Michael Stuart Kelly

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  1. Jenna, you wrote: This is precisely my understanding of the function of philosophy - even to the point of an overly literal interpretation. Philosophy is merely a line to guide some basic thinking and nothing more. We fill in the blanks with actual living, where the real value of being lies. Michael
  2. Charles, You wrote some very interesting things in this essay. To start with, the following lines jumped out at me: However, you continued as if these innate temperaments were biochemical only. (You didn't claim that outright, but that is the impression I got.) Could there not also be something more will-oriented or life-oriented - more biological? Something beyond genes and more to do with the organization of them - the life that organizes them? The whole area of innate characteristics is not discussed much among Objectivists. I think this stems from years of pretending that it does not exist. Anyway, innate differences is - in itself - a good argument for tolerance, in addition to benefits we receive. I want to look at this from the lens of intolerance, though. Why is a person intolerant? You mentioned several benefits from tolerance, yet there exists an intolerant temperament in some people. It seems to have been innate before they started growing up, although that is mere speculation. For example, in Objectivism, I look at a few people who used to be friends with Barbara Branden and David Kelley. These people were extremely intolerant of anyone who disagreed with them. If anyone criticized BB or DK, they got their head taken off. Then when these people decided to take a stand against BB and DK, they are now intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their present view. They even changed most all of their friends. What I see in this is a huge lack of value for ideas and an enormous value put on temperament. The facts speak for this. Their ideas changed but their intolerance did not. It is a pretty safe bet to say about these people that in the future, they will probably hold different ideas than the ones they now do, but they will continue to be intolerant - and they will become estranged from most of the people who are now close to them and will acquire a new set of friends and supporters. If I were a betting man, I would put good money on it. To speculate on why these people are intolerant, I believe that maybe their innate temperament leans in this direction. they were that way as children. But then I have to shift the burden to them - to their choices in life. From what I see, they want power and influence - and to be recognized as authorities. Philosophical ideas are not used predominantly as a form of understanding. Ideas are merely a means for gaining power. That is what makes these people intolerant. Any disagreement with them makes them feel that their esteem is diminished in the eyes of their followers. (However, there are "safe" nonessential topics where their followers and others can disagree with them to provide an aura of objectivity. These are mostly used to form a smokescreen to hide the social manipulations.) Also, I have noticed some intolerant Objectivists who are highly insecure and are underachievers in life. As a general observation, I think it is safe to say that tolerance and a healthy self-esteem go hand-in-hand, while intolerance is related to unhealthy surges of emotional excess (usually negative emotions) or a poor self-image. You also wrote: Amen. Michael
  3. LOLOLOLOLOL... I hadn't thought of that. This ain't Cockroach Corner. This is the Dragonfly Den. Michael
  4. Jody, I'm glad you joined the discussion. It takes a lot of guts for a new author to put his stuff up for peer review, so now is the stage where we find out if Joseph is comfortable enough to discuss his creativity, or if he is still fragile (and there's nothing wrong with being fragile - it is just something we all have to learn how to handle as writers). That was very good advice you gave him. I also have some initial comments, but I am saving them for when I read more. There's a naturalness about his dialogue that I like. There is one comment I will make for Joseph right now. Nobody likes to do rewrites. Nobody. Not one. Nowhere. Especially not me. (But we all have to do them.) Michael
  5. I read an introduction to computers once in Brazil by a company called Itautec in the 80's. It was illustrated by all kinds of funny cartoons. In the beginning of the book, it discussed information, Piaget and other stuff where I do not yet have deep familiarity. If I remember correctly, the definition of information was knowledge that can be transmitted from one human being to another. The cartoon illustrating it showed one man punching another man in the nose. He said: "Did you understand that?" Information apparently does come in many different forms... Michael
  7. Ciro, LOLOLOL... Don't get me going. You start to remind me of all kinds of things, then I can't resist popping out with a joke about a similar line of thought. Here's an elderly joke I find cute. The clockwork elder One elderly man was talking to another. He said, "I am strong as a horse and my biological system works like clockwork. It never fails. At 4:00 am every morning I urinate. At 5:00 am every morning I move my bowels. And at 6:00 am every morning I wake up." Michael
  8. Mike, Er... is it possible to consider an individual human conscousness to be information? Being so, do you think it would be possible one day to change the material means for the same information when the means in use wears out? (Don't mind me... just dreaming of immortality...) Michael
  9. (I just got this from Barbara. I'm still laughing:) A man came home from work, sat down in his favorite chair, turned on the TV, and said to his wife, "Quick, bring me a beer before it starts." She looked a little puzzled, but brought him a beer. When he finished it, he said, "Quick, bring me another beer. It's gonna start." This time she looked a little angry, but brought him a beer. When it was gone, he said, "Quick, another beer before it starts. "That's it!" She blows her top, "You Asshole! You waltz in here, flop your fat ass down, don't even say hello to me and then expect me to run around like your slave. Don't you realize that I cook and clean and wash and iron all day long?" The husband sighed. "Oh shit, it's started."
