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Can ideas be, in and of themselves, evil?


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#41 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 11:17 PM

Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 

Samson,

 

Open any dictionary and you will find that almost every word has more than one meaning. This applies to your question.

 

Leaving the dictionary aside, but keeping the idea that a word can have two related meanings (at the minimum), let's look at a couple of differences between an act and a person.

 

An act is singular and occurs at a single point of time or a single duration.

 

A person commits many acts over life and has a much longer time frame than a single act.

 

This means that we can judge an act as a whole as good or evil, depending on the standard we use. (Moreover, not all acts are all good or all evil, but some are.)

 

When we call a person good or evil, the meaning of evil (or good) is not so all-encompassing. We generally mean that an evil person chooses to perform some, or many, acts whose vileness outweighs the good of his or her other acts. Also, by this meaning of evil, we implicitly refer to the time period when he or she is making such choices. We rarely mean the evil person was evil as an infant, for example.

 

Notice, also, that this evil can be reversed. In other words, if an evil person has a change of heart, feels remorse, repents, tries to make amends for the results of his or her evil acts, and starts doing good things, we no longer call that person evil.

 

However, an evil act is evil by its nature and there is no way for it to redeem itself. It has happened and its results have been set in motion. There's no way to make it un-happen or re-happen in a different manner.

 

In O-Land, you sometimes find finger-pointers who call people evil and they mean the term in the same way they use it for an act.  They do not have a second meaning for evil. In other words, an evil person to them deserves condemnation only and there is no place for moral redemption. Once you are evil to them, there's no way to undo it. You always will be evil.

 

Sometimes these folks give lip service to the possibility of redemption since they believe it is rational to leave it on the table. But in practice, I have yet to see them absolve a person they once called evil. In fact, read O-Land discussions of forgiveness. You will find some people arguing that forgiveness is a sin in practically all contexts and cases because it is a form of negating justice.

 

These people have no heart, or at best, have a feeble heartbeat due to their hardening of the categories. :smile:

 

Michael


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#42 Samson Corwell

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 11:48 PM




Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 
Samson,
 
Open any dictionary and you will find that almost every word has more than one meaning. This applies to your question.
 
Leaving the dictionary aside, but keeping the idea that a word can have two related meanings (at the minimum), let's look at a couple of differences between an act and a person.
 
An act is singular and occurs at a single point of time or a single duration.
 
A person commits many acts over life and has a much longer time frame than a single act.
 
This means that we can judge an act as a whole as good or evil, depending on the standard we use. (Moreover, not all acts are all good or all evil, but some are.)
 
When we call a person good or evil, the meaning of evil (or good) is not so all-encompassing. We generally mean that an evil person chooses to perform some, or many, acts whose vileness outweighs the good of his or her other acts. Also, by this meaning of evil, we implicitly refer to the time period when he or she is making such choices. We rarely mean the evil person was evil as an infant, for example.
 
Notice, also, that this evil can be reversed. In other words, if an evil person has a change of heart, feels remorse, repents, tries to make amends for the results of his or her evil acts, and starts doing good things, we no longer call that person evil.
 
However, an evil act is evil by its nature and there is no way for it to redeem itself. It has happened and its results have been set in motion. There's no way to make it un-happen or re-happen in a different manner.
 
In O-Land, you sometimes find finger-pointers who call people evil and they mean the term in the same way they use it for an act.  They do not have a second meaning for evil. In other words, an evil person to them deserves condemnation only and there is no place for moral redemption. Once you are evil to them, there's no way to undo it. You always will be evil.
 
Sometimes these folks give lip service to the possibility of redemption since they believe it is rational to leave it on the table. But in practice, I have yet to see them absolve a person they once called evil. In fact, read O-Land discussions of forgiveness. You will find some people arguing that forgiveness is a sin in practically all contexts and cases because it is a form of negating justice.
 
These people have no heart, or at best, have a feeble heartbeat due to their hardening of the categories. :smile:
 
Michael
Admittedly, I made that post because it was an interesting question that I thought would induce more discussion. It's like one of those short, profound statements that are meant to make people think about something they've not considered. So, in the context of this thread, there is discussion about whether ideas can be evil and the connection to the entity doing the thinking of that idea. That question was a physical analog wherein the act is to the actor as the idea is to the thinker.

