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Greetings from Australia,

I have almost finished reading "Atlas Shrugged" and I have found the ideas contained in it to strongly resonate with me. I intend to learn more about Objectivism and see how comfortable I am with it.

I have previously read a lot of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and also found their ideas quite persuasive, though many of their ideas directly contradict the assertions of Objectivism. "Atlas Shrugged" has opened my eyes to the fact that the Christian philosophy of self-sacrifice may indeed be slowly destroying me. I have been an atheist since I was 14 but I was sent to church as a child so I suppose my basic code of ethics and philosophy is essentially Christian. I'm trying to find a consistent and practical personal philosophy and I am hopeful that Objectivism will be that which I seek.

A few more details about me:

Gender: Male

Age: 42

Profession: Computer Programmer

INTJ

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Greetings from Australia,

Profession: Computer Programmer

INTJ

So once you're finished Atlas, pass by the other fiction titles for now, and go directly to the Introduction to Objectivist Epistomology, the source code of objectivism. ;)

Stay Focused,

<Φ>aj

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So once you're finished Atlas, pass by the other fiction titles for now, and go directly to the Introduction to Objectivist Epistomology, the source code of objectivism. ;)

I bought "Philosophy: Who Needs It" and "The Virtue Of Selfishness" from Borders a few days ago. They were the only two non-fiction works of Ayn Rand they had in stock.

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I bought "Philosophy: Who Needs It" and "The Virtue Of Selfishness" from Borders a few days ago. They were the only two non-fiction works of Ayn Rand they had in stock.

By recommending ItOE, I was addressing it to the ubergeek in you.

But your titles are also a very good foundation in the ethical and sense of life issues of the philosophy, as well as a basic introduction to the epistemology. (methods we use to achieve objective certainty)

Of course, Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, is also broad and deep.

The avalanche has begun: it is too late for the pebbles to vote. Kosh

<Φ>aj

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G'day Exy

Back when I was starting out examining Objectivism I managed to get a fair bit of Objectivist literature from Commentary Books, but it's been over ten years since I got things from them. Since then I've gotten most of my material from Ayn Rand Bookstore (including back when it was Second Renaissance Books).

As for your ethics theory issue, I second AJ's recommendation to read Dr Peikoff's "OPAR" - Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Read it right from the beginning and work your way through it diligently. Read to Chapter 3, then re-read ItOE (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology), then go back to OPAR. If you can get your method of thinking straight, and are not afraid of questioning how and why you feel what you feel, you should have little trouble replacing your current ethical sentiments with something much better and objective.

After that, get what other books you can and plow through them. The Ayn Rand Institute has a suggested reading page.

As to the book-title acronyms we use, eg VOS, OPAR, ItOE, etc, you'll get used to them in time :)

JJM

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TVoS is the one I wish I'd read BEFORE Atlas...

I did. :) I thought I had spoiled myself and wished I didn't.

Third book I just started reading is The Romantic Manifesto. I like how Ayn Rand treats Art as the most important thing ever.

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It took a long time for me to understand why. Of course that would be because my exposure to art has been predominantly to *bad* art. If it can be called art at all. (Luckily there is Cordair Fine Arts to give a little bit of balance.)

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It took a long time for me to understand why. Of course that would be because my exposure to art has been predominantly to *bad* art. If it can be called art at all. (Luckily there is Cordair Fine Arts to give a little bit of balance.)

I believe that the kind of heroic television shows centered around the sixties, that spunoff from the values of those who survived WWII, should be included in under the "romatic realist" tent. Yes, I'm talking kids shows, cartoons, supermarionation, etc. They are mocked now as the "World of Tomorrow", where wife was slave labor and husband was an alki, see that recent DeCapprio movie about the "company" man, but they were romantic, and the better ones were realistic.

Star Trek comes to mind, as does UFO, Sandbaggers, all the variations on James Bond (There can be only one Connery) including the ground breaking I Spy, Mission Impossible, etc. Communism was and is a deadly threat, and good men did not stand by and complain, they risked their lives and honors to fight for their right to be free.

Thunderbirds may have had wooden (sic) characters, but the message of the show, that a private International Rescue organization would tackle the emergencies that the government had abandoned, and that this was the right way to go about things, has been forgotten or disfigured now. And in those shows people knew the proper place of government, and did not buy into the delusion that throwing good money after bad would change the fundamental equation. And in some shows, when govt. was truly needed, the agents were truly competent to the task, not blundering in with both left feet making things ten times worse, instead they tried to acheive a nuanced, long term and morally defensible solution.

While these kinds of fiction could be called scifi or thriller, and were lampooned when they came out, have you noticed that the most popular fiction now adays is scifi or thriller or both? People still need heroes, and objectively moral resolutions, as they did in the sixties. Just because the medium has evolved, I think the term art should include more recent contributions, especially when they are romatic realist, the only art worthy of the name. (at least for non-barbarians)

Thoughts on a Sunday morning while waiting for my UFO megaset.

Your mileage may vary...

Stay Focused,

<Φ>aj

Edited by aristotlejones

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I wish I had read VoS before AS; however, now that I have read VoS (and other works of nonfiction), I can't wait to read AS again. :)

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Hi,

I'm reading the transcript of the interview that Ayn Rand Gave to Playboy in 1964. Ayn Rand's answer (quoted below) really got me thinking as it contradicts my world model.

Let us take the example of a baby learning to suck on a nipple for the first time. Does the baby "know" that sucking on the nipple will satisfy its hunger or is it something that it is taught by its mother?

Why are hunting, fishing and hiking such popular pass-times? Are they not satisfying some non-rational biological instinct genetically programmed into men?

PLAYBOY: Isn't the individual equipped with powerful, nonrational biological drives?

