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Leonid
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If Ayn's ethical code appears to contradict objectivity, or rely in any way on subjective, i.e., non-reproducible, representations, then please can you give me a SINGLE SOLITARY EXAMPLE?! No? I thought not. Your assertion is arbitrary on its face.

Actually, I did provide examples. Your assertion is false.

Now, whether one LIKES Ayn's ethics or not is, perhaps, subjective (but only if you are somewhat irrational, in my experience -- wholly rational folk seem to like it unequivocally). But, her precepts are valid, inductions pristine, measurements reproducible, and conclusions unshakable ... can you honestly disagree, assuming you have read and understood OPAR? That is as objective, scientific as one can get.

Spoken like a true disciple....

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Actually, I did provide examples. Your assertion is false.

Hmm, all I saw you mention was that divorce rate thing (which isn't very informative of the discussion here, perhaps the religious have a special dedication to preserving marriages no matter the cost), an uncle of yours (which you didn't elaborate on too much), and a mother who wants to live off welfare (without exactly providing reasoning as to how she'd really benefit herself in the long run).

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Dakota:

So you're saying people thrive while living under a code of ethics other than the one put forward by Ayn Rand?

This is false. People who do not follow basic tenets of Objectivist ethics do not thrive, they survive. Survival is merely staying alive, thriving is the actual act of living, of achieving your full potential. Ayn Rand derived her ethics from principles of reason, not from how she felt. If you want to disagree with her you have to use reason to show why living the way she prescribes is wrong or not the best way to live.

Furthermore, a man who squanders his inheritance is not living. A mother who lives off welfare is not living. These people are merely surviving. They are like pets, and the ones who provide for them are their masters, who feed their pets when it pleases them.

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People who do not follow basic tenets of Objectivist ethics do not thrive, they survive. Survival is merely staying alive, thriving is the actual act of living, of achieving your full potential.

I would not draw this thin, bright line between "following O'ist ethics or not" or "thriving or surviving." These concepts are important for describing the basic archetype of someone who survives by thinking and acting for themselves versus someone who surrenders the responsibility for their own life to others, but actual people and their situations are much more complex. Certainly, though, to the extent that an individual does not take responsibility for achieving their own values, they are merely "surviving."

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Hmm, all I saw you mention was that divorce rate thing (which isn't very informative of the discussion here, perhaps the religious have a special dedication to preserving marriages no matter the cost), an uncle of yours (which you didn't elaborate on too much), and a mother who wants to live off welfare (without exactly providing reasoning as to how she'd really benefit herself in the long run).

So, I did provide examples, didn't I, contrary to the rather hysterical previous poster ("can you give me a SINGLE SOLITARY EXAMPLE?! No? I thought not") You mentioned three. You may have problems with my examples, but only one person asked for elaboration, which I addressed. Not only did I give three specific examples, I also mentioned the welfare classes in this country and in Europe as examples of people who obviously live contrary to Obectivist ethics but live nonetheless. Now, a subsequent poster has this to say:

People who do not follow basic tenets of Objectivist ethics do not thrive, they survive. Survival is merely staying alive, thriving is the actual act of living, of achieving your full potential.

And that makes my point -- "thriving" is rather subjective. What one person views as a happy, fulfilled life might not be the same as another. It is subjective because of the individuality of a person's hierarchy of values. For example, in the case of the Objectivist daughter of a friend, her hierarchy of values has at-home motherhood at or near the top (I haven't asked her, so I won't assert that it is her highest value). Since she cannot find a man who will support her towards this goal, she has used her reason to decide how best to achieve this goal, and her answer is to go on welfare. Because she weighed her options and chose a course that would give her what she values, she maintains that she is still living according to her Objectivist principles. (I happen to disagree, but that's another topic.)

