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Dormin111 last won the day on March 11 2015

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  1. A few days before Halloween, the Dean of Yale University sent out an email to the student body cautioning students to not wear culturally disrespectful costumes, complete with a series of pictures of acceptable and unacceptable costumes, and the signatures of a eleven other high ranking Yale officials. Here is the full email (it's short and what you would expect): https://www.thefire.org/email-from-intercultural-affairs/ A few days later, Erica Christakis, the wife of another school admin sent a reply email which challenged the first email on the grounds of the generally harmful nature of "safe spaces," and more importantly, the danger of establishing de facto institutional speech codes in universities, as the previous email seemed to do. Her email is excellent, and I recommend reading it: https://www.thefire.org/email-from-erika-christakis-dressing-yourselves-email-to-silliman-college-yale-students-on-halloween-costumes/ Some key excerpts: "I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students". "As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde­haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it. I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross." "Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin­revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience;increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity – in your capacity ­ to exercise self­censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word)." Within a few days of the second email, 740 students and faculty had signed a petition demanding the resignation of Christakis and a like-minded administrator for the email. Protests have sprung up across campus. To see what type of atmosphere has taken hold of Yale, check out this recording of a confrontation between a protester and an admin (the third of the four videos is the best, skipping to the end of this video automatically starts the next one): General Source: https://www.thefire.org/yale-students-demand-resignations-from-faculty-members-over-halloween-email/ How widespread is this insanity? How far will it go from here? Will colleges be fundamentally different in the future because of stuff like this?
  2. A big factor which prevents me from often publicly declaring myself to be an Objectivist is that the idea of a person having a non-religious personal philosophy, especially one attached to an individual, is pretty crazy to most people. Many people even associate all such adherence to cultish behavior. Consider the last time you ever heard someone say "I am an Aristotelian/Kantian/Hagelian" outside of maybe a philosophy department (though even that is pretty rare). The closest we get to that these days is "I'm a humanist" or "I'm a secular progressive," but these views tend to be vague, leftist, and politically oriented.
  3. I think it's both, but the larger force is the tarnished name of Objectivism. The vast majority of people I've spoken to about Objectivism who reject it, do not do so on the basis of a deep or even surface reading of the philosophy, they do it based on no reading because they've heard so many bad things about it. And yeah, I do think part of the reputation problem stems from Rand's own actions and those of her successors, but misrepresentation of her ideas and character is a bigger problem. The average intelligent person hears the philosophy and its creator's reputation and forms a negative association with it out of hand, so he or she never actually bothers to investigate. One interpretation of that process is simply that the current culture and/or the people within it are overwhelmingly corrupt. I'm not really sure that's true or how its possible to even measure something like that. People only have so much time to spend reading philosophy, and it makes sense to rely upon heuristics to figure out where to turn one's attention. Like it or not, Rand's opponents won the war for Rand's reputation. That's how I see it.
  4. "I like discussion, debate, and reasoned criticism. But a lot of arguments aren’t any of those things. They’re the style I describe as ethnic tension, where you try to associate something you don’t like with negative affect so that other people have an instinctive disgust reaction to it. There are endless sources of negative affect you can use. You can accuse them of being “arrogant”, “fanatical”, “hateful”, “cultish” or “refusing to tolerate alternative opinions”. You can accuse them of condoning terrorism, or bullying, or violence, or rape. You can call them racist or sexist, you can call them neckbeards or fanboys. You can accuse them of being pseudoscientific denialist crackpots. If you do this enough, the group gradually becomes disreputable. If you really do it enough, the group becomes so toxic that it becomes somewhere between a joke and a bogeyman. Their supporters will be banned on site from all decent online venues. News media will write hit pieces on them and refuse to ask for their side of the story because ‘we don’t want to give people like that a platform’. Their concerns will be turned into bingo cards for easy dismissal. People will make Facebook memes strawmanning them, and everyone will laugh in unison and say that yep, they’re totally like that. Anyone trying to correct the record will be met with an “Ew, gross, this place has gone so downhill that the [GROUP] is coming out of the woodwork!” and totally ignored." That's probably the meat of the article. Objectivism has been so tarnished by being associated with negative side effects (specifically, "cultish," "elitist," "anti-poor,"psychopathic," etc.) that is has passed what the author calls an "event horizon." Once passed that point, a movement is to toxic that is is typically dismissed out of hand by most people, even intelligent people who would otherwise be a perfect fit for it. Though before a movement hits the event horizon: "There’s a term in psychoanalysis, “projective identification”. It means accusing someone of being something, in a way that actually turns them into that thing. For example, if you keep accusing your (perfectly innocent) partner of always being angry and suspicious of you, eventually your partner’s going to get tired of this and become angry, and maybe suspicious that something is up. Declaring a group toxic has much the same effect. The average group has everyone from well-connected reasonable establishment members to average Joes to horrifying loonies. Once the group starts losing prestige, it’s the establishment members who are the first to bail; they need to protect their establishment credentials, and being part of a toxic group no longer fits that bill. The average Joes are now isolated, holding an opinion with no support among experts and trend-setters, so they slowly become uncomfortable and flake away as well. Now there are just the horrifying loonies, who, freed from the stabilizing influence of the upper orders, are able to up their game and be even loonier and more horrifying. Whatever accusation was leveled against the group to begin with is now almost certainly true." EDIT - I should note that neither I nor the author think this layer break down completely purges rational members from the group. I am not saying everyone on this website is a loon.
