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themadkat

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    themadkat got a reaction from softwareNerd in Evolution and individualism   
    I had to laugh at this a little. I suggested something similar to this in chat once, evolutionary hypotheses about human behavior, and was called a determinist and all other manner of nasty things.

    That aside, from what I know of conflict in the social species, including ours, this is the scenario. Social living imposes a cost on the organisms that engage in it, so if it's maintained over time there has to be some benefit(s) that exceed the cost. Defense against predators, warmth, ease of finding a mate, etc. are some of these possible benefits. But the thing is, once a species becomes social, the possibility of receiving aggression from herdmates goes up dramatically. In more cognitively complex species, such as primates, this leads to a rather impressively complicated social milieu of alliances, coalitions, and nasty group conflicts (for example, the matriline structure found in rhesus macaques).

    To extend this metaphor to humans, we are an obligately social species, but not because of our total inability to cope with natural hazards on our own. Consider that a man can survive out in nature alone if he knows what he's doing and is relatively able-bodied. One can cope with the vagaries of the external world by oneself, if perhaps not very well. What one can't prevent, at least without extreme stealth and the paleolithic equivalent of a castle made out of booby traps, is being ganged up on and killed in one's sleep by a group of other people. In other words, the evolutionary and historical evidence seems to point to collectives primarily arising and being maintained as a defense against other collectives. The ingroup-outgroup dynamic arises because it doesn't matter how you feel towards the outgroup, they are likely to kill you if they can, so your only defense is to have a group yourself that's big enough to handle them. It sucks if your tribemates oppress you, but you need them, because otherwise a different collective will kill you or make you their bitch (I'm not being sarcastic, in the case of females that is often what happens).

    Rand was perhaps perceptive beyond her time, and certainly beyond the contemporary state of the social sciences, when she said that civilization was mostly the freedom from your neighbors, the freedom to have a private life. Only with an impersonal, institutional state can one finally escape the necessity to band together with one's neighbors to avoid being supplanted by a more well-organized group. Observe the situation today in places without governments. People have to band together by things like common ethnicity, language, customs, etc. just to avoid a bigger, badder gang subjugating them. Also observe the state of international politics. If you look at each sovereign nation as a "person", then world politics seems to approximate a Hobbesian "state of nature". If one wants to do right, one has to have might enough to stand up for it. It wasn't right for Nazi Germany to annex Poland, but what could Poland do about it? Not much. So coalitions form around the strongest states and spheres of influence develop.

    For all their attendant irrationality, humans are actually darn good at making the correct decisions given their context or immediately past contexts, even if they don't do so consciously or by the proper epistemological methods. It seems "tribal" man can cope with reality in spite of himself. He can just never do it as well as people committed to rationality.
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    themadkat got a reaction from dream_weaver in Coffee: A short story   
    Author's note: rather than try to explain the origins and purpose of this story, I will just let people read it, and then answer any questions about the references, etc. in the story. All I will say here is that the "I" in the story is not me, although it is a person I know.