If the furtherance of biological life is one's highest value, then objectively there are things one must do: eat, drink, sleep. To not do so is to die. But once start adding qualifiers to that, such as "thriving" or "flourishing" or "man qua man", you are dealing with something that, in most cases, cannot be scientifically proven. As I mentioned earlier, just a brief look at the "self-improvement" forum on this website will reveal plenty of people who are distinctly unhappy: "I'm depressed again", was a recent topic, for example. If Rand's concepts had as a scientific basis as some claim here ("valid, inductions pristine, measurements reproducible, and conclusions unshakable" according to one worshipper), then I would not expect to find unhappy, miserable, socially mal-adjusted Objectivists. The fact that there are suggests to the reasonable mind that it's not as scientifically neat and pristine as hoped.

I would not draw this thin, bright line between "following O'ist ethics or not" or "thriving or surviving." These concepts are important for describing the basic archetype of someone who survives by thinking and acting for themselves versus someone who surrenders the responsibility for their own life to others, but actual people and their situations are much more complex. Certainly, though, to the extent that an individual does not take responsibility for achieving their own values, they are merely "surviving."

I agree completely with this. Again, I happen to largely admire Objectivist ethics. I just don't see them as scientifically proven or provable.

Edited by dakota
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There is another layer to these concepts of surviving vs. thriving. They both may appear similar but the former is dependent on adapting to the environment while the latter is about altering the environment. I mean, sure, people can live on welfare if they want, and I think we understand that this system is possible because of the productive people who put money into the taxes, whether forcibly or willingly.

However, with "survival" you are dependent upon the producers. Your quality of life will be determined by what the producers willingly donate (or forcibly) to you and you face the risk of them pulling the plug altogether. Your control over your life is superficial. This is the life of a parasite.

Objectivist ethics doesn't hold the parasite as the standard.

Edited by Dingbat
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Your control over your life is superficial. This is the life of a parasite.

Objectivist ethics doesn't hold the parasite as the standard.

And I agree entirely. However, for some people, having the security that comes from not having to risk themselves, or get a job, or do any one of a hundred things that comes with being self-sufficient, might be well worth the negatives. It's also (at least in this country and in Europe) quite risk-free: very, very few people are ever kicked off of welfare.

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However, for some people, having the security that comes from not having to risk themselves, or get a job, or do any one of a hundred things that comes with being self-sufficient, might be well worth the negatives.

Worth it for what, exactly? What I see here is at least implicitly suggesting that some options are better than others for particular reasons to a particular person. You would recognize that people have a particular identity that makes them human, and since humans are biological entities, they have certain needs. All people need food to survive, right? Well, how does one acquire food? Is merely having ENOUGH nutrients good enough for survival? Are there other needs that people have? There are also non-essential differences between individuals that still means they're human, but those differences are where personal context comes in. You need some way to figure out what values to pursue since values are needed to exist. Objectivist ethics only really suggest a method of figuring this out, not a list of rules. (Please focus on the question I posed mainly)

Edited by Eiuol
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It's also (at least in this country and in Europe) quite risk-free: very, very few people are ever kicked off of welfare.

We live in a time when it is quite risk free. But, that's how these parasites function. They just coast along according to what they can get without effort. This is what makes them morally inferior to the producers. Even primitive, nomadic tribes people have more moral worth.

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"If Rand's concepts had as a scientific basis as some claim here ("valid, inductions pristine, measurements reproducible, and conclusions unshakable" according to one worshipper), then I would not expect to find unhappy, miserable, socially mal-adjusted Objectivists."

I forgot to address this. Just because someone agrees about something doesn't necessarily mean they live it out. A learning process is also involved, so just saying "honesty is good" doesn't mean one is honest. All you're pointing out is that people can make mistakes in their judgments. People are fallible. Why wouldn't you expect to find a few unhappy Objectivist minded people? Really the point is that there are methods to achieve happiness if you're unhappy due to various hardships. Events can occur that cause unhappiness. No one is omniscient, bad things CAN happen, but how do you deal with lack of omniscience?