RAND: He is not. A man is equipped with a certain kind of physical mechanism and certain needs, but without any knowledge of how to fulfill them. For instance, man needs food. He experiences hunger. But, unless he learns first to identify this hunger, then to know that he needs food and how to obtain it, he will starve. The need, the hunger, will not tell him how to satisfy it. Man is born with certain physical and psychological needs, but he can neither discover them nor satisfy them without the use of his mind. Man has to discover what is right or wrong for him as a rational being. His so-called urges will not tell him what to do.

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(This belongs in another topic/thread)

Let us take the example of a baby learning to suck on a nipple for the first time. Does the baby "know" that sucking on the nipple will satisfy its hunger or is it something that it is taught by its mother?

Knowledge does not mean mechanical skill or reflex. The gag reflex, for instance, isn't knowledge. Knowledge in this context would mean being conscious of the existence of milk or of nipples or swallowing etc. In practice we find that all these things have to be learned.

Why are hunting, fishing and hiking such popular pass-times? Are they not satisfying some non-rational biological instinct genetically programmed into men?

They're popular because people have a lot of exposure to them, they having good times doing them, and repeat the exposure by choice because they remember the good times. They're learned enjoyments reinforced and honed by repetition - and often pursued for entirely rational purposes (eg getting one's own food) that combine enjoyment with the action. It's the same principle behind how people choose careers, which Dr Locke once described somewhere (sorry, I can't remember where). If want of these things were actually innate then we'd find that the vast majority of the population would be climbing the walls itching to go fishing or hunting etc, but that's not what we find: sure, they're popular, but they're not the focal points of most people's existences, and there are large numbers of people who do none of these things yet have perfectly happy lives.

JJM

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The problem with reading VoS first is that it spoils the fact that John Galt is a real person in the novel, and a person of import. If one doesn't know that already, VoS's first essay ruins much of the dramatic tension and mystery. Unfortunately almost all the news coverage going around today says right out who John Galt is and what his function is in the novel.

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Sorry for the long delaying in answering. I thought it would be best to take my time in formulating a considered response.

(This belongs in another topic/thread)

Maybe an admin could move my post to a more appropriate topic. Sorry about that I will post my questions to a more appropriate topic next time.

After re-reading Ayn Rand's answer to this question:

Isn't the individual equipped with powerful, nonrational biological drives?

there is something I do not understand.

First she answers

He is not.

She ends her answer by saying

His so-called urges will not tell him what to do.

When she refers to "his so-called urges" is not she acknowledging that the answer to the original question is yes? Maybe she draws a distinction between drives and urges.

Knowledge in this context would mean being conscious of the existence of milk or of nipples or swallowing etc. In practice we find that all these things have to be learned.

I rang up a friend of mine who has recently given birth to two boys and I asked her if she had to teach her babies how to suckle for the first time. Fortunately she is quite an open and honest person and wasn't offended by my question. This is a paraphrase of her response: "Very soon after they were born they just rutted about instinctually till they found they nipple. I did not need to coax or teach them at all."

Maybe this early behavior is a special case. Surely genetics influences human behavior. Maybe genetics is what gives us our emotions and our genetics influences us though our emotions.

I must state the I do like Ayn Rand's idea that we should be guided by our conscious mind and not by our emotions.

They're popular because people have a lot of exposure to them, they having good times doing them, and repeat the exposure by choice because they remember the good times.

Then the question must be asked why? Why don't people prefer to sit in front a brick wall all weekend? It would probably be a cheaper pass-time.

If want of these things were actually innate then we'd find that the vast majority of the population would be climbing the walls itching to go fishing or hunting etc, but that's not what we find: sure, they're popular, but they're not the focal points of most people's existences, and there are large numbers of people who do none of these things yet have perfectly happy lives.

True but careers such as outdoor education, and park management are very popular I believe.

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There is something I do not understand. First she answers "He is not." She ends her answer by saying: "His so-called urges will not tell him what to do." When she refers to "his so-called urges" is not she acknowledging that the answer to the original question is yes?

That's hard to interpret just from this passage in the interview alone. OTFOI she's distancing herself from the whole concept of urges, but not so far as to totally deny their existence outright. That would be understandable, as she already laid out in The Objectivist Ethics the existence of innate perceptual-level values and behaviours that are programmed into other animals.

Maybe she draws a distinction between drives and urges.

Given the content of The Objectivist Ethics, perhaps, but I can't really speak for her. For myself, however, to the extent that the concept of urges (which was not defined) is legitimate, yes that's how I would look at the issue. We have varying levels of energy and varying qualities of how it is felt, and so on. Those I'd call urges: we can have urges we later identify as sexual passion or anxiety over particular circumstances, appetites for food in general or certain types of food, and so on. But while we have them and can easily separately them on the perceptual level, that does not mean having a clue what they mean on the conceptual level or knowing what to do about them. I am sure, however, that in many cases it is fairly easy to put two and two together after enough experiences of different contexts - after all, that's a fundamental part of what a conceptual consciousness is set up to do.

A drive, OTOH, implies a whole integrated course of action requiring complex motions over a considerable time frame that one is determined to follow without knowledge of why we are so driven. It's like those bizarre cases of sleep-walking that can even include conversations, except more complex than that and drawn out over longer time frames and which there is no waking up from. I am sure these things happen from time to time, but they're freaks and extreme oddities caused by unusual circumstances (often psychoactive drugs, but not exclusively so). They do not have the kind of significance in philosophy that the interviewer in the Playboy article is trying to suggest (who is basically just reporting what specialists in the universities etc are preaching). They are about as relevant to general ethical conduct as life-boat scenarios.

I rang up a friend of mine who has recently given birth to two boys and I asked her if she had to teach her babies how to suckle for the first time. Fortunately she is quite an open and honest person and wasn't offended by my question. This is a paraphrase of her response: "Very soon after they were born they just rutted about instinctually till they found they nipple. I did not need to coax or teach them at all."