  10. Draqgonfly, Oh, stop it. :-({|= We can disagree and be friends. You are one of the people I value highly. You make me think a lot. Michael
  11. Charles, In theory I agree with you. But I agree with Jonathan, too, since Rand was a public figure. People who become public figures give up a measure of their privacy. That's reality. (Now think about a public figure who is selling ethics and constantly telling people what is moral and immoral in their lives. Her privacy gets doubly zapped because people will not only talk about her, which is what being a public figure is all about, they will use her as a role model for the ethics she teaches and uses to judge them.) As a person who has lived in a profession where building a public image is just as important market-wise as the product being sold (art and entertainment), I find it naive to think that Rand was unaware that in the USA culture at that time, being married and essentially conservative implied monogamy. Any other sexual involvement was and still is called an "extra-marital affair." She also lived for years among a small group of people. She taught them as chief guru. She hid from them her romantic involvement with one of their leaders - the one she most endorsed - day after day after day. She actively promoted the view that such a thing would be unthinkable because she was monogamous with her happily married husband. She even held her husband up as one of her own heroes ("highest value" and all). Granted, this was the 60's. Peace and love. Sexual revolution, etc. But Rand's image was not as a hippie and she knew all about public image. She worked in Hollywood for years. Even one of her characters in Ideal was a PR man. Rand very competently built her public image and constantly groomed it. Just because she did not agree with many of the ideas in the culture, that doesn't mean that she was unaware of or incompetent about the nature of the market she worked in. One day I will probably write in more depth about this side of her. I see it all over her history and her works. Michael
  12. Joseph, Hey, this looks cool. I like it. Please feel free to post whatever you wish, but, please don't blow any deal you might have by showing it on the Internet. (Maybe talk it over with your agent first.) The excerpt isn't enough to get a feel for the story, but it is enough to get a notion of your writing ability and talent. Go for the stars, dude. You can. Michael
  13. Paul, LOLOLOLOLOLOL... Sure. (But it is still a fudge because Mike Lee registered twice. The next one should do it.) Michael
  14. Mike, Welcome to our home. You sure look like a live one and this looks like it's going to be fun. Good to see you. (I have asked for Kitten to look at your picture and do her magic.) Michael
  15. John, Ya got me dude. You're absolutely right. I goofed. (She still makes me laugh, though.) Why does this quote have meaning to you? Don't tell me you are married to a cartoon character! //;-)) Michael
  16. Dragonfly, I was writing an analysis of the 1% on each side. How can I forget them when I am writing about them? This whole Love/Hate thing they promote is a myth, anyway. Most people don't care - just the small number of lovers and haters. (I believe that OL caters to the independent side, the 98% side, but people who are intimate with Rand's works. These have been called "homeless Objectivists" or "homeless friends of Objectivism.") Nyquist was interested in debunking the philosophy. He stated so. He has several poor arguments that show this bias that I will write about later. (Frankly I don't know if this bias occurred before or after he read Rand. Why is that important anyway? He was biased before he wrote his book and it shows, despite a lot of good thinking.) Severely criticizing a philosophy, which is one of the things I am proposing to do - but from a constructive slant - is a whole lot different than calling the entire philosophy a "mistake." If that ain't bias, then we have vastly different ideas of what bias means. Is Objectivism a "mistake" for the 98% who like some of the ideas? Will Nyquist ever convince that 98% that Objectivism a "mistake"? Ha! He wasn't even writing for them. He was writing for people who don't like the philosophy. (I suggest that you look at history a bit and google this before making presumptions. There is a little community of Rand-haters and they are all friends with each other. Nyquist even has a review of Ryan's book up saying that he disagrees with practically everything in it, but still it's a great book because it attacks Rand.) The point of my article is to cut through the hate and get to the ideas. Stating that the hate doesn't exist because you like an idea is not facing reality. The hate does exist and it turns people off. (I would bet that the book sales of the people I quoted for their works on Rand prove it, too.) Michael
