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Do animals have volition II?

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Here is something Peikoff says about animal choice.

Earlier he denies that animals have volition, but also here explicitly says that he doesn't know if animals can choose and treats it as a scientific question. If he wants to reserve volition as a term for conceptual consciousness, then I agree with him. However, he seems willing to use the term volition and thinks it is a nonarbitrary possibility that animals have some degree of volition. But it's important to remember that if animals can choose in the sense talked about here, they are not operating simply mechanically or literally automatically. 

1:42:00

Edited by Eiuol
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The following have all been asserted by whYNOT:
Page 1 "men have and need a volitional consciousness, animals don't."
Page 1 "They [higher animals] are not self-conscious, nor conscious of their relation to existence, therefore are of non-volitional consciousness."
Page 3 "Only a volitional consciousness [like humans have] can select acts among a few or many options."
Page 4 "Animals don't *need* to "choose" and cannot." 
Page 5 "An animal lacks volition so doesn't learn."
Page 7 "I think you might have found that no argument for 'animal volition' is tenable"
Page 8 'Physical' volition, we (men and all life forms) possess. But ANY goal-directed action is volitional. And: Volition = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious or fully conscious."

The last quote from page 8 massively contradicts his assertions on pages 1-7.

Edited by merjet
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15 hours ago, whYNOT said:

By logic, if one attributes 'physical' volition (self-initiated motion) to animal and man, one should. This blending of volition among the species, including men and animals equally, also doesn't do any favors for either.

By logic, I attribute to vertebrates the some powers of choice - especially selective attention and self-initiated motion - based on observed behavior and the nature of their nervous systems (link).

Nobody here has blended human volition and animal volition equally into an amorphous mess except you. To wit: "ANY goal-directed action is volitional. And: Volition = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious or fully conscious."

Edited by merjet
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14 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Earlier he denies that animals have volition, but also here explicitly says that he doesn't know if animals can choose and treats it as a scientific question. If he wants to reserve volition as a term for conceptual consciousness, then I agree with him. However, he seems willing to use the term volition and thinks it is a nonarbitrary possibility that animals have some degree of volition.

At what time in the video does Peikoff deny that animals have volition? Starting at about 46:00 he says that volition doesn't become manifest to a human child until well after birth (after it becomes aware of its own consciousness). Starting at about 1:42 he says he doesn't know if other animals can make choices or have volition or not. A bit later he says it appears as if they do based on his observations, but doesn't know if an animal's attention is totally controlled by external forces or some element originates from within. He says nothing at all about the nature of the nervous system, with both efferent and afferent nerves (link), a scientific fact I regard as pertinent to both selective attention and self-initiated motion. 

Edited by merjet
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2 hours ago, merjet said:

At what time in the video does Peikoff deny that animals have volition?

34:50. He basically says that volition is always conceptual.

But it isn't a big deal, spoken lectures are not necessarily built for the same precision as writing. His clarification in the Q&A smooths out the problems I saw in his assertion.

Edited by Eiuol
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2 hours ago, merjet said:

The following have all been asserted by whYNOT:
Page 1 "men have and need a volitional consciousness, animals don't."
Page 1 "They [higher animals] are not self-conscious, nor conscious of their relation to existence, therefore are of non-volitional consciousness."
Page 3 "Only a volitional consciousness [like humans have] can select acts among a few or many options."
Page 4 "Animals don't *need* to "choose" and cannot." 
Page 5 "An animal lacks volition so doesn't learn."
Page 7 "I think you might have found that no argument for 'animal volition' is tenable"
Page 8 'Physical' volition, we (men and all life forms) possess. But ANY goal-directed action is volitional. And: Volition = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious or fully conscious."

The last quote from page 8 massively contradicts his assertions on pages 1-7.

Well spotted, and I stand by statements 1 - 7.

The oversight in 8 should have read (and the context shows) - "ANY goal-directed action is *physically* volitional" - which I soon after admitted was roughly put, to be replaced with "self-initiated motion".

Then the rest of that is coherent:

""Physical volition" [i.e. self-initiated motion] = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious...etc." 

Thanks for the close attention.

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29 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

""Physical volition" [i.e. self-initiated motion] = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious...etc." 

Even your clarification says that self initiated motion is volitional... If physical volition is supposed to be metaphorical, then say so.

Edited by Eiuol
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3 hours ago, merjet said:

By logic, I attribute to vertebrates the some powers of choice - especially selective attention and self-initiated motion - based on observed behavior and the nature of their nervous systems (link).

