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  1. [NB -- this was originally an unpublished draft, but was viewable by the Administrator, who rightfully thought it was a normal entry in the blog. I publish it now since it contains some interesting and challenging feedback on my opinions. The draft was taken from the Rigging thread.]

    On 8/6/2016 at 1:28 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

    Maybe your overkill is due to the fact that you sense the persuasion power behind a gazillion women like that coming forward

    Overkill.  Gotcha. Gazillions! 

    Maybe, as you say. Maybe not.

    I hope that reports and suspicions of irregularities and vulnerabilities are taken seriously by any American concerned about the integrity of the election system.  I hope folks use their noggins to separate out the schmutz from the real beef. I hope they investigate and report.

    On 8/6/2016 at 1:28 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

    Is your thirst for gotcha so great you have to do a fake gotcha?

    Fake Gotcha William. Oh, we know him well, don't we? He is so fecking thirsty for that gotcha, innit?  

    But anyway, what you refer to as overkill is due to the preceding fact, right? Overkill for me meaning spelling out the specifics I am concerned about, and the difficult work involved in separating fear, fact and fiction on the subject of this thread's topic.  Now, the overkill-maybe-fact. The fact maybe that I sense gazillions of Milkshake Ladies coming forward.

    How are you approaching discussion here, Michael? Are we not more-or-less trusted by the other, in the same rational-thinking, reasoning League?  Sometimes, when you seize a statement and subject it to the label-gun, I think of the larger content passed by.  My sunny heart tells me that you may be archly dismissive of the truncquoat, but we are otherwise shoulder to shoulder in our pursuit of Reality, and that you generally agree with the broad strokes and summary of my argument. That at any rate, is one impression I take away, or a hope, one might say. 

    Quote

    I can't explain it otherwise since you are not prone to misunderstanding something so elementary.

    You can indeed explain it otherwise. Please read my commentary again, with a touch more Charity perhaps. Try to see through that beyond the black labels of Gotcha Thirst and Overkill.   We are on the same cognitive team over-all, even if we differ in our assessments of GOP candidate vulnerabilities. I expect you be stumping one hundred percent of the time, while in that role on the hustings. But not always.  Sometimes you will disagree with Trump campaign actions and statements and focus.  Even if we don't hear about it.

    Anyhow, perhaps we can re-orient the discussion to our shared concern: the reality, the danger, the perceived-reality of serious problems in the integrity of the election November 8th.  I had my fun with anecdotal Angry Milkshake Ladies. We have set the stage for further discussion.

     

    So, setting aside that which presumably unites us in reason, and overlooking the Label-Gun, I will go back to the "Riggy" Business: what are your main fears, if any?  Where is the most damage likely to occur? How can this looming possibility of vote-rigging be averted?  What should be the focus of attempts to prevent attacks on the integrity of your elections?

    In the Hoopla of the big media and all the subsidiary media, there are some good hard-nosed discussions going on about the probabilities of 'rigging.' There is a to-and-fro, point-counterpoint to such discussions. They cannot be decided in the sense of a capitulation; there are differences of informed opinion.  

    One current of discussion gets stuck on asking what Mr Trump is doing on the practical level, and what he is doing on the rhetorical level. So far, I see nothing from the campaign itself trying to sell the Riggy Blob.  It's just vague alarm and ghost-storiy agit-prop so far. I expect this to get more pointed and less rhetorical over time.

    If you take off your Trump Red Hat for a bit, Michael, and see where you share common ground. I have no intentions of going to The Lake to join Steve, Robert, Stephen, Roger, Peter and Jerry and the other vacationers, but I do understand a tired reluctance to get into it with you that might have played a part in the departures.  If it ever were down to only one Dissenter on Trump subjects, would  label-gunning arguments be useful?

    Forgive all that. Disagreements are where diamonds are made. Here's my main question informed by the Riggyness:   will Mr Trump denounce the November results if they do not favour him?

    What makes this a vexing question is that if you accept that the election is likely to be stolen -- then there is no real point to voting. It is this kind of exhaustion of hope that I find is the biggest danger of all.  

  2. Sorry.

    I clicked on the link. I stopped reading it when I read about JFK jr dying in that plane crash.

    I'm a pilot. Once I regularly flew my flying club aircraft out of the same New Jersey airport--Caldwell--he departed from. When earning my private license my instructor deliberately (and illegally) took the Cessna 172 into the clouds and told me to fly on instruments. I couldn't do it the first time. My body was screaming don't do! what my mind was saying do instead, looking at the instruments. I was suffering from complete spatial disorientation. We were in a climbing right turn near a stall and maybe a spin. (I've also spun a 172 twice--same instructor.)

    That's what happened to JFK jr. Not enough training. Flying at night and over water too boot. He lost control of his twin-engined airplane and killed himself and his passengers not realizing the situation could be saved simply by letting go of the controls if the craft was properly trimed for the power setting as it damn well should have been. You see, if you let go of the controls you feel you're letting go of your salvation and salvation comes from magnifying your control inputs according to what your body feels. You die in a panic of why oh why aren't the inputs doing what my body says they should be doing? Not enough input!--input more inputs or die!

    So, my unscientific conclusion is the site is crap.

    --Brant

    when I know what I'm talking about I'm worth reading

    Source: Run Hillary Run - Still an outside possibility

  3. jim543
    Latest Entry

    "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."

    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    My day was one that seemed to careen from one area of interest to another with not much connection between them. I began the day with continued reading of Cormac McCarthy's novelThe Crossing, the second volume of The Border Trilogy. In the late morning I took a break to attend a performance of the great Romantic ballet Giselle by Adolphe Adam. This was shown at the AMC River East theaters in a 3D film from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburgh. Returning home I ended the day preparing discussion questions to accompany a reading of The Double Helix by James D. Watson. The finest memoir of a scientist I have encountered.

