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Peikoff’s View of Objectivist Forums and Blogs


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#21 Brant Gaede

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 05:25 PM

Dragonfly,

I put "genius" in scare-quotes because IQ testers will say that anyone with a high enough IQ (150 or 160 are typical lower limits) is a genius.

But genius, as most people understand it, is obviously not reducible to IQ. To put it in plain language, you can be extremely smart without being particularly creative. Ramanujan, Einstein, Feynman, et al. were extremely creative, not just extremely smart.

Also (and this pushes us outside the limits of conventional intelligence testing), most genius-level capabilities are specialized. Ramanujan, for instance, was highly creative in certain areas of mathematics; I gather from my (very limited) knowledge of his life that he wasn't highly creative at anything else. Mozart was highly creative in music; nothing special otherwise.

Brant,

Standard IQ testing procedures assume a normal distribution (a bell curve) of scores in the human population, with a population mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Two standard deviations above the mean yields an IQ of 130. That's higher than the IQ's of roughly 98% of the population, but "genius" level IQ (see disclaimer above) is more than three standard deviations above the mean.

Barbara,

You've confirmed what I meant to imply about Ayn Rand being a slow reader. Her slow reading was a consequence of other unusual cognitive abilities. But of course it came at a cost--like not being willing to put the time in to read John Rawls' book.

I'm not claiming comparable scale here, but I read articles in academic psychology very slowly, compared to nearly anything else I read. It's because I'm constantly trying to figure out what's being assumed, or what the unstated implications might be. I can read a novel in French (a language that I didn't learn till my teenage years, and that I have to use different brain centers to process) faster than most psych journal publications in English.

Robert Campbell

Well, James (DNA) Watson had a purported IQ of 125. William (transistor) Shockley's was in the low 130s. Both these men are generally considered geniuses. Shockley considered himself a second or third level (as he put it) genius. I think the average PhD has a 140 IQ. Durk Pearson's IQ wasn't measurable, but I hesitate to think of him as a genius. That might be because he's so up there and I'm not.

An IQ test score is considered an objective measurement of (some types) of intelligence because it's a number that can be compared with other numbers. I understand IQ tests were developed and/or first extensively used as a quick way of determining who was officer material and who wasn't in WWI.

I think that someone who isn't a genius can create something of genius. I think genius can even be a flash in the pan. But when you get to the top of the heap it's just staggering, especially with the math and science guys closely followed by the classical music creators. Wow! As for Ayn Rand, I think she was absolutely a genius who peaked in the 1940s with "The Fountainhead" and the first years of writing "Atlas Shrugged." But I then think she effectively got stuck inside her own creations. As Nathaniel Branden said (regarding "Atlas"): "and wasn't coming out." (Not necessarily an exact quote.) You aren't a genius if you've created nothing to show for it. I think that that is the common thread in considered genius.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--Libertarian--objectivist Objectivist, not an Objectivist Objectivist


#22 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 05:31 PM

One of the fascinations of observing her mind at work was precisely her ease at acquiring new skills. Ask philosopher John Hospers how he introduced her to highly technical issues in philosophy, and how she mastered them as quickly as he could present them, and immediately saw worlds of implications in them and further avenues to pursue.. Ask Robert Efron how he introduced her to issues of technical physics, and how she explained to him, an internationally respected physicist, implications of those issues he'd never been aware of.


Hm. That is not the way Hospers talks about his and Ayn's exchanges in his written "Memoir," published by Liberty. Instead he describes frustration at their approaching philosophical issues so differently and at his never getting very far with her understanding what he was trying to convey, also with the sloppiness of her verbal habits. Did he say something like your report in a taped reminiscence?

(I have the Liberty Memoir, but lack time right now to provide quotes. I'll type some in later.)

Re Efron's opinion of her perspicacity in grasping "issues of technical physics," I would like to see direct quotes from Efron on that. The report does not square with that of persons I know who are knowledgeable about physics, including Larry, and who had some exchanges with her. None of those persons had near the length of interaction Robert Efron did. I'd be extremely curious to hear details of what Efron reported, and of what he talked with her about. (Also, of course, Efron is not a physicist, so I wonder how much he knew/knows about "issues of technical physics.")

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#23 Rich Engle

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 06:18 PM

Oh my gosh, it's going to take me quite a while to digest this thread, all in one day this was! Heavens. That reader-thing-component in my head is going to blow a fuse.

