Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posts posted by Michael Stuart Kelly

  1. James,

    What an inspiring quote! This echoes my sentiments perfectly.

    ahem...

    Now about individual rights. You wrote:

    In these situations we simply have to trust our fellow human beings. There is no other way.

    Granted the premises, I have to agree. But what if the premises were incomplete? Not wrong. Incomplete?

    And I also cannot help but ask the following:

    Would you be comfortable in relaxing legal provisions and "trust our fellow human beings" with your own inalienable rights?

    Michael

  2. Ellen,

    I want to comment on your post to Kat, but I am sure she will, too. Some very disturbing things were revealed in this discussion that upset her. Here is a quote (I will leave out the poster's name because I am not interested in the person, merely the issue raised and the implications.)

    "Years ago, Peikoff was on 'The McQuistion Program" and debating a liberal and a conservative.  The liberal asked, "A pregnant woman comes to your door and is bleeding.  What do you do?"  Peikoff politely explained that if she asked nicely and conceded that he had no "duty" to help her, he would gladly see what he could do to help.  Conversely, if she demanded that he "owed" her assistance, he "would stand there and watch her bleed -- and that, in essence, is capitalism.

    "I completely agree with Peikoff's forthright statement."

    This attitude, so far, is held up by most as being proper under Objectivism. For the life of me, I cannot even contemplate this without getting a sense of outrage. Note that this is sanctioned by silence.

    Well I am a voice that will say loudly that watching a pregnant woman bleed to death, regardless of what she may babble at the time, is an unspeakable evil. The problem is that it is being spoken - by those who practice Objectivism, and even the "intellectual heir." It is held up as proper, depending on what the poor woman says in her agony.

    It has been pointed out to me that Objectivism is supposed to be a philosophy for living on earth. I submit that that - and my example of the kid - is not a morality for living. It is is a morality for death. The right-to-life of two people have been violated with complete indifference and it is held that they have no rights in those conditions.

    I don't have all the answers yet. This is very, very, very tricky. I am fully happy so far (not permanently) with your formulation (although I am beginning to hold doubts about a couple of the people):

    I'd venture to add that suppose such a scenario did occur, and suppose any of those guys responding to Michael on RoR found out about it and were alone with the person who had left the child to die, they'd take measures into their own hands and whup the perpetrator -- and a court of law would look the other way.

    I am still researching and thinking. But one answer I do have. Total indifference to that level of suffering is not only evil, it is pathological. I am certain that Rand was not proposing that, nor sanctioning it. Her writing is too full of comments to the contrary, albeit they are not in the majority.

    Kat recently wrote to another person that naked evil is getting off on a technicality. I have to agree with her. That is how far too many people now see Objectivism. That is one reason why the spread of the philosophy is so slow. That is why that 98% plus people who read Rand take only part of her ideas and just leave the rest aside while they try to lead a good life.

    Here is another quote that was not even challenged in the discussion:

    I can think of a few people to whom I would offer no assistance but instead would watch bleed and die such as Hillary Clinton, Fidel Castro, and other notables, as well as some of the bullies I recall from my school years and certain unsavory coworkers."

    I am no big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she is a US Senator for God's sake. But this stance is being held as proper for even school children and coworkers.

    We are not talking about sacrifice here. We are talking about watching these people die in agony without lifting a finger.

    This was sanctioned by silence. Not one voice contested this, not even me (I was a bit busy at the time warding off insults).

    Now let's get back to Kat. She has no theoretical political knowledge. She is a newbie to Objectivism trying to assimilate the ideas. (btw - I appreciate your attempt to take her ideas seriously and provide her with good questions to ask, albeit the "I said/you said" slicing up a post thing comes off on the screen as a bit condescending, and I am certain that this is not you.)

    Kat has two kids and she is thinking about Objectivist morality. She looks at a discussion like this and thinks about them. What if one went on a hiking expedition and got lost and encountered a stranger who was equally lost? What does Objectivism say that the right thing to do is?

    Then she reads people clamoring for the right to ignore her precious child and let him starve to death. She reads really nasty insults directed at those who raise the issue. She reads one of the official spokesmen for Objectivism saying that it is OK to watch a pregnant woman bleed to death because you don't like what she says.

    Can you blame Kat for wanting the government to step in and to hell with the more complicated implications? She is not even motivated to increase her theoretical knowledge if it is going to lead to sanctioning those abominations.

    Michael

  3. Here is part of a post by a new OL member, Dr. Wesley H. Lowe, in the Meet and Greet section about Joseph Schillinger.