    Now what do all of these activities have in common? You might say, well, nothing. But on reflection I would disagree for each of the activities include and even have as an important part of their essence, the attribute of beauty. The beauty of Giselle is obvious as it is the epitome of Romantic ballet and set the standard for decades to come. It is more difficult to discern the beauty of McCarthy's novel or Watson's memoir, yet it is there in each one and is an important part of the essence of the work. Cormac McCarthy is a prose stylist of the highest order and his ability to blend dream-like prose poems with gritty realism is amazing both in its beauty and its existence. It is a wonder that he succeeds, but he does. While James Watson had the unenviable task of attempting to communicate complicated scientific ideas, yet also succeeded in his own way, and in doing so shared the beauty of nature as exemplified in the double helix. So a day of contemporary American fiction and nineteenth century Romantic ballet and great science writing was brought together by a simple idea: the beauty inherent in it all. What a day!

  4. J.S. McGowan
    Latest Entry

    On my school holidays... pretty nice so far. just been relaxing etc.

    I did my learners a few days ago... I failed by one point... one point. Ah well: Ill be prepared for the next shot.

    I better start on a history essay soon. I'm going to cover the history of the environmentalist movement. I think my hypothesis will revolve around trying to uncover the dark secrets of what modern environmentalism means. One card I have uncovered is that the Nazi's had one of the most "progressive" environmental policies...

  5. I was watching the gates notes and was motivated to blog about education as It is a lot of political and employment problems .

    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Personal/Americas-Future-Bill-Gates-Thomas-Friedman

  6. To Phil and whomever else it may concern:

    Isn't there something deeply contradictory about the mission of trying to "fix the world" by converting it to a philosophy whose founder celebrated one's prime focus being not on saving others from their folly, but on pursuing one's own self-development and self-fulfillment?

    When Rand was told she was obligated to write a new novel, she rebelled against the altruism of it -- then wondered: What if all the creative, productive people in the world went on strike? She wrote Atlas Shrugged, not to convert people to her way of thinking and living, but to be a rational individual, creating and producing something of value that ~she~ wanted to see come into being.

    If others bought Rand's novel and liked it, then good -- she would make money, too! :-) But she was not ~obligated~ to them to make them something they would like -- nor to ~herself~ (and her philosophy) to make something that would "convert" them to her way of thinking and living.

    And isn't it deeply contradictory to try to create and multiply ~organizations~ of individualists? A bit like herding cats, no? :-) Trying to create the Objectivist equivalent of "churches" and "religious communities" is doomed to frustration and defeat. Objectivists, and people who should be Objectivists, are not susceptible to the mystical, altruistic, and collectivistic values that draw most people to religious organizations.

    If you ~must~ focus on creating new Objectivists, do it one person at a time, individual to individual -- and carve out plenty of time for your own personal enjoyment and rejuvenation. It's much more effective ~showing~ what Objectivist makes possible in a person's happiness and achievement, than ~preaching~ it.

    That's why Atlas Shrugged has "converted" far more people to rational individualism than all the lectures and essays by Peikoff, Branden, Kelley, et al combined. It ~shows~ people how to live as a rational, productive human being -- as opposed to an Atilla or a Witch Doctor.

    If your "thing," your best productive fulfillment, is to be a missionary to others, "spreading the word" -- rather than ~creating~ your own original words, artworks, bridges, children, crops, clean floors, etc. -- then God bless you, go for it. But don't do it thinking you are somehow ~obligated~ to spread Objectivism.

    You do not exist for Objectivism. Objectivism exists for ~you~. Objectivism is, and was only ~intended~ to be, a tool for living life and being happy, not a weapon for bashing the heads of others -- nor for chaining yourself to a life of spitting into the wind of mysticism-altruism-collectivism.

    REB

  7. Confession is always weakness. The grave soul keeps its own secrets, and takes its own punishment in silence.

    - Dorothy Dix

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    kluss
    Latest Entry

    maybe you are very messy or just evrything go lost becuse you lost your memory how can you then be rational or know what you want to do to enjoye your life ?

  8. These commentaries on Atlas will be relatively tongue and cheek. You've been warned.

    Marx was Right

    Many thinkers have noted the foundations of Rand's ideas rest a great deal on Marx. While I am no expert one immediate similarity is striking. Marx wrote that Capitalism reduces human relationships to cash transactions in the market. Old ideas like caste, chivalry, christian charity and everything else that impedes business has been wiped out. Rand capitulates and encourages this point with full gusto early on. Notice the sequence of arguments James Taggart offers - faith in humanity, loyalty to a friend, helping the less fortunate - all blown apart by Dagny's assertions of business needs (with such grace there may as well be 'KAPOW' and 'JABLAMM' written after). Because James is using abstracts like loyalty and charity it seems clear Rand is attacking them as such. It seems as though she is setting the context in such a way that only monetary relationships ought to give our lives meaning.

    Dagny's an Idiot

    This caught my eye on rereading Atlas. We are first introduced to Dagny on board a stopped train. We learned previously that the railroad is in horrid shape, crashes are common and no one seems to be fixing them. Dagny's train has hit a stop sign at night. No one can tell her why this section has been stopped. Perhaps there is a problem? Busted track? A wreck? The crew are cautious, they don't want any injuries so they stop.

    Mysterious stop sign at night, cautious crew, accidents everywhere...Dagny's solution? Pull rank and get that train on the move!

    Her description of Dagny after almost getting everyone killed is jaw dropping. A young man stands in absolute awe and reverence and says "That's who runs Taggart Transcontinental"

    Of course, by law of Rand, this remarkably stupid idea gets the train home on time.

    The second instance of Dagny's mental disability comes in her second scene. No one has tested Rearden Metal, official scientific bodies are skeptical, the Board of Directors have not approved its use. But Dagny took a few engineering courses! She knows, like God Himself (or Herself as Rand is on Dagny's side), that Rearden Metal works perfectly.

    Let's look at the history of steel in America for a second. Even after near a hundred years of production there have been major accidents. In 1948 in Donora PA, seventy people died of poisonous smog in a three day period, and that was after a century of making steel.

    Dagny just knows that Rearden metal is perfectly safe and scuffs at the majority of scientists. She took a few courses and likes Hank's abs, why not go into mass nation wide production and stake the company's future on it?

    A token thought about Hitler

    The moment of Eddie by the tree shows Rand's three categories of persons - Culture Creators, Culture Bearers, and Culture Destroyers :P

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    I have been wanting to write something like this for a while and after having done a bit of thinking on Anthemgate, and looking at Art in modern society I have decided to finally put my thoughts down.

