James Heaps-Nelson

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Everything posted by James Heaps-Nelson

  1. Michael S K, I think it is wrong to put all of the "incompleteness" of Objectivism at Rand's doorstep. Objectivism is a powerful system of integration, but it is not a substitute for a significant study of psychology and readings in self-improvement. There are other authors who have addressed the questions of control of consciousness that you are getting at. Nathaniel Branden, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, many writers on evolutionary psychology(Robert Wright being one), Viktor Frankl, Stephen Covey, Alan Lakein, and others. Many very important things about the human experience are outside the scope of Rand's Objectivism. What else is new? Does the foregoing mean that we should embrace a false idea because it may help us with some emotional or motivational issue we are having? No, it means we should try to understand why the false idea seems to "work" in the context of human consciousness. That way we learn something new. My wife is a practicing Soka Gakkai Buddhist. Her chanting, meditations etc. seem to work for her in the area of control of consciousness. Does that mean I'm going to become an advocate for Buddhism? No, it simply means that some form of meditative practice seems to improve the state of mind of many people. I even listened to a lecture tape by Ken Livingston at TOC that went into the effect of various meditative practices on EEG patterns in the brain. I disagree that Objectivism turns people into "rip-roaring assholes". The Objectivists I've met in person have tended to be kind, courteous and generally fun to be around, but Objectivists exist in a spectrum just like everybody else. I didn't tend to like the way ARI folks practiced the philosophy, so I chose people that practiced it more in the vein of what was comfortable for me (IOS/TOC). I think Objectivists on the internet are a bad sample to draw a conclusion about concerning Objectivists in general. Partly because it self-selects for people who are more aggressive and self-assertive. It further selects for things that those people feel strongly about. In the end, however, none of what I have mentioned justifies what Michael Prescott has written about Objectivism. Most of it is outright distortion, vicious misrepresentation, and selective interpretation. I am, like Glenn, underwhelmed. That wouldn't stop me from conversing with the guy, but at some point I would put the question to him, politely, about whether he really thought the things he was saying were accurate. Jim
  2. Roger, Thanks for putting this up. At some point I will have to acquire these lectures. Nathaniel and Barbara did so much work that is now obscure or not known to many people. Objectivists of any stripe should be clamoring to save these valuable resources and get them in a more widely accesible form. Jim
  3. Kat, I'm happy for you and Michael. True love is a beautiful thing to behold. You will really like Nathaniel's book. It was written at a time when he had just gotten over the death of Patrecia. It is terrifically insightful, instructive, heartfelt and sincere. Jim
  4. Well, I've seen a lot of successful Objectivist marriages/relationships too :-). I guess it could be a combination of poor criteria and the fact that Objectivists don't tend to stay in unhappy relationships very long. Also, many Objectivists are career-driven to the detriment of their personal relationships. Unlike advertised, successful marriage is a lot of work. I laugh at the notion that it is supposed to be easy. Jim
  5. I want to put in my own plug for the TOC Summer Seminar. There will be just about every conceivable variety of Objectivist you can imagine (Well Leonard Peikoff, Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz might not be able to make it :-)). The atmosphere is benevolent, friendly and respectful. Cutting edge exploration of Objectivist ideas gets done. We are united in our contention that differences should be settled (or not settled as the case may be) by rational argument; not peer pressure, social ostracism or other underhanded tactics. We believe, like Rand, that everyone should see and decide for themselves. Joseph Rowlands, Lindsay Perigo, Phil Coates, Roger Bissell, Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden are confirmed. I'm sure we'll hear from David Kelley, Robert Bidinotto, and Will Thomas as well. Last year was a blast! This year is shaping up to be even better. I can't wait to see the program! Best of all, you'll get to hear me jamming away at my Irish fiddle :-) Jim