    Among his illustrious students were included Gershwin, Glenn Miller, John Williams' orchestrator Herbert Spencer and many others. I believe Schillinger found a fundamental approach that allowed analysis and creativity in all valid styles of music, from ethno through jazz. His insights were enormous, and interestingly, when he first started working in this country (he defected when the first Soviet jazz band toured the US with him) he taught design at Columbia University. His Mathematical Basis of the Arts gives some amazing integration of pattern and design in art.  

    I have long believed that Schillinger's work could play a role in Rand's description of some of the necessary work to be done in music aesthetics.

    I remember reading about this guy in years ago. It was very interesting.

    Here are Wikipedia articles on him and his system.

    And the official website.

    I have long wanted to become more acquainted with this system. Maybe Dr. Wesley can give us a run down of the basics. If not, I will bone up on it and let you all know.

    Somehow I have a feeling that this actually will fit in with Objectivist esthetics.

    Michael

  4. John,

    I would have to look up the name, but an ancient tribe of Indians in Brazil practiced cannibalism.

    This was for religious purposes.

    They believed that putrid flesh inhibited a good existence in the afterlife, so they ate the flesh of the deceased in honor of them. When the white men came and started burying their dead, they grossed the Indians out.

    The Indians simply could not imagine how someone could be so uncivilized.

    :D

    Michael

  5. Phil,

    You may not like my example, but it is the one I gave at the beginning of the discussion (not in those words since it had to develop over time - still the essentials of what I am talking about here were present before, but consistently not addressed). Frankly, it is more up front to say that you won't consider it at all than to alter it, get personal and insulting and so forth.

    But here is one of the other items on my plate. As I intend to do with looking at the laws that are on the books, I will start looking for cases of actual events that have happened with those characteristics (or similar) and how and if they were prosecuted.

    One thing you can count on with our species. Some crazy dude somewhere has done something nuts like that. All you have to do is look and you will find. Just think about the parents who drown their children, etc.

    One thing I mentioned to Roger in an email is the context of confinement. Let's look at that a second.

    If a stranger abducted a child, locked him up somewhere and starved him to death, I don't believe that anyone would argue that he had murdered the child. And yes, force was initiated in the abduction. But then, would the starvation be considered as force by the NIOF at all costs people? What grounds would be used for considering this to be a crime other than kidnapping?

    The wilderness has characteristics that are very similar to confinement, in that a source of food is unavailable to a child, regardless of where he goes. He has no means to survive unless he was a Boy Scout.

    Anyway, as I said, I am looking into human nature for the present. Jim mentioned our means of survival (reason). That's another good thing to look at in this case. The adult has the means of survival fully developed. The child does not.

    Just musing so far...

    We all know that reason is man's principal means of survival. I am starting to wonder if it is the only one.

    btw - On your car example, I do believe that there is an implied obligation to not endanger the passenger you give a ride to if the ride goes sour. This actually happened with me in Brazil, where I gave a long-distance ride to a person who got extremely obnoxious on the way. (My girlfriend was half-black at the time and he started making racial slurs - and he was an American.) I wanted to stop the car and let him off on the side of the road, but I waited until I came to a rest stop, where he would be able to get other means of transportation like a bus or hitch a ride with somebody else.

    Also, as an aside, Brazilians have a cultural thing with this that I find highly amusing. This has actually happened to me many times. He will give you a ride for a 100 miles or so, but will drop you off 7 or 8 blocks from your destination because it is "out of his way." I still haven't figured that one out.

    Michael

  6. James,

    All of those are considerations of politics, and as they are based on traditional Objectivist premises, they are correct.

    The result is the "tough" for the kid when he dies in front of a callous monster I mentioned above.

    Anyway, I am going deeper. One issue Objectivism covers very little is what I call "species" concerns. (I even wrote about that in my first article on the former SoloHQ, about family, which is reprinted here on OL). We are not just individual "things" all somehow stuck on a spinning orb that is racing through time and space, each fending for itself and cut off from the rest of the universe.

    Part of our being is precisely this, though - our individuality.

    The other part, the "shell" for our individuality maybe is a good way to put it, belongs to a species. We were born of human parents and we have the capactiy to reproduce other humans - with a strong pre-wired drive in most of us to do that.

    There are many documented cases of empathy, where a stranger puts his life in danger to save another stranger - and his reaction was automatic, not thought out. Even sociopathic monsters have been known to have flashes of unexplained empathy. I'm not talking philosophy here. I'm talking about an automatic impulse that led to immediate action, even in people with philosophies that would not lead to that.

    Isn't this impulse a part of our nature - the given (in Objectivist words) - just as much as our individuality is? I would call that a "species thing" of some sort.