I think a major part of the problem is equivocation over the word "knowledge". To be knowledge, it has to be held in one's actual consciousness and explicitly used as an item in cognitive activity. This is a whole different phenomenon from there being a small repertoire of genetically pre-programmed cue-driven reflexes and behaviours that implicitly take the existence of things for granted without going so far as to say the DNA sequences responsible confer explicit awareness of either those things or the connection between the behaviour and intended outcomes in relation to those things. The macro-level consequences of that programming is no more "knowledge" of what is taken for granted than we are born knowing what ATP is merely because most of the cells in our body are set up on the presumption of the use of that molecule.

Notice how easy it is to trigger the same behaviour by other objects, such as the rubber nipples for bottles or pacifiers (or more humorously, I saw a series of pictures of a mother holding her toddler son on her hip while in a museum, standing next to a bronze statue of a nude woman which the boy then tried to nurse from!) Would you then suggest that the suckling behaviour that makes this possible then implies innate knowledge of rubber (or bronze)? Obviously not. Thus I don't doubt that part of our programmed behaviours include suckling motions, but they still do not in any way translate to a baby knowing what a nipple actually is nor of the connections between it, drinking the milk, and hunger pangs (which Miss Rand identifies). Your friend would not have to teach her sons how to suckle (nor would they have to be taught how to identify a human face, nor how to do a number of other concrete-level things) - but one day they will have to learn what women's breasts are actually for even despite themselves once having been-there-done-that.

Another part of the problem is the blowing WAY out of proportion of the importance of these repertoires in human affairs. Miss Rand never denied the repertoires existed. Quite the opposite, in "The Objectivist Ethics" she notes that many animals have nothing but those repertoires, each set being specific to the type of creature possessing it and which are crucial part of the identity that creature as that type of creature. After that, the "higher" an animal's scope of consciousness the less proportion of total lifespan is spent relying on the functioning of those repertoires to obtain its needed values. The animals with the lowest level of conscious functioning can go through their whole lives using nothing but their genetic repertoires, cued by sensations of the moment. But as we look at animals with progressively more sophisticated consciousnesses we find that the "higher" the creature's level of consciousness, the lower the importance the behaviours have for the successful living of a creature as that creature in adult form. Remember that the whole point of consciousness is that it can allow the possessor to adapt to changing circumstances far faster than DNA can. The repertoires of behaviour exist as means of a creature tiding itself over (so to speak) in early childhood until consciousness gets up to sufficient speed. When we qua biologist finally get to us humans as members of the animal species Homo sapiens sapiens we find that the actions in our own repertoires are but a miniscule part of things we can do, and ceased to be important (in normal healthy people) at an early age.

As adults, not only is the repertoire small and unimportant but the vast majority of what we do - which includes all of that which defines as as humans - has to be painstakingly learned from scratch. Thus when we qua philpsophers get to us humans as instances of the concept Man we are totally justified in saying that the repertoires are not of any importance at all to philosophy, and so they have no business being introduced into a discussion of codes of values as appropriate to man qua man. The code of values Miss Rand speaks of are those we have actual awareness of and are operative in the evaluative part of our consciousness as grown adults possessing fully-developed versions of a certain kind of consciousness: one that possesses volition and the capacity to form concepts, where man's code of values is itself also conceptual in nature. A baby's consciousness is not yet functioning anything like an actual man's - and it is the content and function of a man's consciousness that this whole innate-knowledge and innate-values debate is about. Notice that the innate-knowledge crowd is to try to insinuate that there are conceptual-level codes of values and moral principles that are to be exempted from rational scrutiny, all at the level FAR removed from the concrete-bound level of our babyhood repertoires. Primitive behaviours are not knowledge and do not translate to any built-in concept whatever, thus this code of values appropriate to us qua men excludes any reference to our non-conscious baby behaviours. So, Miss Rand is entirely correct: on the conceptual level, which this the level that this debate deals with, we begin with nothing: no knowledge of values, no knowledge of the meaning of the sensations we feel within us, and no knowledge of what to do in response to them.

Maybe this early behavior is a special case. Surely genetics influences human behavior.

No, it's not a special case, and yes genetics can influence behaviour. As already noted, other animals and the very young even among humans depend on that to survive, as your own nipple example demonstrates. To go on, it is also increasingly being found that some problems previously though psychiatric are actually either genetic or neuro-developmental. The issues is whether any of this consitutes knowledge and innate values, and whether that has any relevance to what constitutes an appropriate code of ethics and moral principles. The answer in both cases is no, because they relate to primitive-level behaviours that once might have had proper context for our mammalian or reptilian ancestors and NOT to us as beings possessing conceptual consciousnesses.

Further, in application to the particular context of the Playboy interview, there is no innate propensity for a man to run after sluts or whatnot, but there is considerable amounts of evidence that the general matters of sexual preference and sexual identity are often built in either by genetic predisposition or physical development of the brain as influenced by exposure to hormones at key stages. Perhaps other knowledgeable people here could provide information on the first (and there are probably a pile of threads on this board about it), and for the second Zoe Brain's site is a treasure-trove of both proper medical citations and personal anecdotes. So, in sexual preference for example, while a man may be innately bound to prefer women or men in general, that does not say anything thing about the kind of person interests him other than the gender of that person.

I must state the I do like Ayn Rand's idea that we should be guided by our conscious mind and not by our emotions.

That's not quite correct. What is rejected is the blind following of one's emotions and the treatment of feeling as a means of cognition. Life presents us with a great many options. We use our minds to narrow the list down to what is viable for us in our own particular circumstances - but application of reason does not mean that it is always possible to narrow the list down to contain one item! When our reasoning thus gives us a short-list of a number of equally acceptable options we are then perfectly free to pick the one that we most feel like doing. There's nothing non-objective about this procedure.

Then the question must be asked why? Why don't people prefer to sit in front a brick wall all weekend? It would probably be a cheaper pass-time.