The attribute denoted by the word "evil", when it is being applied to a person, is assigned after taking in information about the person and what they've done and called for. Hitler was an evil person. Maybe a little syphilitic, but a despicable bastard, nonetheless. He's beyond redemption. The slaughter of millions of people by the Nazis is an evil set of actions. The act is an object that I am statically referencing. When everything is fixed, all its properties become fixed as well. A person is a dynamic object and can change, just like you said, be it through remorse, a psychological change, and so on.

Unless, of course, we want to bring Plato into the picture, then a person can be evil itself (see Darkseid). But this part is just fictional.

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#43 whYNOT

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 03:43 AM

 

 

Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 

Imo an act which one would regard as 'evil' is always also connected to 'evil intent' on the part of the person committing it.

If, for example, a person accidentally runs over someone else with his/her car, no evil intent lies behind the act. 

But in case the same act is committed on purpose, one would speak of evil intent.

That conveniently avoids the greatest evils known: What was the "intent" of the Inquisition, Hitler, or Stalin?

 

To "Do Good".

 

As with all do-gooders, somebody pays.

Evil begins at home, in the irrationality of people's minds. As long as it stays there - without

powerful or popular support - the rest of us may escape it.


 

I can safely say that I know what the intentions of Hitler, Stalin, and the Inquisitors were. The intent to pull someone's organs in front of their eyes or pack people into box cars to be sent away to a camp (either gulag or concentration camp) are not good ones. They weren't stupid people.

You might be putting effect ahead of cause. An irrational, antilife idea becomes evil as soon as it's put

into motion. Every small or big human atrocity thereafter, is a logical consequence, referring back to that idea and drawing its identity from it - I think.

 

The initial "intent" of those perpetrators of evil was the 'good' of the Fatherland, the Motherland - the

People - or the glory of God. Floating abstractions (to them) in which individuals are mere abstractions, too.

All obviously based upon insane metaphysical premises of the nature of men, and the identity of the good, but it does not detract from the evil of those men, passionate about 'doing good'.

Intelligence is not at all significant to this, reality and rationality was. If only one person has to lose his life to achieve the 'common good', the least intelligent, least educated - but rational - person will know to call it wrong.


"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...***

#44 Samson Corwell

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 10:43 AM


 


 


Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 
Imo an act which one would regard as 'evil' is always also connected to 'evil intent' on the part of the person committing it.
If, for example, a person accidentally runs over someone else with his/her car, no evil intent lies behind the act. 
But in case the same act is committed on purpose, one would speak of evil intent.
That conveniently avoids the greatest evils known: What was the "intent" of the Inquisition, Hitler, or Stalin?
 
To "Do Good".
 
As with all do-gooders, somebody pays.
Evil begins at home, in the irrationality of people's minds. As long as it stays there - without
powerful or popular support - the rest of us may escape it.

 
I can safely say that I know what the intentions of Hitler, Stalin, and the Inquisitors were. The intent to pull someone's organs in front of their eyes or pack people into box cars to be sent away to a camp (either gulag or concentration camp) are not good ones. They weren't stupid people.
You might be putting effect ahead of cause. An irrational, antilife idea becomes evil as soon as it's put
into motion. Every small or big human atrocity thereafter, is a logical consequence, referring back to that idea and drawing its identity from it - I think.
 
The initial "intent" of those perpetrators of evil was the 'good' of the Fatherland, the Motherland - the
People - or the glory of God. Floating abstractions (to them) in which individuals are mere abstractions, too.
All obviously based upon insane metaphysical premises of the nature of men, and the identity of the good, but it does not detract from the evil of those men, passionate about 'doing good'.
Intelligence is not at all significant to this, reality and rationality was. If only one person has to lose his life to achieve the 'common good', the least intelligent, least educated - but rational - person will know to call it wrong.

You're overthinking it. It is harder to apply your description in other situations.

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#45 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 11:53 AM

Unless, of course, we want to bring Plato into the picture, then a person can be evil itself (see Darkseid). But this part is just fictional.

 

Samson,

 

I'm totally out of the loop on comic books. I had to look up Darkseid to find out he was a comic book villain. I looked him up because I thought, from the way you phrased it, you were referencing a Plato scholar I had never heard of or something. :smile:

 

Back to substance. Basically, a belief that someone can be--or become--irredeemably evil is the same thing as believing in Satan, .i.e. there is a force or form in nature that can transform living beings into its image, or that living beings can become transformed into its image through outside means, and that once a living being is transformed into such image, it cannot return.