First blush on this, though, having digested the sypnoses given of the LP/Yarbourough podcast thingie... Cutting to the quick.

I agree with MSK's first read; there are functional concepts about forums being pointed out by LP (mostly). But this, to me, is assumed. You have to participate and develop experience with something if you are going to talk about it in any kind of reference-to-reality fashion. So, the mere fact that the general statements expressed even, in the admitted lack of experience, have any validity speaks well. But that just isn't the rubber hitting the road. It's the difference between getting in your muscle car and doing a burnout down the street, vs. having seen someone do it. So, between that and the whole nature of 2nd hand info (the old "telephone" game taught to kids illustrated how info dilutes), this is a problem. It reeks of armchair quarterback, and that has some serious limits. It gets into the woulda shoulda coulda category. How can a person commentate on an activity if they have little or no realtime experience engaging in said activity? Yuck.

Then, the thing about voice in writing. Now, MSK just put up a very nice thing about conversational tone in writing, and from what I see LP pretty much is at odds with that whole approach. Well, that's how I write, it's where my Kung Fu arises, and on that one he can, forgive me, kiss my pah-tooty. Just because he's afraid of doing looser stuff, freewrites and that, doesn't mean that I'm going to stop. I think it's funny, stopping to consider, that the man is infinitely more educated than I but for the fact I, and a heck of a lot of people around here can run circles around him in that dept. He couldn't freewrite his way out of a paytoilet because he doesn't practice. That's like saying only writing classical is good: no swing music or jukejoint stuff. Sorry, cupcake, I try to work in many different modalities.

But overall, at least he (they) kind of see things<---me trying, hope against hope, to find the positives. After that, though, belly up to the bar and hold forth with the opinions from Upon High: back to the armchair, boys. Load up on some chips and wait for the next game. Ptui. It smells like dead people in here, mom. It smells like Grandma used to before she...

rde
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Edited by Rich Engle, 12 January 2008 - 06:24 PM.

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#24 John Dailey

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 09:12 PM

~ I have little experience with killing humans. This does not forstall my having views on those who do.

~ Unless we must quibble about what number going by which test given in which decade is relevent to using the term 'genius,', then it's best we go by the usual generic meaning...which includes the fact that one's really talking about one's impression and not a checklist score. --- Given that, I'm not aware (as hinted by Campbell re Mozart, et al) that being a genius automatically meant that one was an inherent math-wizard (like, oh, 'Rainman') nor that there was never any 'struggle' with subject 'X'.

~ Re Ramanujan, he was a genius in math like Fischer was in chess...and like Newton was in alchemy. Ramanujan had his mystic side also. Other than physics (and inductive arguments), Feynmann was good only at bongo-playing.

LLAP
J:D

#25 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 11:36 PM

Barbara,

The "genius" category in Robert Campbell's explanation of IQ testing (a category of measurement) is all I meant with the phrase. We are using different meanings for the word "genius." I do not know if Rand had an IQ of, say, 150 or 160. One could reasonably ask, does it matter in light of her cognitive abilities and insights?

My use of this kind of statement probably comes from the fact that IQ testing was really big in Virginia public schools when I was growing up. It left an impression. I think the basic concept in many people's mind of the word "genius" is an IQ test score.

Michael

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#26 sjw

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 01:30 AM

Feynmann was good only at bongo-playing.


WTF?!

#27 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:15 AM

hat one was an inherent math-wizard (like, oh, 'Rainman') nor that there was never any 'struggle' with subject 'X'.

~ Re Ramanujan, he was a genius in math like Fischer was in chess...and like Newton was in alchemy. Ramanujan had his mystic side also. Other than physics (and inductive arguments), Feynmann was good only at bongo-playing.

LLAP
J:D


Feynman was one of the co-inventors of Quantum Electrodynamics. There is hardly a paper in Quantum Electro-Dynamics or Quantum-Chromo Dynamics that is not festooned with Feynman Diagrams. He is rated by his peers as one of the ten greatest physicists of the 20-th century. He is also one of the greatest physics teachers whoever lived. He is legend.

RICHARD PHILLIPS FEYNMAN (1918-1988)
Richard Feynman shared the Nobel Prize in Physics (with Julian Schwinger and Tomonaga Shin’ichiro) in 1965 for his formulation of a comprehensive theory of quantum electrodynamics—how electrically charged particles interact with photons and with each other. His version of this theory, and its accompanying “Feynman diagrams”—intuitive, pictorial representations of interactions among elementary particles—revolutionized the way scientists think about these processes in many fields of physics.

