Roger Bissell

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Blog Comments posted by Roger Bissell

  1. [This comment attaches to the video of Bush.] Agreed, William. Bush didn't mention Antifa by name, but it was clear that his remark about oppressive regimes trying to suppress disagreement could easily be extended to oppressive social movements that attempt to shut down opposing speakers on college campuses. Overall, I thought it was a good statement of principles and list of aspirational goals, but it came off more as a "report" than as a speech, dry and impersonal, at least in the delivery. Bush 43 was never known for his eloquence, anyway, but I still crave the eloquence of a JFK or Reagan.


  2. Crystal balls and cartoon knobs - sounds like a bad porno movie title. :D

    Good job on the commentary and the sound track. "I Can Help" was one of my favorite songs-I-love-to-hate from decades ago. :)

    Speaking of For Whom the Crow's Served (the GOP nomination result), perhaps you heard in the news today that Cruz and Kasich have formed a Stop Trump alliance? Kasich is pulling out of the Indiana primary campaign, and Cruz is likewise pulling out of the Oregon and New Mexico campaigns. I haven't looked yet to see if there is any notice and discussion of this over on the Drumpf thread. But on the face of it, it seems like a really big deal. We'll see whether it keeps Drumpf from attaining the magic number - or the near-enough-to-the-magic-number-number.


  3. 8 hours ago, william.scherk said:

    A person who cannot admit wrong is not PDS's reputation in argument.

    William, it's interesting that you mentioned PDS but not me. I take this (as part of my now-on, now-off pattern of mild paranoia) to indicate your belief that I, by contrast, do have the reputation of "a person who cannot admit wrong." At least, in the "eyes" of one or more of the Trumpenprotelariat on the Drumpf and related threads. I'm sure that part of it is true, even if you didn't intend to allude to it. After all, anyone who opposes their realistic, objective orientation must be a rigid, deeply invested dogmatist, a religious, righteous mentality, close kin to the religionist conservatives. (Else, why favor the creepy religionist Cruz over the MAGNIFICENT creator-builder Drumpf?)

    This also may indicate some of the downside to blocking some of the posters on OL. For all I know, Princess Minne-Heh-Heh has run rampant, accusing me of hitting and running, making assertions that are proven wrong, but not admitting my errors. 

    Specifically in re errors of prediction, I appreciate PDF's comments. I have to point out, though, that there are (at least) two kinds of predictions in politics.

    One is simply who will win a given horse race - and, yes, what is so bad or disgraceful about being wrong on such a prediction? It's just like a football game or Olympic event - rah, rah, our team won, yours lost, haha, boohoo. Until and unless it's made a contest between good and evil, and then it's: you are one of the bad guys, and you stubbornly refused to join us, so if you lose, you got what you deserved, and if you win, you cheated and robbed us, but in either case, you're evil, and our patience is running thin, and if you ever admit you picked the wrong side, it might be too late, and we might shun and ostracize you, or we might magnanimously let you in but you'll have to go to the back of the bus and shut up and let us do the talking, because you're dogmatic and mentally/morally defective and not to be trusted with the awesome responsibility of upholding the good and the right.

    The other is whether a result which is actually bad for people will soon happen, as the result of some election outcome. We're told that Drumpf, for instance, will change toward more positive, sensible policies once elected and once he confronts the political and economic realities and gets some intelligent advisors to shoo him away from promoting dumb, counterproductive policies. Failing that, it won't matter all that much anyway, and gosh wasn't it fun poking the socialist left and the GOP Establishment in the eye. So, it's win-win, or win-not lose so badly-and enjoy the agony of your losing opponents. I'm sure the liberal Democrats loved stomping the evul conservative GOP candidate and his supporters back in 1964 and thought that getting to have the War on Poverty was a great bonus (though trillions spent and the poverty line hasn't budged in 50 years)...until the first big wave of 55,000 young people started coming home in body bags. What will it take for people to realize how awful it is for Drumpf or Hillary to have won? What would they take as evidence or proof? And what will keep them from attaching that evidence or proof not to the winning Presidential candidate, but to the previous President or to their opponents in Congress (if there are any) or the media? That's what Obama and the Dem's have been doing since he took office - blame it on George W. Bush and/or the "obstructionist" Congress and/or the greedy bastards on Wall Street.