    One of the greatest problems in the Objectivist world today is stagnation. Put quite simply up until the election of the Emperor Mrs. Rands books and books to do with Objectivism were slowly growing in sales, however since Rand herself there have been NO major contributors to the Objectivist world. There are various organizations out there who have different objectives and goals but who do pretty much the same thing. None of the organizations have a master plan.

    Culture wars

    I am here going to propose two ideas which if adopted would create massive change in the world in which we live.

    Education.

    What we need not only as Americans but as Objectivists is a complete and total dismantling of the public education system. Most advocates of this options which I know want to do this by a top down decree which is much more difficult, and creates many objections in the minds of people (regardless of if these objections are realistic). A better and more practical option is to put the public schools out of business with private schools. Given the state of tech. today and the cost of running a private school (as well as the potential to lower these costs) we need an Objectivist group which establishes private and affordable private schools.

    The curriculum of these schools should be oriented towards the individual education rather than collective education. The system itself would possess no K-12 structure but would rather focus on the individual students ability to pass a certain course. Students would be able to advance at their own rate rather than being held down to the level of the lowest common denominator. The grouping system would be 1-4, with 1 being the fastest learners and 4 being the slowest learners. In this system the best students could offer more specialized tutoring for slower students which is one way to cut costs. When students reach a certain in their education their education would be expanded to include philosophy, and Austrian Econ. The introduction of these two subjects would occur during what is currently 6th or 7th grade.

    Where to start these schools? I would suggest that the optimal place to start one of these schools (or several of them) are in depressed areas, the poorer areas of Chicago, New York City, LA, the Bronx, etc., in these areas parents would be grateful to get their children out of a doomed school system. The Idea is not to end the public school system by government decree but rather to put it out of business by competition. When the government and the Unions move to do something about it they will create such a riot they will have to leave it alone.

    The second group which needs to be formed is a group which supports and promotes objective art.

    These two things will revolutionize the US.

  9. That this even needs to be stated is a sad commentary on discourse in general. I have not found a standard formalization for defining the default scopes and definitions of terms and statements, so I am creating my own. This is all in an effort to thwart misunderstanding or intentional disruption. I'll modify the list over time.

    - The primary general rule is to assume the best and ask for clarification. Jumping to some conclusion will make you look silly. Getting me to clarify something dubious will make you look smart.

    - The default scope and/or context for any statement (or part thereof) will be one or more of "generally", "normally", "relatively", etc. For instance, the statement "I like cats" should be interpreted as "I [generally and normally] like cats [relative to, and not to the exclusion of non-cats].

    - Words can have multiple meanings. If some meanings weakens my statement while some others strengthens it (in the best possible context), then assume I meant the best of the others.

    - Its quite possible I misused or misspelled a word. It is quite possible I wrote something not that reflective of what I meant. It is quite possible there is some connotation or implication which was not apparent to me. Assume the best and ask for clarification.

    Thats enough for now.

  10. This was my very first story idea as a sophomore in HS. Our regular English teacher had to take a leave of absence to care for her sick daughter. She was out for the full year (a blessing in disguise as her and I did not see eye to eye on how I should write). Ms. Lind was our substitute and stayed with us the entire year. She was a blessing.

    A couple months into the class, after completing a few writing exercises, she assigned us the task of writing a short story. A fault of mine is being wordy. Not so much from trying to fill pages, but I really like detail. It's hard enough when writers don't give you enough to go on. Some of it is by design and I understand this. But there are those that leave gaps and leaves the story vague...no longer allowing the reader to follow along.

    On the due date, I apologized and handed in one chapter. I was pleasantly surprised to get high marks. She pulled me aside as the period ended and told me to keep writing. From that day forth, I spent most of my study halls in the library, writing and jotting notes all the way through senior year.

    The setting is Washington D.C. on 4th of July. A ship of enormous size is in high orbit above Earth. Fireworks are going off in the hundreds around the capital. A shuttle is sent down to investigate, and it touches down on the roof of the Museum of Natural History. Guards are killed by high-explosive rounds and data is stolen from the archives. Police surround the building, not knowing who or what they face. Two of the aliens engage the authorities, wrecking vehicles and structures surrounding the museum. A second fight ensues as the aliens try to get back on the rooftop to make their way back to the mother ship. The climb aboard and escape.

    When the aliens look at the data they realized, with great joy, that it contains information regarding the animal kingdom. Their primary directive is to seek out food sources and here, they've hit the motherlode. Among the aliens, they have a caste of members that are genetically altered to change shape to suit the environment they hunt in. They begin studying their prey, and hunting parties are coordinated.

    Rough draft of what I have so far.

  11. Chris Grieb
    Latest Entry

    We have recently had the deaths of Corin & Lynne. I think only Vanessa is left.

    They were all leftists and could be counted to support whatever bad cause was around. They were also very good actors. I'll enjoy their movies but wince when they give their political positions.

    They had Elizabeth Taylor as a step-mother.

  12. April is Autism Awareness Month. On Friday, April 2, 2010 (Autism Awareness Day) I joined a group from Autism Speaks on the NBC morning news to do the Friday dance with weatherman Andy Avilos and friends. Although you I'm in back and you can’t see my face or my wonderful attempt at doing the limbo under the Autism Speaks banner, I’m on TV doing the Friday dance!

    Please support our family as we raise funds for a very worthy organization that is doing very important work helping families, promoting awareness and funding critical research. The walk takes place on Saturday, May 15 and is a fairly short 5K walk (~ 3 miles) around Soldier Field in Chicago. There will be lots of family friendly activities going on and Rashied Davis of the Chicago Bears will be there also.

    As you may know, my son Sean is affected by autism. He faces many challenges and is working hard to overcome them. We don’t know if he will ever be able to live independently. Hopefully, a cure will be found in his lifetime. With your support, he and others like him may be able to overcome this mysterious condition and lead normal lives. This walk is an opportunity for you to be part of this exciting quest to cure, or at least treat, those afflicted with autism.

