copy it, I'm guilty of 'software hoarding'. This view of property rights is false and its consequences are pernicious. At OCON2010 GMU law professor Adam Mossoff traced this theory back to Bentham and the utilitarians and connected it to a variety of modern attacks on the very concept of intellectual property. Eric Raymond's justification for "Open Source" is much more pragmatic. In effect he argues that for certain kinds of software all parties benefit from releasing their source code to the public. It's just a different model for creating value in the software industry. If an individual developer judges that his interests are best served by opening his source code, or by contributing to an open source project, then he should do so. If not, not. Open source is entirely compatible with egoism, as long as you understand that not all value trades are binary or monetary.
  22. The GIMP ('GNU Image Manipulation Program') is a pretty sophisticated image manipulation program. I'm not a graphic artist so I can't comment on whether it has all the features required of a fully professional image editor, but from my layman's point of view it does anything I can imagine needing to do and more. There's also a version for Windows. I'm a professional software developer -- ergo, tech savvy -- and I use Linux as my standard work environment both at home and in the office. I've used Linux, Solaris (on Sparc and x86), MacOS and Windows at various points in my career, and my experience has been that I'm most productive using Linux. I think they don't consider the sales of books once they've been on the market for more that a certain period. It's possible that a new book with the sales numbers of Atlas Shrugged would be on the best-seller list. Very true. The two ideological poles are the 'Free Software' movement of Richard Stallman (bad) and the 'Open Source' movement of Eric S. Raymond (better). Don't confuse the two.
  23. Probably at least a half-dozen times, although it has been many years now since my last re-read.
  24. Good questions. I appreciate your historical knowledge; it's nice to see someone who doesn't think the country was founded in 1968. I think your question poses a false alternative, from the Objectivist perspective. Objectivists draw a distinction between the function of government and the structure; only the former is dictated by philosophical politics. The function of government is the protection of individual rights. The structure of government is validated by its ability to enable the government to perform that function. If a strong centralized government is best for that, so be it. If a decentralized government is best, that's fine too. Figuring out which structure best serves the proper function is a question for political science, not philosophy, and as such Objectivism doesn't take a fixed position. Rand herself was a strong supporter of the Constitution, but typically in contrast to unlimited government -- I don't know of a place where she explicitly contrasted it to the Articles of Confederation. I suspect she viewed that as a secondary issue -- like us, she lived in a time when people had lost sight of the proper function of government, and without that debates over structure are largely pointless. Objectivists definitely reject the government's interference with the money supply and consider taxation morally illegitimate, so those two aspects of the Articles are more consistent with the principle of individual rights. But the lack of ability to make treaties, and the seemingly inadequate provisions for military defense make the Articles look structurally flawed in other ways. Speaking personally, I think the system of checks and balances built into the Constitution by Madison and others is pure genius. Authority should be distributed and balanced because it makes it harder for a small number of men to co-opt the power of government for corrupt ends. That said, though, it is quite possible for a local government in a decentralized system to violate the rights of its citizens locally, and when that happens it is just as wrong as when a centralized government does it. The root issue is always whether rights are being violated. We should not be debating whether government should be centralized or decentralized; we should be debating whether it should be limited or unlimited -- and, if limited, by what and to what? Rand knew of and often recommended the works of Ludwig von Mises, although she had reservations about his neo-Kantian epistemology. She was much less supportive of Hayek. Rand's project goes much deeper than politics. She once described herself as not an advocate of capitalism but of egoism, and not an advocate of egoism but of reason. She argued that if one accepted reason as one's sole means of knowledge and guide to action, with everything that presupposed and required, that egoism and capitalism followed as a matter of course. You can't really understand what Rand was trying to do by focusing on her politics, because the politics are a mere consequence of a much more profound system of thought. Rand's aim in Atlas Shrugged was to explore the role of the mind in man's existence -- morally, socially, culturally and politically. Far and away the best analysis of the novel is the collection Essays on Ayn Rand's _Atlas Shrugged_ edited by Robert Mayhew. The two best short sources for the core of Rand's views on politics are her two essays "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government". For the core of her ethics, read "The Objectivist Ethics". If you're interested in concrete applications of Objectivist principles to cultural and political issues there are a number of essay collections: _Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal_, _Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution_ and _The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought_ provide a decent cross-section. The Ayn Rand Institute has a vast amount of material up on their web site. Oh, and the Ayn Rand Center has a site up called Principles of a Free Society that discusses... well, I'm sure you can figure it out. One final thought -- since you seem to dislike neo-conservatism, I wonder if you're aware of C. Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook's Neo-Conservatism: An Obituary for an Idea?
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