 

An afterlife of Hell is merely gravy and not essential to this concept.

 

I don't believe in this form, so I believe even Hitler--theoretically--could have changed from an evil person into a good one. Albeit, if he did, guilt feelings would have been his existence. There's no way for one man to atone for the amount of evil he did and got others to do. That's a lot of guilt to carry.

 

Also, I realize that age is an organic factor and, depending on the activity or mental habit, a person can become too old to change certain things after a while. So I acknowledge that a person committed to doing evil will have a harder time snapping out of it as he or she gets older. There's probably a point of no return, but this is not because of the efficacy of the "evil force," but more because of age and habit.

 

But a Hitler redemption would be the ultimate test of how far forgiveness and self-forgiveness can go.

 

interestingly enough, there is an account of something like this in Christian literature, with the major difference being scale. The result was pure true-believer material. Saul, a brutal killer in the name of the state, turned into Paul, the greatest of all preachers for Jesus--so much so that the vast majority of the New Testement is made up of his letters.

 

Michael


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#46 whYNOT

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 02:44 PM

 

 


 


 


Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 
Imo an act which one would regard as 'evil' is always also connected to 'evil intent' on the part of the person committing it.
If, for example, a person accidentally runs over someone else with his/her car, no evil intent lies behind the act. 
But in case the same act is committed on purpose, one would speak of evil intent.
That conveniently avoids the greatest evils known: What was the "intent" of the Inquisition, Hitler, or Stalin?
 
To "Do Good".
 
As with all do-gooders, somebody pays.
Evil begins at home, in the irrationality of people's minds. As long as it stays there - without
powerful or popular support - the rest of us may escape it.

 
I can safely say that I know what the intentions of Hitler, Stalin, and the Inquisitors were. The intent to pull someone's organs in front of their eyes or pack people into box cars to be sent away to a camp (either gulag or concentration camp) are not good ones. They weren't stupid people.
You might be putting effect ahead of cause. An irrational, antilife idea becomes evil as soon as it's put
into motion. Every small or big human atrocity thereafter, is a logical consequence, referring back to that idea and drawing its identity from it - I think.
 
The initial "intent" of those perpetrators of evil was the 'good' of the Fatherland, the Motherland - the
People - or the glory of God. Floating abstractions (to them) in which individuals are mere abstractions, too.
All obviously based upon insane metaphysical premises of the nature of men, and the identity of the good, but it does not detract from the evil of those men, passionate about 'doing good'.
Intelligence is not at all significant to this, reality and rationality was. If only one person has to lose his life to achieve the 'common good', the least intelligent, least educated - but rational - person will know to call it wrong.

You're overthinking it. It is harder to apply your description in other situations.

Right, let's hear them, then. Apart from instances of evil for financial gain, you might find the worst

has been from the self-righteous who have a plan for men...

 

"Overthinking"? hah! Is that based on your experience? To underestimate by 'under-thinking' the roots of evil will be to pardon or appease it.


"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...***

#47 Samson Corwell

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 02:56 PM

 

 

 


 


 


Is the act or the person committing the act evil? Or is it both?

 
Imo an act which one would regard as 'evil' is always also connected to 'evil intent' on the part of the person committing it.
If, for example, a person accidentally runs over someone else with his/her car, no evil intent lies behind the act. 
But in case the same act is committed on purpose, one would speak of evil intent.
That conveniently avoids the greatest evils known: What was the "intent" of the Inquisition, Hitler, or Stalin?
 
To "Do Good".
 
As with all do-gooders, somebody pays.
Evil begins at home, in the irrationality of people's minds. As long as it stays there - without
powerful or popular support - the rest of us may escape it.

 
I can safely say that I know what the intentions of Hitler, Stalin, and the Inquisitors were. The intent to pull someone's organs in front of their eyes or pack people into box cars to be sent away to a camp (either gulag or concentration camp) are not good ones. They weren't stupid people.
You might be putting effect ahead of cause. An irrational, antilife idea becomes evil as soon as it's put
into motion. Every small or big human atrocity thereafter, is a logical consequence, referring back to that idea and drawing its identity from it - I think.
 