    Coffee
    Copyright 2010 A. Kat

    I found myself restless one afternoon, one of those fall afternoons where no one’s around and you just aren’t really sure what to do with yourself. My house was deathly quiet except for the occasional creak of the weathered lumber in the wind. I couldn’t understand why, but I was vaguely creeped out by my solitude. Usually I enjoy, no, need my time to myself. It wasn’t a typical late afternoon, that much was certain.
    I looked at my laptop in the corner, but I knew as soon as I spotted it, laying shut in a corner of my desk, there was nothing I felt like checking out online. My eyes wandered over to the phone and I laughed out loud. There was definitely no one I felt like calling, either. I was in a strange mood, and sharing was not on my list. In fact, staring at the phone I thought it might actually be a good idea to get out of here. I could never be sure when my mother might call and demand another awkward conversation. It had been a while, and my birthday was coming up soon, so by the law of averages she was probably getting ready to dial my number any second. That settled it. I started to grab my coat when I heard a scratching in the corner that startled the hell out of me until I remembered I had not been completely alone to begin with. My boxer, or more accurately my roommate’s boxer that was ostensibly mine as well but not really, was waking up. She stretched and looked at me expectantly, wagging her tail. There was no going solo on this little adventure after all. That was fine. At least this companion knew better than to ask too many questions.
    “C’mon sweetie!” I cooed to her excitedly as I threw a flannel on under my jacket. It was going to be getting dark in a few hours and I had no idea how far I needed to go before I felt right in the head again, so a little extra warmth wouldn’t hurt. Needing no further encouragement, my puppy bounded outside as soon as I got the door open. As I locked up I wondered if I would run into any of my neighbors on the hill, but everything was quiet as death, which further contributed to the creepiness of the whole situation. I didn’t even see any cars in the driveways. It was as if I were the only person in the whole world, me and the dog. I almost went to get my cell phone out of the car before I realized how dumb that would be, my house being out of service range. I dismissed my worries as ridiculous. Of course I wasn’t the last person in the world.
    With puppy in tow I began to walk up the steep hill, leaving my empty house behind. I didn’t look back, but I thought about how much emptier the house was feeling to me of late, more than usual. Something else to ponder. A light wind began to blow off the high hills, making me glad I’d decided to bring the flannel after all. I walked all the way up the hill, past multiple neighbors’ homes but seeing no one. I was grateful. I somehow felt like if anyone saw me right now I’d have to explain myself, and I just didn’t want to. After a long while I got to the end of the road, but I continued on. The wind whistled in my ears, but other than that I blocked the whole world out, focusing on nothing but putting one foot in front of the other. At some point I realized I had wandered deep into the woods, absentmindedly following my excitable boxer. I wondered how long I’d been walking. It didn’t show any sign of getting dark, but I thought it should, because by this point I’d been traveling awhile.
    Further and further up into the hills, and now I was absolutely lost. Normally this would freak me out. I hate being disoriented, especially alone. There are certain people I can do this sort of thing with and feel OK, but getting lost in these woods alone was pretty much terrifying. Not today. Maybe it was the dog. I don’t know. Something drove me on, keeping me on a steady pace to who knows where. I didn’t care where I was anymore. It didn’t matter. The trees were starting to grow a little more sparse as I reached higher altitudes. The wind whipped harder, causing me to button up my flannel and start to zip my jacket when something finally snapped me out of my reverie. My puppy was barking.
    I looked around, taking stock of the situation. I didn’t see any landmarks I recognized. I had been walking a really long time. Why wasn’t it close to dusk? The days had been getting noticeably shorter. I saw the beauty of the leaves on the trees, the color palette streaked across the northern hills, the afternoon light still strong.
    As suddenly as she had started, my puppy shut up, cutting off her yaps abruptly. Without any warning she charged off into the brush. She must have seen a bunny or something.
    “Hey!!!” I yelled out, frantically going after her. If I lost her now, I’d be completely alone. I thought that was what I wanted, when I set out from the house at first, but now the idea of it made me sick. I chased her as best I could, but the underbrush was thick, and I nearly fell on my face a few times. She wasn’t barking, which made following her even harder, but at last I saw her sitting calmly on an overhang. I stopped short, nearly running off of the side of the hill in my clumsiness, and roundly scolded her. It was only then that I noticed the view. I was nestled just shy of the top of a high hill, the small overhang sheltered by the rocky top of the summit. I could see all the valleys stretched out below me, all the way to the river. It was incredible. I felt tears sting at my eyes. I had no idea why. I was overwhelmed by some feeling I couldn’t describe, but even in the solitude, with no one there but my dog, I felt the pressure to keep my composure, keep my emotions in check. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I played it off, as I usually do, with a distraction.
    “Good girl! Good girl, you found something amazing!” I gushed in an overly sappy tone, kneeling down and scratching her enthusiastically.
    “Hey, miss?” a voice called out from behind me. Naturally I screamed and jumped a foot in the air, nearly falling off the hillside a second time. Who the hell was up here with me?
    I spun on my heels, ready to be angry, when I saw something so bizarre all intentions of going off on this guy left me. First of all, the guy himself was preposterous. Standing out here on a windy hilltop, he didn’t have a coat. He didn’t even have a long-sleeved shirt. Instead, he was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt, khaki Carhartts, and a backwards baseball hat. He looked like the kind of guy I’d expect to find in the DOC, bumming around on the steps of Robo at three in the afternoon instead of studying for his week’s worth of midterms. He quickly held up his hands in apology. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I just wanted to ask, y’know, aren’t you gonna come inside?”
    “Come inside?” I repeated dumbly, trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about, when I saw that the overhang I was standing on was actually a narrow path, and just around the corner of the hillside there was a little house of some kind. I hadn’t noticed it before because it was practically carved right into the earth, but its front door was exposed, clear as can be, at the end of the path.
    “Yeah, inside. It’s cold out here, and you’ve come a long way. Don’t you want some coffee?”
    I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, or cry, or both. I’ve frequently pondered life and all of its absurdities, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Out of options, I decided to play along. He was right. I had come a long way, and now I wanted answers. Coffee wouldn’t hurt either.
    “Sure, do you have espresso?”
    “The very best. You can bring your dog in, too. Maybe she’d like to lay in front of the fireplace. Hopefully no one’s allergic!” he finished brightly.
    I followed him through the modest, pastel-painted wooden door, entering the strange house-in-the-hill without any trepidation. After all, things couldn’t POSSIBLY get any weirder, or so I thought. I stepped out from the cold into the most perfect coffee house I had ever seen. It was spotlessly clean except for some muddy spots on the floor and the offending boots piled in the corner nearby. I took off my own shoes as, sure enough, my puppy bounded over to the roaring fire in the brick fireplace at the back of the shop. The counter was on that same wall. I looked at their menu. They had everything, coffee any way you like it, smoothies, and desserts too. There were a few pre-made sandwiches in the deli case too. The guy behind the counter was dressed exactly like the one who had invited me in. “Have a seat, and I’ll be right with you!” he called in a high, friendly voice. He could barely be distinguished from his coworker, except that he’d grown a scruffy, sloppy, light-haired beard, the kind that’s just an excuse not to shave.
    I started to look for a table when I did a double-take. I don’t know how I didn’t notice when I came in, but every table was occupied. Just about everyone in the coffee shop was older, or at least looked older, and were dressed in sweaters and slacks for the most part. There were more men than women. I felt like I recognized a few of them, but trying to pin down who they were I felt my mind sliding over foggy glass. It was hard to be somewhere that was at once so familiar and so strange. This coffee shop could have been on any street in Montpelier or Burlington, but I knew I couldn’t have possibly gone that far, especially without the sun going down. I felt my natural awkwardness around strangers rise up in my chest, and I started to wonder if I should have come in after all. As I looked back towards the door, deliberating on my course of action, someone else came in and shut the door rather roughly behind him, causing the little bell at the top of it to jingle alarmingly. When did that get there? I didn’t remember hearing a bell when I came in.
    The teen who had let me in took the newcomer’s coat at the door, as if on cue. “The usual today, J.D.?” he asked with a smile as he threw the dusty overcoat on a rack I hadn’t noticed before either. When did I become such a space case?
    “Yeah, yeah, make it snappy!” the old man grumbled irritably. He shuffled past me, not even looking in my direction. “Bunch of phonies,” he muttered under his breath, taking the fourth seat at a table already occupied by three other old men, next to a scruffy man with swept-back hair and a beard and mustache. The man was already drinking his coffee and resting his other hand on a book that looked like the title said east of something.
    I might have bolted then and there except that I had already taken off my shoes and I really did want a coffee. I was trying to remember whether I’d brought my wallet when I noticed a table almost hidden in the far corner, next to the fireplace and perpendicular to the counter. There were only two chairs at that table, and one of them was occupied by a smallish woman with short, dark hair. She, too, was drinking coffee and absentmindedly picking at a muffin, seemingly absorbed in a thick-looking book. Almost as soon as I saw her, she looked up from her reading and transfixed me with a gaze so intense that I only remembered seeing it from one or two other people in my entire life. Her eyes were as dark as her hair, her mouth turned down in an almost contemptuous frown. I was tempted to ask what I had done to earn such a piercing stare when her face suddenly brightened, as if intense sunshine had broken through storm clouds all at once. She was smiling at me. I knew where I had to sit.
    Hesitantly I trudged over to her table and sat at the other chair across from her. The table was a bit long, and I was glad for the extra distance between us. This woman seemed to radiate vitality. It was a bit much to be in the presence of that, what with all my confusion and uncertainty. As soon as I scooched forward in my chair, she was back at her reading again, seemingly ignoring me. It wasn’t that she objected to my sitting down with her. Whatever she was looking at was far more interesting than me, I guessed.
    One of the servers came over, this time a dark-haired tie-dye boy. “What can I getcha?” I started fumbling around in my pockets and realized I had forgotten my wallet. Why would I bring it along for a walk, anyhow? I didn’t expect to be stumbling upon any lost coffeehouses!
    “Um…” I answered, unsure what to do.
    “Order whatever you want, darling,” my companion interjected in a heavy Russian accent, waving a hand dismissively at me and not looking up from her book, Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.
    “I’d like a double espresso, please,” I eagerly stammered, realizing I was going to need all the caffeine I could handle to survive this experience. Crunchy server boy nodded and, after topping off my tablemate’s mug, went off to get mine. “Thank you,” I added to the woman across from me, “but I thought you didn’t do charity.” I was now quite sure who I was dealing with, and could make a reasonable guess about what kind of place this was.
    “Check your premises, dear,” my formidable benefactor chuckled as she snapped her book shut and laid it against the wall. The sun was streaming through the windows behind my head, illuminating the dust in the air and making the old formica table gleam. “I enter into every venture with profit in mind.” She smiled at me, and I was taken aback for the second time how rapidly she could shift from disinterest or hostility to friendliness.
    I cast a quick glance towards my puppy, comfortably asleep in front of the fire. My espresso showed up as if on cue, and I began to nurse it. Well, I guess I did want answers. Be careful what you wish for, I chided myself. “What is this place?” I asked her. There was something reassuring about her monumental presence, although admittedly I was somewhat at her mercy. Then again, that was about par for the course for my life. I mixed comfort and helplessness like oil and watercolors, forcing them to blend into a sloppy suspension I could bathe in.
    “Well, it’s a coffee shop, of course, and on Tuesdays they have the best deals on knish, it’s really delightful,” she told me as she leaned in conspiratorially, as if she was letting me in on a crucial secret. I was still just trying to figure out what knish was.
    I very nearly blurted out, “So aren’t you dead?”, before I realized that was a bit of a rude question. Besides, there was something more pressing on my mind than that. I rearranged my question mentally and tried again. “Am I dead?”
    My conversation partner laughed out loud, a disarming, gleeful laugh. She did the dismissive hand wave at me once more. “Oh, darling, don’t be ridiculous!” She met my eyes inquisitively. “Do you feel dead?”
    “Well I…”
    “No, no, no,” she interrupted me. “The real question is, do you feel alive?”
    “I – don’t know.” I answered truthfully.
    Her expression suddenly turned deadly serious, her severe features grim. “You must know. You must choose to live. Values don’t come automatically, you know, not to a being of volitional consciousness.” She started to reach for her book again, or so I thought, but grabbed her coffee at the last second. I feared that my vacillating, uncertain spirit could not hold her interest for long. I had to talk, fast.
    “I do have values. I have a lot of good things in my life.”
    “Oh? Do tell. You have a career that inspires you?”
    I thought of my soul-crushing office job and shuddered. “Not exactly.”
    I could have sworn for a minute I saw something on her face that looked like pity, but it quickly passed. “But you are a young, beautiful girl. Surely you have romance.”
    This made me smile. “Yes, I’ve got that. I found someone wonderful. He asked me to marry him.”
    Her eyes sparkled almost girlishly in response. “So you have your hero. Given that, many things in a woman’s life become easier to bear.”
    “Hey, weren’t you married?” I recalled that she’d picked up an actor somewhere along the way in the whirlwind that was her life.
    “Oh yes, my Frank,” she beamed. I cast a glance over my shoulder surreptitiously, but I saw no one that evoked “her Frank” in the crowd, only a quiet shop filled with the spirits of Titans, serviced by a cadre of hippies.
    “Is he…?”
    “He’s not here,” she replied in a monotone, her face falling. I was afraid that in my curiosity I’d hurt her.
    “I’m sorry,” I told her with genuine regret.
    “What’s your name, girl?” she asked, the keen interrogator once again.
    I felt my lips move, and although I was surprised at the words that came out, I knew I couldn’t have answered any differently. “It’s Dominique.”
    Her lip curled into a half-smile I couldn’t read, her dark eyelashes drooping over her oversized, searching eyes. “Of course it is.”