    Please consider supporting our team with a donation! http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/chicago/katdaddy9

    Thanks so much!

    Kat

    Source: Walk for Autism

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    Dear Administrator,

    A couple of years ago I did some simple diagrams of material from books by Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden and Tara Smith. Would you please tell me if these constitute rule breaking of your effort to protect copywrited material? I used these diagrams to teach an intro class to philosophy. If you tell me that they are not allowed, I will promptly remove them. Thanks.

    Intro to Philosophy Class

  13. In Objectively Speaking, Rand is quoted as saying that she developed her theory of humor based on what an "acquaintance" suggested.

    I'm wondering if this was Nathaniel Branden (and, of course, whether NB was edited out).

    -Neil Parille

  14. There are times when the extremes that some Liberal left-wing individuals will resort to is just amazing. Case in point: 3 years ago, I partook in a forum thread about unruly children in restaurants. I merely commented that I too had had a feeding situation with my child that resulted in some mild, and appropriate for her age, corporal punishment. Well that didn't go over with one of the members in the thread, who proceeded to judge me as some maniac who goes around beating children to death. Literally. To read the guy's abusive writings about me is just shocking to people of Objectivist point of view, or even any Christian who follows their Bible as a child-rearing guide.

    I was eventually banned from that forum a few months later, and the thread was locked by a moderator, seeing the guy was totally out of control and off the cliff, to use the mod's own words.

    Fast forward to 2009, this week. I get an e-mailed invitation from the moderator of a new forum, intended for ex-members of the other forum. I lurked around for a couple of days and determined that it might be a good place to discuss politics, so I signed up and wrote an intro message.

    Two messages later, the crazy fellow that made inflammatory and direct assaults on my character for my parental point of view, posted that I am that "anti-tax nut and child abuser." I responded to correct the accusation, and the thread "went nuclear" from there. By the the 6th hour, the thread had grown to six pages, two individuals were making physical threats and the original instigator mentioned that he was a fetal medicine specialist (he's from Atlanta, GA). In that thread, he admitted to calling Child Protective Services in my home state in 2006, who did nothing, because I'd didn't do anything wrong or against the law.

    The other fellow that started chiming in with the physical threats was a person who admitted that his own dad tried to beat him to death with an iron and that he went into the US Marines with the intent to learn to kill, so he could serve justice on his drunken father when he got out. As any rational person can ascertain, both these individuals have psychological issues that are clouding their judgement.

    Things got so bad that the site owner deleted the thread, sensing that a defamation or worse type of lawsuit could be in the works. But the good doctor from Atlanta didn't stop there.

    The next day, I receive e-mail from the moderator of the new forum that I had been invited to, informing me of a 'wiki' type web site that now contained a page defaming my character and using abusive terms, without citing references or proof of any kind.

    Now whether I hit my child is beside the point. No question was raised about how hard or lightly the hit was, whether it left a mark or not, or what the exact circumstances were at the time. The instigator, whose identity I have positively identified through a series of hints he had dropped, and a 'wiki' entry on him, citing his real name, which lined up with a database of fetal medicine specialists in Atlanta, chose to assume that I was like all the low-life fathers down south whose abused children he saw daily in his practice. He'd written some of his experience which convinced me that after thirty years of seeing this stuff, it affected him emotionally to the extent where ALL dads who have ever slapped a child are monsters who will later kill their child and should be put away in prison and the key thrown away. He's got blinders on, he's declared war on me, and now he's stepped over the line of reason and now, the law, as it seems that internet stalking and harassment is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific circumstances of the incident.

    I have brought the matter to the attention of an Atlanta-based legal firm and the Atlanta Police. It should be interesting to see what happens. At the very least, I hope the police can talk some sense into this crazed doctor.

    Note to self: Never discuss your child in a public forum--there might be a psychotic doctor reading your comments.

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    The Largest Ponzi Scheme of All

    On March 12, 2009, disgraced former NASDAQ chairman and Wall Street investor Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to cheating investors out of $65 billion. Across America there was an eruption of public outrage, even greater than what accompanied the trials of the September 11th conspirators. He became the villain, the target, for us to direct all of the anger that has been building up inside of us. Since the early 1990s, he had been running a ponzi scheme, “ponzi” referring to the 1920s American immigrant and conman Charles Ponzi. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a ponzi scheme is when you “Rob Peter to Pay Paul.” The FBI reports that Madoff perpetrated the largest scam ever in history, but actually the largest scam is still going on, and it involves the government, the American people, and even you.

    What Madoff did was run an investment advisory business under the name of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, where he managed and invested the money of charities, businesses, and wealthy individuals. However, he never really invested their money—except in his own pockets. Whenever his clients sought to withdraw money or receive their quarterly returns, he would pay them from their own money or the money of new investors, as a fake profit. He had started doing this during a past recession, to satisfy his customers, who still expected high returns investing with him.

    In February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, formerly known as “The Stimulus,” took $787 billion from the American people to stimulate the nation’s economy. Like Bernie Madoff’s scheme, it started in the midst of a recession, to keep the taxpayers, who expected their economic condition to continue to improve, satisfied. In March, a month later, the economy did show some improvement, with Wall Street seeing growth return to the markets, just like Madoff showed his customers making a profit. However, that purported growth was merely the taxpayer’s own money being put back into the economy as “growth.” Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, Peter was taxed to pay Paul. Wall Street did not become more profitable and productive all of a sudden. The increased earnings were merely the addition of the money that was handed back to them by the stimulus. In other words, the government siphoned fuel out of each of our cars, and then suddenly filled them back up, making the dial temporarily go up.

    While Bernard Madoff was able to keep his scam going for a decade, it is unlikely that the government will be able to perpetrate this fraud on the American people as long as that. Madoff only had a few thousand investors, while there are hundreds of millions of taxpayers in this country. Madoff’s fraud unraveled once he ran out of new clients and new revenue. Since the only source of revenue for the government’s scheme is our tax dollars, once the bailouts end, the economy will fall and unfortunately, be even worse than before. Imagine all of the pain and destruction that was wrought by Madoff, except on a mass scale.

