Don E.

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  1. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    The context I'm referring to is a.) the surrounding text, which, as you have acknowledged, contains more explanation of the beneficiary statement, b.) The rest of VOS, and c.) The rest of Ayn Rand's writing. Using all this context, I think it's easy to understand what she meant by the beneficiary/breach stuff. And clearly you do understand what she meant. And that's really my only goal when reading VOS, or any of her books - to understand her ideas. But it seems like you're interested in something more than that. You agreed that you are demanding more precision from her writing than I am. Can you elaborate on that, and explain what it is you're looking for, or trying to achieve, with your analysis? Because once we understand what she meant, as I think we both do, I'm not sure what else there is to do, or why we should continue to analyze and criticize. It might be a fun intellectual exercise, but I'm not sure what it gets us. But anyway, I'm glad we've come to some level of agreement, at least.
  2. Michael, I want you to know that I've re-read your post here several times: It's rare in life that I encounter any real wisdom. Are you a psychologist? Because this is great stuff. I got a big dose of wisdom 20 years ago when I first read Ayn Rand. But other than that, it's been pretty rare. And as a kid growing up there was nobody around me dispensing wisdom - just religious people telling me what to think, and getting annoyed with me for asking too many questions. So it's a rare treat when I can actually learn something new and useful and enlightening about life, or relationships, or myself. One of my hopes in joining this forum was to learn new things, and get new perspectives from other rational people. And you delivered in a big way, right away with that post. So I just wanted to give you another public "thank you" for that. And I wasn't sure at first what kind of people I was dealing with here, but now I can see that there are a lot of interesting points of view.
  3. It's true that there is a lot of irrationality and dishonesty in the world. But are any of those dishonest people you mentioned anywhere you want to be? Would you really want a job in a corrupt, dishonest government? Do you want to be a filthy rich thug? This country is still free enough where you can make an honest living for yourself, and achieve a good level of success, without compromising your honesty or rationality. It's nowhere near the ideal of Galt's Gulch, of course. But be glad you don't live in a truly irrational time or place, where you would be killed for having rational thoughts or speaking honestly about those in power. And try to appreciate the freedom you do have, and the honest people you do know, and make the most of your life. Use Objectivism to improve your own life; just don't expect it to solve all the world's problems in your lifetime. If you focus on what's important to you in your own life, I think you can find a lot of use for honesty, integrity, and rationality.
  4. The only ones I know are from the band Rush. Geddy Lee's real name is "Gary Lee Weinrib". His friends called him Geddy because when his mother, a Holocaust survivor from Poland with a thick accent, said "Gary", it sounded like "Geddy". Alex Lifeson's real name is Alexandar Zivojinovich. "Lifeson" is a translation of his actual Serbian last name, which means "son of life".
  5. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    Haha, sounds good. I've always been interested to hear rational people with reasonable arguments against Rand's ideas. Every criticism I've ever seen of her before has either misinterpreted her ideas, or been based on uninformed hearsay (i.e. people who have never even read her work, just heard that "it's all about selfishness"), or criticized her style rather than the substance, or attacked her as a person for insignificant things. And I've also heard the criticism that "you fall in love with Ayn Rand in high school, but then when you get into the real world, you grow out of her". And I've never understood how you can "grow out of" reason or reality. All of her ideas make sense to me, and seem to conform to reality. I fell in love 20 years ago, and I've continued to re-read her work since then, and I find it just as true and powerful as it was the first time. So I'm very interested to hear what parts of her philosophy people disagree with - reasonable people who have actually read and understood her ideas - and why. I've even attempted to read Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason", because she referred to his philosophy so many times as basically the root of all evil. But I couldn't even read one chapter - I found it unreadable and nonsensical. This just made me appreciate Rand's writing even more - how she writes plainly and clearly, with reasonable arguments, and elaborates on her ideas, and gives examples, in a way anyone can understand it. Now that I know I'm not among dishonest attackers here, I think I will enjoy getting a different perspective, and examining her ideas deeper, and seeing if my arguments hold up.
  6. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    Haha, ok, thanks for clarifying. And thanks for the compliment. I did look up "bottom" before I questioned you, because you seemed to be using it in a way unfamiliar to me, and I already "gaffed" on your "guffaw" earlier. But the only definitions I found were "the lowest part", "the buttocks", and also a rather untoward definition on <link>. So it sounded like you were calling me some kind of lowly person, some kind of ass, or something else entirely (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm glad you had another definition in mind. I've never heard "bottom" as a synonym for "guts".