The initial "intent" of those perpetrators of evil was the 'good' of the Fatherland, the Motherland - the
People - or the glory of God. Floating abstractions (to them) in which individuals are mere abstractions, too.
All obviously based upon insane metaphysical premises of the nature of men, and the identity of the good, but it does not detract from the evil of those men, passionate about 'doing good'.
Intelligence is not at all significant to this, reality and rationality was. If only one person has to lose his life to achieve the 'common good', the least intelligent, least educated - but rational - person will know to call it wrong.

You're overthinking it. It is harder to apply your description in other situations.

Right, let's hear them, then. Apart from instances of evil for financial gain, you might find the worst

has been from the self-righteous who have a plan for men...

 

"Overthinking"? hah! Is that based on your experience? To underestimate by 'under-thinking' the roots of evil will be to pardon or appease it.

No, whYNOT. I am saying the goal is already clear in their minds. The goal is what they wanted. I'm breaking it up into two categories: good people who may be trying to help, but go about their activities in wrong way without realizing and evil people who want to do evil things.

 

Sometimes my friends have told that I am overthinking something. Then I realized that they didn't mean I was thinking too much in the strictest sense of the word. Rather, I was looking at it in a way that complicated the subject to the point that I was actually thinking about a different thing.


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#48 whYNOT

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 03:34 PM

A "good" person who realises his innocent errors, will back off quickly before too much harm is done, and try to make amends. If he continues with the harmful acts, he is simply not a good person. Being temporarily innocent of knowledge, of the consequences - at the time -is never a permanent excuse to repeat the error and never learn better. Ignorance repeated, becomes a breach of morality.

As I've argued, by their actions we know them: evil is, as evil does.( Dividing into categories is complicated, I believe this is the most concise and simplest approach to a complex subject.)

But first there has to be objective identification of what IS evil.

"Man has to be man - by choice; he has to hold his life as a value - by choice; he has to learn to sustain it - by choice..."

 

"The standard by which one judges what is good or evil - is man's life."

[AR]

 

So whatever interferes with his choice, is against the man's life. Anti-life (anti-freedom etc.) is evil.


"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...***

#49 Samson Corwell

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 04:08 PM

A "good" person who realises his innocent errors, will back off quickly before too much harm is done, and try to make amends. If he continues with the harmful acts, he is simply not a good person. Being temporarily innocent of knowledge, of the consequences - at the time -is never a permanent excuse to repeat the error and never learn better. Ignorance repeated, becomes a breach of morality.

As I've argued, by their actions we know them: evil is, as evil does.( Dividing into categories is complicated, I believe this is the most concise and simplest approach to a complex subject.)

But first there has to be objective identification of what IS evil.

"Man has to be man - by choice; he has to learn to sustain it - by choice..."

 

"The standard by which one judges what is good or evil - is man's life."

[AR]

 

So whatever interferes with his choice, is against the man's life. Anti-life is evil.

The meaning of what I was trying to say has been derailed in the transmission.


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#50 whYNOT

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 04:21 PM

Because you make what I think is a metaphysical error - that a man can be inherently evil.

(Or, inherently good.)

Before he acts upon it. ["...evil people who want to do evil things."#47]

Which is the fallacy of 'mystical intrinsicism'.

I repeatedly have made the point that one may be irrational, and immoral, within oneself -
BUT evil requires action. You don't agree, it seems.

There's always choice. Doing evil or doing good is not a single choice, made in one day - it's many.
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#51 Xray

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 04:45 PM

Second, I would say that thoughtful lusting after another woman violates Objectivist principles in that this behavior denigrates a man’s feelings toward his wife therefore threatening the peace of a marriage. This type of “selfishness” I don’t think Rand would have supported.

 

 

But Ayn Rand herself had an extramarital relationship. I'm convinced that Rand fully supported her own "selfishness" regarding her  affair with NB.



#52 Samson Corwell

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 04:54 PM

Because you make what I think is a metaphysical error - that a man can be inherently evil.

(Or, inherently good.)

Before he acts upon it. ["...evil people who want to do evil things."#47]

Which is the fallacy of 'mystical intrinsicism'.

I repeatedly have made the point that one may be irrational, and immoral, within oneself -
BUT evil requires action. You don't agree, it seems.