    It is ironic and outrageous that while the government and the American people are prosecuting Bernie Madoff for his ponzi scheme, we are all participating in the biggest one of them all. There has been an excoriation against capitalism and greedy Wall Street businessmen like Bernie Madoff for causing our economic woes. But you know, all Madoff did was redistribute wealth, albeit his investors wealth. He did not allow his investors to make a profit, and just shifted their money around while it was in his hands, just as President Obama and Congress are doing with our money now. Bernie Madoff was a first rate socialist, and socialism is the largest ponzi scheme of all.

  15. Did Rand Implicitly Implement the Concept of Duty in Her Moral System?

    Written June 14, 2007

    Rand explicitly denounced the notion of duty in her formulation of ethics. But I here hope to show that she implicitly relied on duty in spite of her explicit rejection of the concept. And the essence of my argument is this: Ethics is a system of justification. We use ethics to justify our actions (and the drives behind our actions). There exist but two mutually exclusive standards for justification. And they are motivation (desire and aversion), and duty. Since Rand rejected motivation as a standard of justification, she implicitly embraced duty as the standard.

    So let me elaborate on all this, beginning with ethics as a system of justification.

    Ethics is a system of justification. It answers a common psychological need (and frequently by extension, survival need) for deciding whether to act pursuant to some desire or aversion or sense of duty. Many desires, aversions and “senses of duty” arise in us with doubts as to whether to pursue their satisfaction. These we call “unjustified.” We use ethics to discover whether satisfying these unjustified drives can in fact be justified.

    Ethics are by no means the only system of justification. There also exist strictly motivational justification systems in which the satisfaction of desires and aversions are justified only in terms of other desires and aversions. Senses of duty are excluded.

    Given what I’ve just explained, all ethical systems therefore rely on a duty to supply justification, as opposed to motivation (desire or aversion). This would include Rand’s Objectivist ethics. However, I don’t want to rely on what I’ve just explained. Instead, I want to offer a category-neutral analysis that doesn’t presume Rand’s ethics rely on duty just because it is the type of justification system I categorize as “ethical.” Let’s see what happens if we give Rand’s system the benefit of a doubt. Perhaps she’s developed an ethical system that doesn’t rely on duty. So let’s just say she’s got a system of justification, for now, and let the other evidence show what it will.

    And if we’re gonna do a category-neutral analysis of her justification system, we’ll need to examine the nature of justification in a category-neutral way. Unfortunately, this involves acquainting ourselves with several definitions that may seem a bit off-topic at first.

    To understand justification, we must first understand several other concepts upon which justification depends. Among these concepts are “motivation,” “volition,” “duty,” “sacred object,” “drive,” “ultimate drive,” “fundamentality,” and “(auto-)actionality.”

    So please bare with me as I define these terms. But more than bare with me, I hope you’ll try to integrate these definitions into an understanding of what justification means, as I myself understand it. So here we go.

    “Motivation” means either desire or aversion. It’s a wider category subsuming both desire and aversion, including all the sub-categories of each such as “like” “love” “wish” “fear” “revulsion” “hate” and so on. Motivation can be used to decide what action to take, e.g., “pick the action you desire the most.” In this essay, we’ll be concerned with whether Rand justified her moral system against a special motivation called an “ultimate” motivation, particularly an ultimate desire.

    “Volition” is one’s capacity to select an action in complete disregard of one’s motivations. Many would contest this definition, saying that volition is more precisely “the capacity to select an action in complete disregard of any antecedent facts.” But of all the antecedent facts that Rand claims we have the power to disregard, motivation is the one she particularly insists on escaping. In fact, I’ll venture to guess that when any moralist promotes volition, their intent is to establish that we can act in accordance with something other than our motivations. In a moralist context, volition is meant to “liberate” us from doing as our motivations would dictate. With volition, we are free from acting on our crude desires and aversions. Consider what you’re likely to hear if you do something offensive just because you want to: “What? You did that just because you wanted to? Shame on you. You could have used morality to guide your free choices instead and chosen otherwise!” (I won’t discuss volition outside this glossary, and I only address it here for those who concern themselves with it, as many Objectivists do.)

    “Duty” is a drive towards an action prescribed for reasons other than the actor’s motivations. When we are told to do our duty, we are told to do so precisely in opposition to doing what we want (what we are motivated to do). Duty therefore implies that we have the capacity to act according to something other than motivations, i.e., that we have volition as described above. (Rand has a different definition of duty, and this difference is important to discuss. So I shall discuss it later. But in the meantime, I ask you to accept my definition of duty for the present discussion.) In this essay, we’ll eventually be concerned with whether Rand justified her moral system against a special duty called an “ultimate” duty.

    A “sacred object” is that to which duty is meant to achieve, i.e., it is an object that commands that we act to obtain it for reasons other than our motivations about it. Sacred objects and duty go together. And in philosophical discussion, they are often used interchangeably since demonstrating the relevance of one will demonstrate the relevance of the other.

    A “drive” is a wider concept subsuming both motivation and duty, and comprises the characteristics common to both. As such, a definition for “drive” can be as follows: A drive is a phenomena which selects a behavior from a set of alternative behaviors where these alternatives are comprehended in the focused mind of the acting agent (as opposed to “instinct,” in which the sense of alternative is absent, or, “reflex,” in which conscious focus is also absent). Motivations, such as desire and aversion, are one type of drive. Duty towards a sacred object is another type of drive. To keep this term straight in our minds, it helps to think of ourselves as “being driven” to act, and being driven as such by something that could be either motivation or duty.

    An “ultimate drive” is a drive regarded as one that automatically causes pursuant actions without further consideration. Once possessed of an ultimate drive, no further consideration is needed to decide whether the drive will cause its pursuant action. The answer is always affirmative. Indeed, ultimate drives are seldom even questioned. Most people experience their ultimate drives yet fail to notice that any kind of decision about them could even arise.

    Ultimate drives therefore have two key properties: fundamentality (or “ultimacity”), and auto-actionality.

    “Fundamentaluty” means the drive does not consist of other, more basic drives. It is NOT a drive, the satisfaction of which is achieved for the sake of satisfying some more basic drive. The opposite actually applies. An ultimate drive is the basic drive, the satisfaction of which often requires the rise of other drives requiring satisfaction.

