Michael Stuart Kelly

Root Admin
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Michael Stuart Kelly

  1. John, I remember this episode from when I read PAR in Brazil right after it came out. One of the very first things I read in The Early Ayn Rand when it came out was "Good Copy." I wanted to see if it was a great story or not. My own evaluation of the story was similar to Barbara's back then. It probably still it. I might reread it now. There was a writer of more contemporary fiction, private eye stuff actually, who wrote a series with the kind of character Rand created with "Good Copy." The sense of life of the characters always struck me as very, very similar. And he did it with extreme talent (much more polish than Rand had back when she wrote her story) - Lawrence Sanders with his Archibald McNally series. Also, Sanders created Joshua Bigg in The Tenth Commandment. This little guy is probably one of the most charming and just plain nice private eyes ever created. I have always wondered if Sanders was influenced by Rand in any way. I wonder if he knew her. I don't imagine that he had read that story, but New York can be a very small town in the publishing world. Anyway, I have not heard the CD now sold of the fiction writing course, but I would place good money on the "Good Copy" episode being airbrushed out. Michael
  2. To be fair, this particular article was discussed somewhat on another thread where I made a goof in transposing it. If anybody is interested in the other posts, they can read them here. Marsha, please do post links to your article (or the article itself, if you like). And any of your other work. I am sure you will get some good feedback on it here. Now onto the emotions. There is a myth that Ayn Rand inadvertently spread through imprecise use of the language. She claimed several times that she could program all of her emotions (and basically the subconscious) through conscious thought. From the way she said it, you get the idea that all you have to do is input the correct code and you will never experience a "bad" emotion again. Then at other times, especially in her fiction, she talked about alcoholics and other people whose emotions so overpowered them that they were unable to cope. She even allowed an emotion to psychologically break James Taggart at the end of Atlas Shrugged. For alcoholics (or at least heavy escape drinkers), Henry Cameron comes to mind, and also a guy who lived in a house Roark built. If I remember correctly, he lived in the house where Roark had to tear down part of it at his own cost. So I ask myself, what broke these people? Lack of thinking? A simple decision? I think it goes a whole lot deeper. There is an emotional charge even in the choice to think. When you look at Rand's examples (and other places in her writing) you see that she acknowledged that some emotions were so powerful they overcame the drive to think. One point that popped out at me years ago is that in Rand's fiction, the good guys and the bad guys are that way from childhood. Yet, she claims that there is no such thing as original sin. And yet again, there is no way on earth to charge a pre-language infant with the moral responsibility of the choice to think or not. At that stage, it is an automatic drive. This ambiguity has created great confusion over the years. Kevin's retraining of his fight-flight response (and that goes down to messing with the amygdala) is a wonderful example of how to "learn a new habit" (to use Marsha's words). But calling this a "choice to think" is really stretching the concept. I see it more as recognizing a malfunction - something like a health diagnosis - and taking external measures to correct it. If there had not been all the long hours of meditation (effectively suspending rational thinking) and highly focused physical exercises together with the emotionally charged wish to stop the fetal position response, I seriously doubt if this could have been corrected. Rational thinking by itself would not have corrected it. On emotional responses to words, I am particularly attuned here as I am a poet, songwriter and translator. I learned early in translating that there is a concept called "spirit of a language." A word that makes perfect cognitive sense almost loses its meaning without the living behind it and becomes funny. Here is an example. There is a very rich Brazilian Portuguese expression: a vaca foi pro brejo. This has a spectrum of associations: country wisdom, the humor of some very popular songs and TV programs where it has been used, and, of course, the general connotation of meaning that "the situation became hopeless." I have never heard this phrase used in a nasty manner in Brazil. It is usually used benevolently or with wistful resignation. When you literally translate the phrase into English, you get the following: The cow went to the swamp. The emotional "load" or "charge" in this expression is vastly different for English speakers. (There is a