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Just because someone agrees about something doesn't necessarily mean they live it out.

Agreed.

All you're pointing out is that people can make mistakes in their judgments.

Agreed.

People are fallible.

Agreed, though some here appear to think that Rand was the sole exception....

Why wouldn't you expect to find a few unhappy Objectivist minded people?

Actually, I do expect to find unhappy Objectivists, because I don't accept that it is, in fact, objective. And I see more than a few who seem to be very angry people indeed...

Really the point is that there are methods to achieve happiness if you're unhappy due to various hardships.

Again, we agree -- however, Objectivism appears to make the claim that it is THE only valid method. Any other philosophy that Rand deemed "irrational" (such as religious faith or hedonism) is viewed with contempt.

And that is my point here: we agree on the items above, but in doing so you are, in fact, giving evidence to the non-objective nature of Objectivism. If it were really as scientifically proven -- "valid, inductions pristine, measurements reproducible, and conclusions unshakable" -- as it purports to be, then I would expect to find scientifically measurable happiness rise in exactly, precisely, and pristinely in proportion to one's adherence to Objectivism. But reality dictates all kinds of variables, and people do in fact thrive though they are very religious; people thrive though they are parasites; people thrive just on the exercise of power.

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Your trying to evaluate an ethical theory with the same scrutiny as one would a math equation. "Viable Values" answers all these questions, as do most of Rands essays on the topic, have you read any? That would be a good place to start. There are people on here honestly trying to help, giving good info, and then there are people here "answering" your questions who probably have less knowledge on the subject than you do. Go to the original source.

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Again, we agree -- however, Objectivism appears to make the claim that it is THE only valid method. Any other philosophy that Rand deemed "irrational" (such as religious faith or hedonism) is viewed with contempt.

Objectivism isn't the method. It's just the name of a philosophy. Reason and logic is the only valid method.

But reality dictates all kinds of variables, and people do in fact thrive though they are very religious; people thrive though they are parasites; people thrive just on the exercise of power.

Which people? Which time period in history? This is important!

Also, given that fallibility is possible, even if you use a process of reason perfectly, you can have unhappy things happen. The standard isn't even necessarily maximum happiness level at all times, only that you're pursuing your goals for the furtherance of your life, which leads to at least self-esteem that enables one to deal with bad events. Reason is the only way to do this, with life as a standard of value. You thrive to the extent you accept these ideas, decay to the extent you don't.

Other than that, I think literally nothing else can be said. This is a message board, remember that; better answers to your questions are provided by people who have spent months and even years formulating all sorts of ideas more fully.

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Your trying to evaluate an ethical theory with the same scrutiny as one would a math equation.

A poster here said that all human values can be proven scientifically. Was he wrong, then? A math equation can be proven objectively (that is, it is true regardless of the attitudes or beliefs of persons). I don't think all ethical theories can be proven like that -- and that is my point.

Objectivism isn't the method. It's just the name of a philosophy. Reason and logic is the only valid method.

Correction noted -- sorry, sloppy terminology on my part.

Which people? Which time period in history? This is important!

ALL people, and in ALL historical periods. People aren't fundamentally different, in the moral sense, from one time period to another. For example, during the last century, the possibilities available to man for dominion over matter have grown in a manner that would have been truly unimaginable just a few centuries ago. But man's destructive power has also grown, as well as ethical challenges --cloning, genetic manipulation, etc. The huge growth of knowledge does not bring with it a corresponding huge development of man's moral capacity. If, for example, you want to look at the Middle Ages as a period of dark irrationality, you can't ignore that it was also the period when the universities in Europe were founded. You simply can't point to a period and say, "well, people were rational then", compared to some other period of time. It is true that culture has an affect on what is valued: so, in our culture, feelings and materialism reign, which can affect the aspirations of those tuned into the culture. But that does not mean that people today are, in their basic human nature, somehow more or less morally advanced than in other periods.