    But look a little more closely at the "transformation-once-elected" idea. The Trumpenproletariat say that Drumpf will change for the better, and then you'll see that he was a good guy after all, just like we were saying. In other words, his Howard Roark mask may not do a good job of obscuring his rude, sexist, unprincipled persona, but that is just a mask, too, and beneath that is the true Howard Roark guy who stood tall and strong against obstacles and created businesses, buildings, and thousands of jobs. A Howard Roark who doesn't run off to work in a quarry and doesn't blow up buildings that weren't built to his specs. Why he's better than Howard Roark!

    Actually, the insinuation is that he's kind of like Francisco d'Anconia. Francisco was a good and noble man, but he put on the persona of a blighter, a spendthrift playboy, as a kind of camouflage to cover his drive to accomplish the destruction of a corrupt system. The question should be not: is Drumpf like Roark, but is Drumpf like Francisco? Does he have any kind of noble scheme behind the superficial populist hoohah - or is that really all there is? Is he really just another Pragmatist power-seeker, who figured out the system's Achilles heel and is exploiting it in an end-run around the system (which he refuses to learn how to work)? Looks that way to me. 

    Then the only question is: if we have such a crass, power-seeking Pragmatist in office, what will he try to impose on us as part of making America "great" again? Because that will be in the rhetoric tied to any and all of the legislation he asks for and the Executive Orders he makes. We really don't have a clue - except that if he betrays the people who think Mexico and China and traitorous corporations and illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans, or if he actually replaces Obamacare with anything better than an extension of Medicare and elimination of the mandate, we perhaps should hope that his Vice President rules with more intelligence and principle than Herr Drumpf. (How long has it been since some over-wrought wack-job has taken a potshot at a sitting President? Not counting the shoe an Iraqi newsman threw at W in a news conference in Baghdad.)


  4. Weird - there is no "quote" function here. Had to use copy and, here are my comments:

    4 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:
    5 hours ago, Roger Bissell said:
    6 hours ago, PDS said:

    In other words, I stand by my prediction:    Drumpf/Cruz get their asses kicked hard by Hillary/it-doesn't-matter.

    I think that's how it's going to end up, too. Except it will be just the beginning of the end...


    What are you guys going to do if it turns out to be a landslide for Drumpf as president against Hillary?

    Rend your garments?

    Mend your evil ways?

    Do the unthinkable and say, "I was wrong?"


    Interesting that MI(chael)ST(uart)KE(lly) = MISTAKE is so preoccupied or concerned with what "you guys" are going to do if OUR predictions are wrong - but I haven't seen anything from him (though I haven't read all the past 83,632 posts) about what HE will do in such a case.

    MISTAKE wonders whether and how we will prostrate ourselves and admit that our predictions were incorrect. As if it wouldn't be obvious without our also admitting it. What's obvious is that admitting our fallibility is not the point, but humbling ourselves before his (MISTAKE's) MAGNIFICENCE and CORRECTNESS.

    I'll tell you what I am "going to do" if Drumpf wins a landslide: the same thing I'm going to do if he wins by a modest or narrow margin, or Hillary wins by a narrow or modest margin or landslide. I'm going to take whatever practical steps I can to offset the fact that if EITHER of them is elected, America will be less prosperous and less safe than we are now, which is less prosperous and less safe than we were 8 years ago. which is less prosperous and less safe than we were 16 years ago. It is pitiful, naive, self-deception to think that Drumpf is going to be any better for the economy than Hillary - and in particular, for the economic well-being of average citizens, who depend on getting the most affordable prices they can for the things they need, which will become more expensive under Drumpf's proposed tariff/balance of trade policies. And if he's not  going to enact those policies - and the other alleged reforms he is appealing to Yahoo-America with - then why the hell vote him in? If he "keeps us out of war" and degrades our ability to defend ourselves (by pulling out of NATO and by not restoring the strength of the military, which Obama has gutted), then how are we more secure - just because he says he will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it?

    Rush and Sean seem to have hitched their wagon to whoever has the best chance of beating Hillary AND being nominated. Yet, all the polls show that Drumpf is the dead last guy in line for beating Hillary. So, his function - like Goldwater's in 1964 - would be simply to give the ruling statist clique the middle finger and turn the White House, Congress, and Supreme Court over to the Democrats, but worse, at a point in history when we simply cannot afford for that to happen. (Though it's going to happen anyway, whether we can afford it or not.) Cruz may be able to beat Hillary, and the outcome might be somewhat better for the country, though I doubt he can or that it would. Kasich might be able to beat Hillary, though I think she would rip him to shreds in the debates - and that even if he did somehow beat her, nothing much would change from how it is now. Plus, he would nominate "moderate" (i.e., liberal) judges for SCOTUS, so there goes the High Court.