very funny book called The Cow Went to the Swamp by Millôr Fernandes, that gives a huge list of popular Brazilian expressions translated literally into English.) If you really want to get funny, try explaining to a Brazilian what the expression "mf" means. Having sex with ones mother is not much of a joking matter in that predominantly Catholic country. This "emotional load" observation goes even for technical words. So I learned that words actually have two types of definitions: cognitive definitions and emotional ones. And just as there can be several cognitive definitions for the same word, so there can be several emotional ones. The article that Kevin read on emotions was probably written by Rowlands. I have tried to engage him several times in discussions, but he tends to see any focus on psychology as being "dishonest," "evasive" and the other litany of expression Objectivists use for disapproval. When I have frankly disagreed with him on several occasions, he has stated that I am insulting him and the discussion ends up shutting down. (I am not trying to bash him here, merely discuss this, since he set this site and literature up as examples of Objectivism - and he encourages newcomers to read this stuff as being consistent with Objectivism.) His attitude is not restricted to him, though. I have seen it throughout many discussions with many other Objectivists over the last year. It always comes from the "fully integrated philosophy" and "morally perfect" school. This cuts right to the core of understanding human nature. This school of Objectivism sees man in two parts, but with a built-in appraisal: the essential part is the rational faculty and the superfluous part is the biological part. They have no doubts about this appraisal, either. Since you can "program" all the stuff underneath conscious awareness by conscious thinking (according to them), then all that stuff is not very important. The accompanying appraisal is that Objectivism is a closed system that is complete in all the essentials. Thus it is but a short step to thinking that man's nature can be changed by fitting it to the philosophy, since it is only the superfluous part that will undergo a change. I hold a very different appraisal. I hold that the philosophy is a set of principles to be used in addition to all the other parts of my nature. I cannot know if Rand would have held this in specific words had it been brought to her attention, but I see evidence of acknowledgment shot throughout her writings (and even her history at times). I hold that different individuals have different emotional leanings prewired by chemical balances and physical brain development, and even cultural learning and environment (including harshness and nurturing). Also, there is an emotional spectrum that all humans share, going from rage/hatred to exaltation/love, with intensity ranging from apathy to total emotional hijack of the mind. Thinking did not create these emotions and the fact that they kick in automatically from birth. Many emotions actually can be programmed by thinking , but many cannot. Some are so deep-rooted that only chemicals and other external things, or long-term multifaceted training like Kevin did, will alter them. I believe that when Rand used the phrase "all emotions," she was usually discussing matters within a context where certain emotions (like irritation at being hungry, for instance) would not be considered as the kind of emotion she was talking about. The result of her "all emotions" statement has led to the rise of an emotionally poor Objectivist school where they talk about emotions, but in reality, constant pettiness and bickering are the main outcome. I have a lot more to say on this, but this post has gone on long enough for now. Michael
  3. Roger, Kat and I just got them recently (and the AR Letter). They are exact black and white reprints and are complete, notices and all. I know the AR Letter is because I received it when I was in college. The only thing is that it is in black and white, while the original was black text on light brown paper with some green details. Michael
  4. Roger, I don't know enough about Peikoff myself to judge his peace of mind. The photographs I have seen show him to be tense and posed, not relaxed and spontaneous. It is really hard to judge the serenity of a person from stills. I heard him on the radio over the Internet a few years ago. His voice was nasal and twangy and has an almost bored quality to it. I would not judge from the voice alone that he was a happy person. (I have some credentials for that as I directed dubbing for motions pictures for a while - and even dubbed a lot myself.) I agree with Angie's liberation of the guilt trips and other baggage society lays on you. However there is a danger in going too far. You can cut ties too severely. You have a past and you will never cut yourself free of that. It is far better to gather what is good from it and let go of what is bad. I am a