Daniel Barnes

Members
  • Posts

    1,147
  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Daniel Barnes

  1. Well I apologise for any of my misunderstandings. But I thought your discussion of "one aspect of the theory of value" was the first step towards a vindication of ethics as an "objective enterprise". If that's not what you were aiming at, sorry. And I didn't ask you to solve the "is-ought" problem for me. I merely asked you if you were willing to briefly explain the problem you were trying to solve, if not that one.
  2. It seems to me the "intellectual chaos" caused by Rand's bait-and-switch word-games is a far bigger problem. But perhaps we will get to the bottom of it yet...;-)
  3. Well I confess I am not clear what you then mean by an "objective" enterprise. But perhaps you could take a moment to clearly lay out the problem you are proposing a solution for, so we don't end up in errors of interpretation in what is admittedly a confusing field. If it's not Hume's problem, of deriving ethics ("ought") from facts ("is"), what is it? For this is indeed the problem Rand liked to make out she had solved. What Hume believed personally is basically irrelevant. What matters is the objective problem he uncovered. For example, Hume also pointed out what became known as the problem of induction, yet chose to to remain an inductivist even though he knew it to be an illogical belief. So too with this problem. It also matters little whether ethics can be "grounded in facts in some manner." "Some manner"? If this is the problem under discussion I suggest it is beside the point . The perennial issue is, as I understand it, that of the logical relation between facts and ethics. If you're not solving that, you're not solving much. For example, when Rand says "So much for the issue of the relation between 'is' and 'ought'" the only "relation" that matters is the logical relation. If she means some unspecified other "relation", as her defenders often claim, who cares? This is merely playing philosophical bait-and-switch. I can think of dozens of "relations" between "is" and "ought" myself - for example, they are both words in the English language. Or they both occur in this post. And so forth. But of course I don't claim to have refuted Hume by having established these "relations"...;-) So it would be helpful to get upfront what "manner" or "relation" your proposed solution uses. If it's not logic, what is it? Well and good. And I appreciate you are building up your proposed solution step by step. But again, unless I have missed it, before we get much further a quick summary of the problem you are ultimately aiming to solve will avoid much pointless misunderstanding.
  4. Well that's fine if you're putting forward a model where either side can engage in mutual criticism. I took it, obviously wrongly, that you were advocating the Randian doctrine where philosophy is the master discipline with power of ultimate veto over the other fields eg science. So no problem. With that sorted out, back to the main issue as I see it. Would you mind clarifying?
  5. And what are for example unwarranted metaphysical conclusions from Heisenberg's uncertainty principle? I was thinking of the argument that Heisenberg's uncertainly principle demonstrates causal indeterminancy in nature. As I recall, Heisenberg himself drew a conclusion similar to this, but it's been many years since I've read anything on this subject, and my memory is pretty vague on this particular. But by what "metaphysical" authority do philosophers get to issue or withdraw these "warrants" over the conclusions of scientists? This seems to me this is quite different from claiming this or that scientific theory fails certain logical or empirical tests. Is that all you mean by these "metaphysical" "warrants"? I don't recall scientists to be their kings...;-)How did they get to be there then?
  6. We agree. Well, now wait a minute. As I understand it, you're attempting to build up a case for an "objective" morality by starting with a "first step". But I'm not sure you've clearly explained the problem you're claiming to solve in the first place. In fact your remark I first quoted seems to entirely agree with Hume, and his is the classic statement of the difficulties of a fully objective ethics. Indeed it is this very point that Rand liked to make out that she had refuted. Your "first step" doesn't overcome Hume, so I'm not sure what the point of the second step is. If your proposed "objective" morality doesn't address Hume, what does it address? Could you clarify? Otherwise I fear all we will end up with is a debate over the meanings of "subjective" and "objective", and as you say, there's little point in getting lost in such a jungle.
  7. Really? I used that very knife myself, and thought it rather dull and that it cut poorly. But then I have adopted certain standards when it comes to the sharpness of knives. This is due to my extensive training in Samurai arts that insist only on Hanso steel. Clearly your standards are not quite the same as mine. So here's the issue as I see it. The physical object, the knife, can conform to certain objective standards of quality (such as the million folds that supposedly go into the best Samurai blades) and sharpness (which we might measure with a micrometer). We can call all these things "objective", I think, without debate. However the decision/s to adopt such standards adds the subjective element. I call this "subjective" because you can't derive a decision from a fact, or any set of facts, by the objective standard of logic.