In addition, R.P.Feynman put nanotechnology on the map.

One does not get a Nobel Prize for playing the bongo drums.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf, 13 January 2008 - 02:18 AM.

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#28 John Dailey

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:10 PM

Ba'al:

~ I said "Other than physics (and inductive arguments).." which preluded your "WTF?" question about your mis-contextually selective quoting of me, and which implicitly included all you spelled out.

~ Maybe you missed the part before "...only..." after which I was referring to 'other' talents one can be additionally be, if not a 'genius', then at least good in, though such may have nothing to do with 'math'.

LLAP
J:D

#29 ashleyparkerangel

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:28 PM

I'm on your side in this, John, but you ought to be aware that Feynman was also a math genius--he could do cube roots of large numbers in his head faster than a highly trained abacus master.

Ayn was a genius as a writer and thinker, as BB said, but not in math--though a teacher had once advised her to become a mathematician, she was so good at it.

Edited by ashleyparkerangel, 13 January 2008 - 05:26 PM.


#30 John Dailey

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 10:10 PM

Ashley...:

~ Thank you for seeing...PART OF...my main points.

~ My PRIMARY point (tangentially argued off from by Ba'al re a side comment of mine) was nothing more than that the term "genius" is sometimes too myopically concentrated on its meaning as being only a numerical score on some 'IQ'-test given whenever (and we all know they're constantly finessed in improvements) over mucho decades now (hence, what 'meaning' about one given to a 10-yr old 3 decades ago?)

My SECONDARY point was about the more usual (amongst us non-professional Psychometricists) impressionistically (subjectively?) evaluated 'general' view of the term use, admirably clarified by Barbara Branden in an earlier post in this thread; ie: a worthwhile view.

~ My TERTIARY point was that too many see 'math'-wizardy as an inherent necessity-of-meaning re anyone being called a 'genius.' By that view, Michaelangelo was not one anymore than Socrates, Bach, Stravinsky or Jefferson.

LLAP
J:D

#31 dan_edge

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 10:35 AM

Barbara Branden writes: “I think you underestimate the pressures that go with the package. I would never suggest to a young person that he or she go to ARI for instruction in Objectivism. The pressures are not merely "us against them" -- which is relatively harmless in view of the infinitely more dangerous and destructive pressure to become a true believer, convinced that all wisdom resides with Rand and ARI and that wisdom is to be found nowhere else. This, plus many of the ideas that are part and parcel of the ARI teachings … make ARI a source of instruction to be avoided like the plague. … The ARI ideal and the proof of its success is the student who thinks it unnecessary to read, because he already knows everything worth knowing, who finds it unnecessary to expose his convictions to challenges and debate, because those who disagree with him do so only because they are evil, who does not grasp what it would mean to respect someone who does not agree with him, who is narrow, pedantic, insulated from reality which he sees only through a fog of floating concepts, who is cold, dogmatic, hypercritical and obsessed with the evil of most of the world.”

Robert Campbell writes: “I agree with Barbara that the Ayn Rand Institute is not a good place for students to learn about Objectivism. Not only because of the religious atmosphere (complete with monitoring for deviationism, and suspicions about heresy), and the sharply delineated hierarchy of authority figures to whom deference is constantly due. Also because much of what is taught is Leonard Peikoff's interpretation of Ayn Rand, to the exclusion of interpretations by others who knew and worked with her, or by others who didn't know her, but have made a careful study of the Randian corpus.”

------------------------
As a student finishing out my sophomore year at the Objectivist Academic Center, I must say that the OAC bears no resemblance whatsoever to Ms. Branden’s or Mr. Campbell’s descriptions. I assert that their opinions are based on the number of classes they have taken with the OAC (zero), and that the value of those opinions ought to be weighed accordingly.

One is never asked about his “allegiance” or pressured to join (or not to join) certain groups. There is no loyalty oath on the application, no interrogation before admission. The issue is never brought up. (If there were any “monitoring for deviationism,” I might have been asked about the fact that I am disallowed membership to the HB List, that I am a member of the Atlasphere, that I openly criticized Peikoff’s statement about the election, that I am unclear about the issue of Sanctioning the Sanctioner Sanctioners, or even that I post here from time to time.)

