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What does Richard Dawkins know about Objectivism

Richard Dawkins New Atheism Objectivism Ayn Rand

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#21 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 06:52 PM

Think of Austin Heller in The Fountainhead.  Hitchens would have been (would be) far less interesting if he were "one of us." 

 

Christopher Hitchens was one of the very few liberals not seduced by Bill Clinton. 

 

I admire the way Hitchens debated while drinking. (Was that vodka or gin?).

 

To expect that one minor issue of philosophy such as anti-clerical atheism would make Christoper Hitchens "one of us" is not just unrealistic: it is shallow.

 

I have an associate who is a traditionalist conservative: pro-life; anti-immigration.  She said that when Hitchens died, it was the only time in her life when she felt that the universe cheated her. 

Christoper Hitchens was complicated. It goes along with thinking deeply.


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#22 whYNOT

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 06:35 AM

Damn! I miss that man.  He is one of the wittiest humans who ever breathed air.

Miss him, yes. As if one knew him personally. Only going by some articles, but I believe he comes from that British School which makes a virtue of erudite fortitude (he reminds me of some journalists I've known. Booze, cynicism and all.)
His courage through his disease til his subsequent death, reminds me too of Martin Amis writing of his father (the novelist also, Kingsley) in his final days: "He's showing me how you do it. You turn away, on your side, and do the dying".

"One of us", he wasn't. That's what comes with a radical, young philosophy - you have over-laps and brief intersections with other schools of thought and thinkers, but ultimately O'ists are out on a limb.
The Hitch seemed very individualistic, but conflictingly, by his comments, anti-egoist, and nominally altruistic. One would not expect him to have the least 'connection' with Rand, and he confirmed that.
Oil and water, Objectivist and arch-skeptic.
What is perplexing is that he said he had some respect for the VoS essays - but proceeded to show that HE HAD NOT THE FIRST UNDERSTANDING of what he read, of rational selfishness.
"Some things require no further reinforcement." He states.

Rand gilding the lily, in effect. Or, men already have enough 'selfishness'.

HUH? Agree, disagree, with Rand all one wants, but at least first make an
effort to comprehend her central point, and assess that. Many a young student
grasps it immediately, but a probable genius like Hitch wouldn't or couldn't.
(His honesty, I don't doubt.)
This area fascinates me: Does it relate, and can it be true that many people - irrespective of their IQ - think only on a 'one-level consciousness'? With no faculty of hierarchicalism? (Rand and her "anti-conceptual mentality" hypothesis bears it out, but it's hard to imagine with anyone, especially intellectuals.)

Anyway, Christopher was a brilliant and provocative old-style journalist - a man of letters - unafraid to speak out for what he believed true, but it's mistaken to see him as philosopher.
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#23 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 10:31 AM



Anyway, Christopher was a brilliant and provocative old-style journalist - a man of letters - unafraid to speak out for what he believed true, but it's mistaken to see him as philosopher.

I never saw him that way.  He was my hero gadfly.

 

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#24 william.scherk

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 05:00 AM

All I can come up with this week is sheer fantasy, and sure enough, a 'spirit' of Hitchens moved me to part of it.

 

Here, I push back against the fantasy and try to give a plain, even stern report on my struggle or research or history of how to have heroes --  in re that debatable value, Richard Dawkins, whom I think could never be a hero to an Objectivist -- at least not up in the Pantheon with the troika and a few others. 

Dawkins alongside Hitchens is a hero to me for his reach, though, as well as his pith and his bitchiness about the torments religion has brought to humankind. I hope after his death, that he be a kind of spirit of the 20th century, a hard eagle eye of reason peering at biology over aeons, as a master geologist maps geology over those same aeons.

 

And, of course, he is in that class of heroes who have written across the divide between science and me the dolt, that me who hated it in school (fool me) except for dissection (which I pretended to get faint about).

 

In that class are really only about a dozen, and Hitchens certainly banged out a book. They all wrote a book, or several or many where at one point their message stopped being limited to the outskirts of their town**. They did not sell only an academic or monographic  best-seller, which as Robert Campbell can attest, may only run to the high four figures. Each of my heroes did what everyone of a certain class** tried to do, hit a high and hard one out of the field, write a book in which they knew (deluded or not) that they had written a more than satisfactory thing. Aced it. Crushed it. What have you.

 

Think of Dr Hawking when eight years later he gorped out the last sentence of his Crusher .

 

They, all my heroes who wrote books, may have all also felt exhilaration if one of their own 'heroes' grunted approbation or backslapped or rang the bells whathaveyou, and perhaps that may have been all the bells that would ring.  Sell ten thousand books on your ratty or wonderful or desperately obscure corner of inquiry, get a grunt or two, backslap, toll the bells --  and I think I would feel I had won hugely.