This is that urges v drives issue again. General energy levels and temperament are at least partly included in our genetic heritage (but I couldn't say for sure). To varying degrees we all want excitement and ecstasy - we have a need to experience value, and the more the better. A fair chunk of that is naturally going to include a physical component in our pleasure-pain mechanisms as part of our pre-human heritage, including the old "getting the juices flowing" thing. It is dead easy to associate that need with the ability to get up and do something in particular about that need, with the what and how set by personal experience as already described. This is of course rough'n'ready off of the top of my head, and your best bet would be to ask someone knowledgeable in psychology such as Dr Ed Locke, Dr Micahel Hurd, or Dr Ellen Kenner, and so on.

JJM

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First some general comments. My educational background is in Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science at a university level. What is your educational background if I may ask? It might help me better understand where you are coming from.

I have close to zero formal training psychology and philosophy though I have dipped into these fields in the course of my own recreational reading. During my studies of psychology I encountered Jung's theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious. I quote from “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1934)”

“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the "personal unconscious". But this personal layer rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the "collective unconscious". I have chosen the term "collective" because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behaviour that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals.”

Also from Wikipedia:

“Archetypes are, according to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge. Being universal and innate, their influence can be detected in the form of myths, symbols, rituals and instincts of human beings. Archetypes are components of the collective unconscious and serve to organize, direct and inform human thought and behaviour.

According to Jung, archetypes heavily influence the human life cycle, propelling a neurologically hard-wired sequence which he called the stages of life. Each stage is mediated through a new set of archetypal imperatives which seek fulfilment in action. These may include being parented, initiation, courtship, marriage and preparation for death.[1]“

Do Objectivists reject these Jungian theories?

I now respond in-line to your comments:

That's hard to interpret just from this passage in the interview alone. OTFOI she's distancing herself from the whole concept of urges, but not so far as to totally deny their existence outright.

Yes, I would suggest it was the word "powerful" that she was objecting to, implying that these drives are weak and can be overridden by the conscious mind.

That would be understandable, as she already laid out in The Objectivist Ethics the existence of innate perceptual-level values and behaviours that are programmed into other animals.

OK I know I have a lot of reading to do. I haven't even received my copies of OPAR or ItOE yet! I'm not sure what innate perceptual-level values and behaviours are.

A drive, OTOH, implies a whole integrated course of action requiring complex motions over a considerable time frame that one is determined to follow without knowledge of why we are so driven

No, I don't think so. What you are describing there is a mechanical skill. I now concede that my suggestion of a distinction between drives and urges is wrong. I checked the dictionary, the two words essentially mean the same thing.

I think a major part of the problem is equivocation over the word "knowledge". To be knowledge, it has to be held in one's actual consciousness and explicitly used as an item in cognitive activity.

Actually there's no single agreed definition of knowledge but if you like we can use your definition for the purposes of this discussion. Is that an Objectivists definition?

This is a whole different phenomenon from there being a small repertoire of genetically pre-programmed cue-driven reflexes and behaviours that implicitly take the existence of things for granted without going so far as to say the DNA sequences responsible confer explicit awareness of either those things or the connection between the behaviour and intended outcomes in relation to those things. The macro-level consequences of that programming is no more "knowledge" of what is taken for granted than we are born knowing what ATP is merely because most of the cells in our body are set up on the presumption of the use of that molecule.

No, I'm afraid I can't quite accept that analogy. Firstly it would not be the consequences that are considered knowledge but the programming itself. In the babies case there is a program somehow stored in the babies mind that facilitates suckling which admittedly which may or may not be knowledge depending on whether the baby is conscious and/or thinking (according to your definition of knowledge). Of course a human is not born with any knowledge of what ATP is any more than a human is born with the knowledge of what a pancreas is.

Notice how easy it is to trigger the same behaviour by other objects, such as the rubber nipples for bottles or pacifiers (or more humorously, I saw a series of pictures of a mother holding her toddler son on her hip while in a museum, standing next to a bronze statue of a nude woman which the boy then tried to nurse from!) Would you then suggest that the suckling behaviour that makes this possible then implies innate knowledge of rubber (or bronze)? Obviously not. Thus I don't doubt that part of our programmed behaviours include suckling motions, but they still do not in any way translate to a baby knowing what a nipple actually is nor of the connections between it, drinking the milk, and hunger pangs (which Miss Rand identifies).

I would suggest what is going on in the babies mind is something like this:

(perception of hunger) + (perception of shape of nipple) → (trigger/call suckling subroutine)

Whether the shape of the nipple and the mechanical skill of suckling are knowledge or not is merely a question of semantics. If it is not knowledge it is information that a baby's mind comes pre-programmed with. If a baby did not come pre-programmed with this information it would not be able to make the above association and therefore it would subsequently starve to death it not given medical treatment.

Another part of the problem is the blowing WAY out of proportion of the importance of these repertoires in human affairs. Miss Rand never denied the repertoires existed. Quite the opposite, in "The Objectivist Ethics" she notes that many animals have nothing but those repertoires, each set being specific to the type of creature possessing it and which are crucial part of the identity that creature as that type of creature. After that, the "higher" an animal's scope of consciousness the less proportion of total lifespan is spent relying on the functioning of those repertoires to obtain its needed values. The animals with the lowest level of conscious functioning can go through their whole lives using nothing but their genetic repertoires, cued by sensations of the moment. But as we look at animals with progressively more sophisticated consciousnesses we find that the "higher" the creature's level of consciousness, the lower the importance the behaviours have for the successful living of a creature as that creature in adult form. Remember that the whole point of consciousness is that it can allow the possessor to adapt to changing circumstances far faster than DNA can. The repertoires of behaviour exist as means of a creature tiding itself over (so to speak) in early childhood until consciousness gets up to sufficient speed. When we qua biologist finally get to us humans as members of the animal species Homo sapiens sapiens we find that the actions in our own repertoires are but a miniscule part of things we can do, and ceased to be important (in normal healthy people) at an early age.

I agree.