    “Auto-actionality” means the drive automatically causes its possessor to seek its satisfaction, when possible. Aside from external frustrators, there is no further cause for doubt or deliberation impeding the agent from acting pursuant to the drive’s satisfaction. (However, most people are prompted to have doubts and deliberations pertaining to strategies of gratification. But such strategizing only happens as a consequence of trying to satisfy the drive. Provided the satisfaction of an ultimate drive seems possible, the attempt at such satisfaction can be challenged in terms of “how”, but not in terms of “whether.” The “whether” has automatically been affirmed.)

    It is at an ultimate drive that a chain of justification ends, because an ultimate drive is, by definition, the one that requires no further justification.

    Ultimate drives can be either ultimate motivations or ultimate duties. In this essay we shall be concerned with whether Rand uses one or the other to justify her moral system.

    And one more thing: remember what I said about sacred objects and duty. They go together. This is true for all the drives and their corresponding objects. Demonstrate the relevance of one and you also demonstrate the relevance of the other. So let’s consider all the drives related to their objects so you get the idea. See the chart as follows:

    BEHAVIOR CAUSER ----------------> OBJECT

    Drive --------------------------------> Value

    Motivation -------------------------> Motivation Object (the wanted or aversed)

    Duty --------------------------------> Sacred Object

    Ultimate Drive --------------------> Ultimate Value

    Ultimate Motivation -------------> Ultimate Motivation Object

    Ultimate Duty --------------------> Ultimate Sacred Object

    Now, finally, we are ready to define justification or, “to justify.”

    “Justification” means explanation showing how a drive (or its satisfaction) supports the satisfaction of an ultimate drive and to thereby extend actionality from the ultimate drive back to the drive in question (or its satisfaction). We justify, as such, because we find that many of our drives lack “actionality,” meaning that we have doubt and deliberation over whether to act towards the satisfaction of such drives. Perhaps it is a wish to be very careful about unforeseen consequences that prompt us toward such doubt and deliberation. But for whatever reason, many drives come to us with a kind of built in doubt factor. These we call “unjustified” and therewith seek to justify. If we succeed, we will have established that satisfying the drive in question does in some way satisfy an ultimate drive. Once this logical connection is made, a corresponding psychological connection also happens, wherein the auto-actionality of the ultimate drive will extend actionality back to the logically connected drive in question. We will then feel our drive in question has been justified and can seek its satisfaction with a clear conscience.

    This psychological transfer of actionality is important. It is the basis of justification. If no actionality is transferred, the drive in question remains unjustified, by definition, because we are still in doubt as to whether to act pursuant to that drive in question. If you’re not sure this is true, please take time to meditate on this idea until you comprehend it. The crucial parts of this essay rely on understanding justification as a transfer of actionality.

    Rand posits an ultimate drive against which all other drives are to be justified: The drive for one’s own human life qua human. For her, the drive for one’s own human life qua human is auto-actionable, and can supply actionality to any drive that supports its satisfaction. She doesn’t use the term “ultimate drive.” She uses the term “ultimate value” instead: “An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means - and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated.” (Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, p17) And this terminology difference is trivial in this context. So long as Rand agrees that values are “that which one acts to gain and/or keep,” I say that drives are the corresponding causes of our acting to gain and/or keep such values. Both can loosely be said to have the properties of needing justification, unless they are of the ultimate sort. As I’ve said, they go together.

    And now the crucial question arises: Does Rand propose that the ultimate value is a sacred object, the corresponding drive for which is duty? I say “yes”.

    She embraced duty implicitly by rejecting motivation explicitly.

    Rand expressly objected to justifying anything in terms of desire-motivaton.

    The mere fact that a man desires something does not constitute a proof that the object of his desire is good [justified], nor that its achievement is actually to his interest.

    (Ayn Rand,
    The Virtue of Selfishness
    , p.50)

    And her boldest statement as to why desire cannot serve as an ultimate drive in justification amounts to the fear that conflicts among desires will translate to contradictory justifications, as follows:

    When a "desire," regardless of its nature or cause, is taken as an ethical primary [ultimate drive], and the gratification of any and all desires is taken as an ethical goal (such as "the greatest happiness of the greatest number") - men have no choice but to hate, fear and fight one another, because their desires and their interest will necessarily clash. If "desire" is the ethical standard, [ultimate drive] then one man's desire to produce and another man's desire to rob him have equal ethical validity [justification]; one man's desire to be free and another man's desire to enslave him have equal ethical validity; one man's desire to be loved and admired for his virtues and another man's for undeserved love and unearned admiration have equal ethical validity. And if the frustration of any desire constitutes
    sacrifice
    , then a man who owns an automobile and is robbed of it, is being sacrificed, but so is the man who wants or "aspires to" an automobile which the owner refuses to give him - and these two "sacrifices" have equal ethical status [equal actionality]. If so, then man's only choice is to rob or be robbed, to destroy or to be destroyed, to sacrifice others to any desire of his own or to sacrifice himself to any desire of others; then man's only ethical alternative is to be a sadist or a masochist.

    (Ayn Rand,
    The Virtue of Selfishness
    , p.30)

    While the reason may be a fear of conflict among people who hold differing desires as standards of justification, the important thing is that she rejected desire at all, for any reason. The bottom line is, she rejected desire as a standard of ethics, as an ultimate drive.

    We can safely assume that when she used the term “desire” like this, she meant to include all motivations generally. Therefore, we can assume she objected to justification in terms of motivations generally. For her, there can be no ultimate motivations. The only ultimate drives left are those other than motivations, i.e., ultimate duties. Here’s the logic: If you reject ultimate motivations, and you still insist on ultimate drives so you can justify other drives, then you embrace ultimate duties. There are no other options. It’s either motivation or duty. Reject one, embrace the other.

    That is the essence of my argument.

    But now I want to address the evidence that many say would contradict my conclusion.

    The first is this: My argument cannot be true because duty, according to Rand, is a command issued by some authority. And there is no authority commanding us to pursue that ultimate value: life qua human. Therefore the corresponding ultimate drive cannot be duty.