 

(here I am thinking also now of Rand, when she put that pen down from that last correction or mad banging in the kitchen on the typewriter, when she knew she was done. Maybe that exhilaration was smaller than that which was to come with the Collective, and maybe she indeed was puzzled, hurt and angry about the (non-word-of-mouth) critical reception of a book later -- but I think still there would have been one or two incomparable moments alone when she knew she had succeeded on her terms, knocked it out of the park, Crushed it, etc)

 

So, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins each wrote a similar but different kind of 'awesome world, awesome science' book, a book both narrow and wide, a book which in no way compared in splendour to the books of my primary hero Darwin, but which grasped the deep import of Darwin's opening of the door. As to many Objectivish folks Rand knocked on and down many doors ... so too I think we (here at OL) know when somebody appears to have smoked it right out of the park. More hits to come maybe, but nothing like that perfect universal drive of a great book.

 

Beyond selling truly massive numbers of books on a briliant and illuminating set of topics, in a stroke of genius unifying and universalizing the deep story underlying (which as MSK so aptly reminds us, is Power), Dawkins and Darwin and Sagan  and a few more pushed that door as wide and as deep as they could, to their limits. My heroes also amplified their appeal (by translation) to many languages, pushed back the darkness, door upon door.

 

 

Another hero is a heroine, Susan Haack, who also helped push back my mental darkness, who will never be famous or sell grotesque numbers of books, except in proportion to academic excellence perhaps. She has, like the gentlemen above and like Rand, been translated widely and is as celebrated (in her teeny niche) in Beijing as she is in Sao Paulo and in the world-beat professoriate of philosophy. And none of these ladies and gentlemen do I consider my philosopher.

 

I, who will sell likely zero books in my lifetime, may have overemphasized a sense of proportion, weight, reach and depth in my dry prose on heroics here among the writer class. There are smaller heroes too. And a hero or nine here on OL. I think any writer/person could potentially be my kind of hero, if that writer person exhilarates me, exhilarates my mind.  Helps make my heart and mind sing the same tune, same beat, and so on.

 

 

So, Back Off on Dawkins or I will go back to Fantasia, Hitchens, Mother Teresa that bitch, and gawds and death and approaching destruction. Thank you.  I too was seduced by Bill Clinton.


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#25 william.scherk

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 06:34 AM

Came on all triste, melancholy, elegiac thinking of heroes like Hitchens, so I sent a note backstage to one of my O-world online heroes. In case she doesn't open it first:

 

 

Apologies were due two years and more ago, but ...

 

When I finished writing my post today, and then listened back to the text-to-audio to catch errors and so on, I finished up and said to myself, I wonder if Ellen would like this. I think she would.

 

And then thought, she may skip by your notes, William, so kindly send her a note and link while having a 'thinking of you' moment.

 

http://www.objectivi...e=2#entry178846

 

Life is too dang short.


Yes, apologies for unwarranted 'personal' attack, even if for a cause, specious cause, for someone's honour, specious honour. What crap that seems by my new angle.

 

So, since I mentioned Dawkins, and the tolling of the bells, and feeling that I would hate not having said au revoir when later the time came to say goodbyes and went, apologies indeed. 

 

Of course, if one cannot De- or Un- shun, I stil hope you will read my little non-fantasy. Thinking of you.

 

I loved LUV your memoirish tangent on 'the horses' and the valley, and still hope further episodes will come to light. Quite moving your valley memoir above and under the surface -- would it make a nice sixth or so of a set? I hope you do some more memoirish things before too long. Those were shimmery,  artless-seeming, graceful, with only small pains of nostalgia attending. I could feel history rolling on through those people like a flood.


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2013 Wikipedia pick Cognitive Biases | Dream Wet Lunch with Carol & Brant Phil Coates & Christopher Hitchens | Mood low to mid 50s | Weather Dire | Meyers-Briggs Indicator: Priestess

Book of the Year: A Tale of Two Metropolitan Statistical Areas


#26 Xray

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 08:59 AM

Damn! I miss that man.  He is one of the wittiest humans who ever breathed air.

 

I miss him too. I loved it how he always hit the nail on the head with his comments, like (quotes from the video in post # 19): 

 

"In my view there's more morality in a novel by George Eliot than there is in any of the Four Gospels, or the four of them put together."   

 

"I don't think there is any need to have essay advocating selfishness among human beings. I don't know what your impression has been, but - some things require no further reinforcement. "   



#27 whYNOT

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 02:54 PM

"In my view there's more morality in a novel by George Eliot than there is in any of the Four Gospels, or the four of them put together."   
 
"I don't think there is any need to have essay advocating selfishness among human beings. I don't know what your impression has been, but - some things require no further reinforcement. "   

George Eliot? (Scuse me ... barrrf.)
Now, If he'd said for instance, Jane Austen, no quibble from me. Some fine Romanticist and rationally selfish morality in there.


Apparently even Hitch could not break past "selfishness" - that loaded word - to the highly novel concept behind it. Then again, I wonder, if Rand had called her book, The Virtue of Expicalidociousness, do you think one single extra reader would have taken to the notion?
No, nary a one. I think the outraged piety and misrepresentation over the 'S' word is a smoke-screen to hide from the truth contained in her concept - that many won't choose to clearly see (for their own reasons.)

(To mention that other Eliot, TS: "...they are absorbed in the endless struggle
to think well of themselves.")
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***





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