As adults, not only is the repertoire small and unimportant but the vast majority of what we do - which includes all of that which defines as as humans - has to be painstakingly learned from scratch. Thus when we qua philosophers get to us humans as instances of the concept Man we are totally justified in saying that the repertoires are not of any importance at all to philosophy, and so they have no business being introduced into a discussion of codes of values as appropriate to man qua man.

But what if human being come preconfigured with certain Jungian archetypes (such as the archetype of a mother) which a human being is predisposed to ascribe a certain value to, do not such concepts deserve inclusion in a discussion about codes of values? Cast your mind back to some of the discussions between Hank Rearden and his mother. I agree that his mother did treat him very poorly but somehow I felt some of the things he said to his mother where just wrong even though I had a lot of sympathy for Hank Rearden. Life may not be a black and white issue after all. By the way, if anyone knows where I can get a text file of Atlas Shrugged so I can do text searches could you please post a link! I have already paid for both the physical book and the audio book of Atlas Shrugged. It would be useful to have a text file of it. :)

That's not quite correct. What is rejected is the blind following of one's emotions and the treatment of feeling as a means of cognition. Life presents us with a great many options. We use our minds to narrow the list down to what is viable for us in our own particular circumstances - but application of reason does not mean that it is always possible to narrow the list down to contain one item! When our reasoning thus gives us a short-list of a number of equally acceptable options we are then perfectly free to pick the one that we most feel like doing. There's nothing non-objective about this procedure.

Do Objectivists permit themselves to ascribe value to something solely or in part due to the emotion impact it has on them?

This is that urges v drives issue again. General energy levels and temperament are at least partly included in our genetic heritage (but I couldn't say for sure). To varying degrees we all want excitement and ecstasy - we have a need to experience value, and the more the better. A fair chunk of that is naturally going to include a physical component in our pleasure-pain mechanisms as part of our pre-human heritage, including the old "getting the juices flowing" thing. It is dead easy to associate that need with the ability to get up and do something in particular about that need, with the what and how set by personal experience as already described. This is of course rough'n'ready off of the top of my head, and your best bet would be to ask someone knowledgeable in psychology such as Dr Ed Locke, Dr Micahel Hurd, or Dr Ellen Kenner, and so on.

What would you prefer to do:

A. Walk on a treadmill in a gym for 2 hours facing a brick wall or

B. Walk along a pristine tropical beach on a sunny day for 2 hours.

PS: Why do you refer to her as Miss Rand? She was married for most of her life after all.

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First some general comments. My educational background is in Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science at a university level. What is your educational background if I may ask? It might help me better understand where you are coming from.

Trained in electrical engineering and management, and worked (until this March) as the QC supervisor for a food-ingredients manufacturer. Besides a smattering of introductory BUGE subjects with associated readings, plus Objectivism, my further knowledge of the prevailing schools of psychology is less than yours. My lay-researching of biology is a little more substantial, though hardly in depth as befitting a real biologist. From that, I am totally certain of two sets of facts:

I know that evolution is essentially a series of mistakes in replication that were later found to serve the expediency of the moment, and so it is hardly surprising that in addition to the incredible adaptations and breath-taking precision there is also a bucketload of kludgy inefficiencies, structures that would get a first-year engineering student instantly flunked, and legacy systems that once served a purpose but which are now balls and chains with tendencies to muck up the smooth operation of other systems. Whatever exists in the brain from conception and development will reflect that just as much as every other part of the body - hardly material to be taken for granted and held exempt from being questioned!

I also know that the faculty of consciousness is real - in particular, that human consciousness is also capable of being volitional and conceptual, where full adulthood consists of volitionally taking total responsibility for conceptual content and values formation, and hence of action to match. The whole point about consciousness in general is to learn about what exists in reality and respond to that with action in more depth and greater timeliness than DNA-programmed action can hope to match. Even without awareness of philosophy I can justifiably look at the concept of innate knowledge beyond the most rudimentary levels with a very jaundiced eye because such a thing would very strongly tend to defeat the purpose of consciousness. With the awareness of philosophy, particularly understanding of what a concept is and how the existence of human volition is essential to their formation and validity, I can dismiss the notion of innate concepts outright as a matter of both philosophical and biological principle. Thus whatever validity the idea of innate behaviours may have will be limited to crude and short-range actions, arising from circumstances that recur so often across many generations that it is safe for DNA to take care of the actions required and that consciousness need not concern itself with them - noting also the above caveat on kludges etc.

Any school of psychology that expects to be taken seriously has to begin by accepting those two sets of facts. I automatically dismiss any notion of "higher realms", any hint of mysticism, any notion of a-priori concepts or thinking "through concepts", any hint of considering emotion as a means of telling true versus false, or any other suggestion that runs totally counter to the context of how and why consciousness arose.

Do Objectivists reject these Jungian theories?

As something innate to people, yes - how they may develop after birth is another matter. It is much more likely that people, with the same kind of consciousness, beginning with learning the same obvious first-level reasoning skills by themselves and later trained to think with similar methods of thinking (be they rational or not), and facing the same types of circumstances, will draw the same kinds of conclusions that are then habitualised to form integral parts of character. I would not find it at all surprising if there were recurring themes of characters matching these common conditions. Nor would I find it surprising that there is indeed a set of underlying pre-dispositions that are part of the context for those characters. However, those dispositions would not be the bases for complex archetypes but just whatever concrete-bound reproduction-related preferences that came as a legacy of our non-volitional and semi-volitional ancestors.

Nevertheless, people can and do change their characters. We are volitional beings. We can go back and revise every single conclusion we ever drew and every single value we have formed since our birth. It takes effort, sometimes a lifetime of it, but we can do it: Objectivism holds that man is a being of self-made soul. The only exception to that will be those crude reproduction-related issues of sexual preference and sexual identity, and there is strong debate about how much is actually innate – off the top of my head that while there's definitely some that's innate I’d say not a helluva lot else is, it being limited to what concrete-level shapes and sounds (ie male or female) someone finds pleasing or otherwise either in another or themselves plus what one can and cannot physically do with one's body. It would be later conclusion-drawing that would expand this into something bigger, and that's within the realm of volitional control.