  17. The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth—Part 4—Rand's True Value by Michael Stuart Kelly There have been some negative observations about Any Rand recently on OL (mostly memories from people who knew her) and, of course, this is gleefully trumped up by OL’s detractors into the absurd notion that OL is a Rand-hating organization. The fact that negative memories are mixed with positive ones is totally ignored, but false rhetoric is normal behavior by people who have a stake in The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth. The overriding characteristic of such people is lack of objectivity when evaluating Rand and Objectivism. I will give some examples here, then present my own view of Rand’s value. I sincerely believe that many of the posters on OL share my view—in the main if not in the whole. Before I start, however, I would like to mention one oversimplification that both sides of the Love/Hate Myth postulate: the fact that Rand could or could not live by her own philosophy. The Love-Rand-Only people state that she could and that she was morally perfect. The Hate-Rand-Only people state that she could not, and the inconsistencies in her personal life are solid proof of her hypocrisy. Both sides are flat-out wrong and this argument is designed solely to sell their viewpoint, not actually present anything intelligent about Rand or anything at all about Objectivism. The affirmation itself is merely a hidden form of rhetoric and bombast. I will cover this in the last section on Rand’s true value. For now, let’s take a look at the commitment to facts of both sides. Also, let’s not forget the following percentages that I gave in my first article in this series: 1% Rand readers are fanatics for her, 1% Rand readers are fanatics against her, and 98% Rand readers apply or oppose some of her ideas in their lives—but they avoid Objectivists and Objectivist-haters like the plague. (I was highly over-generous for the sake of argument, though. Each side actually represents far less than 1% of the people who have read the works of Ayn Rand considering that her works have sold over 40,000,000 copies.) The Love-Rand-Only side On the Love-Rand-Only side, there has been a very illustrative phenomenon recently that shows the complete lack of interest in facts by these people. They have a morally-perfect-Rand viewpoint to sell and their commitment to reason exists only to sell it. When that viewpoint becomes threatened, reason goes out the window in a barrage of rhetoric. Maybe reason in their own personal lives is used in a better manner, but in dealing with Rand and her works, it is a total disaster. Consider the following: Barbara Branden finally revealed her sources for her account of Frank O’Connor’s problems with drinking alcohol in The Passion of Ayn Rand. If you consult several online forums and blogs—and I can think of at least 5 right off the top of my head that I personally read—you will find an excessive amount of strongly-worded damnations of Barbara for not disclosing her sources for Frank's heavy drinking (and possible alcoholism, as claimed by one source in PAR). This fact alone was heralded as the reason she should be discredited. She was constantly accused of making the story up in order to demean Rand. And she was called a plethora of names, including ones using gross profanity. Another issue these people constantly mentioned in that context was the honor, pride, courage, integrity, etc. of those who allegedly “exposed” Barbara. As I said, I have read all this and it is well documented online. Barbara finally published her sources and her reason for withholding their names here on OL a full week ago. You can read it here (4th post) and here (2nd post). Why? Simply because somebody asked her nicely (John Dailey). Nobody ever did that before. For the record, the sources who say they witnessed Frank's problems with drinking are: Elayne Kalberman, member of the Collective, and Barbara Weiss, Rand's secretary (both with taped interviews) and Rand's maid (who is not named by Barbara or her detractors) and Don Ventura, a sculptor and one of Franks drinking buddies (both with signed statements). What has been the reaction from those who grossly insulted Barbara in public time-and-time-again? It's been over a week and I know that several of the people who offended Barbara in spades have read her statement by now. Have there been any retractions or apologies offered, as is normal with people of honor? People of pride? People of courage? People of integrity? No. Just more Branden-hating rhetoric, as if their opinions will alter facts. As I mentioned elsewhere (in a recent post on RoR), consistent Branden-bashers are usually control freaks. When you disagree with them, they get obnoxious, resort to profanity, call you a Rand-hater, twist logic all out of shape, try to bait other people to join in by gratuitously insulting them, and engage in a series of rhetorical measures that do anything but argue facts. Their small cliques chime in with, "Me too!" What is amusing is that every last one of them will proclaim the standard Objectivist line—that there are errors of knowledge and errors of morality—and that they, as people of integrity, are in the habit of making amends when they have been guilty of an error of knowledge. (They never admit to errors of morality.) Some