person who cut deeply. I abandoned my parents and everybod here in the USA for over 30 years. I took off for foreign lands. Guess what? All I did was lose. Everybody got older and I didn't see it happen while it happened. On getting back with my parents and brother, I found that there were many feelings that I simply buried. I have been having one hell of a time untangling them all this last year and it has been a delight to discover all the love that was still there. I am completely fascinated by what I have been discovering about myself. On Peikoff being a role model, I am glad he is for somebody and I don't want to spoil that. But I was the one who put that list of airbrushing the Brandens together. I see that ARI is even airbrushing Ayn Rand when she doesn't say what they want her to say (like the fiction writing course). That is the work of a true believer. The kind of mind that would do that is not the kind that could ever be a role model for me. My commitment to reality was too hard won to give it up to making that kind of fiction out of real life. I have met extremely serene people who are not Objectivists. I have a few friends who are Jehovah's Witnesses in Brazil, for instance. Their inner peace is enviable. I would not have it for myself, though. I want none of it. Life is too short for that. People who know me personally know that I am a very happy person - and serene too. I strongly believe in the benefit of using your own mind to judge everything. Even Rand and Objectivism. First hand and wrong is far better than second hand and right. btw - Even if there is no time, we will make time to spend with you. That will be a great honor and pleasure. I would love to see that DVD. Michael
  5. Objectivist Living Update 0006 – March 6, 2006 More highlights on OL. Some are very charming. 1. There has been a new addition by Robert Davison to the thread, Statements from those who knew Ayn Rand from NBI & such. (These are statements from those who actually knew or met Ayn Rand.). Note: This thread is locked. If you knew Rand, or someone you know did, and you wish to record a statement for history, please contact me or post it on another suitable thread in the Branden corner. Then I will either set a time to unlock the thread for you, or copy the statement in the manner that the others are posted. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...hp?showtopic=60 2. Following a suggestion by Patrick Peterson, we set up a new section at the head of the opening page where it can easily be found by newcomers. It is called Objectivist Living Corner Office. A statement of what to expect on OL is given here: http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=318 In the same vein, Dennis Edwall, asked for an index to the site. We will do something as time permits, but for now, there is a section called Selective Index and Updates. Only updates are filed there, but this will be expanded as time goes on. If you can’t find an update from before, you will find it there. 3. There have been several new additions to our little online art gallery. They are too many for the scope of this update, though. All I can say is go there and drool: http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...hp?showforum=29 4. There were some highly intelligent and interesting additions to the discussion on the ethics of emergencies and children on this thread (click to the end): http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=293 To my delighted surprise, Nathaniel Branden joined in with a letter to me a couple of days ago, which he authorized me to post. As the issue is really one of ethics, I moved it to the Ethics section and started a new discussion. The high intellectual level and civility of the comments there on this controversial issue for Objectivists is making me very proud of OL. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=328 5. A very good discussion started up about marketing Objectivism, with Barbara furnishing some tidbits about why and how NBI was so successful and her upcoming TOC lecture. No other Objectivist organization has been able to equal NBI’S achievement so far. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=176 6. Speaking of the TOC seminar, I put together an overview of the topics for browsing. I am including it at the end of this update, but nobody from TOC asked me or knew that I was going to do this, so any mistakes are mine. Still, I feel that it is good for whetting your appetite before going to the TOC site for more information. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...php?showtopic=6 7. Roger Bissell just put up his devastating essay from 2000, “A Critical Note on the Boeckmann Transcript.” Roger’s thoughts on aesthetics are some of the most important ones in the Objectivist world. Here he is taking Boeckmann and Peikoff to task for trying to tidy up Ayn Rand’s own concepts for her. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=341 8. An extremely interesting thread on Rand’s life, started by Ellen Stuttle, has been growing and growing as more people who actually knew Rand join in. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=275 9. John Enright has been busy. He shared his fine poem “Commuter Train” with us, and there followed a nice little discussion on poetry. If your eyes glaze over when you see verse, these types of discussions are great for learning a bit so you can let this important art form enrich your life. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=315 Then John opened up a limerick thread in Humor with a cute little diddley on Ayn Rand. Inevitably, the mischievous nature of some of our more talented members began to appear. (John and I are included in that appraisal, of course). Jonathan and Gary were especially wicked. Even Kat joined in the fun. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=324 10. It was wonderful to see Marsha Enright show up with a very perceptive post on a discussion of the general emotional demeanor of Objectivists and why this is so (started by Kevin Haggerty). She took the issues to a deeper level in terms of the human condition and Rand’s fiction. I personally will be jumping in that one shortly. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=235 11. George Reisman’s March 4 blog essay, “Ayn Rand Answers, The Best of Her Q&A, Edited by Robert Mayhew, New American Library, 2005. x + 241 pp.” is reprinted with his personal blessing. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=334 12. A most amazing situation just occurred with Nathan Hawking (a former opponent and now friend). He wrote me an email announcing his own imminent death, and set up a new site to look at this from his unique perspective. I am still in a bit of shock. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...p?showtopic=342 There are several other things happening. Please do not feel slighted if something important to you was not mentioned. A lot of good things are starting to go up. Welcome newbies! Thank you so much, everybody. Your contributions are enriching the lives of Kat and me - and of most everybody who reads us. Be happy. Best wishes from Kat and me. Michael btw – You are receiving this update because you joined the OL forum or you are someone I like a lot. There is no set date for OL Updates. They will be sent only when there are interesting things to highlight. If you do not want to receive these updates anymore, please send me a return email stating your wish and I will take you off the list. This is not automatic yet. I’m doing it all by hand. This list will not be shared with anyone. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ TOC 2006 Summer Seminar – Lectures and Events Objectivism in Theory and Practice Chapman University in Orange, California July 1 - 8, 2006 Functions (There are Participant Sponsored Sessions and free time randomly interspersed between scheduled events.) About TOC: Q&A Session Common Room (which will also include -1- toast American Independence Day and -2- Recount the day's adventures on July 5, “free day”) How to Write for the New Individualist—Robert Bidinotto Optional full evening function: TOC/TAS Sponsors Dinner—Site to be announced Group Photograph Closing Banquet and Dance Art and Aesthetics (Evening Arts Series) Vox Americana: More of The Best of Berton Braley—Performed by Linda Tania Abrams 100 Years of the Blues—Robert Campbell, Ph.D. Kant and Modern Art—Stephen Hicks, Ph.D. (Evening Arts Series) Composer on a Bare Mountain: The Life and Music of Modest Mussorgsky—Michael Shapiro, M.A. Fiction Writing: Lessons from Ayn Rand —Erika Holzer, J.D. Ayn Rand vs. the German Romantics—Jack Criss (Evening Arts Series) Romantic and Jazz Music: Performance with Commentary—Roger Bissell and Ben Di Tosti Anthem: a new theatrical adaptation—Duncan Scott and friends Applied Objectivism Collecting Rare Ayn Rand Books and Documents for Pleasure and Profit, Plus: Ayn Rand’s Playboy Interview: The Unpublished Papers—Michael Keith Montagna and Don Hauptman Children and the Embodiment of Objectivism— Marsha Enright, M.A. (2-part lecture) Yoga Practice for Objectivists—Jay Friedenberg, Ph.D. Eliminating the Altruistic Baggage—Joseph Rowlands, M.S. The Objectivist History Project: Exclusive New Interviews—Duncan Scott Rage and Objectivism—Barbara Branden, M.A. Heroes and Role Models—Philip Coates The Positive Psychology Movement—Robert Campbell, Ph.D, and Joe Duarte The Joy of Entrepreneurship—Jack Criss At the Signpost Up Ahead: Galt's Gulch... Fiction and Reality in Building an Objectivist Community—Barbara Branden, M.A. and Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., with Duncan Scott The Implications of Love—Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D. The Habits of Excellence—Stephen Nahm The Virtues of Homemaking—Molly Johnson Philosophy Empiricism, Hold the Skepticism: Locke, Hume, and Rand—Shawn Klein, M.A. (3-part lecture) Atlas Shrugged as a Philosophical Novel—David Kelley, Ph.D. & William Thomas, M.A. (6-part lecture) Knowledge without Omniscience—Christopher Robinson, Ph.D. An Introduction to Cognitive Science—Jay Friedenberg, Ph.D. (2-part lecture) Who is an "Objectivist"?