    There are other issues of similar bearing I have been studying, also. There is a fascinating thing called "neural pathway," for example. It goes something like this:

    If you are like most people and have no awareness of what being able to wiggle your ears feels like (and this is done with scalp muscles), such awareness can be instilled by creating a neural pathway with electrodes. You attach them to the scalp in the proper place, turn on the juice, the ears wiggle, and after that, you can wiggle your ears all you want. A neural pathway was created.

    That is unrelated to our discussion of rights, but not as much as it seems. This type of thing is also part of man's nature. This is a very important epistemological and psycho-epistemological consideration. Since ethics rests partially on epistemology, I can see where this type of "neural pathway" learning and awareness could become very important in determining some kinds of values. Then as politics partially rests on ethics - well, you get the picture.

    (I haven't thought this particular example through very deeply.)

    Anyway, as I said, I am in "input mode" right now. Processing will come later.

    Michael

  7. Roger,

    I feel your pain on this.

    Let me correct a poor impression that has become instilled - with the stooges trying to make it stick (which of course it doesn't and never could with people who know me and others who can read).

    I am not an advocate for laws that restrict freedom and impose obligations. I am against them. I fully agree that a small seed grows into a huge tree, so this is a very touchy thing we are talking about.

    I can't get the abomination out of my head, though. I want the kid's right-to-life protected. This cuts to such a fundamental level that I will say it again louder. I want the kid's right-to-life protected.

    I know that right-to-life is not a guarantee to live. That is Objectivism 101. But in a society of reasonable human beings, preventable death of an infant at no real sacrifice to an adult in an emergency is a very serious issue. The moral justification for letting the kid die falls completely flat inside me.

    This is something that keeps Christians Christians and Muslims Muslims - and not even look at Objectivism. Look at Kat's post above. She has not read the Objectivist literature extensively, but her view sums up what the vast majority of common-sense people think. No amount of "explaining" is going to change the life view behind her statements (and this goes for the rest of humanity). It just won't happen.

    People are always going to think that it's not OK to starve a child to death.

    Anyway, this issue bothers the living hell out of me as an Objectivist. The life view (sense of life, whatever) that Kat is coming from is identical to mine. And I have a hard time not wishing for legal protection and redress against violators.

    Regardless, I want to back up a bit. Let's forget about politics for now. I'll deal with my urge to waste the monster who starves a kid to death for now (unless I really see him... oops... sorry... I promise to keep a lid on it). I will no longer clamor for the creation of some kind of law governing "positive rights" for now.

    However, I still do not endorse this scenario as the good for the adult (i.e., exercising his own right to choose) - not even politically. This can never be the good. A solution needs to be found for the colliding principles. So I am going strongly into "investigate mode." Here is what I posted on RoR about this, and it sums up pretty well where I was inside, even at the beginning of this discussion:

    When a philosophy would let a monster like that get off by saying that it was none of his affair, there is something very seriously wrong. So rather than argue or think about the political considerations right now (everybody has beaten that one to death - especially niof), I am going off into the deep end. Politics is based (basically) on ethics which is based on epistemology and metaphysics. Somewhere in the middle (metaphysics usually in Objectivism) is man's nature.

    A person just asked me what the Objectivist definition of man's nature is. "Ratioinal animal" came to mind, but I certainly cannot use that definition for my example - neither for the abomination nor for letting the monster go Scot free (except for being shunned voluntarily by society). There is nothing rational about any of this. So I think some serious thinking on the nature of human beings is in order here. Something's missing. If ethics is a code of values for human beings, a study of the nature of human beings is a good place to go. The rest will follow logically.

    This is the context of what I wish and wished to discuss. It was necessary to get the issue out there on the table, so a certain heavy-handedness ("creepy, ick," etc.) was needed because people were sidestepping the essentials. As I do happen to respond to attacks aggressively, this issue got sidetracked somewhat and I fear that many good arguments got buried for many people because of the noise level. They get sick reading through the thread.

    I certainly look forward to your thoughts, though. You are one of the many very intelligent people around here I admire so much who use their brains for thinking and do not run from hard problems by regurgitating parts of Rand's ideas and aping her condemnatory attitudes wholesale.

    Michael

  8. Roger,

    You know what I like the best about Paul's post? He is over here in the corner, sipping a nice tall glass of iced mint tea, watching all the acrimony pass by without ever paying any real attention to it. He throws a log in the fireplace and sits down, instead.

    As he stretches out his legs on the hammock and opens the book he's been reading, Getting it Right with The Wisdom of the Ages, he speaks to those passing by.

    His voice is soft and melodious. Well articulated. Pleasant.

    He speaks of what you see and the importance of understanding how you see it. He speaks of gazing inward with the same eyes you use for gazing out. He speaks of how short life is for anything less. He speaks of health as the good.