amends. This whole incident is solid proof—not just opinion—of the lack of objectivity, and even outright hypocrisy, of the Love-Rand-Only side. The real interest of the leaders on this side is small-minded trivial power and control games. The Hate-Rand-Only side On the Hate-Rand-Only side is a loose collection of people and organizations, many of which are religious. I will mention only four people—four of the best in terms of knowledge of Objectivism. Just one (Bob Wallace) is a solid Hate-Rand-Only person. The others say they are not, but they all reject Objectivism. They are intelligent so I am examining some of their works. These writings are very useful for pinpointing areas that need work in Objectivism, both from a substantive view (philosophy and psychology) and from a PR view. Despite making good points, each of these authors lets anti-Rand bias cloud their objectivity. One of the most important valid psychological criticisms of Objectivism comes from Bob Wallace, who used to post at LewRockwell.com, but was removed from the list of columnists last year over a spat about his observations on the swastika. The guy is extremely outspoken and has many, many strange ideas. He is problematic for Objectivists, yet he wrote about the undeniable truth that political and religious movements (or tribes in general) promote themselves by scapegoating a select group of people. They need a demon to get their crowd riled up and organized. The demonized victims are always seen as unspeakably evil and beyond redemption. Normally hardcore Objectivists do this with altruists, collectivists, mystics, looters, etc. The hysteria against the Brandens is another example of scapegoating. If you propose any attempt to establish a friendly intellectual bridge with the people who are hated by hardcore Objectivists, they start hating you. I can think of no other problem that needs addressing so much in the Objectivist world as this. The practice is so irrational that it undermines the philosophy, the happiness of Objectivists, Objectivist organizations and even marriages and friendships. Wallace added narcissism to this mix. This also hits the nail squarely on the head with intolerant Objectivists. They confuse selfishness in the Objectivist sense with narcissism and become really obnoxious people. (We all know a few.) It sounds like this guy knows his stuff, right? Well try reading it. If you admire Rand even a little, you can hardly get through it. There are two main essays where he presents his arguments: “The Narcissism, Scapegoating and Leftism of Ayn Rand” and “The Secret Teachings of Ayn Rand.” To be fair, here is a reasonable quote from the last one: That sounds close enough to correct to think about, actually. But then Wallace compares Atlas Shrugged to The Turner Diaries by Andrew Macdonald (pen name of William Luther Pierce, white supremacist—this book was one of the inspirations for Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma bombing), claims that Rand advocates human sacrifice through pagan worship and insinuates that Objectivism is equivalent to Nazism, Communism and Socialism (and other isms) in that respect, calls her narcissistic and says that she is left-wing. What self-respecting Objectivist would want to read something like that? You can call it anything you like, but you can’t call it objective. Not by a long shot. The result is that a crucial observation, i.e., scapegoating is running rampant in the Objectivist world and has become much more important than positive ideas in several quarters, gets ignored by the very people who need it the most. Greg Nyquist has written what I consider an extremely important book on Objectivism, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature (2001. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press). This is not because it is all true, but it is a wonderful compendium of questions that Objectivism needs to address. He covers the entire spectrum, starting with the beginning, the division of philosophy into five categories: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Esthetics. He starts out by criticizing this division and asking why Human Nature and Human History do not have a place in philosophy. The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to agree that the Philosophy of Human Nature and the Philosophy of Human History are important enough to warrant separate categories. Tentatively, I would put the divisions in the following order: Metaphysics, Human Nature, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, Human History and Aesthetics. If this seems strange, remember that Rand’s first nonfiction work in book form was For the New Intellectual. The title essay was about history. Also, The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff, which Rand sanctioned as an Objectivist work, is a book about the philosophy of history. Also, Rand had every intention of sanctioning The Psychology of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden before the break, which easily can be seen as a discussion of the philosophy of human nature in addition to