  5. I am really surprised by the reposes. The author is making descriptive claims, not prescriptive ones. He is not saying it is right that intellectuals avoid Objectivism because it's unpopular, he is saying that is an incentive which does in reality affect whether or not people ever take the time to learn or stick with the philosophy.
  6. I saw Locke recently, it's brilliant. I would describe the plot as "what if Howard Rourke made one huge mistake?"
  7. http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/08/15/my-id-on-defensiveness/ This post by Scott Alexander gives the best description of why Objectivism is unpopular I have ever seen. Though it is not specifically about Objectivism, he does mention it about three quarters of the way in. 'It is really easy for me to see the path where rationalists and effective altruists become a punch line and a punching bag. It starts with having a whole bunch of well-publicized widely shared posts calling them “crackpots” and “abusive” and “autistic white men” without anybody countering them, until finally we end up in about the same position as, say, Objectivism. Having all of those be wrong is no defense, unless somebody turns it into such. If no one makes it reputationally costly to lie, people will keep lying. The negative affect builds up more and more, and the people who always wanted to hate us anyway because we’re a little bit weird say “Oh, phew, we can hate them now”, and then I and all my friends get hated and dehumanized, the prestigious establishment people jump ship, and there’s no way to ever climb out of the pit. All you need for this to happen is one or two devoted detractors, and boy do we have them.'
  8. I read the first two books and watched the first movie. The premise for the series is actually fairly interesting as far as these things go. It asks the question: which virtue is the most important/moral in society? The five factions in the book base their work, families, friends, and pretty much all of their lives around adherence to the virtue they believe to be the most significant (bravery, selflessness, peace, thirst for knowledge, and honesty). The first book hooked me early on when the protagonist lives with "Abnegation," the faction which values selflessness, and describes a miserable existence in which she is forced to sacrifice everything for the less fortunate. She lives in a concrete block with only the bare essential amenities, she eats something like gruel or bread for every meal, and she isn't allowed to look in mirrors because doing so would be considered vain and selfish.
  9. It is interesting that in today's political climate, saying anything negative about poor people (ie. should spend money better, are historically and geographically extremely well off) is a level of taboo on par with that of racism and anti-democracy.
  10. Interesting question. "Human nature" is an ill-defined concept. By my best understanding, it can be thought of as a collection of psychological and physiological attributes of human beings which exist prior to any sort of social conditioning. The problem is that separating nature from conditioning is extremely difficult. Although I have little confidence in this answer, my first assertion is that human beings are naturally somewhat selfish in an Objectivist sense. We naturally seek out values which further our own existence at a basic biological level like nutrition, pleasure, and pain aversion. But at more abstract levels of thought and conceptualization, I have no idea how that would be determined. Are there any case studies of the beliefs and behaviors of human beings who have forever lived in social isolation?
  11. And now onto India. Here is Calcutta Day 2, in which I am called a shameless imperialist. https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/guest-post-a-passage-to-india-calcutta-day-2-by-matt-faherty/
  12. Calcutta Day 1: https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/guest-post-a-passage-to-india-calcutta-day-1-by-matt-faherty/
  13. Here is the next post, a skip to Dhaka Day 5: https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/guest-post-a-passage-to-bangladesh-dhaka-day-5-by-matt-faherty/
  14. I'm not too familiar with Rand's biography, I was referring to 20 ' s claim that she stressed the importance of women's rights at certain time more than others. Women's rights doesn't have to refer to feminism. I suppose my use of "gender egalitarianism" was a bit vague and can be misconstrued.
  15. Thank, I appreciate it. Here is the second post, Dhaka Day 2: https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/guest-post-a-passage-to-bangladesh-dhaka-day-2-by-matt-faherty/ After this point the blog ' s author is going to start skipping days because I've written almost 20 thus far. I may try to put them on a dedicated blog when I return.
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