Michael Stuart Kelly

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Everything posted by Michael Stuart Kelly

  1. Roger, Every person who uses his independent mind in addressing Objectivism is a Keeper of the Flame. A person who has received legal copyrights as an inheritance does not have dictatorial power over the intellectual content of a philosophy, nor the right to stipulate that a word cannot have two definitions or more - for instance, as a proper noun and as a general school of thought. Dictionaries exist. A is A. I personally will not give up the name. (I have some comments on the actual discussion later, but basically axioms have to be on the table for any discussion on determinism and indeterminism to make sense.) Michael
  2. Paul, Let me catch up and I'll get you tomorrow first thing. It's late and your stuff is too good to skim. Michael
  3. The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth – Part 3 – The Brotherhood of Hate by Michael Stuart Kelly The major premise of the Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth is that the vast majority of people read Rand’s works, take from it what they want, and live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscious, neither loving nor hating Rand in fanatical terms. In particular, they shy away from formal Objectivist organizations because of the nastiness they encounter. Formal Objectivism has the public image of being The Brotherhood of Hate. You might ask, “How about evidence?” Well it’s coming home personally. And it’s not pretty. Kat decided to email a person both of us like a lot with an invitation to comment on some of the issues on OL. We consider this person more than an acquaintance—more like a distant friend and wonderful person. This person used to post on different Objectivist forums and is what you could call one of the best and the brightest. Sunny disposition. Facts. Not afraid to speak sincerely. Here was the response: That really hit home to me. I am not an obnoxious person by nature. I am a sunny, happy person who likes to look at the smallest things and go on a poetic voyage – for example looking a city wall with peeled paint, imagining what kind of person painted that wall and what kind scraped it, their hopes and dreams and life at home. If they are lonely. What led them to that painting moment. Off I go. I am not a person to come out with “go fuck yourself” as an argument for anything. Yet I was doing that. I had entered The Brotherhood of Hate and I was even defending that behavior at times. Dayaamm! Who did I think I was going to convince? Hell, who did I think would stick around for that stuff? Our dear friend did for a while. Then it became too much. Kat wrote this person back stating that OL is more interested in making a place where The Brotherhood of Hate does not have harbor. She also asked for permission to post the former email. The person said OK, but preferred to remain anonymous. I wonder why, I wonder? (And I don’t blame this person.) Anyway, the second email contained an even stronger message, so I am taking the liberty to quote an excerpt: Love and compassion tempered by logic and reason. That sounds like a wonderful phrase for what I seek in life. I know I speak for Kat on this too. Maybe for most of us who meet here on OL. I wish to address this person now: I hope you read this someday. I wish you the very best life has to offer throughout all your days. You are wise. Knowing you has enriched my life. You are my kind of people. (I speak for Kat too.) I do disagree with you on one point though. You claim that there is no room for love and compassion tempered by logic and reason in Objectivism. Look around you at people who read Rand and who stay away from The Brotherhood of Hate. According to my analysis, this is over 98%. They are all around you. I call them The Silent Contingency. They have room in their lives for love and compassion and logic and reason. There is room for this on OL too. And there will always be room for you, if you should ever change your mind. Go in peace and happiness.
