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It Was A Great Essay, But... Ann Rind?!?!

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I had a midterm essay in my Film and the Law class returned to me this week. The professor said to me, "It was a great essay, but... Ann Rind?!?!" (Yes, that's how she pronounced it.) The sentence ended with her holding her jaw low in a gaping gesture. I won't present my entire essay but it was a comparison of the films "Twelve Angry Men" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" with regards to the search for the truth. here are her comments along with the excerpt from my essay to which they apply. (I transcribed her handwriting exactly and some of it was difficult to read.)

In both these films, the respect for truth is a key theme presented.

? or eritical process. suspension of judgement until all facts of the problem are evaluated.

Skepticism is the opposite of that act. It is not an act of defining truth, but in wiping it out?

[underlined "wiping it out" and wrote a question mark.]

"Nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it" (Rand, 1957).

But the position from which one views the facts can alter the conclusions drawn, e.g. the 5 blind men describing an elephant.

Contradictions cannot exist in reality.

? Can something be both a wave and a particle?

At the conclusion of the essay, she wrote:

Most interesting argument. I think Rand's concepts tend to the superman argued by Nictzche. The question of what is truth doesn't necessarily have one clear, concise answer. What happens in sociological studies is that the group consensus regarding a problem is almost always better than a single individual's. As we see in Twelve Angry Men, one individual who questions and is skeptical can move the group. Good Essay! It was fun to read.

Now do I really need to point out how that last part contained a sentence which contradicted itself and proved my point for me?

I am considering emailing a response to these comments just to educate her on Rand's philosophy since it seems pretty obvious she has a very shallow understanding and likely has never directly read Rand. Any further counter-arguments are appreciated. I especially want to address this Nictzche comparason since I have heard it before, but I have never read Nictzche so I wouldn't know how to directly address it.

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I would definitely email her regarding her comments. Regarding the blind men and the elephant, the story and its "moral" attempt to take a situation out of context in order to reach a typical happy, harmonious conclusion. All it really shows is the need for diligent examination of the observable facts. Also, in reality, one of those blind men could have gotten up and walked around, and quickly realized that this is one big thing with all those weird traits.

I think the key mistake of the blind man argument is that it uses someone who has a knowingly faulty (or incomplete) perception of reality (when compared to normal people), and it tries to conclude from that that everyone therefore has a faulty or incompletely perception of reality, and therefore everything is thrown into uncertainty (gasp!). Here's the Jain version from Wikipedia:

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A wise man explains to them:

This resolves the conflict, and is used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways (in Jainist beliefs often said to be seven versions).

The context dropping should be obvious. We are being asked to ditch our life-raft of reason and swim in a sea of ambiguity.

Edited by brian0918
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Can something be both a wave and a particle?

All this shows is that our understanding is incomplete. It's like seeing a stick bend when you put it underwater. The stick isn't actually bending, so if you conclude that it is, you're wrong, and you'll eventually be shown to be wrong. This leads to a new concept ("light") and an examination of its properties. The same goes for waves and particles. Right now, for us, the stick is bending. A new concept will show that it isn't bending, and give us further insight - a good thing. Apparent contradictions lead to increased investigation and eventual understanding.

What's not a good thing, though, is using our current, incomplete understanding, to justify dumping truth altogether. Imagine if everyone who ever thought the stick was bending decided to say, "oh, so the stick's bending and it's not bending. That's a contradiction, so contradictions do exist, and therefore there's no point in trying to understand anything, because there's no guarantee that everything will connect together logically."

Edited by brian0918
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But the position from which one views the facts can alter the conclusions drawn, e.g. the 5 blind men describing an elephant.

The truth would only have been altered if one of the blind men had claimed that the Elephant was covered in fur.

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She's wrong about several things, particularly the part about 'sociological studies showing that group consensus is better than individual opinion'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_polarization

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink

Edited by eriatarka
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1. Waves and particles are not opposite. So if something is both a wave and a particle, it is not a contradiction.

2. If the blind men had said that they were touching the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it would not have been any more true. An elephant is an elephant is an elephant.

3. Bear with the teacher. Then, after you get your report card, tell her off. :P

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I'll double check her spelling of Nietzsche. That might be my mistake. besides - I have always felt that to be a weak argument. People who attack other people's spelling usually do so because they have nothing substantive to argue.

EDIT: Ok I just checked. I didn't type it correctly above (as I said her handwriting was difficult to read and the "e" looked like a "c", but she was still wrong. She wrote Nietzche. I would never get that right without looking it up. It's not like she wrote "there" when she meant "their".