    I shifted in my chair and downed the last of my drink just as one of the crunchy boys refilled hers. She went through coffee remarkably fast. I couldn’t help but notice that her eyes followed the server as he walked away.
    “I like that one. He has a very aristocratic face, don’t you think?” Before I could even start to reply she continued on. “I once said that Dominique was something like a representation of me in a bad mood. Are you?”
    “Am I what?”
    “In a bad mood, of course.”
    I started to snap back in reply when it occurred to me that was answer enough in itself. I took a breath and thought about my situation a bit more carefully. “I don’t know. Sometimes. I can get irritated with everything, and everybody, but I’m not in a bad mood all the time. I can be cheerful and bouncy too, although admittedly sometimes that’s just a front for when I feel awkward and don’t know what to do with myself. Mostly I just feel like I’m not sure. I’m not sure about much of anything these days.”
    She sighed and nodded very gravely, a knowing expression on her face. “Yes, chronic doubt and skepticism is a great epidemic among the young these days. I see it all too often. Maturing minds that should be agile and quick are paralyzed with self-doubt. It’s the culture. The culture is poisonous to the average young person today. But you aren’t like them, are you dear?” Although it was technically a question, she said it as a statement of fact.
    “No. I’m not.”
    “I didn’t think so. You’re not one to be swept up in the gutter flow. So you don’t have a career that can inspire you. You don’t have an all-consuming passion you can pursue. You’ll find one yet, if you’re open to it. Give it time. There’s no reason to be down on yourself. At least you have love. You’ve found your Roark, I take it.”
    I snorted before I could stop myself, the picture of my lover appearing in my head being about as far from Roark as could be. “Not exactly. The Roark type is a bit harsh for my tastes. I need someone more gentle and caring, who won’t get wrapped up in bending the world to his will and forget all about me. My partner is sweet.”
    “But surely he is a man you can look up to.”
    I recalled what she had written about the essence of femininity being hero-worship, and it never exactly sat right with me. I have my girly moods, sure, but being sufficiently feminine was never an overriding concern in my life. Still, it was true that I admired many things about him, so instead of quibbling over the fine points I simply nodded, and this seemed to satisfy her.
    “He makes you feel like a woman,” she beamed back at me.
    I caught the meaning behind her words and felt my cheeks flush with happy memories. “Yes, he does,” I agreed.
    “Frank always did for me,” she added, her eyes wistful. I saw that faint trace of pain in her expression again and wondered why, exactly, she ended up alone in this strange place. But then, I still didn’t know what I was here for, either. Never one to dwell on memory, my conversation partner snapped me back to the present. “Surely you have met someone who can inspire your other values, however. Have you never known a person who singlemindedly pursued his chosen course, blind to risk, derision, and all the rest? You, who are clearly exceptional in your own right, must know someone like yourself, but more focused.”
    “I’ve known a few very special people like that, sure.” And yet, does their single-minded struggle really make them happy? Did hers? I wondered. I thought of someone in particular almost right away, in answer to my own query. “I know someone who can’t be stopped by anything or anyone, a person of pure will.”
    “Aha!” she cried mirthfully, slapping her hands on the table with joy and nearly spilling her coffee on her book. I didn’t expect such an outburst from her, but then again her energy seemed almost boundless. “Now that’s the example you can follow, can really admire. Someone truly creative, I take it?”
    More memories for me to smile at, most because of how ridiculous and fun they were. “Almost to the point of insanity, but I mean that in a good way.”
    “Fantastic. A friend of yours, then.”
    How could I ever explain the deranged roller-coaster ride that was our history? Her description would suffice, if only for simplicity’s sake. “Yeah.”
    “What does he do with all that talent and drive you speak of?”
    “She,” I corrected her, “is a scientist and a philosopher, an ecologist to be exact.”
    Her expression instantly changed to one of disgust. “A shame, what a waste,” she tsked, the disapproval glaringly apparent.
    “What, what’s wrong?” I asked, genuinely confused.
    “Well, ecology is the most despicable, anti-man philosophy out there,” she sniffed, “so your friend is either profoundly mistaken in her premises or corrupt to the core.”
    “How can you say that?” I challenged her, more amused than offended. “You’ve never met her and you know nothing about her except what I just told you. So how can you possibly have enough to go on to make a judgment like that?”
    “Judge and prepare to be judged,” she shrugged. “Failure to make a judgment is much worse. The ecologists are drastically mistaken about the state of nature. They always search for some holy equilibrium that can supposedly be found in the environment, which man disturbs by his very existence, marking him as evil. But nature’s rule is change, flux, not stagnation. No living thing can remain in ‘equilibrium’. Pursue values or die. That is the only choice open to an animal, and for man the choice is even more explicit. Choose to think or die. The ecologists either believe that man can live on instinct, like animals do, or know he cannot and condemn him to death on that basis.”
    “I don’t think you understand what environmental scientists do.” I was feeling bolder now. “My friend seeks to learn about nature, not fit it into a pattern she’s already decided upon, and she’s every bit as egoistic in her pursuit of values as you are.”
    “A true scientist learns about nature so it can be mastered and put to the use of man. Tell me your friend is not a misanthrope.”
    Here I knew she had me. “So what if she is? People have earned it, by being stupid and cruel. I guess you could say I’m a misanthrope too. Aren’t you? Don’t you look down on those who don’t think, who throw reason away?”
    “You know as well as I do those people are unimportant. They don’t represent what man really is. They are but a distraction.”
    “How can you make that argument when most people act that way?”
    “If everyone acted irrationally all the time, they would not survive.”
    “That’s true, but most people are selectively rational. They don’t have the discipline to live by reason all the time, but they still get by. Why should the best people be taken as the standard of what humankind is? Why aren’t people like us the freaks, the aberrations? Most people are really just concerned with getting from one day to the next, and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I wonder why I hadn’t paid more attention to that myself. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so lost now, looking for a greater significance that’s nowhere to be found.”
    “This world belongs to the greatest, not the least among us,” she asserted in a low, calm voice, but with a hint of menace behind it. “It is those who create the great cities, the great breakthroughs in technology, the great works, that are truly men.”
    Now I had her. I just knew it. “But those cities you love so much still depend on the land. We’re still tied to nature, and a real ecologist seeks to understand those ties. You loved living in New York City, but did you ever see where your food came from? Did you see all the land that had to be worked so that you could get a sandwich at the diner? What person can create a pig from scratch? We still count on the pigs to do that. Man can’t live apart from nature any more than a newborn can survive without its mother. You know what? The environment is important to me too, not because I hate people and want to destroy them, but because I’m trying to find the ways we can flourish within it, instead of fight with it. I hate when people fight because it’s an unproductive waste of time. I feel the same way about ill-use of the land. I wish I could safely ignore what other people do, especially when they’re clearly being idiots, and say that it doesn’t affect me. But this is one area where what others do affects me, unavoidably so. I know what it means to have no room for a garden, dammit, and I don’t like it. If you want your great cities and machines you can have them, but there are other things that matter more, in my world.”
    I finished my rant and looked at her, half expecting her to throw my enthusiasm back in my face with an equally sound retort. Instead she just peered at me through narrowed eyes, then took on what I can only describe as a shit-eating grin.
    “What?” I asked, feeling drained.
    “Such commitment, such certainty of yourself,” she purred. “The mark of a passionate valuer. Still suffering from your ennui?”
    “Huh. How ‘bout that,” I mused. She looked so self-satisfied, I wondered about her intentions. “Did you do that on purpose?”
    “Certainly not. And I can’t say I agree with you. But within your context, your values might indeed be rational. At the very least, they are life-affirming, which is a good start. That your eager defense of your position rekindled a fire in you was a pleasant side effect.” She spread her hands almost apologetically. “You should know that I was only trying to protect you, dear. You spoke so admiringly of someone who sounds, to me, like a scoundrel. It is a terrible thing to find out that a person you thought was a hero is not. I hoped I could spare you that pain.”
    I sighed and shook my head. “Been there, done that already. I’ve found plenty of people to be disappointed with in my life.” I met her burning eyes again. “You have too, haven’t you? Didn’t you end up having a break of some kind with most of your friends? And then there was…”
    “Nathan,” she finished bitterly. “Yes, he was supposed to be my intellectual heir. I thought that he was everything a man ought to be, but in the end he was dishonest and rotten to the core. He didn’t accept a life of reason at all. He was a second-hander in the worst sense.”
    “Wasn’t he your lover?” I seemed to remember something about her having an affair with a younger man.
    “He didn’t deserve me,” she sniffed.
    “That must have made it worse, finding out you had hurt your husband for no real reward on the back end.”
    “Hurt Frank?” She cocked her head in puzzlement. “No, no, Frank knew about it. He accepted it.”
    “Are you sure about that? I mean, I might not have the story straight. I believe you that you told him, but how can you say he was OK with it?”
    “Frank was supremely rational, as rational as I am. I worked out how it was that he would not be hurt by what I was doing, and he must have seen that it was only logical I should be with Nathan too, since he was, at least as far as I knew at the time, a great man himself, and very much in love with me. You must understand, if you are completely dedicated to living a life of reason, you can have more than one love. How can you not, if you meet another deserving person?”
    “No, no, I’m not arguing that point. I’ve done it myself in the past. I don’t deny that you can have multiple loves. But it seems so obvious that what you did hurt your husband. Didn’t he ever object even a little? Didn’t he ever seem uncomfortable with what you were doing?”
    “I already explained to you before that Frank could not possibly be hurt if he was looking at the situation rationally, and he must have,” she finished, crossing her arms and leaning earnestly towards me. She turned her head a little to the side, showing me her striking profile. She looked like she had been carved from one of Roark’s quarry stones. “But you are correct that every moment with Nathan was wasted time. If I were religious I would say he was something along the lines of a ‘false prophet’. Beware the false prophets, dear. They say all the right things, but there’s nothing behind it.”
    “Like I said, way ahead of you there. Seen it too many times. Believed it too many times.”
    It was then that my canine finally stirred from her nap, rolled over, and stretched. For the first time I looked out the window to see that the sun was starting to drop behind the horizon at last. “Uh oh.”
    “It looks like your animal has finished her rest,” she said to me with the same easy smile from before. “I suppose it’s time for you to go.”
    “I think you’re right.” I was surprised at the regret I felt at the prospect of leaving. I was having a good time, sipping espresso and talking to this intellectual giant.
    She frowned slightly at my puppy, who trotted over to us wagging her tail. “You know, darling, you really ought to have a cat. It’s much more becoming. I always had cats, myself.”
    “I have half a share in a cat, you could say. But you’re right, I always did like cats more.” I started to gather myself up to go.
    “You should come back sometime, especially on Tuesdays,” she told me, reaching for her novel as the hippy boy refilled her coffee yet again. “The knish, I’m telling you.”
    “I’d be happy to, but I get the feeling it won’t be so easy to find this place again.”
    There was the knowing gaze again, somewhat unnerving. “That’s true. If you need to find it, you can, but otherwise it might be difficult indeed.”
    “Well, I’ll probably come back someday, one way or another,” I called back as I started putting on my flannel and my coat. I still had no idea how I was going to make it home before sunset.
    “Bring someone interesting next time,” she suggested. “Much as I love Hugo, he can only hold my attention for so long.”
    “I’ll see what I can do,” I chuckled. I was about to open the door when one of the tie-dyed guys stopped me.
    “Here’s something to take with you,” he told me as he handed me a to-go cup with a lid. I could see the steam rising out of the tiny drinking slot. This coffee was fresh, no question. “It’s going to be cold out there.”
    “Thanks!” I bounced a little in spite of myself.
    “Don’t thank me. It’s compliments of your friend over there.”
    I turned to call out my appreciation, but I could see she was engrossed in her reading again and I knew better than to bother her. I could just tell her next time.
    Waving my goodbye to all of the rather attractive, if scruffy, servers I collected my dog and started the long journey back to my house. The sun’s last rays were coming up over the mountains, and I knew as soon as I was off the hilltop it would get dark very quickly. I had no flashlight or anything. All I had was my puppy and some scaldingly hot coffee, which I took great pains not to spill on myself. I was going to have to walk home in the dark, and there was nothing to do but find a way through. The funny thing was, it didn’t make me nervous at all. For some reason I knew that I would make it there all right. The feeling I’d had that made me set out on this little trek in the first place was long gone. One foot in front of the other. That’s all I needed to do. It didn’t matter if the forest was as dark as spilled ink. I’d find the place I was meant to be.
  3. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from Jonny Glat in To pursue or be pursued?   
    As to your first point, certainly Rand thought it was more appropriate for men to pursue women in romance and for them to take the active part. In her own life, however, she did not do this - she pursued Frank O'Connor (in fact she tripped him), she pursued Nathaniel Branden, and she may have pursued several other young men as well although they did not actually begin a relationship. I am hesitant to speak for "Objectivism" but my honest understanding is that, like so many other things, IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL. Clearly, from your post, you prefer to be pursued. If this is the case, you should probably strive to be with men who are willing to pursue you. There is such a thing as romantic compatibility in addition to just personal compatibility. You should not apologize for or be ashamed of your preferences. However, you should also understand that they are not universal and that it is not "better" to prefer to be the pursuer or the pursued. In fact, it may even change from relationship to relationship - with one person you (the royal you, not you in particular) might do better as the pursuer and in another relationship with a different person it might be better for you to sit back and wait.