    I'm sure there are thousands like me, if not more, who see it this way - and it may be the case that the combined effect of our negativity and pessimism (though I call it realism) will have the appearance of a voodoo hex on the future outcome of the election and our country's well-being. But that makes about as much sense as blaming the people who sold short in 1929 for causing the stock market crash and the Great Depression. As if our saying nothing negative would keep anything negative from happening - subjective "wishing will make it so" or, in this case, "not predicting, will make it less likely to happen." I don't know how much of this superstitious rot plays into people's thinking, but I wouldn't be surprised if some GOP folk, even CINO, LINO, and OINO (conservative, libertarian, Objectivist in name only) entertain such mental goofiness.

    But to wind up my comments: no, it is not unthinkable to admit I was wrong. I admit it every day and twice on Thursday. But our friend MISTAKE, I'm worried about. He seems to rapturously cling to the inevitability and desirability of Drumpf. He explains away all of Drumpf's bad ideas and minimal thinking processes and points to buildings and businesses he has built, as though that qualifies him to repair a seriously damaged country. No principles, just anger and arm-waving and threats to China, Mexico, and the Establishment and vague promises to workers and middle-class Americans and people afraid of terrorists and illegal immigrants destroying their communities and taking their jobs.

    I'm sorry if this all sounds like repetitive talking points, but I'm rapidly approaching the point where I simply don't want to talk about politics any more. So many of our libertarian and Objectivist comrades either want to embrace the most convenient alternative to a known demoness - or to abandon their principles as "not applicable" in the present situation (we need a "transitional" President) - or both. I think that is a very dangerous policy. We've had a transitional President for 8 years now, transitioning us to full-tilt, mixed socialism-fascism. What would a President Drumpf transition us to? What would be better in the direction we want to go, under his leadership and policies? As noted above, I don't think he's going to do much more than reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic, while waving his arms and demanding that people make a deal with him, or they're "fired."


    P.S. - William, you may use any portion of this for a submarine transmission that you like, changing or omitting names to protect the clueless where appropriate.

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  5. William, thanks for posting this.

    BHO, Cuban ?? I can't see how he looks Cuban at all (whatever that might be).

    Instead, he looks to me like the spitting dark-skinned image of his Caucasian mother's dad. Barry now and Stanley Dunham back when Barry's mom was a little girl could be brothers - with one having spent less time in the tanning booth. :-)

    Scroll down toward the bottom of this article and check out the photo of Ann with Barry's grampa and gramma. I guess Stanley Dunham could have been Cuban, at that. ;-)

  6. William, I regard eminent domain as having levels of evil.

    1. As a constitutionalist, I find eminent domain for "the public interest" as having some legitimacy and eminent domain for one's private interest as having none whatever and as being a gross corruption of civil government.

    2. As a libertarian, I find *all* eminent domain to be a violation of property rights and thus reprehensible.

    In this respect, eminent domain - as a seizing - is similar to taxation. Taxation to fund legitimate functions of government (defending rights with police, armed forces, and courts) is potentially legitimate within the powers granted by the constitution, while taxation to fund other functions is not constitutionally legitimate. In principle, though *all* taxation is theft, as is all eminent domain.

    I really don't have more to say about the issue of eminent domain, nor how it applies to Trump. He fails on all levels, in my opinion. And I would say the same of any other candidate who tried to gloss over his personally aggrandizing seizure of another's property by painting it as being "in the public interest." I don't think it's true that "they all do it," however; in fact, I think DT is the *only* one who is guilty of this.

    I'm interested in what you and others may have to offer on this subject, though.


  7. William, such a thoughtful, helpful post. Thank you!

    In re eminent domain and its thorough yet not thorough discussion on OL: I think there is a *clear* distinction between expropriation for "public" vs. "private" interest, and I think Donald Trump thinks so too, or he would not have bothered with the transparent ploy of wrapping himself in the "public interest" to legitimize such an obvious, egregious attempt to use eminent domain for his own private interest.

    Creating jobs, indeed. If I go around breaking windows, that will create jobs, eh? Yet, we call that vandalism, not economic activity in the "public interest." Similarly, Trump has clearly shown himself to be nothing better than a common crook - but doesn't his suit look fine! (Al Capone "created" employment, too.)

    And does it matter whether Trump succeeded or not with his privately interested eminent domain thuggishness? He tried it repeatedly, and he unrepentently kept swearing by how good a thing it was on national television. The duck may have stumbled, but he's still quacking. (Hey - Donald Duck!)