All this is the material for an objective examination of psychology, psychoepistemology, neurology, and so on. I’m not qualified to say more, so I wont.

I'm not sure what innate perceptual-level values and behaviours are.

Perceptual-level means cognition of individual objects and actions. Conceptual level means cognition of classes, beginning with classes of perceptual-level objects and actions, and later also cognition of classes of classes.

Actually there's no single agreed definition of knowledge but if you like we can use your definition for the purposes of this discussion. Is that an Objectivists definition?

The Objectivist definition of knowledge is: a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.

No, I'm afraid I can't quite accept that analogy. Firstly it would not be the consequences that are considered knowledge but the programming itself. In the babies case there is a program somehow stored in the babies mind that facilitates suckling which admittedly which may or may not be knowledge depending on whether the baby is conscious and/or thinking (according to your definition of knowledge).

You’re assuming brain = mind. Objectivism rejects that assumption. The mind, that which actually takes the mental grasp, is born tabula rasa. What the brain can do before the mind asserts full control is a separate matter. Growth as a baby includes the first steps of learning how to assert that control, such as learning to use ones limbs or focus ones eyes, which until then will be acting in ways not fully controlled by the mind. In the interim the mind will be a observer (with decreasing levels of passivity) and the brain will be doing its own thing (with decreasing levels of primacy) – if it didn’t then serious medical intervention would be required, as you note. Over time the mind will be constantly putting two and two together, then using the conclusions to assert control ever more successfully. Some actions that the mind can take control of will remain semi-voluntary, such as breathing, while others will in time become fully voluntary and the original brain circuits involved be deactivated (perhaps physically dissolved, too, but that’s pure educated guesswork). For instance, when was the last time you looked at a woman’s breast and then instantly thought about lunch, or conversely, instantly clapped eyes on the nearest woman’s chest after your stomach began growling?

I am of course taking your word for it that a human baby actively seeks out nipples right from birth, as opposed to a nipple being placed in the mouth and the suckling action alone being innate, followed by easy conclusion-drawing and subsequent searching out of nipples. I don’t have children of my own, nor did the young mothers I know breast-feed their children, so I can’t easily check that first-hand. I wouldn’t dismiss it either, since I have seen it and comparable activities in other creatures, such as how barely-formed marsupial infants climb of their own accord into the pouch and hunt for their mothers' nipples within.

I would suggest what is going on in the babies mind is something like this:

(perception of hunger) + (perception of shape of nipple) → (trigger/call suckling subroutine)

Brain yes, mind no – not until the mind starts watching what the brain is doing and realising what other bodily sensations are associated with the whole affair.

But what if human being come preconfigured with certain Jungian archetypes (such as the archetype of a mother) which a human being is predisposed to ascribe a certain value to, do not such concepts deserve inclusion in a discussion about codes of values?

If they existed and were immutable, sure. But they don’t (not as immutable predispositions), so no. As for wanting to be a mother, for example, the widespread and nearly systematic lack of that in almost every western country is becoming an issue, particularly among xenophobes and religious fundamentalists who misuse the data for their own agendas. I think it more likely a lifestyle option that a woman is totally free to choose, which she had been often pressured into doing by others in the past and now (along with reliable birth control) which pressure many women are not experiencing as strongly. The xenophobes et al are going to get more and more shrill in the future, particularly relating to births of "muslim babies".

By the way, if anyone knows where I can get a text file of Atlas Shrugged so I can do text searches could you please post a link! I have already paid for both the physical book and the audio book of Atlas Shrugged. It would be useful to have a text file of it. :D

There was a CD-ROM available for a while that had a high proportion of the older Objectivist writings on it. It was withdrawn from sale last year, but I think there might be a new issue in the works if I recall correctly. In the mean time, if you’re lucky you could pick up a second-hand copy.

Do Objectivists permit themselves to ascribe value to something solely or in part due to the emotion impact it has on them?

Solely, never. In part, all the time –major examples are choice of career and choice of lover. My point was that emotion cannot tell you what is true or false, and that reason had to take primacy and scrutinise the available options prior to final choice based on which option had the better emotional impact.

What would you prefer to do:

A. Walk on a treadmill in a gym for 2 hours facing a brick wall or

B. Walk along a pristine tropical beach on a sunny day for 2 hours.

In all seriousness, I’d pick A. I am not a fan of tropical conditions. I was in Brisbane several years ago and I hated the climate even though it was only August. I’m a dry-heat guy, as the cliché goes.

PS: Why do you refer to her as Miss Rand? She was married for most of her life after all.

The world knows her as Ayn Rand, not Ayn O’Connor. That’s how she presented herself to the world, so that’s how I continue to refer to her.

JJM

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I know that evolution is essentially a series of mistakes in replication that were later found to serve the expediency of the moment, and so it is hardly surprising that in addition to the incredible adaptations and breath-taking precision there is also a bucketload of kludgy inefficiencies, structures that would get a first-year engineering student instantly flunked, and legacy systems that once served a purpose but which are now balls and chains with tendencies to muck up the smooth operation of other systems. Whatever exists in the brain from conception and development will reflect that just as much as every other part of the body - hardly material to be taken for granted and held exempt from being questioned!

OT, but the best one paragraph summary of the situation resulting from evolution I have ever read. (I got into a lengthy discussion here quite some time ago with someone who apparently believed we were perfectly optimal creatures, physically/biologically, for our environments.)