Nobody here has blended human volition and animal volition equally into an amorphous mess except you. To wit: "ANY goal-directed action is volitional. And: Volition = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious or fully conscious."

"Volitional" just doesn't cut it for the animal kingdom.

Not by the dictionary definition (presupposing a "will"), not by observed and (at least partially) understood animal nature and activity, nor in the absolute significance of "volitional" in the Objectivist corpus.

You need another word, I think (assuming self-initiated motion isn't accurate enough for you).

I'm a fanatic about man's volitional consciousness, I freely admit. Whatever may or does dilute that identity, by casual allocation of volition to animals for example, will get me going. 

Correction already made above:  *Physical* volition (loosely put) and goal-directed action are synonymous. (Unconscious or involuntary or conscious)

Edited by whYNOT
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24 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Even your clarification says that self initiated motion is volitional... If physical volition is supposed to be metaphorical, then say so.

Used it a few times. And from a quote by Rand found a precise substitute which I then acknowledged. Since, I have dropped it.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

34:50. He basically says that volition is always conceptual.

Thanks. Of course, Peikoff undercut that later during the Q&A when he said he didn't know whether or not nonhuman animals make any choices or have any volition and that some animals appear to make some choices, at least regarding their attention.   

His saying that volition doesn't become manifest to a human child until well after birth and after becoming aware of its own consciousness suggests to me the following question. An animal or human making a choice and being self-aware that it is making a choice are different things. So couldn't an animal make a choice w/o it being self-aware that it has this ability? After all, any vertebrate has a nervous system (and other internal organs) whether or not it knows it has a nervous system (and other internal organs).

Similarly, is a human child capable of choosing before it is conceptually self-aware that it can choose? Couldn't an infant push away a bottle of milk because it is no longer hungry without being conceptually self-aware that it is exercising its volition?

So an alternative to "volition is always conceptual" is "awareness of volition is always conceptual."

 

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18 hours ago, whYNOT said:

"Volitional" just doesn't cut it for the animal kingdom.

Not by the dictionary definition (presupposing a "will"), not by observed and (at least partially) understood animal nature and activity, nor in the absolute significance of "volitional" in the Objectivist corpus.

You need another word, I think (assuming self-initiated motion isn't accurate enough for you).

Self-initiated motion alone is not enough to explain volition. Two more things are needed -- goal-directedness and selective attention. A goal directs the motion. Selective attention is the precondition of initiating. Indeed, selective attention is more basic than self-initiated motion because it precedes pursuing any goal with self-initiated motion. The combination of the three is volition. 

My use of "selective attention" is similar to the way Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff used "focus" and "choice to focus." 

Ayn Rand: "The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional." 
Peikoff: "“Focus” designates a quality of one’s mental state, a quality of active alertness. “Focus” means the state of a goal-directed mind committed to attaining full awareness of reality. It’s the state of a mind committed to seeing, to grasping, to understanding, to knowing." ... "The process of focus is not the same as the process of thought; it is the precondition of thought." 
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/focus.html

These statements don't mention animal consciousness, but consider how they also apply to animal consciousness with some modification. Does a nonhuman animal ever focus its consciousness or awareness? I think there is plenty of evidence for it. And selective attention is the pre-condition of self-initiated motion and goal-directed action. In turn, selective attention is preconditioned by some desire or need.

Readers can judge for themselves, but I think the combination of selective attention, self-initiated motion, and goal-directedness capture human volition very well, too. In no way does this equate human volition and animal volition. Said combination only describes the fundamentals they have in common.

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6 hours ago, merjet said:

Self-initiated motion alone is not enough to explain volition. Two more things are needed -- goal-directedness and selective attention. A goal directs the motion. Selective attention is the precondition of initiating. Indeed, selective attention is more basic than self-initiated motion because it precedes pursuing any goal with self-initiated motion. The combination of the three is volition. 

My use of "selective attention" is similar to the way Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff used "focus" and "choice to focus." 

Ayn Rand: "The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional." 
Peikoff: "“Focus” designates a quality of one’s mental state, a quality of active alertness. “Focus” means the state of a goal-directed mind committed to attaining full awareness of reality. It’s the state of a mind committed to seeing, to grasping, to understanding, to knowing." ... "The process of focus is not the same as the process of thought; it is the precondition of thought." 
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/focus.html

These statements don't mention animal consciousness, but consider how they also apply to animal consciousness with some modification. Does a nonhuman animal ever focus its consciousness or awareness? I think there is plenty of evidence for it. And selective attention is the pre-condition of self-initiated motion and goal-directed action. In turn, selective attention is preconditioned by some desire or need.