  8. The perfectibility of man is a common thread in Utopian ideologies. In Marx it is presented as a kind of End of History, the faint glow in the rubbled horizon of capitalism. Marx promises Utopian freedom just like all prophets - people overlook this. As the contradictions are resolved all historical progress ends, time stands still, the road is cleared and freed from his chains man can do what he pleases. Fortunately, as his consciousness is no longer alienated from himself, and he has reclaimed the means of production, what he wants to do is presumably happily build factories and machines and buildings and produce, produce, produce. We see this in the Ivan and His Happy Factory school of Social Realist art. The perfectibility of man is present loud and clear in Objectivism too, as you rightly point out. This gives Objectivism some of the same doctrinaire aesthetics as Socialist Art. Perhaps more wings and feathers in Objectivism. Anyway, Rand's incitements to perfection include her rhetorical absolutism and of course her strange blurring the real and ideal, of fact and fiction, in her presentation of the ideal man. However her actual exposition of "perfection" is confusing. She attacks Platonism but AFAICS offers absolutely no coherent replacement theory. Her heroes are about as impossible as a perfect circle, rhetorical protestations in her endpapers notwithstanding. As she carefully avoids dealing with specifics, that her counterarguments are fallacies only becomes obvious by paying attention to her unguarded asides; for example when she tries to discuss "absolute" precision in physical measurement in the ITOE (the passage about "between 1mm and 2mm" on p196). This is an important yet easily overlooked passage, as it shows I think quite plainly that her attempt to refute Plato's basic insight (the dichotomy between the physical and the abstract) is a howler. So we have in Rand simultaneously both a denial of "perfection" and powerful incitements towards it. The result is quite a bit of chop. Absolutely.
  9. Who's playing "word games"? The question is this: is Valliant telling the truth when he claims that he, Rand, and Smith have done this derivation "formally, with clearly labeled premises and a clearly labeled conclusion"? Yes, or no? We are talking about logical derivations, Michael. That's what a deduction is. If Rand "derived" it in some other way (ie non-logically) then that's fine. Because there is no problem "deriving", "deducing", or establishing some kind of "relation" between ought and is. Now, like Ayn Rand, I too can establish a "relation" between ought and is. For example, they are both words in the English language. Or here's another one: they both occur in this post. The only problem is, and has always been, in establishing a valid logical relation. But I've explained this all before. You didn't get it then, I don't know if you will get it now, so I no more than you enjoy the prospect of rehashing it for the nth time. Instead you may care to focus on the far simpler issue of whether Valliant is telling the truth or not....;-)
  10. Phil, You really should read more carefully before responding. In fact, Richard Goode asked: "Can you help, by presenting Rand's derivation of an "ought" from an "is" formally, with clearly labeled premises and a clearly labeled conclusion?" My italics. Valliant claimed that he, Rand, and Smith had done that. Have they?
  11. I don't know if anyone here has ever gone to Bali. It's a rather crowded place, often with the You Are Now Leaving signs on the same post as the You Are Now Entering signs. At any rate, an interesting cultural practice has developed there quite possibly as a result of this as well as the warm climate. That is, people often bathe naked in public. It's men and women alike, and you can see it in villages, or even by the side of the road on busy highways. Why it works without causing the kind of disruption it would in the West is simple: everyone agrees not to see it. This tacit agreement means that no-one stares, no-one comments, and that it would be the height of rudeness to do so (though there is always the odd unknowing tourist). I was reminded of this tacit policy of ensuring social cohesion while reading Jim Valliant on Solopassion. Richard Goode calls him out, asking him to present "Rand's derivation of an "ought" from an "is" formally, with clearly labeled premises and a clearly labeled conclusion." Valliant replies claiming "I have done that", adding that both Rand and Tara Smith have too. But strangely, he doesn't actually provide the requested derivation. Nor does he supply Rand's, nor Smith's. So naturally Goode asks again. And again. Valliant then refuses to provide any of these three alleged derivations. Now that in itself is not so interesting. Valliant is the sort of fellow who will say anything, no matter how ridiculous. Certainly he must know Rand never published such a derivation. I'm unaware of him ever doing likewise (and if Rand had already done it, why would he bother?) Perhaps Tara Smith has done it, but I'm sure if it was any good we would have already heard of it, as she would now be the most famous philosopher of the past 50 years. So Valliant is simply and blatantly lying. Yet what is interesting is how his correspondents have reacted. No-one at Solo has even commented on this rather outrageous fib, which plus his subsequent evasion would on just about any other internet forum make him a laughingstock. One can only conclude it's because, like the Balinese, the price of social cohesion at the Solo forum means that when, during these "terrific" exchanges of "serious ideas and information", Valliant tells an obvious lie, everyone agrees not to notice it.