—William Thomas, M.A. Wittgenstein's Naturalist Ethics?—Tibor Machan, Ph.D. Aristotelian Ethics for Objectivists—Alexander Cohen, M.A., J.D. (2-part lecture) The Content of Perception—David Kelley, Ph.D. Limited vs. Small Government—William Thomas, M.A. Neuroscience and the Measure of Man—Walter Donway Panel on Cognitive Science and Philosophy—Jay Friedenberg, Ph.D., Walter Donway, and David Kelley, Ph.D. Political /Cultural The State of the Culture 2006—Edward Hudgins, Ph.D. Eminent Domain Abuse: Its Philosophical Roots—Timothy M. Sandefur, J.D. American Exceptionalism—C.A. Baylor, M.A. Individualism and Community—Edward Hudgins, Ph.D. The Anatomy of Cooperation—Robert Bidinotto Classical Greece's Lessons for Objectivism—Philip Coates Politics, Faith, and God's Non-Existence—Tibor Machan, Ph.D. Overcoming Ethical Relativism in the College Classroom—Susan Dawn Wake
  6. Note to all, I just received an email giving a correction of a typo that slipped by me in Nathaniel's letter (thanks to T). I am advising this just in case anybody saved it before now for a future reference. The version you saved will have a small difference with the correction I just made. The line that read before: Has been changed to: Michael
  7. Dragonfly, Evade? E tu, Brutus? //;-)) Let's do this one thing at a time. Objectivist politics mainly rests on ethics, but it also rests on a certain view of man (and some other stuff). We are rethinking the ethics thing right now. We will get to the politics down the road. I will not abandon the Objectivist philosophy to those who claim that checking the premises of it is evil (and engage in monkeyshines). I won't chuck out the philosophy, either. No way will I surrender to the irrational. One of the premises we are checking right now is the Objectivist view of man and his values. Michael
  8. Ellen, Thank you. You are right. After being called every name in the book about this elsewhere, I became a bit oversensitive, I suppose. I hold great store in Paul and, frankly, I did not want him to get the wrong idea. Back to the question. Where does that moral outrage come from? Michael
  9. Paul, you wrote: That's the million dollar question. That's one of the things I want to examine later, after this moral thing is discussed in more detail. I suspended my earlier stance of wasting the creep so that discussion of this could go deeper. My present position is that I have no answer right now. The only thing I know for sure is that I do not find the preventable death of the child in the example acceptable, neither morally nor socially. That is why I brought it up. Until we can get the morality worked out, any social suggestion will be poorly based. I believe the expression is all light and no heat. One thing is evident to me, though. This issue comes with a high emotional charge for many people. I have experienced a tremendous amount of difficulty in getting it on the table for discussion with Objectivists. Michael
  10. Angie, You can call me Mike if you like. Some people do. I see that you and Kat are going to have a LOT to talk about. Her son, Sean, has what they call an autistic spectrum disorder. I have gotten along great with him, so far. (Frankly, I think he's cool.) Michael
  11. Hi Angie. Let me welcome you around here too. As the inadvertent author of the words for that little sign, let me say that I am in complete agreement with you. However, there is no need to apologize. Nothing you said contradicted the sign. On the contrary, it pointed to the child's need to properly understand through questioning. Only through a lot of questioning can a child "learn the difference between right and wrong." Fostering curiosity in children is high virtue in my book. About the kid asking the same question a whole lot of times in a row regardless of the answer, this signals a tickle attack. And it is as unstoppable as a freight train. At such a moment he wants attention, not knowledge, so then he has to deal with the attention he gets. (He asked for it!) Michael