    The storms rage all all around him, yet here he sits with his mint tea and book by the warm fire, telling his message of life to anyone who will listen.

    When the storms die down and newcomers arrive, I have a feeling that this quiet voice of reason will not be the one that is silent.

    Michael

  9. Ellen,

    From what you said, and from the adult's perspective, I agree. I really do. No problem.

    I feel a collision, though, when the kid's preventable death comes into it.

    And a real problem starts when I contemplate the reality of something like that. There are just some facts that will not go away. I am extremely uncomfortable with saying,

    "OK, I agree. Let's forget about the kid and if he comes across some jerk who will deny him food in an emergency, well... well... well...

    Tough."

    You see, I can't get the abomination of this out of my mind. Nor the preventable death at no sacrifice.

    I can't go into "abstract-land" and merely forget about the kid when his death was not metaphysically necessary.

    As I stated earlier on the other forum, if I saw something like that, I would see red and to hell with everything else. I don't think I have felt such a sense of outrage in ages as I do when I contemplate that kind of monstrosity.

    That's what is making me bring the kid's view to the table. Anyway, this is something widely perceived by others when they look at Objectivism. And so far, all we have is "tough luck" for the kid who died and shunning for the adult.

    I think this will make any church of any denomination look extremely appealing to a normal person.

    I am not trying to be a do-gooder and postulate enslavement. I certainly cannot see clearly how this can be punished by law (as I said, shunning is not sufficient - so I am thinking along the lines of crime, but definition is very tricky). But I swear, I cannot see how this can go unpunished. That abomination is one hell of a two-ton gorilla in my head that just won't go away.

    I don't have the answers. More than anything, I don't enjoy contemplating punishment. I would love to find a deterrent. But I only see the reality of the event right now.

    (And I was fine until I started hearing people use that to illustrate the extent of their own rights under Objectivism. It got worse when I started thinking about it from the kid's view.)

    Do you consider starvation of another to be force? Maybe this is a good path of inquiry.

    Michael

  10. Thank you Ciro.

    We are starting to progress.

    Now from the child's view. Do you believe that the child would imagine his right-to-life was being violated? (Just the child and the man, not others.) If you were that child, for instance?

    I know this sounds picky, but this issue is in the moral cracks and clear statements help with the thinking.

    Michael

  11. Jim,

    Thank you. Next question, and I am not talking about you as a person.

    A right has value to a human being only so long as he is alive. (I'm kind of tired of typing and polishing the following scenario to hone in on the child's rights, but it needs to be stated clearly from the child's perspective.)

    Do you believe that a man who camped out in the wilderness for several days with a child he encountered by chance, had plenty of food and refused to share it with the child resulting in the child's death from starvation, violated that child's right to life? Look at it from the eyes of the child, not the adult. The adult has been very well defended so far.

    For the sake of discussion, let's keep this between the man and the child, not police, parents or anybody else.

    I promise not to get angry or swear eternal revenge. I am interested in clear statements right now, not controversy.

    Michael

  12. James,

    Thanks for the Kelley reference. I have that book, but I haven't read it yet. I will.

    From the standpoint of the adult, I fully agree with everything you said.

    Now, I wish to ask without acrimony, because this is important. What about the right-to-life of that kid? Are you one who believes that nothing can be done about it?

    Michael

  13. Eudaimonist,

    It most certainly is OK.

    I have been a bit busy recently with a thorny polemical issue that threw me behind in my other projects here, but I have looked over your site a bit and I like what I see. I intend to join and I predict that some good friendships will result over time.

    My heartfelt welcome to OL to you and anybody else from your neck of the woods.

    I will be in touch.

    Michael

  14. Brant,

    Done.

    By way of clarification, there is no double standard here. There is a single standard that was announced from the very beginning. This place is an Objectivist haven for the Brandens. Disagreeing with them is permitted. Bashing them is not.

    People have already seen fit to lift material from here and post it elsewhere so they can bash. That is their business.

    The purpose of this policy is to provide a public site where a positive image of the Brandens can be presented to readers without invasion by the irrational antics of Branden-haters. The whole Internet the worldwide over is available for that.

    Also, discussion on both the good and bad aspects of Objectivism is being fostered. I strongly believe that a good idea stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

    I know the haters want in here, though, because they wish to stifle the good image that is being constructed. Well, they can't have it. In lieu of not being able to get in and cut up at will, they try other stuff. I wish them luck.

    I will produce. Let them try to destroy.

    In your particular case, you are welcome to return if you ever decide to. As I said, I feel no malice in you. (That does not apply to some others.)