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I am inclined to believe that the science of evolutionary psychology can help us understand some of the mysteries of the human mind and consequently can be a huge practical value. According to two evolutionary psychologists evolutionary psychology is founded on the following principles:

1. The brain is a physical system. It functions as a computer with circuits that have evolved to generate behavior that is appropriate to environmental circumstances

2. Neural circuits were designed by natural selection to solve problems that human ancestors faced while evolving into Homo sapiens

3. Consciousness is a small portion of the contents and processes of the mind; conscious experience can mislead individuals to believe their thoughts are simpler than they actually are. Most problems experienced as easy to solve are very difficult to solve and are driven and supported by very complicated neural circuitry

4. Different neural circuits are specialized for solving different adaptive problems.

5. Modern skulls house a stone age mind.

The have a primer on the subject here: http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/primer.html

Besides a smattering of introductory BUGE subjects with associated readings, plus Objectivism, my further knowledge of the prevailing schools of psychology is less than yours.

What's BUGE?

full adulthood consists of volitionally taking total responsibility for conceptual content and values formation, and hence of action to match.

Could you clarify exactly what you mean by this giving maybe an example or two? What is conceptual content and value formation? Is this all explained in OPAR and ItOE? I received these books yesterday.

The whole point about consciousness in general is to learn about what exists in reality and respond to that with action in more depth and greater timeliness than DNA-programmed action can hope to match.

Actually this research indicates that it is our subconscious mind decides what is going on in the the outside world. The conscious mind merely receives the reports of the results of the invisible workings of unconscious mind (according to this research). So there is a powerful invisible intermediate level driver of behaviour that is neither conscious nor reflexive.

Even without awareness of philosophy I can justifiably look at the concept of innate knowledge beyond the most rudimentary levels with a very jaundiced eye because such a thing would very strongly tend to defeat the purpose of consciousness. With the awareness of philosophy, particularly understanding of what a concept is and how the existence of human volition is essential to their formation and validity, I can dismiss the notion of innate concepts outright as a matter of both philosophical and biological principle.

Why is human volition necessary for concept formation? Again I suppose I should read the texts that you recommended before asking these questions.

I automatically dismiss any notion of "higher realms", any hint of mysticism, any notion of a-priori concepts or thinking "through concepts", any hint of considering emotion as a means of telling true versus false, or any other suggestion that runs totally counter to the context of how and why consciousness arose.

There can be no doubt that emotions can and do strongly influence our behaviour. I strongly doubt that our volitional consciousness is capable of directing all of our actions and making all of our decisions. When you smile or frown do you do so as a result of a conscious decision?

All this is the material for an objective examination of psychology, psychoepistemology, neurology, and so on. I’m not qualified to say more, so I wont.

Neither am I, but I am interested in learning more about these subjects. I think many areas of philosophy will need to be revised based on the findings of these sciences.

If they existed and were immutable, sure. But they don’t (not as immutable predispositions), so no. As for wanting to be a mother, for example, the widespread and nearly systematic lack of that in almost every western country is becoming an issue, particularly among xenophobes and religious fundamentalists who misuse the data for their own agendas. I think it more likely a lifestyle option that a woman is totally free to choose, which she had been often pressured into doing by others in the past and now (along with reliable birth control) which pressure many women are not experiencing as strongly.

I think you have misunderstood the what I meant by the Jungian archetype of mother. I'm suggesting that the human brain comes pre-configured with a 'mother archtype' that will usually be attached to a physical person (a child's mother) by means of scents, facial recognition etc. soon after birth in other words bonding. The mind of the child will thus ascribe a very high value to the person that it has labeled as its mother. This behavior is non-volitional. I remember doing experiments at school where I 'conditioned' a newly hatched chicken to believing my hand was its mother. Whenever I cupped my and near it, it would rush toward my hand. This mother-child bond is so strong that it lasts a lifetime for most people. There may well be a psychological explanation for the "sanction of the victim" theory in AS. People could consciously override these situations but not without some heartache.

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I am inclined to believe that the science of evolutionary psychology can help us understand some of the mysteries of the human mind and consequently can be a huge practical value.

I've ran across people with an active contempt for EP, who dismiss it as not even a science. I am too ignorant about the details of EP to say either way or what schools may be within it who might be more rational than others - though my own researches, experiences, and thinking lead me to reject the idea that there are a variety of integrated value-systems inherent in people. What you're writing about is essentially the rejection of the existence of free will, which flies in the face of observable evidence. There is too much capacity for people to change their entire world-views and emotional responses to things, plus the very nature of concepts and value-formation, for the idea of innate archetypes to have any plausibility.

Until further notice, I still entirely subscribe to the idea that any developments of any such integrated value-systems are the product of post-myelination experiences and cognitive processing that we are capable of reviewing and replacing if we put the effort in to doing so. My favourite quote from G K Chesterton on the matter sums it up nicely (not exact): I don't believe in a fate that befalls men however they act, but I do believe in a fate that befalls them unless they act. I kinda doubt that I will ever give notice, for that would mean my abandonment of acceptance of volition, which I am not dumb enough ever to do.

On top of that, there's a difference between what I happen to think, what other Objectivists far better placed to comment think, and what Miss Rand herself wrote on the matter. For Objectivism, Miss Rand wrote that we have free will, that this is necessary both for concept-formation and value-formation (the two processes are intricately bound up with each other) and as a part of that the emotional responses we have to things are the consequence of what conclusions we have thoroughly integrated and automatised within our subconsciousnesses. We have a certain integrative faculty, and either we take responsibility for the content in that faculty or we will be lead around by others, whether we are aware of that or not. All I have done is take that, verify it for myself as best I could, and expand on it a little.

1. The brain is a physical system. It functions as a computer with circuits that have evolved to generate behavior that is appropriate to environmental circumstances

2. Neural circuits were designed by natural selection to solve problems that human ancestors faced while evolving into Homo sapiens

These are more or less true, we do have a certain capacity to perceive, integrate and evaluate, but to suggest that there is a certain content inherent along with the capacity to create that content is a non-sequitur. The physicality of the brain does not intrinsically lend itself to determinism. Rather, our neural capacity gives us the ability to form integrations from perceptual data, but that also requires free will as part of that capacity so as to pick and choose what aspects of percepts to integrate, and later to review those actions.