    My reply is that Rand’s definition for duty is too narrow to be useful in real life, and that the real definition of duty more objectively includes phenomena other than authorities. People regard many non-authority-based things as sacred objects that arouse our sense of duty. So let’s examine this issue more closely.

    Observe Rand's definition for duty:

    The meaning of the term "duty" is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

    (Ayn Rand,
    Philosophy Who Needs It
    , p.96)

    The sacred object cited here is "some higher authority." The term "authority" implies the sacred objects have consciousness, the consciousness needed to "author" judgments. This means the sacred objects are basically social - one relates to them socially. The objects can be either mystical conscious beings, such as deities and animzed objects, or real conscious beings, such as other people - dictators, gurus or committees. In either case, the sacred object being rejected is a conscious being other than oneself, to which one relates socially. Hence, Rand applied her notion of duty only to social sacred objects.

    But she left open the notion that one can have "moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher NON-SOCIAL phenomena,..." such as one's own life as a human. And this she would not regard as duty [she attacks Kant for regarding it so (Ibid p.96)]. But I do regard it as duty.

    My concept of duty/sacred object is much broader than Rand's. I subsume any object regarded with the same sacredness that drives those who apply it to only social objects. Those who see a duty to non-social sacred objects are no less duty smitten than those who see a duty to social phenomena. Both see a duty as I define it.

    Rand's narrower concept of duty may be useful to distinguish social from non-social objects to which one owes some relations, but I think it makes it harder to distinguish truth from falsehood more generally. Both social and non-social sacred objects are still sacred objects to which one is said to feel a duty. If she’s against duty, it is folly to argue against one without arguing against the other. But that’s precisely her folly.

    And it is precisely this folly that left the door open to implicitly embrace duty in the form of non-social sacred object. Life qua human is that sacred object.

    Another argument that contradicts mine comprises several passages in her writing where she upholds the importance of desire-motivation.

    The first of these passages is an attack on deontological moral theories, such as the one most strongly proposed by Immanuel Kant.

    In a deontological theory, all personal desires are banished from the realm of morality; a personal desire has no moral significance, be it a desire to create or a desire to kill. For example, if a man is not supporting his life from duty, such a morality makes no distinction between supporting it by honest labor or by robbery. If a man
    wants
    to be honest, he deserves no moral credit; as Kant would put it, such honesty is "praiseworthy," but without "moral import." Only a vicious represser, who feels a profound desire to lie, cheat and steal, but forces himself to act honestly for the sake of “duty,” would receive a recognition of moral worth from Kant and his ilk.

    This is the sort of theory that gives morality a bad name.

    (Ayn Rand,
    Philosophy: Who Needs It
    , p.97-98)

    From this passage, we can see that Rand apparently regards desire (as in wanting to be honest) as having moral import. What does it mean for desire to have moral import? Does it mean desire can be an ultimate drive and justify? No, she’s already forbidden that. (She worries that chaotic conflict would result.)

    The problem is, the capacity to supply actionality through justification is the only moral import that ANYTHING could have. Observe the following analysis:

    Consider the vicious represser she mentions. Suppose this vicious repressor practiced the Objectivist ethics perfectly, in spite of his desire not to. He’s acting according to perfect reason, choosing his goals according to his life as a rational being, never selling himself out, and so on. But for some strange reason, he’d rather lie, cheat, and steal. Why would this bother Rand? Why does motivation matter?

    I suspect she would say it matters because, for her, such a hypothetical vicious represser would not be possible. She would insist that paracticing Objectivist ethics would make him happy, and he’d lose his desire to lie, cheat and steal. A valid re-statement would be this: Pursuing the ultimate value will cause you to be happy.

    So there’s a causal link between pursing the ultimate value and happiness. And so it looks like a kind of justification. It looks as if happiness is the justification for pursuing the ultimate value. But this is contrary to the function of an ultimate value. An ultimate value needs no justification. An ultimate value is, in fact, the auto-actionable drive that justifies all else. So the attempt to justify pursuing an ultimate value by reference to the happiness that will result is, frankly, backwardly absurd.

    Kant’s deontological moral theory may seem psychologically absurd for kicking motivation out of justification, but at least it’s logically consistent on the issue. Rand’s alternative is just logically absurd.

    For Rand to be logically consistent on THIS issue, she’d have to admit that life qua human was an ultimate motivation object instead of a sacred object, and that people pursued it for no other reason than they wanted to. But if she admitted this, she could no longer object elsewhere about using desire-motivation as an ethical primary for justifications. She can’t have both.

    Yet another passage tries to give motivation a role in the Objectivist ethics.

    “Happiness” can properly be the
    purpose
    of ethics, but
    not
    the
    standard
    . The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness.

    (Ayn Rand,
    The Virtue of Selfishness
    , p.29-30)

    Yes, so long as we grant that “happiness” implies motivation, we can see that she’s trying to give motivation some role in Objectivist ethics. And it therefore becomes important to investigate whether “happiness” does imply motivation or not. There is some controversy over this. And I’d like to cover it later.

    But for now, I want to see what happens if we assume that “happiness” means “motivation”.

    OK, so motivation can be something called a purpose. Now, the common understanding of the word “purpose” is that it is the reason one does something, i.e., a justification. But in the context of her writing, this is supposed to be the meaning of the word “standard,” as in the standard by which one measures all action, and thereby determine whether the action is actionable (justified). But now, if purpose and standard both indicate justification, how can something be one, but not the other? Answer: she means to reserve the job of justification for her ultimate value, a duty to maintain one’s life qua human, but deny that job to motivation. Remember again her rant against using desire as an ethical primary. So she has a very confusing and frankly bizarre notion of “purpose.” It is purpose without the power to justify. Which seems to me: purpose without purpose.

    So Rand might claim that ethics itself can have something mysteriousy called a “purpose”, but this purpose is somehow something other than a justification. (And to divorce “purpose” from “justification” seems contradictory to me, which is why I find it very mysterious.) Your quest for happiness may be the “purpose” of ethics, but this fact should never be the justification for practicing the ethics, i.e., it should never supply the Objectivist ethics with the actionality required to make you practice it. No, the real actionality must propagate back from the ultimate drive, for the ultimate value of human life qua human, whether or not you actually want it. And this ultimate drive is duty.