    Michael

  15. The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth – Part 2 – Moral Ambivalence

    by Michael Stuart Kelly

    During the last two days I have had an interesting experience on the “Rebirth of Reason” forum. I allowed myself to get sucked into a discussion that illustrates some very interesting aspects about the nature of what goes wrong when you adopt a philosophy and automate fundamental issues in your subconscious. This is the Ayn Rand Love side of the Love/Hate division.

    To be clear, I am extending the “Rand Love” concept to people who believe that all fundamental issues of existence and life have been covered by Objectivism and the only things that need to be done now are (1) program your subconscious with these principles, (2) discuss how to apply them, (3) flesh out and maybe correct a few inessential details, and (4) preach Objectivism to the rest of the world.

    I contested one fundamental issue on RoR. I have learned the hard way the wisdom of making periodic “reality checks” in my thinking. With principles, I used to substitute the word “absolute” for “no longer need to think about it” in my mind and this led me to great loss and harm. So now, when I see something that bothers me, I go down to the roots and question my sacred cows, if need be. If my fundamental principles are sound, they will stand up to the scrutiny and challenge that reality demands. If they are not sound, I have no business adopting them.

    What was discussed on RoR simply would not be an issue to normal people. Believe it or not, normal people – the 98% plus – who read Rand that I mentioned in the first part of “The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth,” even those who have very vague moral notions, are extremely clear on the essentials of this case. But they go about living their lives according to their own chosen values and moralities and belong to no formal group.

    These people, the vast majority of whom probably have not read Rand in depth, would have no problem at all in identifying an abomination (purposefully starving a strange child to death in an emergency) and condemning it to the point of making it illegal. In their world, this is naked evil. It would be called a crime like homicide or infanticide and the adult who did that would be severely punished. In a word, they have no moral doubts about the theoretical identification of such an evil (ethics) and the practical implementation of what to do about it (politics). They are morally firm and committed in both mind and body.

    What is interesting is that this example is generally condemned as evil by both sides of the Rand Love/Hate divide. And our 98% plus “ambivalent” public who leans one way (Love) or the other (Hate), but is not fanatical, universally condemns such an atrocity.

    Yet those who are more studied in Objectivism and have swallowed certain tenets whole, like non-initiation-of-force for instance, without proper digestion (i.e., those who merely “integrate” according to an artificial logical construct), these people are morally ambivalent about this. They claim that such a monstrosity is evil ethically (somehow – this is based on feeling, not a philosophic principle like right-to-life or species solidarity), but they break down on how to deal with it in politics. When pressed to the wall, they cannot present anything in Objectivist ethics and politics that would outlaw such an outrage.

    They essentially claim that in Objectivist ethics, an abomination that results in a stray child’s death by starvation with malicious intent can be identified as evil, but there is no practical prevention and redress in Objectivist politics. Thus, ethics as a code of values is divorced from reality in their minds. In this case, the translation of ethics into political principles (called individual rights) is a sham. The right-to-life of a stray child is not neither defined nor protected.

    This is disturbing. This is very disturbing. However, from the hysterical nature of the reaction I received, I think this is much more disturbing to them than it is to me. And that is one of the things that gives me great hope for Objectivism.

    What happens when two fundamental principles collide

    Throughout the entire discussion, the single characteristic that was present on all sides was the adoption of the perspective from one of the two ethical-political principles that were colliding, usually to the exclusion of the other.

    The first principle is the sovereignty of an adult’s life to independently decide and do what he wishes, so long as it does not violate the right of another.

    The second principle is the right to life of a child, who, by definition, depends on an adult for his survival.

    There is a third principle, a political one, which is that the government is constituted to protect the rights of all individuals. That is one place where all hell breaks loose.

    Here is the problem. When you speak from the perspective of the adult’s rights, any coercion at all to make him act is infringing his sovereignty. When you speak from the child’s view, any adult who stayed around him with food and denied it for a long period of time would be starving him to death.

    What should a government do? Which right should it protect? The adult or the child? Should the right of one be more important than the right of the other? What are the actual values (ethics) involved?

    One thing stands out. Reason is the method of thinking that Objectivists use to define ethics. Nowhere is reason more needed than on looking at an issue like this. The stakes are sky-high.

    On one end, Objectivism could run the risk of sanctioning government interference in the lives of individuals. On the other, the monstrous nature of the example that was discussed is clear to all people of all philosophies and religions, yet Objectivism has no practical moral-political protection against it. Thus Objectivism could be seen as mere kookiness.