Readers can judge for themselves, but I think the combination of selective attention, self-initiated motion, and goal-directedness capture human volition very well, too. In no way does this equate human volition and animal volition. Said combination only describes the fundamentals they have in common.

Forgotten, still, the rhino in the room which no one here has acknowledged. How can anyone mention mammal, bird, reptile etc. behavior without giving this maximum attention?

What ¬primarily¬ impels animals into action?

The survival instinct. An instinct for self-preservation.

Which one can deduce from only one question : "generation after generation", does some species (broadly) repeat the same identical behavior?

If affirmative, we are observing instinct at work, no doubt. Innate knowledge, which is non-purposive, non-volitional but also highly effective.

Take any animals in the wild and watch them constantly scan their surroundings, searching for anything that breaks the perceptual pattern (shapes, sound or movement) of the environment. They sniff the breeze, prick up and move their ears and continuously watch. Then will (automatically) direct their eyes in the direction of any familiar/unfamiliar smell or sounds. Anything which tells of other animals, threats, or possible prey or fresh grazing close by, and so on. Additionally, all those senses are far more enhanced than humans can experience, extending their range of awareness perhaps miles away.

That's "goal directed action" by instinct. And then - when they isolate something unusual or a newcomer will they pay it "special attention". Pursue, hide, flee, ignore/accept the other animal as a non-danger, etc., by their particular nature (instinct again).

The instinct to survive, clearly heritable and favoring the species as a whole, causes the primary actions. I'm sure other actions, like the young 'learning' by mock fights and imitating and following the adults or the herd, are secondary, derived from instinct also. To learn specific response-behaviors is instinctive to each specific species.

Selective attention/awareness is instinctual and essential to animals' self-preservation. Not with any purposeful intention, however effective the results. Even their intense perception, automatically carried out and maintained, should not be mistaken for "focusing".

Edited by whYNOT
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More on instinctive behavior for self-preservation:

 

https://africageographic.com/stories/understanding-lion-infanticide/

Notice the anthropomorphic "infanticide".

This supposedly scientific article gives among other (properly genetic) reasons for killing cubs, "the lion does not want to spend energy..." etc!

That volitional speculation is just bad science.

In between the genetics - and attributing a lion with volition, there's no mention of instinct per se.

Why is there so little heard and written at large of instinctive behavior by animals lately? (But plenty of 'human instincts' - work that out...)

 

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On 6/21/2021 at 2:36 PM, merjet said:

An animal or human making a choice and being self-aware that it is making a choice are different things. So couldn't an animal make a choice w/o it being self-aware that it has this ability?

Can you be more precise about what you mean by self-awareness?

You could mean it like metacognition, awareness of one's thinking habits and methods, and monitoring one's thinking, and recognizing that you are the one acting. This would imply explicit awareness that one has made a certain kind of choice for particular reasons related to subsequence of thoughts or emotions.

Or you could mean it like internal awareness and perception. By that I mean in contrast with external perception (touch, smell, vision, etc.). This would be pain, pleasure, temperature, proprioception, and probably plenty more that I didn't even know had a particular name. Self-awareness is present at least to the extent that there is internal awareness of what is going on in the animals mind, although it lacks metacognition. Even more, external perception implies some internal perception, otherwise, the animal would not have a means to self-correct locomotion. The biological function of the external senses requires self correction. So, the extent that an animal has a range of internal perception, they would be self-aware.

Of course, metacognition is the widest range of internal perception using these explanations. So humans have the greatest capacity to be self-aware.

I would say self-reflective awareness is always conceptual. The nature of conceptual thought permits metacognition.

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On 6/22/2021 at 1:38 PM, whYNOT said:

Forgotten, still, the rhino in the room which no one here has acknowledged.

Others here have acknowledged instincts, and nobody here has denied that animals have instincts. It's more like Tony (whYNOT) mistakes a warthog for a rhino and fails or refuses to see the elephant in the room. :) The "elephant" in this case is the idea that animals sometimes use selective attention, deliberate and choose, i.e. have some level of volition. Tony writes: "attributing animals with human volition and other human characteristics is the next erroneous, anthropomorphic step" (link).

I have attributed some level of volition to animals, much less than humans. Also, not all animal behavior is instinctual and automatic. An animal's deliberation time may be very brief, making the behavior seem automatic, especially when one option is much more desirable than the others, but that does not imply the behavior is automatic.