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  5. Charles, Great to see you here. You are one of the wise ones. I really look forward to your posts. Michael
  6. Jenna, This is the second personal thing of yours I read today (after that highly moving article). All I can say is: You know. I don't know how else to say that. I do not believe in the no-need-to-explain or futile-to-explain school, but I have tried to little avail to describe things I have seen in a manner that would make people see them, i.e., allow them to be able to look at the long shot on Dr. Venter's face in the video you saw, for instance, and see what you saw - see the death and devastation that he saw. And then see how very precious this makes life. (That is why I get so angry thinking about the starving child. I am one who "knows.") Some people know. I have interacted with them. Others, they just aren't interested. Too much remote control in today's culture, maybe. Too much insulation from actual life experiences, maybe. I haven't figured it all out yet. I only know that it is a crucial issue and that I am not done thinking about all this by a long shot. Michael
  7. Jenna, Dayaamm! What a read! There is so much in there, I'm still a bit speechless. You really bared you soul. Thank you. There's an old saying that says true wisdom comes from suffering. I don't buy that, but I do know that much wisdom comes from overcoming suffering. I don't know how to obtain that wisdom without going through difficult situations, either. And I also know that you are wiser than most. Wanna know something funny? I had no idea you were Chinese before I read this amazing article. On reading your experiences with prejudice, I got very angry. I have a thing about crowds - I don't like them and I don't like what they do to the individuals who make them up. I have no doubt that every person who was cruel to you would feel terrible guilt if he knew that he had caused a 12 year old to attempt suicide. Yet in the crowd, he forgets that these things are possible from his acts. He gets his attention fix and feeling of acceptance and belonging at the cost of humiliating another person. I am not very good at being a proper crowd member, but I have become pretty adept at handling them and facing them down. I had to learn how to do this the hard way. What was the denomination of your church? I had a very interesting experience with Jehovah's Witnesses, but not as a member. I was able to see how they worked up close. Lots of really good people, really good, but essentially more crowd mentality. (The thought of how some of these really good people I met transform into crowd members makes me angry still.) I will write about this at another time. Jenna, I have no doubt that you are on the way to being a very happy and fulfilled person. I wish you all the good luck in the world. There is a nice thing I think at times: If all the pain and suffering I endured and overcame led to the way I am now, it was still a bargain. I believe that this holds for you. Michael
  8. Aaron, Good to see you here. Welcome. (I've wanted to say that on other posts, but it didn't seem quite right. Here it feels OK.) After all those posts with no picture on other forums, it is good to see you finally. Young dude. Hmmmmmmm... Your pictureless posts made you seem older. Michael
  9. Pete, Rand not only edited it out, she did so the first time around. The passage is in The Early Ayn Rand and is among parts deleted from the original publication. If I remember history correctly, there was a strong movement by the Communist government back then to rid society of what they called decadent art. I do know that composers had to swear to some kind of silly statement or another, promising to write only tonal music from there on out. Prokofiev was one of the victims. So her mention of "new art" in that context, even in publishing design, seems to allude to the "decadent art" coming from the West as a small form of suggesting defiance at that place in the novel. Jenna, Representational in painting means depiction of actual objects and people. Michael
  10. John, This reply was so cute from the thread I deleted that I decided to preserve it here. You're one funny dude when you get rolling... (More on your post about the book later - it sounds like a winner.) Michael
  11. Jenna, I once helped a dear, wonderful, gentle woman die. I wrote about it on another forum, but it is here on OL: Letter to Madalena ... An Homage to the Value of Valuing (Please understand the plug as shamelessly blowing my own horn.) Michael
  12. Yes, I admit I was being naughty. For the record, I did not hear this anywhere earlier. It belongs to the same world as my formulation for Barbara on her tale of burnt potatoes once (exactly one year ago tomorrow on SoloHQ) - pure horsing around: Ellen, your word "mockingly" resonated inside me and the echoes didn't let up for a while. So I had to stop everything and think about it. This probably belongs on another thread, but I want to mention it while it is still fresh in my mind. I do not experience mocking like I have witnessed Objectivists in general experience it. When I lampoon somebody or an organization, there is always a feeling inside me of, "Come on, you guys. Let's get serious now. You have it in you to do right. Look at what your actions can come to. If I can imagine things up to this point from your behavior, imagine what others think. You can do better than that." This feeling runs completely independently of how right I believe I am or how funny the lampoon is. I have a deep-seated belief in the capacity of human beings to correct themselves. After where I have been in my life, I know what I have been capable of doing and I know that it is possible to get out of that. What I have observed with many, many