  12. I think your post above summarises some of the fundamental problems in the way you’re approaching this, so I’ll break it down a little and perhaps these will become clear. The way you put it, the evidence of her untrustworthiness seems to consist of: 1) Ellen: Leonard Peikoff is generally viewed by OL members as slavish in his devotion to Rand. Suppose Barbara Weiss had been interviewed in 1974 or 1975. Suppose she'd spoken in even more flattering terms than Leonard Peikoff does. Would she have been trustworthy then?” First, this view of Peikoff is hardly limited to "OL members”, I’m not sure why you’d say that. Second, imaginary counterfactuals of what she might possibly say don’t undermine in the least the reliability of what she actually did say. All they do here is test people’s reaction to her statements. Now, there is no doubt that witness testimony is particularly difficult around religious and political organizations, cults and other movements where the moral qualities of the leader are often deeply entwined with the moral qualities the followers have embraced; hence it’s difficult for them to see the leader objectively. This does make finding reliable testimony difficult, as I’ve said. That’s why ideally what you’d want to find is someone who’s no longer associated with the movement, no longer holds those beliefs, but still has long and close association. Barbara Weiss fits these criteria pretty well. Hence it would have been good for the counter-narrative Valliant is promoting if she’d testified that Rand was a terrific person and that there’s been a lot of lies about the way Rand treated people. But she didn’t. Instead she confirmed what has emerged as the main narrative, and did so in pretty unequivocal terms. 2) Ellen:“What if she'd said blistering things about Barbara Branden?” Well, she might have. But unless we know a: what they were and b: whether they were true or not, this has exactly nil bearing on her trustworthiness as a witness. We know neither a. nor b. 3) Ellen: There was also the way Weiss acted toward Rand. I found this icky to see, and, again, different from what I saw with any of the others. Oh, sure, they deferred to Rand, but they didn't act in the self-debasing way I thought Barbara Weiss acted.” Once again, while you may have a good deal of confidence in your own judgement, just because you found her "icky" won’t persuade many others that she’s a liar. Especially if you didn't even know her well enough to speak to. 4) Ellen: Those are a couple reasons why I think she would have felt a desire for revenge.” Actually so far you haven’t presented "a couple" of reasons why she would want "revenge." No one would want "revenge" themselves on Ayn Rand for 1) or 2)). 1) is an imaginary counterfactual, and 2) is about Barbara Branden. There’s 3), but even that seems very unclear: Weiss would want "revenge" for acting in a self-abasing way around Rand? I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. It’s things like this that give the impression you’re running way ahead of yourself. 5) Ellen: Another is because of possible guilt over the unfairness she sometimes exhibited in letters she wrote intercepting on Rand's behalf. I saw letters from her in which she spoke with a harshness unnecessary for the purpose. Like the above, while you may think this is compelling, I think most people will find this simply improbable psychological speculation. Weiss is getting “revenge” on Rand because she (Weiss) wrote harshly in replying to some letters? This doesn't really seem sufficient. 6) Another is because of possible guilt over the timing and the description of the reasons why she left. Was she harboring negativity before her sudden reversion of opinion after Joan and Elayne left but keeping it under her lid? Once again, who knows? Neither you nor I do. We can say that she was “harbouring negativity”, because she did in fact make negative statements about Rand. But it throws no light at all on the point at issue, which is whether it was Rand's fault that she felt negative towards her. 7) Ellen: Also there's the nature of her statements…. Which are certainly harsh. Which is why we put them in to the context of the rest of what we know about Rand and what others have said about her. And when we do, as I’ve said, it tends to support the main narrative that has emerged about Rand. And even leaving aside entirely the vagaries of testimony, we can also simply look at how Rand acted to see whether Weiss’ attitude might be justified. As Brant noted in one of his better remarks above, we can get a good sense of the truth of Weiss’ statement simply by looking at what Rand did, on a weekly basis for years, to the man she claimed to have loved the most. I think this plain fact gives us an undeniable insight into Rand as a person – and that most people would agree that’s a truly “killer” thing to do. So there is in fact some pretty very powerful evidence to back Weiss’ broad remark up. You personally may not like what Weiss says, but if The Case Against Weiss consists