  6. I've read this thread with interest because I think the problems that many people encounter in Objectivism stem not from any particular personality clash (of which there are many), but from thinking we can safely rely on any authority to do our thinking for us. There is no substitute for relying on our own judgment. Rand is quite clear on this: "Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience--that your mind is fallible but that becoming mindless will not make you infallible-- that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error." Ayn Rand in Galt's Speech The ultimate irony of course is that many Objectivists do not redeem their minds from the hockshops of authority. If the method of concept-formation in IOE is a difficult mode of thinking for them, there must be something wrong. If their choice of romantic partner does not embrace Objectivism, there must be some underlying problem. If someone does something wrong it is our duty to act as a moral policeman and correct it. None of the aforementioned, of course, is true but it takes independent judgment and a great deal of contextual sensitivity to know how to apply Objectivism correctly. I refer back to the girl who wrote a letter to Barbara Branden. The mistake she made is a large, but totally innocent one. In the face of a new, profound and exciting philosophy she accepted that Ayn Rand and other Objectivists knew better what was good for herself than she did. In order for people to practice Objectivism effectively, they have to act within what they know. They have to pursue their goals and dreams, their careers and romantic aspirations within their own hierarchy of values. A systematic understanding of the philosophy of Objectivism may or may not be a cardinal value to them. In many cases it is much more effective to assimilate Objectivism as the questions come to you naturally rather than through systematic study. In my own life, I try to achieve balance by making sure that formal Objectivism only occupies about 5-10% at most of my activities at any given time. Of course, sometimes study or mastery of a given work or lecture set will require much more than that, but that will be balanced by periods where I study no Objectivism at all. Of course, people will vary enormously on how they achieve balance between their optional values, subjects Objectivism had little to say about and their study of Objectivist philosophy. However, they must make sure that Objectivism does not drown out their own unique needs, voice and personality. Jim
  7. Below are some of the highlights from Nathaniel Branden's The Psychology of Romantic Love delineated by topic. Psychological Visibility: "...All life -by its very nature- entails a struggle, and struggle entails the possibility of defeat; we desire and find pleasure in seeing concrete instances of successful life as confirmation of the fact that successful life is possible. It is, in effect, a metaphysical experience..." Basic Similarities and Complementary Differences: "So here, in the area of vital similarities, we have the foundation of passionate romantic attraction. We are drawn to consciousnesses like our own. But our picture if we stopped here, would be incomplete. It is not a literal mirror-image of ourselves we are seeking. The foundation of the relationship lies in basic similarities. The excitement of a relationship lies, to an important extent, in complementary differences." Admiration: For many people it is frightening to ask, "Do I admire my partner." It seems less frightening to ask, "Do I love my partner? Do I desire my partner? Do I have a pleasant time with my partner?" To ask, "Do I admire my partner?" is to risk discovering that I am bound to him or her more by dependency than admiration, more through immaturity of fear or "convenience" than genuine esteem. The Courage to Love: "In my experience a great deal of the so-called war of the sexes is a result of a fear of rejection, abandonment, or loss. Often men and women experience great resistance to owning how much they need each other, how important the opposite sex is for the enjoyment of life and the fulfillment of their own masculine or feminine potentialities. Often there is almost hatred of the fact that we need the opposite sex as much as we do." It is my hope that the above selections will spur comment and lead others to read this outstanding book
  8. I first read Psychology of Romantic Love by Nathaniel Branden in 1995 after attending a talk on Friendship and Love by Carolyn Ray at the 1995 TOC(then IOS) Summer Seminar. The principles governing any type of friendship or romantic relationship are determined by the specific type of psychological visibility we seek to gain and give in that relationship. Those relationships and their characteristics vary in terms of breadth and depth of shared values. Carolyn gave an interesting example of a friend who was her running partner. He was an avowed Marxist. She said she only wanted to see him with his running shoes on. The challenge for Objectivists is to build relationships with each other that span the bounds of shared optional values so that we strengthen the breadth and depth of those relationships beyond specific ideological differences we might have with one another. In the case of the Man/Woman relationships the specific principles governing the relationship include integrating the expression of our masculinity/femininity with shared universal values, shared optional values, sense of life compatibility etc. Jim