psychology. (Branden even wrote in the Preface to the 32nd Anniversary Edition that “this book is more philosophical than most of my subsequent writings.”) By putting Human Nature under Metaphysics and Human History under Politics, Objectivism takes the emphasis off of profound philosophical issues dealing with human beings. I wrote elsewhere on OL (13th post) about a list of innate ideas Nyquist mentioned to contest the Objectivist position that innate ideas do not exist and the tabula rasa concept of a newborn. Briefly, they are: Aversion to incest Sexual selection Studies of identical twins Propensity to learn language Propensity to expect environmental uniformities Certain types of mental mutations: Turner's syndrome, Lesh-Nyhan syndrome Handedness - right-handed or left-handed There is much to think about here, but going into it is beyond the scope of this article. I only mention it to show the high quality of the thinking that went into the questioning. But then we come to Nyquist’s evaluations of Rand and Objectivism: Or his final thought, literally the last sentence in the book: I will be doing more work on this book later, but one thing I can affirm. This anti-Rand bias and bombast have made Nyquist’s arguments and questions highly uneven in terms of objectivity. I am not even half-way through, but it is easy to see that this book has extremely well-thought-out sections interspersed with those that force Rand’s words and thoughts into meanings that are simply not there. (I am saving the examples and discussion for another time.) As to the quotes above, these kinds of sentiments and evaluations are highly insulting. They did not have to be presented in that manner. I agree that Rand could get pretty insulting, but Nyquist did not write his book for Rand to read. He wrote it for me (“me” being readers in general, but hopefully an Objectivist thrown in at times). Or did he? Actually, there is too much contempt in the style for it to have been written for me. Also, for a set of ideas Nyquist deemed to be “sloppy,” “will never deliver what it promises,” and “a mistake” (among other gems), he sure wrote a long book about them. Why not just dismiss them and move on to the important stuff in life? This is why I find him on the Hate-Rand-Only side of the divide, writing a book geared toward Rand-haters. That’s a damn shame, too, because of the quality of a lot of his thinking and research. (I intend to do something with his work, as with the other works of the present Hate-Rand-Only writers, that I am sure will not meet with their approval. I am going to try to sift through the ideas to the good ones, raise the pertinent questions with strong Objectivist thinkers, provoke discussions and writings about them, and thus fortify Objectivism.) Now we come to a person I happen to like, best-selling author, Michael Prescott. I have read several of his books and they are highly entertaining thrillers. The man is good at what he does and totally deserves his success. I have had very friendly correspondence with him, both on line and by email. He is an ex-Objectivist. Sometimes he has harsh words for both the philosophy and Rand, but he also blames a culture of negativity and underachievement that permeates many online Objectivist groups for his own lack of initiative in his earlier days. He has written an account of his own “shrug” (of Objectivism), however, the sheer number of blog entries about Rand and Objectivism that he has written is an indication (to me at least) that there are some fundamental Objectivist issues that still bother him. Michael did some important historical research into an aspect of early Rand that is not too flattering to her. But I hold that facts should not be sanitized, but brought out into the light of day instead. So it was refreshing to read his report. When Rand was in her early twenties, she was at work on a novel she never finished called The Little Street. Her hero was named Danny Renahan. From her published journal entries, she was still under the influence of Nietzsche. She focused on a story that was reported widely in the news in 1928. A young man named William Edward Hickman abducted a 12 year-old girl, Marian (sometimes Marion) Parker, demanded and received ransom from the family, killed the girl and chopped her up, then threw half of her body on the road in front of her father before taking off. He was later caught, tried, sentenced to death and hung. In looking at his image during the trial and seeing the general public reaction to his crime and attitude, Rand isolated and worked on several aspects that would later evolve into her idea of heroic rational individualism. In hindsight, in light of whom she used as a role model, this focus looks rather unseemly. One can see the seeds of greatness in her journal entries and, at the same time, be pretty uncomfortable with the facts. Michael allowed us to look at the facts and wrote a report called “Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman.” It is a highly interesting read. Also, there is a different account of Hickman at the Crime Library website called “Fate, Death and The Fox: Edward Hickman.” For the record, here is what one of Rand’s early physical models for a hero looked like (William Edward Hickman): With so much good information which practically speaks for itself, now take a look at what Michael concludes: When you read something like that, you don’t want to take the facts seriously. You see that the author’s effort was not to understand Rand, but to discredit her. Regardless of what you read, you have the feeling that you need to check and recheck all of Michael’s facts and sources. Obviously, he was not writing for Objectivists or even the general public. He was writing for Rand haters. Nobody else could think Ayn Rand was insane. Lastly there is Scott Ryan and his book, Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality (2003. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press). This looks like it is an important critical contribution of Objectivist epistemology and a fertile source of issues that need to be discussed and strengthened. Ryan uses the writings of Brand Blanshard as his philosophical basis, so this is not just a Rand-bash. The long detailed threads on the different Objectivist Internet forums about epistemology, and even works like The Evidence of the Senses by David Kelley, show that the Objectivist position is far from settled. Thus a book like this should be welcome. (I will do a critique after I read it.) On flipping through the book, however, I read the following quite by accident: For all that I hold sacred, I had to burst out laughing. Of course, I feel deeply for the person who lost his wife and I do not wish to make light of his loss, but to insinuate that Objectivism is a philosophy that leads to suicide goes way over the fence, even for normal Rand haters. People in all walks of life commit suicide. Their problem is psychological, not philosophical, and to treat a woman’s death by suicide as an attempt to degrade a philosophy does her memory dishonor. Still, I remember seeing that Ryan was invited once to give a lecture at a TOC seminar. Now you can’t find The Pumpkinhead online (a rather unfunny parody of The Fountainhead), but Factism can still be found. I am not against lampoons when they are done with talent and the urge is to be funny (like with Michael Prescott, although some people disagree with me). I don’t like them when they drip with sarcasm, which is how Ryan’s humor strikes me. The point is that this guy put a lot of effort into his book, but he also does not seek to merely address the issues where he has disagreement. He wishes to debunk the entire Objectivist philosophy. Even the title of his book is insulting. This leads me to believe that his book will contain many weak thoughts that were “forced” beside some strong ones. Thus to get any value out of it, I am preparing myself to wade through a bunch of baseless observations. The main theme running throughout the Hate-Rand-Only side of the divide is that their writing caters to Rand-haters, not Objectivists and not the general public. The above authors, some of the best of the lot, are blissfully unaware of that 98% plus public of Rand readers who might be interested in their writings, but they are turned off by factionalism and hatred of a successful author. They lose a wonderful opportunity to raise valid issues through lack of objectivity. Rand’s True Value I speak only for myself as to Rand’s true value, but as I said above, I believe that many on OL hold a very similar view. I regard Rand as a brilliant thinker who wrote the foundation of a practical, efficient and easily learnable rational philosophy for individuals for living on earth. Her emphasis on production and happiness strikes young high-achievers like an oasis in the desert. Her moral validation of reason was probably one of her greatest legacies to mankind that will far outshine all of the rest down the centuries. Rand also was a wonderful writer who knew how to be extremely clear and had a bagful of rhetorical devices at her command—this goes for both fiction and nonfiction. Her biggest mistake was trying to impose philosophy on psychology. This is the root of most of her inconsistencies. Philosophy and psychology must go hand-in-hand for both health and the good to be present in a person’s life. One cannot be more important than the other. But to claim that Rand lived by her own philosophy and then point to her inconsistencies and make excuses for them (in order to justify “moral perfection”)—or claim that nobody can live by her philosophy because her inconsistencies (in order to justify bashing Objectivism)—is to completely beg the question. It is pure rhetoric and bombast. Rand had a psychological nature just like every sane human being. Part of her struggle was to fight against the limitations of that nature, just like she fought against the irrational ideas in the culture where she lived and worked. I believe that when Rand could choose, i.e., when her mind and body were healthy, she lived by her philosophy. I also believe that pain, love and temptation (especially about her public image) at times overwhelmed her