    There are many rational reasons to take either role (or to mix them up, there's no law that says each person can't do a bit of both). When you pursue, you can feel confident that you are taking action to achieve a value and that your success or failure is more dependent upon what you yourself have done. On the other hand, you run the risk of rejection and you are "showing your hand", so to speak. When you are being pursued, you essentially ask the other party to make an "upfront investment" in you. You have a position of power whereby you can take or leave what someone else has offered. The downside to this is that you may feel like you are left waiting around, that you aren't doing anything, that the dynamics of your relationship depend primarily on another. It is my belief that either the pursuer or the pursued can be "in control", but they are different forms of control.

    Your second point re: feminism. I don't know. It depends on what sort of feminism you mean. There is a type that seems to hate masculinity for its own sake as well as any behaviors perceived to be masculine, such as assertiveness, stoicism, etc. I would not, however, blame feminism per se for the lack of confidence the young men you run across seem to feel. I would just say they probably don't have much self-esteem which is a cultural problem more generally. Keep in mind that many, if not most of those traits often associated with masculinity are also strongly tied to individualism. Someone who does not know how to be an independent guy may simultaneously lack "masculine" qualities for that reason.

    I will just finish with the thought that often thinking of "men qua men" and "women qua women" obscures the issue, in my opinion. There are many different kinds of both men and women, which is a good thing. Keeping the discussion to opposite-sex relationships for simplicity's sake, a "traditionally" masculine man might be a wonderful mate for one woman but not another. Although clearly some qualities are objectively desirable (intelligence, good health, strong character), the precise combinations of those traits that are optimal are highly individualized. Some women would consider a wealthy, powerful man dedicated to a socially-valued career (doctor, lawyer, politician) and desiring to be in charge of his household and family a wonderful mate, but I would not.

    The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and your values. If you won't be happy with a passive guy, then don't pursue them and make yourself uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you're just striking up a conversation with a more timid guy, that doesn't seem like such a big deal. You're just talking, right? You don't expect every man you talk to or befriend to be a potential partner, do you?
  4. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from bluecherry in To pursue or be pursued?   
    And those differences are? The only thing I can think of as a big-ass difference off the top of my head (besides plumbing) is that women have a shorter time-frame, vis-a-vis their entire lives, to have children than men do. This might cause a reordering of life priorities IF AND ONLY IF having biological children is important to you.

    What, in your opinion, are the salient differences between men and women from the perspective of "harmonious interaction"?
  5. Downvote
    themadkat got a reaction from aequalsa in To pursue or be pursued?   
    And those differences are? The only thing I can think of as a big-ass difference off the top of my head (besides plumbing) is that women have a shorter time-frame, vis-a-vis their entire lives, to have children than men do. This might cause a reordering of life priorities IF AND ONLY IF having biological children is important to you.

    What, in your opinion, are the salient differences between men and women from the perspective of "harmonious interaction"?
  6. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from bluecherry in To pursue or be pursued?   
    As to your first point, certainly Rand thought it was more appropriate for men to pursue women in romance and for them to take the active part. In her own life, however, she did not do this - she pursued Frank O'Connor (in fact she tripped him), she pursued Nathaniel Branden, and she may have pursued several other young men as well although they did not actually begin a relationship. I am hesitant to speak for "Objectivism" but my honest understanding is that, like so many other things, IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL. Clearly, from your post, you prefer to be pursued. If this is the case, you should probably strive to be with men who are willing to pursue you. There is such a thing as romantic compatibility in addition to just personal compatibility. You should not apologize for or be ashamed of your preferences. However, you should also understand that they are not universal and that it is not "better" to prefer to be the pursuer or the pursued. In fact, it may even change from relationship to relationship - with one person you (the royal you, not you in particular) might do better as the pursuer and in another relationship with a different person it might be better for you to sit back and wait.

    There are many rational reasons to take either role (or to mix them up, there's no law that says each person can't do a bit of both). When you pursue, you can feel confident that you are taking action to achieve a value and that your success or failure is more dependent upon what you yourself have done. On the other hand, you run the risk of rejection and you are "showing your hand", so to speak. When you are being pursued, you essentially ask the other party to make an "upfront investment" in you. You have a position of power whereby you can take or leave what someone else has offered. The downside to this is that you may feel like you are left waiting around, that you aren't doing anything, that the dynamics of your relationship depend primarily on another. It is my belief that either the pursuer or the pursued can be "in control", but they are different forms of control.

