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Everything posted by MinorityOfOne

  1. Actually, I recommend that anyone who is interested in evaluating Branden's moral character read the excerpt. In a sense, it's even more damning than his recent antics on Diana's blog. Even putting aside how much of it must be literary license (as in any reconstructed dialogue) -- and even putting aside that it's a second-hand reconstruction -- think about how implausible the whole thing is. First, the obvious point: look at how Rand is portrayed psychologically. If this were true, Rand would somehow have lowered herself from being the heroine who stood up against *everyone* in developing and espousing her own revolutionary philosophy... and became a neurotic mess? Second, look at how she is portrayed morally. The genius who insisted that her distinguishing trait was not her intelligence but her honesty, whose commitment to grasping reality was sufficient to develop the entire Objectivist philosophy -- she becomes a habitual liar? And last, look at how she is portrayed *intellectually*. I hadn't noticed this the first time I read it, a while back, but she's really portrayed as an idiot here. Not only is she perpetually confused, but in this story, she can't even keep her lies straight over the course of a two hour conversation. Does that sound like Rand? Or does it sound more like someone's defense mechanism? Now, this isn't to say that none of it happened. But given the implausibility of NB's story, on top of his general lack of credibility, the only proper way to view this excerpt is as totally arbitrary. Because there's no way to separate what might be true from what might not, the entire account is rendered useless as a historical document. Incidentally, that chapter *did* turn up in the re-release of Branden's book. One interesting change is that he says the recording of the phone call, which in the online version was never played for anyone, has also been destroyed. This I find *most* implausible. Why wouldn't they play it for anyone? He can't claim it's out of some sort of respect for her privacy. If it were, he would never have printed the chapter. This is the old "oops, the evidence disappeared, but believe me, it was there at one point" trick. (Reminds me of the thread on the Mormans.) Anyway, enough on that. The moral of the story: Branden is, as Diana Hsieh put it, a dishonest prick. There's no reason to even give anything he says about Rand the status of "maybe". It has no cognitive value at all.
  2. Cool, enjoy it. :-) Incidentally, I referred to "Understanding Objectivism." It may have come across as though I was referring to a chapter in the book, but it's actually a series of lectures available on tape from http://www.aynrandbookstore.com. I'd recommend reading OPAR first, though, as the lecture course is primarily directed at people who already have a fairly thorough grounding in Objectivist philosophy.
  3. That's not at all a good way to think of it. Morality isn't essentially restrictive; that's a relic of the artificial divide between morality and prudence. It's not that morality tells you what not to do, and beyond that, anything goes. Morality is a *positive* guide to how to live. If, as in Objectivism, the goal of morality is to teach one how to live successfully, the basic question is not "what shouldn't I do," but rather "what should I do?" This is all ground that's been covered, though. I'd suggest taking a look at Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand." Peikoff also has an excellent discussion of the implications of the "restriction view" of ethics in Understanding Objectivism, where he points out that it contributes to resentment of Objectivism and philosophy in general. If you accept that morality's basic function is to cut off options, rather than to open options, you eventually come to view it as being in conflict with your interests and either repress or rebel. One last tip before I drop this topic, at least for now: if you're familiar with the Objectivist epistemology, notice that the Objectivist ethics is an application of it. Ethics is the conceptualization of human action. Well, if you just mean that there are some ethical theories which are end-directed and some that are not, it's not false. My point is that it's not helpful. A lot of theories which claim to be deontological actually do have implicit teleological elements, and miscategorizing them can really harm one's attempt to understand them. If you want to categorize ethical systems in a similar way, I think it's best to ask what the intended beneficiary of action is in it. Then you end up with (I think) three fundamental categories: altruism (others), egoism (self), nihilism (none).
  4. Charles, Not sure what you're objecting to in my post. I didn't claim that deontology and pragmatism are *the* implications of the more fundamental dichotomy. In derivative fields, that dichotomy can play out in a number of ways. Just to give one example, pragmatism is not the only type of ethics which can result from subjectivism: there's also, e.g., hedonism. I'm not sure how your schema is supposed to clarify anything. What would be an example of a deontological-emotional theory? The only way I can interpret that is as distinguishing theories, like Kant's, which can give a reason for their duties, from those where it's explicitly based on faith. But I don't think that's a very fundamental divide, and so I don't see why categorizing theories as you do is supposed to be useful.