will—her power to choose—through unhealthy surges and she did things and chose things that she would not have done otherwise. She certainly made some very poor choices in life—but once again, the chief one was the attempt to dominate psychology with philosophy (including the idea that she could completely program her subconscious with her rational will, etc.). However, it must be stressed that she also made strong and heroic decisions. Her body of work proves it. I do not believe that inconsistencies in Rand’s behavior invalidate the philosophy or mean anything other than her reaction to psychological and/or social problems, or poor choices for whatever reason. Rand had some blind spots in her thinking. One does not accuse the blind of seeing in a distorted manner. The blind cannot see at all. Trying to judge Rand’s application of her philosophy to her psychological blind spots is not only a mistake, I get embarrassed by those who do that. This goes for both sides—those who claim that she was morally perfect and those who claim that she was a hypocritical kook. It reminds me of people who mock those who limp or stutter or have some other kind of handicap. I do not consider mentioning Rand’s blind spots as insulting to her memory, either. The lack of examples might seem vague, but I don’t want to go into a litany of Rand’s inconsistencies right now. They are widely discussed all over the Internet. Ayn Rand is one of my heroines in life. Her shining works are part of my own inner nature ever since I read them (many more than once) and contemplated them deeply. I have been doing this for decades. She has touched my life in a form that no other thinker ever did. Just as she added to Aristotle’s work and that of other pro-reason thinkers, her philosophy needs additions and some ideas need a lot of work. She even admitted as much (especially about induction). Also, the “fully integrated closed system” does not align with man’s nature in all respects. This is one particular area where much work needs to be done. Ayn Rand’s achievements were so great, though, that she does not deserve the indignity of being worshipped—nor of being hated. She deserves the very best that each one of us has when we read her. Her work deserves to be studied by serious people (and this is growing). She deserves to be loved and honored as she was. No greater honor can be lavished on Rand than holding up a true account of her nature and history, and comparing it against her stupendous achievements—and then pointing to her influence in the world. It is a sorry spectacle to see the 1% Love-Rand-Only people trying to rob Rand of her achievement, the arduous tortured struggle to overcome her own limitations (psychological and otherwise) enough to produce a magnificent body of work and ideas. They do not love Rand or her work. They love their cheap little illusion of being “the chosen ones” instead. The 1% Hate-Rand-Only people also stage a sorry spectacle. Their hatred is evident throughout their writing and they act threatened when there is no perceivable reason for either hate or fear. When you line them up against the 1% Love-Rand-Only people, though, they actually don’t look all that bad. But when you consider either of the 1% group against the 98% non-fanatical Rand readers, both sides stand out as petty and mean-spirited. We are very fortunate that mankind is in much better shape than either side gives it credit for. People are building wonders in their lives. Many, so very many, are doing a great job of living. Those who read Rand and take from her what they like, then get on with their lives know a lot more about ethics (values) than those who have a stake in the Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth. This 98% plus group doesn’t just talk about valuing in life—these people live their values. It is true that many irrational doctrines are still prevalent in entire countries. But they have been around for centuries. Now, some of these faith-based and collectivist civilizations have grown strong with wealth from reason-based cultures (some Communist and Islamic countries in particular). They are in serious trouble, though. Technology and becoming used to wealth is slowly killing them. The Internet is killing them. Reason is killing them. And Ayn Rand’s ideas are an integral part of what is killing them. What will take their place are societies of healthier and happier people on earth. This is another part of Rand’s enormous value to the world. Our children will inherit a better world because she lived and wrote. I hold it high honor to help spread Rand’s ideas and try to work through doubts as they arise, but I will follow no mediocre man or woman to do it. I have my own mind. I use it. It pleases me to no end to see that the people on OL do too. We honor each other with honest civil discourse, whether in agreement or disagreement. Talk about a fellowship. OL is becoming a fellowship of first-rate independent minds. We care about the good and we care about the truth. Both fact and value are equally important. Please forgive the gush, but I’m extremely proud of us.