    What clouds the issue is that Ayn Rand made a brilliant impassioned defense of the rights of productive heroes in her novels and some of her nonfiction. She made it clear that they were lacking a moral defense throughout history – that in choosing between the autonomy of a productive hero and the needs of a helpless person, you choose the hero’s autonomy because ethically that is the good. She grounded that defense in principles that go all the way down to the metaphysical axioms of existence and identity

    Rand’s defense of productive heroes stands out as one of the high points in mankind’s intellectual wealth. I consider it to be akin to something like the invention of the wheel. The world is a far better place because of her influence, and that influence is growing. The right of a productive achiever is one of the most sacred rights humanity must treasure and care for. It took centuries of blood to get it. Nothing should ever endanger it.

    On the other end, I would like to quote from an email I wrote yesterday:

    My whole point in the argument is not to have all the answers. I certainly would not want to put something into law if it could be avoided by all means possible. What I cannot accept is when you ask one of these people, what about the kid? His rights? (…) Then they sidestep, or say that this would never happen (thus [his right-to-life] depends on their goodwill). And if you take this to the end, the answer is always "tough" for the kid.

    Well "tough" doesn't cut it with me for a kid – and it doesn't cut it with the vast majority of humanity either. If Objectivism continues this silliness of trying to prove an individual's sovereign rights by contrasting them against things like starving a kid to death (using jargon like "positive rights"), Objectivism is doomed to remain a marginal subculture.

    I, as an Objectivist, feel a strong need to speak out and help end this nonsense. How can I adopt a philosophy whose members sabotage it right from the start?

    Thus the real problem here is not defending the rights of producers that Rand so brilliantly did, nor defend the basic right-to-life of all citizens that the Founding Fathers so brilliantly did. It is how to reconcile the situation when these two rights collide. The “fact of nature” of the child’s dependency on adult care for survival is the joker in the pack.

    Merely ignoring the rights of one to the exclusion of the rights of another is not good enough.

    The tricks of evasion

    I am loath to use the word “evasion” for what I observed, since it is a term loaded with emotional buckshot for Objectivists, and I strongly believe in the essential goodness of those I debated. But I can think of no better characterization. Two principles were on the table to be discussed: adult’s rights and child’s rights for short. The essentials of one of the principles were consistently avoided by all (child). When you avoid thinking about something essential, that is called evasion.

    The rights of the adult were very clearly defended. I even agree on the essentials of what was generally presented. Objectivism 101. The rights of the child were ignored, though. So, being pressed for an example, I developed a scenario where starving the child to death would be chosen consciously over a long period of time by an adult who had enough for both in an emergency.

    A nonstop reaction from the posters was to alter the example in order to avoid the issue of the child’s right-to-life.

    The lonely child in the wilderness became the oppressed children in Africa or a beggar on a busy street (where other adults were available). The “long period of time” the adult took to starve the child in my example was changed to an adult “walking by,” implying a very short amount of time. The adult making a conscious choice based on his inalienable right was changed to sociopath. (This last example shows clearly how impotent Objectivists are making the philosophy. They claim that there is no protection from the monstrous evil that a sociopath may inflict by starvation on a child.)

    There were other attempts, but the bottom line was that the essentials of the issue were pushed aside by constantly rewriting the scenario.

    Another form of not dealing with the issue was to proclaim that it was too concrete – that there were no philosophical principles involved. So I supplied the principles, including ethics, politics and rights. The ones that applied to the kid were simply ignored.

    Even the last resort of cornered Objectivists was used, which is declaring that the issue is not important. Notice that the essentials do not get discussed when you do that, either. Since the issue is “not important,” you have an excuse to avoid it.

    My favorite evasion was by one poster who simply declared that “starving a child to death” under those conditions does not exist because no obligation exists to feed him. Total blank-out of reality and rights of the child.

    Another favorite was stating that I was calling Objectivists “child murderers.” That never happened and will never happen. The reason for this accusation (when not politically motivated) is that it sidesteps the children’s right-to-life issue completely by a primitive smear technique.

    The whole thread was an exercise in avoiding the discussion of a stray child’s right-to-life. I don’t blame people either. “Tough” sounds terrible when you look in the mirror and say that this poor phrase – “tough” – is all you have to offer for protecting a stray child’s inalienable right-to-life.

    Vicious attacks

    Another characteristic of the discussion was the vicious nature of the arguments directed at me. I was called many names. Obscenity and constant accusations of dishonesty and so forth were leveled at me. There are good reasons for this, but I want to get the inessential one out of the way first.

    There has been a great deal of emailing and telephone calls back and forth on this by people who have a vested interest in another issue where I have some influence (the Brandens). I have made notable enemies, especially because I will not bow down before these enemies. I stand-up to them – and I do it well, since I firmly believe in my position. When you pull the covers off the hypocrisy of a public person, like I sometimes do, you gain his animosity. That is one of the prices to be paid for doing that. In short, some of the viciousness against me was nothing more than baiting that was orchestrated from backstage.