  7. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    What's that supposed to mean? I get the impression that you're repeatedly going out of your way to hurl insults at me, and I'm not sure why.
  8. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    merjet, thanks for elaborating. I do now see that your position is sincere, and I can sort of see where you're coming from, so I apologize for taking an accusatory tone earlier. But I still disagree with you. We may just have to agree to disagree. But I'll try to argue my side again. So the statement we're talking about (out of context) is: "The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action..." I agree that IF you interpret that literally, out of context, it presents a false dichotomy as you've pointed out, because it implies one beneficiary. Which is exactly why you can't interpret it literally and out of context! Obviously, an action can have any number of beneficiaries, including zero. It's just common sense that not all actions are single-beneficiary actions. And I believe Rand had some common sense. So I am forced to conclude that she didn't mean this as a literal statement to be applied universally and robotically to all actions. Instead, I look at the context and conclude that she meant this as a general principle, to contrast with the general principle of altruism, which is the purpose of the entire Introduction. I agree that the father/daughter situation does contradict the breach claim, IF and ONLY IF you interpret that breach claim literally and out of context. Which, again, is exactly why you can't interpret it literally and out of context!! Clearly, I think we both agree, it would be ridiculous to claim that it's always immoral for a father to buy braces for his daughter. And I don't think Rand was ridiculous. So again, I look at the context, and I am forced to conclude that she meant this as a general principle, not as a literal description of all possible actions under all circumstances. I agree. It would be immoral according to Rand in the "moral duty" case. I made the same point in my earlier post here: link I don't think there is anything wrong with the breach claim, in context. Could it have been worded better? You could make that argument, and I think that is your argument. I personally had no trouble understanding what she meant, because I was considering the entire context, so I would not ask her to reword it if I was given the chance. But, having said that, if you're asking me to rephrase it in my own words, expressing what I think she intended, I might put it like this: "The altruist ethics holds that it is immoral for the actor to benefit from his own action, and that this is the only criterion of the morality of an action. In contrast, the Objectivist ethics holds that it is moral and proper for the actor to benefit from his own action; however, this is not the only, nor the primary, criterion in determining the morality of an action." Do you agree with the above statement? And do you agree that's what she intended? Again, I would NOT ask her to reword it, and I don't think any rewording is necessary, because she already said all of this explicitly and clearly in the surrounding context of that statement. I think it's my (and your) responsibility as the reader to take all of the available context into account when interpreting any statement. Here's my theory about our different perspectives - correct me if I'm wrong. I think you're demanding a much higher precision from her writing than I am. I look at communication in general as a two-way street. Yes, it is absolutely the responsibility of the writer to be as clear and precise as possible, so that the reader can understand what (s)he's saying. But, nobody is perfect, not even Ayn Rand, and therefore it is unreasonable to expect 100% precision from everyone all the time. So it's always the responsibility of the reader to consider all the available context, and try to come up with the most reasonable interpretation. Moreover, in this case, Rand is not writing a PhD thesis on philosophy. She is writing essays, for the common man, with style and force and vigor, intentionally being provocative and uncompromising, because she's taking on the monumental task of challenging the philosophy of altruism, which has been embedded deep in human thought and religion and morality for thousands of years. And, this isn't even an essay, it's the Introduction to the essays. So again, as the readers, it's our responsibility to take all of that into account. When we see a statement that might sound crazy or unreasonable in the Introduction, it's our job to continue to read, and see what she really meant. And if it still doesn't make sense, re-read and consider the context again, until we find the reasonable interpretation, if it exists. If a statement, when taken and interpreted out of context, leads to a false dichotomy, ridiculous result, or some other contradiction or irrational idea, it's our job as readers to consider the context and look for a more reasonable explanation. We should introspect and check our premises to see how we can read and understand better, and determine the author's actual intent. We should look for how we erred as readers. We can't place all of the blame on the author, especially when the author gave us plenty of explanatory context to consider. When faced with an irrational interpretation out of context, and a reasonable one in context, it is our duty, as honest readers, to use the context and choose the reasonable one. So, I don't agree with you that the statement is inaccurate, in the context she put it in. But, even if it IS inaccurate, I believe that if you take it out of context and draw an unreasonable conclusion from it, you haven't done your due diligence as a reader, because a more reasonable explanation is readily available, if you consider the context. So it seems like I place much more importance on context than you do - would you agree? I still believe you are omitting the context, and I still don't understand why you think it's ok to do so.