  12. I want to keep this discussion on morality, not politics, but I want to relate how deep this issue goes inside me. There is a famous statement usually attributed to Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." I would do so. I would fight to the death for that. Now let's transpose this to our case (with the same restrictions, one-on-one, immediate vicinity, non-sacrificial aid, etc.): "I do not agree with watching a stray child starve to death when you are near him and have enough food, but I'll defend to the death your right to watch him die like that." I would not defend that right to the death. I simply cannot generate the enthusiasm inside me to do that. On the contrary, my own sentiment goes against the indifferent person. I am still sorting through all the reasons. I know that I also would not fight to the death for a society that sanctions easily preventable starvation of children and does nothing to protect these little citizens from such a death. If the price for the right of one person is the easily preventable death of minors, then I can only generate indifference at best for that right. (I am fighting myself like the dickens to maintain objectivity for now because there actually is that voice inside screaming out, "This is wrong!") To contrast once again, I hate the doctrines of socialism, many parts of religions, etc., with a passion, yet I would fight to the death for a society where people can discuss these issues in a manner I disapprove of and their right to do so. (I am very big on the First Amendment.) I would not fight to the death for a society where indifference to the suffering and death of human beings - especially minors - crosses a certain line. This includes any right that grants a moral sanction to this. Anyway, I don't want to talk about rights. The issue right now is morality. I merely want to register how all this impacts me inside. I wonder if I am alone in this sentiment among Objectivists. Michael
  13. People who have followed my exchanges with Nathan Hawking over the last year on SoloHQ know that we had some fireworks, then Nathan went off to start his own site, We the Thinking. After SoloHQ split and OL opened, I decided to stop with the acrimony and insults, since I was already becoming uncomfortable with all the bickering. (Instead of growing properly, the best talent was going away.) One of the prices you pay when you do that is that you start remembering when you were unfair. So out of the blue, I decided to apologize to Nathan. That apology is here together with Nathan's email sent to me in reply. New starts. New things. New beginnings. Wonderful. What I did not imagine was a new ending. I just recieved the following email from Nathan and I am posting it as is - with his permission. It is quite an email. I have moved Nathan here to the living room because for some time I have felt he is more part of our Internet family since that apology. Nathan, you're one amazing mortal man. You completely stunned me. With great affection, Michael
  14. Jody, Darkness at Noon is a novel and a good one. But I cannot recommend those other two Koestler books enough (The Act of Creation and The Ghost in the Machine). You may not agree with everything in them, but I assure you that you will not regret a single second spent in the company of this intellectual giant. Michael
  15. Roger, I agree with Rand's formulation, but I find it incomplete as a moral principle covering this example, despite the "if... then" form. Simply valuing human life is not enough to justify the moral outrage most people feel with this. I think the principle (or principles) needs to be fleshed out more. I can think of many important things I value (and value very highly) that do not elicit such outrage on being ignored to their detriment by a passing stranger. Michael
  16. Roger, Yes, please do. (I'm a bit behind on work, but you have that fascinating essay on Art as Microcosm that I will be digging into before too long.) Dragonfly, you are correct. The fame and history are merely things of added value. I think we are also saluting Mr. Reisman taking off the gloves, since he has been treated so unfairly and shabbily by ARI. Michael Edit - Following George Reisman's request for an email notification, I sent him one, giving the link. He replied, expressing his pleasure that his article is republished here. :D/
  17. Dragonfly, You're absolutely right! Bravo Dragonfly! Bravo! Michael PS - I'm joking, but I'm serious too. That was a good call. But, being a famous Objectivist helps...
  18. John, That particular excess of zeal came from a post by Gary. Nothing's in the works (yet... - actually I did do some TV in Brazil. Hmmmmm...). btw - That was Kat's first limerick in life and I think her second or third poem. I admire her choice of subject matter enormously... INKY!!!!!!!!!! A young artist who calls herself Inky, Who tries to appear a bit kinky, Draws stranger and stranger But her head’s in no danger: She’s touchy and feely, but thinky. Michael Edit - Actually Tina is not a gushy-type girl, but she does get sentimental at times (which is what the term "touch-feely" means). I originally wanted the last line to be: "She’s creepy and crawly, but thinky" due to her er... macabre interests in vampires and skulls and all subjects vanitas, but it sounded too harsh for the poke-in-the-ribs nature of limericks. (Also, never ever, ever, ever, under no circumstance whatsoever, even if the world is ending, in any manner, meaning don't do it at all, call a beautiful young lady "creepy and crawly" right out of the blue.) Still, if that last line can be understood in a "Morticia Adams" kind of way, it is a much more appropriate line.