  5. No, Objectivism isn't compatible with deontology. Deontology treats ethics as a set of commandments; Objectivism treats it as a set of principles, directed toward the achievement of values. To be precise, deontology doesn't deal with moral obligations; it deals with duties. As you mentioned, a duty is a principle severed from an end. Rand discusses duties in "Causality vs. Duty" in Philosophy: Who Needs It, if you're interested. You wrote: Well, that's mostly right. Of course Objectivism is anti-pragmatism, and of course the morality of an action is a critical concern. But notice that the reason for this is different in Objectivism than in deontological ethics. In Objectivism, the first question is what the *purpose* of ethics is -- why be worried about morality at all? And Rand's answer is that one *must* be concerned with morality, because morality is the method of conceptualizing one's actions and directing them at long-term goals. So in Objectivism, it's not that one is concerned with means before ends; it's that one's concerned with means *because* one is concerned with ends. Deontology vs. pragmatism is one of the many false dichotomies offered by modern philosophy. If you're familiar with Rand's identification of the intrinsicist/subjectivist dichotomy, you can see how they fit together: deontology and pragmatism are just ethical implications of intrinsicism and subjectivism. The solution isn't to reject one in favor of the other, but to recognize that they're both wrong, and that Objectivism offers an alternative.
  6. Betsy, Interesting chat. I think you may have mentioned some of that stuff on here before... By the way, given one of the old threads on here "Interesting eBay Auction" or something like that), I found the library discussion hilarious.
  7. Scott, No, I don't intend to go to the Franklin Covey training stuff. As I said, I wasn't all *that* impressed with their whole method. I like the focus on connecting plans to values, but I think the implementation is kind of skewed. I'm all for being conscious of one's value hierarchy, but I don't need to have half of my planner dedicated to it. I want something that's good for keeping track of projects, goals, and schedules. David Allen's system, so far, looks most promising for that. (By the way, his website is www.davidco.com. There's a lot of good stuff on there, though not much that really serves as an adequate preview of the book.) One thing I hate about using planners is the whole process of adjusting to things that come up. Maybe it's just because I'm new to it, but I only really see three ways to deal with it. (1) Schedule a bunch of down time spread through the day so that surprises don't interfere with the schedule as a whole; (2) Rewrite the day's schedule after dealing with the surprise; (3) Use the schedule only for appointments & other stuff that can't be changed except in the case of a serious emergency. (1) is kind of ineffective, (2) is incredibly annoying and time-consuming, and (3) defeats the purpose of serious planning. I actually did find something that's *so close* to solving this... but not quite. There's a great planning software called "Above & Beyond" (www.1soft.com) which uses "dynamic scheduling" -- in other words, the software basically does your schedule for you. You plug in tasks, durations, time restrictions, and priorities, and it basically puts things where they ought to be. Fixed appointments don't get moved, but the rest of your tasks can be set as "floating", which means that they don't have a particular time they have to be done. Then you can set restrictions on that, like within work hours, before a particular deadline, or whatever -- even have it automatically split tasks between different days. It's a hell of a software package, and I'd consider buying it if it had any decent Pocket PC support or Outlook integration. But it doesn't, and my desktop doesn't fit in my pocket. Apparently it has a fairly crappy ability to communicate with Palms, but I read some discussion forums, and nobody seems to like it at all -- it overwrites all other schedule data in the palm whenever you sync, and it doesn't update the desktop software if you put something new in the palm. Supposedly they're coming out with a PPC version at the end of the year. Something to look forward to, perhaps...
  8. That looks AWESOME. As I was watching the trailer, I kept thinking "this looks even better than Crouching Tiger"... and then it turns out it's by the same producer. I can't wait. Oddly, though, the title doesn't show up in IMDB, and it's not listed for Jet Li either. Do you have any more information about it?