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You simply can't point to a period and say, "well, people were rational then", compared to some other period of time. It is true that culture has an affect on what is valued: so, in our culture, feelings and materialism reign, which can affect the aspirations of those tuned into the culture. But that does not mean that people today are, in their basic human nature, somehow more or less morally advanced than in other periods.

I was asking for examples of individuals who thrive and are also parasites. All you said here is that it is the time period when a lot of universities in Europe were founded. That's fine, but that doesn't even tell me anything about the purpose of those universities at the time. I don't think the Dark Ages are the epitome of reason by any standard. That doesn't mean that NO people of the time period were able to thrive, but most people didn't due to the extent religion was seen as all important.

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I was asking for examples of individuals who thrive and are also parasites.

I gave you some personal examples, but I can add more, current as well as historical: Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Stalin, Idi Amin, several Bourbon kings of France, Prince Charles, Henry VIII, Hugo Chavez, Ayatollah Khomeini, Leopold II, Muhammad, John Cage....just how long do I need to make this list?

That's fine, but that doesn't even tell me anything about the purpose of those universities at the time.

It's not hard to find out this information, but to spare you the bother of some actual research, the purpose was to pass on the accumulated knowledge of that time. That included arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory, grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The primary emphasis was on logic. Languages such as Greek were also taught.

I don't think the Dark Ages are the epitome of reason by any standard.

I wasn't referring to the Dark Ages, but to the Middle Ages. The Dark Ages represent the period of time between the decline and collapse of the Roman Empire, and the resurgence of political and economic structures, which varied in different areas. Modern scholars generally do not place the Middle Ages in the "Dark Ages" category (with the sometimes exception of the earliest period of the Middle Ages) because of the intellectual advances of this period. By the way, you do know, don't you, that even in the Dark Ages, when the Roman Empire collapsed, that it was religious monks who copied and preserved the texts of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers? There were no printing presses-- this was a great labor.

That doesn't mean that NO people of the time period were able to thrive, but most people didn't due to the extent religion was seen as all important.

That would suggest a provable correlation between religious faith and "thriving", which does not exist. Many of the pioneers of various branches of science were also quite religious. The United States has been, throughout most of its history, a very religious country, but that has not kept it from thriving. Your conclusion lacks a rational basis. What I do see is your ideological desire to separate "rational" from "irrational" based on your opinion of religious belief. To the extent that this blinds you to historical reality, it is irrational.

Edited by dakota
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That would suggest a provable correlation between religious faith and "thriving", which does not exist. Many of the pioneers of various branches of science were also quite religious. The United States has been, throughout most of its history, a very religious country, but that has not kept it from thriving. Your conclusion lacks a rational basis. What I do see is your ideological desire to separate "rational" from "irrational" based on your opinion of religious belief. To the extent that this blinds you to historical reality, it is irrational.

America corrupts the majority of the adherents of every religion into a more materialistic, this worldly and practical version. Counting the noses of self-declared religious people in America as if they were equivalent to the monks, self-flagellating worshipers and crusaders of the Dark Ages is not rational.

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"people do in fact thrive though they are very religious; people thrive though they are parasites; people thrive just on the exercise of power"

People live by mixed premises. One may be religious in church and rational iin office. Parasites thrive tru sanction of the victims.

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I think it's pretty non-contraversial that reason is man's means of survival in the sense that you have to follow physics/cause and effect to get anything done in the world. If you plant crops in the winter they won't grow, if you put water in your gas tank the car won't run.

If everyone in the world deliberately did the opposite to what cause and effect requires in their every activity, no activity would complete, and pretty soon we'd all be dead. So at the very least, following cause and effect is a requirement of man's survival.

Now reason in a sense is all about molding your thought processes to mimic the way cause and effect works in the real world. The rules of logic are about contradiction avoidance, and since action is part of identity, reason is helping you avoid thinking about impossible actions. Of course, you can also survive by taking an army of slaves, but someone somewhere down the line must be following the laws of physics. So it still remains true that reason is what is making your survival possible.