  19. The following is from http://www.georgereisman.com/blog/, and reprinted by permission as given at the end. Mr. Reisman's homepage iswww.capitalism.net. Bravo, George Reisman. Bravo. Michael Saturday, March 04, 2006 Ayn Rand Answers, The Best of Her Q&A, Edited by Robert Mayhew, New American Library, 2005. x + 241 pp. by George Reisman Ayn Rand’s question-and-answer sessions following her lectures, and following the lectures of Nathaniel Branden, were always a fascinating display of her brilliance. They showed an incredibly powerful mind at work on the spot, instantaneously able to unravel virtual pretzels of mistaken premises, errors of logic, and, not infrequently, one or more forms of dishonesty, and bring everything into the clearest, sharpest light. Watching her do this incredible work, I came to think of her as a kind of avenging angel, routinely righting the intellectual wrongs that were destroying our culture and that almost always went unanswered. She answered them—in spades! I thought of her as taking the questions of intellectual shysters and hanging them with them. Few things could be more valuable for advancing Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, rescuing contemporary culture from the philosophical poison that is destroying it, and, at the same time, giving a sense to those who never met her of what Ayn Rand was like in person, than making her Q&A sessions available to the public, in the original, spoken form in which they took place and were recorded. Unfortunately, this was not the approach taken by Prof. Mayhew and Leonard Peikoff, whom Prof. Mayhew credits with having encouraged him to undertake the project. Instead of remaining faithful to the oral nature of the material being presented, they decided to make a book out of it, which it never was and now cannot properly be. Speaking is not writing. Converting lectures, and still more, spontaneous answers in question periods, into the form of an essay or book requires editing and a process of considerable intellectual refinement. As a result, in order to put her oral material into the form of a book, Prof. Mayhew was placed in the impossible position of trying to improve upon Ayn Rand. This is an assignment that no one in the world would be capable of carrying out but Ayn Rand herself. It was totally unnecessary to attempt it. Making the attempt must rank as a classic example of context dropping. Of dropping the context that while carefully considered, edited writing is superior to spontaneous speech, it by no means follows that the most carefully considered, edited writing produced by Robert Mayhew is superior to the spontaneous speech of Ayn Rand. Nothing can be gained from attempting such a conversion when there is no one alive capable of reliably carrying out the conversion. The result of Prof. Mayhew’s misguided attempt is a product that, in his own words, “should not be considered part of Objectivism.” In his view, the reason is simply that “no one can guarantee that Ayn Rand would have approved of editing she herself did not see.” But these words subsume something much more substantial. This is revealed when Prof. Mayhew says, “I should mention, however, that some (but not much) of my editing aimed to clarify wording that, if left unaltered, might be taken to imply a viewpoint that she explicitly rejected in her written works.” Here we have a confession that the content of some of Ayn Rand’s answers has been materially altered, indeed, apparently transformed, at least in part, into the very opposite of what she actually said. We have no way of knowing if what was involved was a mere act of misspeaking, or something of real significance, possibly representing a change in her position on a subject. We cannot know if Ayn Rand was addressing a complexity in her position that was too subtle for Prof. Mayhew to follow and that he mistakenly inferred a contradiction of her published position when in fact there was none. Whatever the explanation may be, the reader will never know. Nor will anyone know what significant new knowledge the world may have been deprived of because Prof. Mayhew assumed that he was entitled to correct Ayn Rand. Even the most minimal respect for honesty would have required explicitly naming all such Q&As and providing the exact text of Ayn Rand’s answers in all such cases. If transcripts were not to be provided for all the Q&As, they should most certainly and absolutely have been provided in cases of this kind. That way, the reader would know what Ayn Rand actually said, not what Prof. Mayhew had decided she should be allowed to say. In his capacity as editor, Prof. Mayhew could have argued for his particular interpretation in a footnote if he wished, but not present his interpretation as though it were the view of Ayn Rand. But with the most cavalier disrespect for his readers’ independence and powers of judgment, Prof. Mayhew not only does not provide the transcripts necessary to know what Ayn Rand actually said, but he does not even tell us which particular answers of Ayn Rand he has altered in this way nor how many answers he has altered in this way. The result is that a reader who has had no first-hand experience with Ayn Rand’s answers can never be sure if what he is reading on any given page is the views actually expressed by Ayn Rand in a Q&A or some distortion of Ayn Rand’s views invented by Prof. Mayhew. In effect, his policy of disrespect and secretiveness has substantially destroyed the value of the whole book. Many years ago, there was a young actress to whom Ayn Rand gave the responsibility of directing a production of her play “The Night of January 16th.” Toward the close of the play’s run, an actor prevailed upon this young woman to allow him to alter one of Ayn Rand’s lines in one of the play’s last performances. When Ayn Rand learned of this, she was furious and completely ended her relationship with this young woman, who had been in her inner circle for several years. Ayn Rand attached the highest value to her every word and would never agree to her words being altered by anyone, let alone made to represent the opposite of what she said. I cannot say if Ayn Rand were alive and knew what Prof. Mayhew had done with her words, and what Leonard Peikoff had allowed and encouraged him to do, that neither of these gentlemen would now still be alive. Ayn Rand would not literally have killed them, though she might have thought about it. What I can say is that neither of them would ever again be welcome to touch a single word or thought of hers. This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved.