    Rand apparently has a bizarre view of motivation’s role in ethics. Objectivist ethics will make you happy, but that’s not why you should practice it. You must practice it out of duty. The only real justification for practicing it remains duty, i.e., a motivationally void pursuit of life qua human. The resulting happiness is like some kind of beneficial accident (an epiphenomenon) that cannot even be considered a reward for obeying. Reward is just another perspective on motivation-oriented justification. Your happiness can never justify anything. Your happiness cannot reward you. On this view, happiness is literally just a lucky psychological accident of no consequence to justification, to the entire edifice of justification that is morality. Which means: misery could have been the accident instead, with no more or less justification to offer than does happiness. Neither are of any justificatory relevance. It STILL boils down to: just do your duty. Your happiness or misery have no justifying power.

    And THIS, to me is just as deontological as Kant’s theory. BOTH give morality a bad name or, more precisely, both reveal the bad name within morality.

    But the bottom line is: To give motivation a place in an ethical system, but then deny motivation any power of justification, is to reserve justification for those drives which are not motivation, i.e., duty.

    Now, let us consider then whether Rand actually equated “happiness” with “motivation.”

    If such an equivocation were a crime, a good lawyer could easily get her acquitted, because Rand is a crafty one when it comes to suggesting something without explicitly saying it. She makes the reader come to conclusions for her, without ever stating those conclusions herself, or worse, by logically stating the opposite.

    The truly relevant instance of this surrounds her use of the word “value.” The way she defines value makes it ambiguous as to whether she’s talking about motivation or duty. Remember, value is that which one acts to gain or keep. It doesn’t mention why we so act. It doesn’t mention motivation or duty. We are free to imagine either as drives for the act. Thus, if she defines “happiness” as “that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values” (Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, p28), we can’t tell whether happiness comes from gratifying ones motivations or from satisfying one’s duties. The way she uses the term “value” makes it a sort of “package deal” where you get to imagine pursuing a sacred object such as life qua human, at the same time as gratifying your motivations. Happiness appears to result from doing this packaged mixture at some times, but from doing one or the other at other times, depending on what Rand is trying to say, or worse, what the reader wants to see in Rand.

    I find it frustrating how Rand can produce the occasional “glowing moment of clarity” about her stance on desire and duty, only to surround those passages with confusing double-talk package-dealing via the term “value.”

    Recall the passage about Kant’s deontological moral theory. That was a “glowing moment of clarity.” I consider it conspicuous that the essay/chapter containing that passage is called “Causality Versus Duty” rather than “Motivation (or Desire) Versus Duty.” If we look elsewhere in that essay for an explanation of desire’s importance to ethics, we’ll be disappointed, because what we get instead is Rand’s conspicuous use of the term “value” instead of desire (and the usual admonishments to pay attention to how things relate causally). Remember, the term “value” for Rand (and for me) is category-neutral, meaning that it does not always refer to matters of motivation. Rand often uses the term “value” in referring to the things one pursues by reasoned, volitional choice, as distinct from what one pursues by motivation. Why then did she talk explicitly about desire in just one paragraph, but then switch back to the ambiguous term “value” elsewhere? I suspect she did so to make it seem as if she were promoting desire precisely when she wasn’t. It is a trick. If first she promotes desire using the actual word “desire” and then switches to using the word “value,” she hopes we’ll consider “value” as just another term for “desire”, and that subsequent support for “value” means she’s supporting desire. But look closely. She’s actually NOT supporting desire anymore. She’s supporting choices made ultimately by motivationally void reason, not made by desire.

    It is precisely because of this package deal surrounding value and happiness that one must develop a more exact vocabulary for analyzing her theory. And that precisely what I’ve tried to do at the start of this essay.

  16. Here is an article from -Wired- indicating a synergy between the aspie world and the world of computer software.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

    I have seen estimates that hypothesize that as many as 20 percent of the males in the computer software business are either aspies or auties.

    Ba'al Chatzaf

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    Hi World

    Does anyone who has studied Ayn Rand's Epistemology asserting that emotions are the product of prior Ideas foun any scientific,empirical or psychological evidence or foundation for the assertion? It's an amazing notion that all of our emotions could be true, beneficial and without conflict or doubt if only we permit true ideas and concepts in our memory and minds. Do you agree that her System is totally deductive, starting only with self-evident perceptions and building hierarchically to a total valid world veiw and true subjective veiw in total harmony with that world veiw? If you have reflected on such notions, I would love to hear from you. Neale

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    Playoffs started. I played a great game except that I struck out (second time since the start of the regular season). We beat the other team but we didn't hit that well and won because they weren't great hitters and our pitcher was on top of his game. Tuesday we play the number 1 team in the state so that'll be interesting. That and I get out of school a few hours early for the four hour drive down to their field.

    On a separate note I got 2nd team all-league which means that I'm no where near where I want to be and didn't reach my goals for the year (batting .400 [] with a .500 on base percentage [x] and 1st team all-league catcher []). Hopefully we'll win state which will make up for a lot of that.

    Eventually I'll make this blog less self-absorbed about baseball and use it for my thoughts on stuff, but baseball is pretty dominant at the moment.

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    Ross Barlow
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    Below are links to my two blogs. On my main blog, "Zenwind," the Climbing Log is a historical recounting of my more memorable rock and ice climbs, most of which happened in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. They are often epic adventures that I record partly as instructional material with advice for newer climbers. I also have what I consider to be my more important reviews of books and movies. Use the "Index" to navigate the various categories. This is a slowly updated but more permanent blog.

    .

    The second blog, "Zenwind's Musings," is to be updated more often. It was mainly started to let family and friends know that I was still kicking and writing while Bangkok was seeing violence in the streets. Any minor reviews will be here, as well as random updates. I'm probably only writing to myself there, but it keeps the fingers nimble.

    .

    -Ross Barlow.

    .

    "Zenwind": Climbing Log & reviews:

    http://zenwind.blogspot.com

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    “Zenwind’s Musings”: my blog recording recent thoughts and/or adventures:

    http://zenwindmusings.blogspot.com

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