    (I am highly amused by a one-man type conspiracy theory to undermine Objectivism running around. I must be one badass dude.)

    Here is the essential reason I believe was the source of the attacks. It is from another email I wrote yesterday:

    What I wanted to do was drag the issue of stray child care out in the open for all to see in the clearest terms possible. This is one area where Objectivism fails dismally. I had to drag them screaming and kicking to do it. I still didn't get to some of them, but I know I made the readers think hard and start questioning how good a philosophy is that condones preventable atrocities.

    I am starting to have a theory. I am starting to believe that a person feels guilty about adopting a philosophy that can categorize the starvation of a child as being morally ambivalent. I think they feel real uneasy about that. So when a person like me who is a bit knowledgeable about Objectivism reminds them of the need to care for that child in an emergency, and how monstrous it is not to, and how that child has a right-to-life, and how starving a kid like that is murder, they go off – but they are ranting against their own eyes, not really against me. I am merely one hell of an inconvenient mirror showing them something about themselves they do not want to see.

    That's what makes the attacks grow until they are particularly vicious.

    I will admit to a bit of heavy-handedness myself. I saw no other way to bring the issue of conflicting rights to the table. There was way too much rhetoric and not enough substance. The essentials were being avoided. So I basically said that if nobody was going to protect that right of that child, I would do it myself – including punishing an adult who was guilty of malicious negligence.

    I’m no sure how much value that has as an argument, but it sure got people’s attention. It got them to thinking that there was “something” wrong somewhere. That something was being left out. Through this gesture, I was able to put the child’s right on the table. It was not actually discussed, but it started readers to thinking about it. That’s all I could really hope for in that environment, but that was a good thing. The evaded issue was starting to be considered. People started using their own minds and not the jargon to think with.

    I will always call that a good thing. I trust the independent mind and judgment of a man/woman of goodwill more than any fanatic who has swallowed dogma as reason, irrespective or how good the principles he swallowed are. I echo what Jody Gomez, a very good young independent mind (who disagrees with me at times) stated publicly about me. I would trust Jody (and other people who think with their own minds) with my own sovereign rights. I have nothing to fear from a man like that, as we meet by reason. I do have a great deal to fear from people who suspend their reason to follow a crowd or act on dogma.

    The brainwash

    I will only touch on this part lightly, but it is very important to the Rand Love/Hate issue. When a man surrenders his need for making the periodic “reality check” of fundamentals that I mentioned at the beginning, he sabotages his emotional faculty. He has “programmed” his subconscious to automatically react, rather than think again. The idea is that the essential thinking has already been done, so it is not needed any longer.

    The world is a wonderful place to be in. Unfortunately, though, we are not omnipotent and life throws all kinds of curveballs at us. It is just as wrong to close down the “What is it?” approach when looking at familiar things as it is to sanction evil. Sometimes something familiar comes at you with a curveball.

    I witnessed up close an emotional hijack. A friend became an enemy right before my eyes – before the issue was even fleshed out. Suddenly, nothing remained of this friendship, which had flourished with great exchange of value over time. It turned into me watching my friend engage in a repetition of catchphrases and sudden harsh accusations, punctuated in the air by an accusatory finger and an increasingly nasty tone of voice.

    I admit that I started getting pretty harsh in response, since that kind of robotic anger always ticks me off. What I witnessed, though, was like pushing a button. All communication instantly shut down and accusation mode kicked in.

    If I had wanted to turn the anger off, it would have been the easiest thing in the world. I could have lied and said that I was mistaken and that “tough” for the kid when the adult let him starve to death was OK by me. It would have worked like clockwork, too. Boinggggg. Nice guy again.

    I attribute this bipolar behavior (partially at least) to a person surrendering his thinking capacity on fundamentals. This is something that needs to be thought about more deeply. I noticed this same behavior in exchanges with some of the posters on RoR. Reason went right out the window and was replaced by righteous rage. (I strongly support Barbara Branden’s recent examination of this issue. She is doing what needs doing urgently. This problem is far more universal and serious than a mere dispute with one person or another.)

    The bottom line is that I reject any process that instills robotic on-off anger in a person. Rand stated that you must program your subconscious emotions. I am not against doing that, but the parameters and limits must be well defined. This is playing with fire. This gets very close to becoming brainwashed – too close for comfort. I expressed my personal evaluation on this in another excerpt from an email yesterday:

    I don't EVER want to be that way and I don't want that for my loved ones and friends. That's really spooky and I am trying to figure out how Objectivism can become merely a set of principles that are used in contexts, not something that does a total brainwash in that manner. This borders on emotional mutilation.