Objectivists (and I am not saying that this is you, merely that your word triggered all this thinking) is that they have a full-fledged intention to humiliate another person by mocking them. The act of humiliating another human being is seen as some kind of virtue. I do not share this feeling and it is foreign to my nature. I can think of nothing that reflects what I understand social metaphysics to be than humiliating another person because you don't agree with him. This is similar to how I see envy of success. I see other people feeling it, but there is nothing inside me similar. I literally don't know what this feels like. Thus I accept that it exists, since so many people exhibit it, but I have no internal corroboration on an emotional level. I used to have vague memories of jealousy from when I was a kid, but jealousy is another emotion I did not feel for a long time. Then I allowed myself to get in a situation where jealousy grew inside me to huge proportions for an extended period. That was pure hell on earth. (I will write about it someday.) Now I correct jealousy the moment it surges up, which has only been lightly ever since. (Like NB suggests. I let myself feel it noncritically, then I reflect on it from different angles - no holds barred and absolute self-honesty in identifying what exists inside me. This usually works and it does not come back.) So I guess what I do is mocking from one angle. Some of my stuff is devastatingly on target. Yet I prefer the word lampoon. If I should ever feel the need to humiliate someone, it will not be through humor. I can only imagine an urge to humiliate people like Bin Laden, and I would like to exterminate people like that, not hold them up to public scorn. Like Roger said, ARI deserves to have its collective ass kicked for its monkeyshines. But that does not mean that I wish to humiliate those people. I want them to stop airbrushing history and trying to turn Objectivism into dogma. There are many intelligent people over there and they are humiliating themselves. End of musing... Michael
  13. Below is a modified version of part of an email I recently wrote to a very good aritst. (I will start posting some of his things before too long.) On the abstract versus representational art issue, I have a perspective honed from the experience of living with an excellent abstract painter - one of my exes (we were together for 2 years). She also was quite good at representational art. Some of her landscapes were quite beautiful. She painted with a passion. When we separated, she had over 1,000 paintings done. When we would run out of money for canvases, she painted the doors and walls. As a last resort, she would paint over an older painting. If she couldn't get normal artist paint, house-paint would do. Even watercolors. Or a mouse on a computer (although she never did go too far with computers). What I discovered in her abstract paintings (which I have not seen too often elsewhere in abstract art) was that she had a talent to make you daydream. Here is the theory I came up with. Your eyes are bombarded by many light waves when you open them. The mind is what organizes the light waves into patterns based on some of their physical properties and the mind's organizing capacities (gestalt). When I have opened them quickly while concentrating on the experience, I have been able to "see" an instant where everything is still not congealed. Then the normal images snap into place. My ex was extremely good at capturing this instant. When I used to look at one of her paintings for a while, before too long I would find my mind wandering all over the place, sort of going into a focused stream of consciousness. The random thoughts kind of took on an Alice in Wonderland kind of logic. Frankly, I enjoyed this experience tremendously. Obviously, the purpose and effect of a painting like this is not the same as a representational one. It is not conceptual in nature and does not seek to concretize a concept or group of concepts in order to elicit an emotion. It is made more to induce a directed contemplation process. Thus I am loathe to call it "death premise," "anti-conceptual" and the standard Rand judgments for abstract work (although it is "preconceptual" maybe). One of the interesting things is that the mental wandering experience varies with other paintings only if they are vastly different in design and color. If any two of these abstract paintings like my ex paints bear a slightly similar, but remote resemblance to each other, the mental wandering is the same. I have been trying to work on my concept of art so that this kind of aesthetic experience does not contradict the Objectivist one, but is added to it instead. For emotions like exaltation, for instance, you have to be representational. But I enjoy my particular brand of abstract daydreaming too much to find it somehow demeaning. Michael
  14. Angie, Of course a child learns by mimicking adults. That is probably his first formal education method in life. Where I understood some test controls to be different, however, is that the child was put around a stranger, not a familiar adult. How I personally interpret this (and this is not based on scientific evidence, merely my own reflections) is that the urge to establish goals and complete them is so strong in humans that it "bubbles over" when a stranger is seen trying to accomplish something. Michael