The first class does not advocate Objectivism directly, but instead introduces students to important questions in the history of philosophy. The next two classes focus on improving writing skills.

I’m now taking the Seminar on Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism (SARPO). In the first lecture, Dr. Ghate stressed the importance of avoiding a rationalistic approach to learning Objectivism (he spent 3 hours on this). He explained how he was going to continually challenge us to think independently, to take an inductive approach, and to come up with our own answers and examples. Interactive discussion takes up a large portion of each class.

There has never been any “pressure” to become a “true believer.” Exactly the opposite – students are encouraged to raise challenges and objections in class, and the professor does an excellent job of addressing these in a professional manner. No one is ever berated or publicly chastised.

I probably raise more questions that anyone else, especially about Dr. Ghate’s approach: “Why are you bringing this point up first instead of that?” “Why do you focus on this so much? I don’t see why it’s important.” “I don’t know that I agree with how you conceptualized that,” etc. As always, Ghate deals with my questions in a deliberate, professional manner, then gives me the opportunity to respond. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t, but I’m always satisfied about the quality of the engagement.

This is not to imply that the professor doesn’t present a well-organized, hierarchically structured view of Objectivism’s major tenants. He most certainly does. But his presentation is infused with questions and challenges to encourage open student discussion.

Branden’s and Campbell’s descriptions of the OAC are so off the mark, I’m truly baffled. I won’t venture to question their motives – all I can do is state definitively that, based on my experience, they are 100% wrong.

--Dan Edge

#32 ashleyparkerangel

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 11:44 AM

I agree with all those points, JD. My concept of genius is basically AR's, which I assume everyone here knows. My own point was only that Feynman is not a good example of a non-mathematical genius.

#33 sjw

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 12:36 PM

As a student finishing out my sophomore year at the Objectivist Academic Center, I must say that the OAC bears no resemblance whatsoever to Ms. Branden’s or Mr. Campbell’s descriptions. I assert that their opinions are based on the number of classes they have taken with the OAC (zero), and that the value of those opinions ought to be weighed accordingly.


Pretty argument, however, clearly their position is based in their estimates of the culture of ARI of which OAC is a part.

Interesting that the lectures from the OAC about rationalism haven't cured you of it yet. Maybe you should ask for your money back. ;)

Seriously though, I found most of Peikoff's lectures very useful, and wouldn't doubt that there's a lot of good stuff taught in the OAC, but I also would be surprised if there were not pressures to strip you of your intellectual independence as well. If you succumbed, it would be your own damn fault and not theirs.

So that's an argument for going to the OAC in spite of their religious tendencies.


Shayne

#34 Brant Gaede

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 12:58 PM

Nice post, Dan. What Barbara was talking about, however, derives from the "true believer" context created by Leonard Peikoff nearly 40 years ago when he demanded Ayn Rand be taken on faith. He re-enforced that with his reaction to "The Passion of Ayn Rand." I'm glad to hear that that context seems to be weakening, but it's there and eventually you will butt your head up against it. I am sure that there have been and are many valuable courses on Objectivism taught in/from southern California, but the basic premise has to be that Objectivism is what AR said it was while she was alive and there is essentially nothing to be added or subtracted from the philosophy--it's a closed system. In other words, you are really learning a catechism. You are allowed to ask all sorts of questions out of ignorance for the sake of your enlightenment. This creates an illusion of critical thinking.

--Brant

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#35 sjw

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 01:05 PM

In other words, you are really learning a catechism. You are allowed to ask all sorts of questions out of ignorance for the sake of your enlightenment. This creates an illusion of critical thinking.


That's a great answer.


Shayne

#36 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 01:23 PM

I'm on your side in this, John, but you ought to be aware that Feynman was also a math genius--he could do cube roots of large numbers in his head faster than a highly trained abacus master.


Doing cube roots in one's head is arithmetical, not mathematical.

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#37 ashleyparkerangel

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:39 PM

If you mean he did not create new mathematical ideas, you are correct. So by AR's definition, he was not a math genius. Touché.

So Feynman is a relevant example. Sorry, JD!

Still, anyone with Feynman's math ability is a genius in my estimation, in the sense of intellectual power.

Edited by ashleyparkerangel, 15 January 2008 - 03:47 PM.


#38 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:45 PM

If you mean he did not create new mathematical ideas, you are correct.