    Your second point re: feminism. I don't know. It depends on what sort of feminism you mean. There is a type that seems to hate masculinity for its own sake as well as any behaviors perceived to be masculine, such as assertiveness, stoicism, etc. I would not, however, blame feminism per se for the lack of confidence the young men you run across seem to feel. I would just say they probably don't have much self-esteem which is a cultural problem more generally. Keep in mind that many, if not most of those traits often associated with masculinity are also strongly tied to individualism. Someone who does not know how to be an independent guy may simultaneously lack "masculine" qualities for that reason.

    I will just finish with the thought that often thinking of "men qua men" and "women qua women" obscures the issue, in my opinion. There are many different kinds of both men and women, which is a good thing. Keeping the discussion to opposite-sex relationships for simplicity's sake, a "traditionally" masculine man might be a wonderful mate for one woman but not another. Although clearly some qualities are objectively desirable (intelligence, good health, strong character), the precise combinations of those traits that are optimal are highly individualized. Some women would consider a wealthy, powerful man dedicated to a socially-valued career (doctor, lawyer, politician) and desiring to be in charge of his household and family a wonderful mate, but I would not.

    The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and your values. If you won't be happy with a passive guy, then don't pursue them and make yourself uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you're just striking up a conversation with a more timid guy, that doesn't seem like such a big deal. You're just talking, right? You don't expect every man you talk to or befriend to be a potential partner, do you?
  7. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from JASKN in The Alligator River Story.   
    Oh my Gawrsh, what a completely stupid, backwards list!!! Your class apparently suffers from the worst sort of altruistic delusions about morality and love. No wonder people behave so screwed up today.

    Someone needs to smack your class upside the head with the simple truth that "sacrifice" should not play any part in romance. Also, the idea that the "rejection" of someone else's "sacrifice" makes one immoral is repulsive.
  8. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from Dreamspirit in To pursue or be pursued?   
    As to your first point, certainly Rand thought it was more appropriate for men to pursue women in romance and for them to take the active part. In her own life, however, she did not do this - she pursued Frank O'Connor (in fact she tripped him), she pursued Nathaniel Branden, and she may have pursued several other young men as well although they did not actually begin a relationship. I am hesitant to speak for "Objectivism" but my honest understanding is that, like so many other things, IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL. Clearly, from your post, you prefer to be pursued. If this is the case, you should probably strive to be with men who are willing to pursue you. There is such a thing as romantic compatibility in addition to just personal compatibility. You should not apologize for or be ashamed of your preferences. However, you should also understand that they are not universal and that it is not "better" to prefer to be the pursuer or the pursued. In fact, it may even change from relationship to relationship - with one person you (the royal you, not you in particular) might do better as the pursuer and in another relationship with a different person it might be better for you to sit back and wait.

    There are many rational reasons to take either role (or to mix them up, there's no law that says each person can't do a bit of both). When you pursue, you can feel confident that you are taking action to achieve a value and that your success or failure is more dependent upon what you yourself have done. On the other hand, you run the risk of rejection and you are "showing your hand", so to speak. When you are being pursued, you essentially ask the other party to make an "upfront investment" in you. You have a position of power whereby you can take or leave what someone else has offered. The downside to this is that you may feel like you are left waiting around, that you aren't doing anything, that the dynamics of your relationship depend primarily on another. It is my belief that either the pursuer or the pursued can be "in control", but they are different forms of control.

    Your second point re: feminism. I don't know. It depends on what sort of feminism you mean. There is a type that seems to hate masculinity for its own sake as well as any behaviors perceived to be masculine, such as assertiveness, stoicism, etc. I would not, however, blame feminism per se for the lack of confidence the young men you run across seem to feel. I would just say they probably don't have much self-esteem which is a cultural problem more generally. Keep in mind that many, if not most of those traits often associated with masculinity are also strongly tied to individualism. Someone who does not know how to be an independent guy may simultaneously lack "masculine" qualities for that reason.

    I will just finish with the thought that often thinking of "men qua men" and "women qua women" obscures the issue, in my opinion. There are many different kinds of both men and women, which is a good thing. Keeping the discussion to opposite-sex relationships for simplicity's sake, a "traditionally" masculine man might be a wonderful mate for one woman but not another. Although clearly some qualities are objectively desirable (intelligence, good health, strong character), the precise combinations of those traits that are optimal are highly individualized. Some women would consider a wealthy, powerful man dedicated to a socially-valued career (doctor, lawyer, politician) and desiring to be in charge of his household and family a wonderful mate, but I would not.

    The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and your values. If you won't be happy with a passive guy, then don't pursue them and make yourself uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you're just striking up a conversation with a more timid guy, that doesn't seem like such a big deal. You're just talking, right? You don't expect every man you talk to or befriend to be a potential partner, do you?
  9. Like
    themadkat reacted to Steve Weiss in Objectivism and homosexuality dont mix   
    Sexual attraction is problematic. Even heterosexual men do not agree on what is sexually attractive. One often sees some of the oddest couples. I've seen guys that weight 300 pounds with beautiful young women who weigh 100 pounds. Or very tall guys with petite girls. Who can explain the attraction?

    In my view, most women are bi-sexual. Women do things that "straight men" would be very reluctant to do, like kissing, holding hands, sleeping in the same bed, trying on each others clothes and shoes, etc. Women consider this touchy-feely stuff to be normal, and many experiment with doing lots more. At the same time, many men who are in declared heterosexual relationships are messing around with gay men, and even gay prostitutes. Sexuality, like most behaviors, falls along a continuum. I think that there are blatant male homosexuals that one can identify as they walk by and who are open about their lifestyle, while others are more subtle. My tennis partner is gay, but not blantantly so, and I have had meals with his partner and his friends some of whom are real screamers. I wondered what the gay guys were thinking about me being the only straight guy at the table. I don't think that it is valid to generalize about lifestyles and roles. I don't have firsthand knowledge of what gays do, and I'm not in the least bit curious about it either. I also don't go to clubs and pick up women because night life doesn't appeal to me, and I don't drink alcohol. Different strokes for different folks.

    If the act of male homosexual behavior is perverted, why then are so many men and women into anal sex? They are doing what male homosexuals are doing, just with different gender partners. Homeosexuality: what is it? Is anyone who ever had a same sex experience a homosexual or a latent one? Personally, I think that if one experiments that way one is bi-sexual, and I wouldn't even think that that might be something interesting to try. I also wouldn't climb a mountain or visit underdeveloped countries. Those experiences do not appeal to me. So, who is the normal one? Most people like to go to the beach. I don't. Most people drink alcohol. I don't. Most people wants kids and pets. Not me. So, do we say that the norm is just a statistic? The answers are not readily evident.
  10. Like
    themadkat reacted to Jonathan13 in Does the Right to Life Trump Property Rights?   
    No, Objectivism is not at war with America, nor is Islam, Catholicism, Kantianism or any other philosophy or religion.




    Atlas Shrugged played a part in inspiring McVeigh. He cited AS in his writings. And, as I mentioned earlier, prominent Objectivists have claimed that Howard Roark's destruction of others' property was "morally legitimate" and "logical." That could be seen as proof of advocacy of initiation of force, or, at the very least, of the advocacy of massively disproportionate, unjust and extralegal retaliatory force (vigilantism). Anyone wishing to use Peikoff's methods against Objectivists, and use the force of government to deny their property rights, could cite such facts.

    Do you have any proof that any Islamic literature or building near ground zero in NYC has inspired, or will inspire, anyone to kill Americans or destroy their property, or that it will inspire anyone to initiate force in any way?




    I'm sure that if the issue were to become a public controversy, we could very easily find victims' family members who would claim that the displaying and selling of Rand's novels in OKC constitutes a propaganda victory for violent anti-government types like McVeigh. But I thought the issue was our metaphysical survival, and not a mere "propaganda victory." Are you saying that you think that Objectivism supports the idea of denying others' property rights if we feel that their use of their property constitutes a propaganda victory against us?




    It gave a morale boost to McVeigh, so I don't see why it wouldn't do the same for other potentially violent people. But I really don't see the relevance of the "morale boost" argument. It is not a crime to give a moral boost to anyone. The only relevant issue is whether anyone poses an imminent threat to what Peikoff calls our "metaphysical survival." Certain rap lyrics and even opera librettos could be seen as giving a "morale boost" to those who would perpetrate violence, but I don't want to distort Objectivism so as to deny property rights to rappers and opera companies.




    I'm defending Objectivism against people who are distorting it for the purpose of advocating violating others' property rights.