of what you’re presented so far it’s hard to see why anyone would take much notice of it, let alone be a derailment of her viewpoint. It's not just a case of people not accepting your arguments because they're biased etc. It's because what you've put forward is just weak. I’m sorry, but there it is. If you’ve got better, it would be good to hear it. BTW I think the problem with your discussion of Frank's drinking is slightly different. The key problem there is you haven't connected your preferred possibility - that Frank whiled away his later years drinking alone in the studio - back to any larger storyline that's being put forward pro or contra Rand's personality, and in turn the consequences of her ethical theories, which are the things you say you want to defend. I suggest that until you do that most people will be puzzled as to what you consider to be the truth of those issues. Now , a brief digression on a minor disagreement I have with Burns. She says, rightly I think, that we view the Rand/Branden relationship through via some sexist assumptions. That is, we would not find it anywhere near as remarkable if Rand had been an older male leader, and Branden a young female devotee. I quite agree with her on this. However, I would make the point that in such a counterfactual we would still view the male Rand as a callous, cold hearted brute. Because that’s the way people would see a man who dismissed his devoted wife from the apartment every week so that he could have sex with his sexy young cookie. And if the followers of that man’s cult of personality tried to justify his actions by saying the wife “got off on it” too, the desperate transparency of this would be hooted down. Putting such an argument would pretty much entail the destruction of their credibility. Yet strangely in this case, no-one seems to want to mention it.
  13. Peter, TheBrandensTM is a joke. It's making fun of James Valliant and his absurd caricature of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden as cartoon Companions In Evil. It's not knocking the two people concerned.
  14. I'm really surprised Ellen would strongly reject this formulation, as it seems a pretty clearcut reading. But then I haven't followed this all that closely, perhaps she has her reasons. Valliant has certainly tried to deny the idolatrous nature of his book - I think even he knows it's not something you come out and say. He even includes a passing comment on the already-approved topic of her anger to give what's called "plausible deniability". After all, most people won't have actually read PARC. But it's double-talk. The sycophancy oozes out of every para, not to mention the stifling sense of PC (Philosophic Correctness). Underneath its strange fantasias, the book hums with a uniquely apparatchik tension: have I been flattering enough? Are they evil enough? Perhaps just a little more of both can't hurt....It's written as if he's half expecting a cold future eye to be limning it for Psychologically Revealing Errors ahead of some dreaded ideological purge - hence the unintentionally hilarious moments such as his disclaimer about the "irrationality" of time travel. It's certainly quite unlike anything I've ever read.
  15. For me the "point of PARC" was always first and foremost an exercise in Rand idolatry, performed by a cringing sycophant. I never thought of it as anything else. The vilification of TheBrandensTM functioned only as a corollary of this basic premise ie in order to have got one over the Greatest Genius of All Time, TheBrandensTM could only be the Evilest Evil Geniuses of All Time. If it was merely out to get TheBrandensTM whilst trying to paint a realistic portrait of Rand, it would have been a completely different book. Note how entirely missing from Valliant's absurdist storyline is anything resembling a credible situation; say, of the effect of a powerful intellect and personality such as Rand's on a young, ambitious, star-struck acolyte such as Branden, or the classic cultic dynamic where the leader often takes attractive concubines from the faithful (Burns is entirely right when she says that expect this common situation to not apply just because Rand is a woman is sexist). Also missing is any kind of believeable description of Rand's partner's reaction to her affair, nor the commonplace observation that these sorts of things predictably end in tears, with a lot of wrong on both sides. Or even an admission that we really never know what goes on between two people, and that there may well have been something between them both that somehow got lost (likewise with Frank). Instead we get a bizarre fairytale that it's hard to credit a grownup would believe, let alone commit to print. Its real value, as I've said before, is not the odd good point Valliant might make here or there in terms of inaccuracies in the Branden accounts. That's like wearing a clown suit because you like the way the buttons are sewn. No, the real value from PARC is the insight you get into the cultist mind. In that, it's freaking MRI-like.