  20. Anybody want to suggest a moral principle? Or is proper Objectivism being guided only by feelings in this case? Michael
  21. Marsha, This was your first post and I already welcomed you in another thread. Welcome again. Who says you can't welcome someone more than once? Kat found a copy of The Four Seasons by Girodet and posted them in our little gallery here. They do look like they would be stunning up close. That was an interesting idea of putting the human figures against an outer space kind of background. The color contrast between the background and the figures is extremely pleasing to look at (even at the low resolution of the image file), almost velvety. Michael
  22. William Scott Scherk just put up a similar mention on the Rebirth of Reason site here. For those interested, the links he provided in his post are given below: Altruism 'in-built' in humans By Helen Briggs BBC News science reporter Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello The full article above can be accessed at Sciencemag (Scroll to the bottom - it's the last one. You have to register and pay to read it.) 132 further news reports on this (google news) Michael
  23. You guys are too much for one sittin’ With limericks extremely well written. I want to play too But there’s so much to do That I’m better off playing with Kitten.
  24. I received an email from a person knowledgeable about the Smart Recovery system (thank you E). Here is the link: www.smartrecovery.org It looks like a very good approach. It seems to be an outgrowth of Rational Recovery. Here are the first three questions in the FAQ on the website: One of the things I want to do later here on OL is an overview of the different recovery approaches. With that in mind, I only want to state one restriction I have about what I have read so far. This seems like an organization into AA bashing, which is prevalent among non-religious-based approaches like Rational Recovery, Stanton Peele, etc. I find this to be tiresome. I was not active here in the USA, but I have no doubt that I would have lost patience with the bashing other organization approach had I sought them out for treatment. In the 12 group (NA) I used for drug addiction, there was on guy who insisted that white sugar was one of the roots of all evil, and that used to tick me off terribly. I didn't feel that I was there because I overdosed on sugar. (Nowadays, I am one of those inconvenient dudes who does not eat sucrose, but that has nothing to do with my initial irritation.) The point is, I was there for treatment of my problems, not listen to a litany of evils about some other organization that was helping people like me. This is a minor point, but it is still there. Another point where I differ is with the disease concept. Smart Recovery makes a blanket statement that addiction is not a disease. Twelve-step groups make a blanket statement that addiction is a disease. (yawn) I sometimes wonder if government money is involved in this issue... In my concept, there are many kinds of addiction and different parts of the mind are affected. Some of these addictions and parts of the mind involve disease and others involve the equivalent of bad habits. There is a wide range in between and the whole spectrum has to be dealt with. Addiction is more complicated than one-size-fits-all. That is, except for one condition. This condition fits all. The addict must stop his/her destructive behavior. In short, ANYTHING that makes an addict stop is good. That means AA, NA, Rational Recovery, Stanton Peele, Smart Recovery, Hazelden, cold turkey - anything. (Strangely enough, despite the drawbacks, Scientology has a halfway decent recovery program called Narconon.) So with these two restrictions in mind, the AA (12 step) bashing and the blanket stance on addiction not being a disease, what I read so far is VERY GOOD. If you are an addict or alcoholic and reading this, I highly encourage you to visit the Smart Recovery site. This just might be the approach that will work for you and save your life. If it doesn't resonate with you, however, that's OK. Just go somewhere that does - including AA or NA if need be. Your life is the important value, not any theory. You are important and don't ever forget that. As I learn more, I will write more. Michael