    I don't think that it was right for Dagny to kill the guard. She easily could have bound and gagged him. But my judgment of the scene is not a moral criticism of Rand, but an aesthetic criticism -- I think the scene comes across to me (and to many others) in a way that Rand hadn't intended.




    I think the train wreck scene is a little too cold for my tastes. It's often interpreted as a punishment fantasy, and is exactly the type of thing that would be used against Objectivists to deny their property rights using Peikoff's methods.




    I think there are some minor problems with the plot of Atlas Shrugged here and there, some of which involve people behaving in unrealistic ways in order to serve the plot. Frisco's not telling Dagny -- the love of his life -- everything about the friends he met at school is one such problem, as is his not doing everything possible to include her in the stopping of the world. Again, that's an aesthetic criticism, and not a moral one.




    I have no problem with Galt withdrawing from society and luring others into doing the same. Withdrawing is not initiating force. It makes sense.




    No, I don't think that the idea of people withdrawing from society is evil. I only think that the initiation of force is evil, and the disproportionate/unnecessary use of retaliatory force, and I'm disturbed by the psychology of anyone who would feel less than they'd feel about killing an animal when killing someone who is unknowingly a pawn in a larger conflict.




    Yes, and I agree with the Objectivist view of property rights, which is why I oppose Peikoff's views on the issue.

    J
  11. Like
    themadkat reacted to Dante in Why Dont any Major Objectivists Participate in Online Forums?   
    Peikoff should not name a successor because the idea is ridiculous. Experts on Objectivism should be identified by the independent judgment of each listener, and there is no reason to have one as the 'head' of the movement now that Rand is gone.
  12. Like
    themadkat reacted to Jonathan13 in Why Dont any Major Objectivists Participate in Online Forums?   
    Awesome.




    Why do you assume that an Objectivist "expert" knows more about any subject than anyone else, and that anyone who disagrees with the "expert" must be mistaken? We haven't even brought up any specific issues, yet you're position is that the only proper action of anyone who disagrees with an Objectivist "expert" is try to understand his own mistake? And daring to suggest that an "expert" might be wrong is an "insult"?

    In other words, you're saying that the Objectivist "experts" are infallible -- that they are always right, and those who disagree with them are always wrong (and therefore need to "try to understand their mistake"). So, what I'm wondering is how does one get promoted to Objectivist "expert" status and therefore achieve infallibility? Does one somehow demonstrate one's infallibility? If so, I'd be eager to learn how, since, as I've said in an earlier post, the overwhelming majority of Objectivist "experts" have not faced peer review or rigorous scholarly criticism of their work or their beliefs.




    I think Peikoff deserves criticism. And I think Rand would agree if she were alive. I think she'd be outraged at some of the things he's said and done in the name of Objectivism.




    I think that your mindset about Objectivist "experts" and their infallibility is what's insulting to Objectivism.

    J
  13. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from Xall in Self-interest versus rights   
    Several people have already mentioned to me that there is no point in replying to you unless and until you actually read what Rand wrote, but I do want to make one more minor point here. Objectivism does NOT agree with the doctrine known as psychological egoism, whereby "acting in one's self-interest" becomes a tautology. Psychological egoism is basically like saying "Why did you do that? You chose this, therefore you wanted this, therefore people want whatever it is they end up choosing to do." Objectivists hold that not only is it POSSIBLE to act against your self-interest (in contrast to psychological egoism where it is not), people do it ALL THE TIME, to their ultimate detriment. Don't confuse psychological egoism with ETHICAL egoism (the Oist position). Because people are able to act against their interests, it is all the more important that they think carefully about the course of their whole lives and avoid doing so.

    Last time, Objectivism is NOT a pleasure-maximizing philosophy. We are not hedonists. We are not all about getting a feel-good on in the range of the moment. Is the pleasure-pain mechanism useful and good? Hell yeah it is. It tells you not to touch a hot stove or let anyone jam pointy objects in you. More seriously, your body does let you know when you are pushing yourself too hard or something is wrong, and if you are in serious emotional turmoil there's probably a good reason why, and you should look into that. But being in a state of pleasure or pain in any given moment, devoid of context, is likely to say NOTHING about the state of your life overall. That, specifically, is why I gave you the heroin example.

    I'll give you a personal example. I had surgery on a joint recently. Rehab exercises and deep tissue massage often hurt like hell. Would it be better for me to avoid this (admittedly pretty bad) pain, baby the joint, and ultimately keep it from recovering as well as it might? Damn, I suddenly made my body sound like the economy just then. Funny that...
  14. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from whYNOT in Self-interest versus rights   
    Several people have already mentioned to me that there is no point in replying to you unless and until you actually read what Rand wrote, but I do want to make one more minor point here. Objectivism does NOT agree with the doctrine known as psychological egoism, whereby "acting in one's self-interest" becomes a tautology. Psychological egoism is basically like saying "Why did you do that? You chose this, therefore you wanted this, therefore people want whatever it is they end up choosing to do." Objectivists hold that not only is it POSSIBLE to act against your self-interest (in contrast to psychological egoism where it is not), people do it ALL THE TIME, to their ultimate detriment. Don't confuse psychological egoism with ETHICAL egoism (the Oist position). Because people are able to act against their interests, it is all the more important that they think carefully about the course of their whole lives and avoid doing so.

    Last time, Objectivism is NOT a pleasure-maximizing philosophy. We are not hedonists. We are not all about getting a feel-good on in the range of the moment. Is the pleasure-pain mechanism useful and good? Hell yeah it is. It tells you not to touch a hot stove or let anyone jam pointy objects in you. More seriously, your body does let you know when you are pushing yourself too hard or something is wrong, and if you are in serious emotional turmoil there's probably a good reason why, and you should look into that. But being in a state of pleasure or pain in any given moment, devoid of context, is likely to say NOTHING about the state of your life overall. That, specifically, is why I gave you the heroin example.

    I'll give you a personal example. I had surgery on a joint recently. Rehab exercises and deep tissue massage often hurt like hell. Would it be better for me to avoid this (admittedly pretty bad) pain, baby the joint, and ultimately keep it from recovering as well as it might? Damn, I suddenly made my body sound like the economy just then. Funny that...
  15. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from Dante in More annoying questions   
    I think you have a real fundamental misunderstanding of Objectivism here. Of COURSE it is morally OK to help someone who develops Alzheimers - in fact, if it is someone like your mother or father (assuming they were good parents or even decent parents to you) it's pretty much immoral not to. What Objectivism is against is UNCHOSEN obligation, not freely chosen aid to people you value. It's absolutely moral for me to care for and assist, for example, my autistic sister because she may never be fully independent. I love my sister, I value her, and to fail to help her would be inconsistent with my values, thus harmful to my life. It is also moral for a stranger to help my sister IF that person chooses to do so (say, through a charity dedicated to autistic people). What is NOT moral is for me to force a stranger to care for my sister whether they want to or not, because I can't or won't, and using government as an intermediary vehicle for that force makes it even more immoral.

    It's been said before but you really, REALLY need to read Rand before you come in here and ask stuff like this. You would have a lot better sense of the philosophy. You are far too focused on what Objectivism is against and not at all focused enough on what it is FOR. Objectivism is pro-values. Other people are frequently values.
  16. Like
    themadkat reacted to softwareNerd in The issue of entrance costs.   
    If you read up a bit more on this, you'll find that "monopoly" is not synonymous with "monopolistic".
    Anyhow, so you're talking about so-called "monopolistic markets" and not about monopolies. Well, the underlying notion of "perfect competition" is a rationalistic mind game rather than something related to reality. Those who propounded that model-of-the-mind as being some type of ideal have no notion of the actual source of wealth. Implicitly, they buy into a materialistic viewpoint, which they (ironically) share with the Marxians. They do not understand that wealth is primarily driven by knowledge and behavior, not by material processes -- those are secondary to the former. Having glossed over this essence of wealth-production, they then reduce all people to some model-average. Added to this, they ignore the essential nature of man's consciousness: that man is not omniscient. They think that hungry man gets value when he eats, and they're even willing to count as value the services of the guy who delivers the food. Yet, they insist that the knowledge that the food is available, the knowledge about the quality of the food ,and so on, are not economic values. So, when Dell assemble a computer, it is value, when they send it to the customer it is value, but when Dell tells a customer about it, these economists reject that as not being a value.

    Schumpeter called this economic model "Hamlet without the Prince". The model best belongs in some type of sci-fi book, and has no relevance to the real world. All it gives us is absurdities like "Strong Efficient Market Theory".