  9. I've been reading some books on time management lately, and it's interesting how much of it is really just applied psycho-epistemology. Stephen Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" focuses on the need for a "principle orientation" -- and he means by that very much what Objectivists mean. You have to form principles and stick with them, or you'll be lost in the midst of a million concretes that you can't possibly wrap your mind around. Overall, though, I think Covey's system is fairly weak. I've been much more impressed with Steve Allen's "Getting Things Done". I'm still reading through it, and I haven't actually implemented his system yet. But one GREAT point he makes is the need to record tasks objectively -- to use external tools to clear your mind, so that it can focus on the task at hand. How often have you sat down to work on some project and, a couple minutes later, been distracted by the thought of something else you have to do? Maybe it's a newspaper article you intend to read, or something you have to get at the store, or a call you have to make at some point during the day. Allen points out that this is a product of misuse of the mind. To put it in Objectivist terms, when we decide to do something, we give ourselves a standing order to remember to do it. For appointments, this isn't so bad (so long as we actually *do* remember it): if a doctor's appointment pops into my head, all I have to do is look at the clock to see if it's time for it yet. If not, no big deal -- I go back to what I was doing. But other tasks form what Allen calls "open loops": items that swirl around in our heads, occasionally being tossed at us for re-evaluation by our subconscious. Since we haven't decided (and perhaps shouldn't yet decide) when to do them, our subconscious follows our orders to continue requesting a reevaluation. "Do this now, or later?" Allen's "Getting Things Done" system is intended, among other things, to eliminate these open loops. In principle, it's fairly simple: get all the open loops down on paper, categorize them based on context (office? home? etc.) and type (appointment? project? someday/maybe?), and get them recorded in an orderly and external system. If you do this in a way that you can trust -- i.e., you have a system which you know you will reference, and you know will deliver you the goods when you need them -- your subconscious will shut up and let you get on with the task at hand. Allen calls this state "Mind Like Water". Whatever the merits of his actual system, which is hard to evaluate prior to actually trying it, I think this is a brilliant way to deal with the limitations brought on by the crow and by the nature of standing orders. The brain can only deal with so much -- so instead of overloading it with requests, systematize the information, and give it just a few higher-level tasks (like organization and referring to the system) to deal with. I'm wondering if anyone else has looked into the time management literature, or anything relating to it. The books I mentioned are literally all that I've read, so I'm interested in recommendations too, as well as any general comments anyone might have.
  10. I'm not sure this is worth responding to, but what the hell. Look -- why take a class on Aristotle? Why take a class on Plato? Why take a class on geometry, for that matter, when you could just read Euclid? Obviously, because there is a benefit to learning from people who are more knowledgeable than yourself in the topic you wish to learn about. Your post is, for lack of a better way to put it, retarded. Who's claiming to speak for Ayn Rand? I assume by "comprehensive" you mean "there's nothing more to be done in philosophy than what was done by Ayn Rand" -- who's claiming that? If somebody is -- somebody involved in OAC, not some jackass on some message board -- I'd love to know it. I've never seen it. I've seen it happen. More than a few times. Want to know the response? Usually a few minutes of debate, and then the class moves on. No hassle. Of course, the professors are Objectivists, so they tend to defend Objectivist positions. But they also spend a good deal of time playing devil's advocate -- and doing a damned good job at it -- in order to get people to really think the issues through for themselves. I can imagine a situation in which someone might be removed from the class for taking some particular position -- say, for example, someone decided to become a rabid communist. ARI is picky about who they allow into the classes, and for good reason. They're spending a lot of money on them, and the goal is to train Objectivists to become better intellectuals. If someone decides to depart substantially from Objectivism, what value is ARI getting from their investment? But that said, to my knowledge it hasn't yet happened. (I've heard a very different story about Damien Moskovitz than what's on the TOC website, if you have that in mind -- but I'm not going to discuss that here, because I don't know anything about it first-hand.) Whatever. I don't expect to convince you of anything, since you seem perfectly satisfied to draw conclusions without a pinch of evidence. Hopefully those who read this thread will take this first-hand report as reason to investigate for themselves.
  11. I've been taking classes at OAC for three years, and can say from personal experience that William Thomas has no clue what he's talking about. As others have said, the classes are very demanding intellectually. One of the *worst* things someone can do in an OAC class is simply parrot Ayn Rand. I've seen it happen occasionally, and it is always followed by a question which requires thought. After a while, those people start thinking a bit harder (or drop out of the program.) There's no other option. My opinion of TOC was never particularly high, but it's going down even more as I watch their most recent actions. They're no longer even trying to *look* like they're telling the truth. For such a vapid and boring organization, they're doing a mighty good job at pulling frothing ad hominems from their nether-regions.