    If a failed terrorist goes on Al Jazeera and talks about how good terrorism is, do we enthusiastically rave about how wonderful a prospect he would be for the Oval Office? Dumb question - apparently some of us would.

    As for when and whether Trump succeeds in wrapping up the GOP nomination, I'll be watching with great interest, like so many others. But since I have made no predication, just uttered the hope (God save us!) that he not be nominated, I don't consider myself in any kind of crow-eating jeopardy any more than I was when I said I hoped Barack Obama would not be elected (or re-elected). Those happy about such catastrophes will no doubt make crowing noises, but that is on them, not me.

    One other thought - counterfactual though I believe it to be - maybe, if Trump is elected, he will turn out not to be as awful as I fear he will be. The only President I've found that to be true of is President Reagan. And Trump ain't no Reagan. Maybe we don't deserve another Reagan. Maybe we deserve Clinton or Trump. But shouldn't we have some choice other than an internationalist "progressive" and a nationalist "progressive"? (Cool terms, huh! I thought it might be a bit much to call DT a national socialist. :-)


  8. Agreed.

    Another way of saying my point is this: the most important way to use a philosophy -- especially a "philosophy for living on earth" (Rand's description) -- is to ~live~ it, i.e., to ~exemplify~ it in your actions, not just to ~preach~ it in words or to ~proselytize~ others.

    If you're a natural-born missionary or preacher, for God's sake, spread the word! But if you're not, then do ~whatever else~ your talents and passions point you toward instead.

    In my early years of parenting, I was often told that the most important thing parents do for their children, in terms of a philosophy of life, is to be a ~good example~ of how they would like their children to live.

    Yet another way of making my point: if you're too busy "talking the talk," you're probably not spending enough time "walking the walk" of being a rational, productive individual.


  9. It's an oft-lamented, squirm-inducing fact that ~many~ well-meaning (?) people in the Objectivist movement have tended to misinterpret (?) Rand's ideas in a rationalist/intrinsicist manner, not to say an overly ~judgmental~ manner. A good amount of Peikoff's 1983 course, "Understanding Objectivism," was aimed at uprooting and dispelling such tendencies of Objectivists--students and spokescritters thereof, alike. As was his later course, "Judging, Feeling, and Not Being Moralistic." As were his later courses, "Objectivism through Induction" and "Induction in Physics and Philosophy."

    These are very good antidotes, even if only partial, to the problem noted. Unfortunately, up until now, they have remained part of the massive "aural" tradition of Objectivist philosophy. You can buy the CDs, listen, and frantically scribble notes--wondering later: did he really say that, then hunt and peck through the audio for the actual comment. Not much fun, compared to eyeballing a stationary target on the printed page.

    As noted above, Peikoff once remarked: "Then it's for eternity." Exactly. That means that critics and careful students can pick it apart and maybe find subtle flaws that cast doubt on patterns of inference and the resulting action recommendations. And that's scary. Which I think is the main reason there has been ~so little~ published by Objectivist writers other than Ayn Rand herself -- or Nathaniel Branden, of course, who has been as fearless as he has been prolific in putting his ideas out there in printed form.

    The only good news in this area is that Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" is going to be edited/re-written(?) by Robert Mayhew and published next spring. Probably over the anguished protests of Peter Schwartz and his ilk, who seem to prefer the rougher-tougher, more judgmental brand of Objectivism. Should be an interesting roll-out.

    [Posted elsewhere on OL on October 10, 2011]

  10. Shayne, I think your suggestion is a good one. Although it's been several years since my "Art as Microcosm" essay was posted here (after its initial publication in Journal of Ayn Rand Studies), there has been a substantial amount of comment generated by it, either directly or tangentially. This in turn nudged me to clarify my own ideas further. My eventual book is going to be considerably better as a result.

    I'm getting similar benefits from discussions of logic over in the Henry Veatch folder.

    As for "a finely honed carbon-steel instrument," my copy of your book arrived today from It looks terrific! Please tell me who published it for you, or how (in brief) you did it, if it was "all you."

    Comments to follow soon!


  11. William, thanks for your comments. It's good to hear someone express appreciation for Phil's willingness to engage in self-examination. He's a good example to all of us, in that regard.

    As for his exit-entrance behavior being an Elephant in the Room that has poisoned the well, that depends on how you interpret the motives behind the behavior. If it isn't asking you to be inappropriately psychologistic, consider the possibility that the emotions behind Phil's answering insults with insults and departure, then returning with non-explanation, were something other than contempt and clueless hubris on his part. That's all I'll say here.