Reason has not always been around, it was invented, and people survived before that. But it is a massive efficiency gain. Perhaps they just learned by trial and error, but imagine how many unnecessary trials they conducted which we would immediately recognise up front as not going to work. I wonder if there are people in deepest Africa that still waste hours upon hours attempting irrational things? Such a pity if there are.

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I gave you some personal examples, but I can add more, current as well as historical: Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Stalin, Idi Amin, several Bourbon kings of France, Prince Charles, Henry VIII, Hugo Chavez, Ayatollah Khomeini, Leopold II, Muhammad, John Cage....just how long do I need to make this list?

I don't think there was much thriving going on for Idi Amin, or Stalin. They were pretty much off the deep-end psychologically speaking. Al Sharpton on the other hand may live an okay life, but his actions don't really support his needs of surviving and existing in a social setting. This is the same for Nancy Pelosi. If you do think you can use the word thriving for these people, then explain to me how Nancy Pelosi is thriving. She's alive and all, but I really do not know what to say of her that suggests she's furthering her life through her actions.

I wasn't referring to the Dark Ages, but to the Middle Ages.

My mistake. Still, I don't understand your point. You're telling me that some people were trying to live through reason. You're also confirming that to the extent people act rational (within the context of their knowledge, life as the standard of value, reason as the method) they thrive.

That would suggest a provable correlation between religious faith and "thriving", which does not exist. Many of the pioneers of various branches of science were also quite religious. The United States has been, throughout most of its history, a very religious country, but that has not kept it from thriving. Your conclusion lacks a rational basis. What I do see is your ideological desire to separate "rational" from "irrational" based on your opinion of religious belief. To the extent that this blinds you to historical reality, it is irrational.

You can't just separate people into "rational" and "irrational" and be done with it, and I'm not doing that. People have mixed premises.

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America corrupts the majority of the adherents of every religion into a more materialistic, this worldly and practical version. Counting the noses of self-declared religious people in America as if they were equivalent to the monks, self-flagellating worshipers and crusaders of the Dark Ages is not rational.

I agree with your first sentence. I won't bother to address the straw-man assertion you make in your second sentence, which entirely misses the point I was making.

People live by mixed premises. One may be religious in church and rational iin office. Parasites thrive tru sanction of the victims.

We agree. You're confirming the point I am making, which is that much (not all) of Objectivist ehtics really aren't very objective (in the usual sense of the word).

I think it's pretty non-contraversial that reason is man's means of survival in the sense that you have to follow physics/cause and effect to get anything done in the world.

Yes, obviously.

If everyone in the world deliberately did the opposite to what cause and effect requires in their every activity, no activity would complete, and pretty soon we'd all be dead. So at the very least, following cause and effect is a requirement of man's survival.

I agree with your first statement. However, there is NO history of any such event (everyone committing suicide), and so, as a previous poster mantioned, the human race continues to amble along, often with mixed premises, often chock-full of parasites, often holding views that you and I might not think are very wise.

Of course, you can also survive by taking an army of slaves, but someone somewhere down the line must be following the laws of physics.

I'm sure history is replete with examples of slave owners who lived productive lives. If it were truly the case that "someone down the line must be following the laws of physics", then they all would have died early after miserable lives, and slavery would not have persisted as long as it has (and it does continue today).

So it still remains true that reason is what is making your survival possible.

Yes, and maybe reason tells you that having an army of slaves is the way to survive.

Reason has not always been around, it was invented, and people survived before that.

This is quite a remarkable statement! Tell me, when was reason invented? Give me a date, please. How did anyone survive before then -- did they just get by on emotion? How exactly did that work? And aren't you contradicting your earlier statement that reason is necessary for survival, since these pre-reason people survived well enough to give birth to the person that did invernt it?