  12. Saw this article ("Remembering Sidney Morgenbesser"), and thought I'd pass on some of it. There are funny quips which are worth recording, but there's also a serious horror file item. I'll give you the good stuff first. "'Sidney stories' are legion. The Knickerbocker will list a few more: asked about Mao Tse Tung’s view of the law of non-contradiction, Morgenbesser replied, 'I do and do not agree.' Asked why there is something rather than nothing, he replied, 'Even if there were nothing, you’d still be complaining!' Asked to prove a questioner’s existence, Morgenbesser shot back, 'Who’s asking?' He also once cracked a joke about wanting to teach a class on the philosophy of engineering called, 'The Abstract and the Concrete.' The most celebrated Morgenbesser anecdote involved visiting Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, who noted that it was peculiar that although there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, no example existed where two positives expressed a negative. In a dismissive voice, Morgenbesser replied from the audience, 'Yeah, yeah…' " Now the bad news -- funny as he may have been, he was also an utterly awful ethicist, and he practiced what he preached. "Mr. Silver told how at a gathering in Morgenbesser’s apartment, the latter admired Mr. Silver’s shirt. Mr. Silver took it off, and went shirtless during the party. 'He accepted my gift quietly, and did not later speak of it. Gradually, I became irritated, indeed annoyed. I had performed a prototypic act of generosity, of love — without a calculative or selfish impulse in mind or heart — and I got no moral credit for it.' After many years, Morgenbesser said he had not spoken of it lest Mr. Silver feel offended that he rewarded Mr. Silver with gratitude for so selfless an act. Mr. Silver said Morgenbesser thereby taught him something about self-regard and self-absorption. Mr. Silver recalled how he and Morgenbesser 'were first drawn together in the crisis of the ’60s.' During those troubled times on campus, Morgenbesser intervened between the protesters and the police and got 'a good hit on the head.' Later asked, when questioned for jury duty, whether the police had ever treated him unjustly or unfairly. 'Unfairly yes, unjustly no,' Morgenbesser replied. 'The police hit me unfairly, but since they hit everyone else unfairly, it was not unjust,' Mr. Silver recalled Morgenbesser’s response. " He sounds like a more charming version of Ellsworth Toohey. All this from http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailf...8/03&ID=Ar01400
  13. It's generally true that the liberal intellectuals set up the issues and the Republicans react. But Bush's push against abortion and his faith-based initiative, to give a couple of examples, are certainly not reactions to anything the left is doing. They stem from his own deeply held, and deeply wrong, principles. Kerry, on the other hand, has no particular principles. He reacts to the polls, to the faces of the crowds in front of him. He's not setting the tone of debate for anything, and as Rob Tracinski pointed out in TIA Daily, this is why the DNC was such a flop. He was trying to react to the issues Bush put on the table, and doing a damned sloppy job at it. I'm not yet convinced to vote for Kerry, but I can see the argument. I agree with Daniel that Peikoff's statistics about how widespread Christian fundamentalism is are dubious, though I intend to look into this further. I'm from the Northeast, where there are very few Christian fundamentalists, and further, I'm in college, where there are practically none. I really don't have much of a cultural sense for a large part of the country, so maybe Peikoff is right -- in which case, his conclusion that Kerry is significantly better than Bush might be right too. I've been wavering between voting for Bush and not voting at all for some time now. Primarily, that's because I view the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as a life-and-death issue, and I'd like to survive long enough to see serious improvement in this country. But if a bit more national defense comes at the price of ingraining religion into the government, can it really be worth supporting?
  14. Yeah, for sure. That's part of the reason I tend not to engage in extended debates. I'll poke my nose in, say whatever I have to say, and put my nose back on my face where it belongs. (Why I type with my nose, I have no idea.) (Yes, I've had a lot of coffee today.) In any case, glad to have gotten this clear, & thanks for the implied compliment. :-)
  15. On further reflection, I retract what I said earlier. Saying that an action causes something doesn't imply that you view the action as separated from an acting entity. In saying "My choice caused my arm to move," you're not necessarily positing the choice as an *intermediary* cause, which is what I took Stephen to be doing -- i.e., I choose to move my arm, and the choice then moves my arm. Rather, you're attending primarily to the choice and secondarily to the agent, which is usually fine -- it doesn't imply that there is no agent, or that the agent is irrelevant. You could say "I caused my arm to move by choosing", which would be the same thing, but with a different focus. So, sorry, Stephen. I was nitpicking, and doing so poorly.