  16. Well, I for one am not really getting why this proposed time difference is very important, nor why a witness would make any difference to you here. As I understand it, your interest in the date of Frank's drinking is to try to falsify a larger story; the narrative out there that Ayn Rand was a "killer of people." It seems to me you've chosen a very indirect route, via a specific issue the facts of which seem pretty unreliable as a whole. Furthermore, your replacement hypothesis leaves most of the important issues unanswered anyway eg: what was the effect on Frank of Rand's decision to take a younger lover right in front of him? This is the point where the ethical rubber hits the road, surely? So as I said before, unless you've got a more comprehensive theory I'm picking that you're not going to get anywhere very decisive. Further, we already have a witness as to the main thesis - in fact the author of that remark, Barbara Weiss - who had the dual advantage of both daily close, personal contact over a period of decades and who was not ideologically committed to the Orthodox Objectivist view of Rand. This is just the sort of testimony one would hope to find, one would think. It's the equivalent of having the view of someone who drank with Frank, or was with him when he didn't, every day for years. And it applies to the master thesis that's in play, if you like, not one of its rather oblique corollaries. Thus I would say this would be extremely valuable, and worthy of serious consideration. Yet it seems to me you've simply waved away Weiss' eyewitness assessment, which was based on years of daily dealings one-to one, aside in favour of what seems to be mostly your own handful impressions from a distance. AFAIK you didn't meet Rand, right? Let alone work with her on a close daily basis for years. I can't help but think it's because it's a powerful falsification of your personal beliefs about Rand - testimony far stronger than anything yet summoned by anyone in this third-level issue of the date of Frank's drinking. I'll tell you what: I'm pretty all out critical of Rand, and if someone like Weiss (as opposed to Binswanger, say, or Peikoff) had stood up and said, "no, Rand was a really terrific person in every respect" or "she's not as bad as they say, it's all been exaggerated" then I for one would take that seriously. But she didn't. In fact, what she said basically corroborated the main narrative that has emerged over time. Would you mind clarifying your reasoning here? Why would you accept, say, (should it ever be forthcoming) Ventura's testimony if you don't take Weiss'?
  17. Oh, the "on strike" hypothesis...;-) That seems an equally absurd exercise in what the Scholastics used to call "saving the phenomena", thanks for reminding me of it. "On strike" against what exactly? That his wife was a famous and successful novelist? Against the allegedly morally and intellectually bankrupt society that had nonetheless somehow given her the aforesaid fame and success? "On strike" against the fact that movies didn't want to hire him? (Incidentally, you're not "on strike" when someone doesn't want you to work...) AFAICS there was nothing overt to stop him from doing anything "heroic". Being handsome, wealthy, and with a plethora of connections via Rand he could have achieved pretty much whatever he wanted to. He may have been a perfectly nice guy, but the idea that Frank was somehow a "hero", "on strike" against an inimical world is a truly desperate hypothesis.