  9. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    No, I think you must be confusing me with someone else. I am new to this forum, but not new to Objectivism. I first read Atlas Shrugged 20 years ago, and soon after that I read all her fiction and non-fiction, and I've continued to read a lot of the other Objectivist literature as well. So I'm well-versed in Objectivism, and I do consider myself an Objectivist. Thanks, that's good to know.
  10. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    You're right. I thought "guffaw" meant "mistake". My mistake. I must have been thinking of "gaffe". I suppose that was another guffaw for you. Well, I think an honest debate is one in which you consider each and every point your opponent raises, and try to address it with your own reasoning and evidence, and elaborate as much as possible to make your meaning clear. As opposed to just making unsupported claims, or ignoring your opponent's points. As I said, communication involves both understanding and being understood, and both parts are the responsibility of both participants. So I think an honest debate is one in which you keep your end of the bargain by making the effort in both directions. And an honest action would be, for example, giving your opponent a chance to explain his reasoning before drawing conclusions about him or his ideas. This isn't always easy, either. So this is one way you can "try" to be honest but not be successful. Well, I did tell one story in my introductory post in the "meet and greet" forum. But I don't really have a lot of stories to tell. And I thought the purpose of this forum was to discuss Ayn Rand's ideas. But even so, I think my interpretation and reasoning are my ideas. And, I'm pretty new to the forum, so I don't see how you can criticize me for not posting enough of my own ideas yet. And the Rand ideas and quotes I used as part of my argument were relevant to the debate. So I don't really understand what you want from me. I don't know how to discuss honesty without using the word. I'm not trying to be irritating. Why does it upset you?
  11. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    I disagree that these were "guffaws". The first was just modesty, and I don't know of any Objectivist principle that prohibits modesty. I do believe I am 100% honest. But saying it that way makes me sound like an asshole. And believe it or not, I do make an effort to not be an asshole. (You seem to be doing the opposite.) So that's why I phrased it as "I try" to be honest; I allow others to decide for themselves whether I am or not, even though I know I am, and I don't really care whether they know it or not. My honest actions and honest debates and honest reasoning will speak louder than any mere claim of honesty. The second is partially but not entirely true - I didn't mean that it matters to me what other people think, as an end in itself. What I meant was, I'm glad I was able to convey my honesty in a way that is recognized as honesty by other reasonable people. It is frustrating to try to communicate ideas and tone and motivation clearly, only to be misunderstood; the goal of communication is to understand, and be understood, but it is not always easy. So I take pride in my accomplishment when I can communicate successfully. That's what "I'm glad" about.
  12. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    Michael, thank you very much for that thoughtful reply. Very interesting and enlightening, and wise. I'm glad you appreciate that I'm not trying to be offensive, because that's not my goal. I will try to be more tactful, and think about framing. And I think you nailed my perspective exactly, so I'm glad you see where I'm coming from. But, I'm still not sure I understand what merjet's frame is. I tried to be clear that I don't want to believe that merjet is dishonest, but I did want to make it clear that that's the impression I was getting, and that I couldn't come up with any other explanation for his arguments. Because, if I ever gave someone the impression that I was dishonest, I would definitely want them to tell me, and give me a chance to explain myself. But maybe I didn't make any of that clear. I thought I was being patient and courteous by giving him that chance before I came to a final conclusion about him. And I also thought I gave him several chances. But maybe it didn't come across that way. So I admit I probably could have chosen my words better and taken a less offensive tone. And I do recognize that he might have no interest in proving his honesty to me or elaborating on his reasoning. That's why in my last post I said I was willing to drop it here, to avoid further conflict. Thanks, anthony. I'm glad you recognize that I'm trying to be honest. And to merjet, I've been trying to give plenty of reasoning and evidence for my arguments, both for my interpretation of the Rand passage, and also for my impression of you. But it seems to me as if you are not attempting to refute any of my arguments or evidence. It appears to me that you are just evading all of my reasoning and evidence, and continuing down an unreasonable path. So I'm not sure where to go from there. Based on Michael's advice about framing, I won't assume that you are actually evading evidence or reason. I'll just say, I still have no idea what you're attempting to do - it makes no sense to me. And I would ask you to please elaborate on your position, so I can understand your frame and motivation better.