  15. Chapter 23 – Master Plot #17: Discovery This plot is a character plot about the meaning of life. It is similar to a riddle plot, since it presents life as a riddle to be solved for the protagonist, but it is more slanted toward self-discovery and learning about the self than figuring out other kinds of riddles. (“Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”) The basic premise behind this kind of plot is that people do not change, although times do. From the book: “It is a plot of character, and to this effect perhaps it’s among the most character-oriented plots in this collection. Discovery is about people and their quest to understand who they are.” The focus of the main character is on finding out something fundamental about himself. It also usually covers the lifetime of the protagonist, or a good portion of it. Tobias mentions that one important form of the discovery plot is that it is a good children’s plot, since children are usually more interested in figuring out who they are than adults are. He advises against preaching, though. From the book: “If you write well, your intention will be clear.” (I emphasize this because many Objectivist writers tend to try to include lectures in their writing like Rand did, and it is extremely difficult to pull that off. You have to have a natural inclination to preach to begin with for that to even have a chance to work. Most of us do not have such an inclination.) The main difference between the discovery plot and the maturation plot is that discovery is about analyzing the meaning of life. A maturation plot moves the protagonist from innocence to experience (normally a childhood view to an adulthood view). Basically, this will be in three parts: what the character was like before the journey, the events that lead him to examine life and then what he becomes after his revelations. One caution about style. Tobias warns that these types of stories tend to become highly dramatic, so there is the danger of them becoming melodramatic. This is because the extremes of emotions involving love, hate, death, etc. are involved. From the book: “When does a story become melodramatic? When the emotion being expressed is exaggerated beyond the subject matter’s ability to sustain that level of emotion.” Works mentioned Death of a Traveling Salesman by Eudora Welty (do not confuse with the play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller) Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen (play) Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (play) Portrait of a Lady by Henry James Act 1 (or Phase 1) – Setup This act gives the protagonist as he was earlier in life before his journey. (It can be called the state of unawareness.) There also is a catalyst event that starts him on his journey. Tobias’s advice is to start the story near the catalyst event so as to not bog down the beginning. From the book: “Very often the main character is satisfied with his life and isn’t looking to change it. But then life happens. Events force change.” Act 2 (or Phase 2) – Complications Tobias states that this is the phase that is the most complicated to write. The character is fleshed out in depth by events. He often resists change because it brings uncertainty and pain. Tobias warns against making the protagonist’s struggle too trivial. The example he gives is having someone reevaluate his life because his goldfish died. (This phase can be called gradual awakening.) Act 3 (or Phase 3) – Climax and resolution This is when the revelation takes place. How the protagonist becomes afterward is shown. The same warning as given in Act 2 is given here, i.e., to not let the revelation be too trivial. The example given is a long story of struggles resulting in the conclusion that the hero needs to go to church more often. This will leave the reader dissatisfied. Tobias’s analysis of Mrs. Alving in Ghosts is really well inside the Objectivist orbit. She realizes at the end that by basing her actions on duty instead of love, she has been responsible for the tragedies in her family. (This phase can be called full awareness. Thus the protagonist moves from a state of unawareness about some critical aspect of life to one of full awareness of the truth of his life.) Checklist 1. This plot is more about the character making the discovery than about the discovery itself. Focus should be more on the character than on what he does. 2. Show who the main character is before circumstances force him to start on his journey of discovery. 3. Don’t linger on the protagonist’s former life. Integrate it into the present and future. Start the action as late as possible, but be careful to make his “before” character strongly drawn and clear. 4. Don’t let the catalyst event be trivial (going from “equilibrium to disequilibrium”). 5. Move the protagonist into the clash between present and past as soon as possible, but keep the past-versus-present tension going throughout the story. 6. Proportion. Keep emotions and action in balance. Make the final revelations proportionate to the events. 7. Do not force or exaggerate emotions. Avoid melodrama. 8. Don’t preach. Show through characters and events and let the reader draw his own conclusions. My comments This kind of journey in Rand is Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. His whole story is a discovery story. He is so unaware at the beginning of his life that he marries the wrong woman. He gradually moves to full awareness of how his acceptance of sanction of the victim has impacted his life. Right before attacking this chapter, I saw the 1969 film of David Copperfield (Charles Dickens). This is essentially a discovery plot with a lot of subplots running throughout. For Objectivists, the revelation theme is not so bad. Copperfield concludes that we must be strong to face life’s challenges, not just flow with what we are given. To emphasize this, three people very close to Copperfield (his mother Clara, his friend Steerforth and his first bride Dora) are fortunate people who end up not amounting to much and dying. Of course, the girl he gets in the end (Agnes) is a strong person too. They fight for their values whereas the weaker, but more fortunate ones did not.