  18. He began whiling away time drinking in his studio when he became old, was growing senile, and could no longer paint. I haven't been following this whole debate all that closely I admit. But while there are no end of possible narrative versions, I don't recall this one has being put forward prominently by anyone until now. (BTW I think Robert was referring to the main storylines in play, not the possible alternative scenarios, which are infinite). Why not? Like attributing excessive drinking to a dysfunctional relationship, this is also a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. People often turn to drink for reasons such as physical decay and the concomitant sense of failing life. "Put the car away; when life fails/What's the good of going to Wales?" as Auden wrote, capturing the feeling perfectly. I can guess why. Furthermore, I will make a prediction. That should anyone put this new narrative forward and clearly defend it, it will get little or no support from Valliant or the ARI flavoured Objectivists who have put so much time and energy into attacking the Branden/Burns/Heller thesis. Why not? Because this variation conflicts with their basically idolatrous doctrine. That Rand's husband ended his days whiling away his time drinking alone in his studio is not exactly what John Galt would have done. Further, one has to ask the question where was his "soul mate" (as Valliant calls her) while this was going on? Given that they supposedly shared the same "sense of life", right down to the marrow, did Rand approve of Frank's response to this unfortunate turn of events? And so forth. I believe all these questions mean that this version will prove just as unacceptable to True Believers as the idea he turned to drink in the face of The Affair. But I could be wrong, we'll have to see. I also can't see how people who are "out to get Rand", which I suppose includes critics like me, would be averse to this version. It seems a fairly realistic scenario (BTW, it's the idolatry that probably gets me about Objectivism even more than the quality of Rand's arguments. That's why, for example, I set my review of Burns' book against the background of True Believer reaction to it) though of course it is unhelpfully mute on the important issue of Frank's reaction to The Affair. As the consequences to others of our "selfish" actions have important implications for the viability of Objectivist ethics, I can see why the issue of the consequences for Frank is a particularly tricky one, and why True Believers like Valliant have had to resort to the "Frank-got-off-on-it" theory to get around it. Speaking of Valliant's "Frank-got-off-on-it" theory of The Affair, it is curious that this is barely mentioned, as the evidence for this is next to non-existent, even compared to the ambiguous evidence of Frank's drinking. Yet it strikes me as a far more controversial claim, and just as potentially slanderous, being seemingly manufactured from whole cloth by Valliant purely for the purposes of trying to make the situation consistent with Rand's ethics. Why not?
  19. I remember my late Grandmother used to get me to buy her a bottle of sherry once a week or so, which I'd drop round to her home. Being a good grandson, I used to do it for years. Nothing wrong with that, a nice old lady enjoying a tipple now and again. She used to seem a bit dotty - once she invited my sister and I round for lunch, and she'd cut herself quite badly and bled all over the food, which she didn't seem to notice and expected us to eat as normal. It was odd, but we put it down to advancing age and poor eyesight. Then I was at a barbecue with some relatives, who I didn't see that much of, and we started talking about Helen. I mentioned my semi-weekly visits. Then my cousin interjected and said "But that's what I do to..." and my other cousin "And me..." and my aunt "Gosh, me too..." etc. We realised she getting deliveries daily, from us as well as friends, and had been for years. Even after we stopped the delivery system, when we moved her out into a rest home we found empty bottles stashed literally everywhere (she kept a tidy house on the surface). I say this simply because it's actually pretty easy for people to have a serious drinking problem and for no-one, not even the people who regularly see them, to really know. Particularly when they're older, and your natural assumption is the effects of age. Drunks are also pretty clever. So I seriously doubt there is any evidence that's going emerge that's going to be decisive. So I suggest we step back and look at the two larger narratives in play that Frank's drinking or lack thereof is supposed to fit into. In terms of this particular case, ie Frank's taking to drink as a reaction to his wife electing to regularly sleep with a younger man at their home, it seems to follow a pretty reasonable narrative. I've known a few alcoholics, including some pretty high-functioning ones. It's often a shock to discover what's really going on behind this seemingly-together person's life - friends often can't quite believe it. It's also quite a continuum of behaviour, which makes it even trickier to pinpoint. And yes, it does often stem from some kind of dysfunctional marital relationship. (This is not to say that Ayn and Frank didn't deeply relate to each other at some level - people with problematic relationships often do). This is basically the theory put forward by the Branden, Burns, and Heller bios AFAICS. As a counter to this familiar human story, so far all I've seen is the theory expressed in Valliant's book, which is a kind of Randian Exceptionalism. That is, because Ayn and Frank were "giants" in an ethical sense, and subscribed to a unique and unconventional "science" of ethics, they were able to pull off a long-running triangular sexual affair without the usual collateral damage that results among ordinary people. In fact mere lack of damage is not enough; the Objectivist theory of sex implies that this three-way has to be the "highest value", even for the cuckolded one. And of course Objectivism states that there can be no conflicts between such exceptionally rational beings as Ayn and Frank. From these principles, a passing comment of Rand's, plus some notes on the three-way preferences of her fictional characters, Valliant concludes that far from being hurt and driven to drink by the affair, Frank happily derived both sexual and spiritual gratification from his wife having frequent sex with another, younger, man. Hence, no need to hit the bottle etc. I am not aware of a explicit third narrative out there. The upshot of the debate over Frank's drinking seems to be we are being asked to choose between the two storylines. It seems to me that as the second narrative is far more speculative than the first and relies almost entirely on the assumption of exceptionalism. Thus it requires exceptional evidence in its favour, not simply a critique of the evidence of the first, which, as I suggest, will never be fully conclusive either way. Both stories also imply ethical judgements about Rand, and to a lesser but still important extent, Frank. Hence they are of wider interest, as obviously Objectivism makes a big deal about its ethics, so we want to see how they play out in reality. Ethics is an area where ad hominems actually apply...;-) It also seems to me that the second narrative has had nothing remotely like the levels of critical examination leveled at the first one. In fact, no one seemingly even wants to mention it. Yet it is by far the most radical, and also the most evidence-free hypothesis of the two. Perhaps that emphasis needs to change.