And yes, she wrote in red ink.

Edited by KevinDW78
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Many teachers see it as their job to provide other perspectives for your evaluation. She did contradict herself within two sentences, which tells me she wasn't trying to argue, but rather to provide other viewpoints.

It emphatically does not mean you're wrong. She just wants to know that you've considered other views. The teacher remarked that she liked the essay and said "good job", so she doesn't even necessarily think you're wrong.

The net effect, though, is as others have noted. Some people think this, some people think that, just keep an open mind, truth is vague and fuzzy...

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I hold that the day that a majority of people can pronounce Rand's name correctly, will be one small step forward. I think I've heard about every mind boggling pronunciation there can be. It's kind of ridiculous, it's not as though it's some exotic hard to pronounce string of letters. It's very plain and straight forward.

Then again my name is often pronounced incorrectly as well and it's hardly difficult, so maybe it's just that people suck at pronouncing names.

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Many teachers see it as their job to provide other perspectives for your evaluation.

I think you're right—and i find that annoying (not that you're right, but the point you made). What do these people expect? That we, as students, are somehow not allowed to draw conclusions on anything? My philosophy instructor this past semester was the same way. It's as if we, as students, are too intellectually incompetent to coherently form any cognitive thought or conclusions. We simply have to swallow whatever conclsuions THEY spoon-feed us.

I shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is a "diversity" class. That hardly strikes me as something where conclusions are allowed. We simply have to love everyone equally and accept everyone equally and believe everything equally and equal equally so our equal equalities show the equalness of being equal.

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I think you're right—and i find that annoying (not that you're right, but the point you made). What do these people expect? That we, as students, are somehow not allowed to draw conclusions on anything? My philosophy instructor this past semester was the same way. It's as if we, as students, are too intellectually incompetent to coherently form any cognitive thought or conclusions. We simply have to swallow whatever conclsuions THEY spoon-feed us.

I shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is a "diversity" class. That hardly strikes me as something where conclusions are allowed. We simply have to love everyone equally and accept everyone equally and believe everything equally and equal equally so our equal equalities show the equalness of being equal.

Men, just like their opinions, aren't equal. Who is stupid enough not to know that?

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The governments involvement in the public school system has pretty much guaranteed that it is more about indoctrination than it is about education.

Take the war of 1812 for example. It has been my experience that very few Americans are taught anything about it, meanwhile on this side of the border it is hailed as a "Canadian" victory over American expansionism when it was not Canadian at all but British, and more of a stalemate than anything else.

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I think you're right—and i find that annoying (not that you're right, but the point you made). What do these people expect? That we, as students, are somehow not allowed to draw conclusions on anything? My philosophy instructor this past semester was the same way. It's as if we, as students, are too intellectually incompetent to coherently form any cognitive thought or conclusions. We simply have to swallow whatever conclsuions THEY spoon-feed us.

I shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is a "diversity" class. That hardly strikes me as something where conclusions are allowed. We simply have to love everyone equally and accept everyone equally and believe everything equally and equal equally so our equal equalities show the equalness of being equal.

Speaking as a high school student, I can say it's scary to see how far this kind of stuff goes. Eventually, you here very smart students begin to vehemently attack man, declare that nothing is absolute, and to here them reiterate mindless bromides that are - to them, as it was to their teachers before them - unchallengeable absolutes (hey, if nothing is absolute, then that statement isn't absolute, so you can create absolutes because they don't exist). And it's amazing how far they go to try and convince us to form our own conclusions, and then attack them as unrealistic, selfish, anti-social, and wrong (despite the fact that they don't believe in wrong).

However, I am very luck to say that - from what I can tell - all of my radical objectivist essays have been objectively graded - even though some of them disagreed with the idea of objective reality.

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Eventually, you here very smart students begin to vehemently attack man, declare that nothing is absolute, and to here them reiterate mindless bromides that are - to them, as it was to their teachers before them - unchallengeable absolutes (hey, if nothing is absolute, then that statement isn't absolute, so you can create absolutes because they don't exist).

That reminds me of the time that I was serving on a jury. One of the jurors had said to me, in reference to my demanding the truth of the case, that "heck nothing is truly knowable - it's impossible to be certain of anything".

Of course, I just smiled. I wanted to say, "...I guess that would include you not being certain of your position that nothing can be certain".

...but I'm not sure he really even understood what he said, so that is a battle I didn't get into.

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I wouldn't have let that go. That is exactly when we, as Objectivists, need to speak out. We have got to stop letting people get away with that crap or we'll never turn this country around.

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