  16. Roger, You're the aesthetics man. Help me out here. I know of no Objectivist definition for history. Do you think we can borrow one from aesthetics? Here's my submission: History is a selective recreation of reality according to the historian's political value judgments. Am I on to something? //;-)) Michael
  17. Here is a very good article by Ed Hudgins on the Mohammad cartoon issue. It Takes a Moral Mess to Know a Moral Mess Michael
  18. Jenna, I hate to admit it, but I was not familiar with the formal system "fuzzy logic" that is used in building household appliances until now. As a counterpart, I love it when I learn something new like this. Thanks. What a horrible name for a system, though. It sounds like the logic used is fuzzy, not that good logic is being used on inherently fuzzy concepts. I see that a lot of extreme positions that get taken to ridiculous lengths in many Objectivist discussions could use a bit of this approach. But don't tell one of these dudes you want to use "fuzzy logic" on the issue. His manner of thinking is usually fuzzy (but highly prejudiced) and he will immediately jump to the wrong conclusion and think you want to undermine clear logic. (btw - Welcome aboard. I hope you like our little home.) Michael
  19. Ellen, Thanks. Wait a minute! I think I was spelling it all wrong. Isn't it WRITE? (Like write and wrong, Bill of Writes, morally write?) //;-)) Roger, That's actually a good idea. Have you ever written a story? Wanna try? That's a terrific start. My other thing is already sketched out, so I am going to finish it. You know my work enough to know that I cut deep in the soul. I'm not much of a pamphleteer, so don't worry about long speeches after making love. Frankly, I think you will enjoy it (Ellen too, er... OL too... I mean THE WHOLE WORLD!!!!!!!!!) ahem... Michael
  20. Ellen, That is clearer to me than anything. However your phrase, "what's right and what's a right" is kinda cool, so with your permission, I might use it when the guy is thinking to himself. He is getting more and more believable as I work, but this concept is a hard one to present as a virtue for a well-meaning person. When it's all talk, that's one thing and he's easily believable. But once the doody hits the fan action-wise, it's hard to pull off. I'm getting there, though. For a villain, it's a dream. Unfortunately, my story is one of discovery. On moral convictions, his main conflict is during a situation where he will have to choose to act between the right (like Bill of Rights right) and the morally right. Michael
  21. I hate all-volition and all-determinism arguments. Man has both a volitional faculty and automatic biological functions (even mental ones). They exist side-by-side. The all-one or all-the-other position boils down to nothing but a mind-body dichotomy. Michael
  22. John, LOLOLOLOLOLOL... Thanks for the suggestion. Actually it was quite a good one. (But I want my character to mull over things and be bothered by them like we are doing.) One of the problems Kat is having with this whole approach to morality is that her son Sean has an autistic spectrum disorder. She has to be VERY CAREFUL what she teaches him in terms of right and wrong because he might literally do it someday. Michael
  23. Work report. I decided to write a short story about this. I want a person (good guy) who actually believes in the right to leave a child starving be put to the test. I am having one hell of a time making this guy's moral convictions seem believable once we get to the action. I will keep you all posted. Michael
  24. Ellen, There are times I want to come right out and kiss you. You have this talent of bringing up a very touchy subject and getting to the heart of the matter without becoming embroiled in the controversy. Frank's reported drinking. So OK, let's hit the issues. The very first is that there is a HUGE chip on certain people's shoulders daring anyone to talk about this impartially. They want immediate condemnation from you. They equate the charge of heavy drinking or alcoholism with moral depravity whereas most of the world just doesn't care. The general idea I get in the USA today is that people think this is a problem that needs treatment. Nothing more or less is reflected about the capacity and/or talent of the person. Most even recognize that really good people have problems with substance abuse at times. A lot of Objectivist/libertarians come out with highly righteous indignation about this. They constantly make statements like, "I'll drink what I want, when I want, and it's nobody's damn business!" (That's the light version.) Some make these statements every single time the subject of alcoholism is raised around them. Too much protesting for my taste... The way you just did it, there is now the possibility of discussing this issue on an Objectivist forum without a lot of noise. This is a