  18. Marsha, I'm going to say something that is not kind, but I don't mean this aggressively. The skin tone, clothing and other aspects made Dagny in front of the train remind me of Morticia Adams. Take away the train and put a haunted castle behind her in your mind and you will see what I mean. (I will probably meet Bryan one day. I do hope he forgives me...) That was a lovely little poem by hubby. Child's play or lover's dream indeed. Michael
  19. LW, Welcome aboard. I have read some of your posts on RoR and I find that you are a person who takes ideas seriously. No hidden attempts at anything other than understanding and questioning. This is always a joy because it makes us think. I hope we will make you think, too. I look forward to your posts. Michael
  20. John, In Rand's notes to herself, it also becomes clear that Nathaniel was constantly talking about Patrecia to her. She was "the one who will not go away." (I've been there myself and it's horrible.) I have to reread her notes, but I think she also stated that she would not accept being passed over at all (in different words). I remember her wavering on this point, writing one thing, then the opposite. Michael
  21. Jonathan, How could I forget about To Kill a Mockingbird? The very first article in the Chewing on Ideas section here on OL was inspired in that film. Of mockingbirds and blue jays and shooting and singing Michael
  22. Here is another excerpt from PAR. In 1981, after an estrangement of 13 years, Barbara visited Ayn Rand. The excerpt is about part of their visit. Michael
  23. There are so many good movies that I don't know where to start. I love most of the ones given on this thread. Three films that created a very strong impression on me (that haven't been mentioned so far) were: Network Witness Meet Joe Black In comedy, I like offbeat quirky things like: Being There Raising Arizona Baghdad Cafe I vastly prefer to see a movie in a theater than see it on TV (but I'll take TV over nothing). In a theater, there's always a wistful moment when the house lights come on and the magic starts to evaporate. Michael
  24. Thank you for this essay, Charles. I really like the following quote: Also, your breakdown of what is done with ideas is quite interesting. As to some points in the article, I have two things I want to discuss. The first is that your observation about each person having his own set of principles falls directly in line with my observation about the impact of Objectivism in a rant I wrote here on OL called The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth. In it, I argue that over 98% of the people who read Rand take from her works what they like and then go on about their lives (ignoring Objectivists and anti-Objectivists like the plague). This is as it should be. And the fact that all these people do not become converted into staunch adherents shows clearly that the whole package of Objectivism does not meet their needs. Thus, it shows that a lot of work still needs to be done to get it in a form that meets those needs (especially family, friendship and even social traditions like marriage ceremonies, funerals, etc.). I also get the distinct impression that a free society is not what some of the more strident hardcore Randians would like, despite lip-service to the contrary... The second point is about basing tolerance on a survival premise because interaction with others brings benefits from them. I agree with this, but only as part of the whole thing. Tolerance is practiced by a need to listen and not speak at times. Those who learn to do this greatly increase their self-esteem because their own awareness increases. (I believe that people are generally less aware of their surroundings when they are talking, since their focus is on the subject they are talking about.) In this respect, tolerance is also a health issue, since it is psychologically good for the one being tolerant. It is more than obvious that there will be times when tolerance is bad, so criteria need to be employed. I only say that because of reading so much hairsplitting recently. Anything can be bad under certain circumstances. Hell, even walking is bad for you if you walk off a cliff. With all things being equal and no rights being violated, the act of tolerance is a good thing in itself. There is a species level where the herding instinct is present in the psyche. This is borne out by human history. I believe that tolerance also ties in with this somehow. Michael
  25. This is sort of fudging, but to get the ball rolling, here is a quote from The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden: I might add other excerpts from PAR or Nathaniel's works as time goes along. Michael