    The payoff behind the "perfect competition" model is that it pushes an egalitarian ideal. Once we "assume away" entrepreneurship and knowledge as being relatively unimportant, we're left with this notion that people are more equal, followed by the notion that they all deserve to get similar values. Happily, government then picks up on this idea and uses it to undermine and reverse the very meaning of freedom. So, if two people are interacting without actual force, the government now has a justification for coming in and insisting that one of them is really not free, and may not interact that way.

    All of which is a way of saying this: far from being some disruption of the ideal state, so-called "monopolistic competition" is the norm and is ideal in the real world.
  17. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from ropoctl2 in A Critique of Objectivist Philosophy of Religion   
    General note: if I recall correctly, ctrl y is a fellow who used to be an Objectivist and now considers himself Christian. The only reason I mention this is because some people seem to think he is not familiar with Oist principles and I believe it is the case that he is very familiar with them and disagrees anyway. I don't know if this affects how people choose to engage in this argument, but it might.
  18. Like
    themadkat reacted to 2046 in My Social Contract Debate   
    If we follow the premise to its end, that only emigration constitutes withdrawal of consent, then we have to come to regard a contracted state as a voluntary institution on par with private business firms. (And indeed this is the view adopted by modern social contract theorists such as Buchanan and Tullock. See The Calculus of Consent, 1962) If there is to be no market in law enforcement, then why is your tax-funded state is acting on the premise of a company selling its services and refusing those services to those who don't pay up? That is the same premise of competing agencies of protection under anarchy, the only difference being that your state outlaws competition to preserve its monopoly. The anarchists point out here that the government is right to only protect its voluntarily paying contractual customers, but it is unjust to prevent others from contracting with a competing agency. A government that derives its justification from a contract between private property owners is proper, but a compulsory monopolistic agency of taxation is incompatible with that end, they say.

    Since there is no right to retaliate according to one's whim, the state is correct in preserving its monopoly insofar as the monopoly is needed to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, but since it denies protection to people who do not pay taxes, it is therefore in principle like a mafia protection racket that has monopolistic control over its turf, and can charge monopoly prices in order to ensure protection against against itself. If it wishes to act on the premise of a morally proper government, then it must retain the legal monopoly on the use of physical force to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, it must be funded voluntarily, and it must afford equal protection to all within its jurisdiction. It must either operate on those later premises or cease to have the grounds to call itself a fully morally proper government.

    The point here is about the principle involved. You actually are the one that cannot continue to disavow the principle of anarchy and simultaneously claim that the state is any kind of voluntary arrangement. The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force. The morally proper state is such because it protects voluntary interactions by upholding individual rights as its principle for existing and acting, because that and only that principle is itself the basis of voluntary arrangements, such as contracts.


    Well that's good. Good thing I never said that then. You have for the third time now used this straw man in this argument. The options are not limited to:

    (A.) Each citizen enforces his own laws
    (B.) The government enforces the laws and taxes the citizens in order to have the means to do so. Non payment of taxes includes either (or both) criminal punishment or denial of protection.

    But there is another option:

    (C.) The government enforces the laws and is funded voluntarily. There is no criminal punishment, including denial of protection, for non payment.

    Elsewhere you haven't refrained from admitting this option (C.) exists, you just claimed it would be impractical, so why ignore it now and keep attacking your straw (A.)?



    This is false because charging for lottery tickets and souvenirs does not represent an initiation of physical force. Selling rights-protection, including deeds to land, trademarks or patents, however, does.


    She explicitly stated that she did not propose a system to accomplish that. Consider the following:

    The question of how to implement the principle of voluntary government
    financing—how to determine the best means of applying it in practice—is a
    very complex one and belongs to the field of the philosophy of law. The task
    of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to
    demonstrate that it is practicable. The choice of a specific method of
    implementation is more than premature today—

    As an illustration (and only as an illustration), consider the following
    possibility.

    This particular “plan” is mentioned here only as an illustration of a
    possible method of approach to the problem—not as a definitive answer nor
    as a program to advocate at present. The legal and technical difficulties
    involved are enormous...

    Secondly, all I claim is seeing that her example of a contract fee includes denial of redress for fraud in the law courts as a consequence of non-contribution, then it is inconsistent with her stated premise of voluntary funding (force is used only against initiators of force), and inconsistent with her later conclusion of protection being guaranteed to all regardless of payment status, not as a moral duty or obligation by the benefactors of government funding to the poor, but as being in the rational self-interest of the contributors themselves to avoid the state of anarchy and the state of depriving the right to life from non-payers, who then receive the protection services as a bonus, not as a sacrifice.


    You are the master of straw men. For the fourth time, the disagreement is not about having the right to enforce your own laws or contracts, and not about having the right to “opt out” of any government whatsoever, but about the conditions under which the government refuses to enforce contracts. That is explicitly what I've been disagreeing with you on (I even put “NOT” in all capitals in a previous post.) Is there any point in continuing such a conversation where you continue to ignore the objections against your position and just argue yourself in a circle? Obviously, you just don't want to deal with the objection.


    The relationship between and individual and his government is the sole gauge of statism. The principle that a man's life belongs to the state is exactly the one employed in the social contract theory of the state.

    The idea that a collective state contract representing “the united will of a whole people” in the words of Kant forms the basis of politics, is the idea that, as long as free emigration is allowed, the government by means of whatever the state contract consists of, owns the entire territory of the nation (and has a right to keep out all dissenters to the “contract”), and therefore also the life of the men called “citizens” and “residents” and can therefore dispose of his it and his work. If those who write the government's contract-constitution and ratify it to include the idea that the initiation of force, for example coerced levies to be paid to the government's fiscal department, is part of “citizenship” and “residency,” then that is statism. That is, every contracted state is assumed to have unanimous consent of everyone residing in “its” territorial area, and only emigration counts as a “no” and the withdrawal of consent, thus only emigration forms the basis of a violation of any right by government, as long as the action was “contracted” by it. If, so long as free emigration is included, such a contract goes further to include the “clause” that all property belongs to the state, that your children are to be sent to some euphemism for a concentration camp, that your wife violated some contracted “law” and is to be executed by firing squad, that you are to be assigned to a profession, i.e. forced labor, and that even though if you don't like it you can “love it or leave it,” i.e. obey or get the fuck out whilst we take your land and house, then that is statism, not enforcement of anything “voluntary.” Once this contracted state has come into existence, regardless of whether one has expressly agreed to pay its fees or submit to its decrees, no matter what this government does, one has “tacitly” consented to it and whatever it does, as long as one continues to remain in “its” territory. But since morality logically precedes politics, and the principle of individual rights proceeds and forms the basis of the justification for government, how did the state get this moral right to own the entire territory, Grames? Where did it get that right?

    Saying that “well if the citizenry is virtuous, then they won't do this” (your objection to any expansion of government power beyond defense of rights in another thread) is an evasion of the moral propriety of the design of such a system, not an answer. Saying “because that would require delegating additional rights to the government” (another one of your objections) ignores the fact that since you base the justification of government on contractual grounds, you have already delegated whatever rights the state-contractarians have unilaterally foisted onto you and your children in perpetuity, whether you consented or not, on principle. What basis do you have then, Grames, to oppose any governmental initiation of force, as by your own premise, we would have to consider any “status quo,” whatever that may be, Obamacare, Social Security, progressive taxation, antitrust, cronyism, regulations, or any outright slavery which in the future will become the new status quo up to and including censorship, executions, concentration camps, and dictatorship, as existing and ongoing implicit socially-contracted consent, so long as you remain in the US, and so long as a majority of your fellow contractors believe you should be forced in any way they please?

    Among other requirements, a valid contract, however, requires several things:
    1. offer and acceptance, by which one party extends an offer and the other party has an opportunity to freely accept or refuse to accept,
    2. consideration, usually understood to mean that there is an exchange of value for value, but at the very least an exchange of wills in accordance with (1),
    3. legal intent, that is, the contract may not oblige parties to do anything which is illegal (social contract justification of the state begging the question much?)
    4. capacity, that is, the parties are both of mind sound enough to give valid consent and agreement

    All contracts require valid offer and acceptance and that no one has a right to represent someone else in a contract that he did not consent to such contract or such representation, or else that is representation without authorization, or as Rand says, “slavery embellished with fraud.” You cannot now say “well all that can't be in the contract because that would be wrong,” otherwise you are abandoning the collectivized contract as the basis of political norms. If it is illegitimate for the socially contracted government to conscript, then it is illegitimate for the socially contracted government to tax. If it is morally right for the socially contracted government to tax, then it cannot be wrong if the socially contracted government includes conscription, total expropriation, and forced labor in its collectivized contract, as long as you can leave the country. Which way is it going to be Grames? This time, logically, no middle ground is possible. Since no individual acting separately can morally use force to destroy the rights of others, it necessarily logically follows that the same principle also applies to the force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces, that is to government, and no contract can be considered valid which claims the opposite, even if that claim amounts to “but we need to use force to get the money to use force defensively.” Such an objection is an abandonment of logic and rational self-interest.