  12. Phil, sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't just mean philosophy-oriented goals. I have half a dozen "life areas" that I focus on and have goals in, including intellectual, friends/family, financial, health, etc. But I admit I would be surprised if your process of narrowing down to the single-most goal ended up with something ~other~ than something that was intellectually productive.

    My own goals in that area are books, and I have wrestled with the market/audience problem, too. For instance, one of my big deals is tetrachotomies and their applications as a way of dealing with false alternatives and resolving philosophical issues. Rather than writing a treatise on the subject, I have decided to write a series of essays that utilize tetrachotomies, and then compile them into a book with an introductory theory section. Each of the essays gets published in a journal (so far, it has been Journal of Ayn Rand Studies) and/or delivered as a talk at a conference, then included in the compilation when it's time to publish it.

    And yes, I will be self-publishing it. My audience will be an extreme niche market, so digital download and print-on-demand will be my way of distributing it to whoever is interested. That is how I will get some level of extrinsic satisfaction from this avenue of effort: having both the wider audience for the individual essays and the narrower market for the book. If I had a Ph.D. and university position, or were ensconced in ARI or TAS (though the latter seems not as fertile ground for even monographs as it did, and I have an unhappy memory of an abortive project with them), I would try to get at least an academic press or movement-subsidized publication. But that is not in the cards.

    The tetrachotomy umbrella is ~part~ of the work I intend to publish in the area of logic. The two other areas I am preparing material for are aesthetics/music and free will vs. determinism. Again, conferences and JARS or other publication will be the path I travel toward the books I want to publish.

    The one other thing I envision in podcasts or videos to upload to YouTube. DVD lectures are probably too ambitious a format to tackle. But 20-minute or so mini-lectures might be just right, and fun to do as well, whether as a straight-out talk or possibly in "interview" Q&A style, like in some of the "economic crisis" quasi-interview documentaries I've seen on the web. I hope you are considering something like this.

    That's all for now, Phil. Go for it! And please feel free to run by me any of your works-in-progress for constructive feedback.

    Best, REB

  13. I'm glad Jonathan agrees that it would be a good thing for Phil to bring his ideas to publication, so that we could read them and think about them. Especially since, as Phil has indicated in our Living Room area, we apparently won't be reading them ~here~ any longer.

    Shayne cites Rand's intrinsic motivation for writing a book, and I'm sure she felt this way about both her novels and her non-fiction writing. It is essentially the same as my basic motivation for writing music: to create music I would want to listen to. Or, as I sometimes put it, in parallel to words I've read of Rand's, to create the kind of musical "world" in which I would want to live, at least for a brief while. Her books on fiction and non-fiction writing give very good guidance on this issue.

    When I write a musical arrangement, or play a ballad or jazz solo, or compose a song, I try to put myself in the listener's seat. To be my own "ideal listener," so to speak. I try to do the same even when writing the individual parts in a composition or arrangement, thinking as best I can what it must feel like for each of the players to play that part. It sounds like it would be difficult and take a lot of time and focus, but really, with practice and experience, it becomes pretty much automatic.

    This way of writing and creating is ~very~ satisfying to me. I admit it does not completely nullify my hope and wish that there be others "out there" who enjoy what I create and let me know it, and that they want to hear more. But long ago, I realized that allowing such extrinsic motivations to rule my energies and my goals is ~not~ the path to deep, fulfilling satisfaction with what I create. As Shayne said, it really needs to be a "labor of love." If it's not, why are you doing it??


  14. Phil, if it's hard to avoid being dragged down by the shortcomings of others, consider the possibility that you are taking it on yourself to "somehow" fix their shortcomings--that "if only" you could just say the right words of inspiration or encouragement or admonition or whatever, they would mend their ways and be more appreciative of your attempts to help them.

    You already recognize that this isn't going to happen with the "usual suspects," right?

    So, I wonder if you aren't having trouble letting go with the notion that somehow you should keep trying to "save" them, and that it's your mission in life to do so. This is how I interpret your saying it's a "valid life choice" to point out mistakes to others, hoping it will help them "cure or correct" those mistakes.

    Well, unless you're firmly oriented toward and trained in one of the "helping" professions, I wonder just how effective you can really be in pursuing this as a "life choice."

    I have a "Rule of Three," which I have seen operate in my own experience, and in the lives of others I've observed at close hand. It's really a humbling realization to reach about just how stubborn people are to changing bad life trajectories.

    Here's the rule: If there's something that a person needs to take to heart and do something about, maybe changing a habit or pattern of behavior, it often takes hearing it from at least three people, before it will sink in and become something worthy of serious consideration.