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Actually, I did provide examples. Your assertion is false.

Let me quote my challenge, without what you call "the hysterics": "If Ayn's ethical code appears to contradict objectivity, or rely in any way on subjective, i.e., non-reproducible, representations, then please can you give me a single solitary example?"

Note, the challenge is to find an example of Ayn's code contradicting objectivity (or, what is tantamount, relying on subjectivity). Your examples do not meet the challenge. I guess I thought that was implied; indeed, the fact that others picked up on it suggests it was.

Just in case, I figured I'd clarify and give you another at bat.

- ico

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In other words man has no choice about his objective standard of value. He knows that this is his life. His only choice, therefore is to reject this objective standard and to substitute it with some other arbitrary standard. This choice is not an error of knowledge but moral breach and therefore immoral. Choice is an act of volition and volition, as Ayn Rand observed begins with the first syllogism. The only choice man has is to think and to recognize life as standard of value, or to avoid the effort and to accept arbitrary standard. The first choice is based on man's own experience and reason, it's rational and therefore moral. The second implicates rejection of reality and reason and thus immoral.

Leonid, having reread your posts so far in this thread, I find myself in general agreement with you; the only nit I have to pick is whether you, when you think "man" are thinking in terms of an "individual". Simply reread the quote above, substituting the more specific phrase "an individual" wherever the word "man" occurs. Or just read the below, where I have cut and pasted and added caps so you can see what I edited:

In other words an individual has no choice about his objective standard of value. He knows that this is his life. His only choice, therefore is to reject this objective standard and to substitute it with some other arbitrary standard. This choice is not an error of knowledge but moral breach and therefore immoral. Choice is an act of volition and volition, as Ayn Rand observed begins with the first syllogism. The only choice an individual has is to think and to recognize his life as his standard of value, or to avoid the effort and to accept someone else's arbitrary standard. The first choice is based on his own experience and reason, it's rational and therefore moral. The second implicates rejection of reality and reason and thus immoral.

that reads perfectly to me.

Cheers.

- ico

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However, the assertion was made here that "man has no choice about his objective standard of value" -- that's quite a claim, really. I don't think it is unreasonable to ask for scientific evidence for such a support.

I think the assertion needs to be restated: "each individual has one and only one objective standard of value". A is A, an entity acts according to its nature. Objectivism then invokes primacy of Existence to insist on the only valid (because, only validatable) position: the ultimate standard of value must be given in the ultimate difference that makes existence conditional for an animate being: life. The choice is not whether to embrace that standard or not, per se; the choice is whether to reject every other standard as a form of death, torture, poison, decay, and etc. bad stuff; or allow a melange of standards to ooze contradictions in one's mind.

The evidence is simple: the fact that there is evidence of the consequences of various actions/choices. Existence provides feedback, constantly. Try contradicting that which you consider the good, and see how you feel, see how successful you are. If there is no ultimate, given standard of value at the root for you, then how in heck did you ever bootstrap yourself in the first place? Clearly, social conditioning is not a powerful enough mechanism to explain that individuals naturally act in their own best interests to the degree they are thinking clearly.

In other words, I think it is facetious to expect double-blind studies when volition and the law of causality, combined with a proper standard to use as compass, are sufficient to explain my skill of navigation (or lack thereof) -- at least, to my self this is evident.

- ico

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Agreed, though some here appear to think that Rand was the sole exception....

No one who understands Ayn's ideas would insult her by claiming she was superhuman.

However, the ideas Ayn communicated to me, via her writings, have proven unbreakable in my experience. Granted, I am only one individual, but it is startling to realize that, of all the voices I have tuned in throughout my life, the only one -- the only one -- with whose ideas I cannot find flaw is Ayn.

Now, you don't know me, so why should you respect my opinion? But I guess, if you did know me, and you were rational, you would respect my experience and know-how, at least. So, take it for what it is worth.

Cheers.

- ico

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