Swing a toy on a string in front of a pet cat. Sometimes the cat will reach for the toy with a paw (which paw?) or try to use its claws on the toy. The cat doesn't at other times, merely observing the swinging toy with acute selective attention. The cat repeatedly deliberates and chooses whether it does or does not reach for the toy. In contrast, watch a cat (at least 6 weeks old) fall to the ground from several feet in the air. No matter its body position when starting to fall, it will always try to land on all four paws. That behavior is instinctual, a reflex, and automatic (link).
 

On 6/22/2021 at 1:38 PM, whYNOT said:

What ¬primarily¬ impels animals into action?

The survival instinct. An instinct for self-preservation.

Hunger, thirst, fear, pleasure, pain, and an itch are not instincts. So Tony begins his answer with a category error! Some animal behavior, but not all, is instinctual. Learned behavior is not. If it were, learning would be unnecessary. The cat's behavior with the toy is not instinctual. Some does not imply all, despite Tony's numerous uses of the fallacy.

On 6/22/2021 at 1:38 PM, whYNOT said:

Which one can deduce from only one question : "generation after generation", does some species (broadly) repeat the same identical behavior?

If affirmative, we are observing instinct at work, no doubt.

Humans eat, drink, sleep, have sex, laugh, cry, argue, and more -- repeating the same behaviors generation after generation. So those behaviors must be "instinctual" per Tony's premise.  :)

On 6/22/2021 at 1:38 PM, whYNOT said:

Selective attention/awareness is instinctual and essential to animals' self-preservation. Not with any purposeful intention, however effective the results. Even their intense perception, automatically carried out and maintained, should not be mistaken for "focusing".

Selective attention/awareness is not instinctual. There is no selecting in instinctual behavior. 

This is another instance of Tony's ambiguity-creating scare quotes. My earlier use of "focusing" was not mistaken. Focusing is multi-faceted. It can be perceptual, conceptual, and more, e.g. focusing binoculars. My use of "selective attention" was to refer to both perceptual and conceptual focusing. It was not to posit that animals focus conceptually. Perceptual focusing is still focusing and it isn't entirely automatic. There is plentiful evidence that some animals use selective attention, deliberate, and choose.

Tony's posts remind me of a saying. If the only tool you have is a hammer, treat everything as if it were a nail. Regarding animal behavior, his "hammer" is the survival instinct on automatic. A cat playing with a toy is a "nail." When the cat loses interest in the toy and walks away, that's a "nail." A cat licking itself or another cat is a "nail." A dog scratching an itch or not scratching an itch is a "nail." A squirrel jumping from one tree branch to another is a "nail." The squirrel pausing to select jumping to a different branch and what spot on it is a "nail." A cow starting or ceasing to moo is a "nail." :) 

Of course, I assume these animals do these things not being aware they face the alternative of life or death or because they have a survival instinct. Some -- not all -- of the things they do are conducive to its continued survival, but the animal doesn't know that. The animal can have some purpose/goal in mind, e.g. quenching its thirst or relieving an itch. When Ayn Rand wrote the footnote in VoS distinguishing between goal-directed and purposive action, she referred to the automatic functions of an organism. That does not address non-automatic functions. She also attributed "purposive" to "a consciousness", not "only a human consciousness." 

Tony wrote: "In short, purposive = volitional. Non-purposive = non-volitional. An animal does all that it does instinctively, ... NOT, with self-preservation as its purposeful intention and goal" (ibid.)

Why can't an animal have an intention or purpose short of self-preservation, like quenching its thirst or scratching an itch? It can't according to Tony, since for him "purposive = volitional," and an animal having any volition at all is taboo. 

Similarly, I do not claim that an animal deliberating and choosing is self-aware that it is deliberating and choosing. The dog deliberates between scratching the itch, ignoring it, or doing something else more desirable at the time, then selects one of them. I don't assume the dog deliberates between I (meaning the dog itself) scratch the itch, I ignore it, or I do something else more desirable at the time. The second and third options are both instances of not scratching. The alternative is to scratch or not to scratch, not life or death.

Dealing with Tony's prolific use of non sequiturs, faulty a priori assumptions, and ambiguities takes too much time. So I will stop now.

Edited by merjet
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19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Can you be more precise about what you mean by self-awareness?

You could mean it like metacognition, awareness of one's thinking habits and methods, and monitoring one's thinking, and recognizing that you are the one acting.

[omitted to save space]

 

I would say self-reflective awareness is always conceptual. The nature of conceptual thought permits metacognition.

Good question. I had not thought of it that way, so my reply is provisional. Regarding self-awareness by humans I include metacognition. Regarding self-awareness by nonhuman animals, I assume it doesn't apply. My impression is more like the animal deliberates and chooses without having the concept I or me. See the dog with an itch example in my prior post.