    Rather the foundation of government cannot then be contractual, but the entire basis for government and the entire basis of a constitution is a normative moral foundation rooted in rationality and egoism, linked to a social context by the concept of individual rights for the purpose of subordinating society to rational moral law, as wonderfully explained in such greats as “Man's Rights” and “The Nature of Government.” (And others such as Peikoff "Individual Rights as Absolutes," "Government as an Agency to Protect Rights," Branden "Government and the Individual," Smith “The Relationship Between Individual Rights and Justice,” Smith “Moral Rights and Political Freedom,” Hart “Are There Any Natural Rights?” and Bernstein “Individual Rights and Government”) The constitution is law (and laws are rules of action, and rules of action are derived from morality, not from arbitrary collectivized contracts, otherwise you collapse into the subjectivism and circularity mentioned in the previous paragraphs), not any kind of contract and was never intended to be such an instrument (if it were, then on the contractual theory, it has no binding validity except as between those who actually consented; in contrast to on the egoist moral theory, where a constitution has binding validity only insofar is it upholds and objectively protects inalienable individual rights, while specifically forbidding the government to violate individual rights or to act on whim), as Oppenheimer noted, no government has ever been formed on this basis historically, and that notion is in no way consistent with the Objectivist ethics or politics.

    The central error of the classical liberals was exactly this attempt to justify government and social norms on the basis of some allegedly self-evident axiom of voluntary submission of the governed (such as one that can be deduced exclusively from "pure reason" without relying on metaphysics and the evidence of the senses), instead of a rational moral basis. The government is not justified because some men decided to contract it on behalf of everyone, but on the contrary, government is justified because men have a moral obligation to respect things like contracts, an obligation which arises from property rights, which itself arises from the conditions required for man's proper survival by his nature. You cannot tell us that contracts ought to be protected because we contracted with the government to protect them, such a response is circular and invalid. Rational egoism is the only justification that both consistent and harmonious with both civilization and man's life qua man, and that requires a government that has no legal authority to initiate force, a government where the initiation of force is banned, not one where the initiation of force is called voluntary “because we made a contract for you and you can get the fuck out of our country if you don't like it.”


    “Civilized” my ass. If you’re willing to initiate physical force (which ultimately means you are willing to murder someone if he refuses to leave his private property), in order to get his money to fund government because you think that is the only way we can “live together,” you’re clearly not interested in “living together” or in the requirements of man's life qua man. You're interested in robbing and enslaving him simply because you can’t, or don’t want to, figure out how to finance what little indispensable government functions men actually do need without coercion.

    However, we already know, as Rand cogently pointed out, “how not to fight against” statism:

    1. We know that statism can only win because its opponents “concede its basic moral premises,”

    2. and that “[w]ithout challenging these premises, one cannot win.”

    3. Thus “only a strong, uncompromising stand—a stand of moral self-confidence, on clear-cut consistent principles—can win.”

    4. Most people do not originate their own ideas, but “[p]eople can always sense... hypocrisy.”

    5. “In any issue, it is the most consistent of the adversaries who wins,” therefore absolute consistency is required to win. But keep knocking over those straw men. Anarchy! Anarchy! Anarchy! It's taxation or anarchy! No alternatives! That man won't pay his taxes! Hunt him down! There is no other way!
  19. Like
    themadkat reacted to DavidV in Is Wikileaks morally right?   
    Many people are uncritically accepting the government's and the media's lies without doing much research. Some facts:

    WikiLeaks is a four year old organization based outside of the U.S.
    Over the last four years, WikiLeaks has published many leaked documents, most of it having nothing to do with the United State government.
    WikiLeaks does not obtain any information, illegally or otherwise. It only publishes information which is provided do it anonymously by third parties.
    U.S. law applies within the United States. The United States is not a global dictatorship (yet.)
    A group of foreign citizens doing something in a foreign country cannot be guilty of treason. Treason is something that applies to U.S. citizens living under United States law.
    Major U.S. newspapers are publishing the same materials which was published by WikiLeaks without any consequences. This is because the U.S. government feels that there will be less of an outrage if it violates the rights of a group of unknowns rather than a major newspaper.
    The Supreme Court has ruled that publishing secret government documents by the media is protected by the first amendment. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_Papers
    There is no evidence of anyone ever being harmed by the leaks. The leaked cables are carefully selected and edited before release.
    Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people died and are still dying because the U.S. government lied.
  20. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from Pianoman83 in The Logical Leap by David Harriman   
    I don't post terribly much and I ought to know better than to post in a topic like this, but if I get flamed for this, so be it.

    This sort of feuding going on is exactly the sort of reason why Objectivism hasn't been and by all indications won't be widely accepted in academia any time soon. I am seeing entirely too many posts that seem to endorse what Harriman is saying simply because it is Harriman and he is endorsed by Peikoff. All that should be important is the merits of the work itself, regardless of who wrote it or who likes it. If you like The Logical Leap because you think it is a legitimately great book, fantastic. Maybe it is a great book. I haven't read it.

    What really bothers me is the idea that something coming out of an Objectivist scholar is somehow above or outside criticism. This is exactly the opposite of how academia works. When you put a work out there, you need to expect it to be attacked and contested from every angle (sometimes even unfairly!). You're prepared for it, you're strong enough to take it, and you certainly don't get insulted by it. The essence of academia is thick skin and many folks in ARI circles, most especially Mr. Peikoff, don't seem to have it. I don't have any reason to attribute this trait to Mr. Harriman, not from the evidence I've seen anyhow. Maybe he does have the greatest advance in inductive reasoning ever. I hope he does. If that's the case, his work will stand on its own merits against ALL comers, much as a work like Atlas Shrugged does.

    I would like to see more serious discussion of Objectivism in academia, and in fact I try to introduce that into my own discourse with students and colleagues as appropriate. My hat is off to scholars like Tara Smith who are wrangling with the academic system and all it entails. In order to do good work, though, you've got to get rid of any shred of argument from authority or experience, and it seems to me Peikoff has taken something personally here, though I have no idea why he should.

    The best thing to do in this whole debate is take all the names away. Nullius in verba. Forget who said what and focus only on WHAT is said, then check that against reality. In the end, reality is the final arbiter of everything. It is also fruitful to consider what Sophia said above - Objectivism is ONLY the work of Rand herself. No one else, not Peikoff or anybody, is writing more Objectivism. But that's OK. The point is to get at reality here, not to try to piggyback off of the monumental achievements of Rand.
  21. Like
    themadkat got a reaction from CapitalistSwine in Sociology and Objectivism   
    I should start by saying that I am an anthropologist, and anthropology and sociology are traditionally antagonistic fields for some bizarre reason (even though they have a lot in common). My office-mate once described sociology as "the science of handing white people surveys", and it is certainly the case that much sociology is done this way.

    That said, although I have many problems with the way sociology is practiced and structured, to say it is an illegitimate field of study is going way too far. You might as well say that all of the social sciences are illegitimate (I know some Objectivists believe this, but I hope it is not the majority). Sociology is most valuable for the level of analysis at which it operates. It is worthwhile looking at trends at the level of society, as well as looking at individual behaviors in the context of the society in which they occur. After all, even completely rational, independent actors have their decisions structured by the society in which they live, BECAUSE they are rational. In other words, the state of society makes some decisions pay over others, such that rational people will make those particular choices for identifiable reasons. Otherwise, those choices might not make sense and people may appear to be acting irrationally when they are really just acting as rationally as they can in a given context (for those of you familiar with jargon you might detect me taking an agency standpoint here, that is certainly my theoretical orientation of choice).

    I also believe that some sociologists have made valuable contributions. For example, I think it was Derek N who said he had read Weber and Durkheim and that was part of the reason he had a negative view of sociology. I admit not having read them extensively, but from what I do know of them, what was so bad about them? Durkheim's theory of mechanical vs. organic solidarity seems to make a lot of sense to me and account successfully for social cohesiveness in a modern, differentiated society where people tend to specialize their interests. As for Weber, his definition of the state is so similar to Rand's that I wonder if she didn't read him at some point and build on some of his ideas. The main difference between Weber's definition and Rand's is that Weber's is descriptive while Rand's is normative, but the language is nearly identical and Weber's came first.

    Writing off whole fields of study because they aren't currently done well = fail.
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