    When I see that level of kookiness, I start thinking about that kid. I start thinking real hard. I start thinking that maybe I can't trust this kind of person, not because he is dishonest, but because he is emotionally imbalanced and driven by rules, not reality. So I start thinking that maybe a law is a good idea after all, where before I did not. And I start thinking all kinds of weird things. But that's because I see all kinds of weird things.

    If other Objectivists do not wish to deal with protecting children's rights, I will deal with it. I intend to discuss it and analyze it from all angles. I don't want all that acrimony, though. I want intelligent discussion. So I don't know how I am going to do this. Another RoR session like that is not good. But this really needs work badly. What these dudes preach is PR poison [for Objectivism].

    I guarantee that an intelligent (and common-sense) approach to ensuring care for stray children will do much toward Objectivism being accepted by the public at large, rather than being for a small subculture that gets neurotic at times and bickers itself to death.

    One of the strongest indications of the danger of this inadvertent brainwash was shown on RoR after I took a breather. A few posters mentioned that both sides presented strong logical arguments, but that reading the thread was painful.

    I submit that the pain was due to seeing irrational naked rage touted as reason. And it was due to seeing how the lack of doing a reality check on a basic premise can lead to that. “After all,” you think, “If others have become that way, is that what I am going to become?”

    Conclusion

    So how do I come down on the legal aspect? Frankly I am divided on this. From the standpoint of the adult, I am strongly against any law that would limit his freedom. From the standpoint of the child, I want some kind of legal protection for his fundamental rights.

    One thing is clear. Politics must rest on ethics. Not the other way around. Ethics does not rest on politics. Non-initiation-of-force as a social principle should never trump individual human life as the standard of value. NIOF is even based on human life. So this is a very complicated issue.

    I believe that defining the parameters of the crime of starvation of another is a good start. Also, a standard practice in USA law is to include psychological principles, so maybe it is a good idea to look at this from a philosophical viewpoint.

    Shunning was proposed as a practical measure. It is a very good idea for individuals to do, but it does not deal with the child's right-to-life. So I do not believe that merely shunning a person who committed an intentional abomination resulting in the death of a child is good enough for redress.

    There is still much thinking that needs to be done here.

    One thing I do know, however. Of this I am certain. The moral ambivalence in Objectivism that I have witnessed so far regarding the fundamental right-to-life of children needs to be dealt with before Objectivism will gain any real headway with the 98% plus of Rand’s readers.

  16. For the purpose of general information:

    The first part of PARC runs from pp. 1-191. This is commentary.

    The second half starts with a list of 10 criticisms of the Brandens' accounts interspersed with quotes from the journal entries in no particular order. These Rand quotes are used to illustrate the point being discussed. They are usually one or two paragraphs in length. This goes from p. 191-237, however actual Rand quotes are from pp. 195-236.

    Then 20 excerpts are presented in the order given below. A very high amount of the text is commentary inserted at will, not Rand's excerpts. The July 1968 excerpts have much less commentary. (I start and finish the page numbers with inclusion of the commentary, as it sometimes starts or ends a page or more without Rand's words.)

    November 27, 1967 - pp. 237-264

    January 28, 1968 - pp. 265-275

    January 30, 1968 - pp. 275-284

    February 6, 1968 - pp. 284-287

    February 10, 1968 - p. 286 (inserted in the section above)

    February 14, 1968 - pp. 287-292

    February 15, 1968 - p. 292

    February 17, 1968 - pp. 292-293

    February 18, 1968 - pp. 293-295

    February 20, 1968 - pp. 295-298

    May 15, 1968 - pp. 298-303

    July 1, 1968 - pp. 304-308

    July 2, 1968 - pp. 308-309

    July 3, 1968 - pp. 309-311

    July 4, 1968 - pp. 311-350

    July 8, 1968 - pp. 350-366

    July 12, 1968 - pp. 367-371 (separate excerpt)

    July 12, 1968 - pp. 371-372 (separate excerpt)

    July 12, 1968 - pp. 372-375 (separate excerpt)

    July 13, 1968 - pp. 375-378

    The rest of the book proper is commentary running to p. 385 (with this last page also including a couple of paragraphs written by Rand from an article in The Objectivist). There follow Footnotes, References, About the Author, and Index, all running to p. 433.

    Michael

  17. Jonathan,

    The answer is "No" to everything you asked (unless I missed something - but I don't think I did).

    New reviews of this book are coming later that should provide a balanced view of Rand's journal entries (the partial, edited ones that were published) and deal with sifting the wheat from the chaff in the other author's analyses, including first part of the book.

    If you ever get interested, there is an excellent review online by Chris Sciabarra and even a few others.

    Michael