I agree with your final paragraph.

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A concept missing from this thread until now is habits. Do animals have habits? It seems they do. I am not seeking any extended discussion of animal habits. Anyway, habits are a kind of behavior besides instinct and volition. 

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2 hours ago, merjet said:

My impression is more like the animal deliberates and chooses without having the concept I or me.

I would be careful of the word deliberate. Personally I reserve that word for logical thought, or proceeding through a series of conceptual thoughts. I think of deliberation as a type of choosing.

3 hours ago, merjet said:

Dealing with Tony's prolific use of non sequiturs, faulty a priori assumptions, and ambiguities takes too much time.

Resist the urge!

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On 6/22/2021 at 7:38 PM, whYNOT said:
3 hours ago, merjet said:

Humans eat, drink, sleep, have sex, laugh, cry, argue, and more -- repeating the same behaviors generation after generation. So those behaviors must be "instinctual" per Tony's premise.  :)

Selective attention/awareness is not instinctual. There is no selecting in instinctual behavior. 

 

 

WhYNOT:

Take any animals in the wild and watch them constantly scan their surroundings, searching for anything that breaks the perceptual pattern (shapes, sound or movement) of the environment. They sniff the breeze, prick up and move their ears and continuously watch. Then will (automatically) direct their eyes in the direction of any familiar/unfamiliar smell or sounds. Anything which tells of other animals, threats, or possible prey or fresh grazing close by, and so on. Additionally, all those senses are far more enhanced than humans can experience, extending their range of awareness perhaps miles away.

That's "goal directed action" by instinct. And then - when they isolate something unusual or a newcomer will they pay it "special attention". Pursue, hide, flee, ignore/accept the other animal as a non-danger, etc., by their particular nature (instinct again).

 

I put this scene in the bush too plainly to be misrepresented, of what IS instinctual, and was still misrepresented.

The animal (for only one behavior from many) and any animal scans its environment constantly; It wasn't taught, it is an activity repeated through millennia - so IS an ¬instinct¬ for self-preservation.

Then I said "when they isolate something" do they "pay it special attention" and respond one way or other. And of course that's instinctive too.

Wrong. "Selective attention/awareness" IS instinctual, primarily. As with the animal's broad range awareness.

Edited by whYNOT
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4 hours ago, merjet said:

Tony wrote: "In short, purposive = volitional. Non-purposive = non-volitional. An animal does all that it does instinctively, ... NOT, with self-preservation as its purposeful intention and goal" (ibid.)

Why can't an animal have an intention or purpose short of self-preservation, like quenching its thirst or scratching an itch? It can't according to Tony, since for him "purposive = volitional," and an animal having any volition at all is taboo. 

.

Before you scratch an itch, do you first purposefully deliberate -

Now, where is that irritation? What caused it? What can I do about it? Should I do anything?

Or do you automatically reach for and scratch that exact spot?

Therefore, why an animal would do anything differently is ludicrous!

It's an automatic biological and physical urge, see? I have been over those.

Looks like you will go to any lengths to establish 'animal volition'.

Can anyone tell me why it's so important to you all?

 

Edited by whYNOT
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4 hours ago, merjet said:

 

 The cat's behavior with the toy is not instinctual.

.

What absorbs me is how poor you guys are at observing your pets and any animals.

Every kitten I've known and seen will ¬instinctively¬ and re-actively try to grab with its claws or pounce on something moving close by, specifically a toy.

The prey instinct: A survival instinct...

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5 hours ago, merjet said:

... the animal deliberates and chooses without having the concept I or me.

"Exercise of will" would appear to be defunct, without the awareness: I/me.

"I" want that. "I" am doing this.

But if that definition of volition does not fit your theory you could always modify the definition...Otherwise, sorry.

And habitual behavior is clearly what animals, mammals and birds can accomplish. "Besides" volition, right.

Not "besides" instincts - as a result of them. The order: An instinct to learn - the training and/or learning of actions - the habitual repetition of actions. 

Edited by whYNOT
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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Please stop spamming. 4 posts in a row addressing the same person without a response.

"Spamming", huh? I broke up my replies to merjet's rather rambling post, and two short ones into four pertinent sections, I wrote in the period of an hour. So obviously - each one could not be replied to instantly; and there's more he raised I want to respond to - do you have a problem with that?

Now it's up to him to reply if he wants or rest his case.

As always, you manage to interfere in and block any debate I'm in. You only have authority to moderate here, not to control the exchange of rational thinking by independent Objectivists.

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