    So, at best, your telling resistant people the obvious will only be the triggering instance, at the end of a series of other instances. It just as well could have been someone else of a similar outlook who tipped them over toward a healthier pathway. More likely, you will be one of the contributory instances, and will likely not even get the satisfaction of seeing clear-cut effects of your own input.

    If this uncertain manner of payoff for your efforts sounds OK to you, then go for it. But it seems to me that you are experiencing a lot of frustration and disappointment at not being able to be a positive influence in the OL milieu. I would suggest that the active, outspoken posters on OL, the ones with whom you interact, are beyond whatever help you might want to offer them. Hell, they tell you they don't want it!

    However, there may, in fact, ~be~ a non-participating person lurking on OL, perhaps a younger one and/or a female, who will read and take to heart what you have said about "Degenerate Objectivists," and never speak up on the list or write you privately to thank you for it. For what it's worth, I think that such people are your ~real~ audience on OL, the ones who need to hear what you have to say and who will take it to heart. The Silent Non-Alpha Majority, so to speak.

    Heck, Phil, ~I~ appreciate your having said it! It's certainly true, especially as you explain it in your post here, as applying to the wider Rand-influenced milieu, and the countless thousands who once considered themselves Objectivists and later drifted away.

    There ~is~ such a phenomenon as "stagnation," the notion that you've "got it," that you've "thought enough," and that urgings from others to study more and get more clarity are just too much bother, or perhaps even a reproach to your passivity and life-drift. Branden wrote about this in "The Divine Right of Stagnation." I think it was one of his finest essays, and it really highlighted the "James Taggart" mentality, which unfortunately is alive (undead?) and well (festering?) in our movement and the culture at large.

    I'm sure it's an uncomfortable subject for some, a subject they would rather not be brought up. (That may, in part, explain the vehemence of the reaction against your thread in the OL Living Room.) But hey, as I like to say: if the stagnant shoe fits, wear that sucker out! :-)

    As for your feeling of depletion or energy-lessness when you sit down to write, that to me is a sign that you are trying to do something you really don't want to do, that you are perhaps operating from a sense of duty, rather than a sense of joy and desire. Or, needing to reevaluate your goals and get more clarity about what you most want to achieve and experience in life.

    The next time you experience this (or sooner), I would suggest backing away from the keyboard and doing some values- and goals-clarification. (Write down the questions and the answers.)

    What are the ten most important things you want to accomplish with your life? Of those, what is the single most important one? Suppose money were no concern...suppose you were going to die in 6 months...suppose you knew you could not fail--what would you try to achieve?

    Once you know the answer to those questions (they're likely to all be the same or very similar), you then will know exactly what you very likely ~could~ achieve, at least ~in part~, if you just set out to do it, one step at a time.

    In other words, maybe it's time to set aside the things you ~think~ you want to do, or think you ~should~ do, and get in touch with what you really ~want~ to do with what's left of your life. Then figure out the steps to take in order to accomplish it. Then start taking those steps, and don't stop. You can do it.


  15. George, I'm going to be delayed several days in getting my comments on determinism added to this thread.

    I wanted briefly, however, to say that just because Rand coined the term "Objectivism" for her philosophy, that doesn't mean it should not be used by other people who don't fully agree with some of the inferences she drew from her basic views.

    I think that there are enough people who fall into this category, that we can legitimately start subdividing the field of Objectivist into Randian (Closed) Objectivist and Other, which might include Neo-Objectivist, Post-Randian Objectivist, Open Objectivist, etc.

    I personally "deviate" from orthodox Objectivism in two main areas. While I agree that free will exists and that government is a legitimate means of defending individual rights, my definitions of "free will" and "government" are sufficiently different from that standard, ortho-Objectivist definitions that I don't think the Closed Objectivists, or even some of the Open Objectivists, will ever accept my way of thinking. To some, I'm different from an anarchist and/or a determinist in name only!

    Be that as it may, to me the important thing is that, in my pursuit of truth, I have concluded that those (and other) tenets of Objectivist are not correctly formulated and derived from the more basic principles of the philosophy, and that ~my~ version of Objectivism will ~include~ those corrections!