treat. Thank you so much for getting on this subject in this manner. Before I talk about Frank, let's get Szasz out of the way. Ellen, I think you and I agree a lot more than appears on the surface. You don't strike me as a person who falls into "one-size-fits-all" equations and I certainly will not disagree with something that works at times. Where I disagree strongly with Szasz, from what little I have read, is that he holds his "leave the playing field" approach to be a cure-all for all addiction, and claims that it cures the craving. After having been caught unawares with a craving attack (one that brought tears to my eyes and made my hands shake) over a year after I had not only stopped drugs, but no longer thought about them (triggered by a haircut, of all things), I have personal experience that contradicts his formulation. Not enough is known about subconscious triggers and many other components for flat-out statements to be true. However, I believe his approach is good for many kinds of addiction - and certainly it is a healthy approach to gaining control once again over your rational faculty. On alcoholism, one point that always bothers me when people discuss Frank is that they talk about senility as if it were an exclusive alternative. It isn't. Heavy drinking can cause depletion of some types of vitamin B, which can result in senility over time if vitamin supplements are not used. Also, not all the toxic effects of acetaldehyde (a poison that is produced in metabolizing ethanol) are fully known and this also could contribute to senility. If you want to see an eye-opener, try to find one of those videos that show a normal brain from a cadaver being sliced open as opposed to a brain of a heavy drinker. The physical damage is very impressive. I see the possibility of senility written all over that. But like you, I cannot say for sure anything about a man I did not know. I also cannot claim that one who did know him is not reporting something like this accurately. For the record, I believe that it is entirely plausible that he drank heavily for several reasons: 1. It is not all that hard to hide heavy drinking. Most people are not tuned into it. As a person with 5 years of extremely heavy drinking in my past, I have way too much familiarity with how easy it is to fool people about this. Lot's of people with whom I had frequent contact were completely taken by surprise when I joined AA and told them about my abusive drinking. (Most knew I drank a little, but had no idea of the size of the problem). Since Frank spent a great deal of time alone, I see opportunities galore for covering tracks. 2. On a source level, I have not discussed this with Barbara. I am perfectly happy to allow for my speculations for now, which are below. Barbara knew Frank intimately for 18 years. She loved him. No matter how cleverly you hide heavy drinking, small signals do appear to people who care about you over time. They connect dots in hindsight (as many did with me) after they discover that there was a problem. I find it entirely plausible that she did some dot-connecting. Also, I believe that some sources exist that have not been mentioned, since they could have requested to have their names withheld. Barbara has not said anything that has led me to this speculation other than being who she is and observing her behavior with other issues. (If she agrees to withhold a name, wild horses cannot drag it out of her.) If I were a source who could be highly inconvenienced by persecution from Rand fanatics, I would want my name withheld. I do not buy the idea that the maid was the only source. I admit to a small possibility that I might be wrong, though. 3. There is a cultural thing. Frank's generation was taught that men do not cry. They drown their sorrow in booze. A periodic binge is a man thing to do. It is somehow the metaphysically correct thing to do. It has an aura of taking your licks in a rugged individualistic manner. It is much more honorable than making a public scene about heartache. 4. When I was in college, Rand wrote about the serenity prayer in an issue of The Ayn Rand Letter, specifically citing AA ("The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," II:12, March 12, 1973). I recall wondering back then why she was messing around with AA and what else she thought about these matters. I could go on, but all this points to plausibility. Outside a handful of a small number of Rand fanatics, I don't think anybody else really cares about this issue. I am very glad for the opportunity to reclaim the freedom to discuss it as one would discuss any other matter. Michael
  25. Rich, You'e talking about the doctor, right? (This caught me kind of funny, because I read your post thinking about Dragonfly, since he was the last "he" mentioned. Now I can't stop laughing...) Michael Edit - My post just crossed with Dragonfly. See what I mean?