  16. Stephen, for the record, that wasn't intended as an accusation or insult. Just an observation (which I stand by). Since you don't seem to want to discuss this topic further, I'll leave it at that.
  17. Stephen Speicher: I'm open to arguments, but I'm not convinced by this one. We were talking about choices, and now you've changed the topic -- you're saying that the capacity to choose can be a cause. Of course it can! (Provided, of course, that you don't separate it entirely from the organism whose capacity it is.) The issue before was whether I can choose, say, to raise my arm, and then that choice goes on to cause my arm to raise. I still think that's totally wrong. I move my arm BY choosing to move it. The choice isn't some intermediary cause.
  18. If the truth isn't enough to motivate him, shouldn't he question why he wants to go to Jupiter in the first place? False beliefs may sometimes inspire people to great feats, but they do so only accidentally. More often, they inspire people to great wastes of time.
  19. MisterSwig: What do you mean by choice here? If I think about moving my arm and then don't, and it's not because my arm is tied down or something, I didn't choose to move it. I just fantasized about moving it. If you just mean that there are additional physical processes (neural signals, etc.) which are also necessary, I agree. But if you mean that the choice to raise one's arm is separate from compelling one's arm to raise, I disagree. In any case, I'm with you overall. Choices don't cause things, people do. To claim that the choice is the cause is to accept the event-event view of causation, analogous to the person who claims that it's not the moving billiard ball but the billiard ball's movement which causes the motion of the ball it strikes. It's ok to say that choices cause things in a loose sense, insofar as you're just trying to zoom in on what it is about a person that caused something -- he raised his arm by choosing it, rather than by twitching, so you might just say his choice caused it. But if you're doing philosophy, more precision is needed. Speaking precisely, a choice is something one does, i.e. a part of one's identity at a given time. It is part of the cause of a chosen action, such as raising one's arm; it is one necessary condition among a number of necessary conditions, all of which are together sufficient for one's arm to raise. (I hope this makes sense. I'm very tired.)
  20. Well, that's why the first one didn't annoy me. But in the second one, the girl decides to stay ogreish too. Why? It's not like she was even doing Shrek a favor. Obviously, he was plenty attracted to her when she was a human. Anyway, I don't want to make a big production of this point. It's not a big deal; it was more silly than offensive. The Shrek movies still rule.
  21. I loved the Shrek movies, too. But the endings pissed me off. Ogres are ugly, period. Why choose to be ugly? It seemed like the message was "it's better to be ugly than to be beautiful." I still give it a big thumbs-up. But what the hell is THAT all about?
  22. Nope, it's still under copyright. The only Rand book that's available online is Anthem, which I think can be found at the Project Gutenberg website. Amazon might sell an ebook version of Atlas, though. I know they have the Cliffsnotes in that format. Also, the Objectivism Research CD-ROM has the full text of Atlas and almost all of Rand's other writings, with some bonus stuff by Peikoff tossed in.
  23. According to the Wikipedia article on The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, "Tim Minear of Angel, Firefly and Wonderfalls is currently working on a screenplay based on the novel." I haven't seen any of those, though I've heard great reviews of Firefly and generally good things about Angel. Probably worth keeping an eye out for.
  24. The idea of man acting in a way that contradicts his nature will be confusing unless you bear in mind the nature of the Objectivist ethics. It isn't that man literally contradicts his nature in murdering another person; it's not on the same level as, say, if he were to pull a monkey out of his ear. The form of all ethical principles in Objectivism amounts to: "If you wish to live, you must x." (I won't get into the nature of the choice to live, which has been discussed elsewhere.) Once you've made that choice (and you have, implicitly), you must discover what sorts of actions are consistent with a successful life. These are (at least insofar as they're specifically ethical types of actions, as against optional ones) inherent in your nature as a human, in the way that you must interact with reality because of what sort of organism you are. It's in this sense that you can act against your own nature. It's not that you perform the impossible, but rather, that you pretend that you can. The murderer pretends that slaying other humans is a proper way to live, but it is not a way which is consistent with life as a human. He's not pulling a monkey out of his ear, but he sure is trying.
  25. Well, my research indicates that if you're not an orthodox Jew, New York has the best water you can get from a tap. http://www.boston.com/news/odd/articles/20...er_isnt_kosher/
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