    Without tying myself into too tight of a linguistic knot, I prefer just to think of myself as an Independent Objectivist. Ellen Moore, rest her soul, said I should call myself a Bissellist. I think that appellation is a bit unncessary--not to say, premature. :-)


  16. Anarchism -- in political philosophy, Rand's essential tenet was laissez-faire capitalism. In fuller terms, she argued (as noted above):

    The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.[underscoring added]

    Now, as adamant as Rand was against anarchism, this is a polemical and derivative view, as was her position for atheism and against theism and religion in metaphysics and epistemology. Theism is upheld as an implication of the more basic tenets of objective reality and reason. In political philosophy, her ~basic~ view was that the initiation of force was bad and that individual rights were good and to be defended by an institution of retaliatory force. The current advocacy of minimal government, in Objectivism, is premised on the belief that government ~can~ be limited to protecting rights and using force only in retaliation against those who initiate force.

    The clear implication is that ~if~ it can be shown that government is incapable of so being limited, that non-monopoly, competing agencies could be a moral and practical alternative, certainly an alternative to be carefully explored and not dismissed out of hand. Numerous writers close to the Objectivist tradition have made such arguments. Roy Childs, for one--you, for another. My 1973 essay "Resolving the Government Issue" (Reason) argued along similar lines, claiming though that such agencies actually fit a somewhat less restrictive definition of "government" than Objectivists currently employ. (I suggested that the "geographic area" criterion be taken as including non-contiguous service areas.)

    Kelley clearly views such explorations as part of the broad process of gradually, carefully working out a more exact, rigorous understanding of what the more basic tenets of Objectivism do and do not actually imply about limited government vs. rational anarchism, as an acceptable means of implementing a system of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism. I agree with him--i.e., with his stated views as of 2000. If he has moved on to a firmer conviction that limited government is in and anarchism is out, I'm not aware of it--nor of any recent arguments that achieve more than a rehash of the old straw-man arguments and ad hominems that marred earlier Objectivist attempts to refute anarcho-capitalism.

  17. Now, as to who is Objectivist, or what is Objectivism, George, you wrote:

    If a person holds a significant philosophical position that Rand expressly repudiated, then I don't think that person should use the label "Objectivist." Such positions would include anarchism and determinism.

    To me, this is uncomfortably close to the ARI's "Closed System" model of Objectivism--the notion that Objectivism is only the philosophical views that Rand held, and that no one can add to or even revise them and remain an Objectivist in good standing.

    Instead, I prefer the "Open System" model that Kelley argues for in The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism. In Appendix B, "Better Things to Do" (written in 1994), he said:

    Objectivism is a body of knowledge rather than dogma, and as such is open to revisions in light of new evidence, as long as they are consistent with the central principles of the philosophy, such as the efficacy of reason and the individual's right to live for his own happiness.[p. 101]

    Kelley uses the example of Rand's theory of measurement-omission, which is her original explanation for "how and why human concepts are valid." He said that even if we some day found conclusive evidence against this theory:

    [W]e would not abandon the principle that concepts are objective (which is a central principle of Objectivism). We would look for a better theory to explain that principle.

    I think that this is a very wise approach that can only enhance Objectivism's adherence to reality and its standing as a credible philosophical system. And I think it clearly applies to two of our long-standing concerns, George--anarchism and determinism, both of which you say put us outside the boundaries of acceptability for Objectivism, and which I say do nothing of the kind, if Kelley's approach is the valid one to adopt.

    He indicates that the tipping point between Closed and Open Objectivism was reached sometime during the 1990s, and that by 2000, the quantity and diversity of scholarly engagement with Rand's philosophy finally amounted to "a true marketplace of ideas rather than a sect." He said that not only should not anyone try to use authority to back his arguments for an Objectivist view, but that it was actually no longer possible to do so, "not with any credibility. There are too many scholars working independently now, on too many different issues." As a result, "no one person or group has the standing to determine who counts as an Objectivist and who does not." (p. 101)

    Here is Kelley's short list of "scholars taking sides on a core set of issues that have always been sticking points in Objectivism:"

    How do we reconcile free will with the law of causality? In what sense can truth be contextual and still objective? When we say that life is the basis for the values that Objectivism prescribes, do we mean literal survival or flourishing? Is anarchism or limited government the best system for protecting individual rights?...Chris Sciabarra...placed Rand in a...dialectical tradition and recast the Objectivist system in that light...[p. 101, underscoring added]

    So, let's look more closely, from an Open System perspective, at what Kelley recognizes as being "sticking-points" in Objectivism...

  18. George, just to let everyone else know what I told you in an email earlier today...

    George, you wrote:

    I'm curious why you posted this and other interesting comments on your blog instead of on the main site. I think people tend not to notice blog posts all that much. I know I don't. And I find it more difficult to keep updated on blog comments.

    Some of my blog posts are already edited ~reposts~ from elsewhere on OL. Not all of them, but quite a few. Also, some were comments made on other posts, so they didn't appear by the new title, so this lets me bump them up for the viewer's awareness.