Not so. Feynman invented integration over histories. This is a novel variation of the Least Action Principle

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#39 ashleyparkerangel

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:48 PM

If you mean he did not create new mathematical ideas, you are correct.


Not so. Feynman invented integration over histories. This is a novel variation of the Least Action Principle

Ba'al Chatzaf


Isn't that more of a physics achievement?

#40 Robert Campbell

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 03:50 PM

Dan,

Your account of your studies at OAC comes across as sincere. (And sincerity is not something that outsiders can count on, when they ask ARI affiliates about goings-on within that organization.)

I have access to extremely sparse data about OAC, but they are still enough to indicate that not everyone's experience has been the same as yours. I have it from a well-placed source that Diana Hsieh was questioned at length by Onkar Ghate before being allowed to enroll at OAC. The questioning focused on her past role in TAS and on the nature of her connection with David Kelley.

Further, I can't evaluate the quality of the curriculum without knowing many more details than you would have space to include in your missive.

For instance, in SARPO are pre-1968 articles by Nathaniel Branden, or other authors who published under Ayn Rand's supervision but were later excluded from the Ayn Rand Lexicon, included among the readings? Is "Fact and Value" considered part of the Objectivist corpus in SARPO, or is it acceptable to treat it as a latter-day interpretation of Objectivism that is open to question?

Have you read anything out of Tara Smith's latest book in SARPO? If Dr. Smith's book is among the readings, what would happen if a participant asked why self-esteem is discussed in the book but no article or book by Nathaniel Branden is ever cited on the subject?

Is the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion covered in SARPO? If so, what would happen if a participant examined Dr. Peikoff's assertions about Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem (e.g., The Ominous Parallels, p. 216 hardcover), then drew on Dr. Peikoff's treatment of arbitrary assertions in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (e.g., the example of a "savage" saying "2 + 2 = 4" without understanding), and concluded that Dr. Peikoff has made arbitrary assertions about Gödel's Theorem?

Does anyone ever point out the lack of agreement between Dr. Peikoff's claims about arbitrary assertions in "Fact and Value" and his claims about them in OPAR? (It's rather apparent.)

My assessments of the Ayn Rand Institute, as I once noted over at SOLOP, are based on a "black box" methodology. I know virtually nothing, and can get virtually no reliable information, about what happens inside the box. All I can see is what goes in and what comes out.

For instance, I note that Don Watkins posts all manner of fire-breathing bigotry against non-ARIans (e.g., David Kelley was expelled from ARI for "the sanction of libertarianism"), I learn in a direct exchange with him that he has never heard of a long list of intellectual contributors outside the ARI orbit, and then I discover that he has been hired to write op-eds for ARI.

I note that Andrew Bernstein engages in public penance for publishing a brief reply to a review in the pages of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, then I find that anyone in the ARI orbit who will answer my question at all either approves of Dr. Bernstein's action, or considers it no big deal. Yet his public penance, and subsequent call for a boycott of JARS, were cited as reasons for not accepting an Anthem Foundation grant to place him in a university philosophy department.

Robert Tracinski drifts away from ARI, I start reading The Intellectual Activist regularly, and I see that while well informed about many other things, he is not only woefully uninformed about philosophy of science during the last 100 years--but the source for his misreadings of Karl Popper and others, as can be diagnosed from the style and the rhetoric, is almost certainly someone in the ARI orbit.

So when I made my comments, I was referring the intellectual culture of ARI as a whole, not to OAC, about which I know far too little.

Now if your description of OAC is accurate, it should follow that the average ARI-affiliated intellectual of the coming generation will be far more open to discussion and intellectual exchange with non-ARIans than was the case with previous generations. This would be a highly desirable outcome, but I doubt you've yet convinced anyone here of its likelihood.

Robert Campbell

PS. I'm still trying to understand what ARIans presently think "rationalism" is. I've studied the lecture from Objectivism through Induction on "the arbitrary." There are some improvements over OPAR in the way the notion is introduced (OPAR manages to thoroughly condemn arbitrariness before it offers any information on how to identify it; OTI tries to identify it first). But there are other lines of argument, purporting to be "inductive" and free of "rationalism," that come across to me as anything but (such as Dr. Peikoff's appeal to a special kind of cognitive paralysis that allegedly sets in as soon as you realize you're up against "the arbitrary," or the strange example of Harry Binswanger's bachelor party and the moral that Dr. Peikoff expects his audience to draw from it).




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