  13. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    If violence is the best argument you can come up with, you're not a very reasonable person. Sorry if I used the word "honest" too much for you, but it's one of the most important virtues - not just to Objectivists, but to any decent human being.
  14. What was wrong with it? You guys are just making bald assertions, that he's "clueless", and "hard to watch", without providing any reasoning or evidence. If you read the first page (8 paragraphs or so) of the Introduction to VOS, Ayn Rand answers that exact question herself - why she chose to use the word "selfish" - and Yaron's answer sounded perfectly consistent with her answer, to me. Can you elaborate on your viewpoint?
  15. Don E.

    Galt's Oath

    merjet, I joined this forum to meet like-minded people, not to offend people. So I'm sorry that it's come to that. I admit I have been offensive to you, but it's only because, so far, based on your interpretation of the beneficiary-breach statement, my impression has been that you're dishonest, and dishonesty offends me. This impression could be mistaken, and I hope it is. So far I've been unable to read between the lines of your terse responses to determine the mindset and motivation behind them. So I asked you those direct questions in order to give you the opportunity to describe your motivation and elaborate on your actual position, and prove to me that you are not dishonest. I will attempt to elaborate some more. (I'm trying to be as open, honest, and clear with my responses as I can, and I wish you would do the same.) Your interpretation of the beneficiary-breach passage leads to the conclusion that it's always immoral for a father to buy anything for his child, which is a clearly unreasonable conclusion. There is a reasonable interpretation, which is that she was conveying a general principle, not a commandment. You are deliberately choosing the unreasonable interpretation. And to get to that unreasonable conclusion, you first have to take that statement out of context, which I think is dishonest. An honest attempt to understand her ideas would include reading her statements in context, and trying to come up with a reasonable interpretation; that is, trying to determine what she actually meant, what IDEAS she was trying to convey. I've never met an honest, thinking person who takes statements out of context and over-analyzes them like you seem to be doing. And I don't see how any honest person can think that he can construct a valid interpretation by taking things out of context. So again, the reason I asked you those questions is that I'm trying to determine if you are honestly coming to a conclusion that, to me, seems patently unreasonable and absurd, or if you are intentionally being dishonest and irrational for some purpose known only to you. As evidence for my argument, let's look at Ayn Rand's beneficiary-breach statement in context. I've highlighted in bold some of the important context that you are ignoring: So that's the immediate context, which you have ignored. She clearly states that the beneficiary is not her primary concern in the field of morality. And at the same time, although it's not the primary factor in determining morality, the general principle is that it's proper for the actor to be the beneficiary of his own action; as contrasted with altruism (discussed earlier in the chapter) which says the actor must NOT be the beneficiary of his own action. And, she elaborates on what she means by an "injustice" - a sacrifice of one person to another, of the moral to the immoral. The example of a father purchasing things for his daughter clearly doesn't fall into that category of sacrifice, and therefore it is not the kind of thing she's describing as an injustice. The next level of context you have ignored, is that this is the Introduction to VOS, where she is giving the briefest overview of Objectivist ethics, and speaking of broad principles, to be discussed further in later chapters. The main goal of the Introduction is to contrast the basic principles of Objectivist ethics with the basic principles altruist ethics. A more complete description of her ethics is given in chapter 1: The Objectivist Ethics, and the rest of the book. And, like I said, she elaborates on her ideas throughout all her writing. If you really wanted to understand her ideas, you wouldn't be taking one sentence out of context and drawing clearly unreasonable conclusions from it. I mean, you would have to think that Ayn Rand is either a moron or a monster to think that she would tell you it's immoral to buy things for your children. So, when you come to a conclusion like that, the only reasonable thing to do is check your premises, and try to figure out where you have gone wrong in your interpretation. I've already answered this question in my previous posts, and I've elaborated on it again above. The answer is that it is a general principle, not a commandment. Context matters - both in reading someone's writing, and in evaluating the morality of a specific action. And motivation matters. The beneficiary of an action is not the primary factor in determining its morality. Here's some of what I said before: The rest of your questions are irrelevant to the discussion I'm attempting to have with you at this time, but I'll answer them if you answer mine first. Once again, if you are interested in demonstrating to me that you are not dishonest, you can do so by answering my questions directly. If you're not interested in that, then I think we can just drop it here, because I'm not going to be satisfied with less than that.