3. Consciousness is a small portion of the contents and processes of the mind; conscious experience can mislead individuals to believe their thoughts are simpler than they actually are. Most problems experienced as easy to solve are very difficult to solve and are driven and supported by very complicated neural circuitry

Looking over what you've written, not just in this listing of a point of EP but your whole post, a fair chunk of your confusions stem from equating consciousness as such with exclusively the forefront of one's mind. Objectivism holds that there are two parts to consciousness - the forefront where we have direct volitional control over focus, and the subconscious that is not directly volitionally controllable but nevertheless has an automatised methodology and content built up over time solely arising from what we do in the forefront. What this point 3 is writing about is more to do with the subconscious than the forefront. The nature and operation of the subconsciousness is covered by Objectivism under the topic of "psycho-epistemology." Others are better placed to deal with that than I, there's always the search function for this forum, and there are materials available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore (especially by Dr Harry Binswanger).

4. Different neural circuits are specialized for solving different adaptive problems.

This is a technical point I know is in error. Different sections may well be earmarked as generally being for such and such processing, but can be retasked to other kinds of processing if the need arises. Dr Binswanger has work on that, too.

5. Modern skulls house a stone age mind.

Even leaving aside the question of the importance of that and its ignoring of the phenomenon of volition, you do realise that this at best would get you back to precisely what I have been saying all along: whatever predispositions are innate will be primitive in nature and very small in quantity?

What's BUGE?

Broadening Undergraduate Education. Sorry, I thought it was a nation-wide term because the federal government mandated them. Last I heard, all Australian university students are compelled to undertake electives totally outside the fields in which we are majoring. I took philosophy, politics and sociology courses.

Could you clarify exactly what you mean by this giving maybe an example or two? What is conceptual content and value formation? Is this all explained in OPAR and ItOE? I received these books yesterday.

What we feel is the consequence of what we believe. Emotions are lightning-speed evaluators of what is perceived as judged against our automatised standards. The issue, then, is where do the standards come from? Objectivism holds that the standards are formed from what we have come to believe and the methods of judgement we have come to hold as the right ones.

One example is in OPAR, and tells the story of six men looking at the same one set of medical slides. Each has wildly different emotional reactions, all stemming from their different beliefs. Another I raise myself (as did Thales of Miletus 2600 years ago, though he had another purpose in mind) is that people have religious beliefs that are totally incompatible with each other and which cannot possibly all be right, yet there are adherents of each who are 100% drop-dead emotionally sure of their own creeds. They took up those creeds as a result of what they accepted without question and occasionally supplemented by their own - obviously erroneous - conclusions. Note further that in line with the first example, from OPAR, people's emotional responses can shift dramatically if they change their beliefs - what would once horrify them or they would be ambivalent to can be totally reversed, in line with them changing their minds about what is the truth.

What I mean about responsibility is that we must not accept our emotional responses as inexplicable. Instead, we must first recognise that emotions have understandable causes, and also that we must take charge of the causes - that is, to examine and reprogram our subconsciousnesses as required by revising everything we believe (as and when the need to do so arises). That means figuring out the truth and then making it a part of our being. It's not an easy task, but it is a possible and necessary one.

Actually this research indicates that it is our subconscious mind decides what is going on in the the outside world. The conscious mind merely receives the reports of the results of the invisible workings of unconscious mind (according to this research). So there is a powerful invisible intermediate level driver of behaviour that is neither conscious nor reflexive.

For what you're saying, again that's the issue of the nature of psychoepistemology and the subconscious as dealt with above. That includes the article's own discussion of how we don't explicitly conclude we must stop at red lights or steer around obstacles.

For the rest of the article itself it's just dealing with a particular variant of perceptual-level estimation. Nobody here would have any problems with the basic findings from that dot experiment. Miss Rand noted that we get the hang of that in the first few months of life, and the rest is refinement - and likely tied in with hand-eye coordination as some commenters note. This article is just demonstrating that we can get pretty good at eyeballing things with practice. This isn't earth-shattering. It's also saying we do it better like that than trying to make explicit calculations. The most likely answer to that is "the crow" (you'll find where it comes from in ItOE) - we only have capacity to hold yay much in forefront at any given moment, and so my guess is that it's very damn difficult to try to keep all those numbers actively in the forefront, leading to errors. All knowledgeable Objectivist would say "of course" to that.

More importantly, however, the article is also showing an error in what the researchers think rationality consists of. Broad rationality is to do with the proper use of concepts and logic, whereas this article is trying to assert that rationality means accuracy in calculation and hence that since we can get pretty damn good at eyeballing we are "more rational" than others have hithertho held. That's where the article falls down.

Additonally, note the comments in that thread - orthodox psychology doesn't even accept the existence of the subconsciousness. I've seen the same rejection elsewhere, too. So much for the merit of orthodox psychology.

Why is human volition necessary for concept formation? Again I suppose I should read the texts that you recommended before asking these questions.

For a detailed answer, yes. The short answer is that we have to pick and choose how we are going to perform the integrations required to go from an array of instances to forming concepts from them, because there are a wide variety of different concepts that are entirely permissible to draw from those instances depending on one's purpose. For example, I can organise an array of geometric shapes to form concepts of names based on number of sides or demonstrate the concepts of regularity versus irregularity, and so on. I have to choose how I am going to approach that array, because neither the array's contents nor my purpose are going to make that decision for me. I also need the ability to detect and correct errors in my approach, plus choose my purpose to begin with, and so on.

I think you have misunderstood the what I meant by the Jungian archetype of mother. ... People could consciously override these situations but not without some heartache.

The prevalence of phenomena like that among human beings is right on the edge of my level of ignorance. I can't say whether or not something like that exists in newborn humans - but I can say (as I have before) that after a certain age any such pre-disposition is entirely volitional, and can be overridden as you say - not just in forefront consciousness but also as automatised in subconsciousness too. I certainly still don't buy into any intricate value-system that lasts for life as an inherent structure.

JJM

Edited by John McVey

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