There's always choice. Doing evil or doing good is not a single choice, made in one day - it's many.

Never mind...


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#53 Leonid

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 01:35 AM

"

"Can ideas be, in and of themselves, evil?"

 

There is no such a thing as ideas of themselves.  The positive answer to this  question would represent an epitome of mind-body dichotomy. Ideas don't exist by themselves. They created by people and there is no way to separate evil ideas from evil people and vice versa. To claim that person is good , only his ideas are evil is to claim a contradiction in terms.



#54 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 02:54 AM

"

"Can ideas be, in and of themselves, evil?"

 

There is no such a thing as ideas of themselves.  The positive answer to this  question would represent an epitome of mind-body dichotomy. Ideas don't exist by themselves. They created by people and there is no way to separate evil ideas from evil people and vice versa. To claim that person is good , only his ideas are evil is to claim a contradiction in terms.

If an idea is the initial part of an action  and the action is not realized externally then the idea has no moral quality.  If the action is realized then the idea has the same moral quality as the action it lead to.


אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#55 Leonid

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 07:13 AM

"

"Can ideas be, in and of themselves, evil?"

 

There is no such a thing as ideas of themselves.  The positive answer to this  question would represent an epitome of mind-body dichotomy. Ideas don't exist by themselves. They created by people and there is no way to separate evil ideas from evil people and vice versa. To claim that person is good , only his ideas are evil is to claim a contradiction in terms.

If an idea is the initial part of an action  and the action is not realized externally then the idea has no moral quality.  If the action is realized then the idea has the same moral quality as the action it lead to.

 

If one keeps his ideas to himself and his mouth shut, then you cannot judge. But if he utters, spreads his ideas in private or in public  he acts. He and his ideas could and should be judged.



#56 Brant Gaede

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 07:54 AM

The "evil" in evil ideas not expressed is merely a projection of what they will be when expressed. There is the implication of the future tense analogous to grammar. (You don't know what evil dwells in the hearts of men. The Shadow knows.)

--Brant
I keep my evil ideas to myself--then I pounce!

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#57 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:37 AM

How about this one from the New Thought people?

 

"Thought are things."

 

I believe this in a very limited manner (and not the mystical manner often promoted in New Thought).

 

Everything humans produce starts out as a thought. Of course, most thoughts don't make to to outside reality, but that does not negate the fact that a product of humans starts as a thought, just as surely as a human being starts as a fertilized egg.

 

To grow into something more than a thought, it has to be transmuted into external reality like a fetus has to be ejected into external reality and be born.

 

In that sense, a thought actually is a thing.

 

Can a thing be evil?

 

Yup--it can be evil to the agent the thing is in contact with or related to. In other words, a thought can be very evil to the person thinking it, but much less so to everyone else, since it has to be transmuted into outer reality to affect them.

 

I'm not 100% firm on this idea, but I'm strongly leaning in this direction.

 

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#58 whYNOT

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 08:01 AM

"

"Can ideas be, in and of themselves, evil?"

 

There is no such a thing as ideas of themselves.  The positive answer to this  question would represent an epitome of mind-body dichotomy. Ideas don't exist by themselves. They created by people and there is no way to separate evil ideas from evil people and vice versa. To claim that person is good , only his ideas are evil is to claim a contradiction in terms.

 

Hi Leon: We, as philosophers, students or whatever, certainly judge ideas separate from the individual - as abstractions, relating to existence.

All people hold, or have held, irrational (so, immoral) ideas to some degree.

(i.e. irrational/immoral to themselves, primarily - inasmuch as they are denying reality - to themselves.)

When such ideas are acted upon, to the detriment of other people, is the point they become evil, I think.

For example, I won't ever assess a religious person as "evil" if he practices his religion privately as the majority do. The mind-body dichotomy is all his, not mine, but I see no reason for judging him ~ solely ~ by

his erroneous faith. Aside from intrinsicism, it implies I have prescience of his actions.

Your last sentence, then, I'd rephrase - a person may have good character, despite owning ideas which are irrational.

Evil always signifies immorality; but (Objectivist) immorality does not necessarily equate with evil, the way

I see it.


"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...***

#59 tmj

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 01:39 PM

Perhaps the answer is "Sure, why not?"

 

Next question , can they be good






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