  20. Apologies for the sidetrack but just a quick question (not directed at Robert): the difference between "unilateral surrender" and "pull[ing] out of there" is...what, exactly? You make a slightly different speech when you do it? It seems to me that the US deciding to pull out for whatever excuse could only be a victory for the Vietcong. I note Rand's rhetorical skill at making what seems to be a pretty obviously untenable position palatable to her audience (eg the applause).
  21. All words were neologisms at some point! Yet somehow, amazingly, they managed to become conventions. Most neologisms are combinations of previously existing words or syllables from existing, prior, or parallel languages. That's why English dictionaries will give the Latin "roots" of a word, for example. They usually come together in exactly the way General Semanticist describes - when there is a requirement for them, say like a new invention, or a new discovery. I'm not sure why I have to state the obvious here?
  22. A small but important correction. Arbitrary overstates the situation (rather like Merlin's division between "tied to reality" and "convention" when the two are very far from being mutually exclusive). All categories are artificial. But that does not mean they are arbitrary. This is an overstatement that is quite commonly made, within Objectivism and without.
  23. They say that back in the 18thC unless you were being really rude to each other, you weren't really considered to be seriously arguing...;-) I always start from the premise that I'm talking to Ayn Rand fans, and assume that if they survived reading her vigorous polemics without fainting dead away they should be able to withstand similarly vigorous criticism. Merlin can clearly not only withstand it, but return it with interest. I fully agree with Merlin that this has so far been a productive discussion on various levels, not least because it's forced me to go back and re-read Popper's arguments and some criticisms of them on this score to make sure I had my head around the situation. I still feel reasonably confident I do, but in the course of reviewing it have come across at least one intriguing new critique of this particular Popperian dogma that I propound, so will report back if it turns out to be any good. (And incidentally, in the course of re-reading I came across an interesting sidelight on another issue in Nietzsche's discussion of the effect of Kant on Kleist. It reminded me of Rand, and made me wonder if she'd picked up some of her anti-Kantianism from her Nietzchean readings. But that is by-the-by). I also have no doubt that should Merlin and I ever have a drink in the vicinity of Fenway Park it would not only be cordial, but perhaps even rather enjoyable. He has made some good points against me in the past and indeed against Rand herself, and with his wide-ranging knowledge and intellect he certainly keeps me on my game. What more could you ask? Further, in the past I've also seen him deal with young, slightly misguided types with a level of sympathy and tact that really impressed me, and I wrote him to say so. (Sadly I am not so young, so he knows he can deal with me more firmly!) Undoubtedly some of my points over the years will be overstated, misguided, or flat out wrong, but we will never know until we beat it all into a stiff broth, just as we are doing in this case. On the other hand perhaps, if I'm lucky, I'll find some serious problems that perhaps have been overlooked that Objectivism will have to deal with, or that might account for some of the underlying issues within the movement (eg what I see as the assymetry between Objectivism's publicity and its fertility). So hopefully even the bickering will be to some purpose....;-)
  24. Jeffrey, Rand seems to have regularly made claims of this nature, even on tv.
  25. Malign this discussion as you might, but it's making a damn sight more progress than the work in question.