    I'm sorry for any inconvenience, but whatever moderation delays there were were inadvertent and no longer exist. So, post away!


  19. Very good comments and questions. I agree, Xray.

    I have one observation which might help explain the attitudes and behavior you are describing. It's based on Jungian personality type theory, and it relates to how some people regard viewpoints different from their own as something to be examined, probed, pondered, compared to their own view, and then judiciously evaluated and rejected if necessary -- while others quickly size such differing opinions as not-their-own view and treat them as invading viruses which must be defended against and eradicated, lest they infect others. These reflect two different ways of thinking, and they are not exclusive of one another, neither in a movement, nor in an individual, though a given person may clearly prefer one over the other. One is wider and perhaps shallower in what it allows in its mental theater, while the other is deeper and perhaps narrower in what it permits. Maybe it will help to think of them as similar to the difference between a spider web and a ladder, or coherence vs. correspondence.

    Anyway, the people who throw up heavier defenses against others' views also tend to be more dogmatic and close-minded, while those with lighter boundaries tend to be more skeptical and open-minded. Just as an example or two: consider the difference between Ayn Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's attitudes toward evolution and hypnosis.

    Now, as to whether the dogmatic, judgmental attitudes are built into the philosophy or are a byproduct of the structure and/or personalities in the organizations -- I'd say it's some of both. There ~are~ hazards, potential mis-interpretations of Rand's philosophy, particularly her psychological and moral views, and people with a more power-seeking, authoritarian bent -- or with a more insecure, social-metaphysical bent -- are going to behave in a more tribal manner. (I think that whoever made this identification about some Objectivists had his finger on something more fundamentally important than all the half-baked claims that Objectivism is or was a "cult.")

    That's all I have to offer on this for now. But thanks for raising the issue!


  20. [i think I should add, for clarification, these remarks first posted on OL on September 7, 2006]

    I'm not saying that there won't be more Objectivist books written, especially by the ARI faction. I fully expect to see, before long, the book on consciousness that Harry Binswanger is reportedly working on. I also expect to see a book on philosophy of physics by David Harriman (perhaps co-authored by Leonard Peikoff), and a book by Peikoff on his "DIM Hypothesis." (I think that a more important book than any of these would be one by Peikoff compactly presenting his views on induction that he developed through two recent series of lectures. Perhaps this, too, is forthcoming. [Note: Harriman presented Peikoff's model of induction in the context of the history of modern science in his 2010 book The Logical Leap.)

    But even if these books do appear in the next several years, two things bother me about them. One, it has been so damned long for so little to have appeared from the ARI contingent -- and two, most of it will be "chewing," rather than any new, original, substantive philosophizing.

    This latter point is important. Rand enjoined us to avoid the pitfall of "thinking inside the square." (Nowadays, this is called "thinking inside the box.") Yet, what is all this "chewing," if not exactly what she warned against? The timidity at taking risks and exploring new ideas is depressingly apparent.

    The irony is that for all the care that Peikoff et al take for their published work to be consistent with Objectivism, none of their work actually is Objectivism, if the "closed system" criterion is to be taken seriously. Everything written after Rand died is, at most, inspired by or "in the tradition of" Rand's philosophy, as she herself defined it.

    That being so, why not take some chances and go out on a limb? What is the worst that can happen? If you're speaking for yourself, as someone inspired and taught by Rand, even if you're a self-proclaimed Objectivist philosopher, not disagreeing with a single word Rand wrote on philosophy, your own writings are not Objectivism, so who cares if you make a mistake here or there?

    The answer is obvious. It is more important to cling to one's precarious little perch in the ARI hierarchy than to bravely go where no man has gone before. (I came up with that phrase myself. :-)

    Yours truly, Gene Roddenberry

  21. Elsewhere on Objectivist Living, Herr Doktor Robert Campbell spake some very wise words about this issue on September 7, 2006, and I replicate them here without modification:

    [Robert Campbell]Roger,

    In a post that may have been lost when the site was hacked, I quoted a wise colleague in psychology, who says, "You publish, and you take your lumps."

    When you put your views in print, you inevitably run the risk that other smart people will notice how they have implications that you were unaware of. Perhaps implications that you really didn't intend, or that weaken your case. But if you don't publish, what are your chances of noticing all such implications all by yourself?

    I've made one decision recently.

    For years, I made excuses for Leonard Peikoff. Someone would criticize The Ominous Parallels, or OPAR, and I'd say, "His lectures on Issue X are so much better." I even did this after becoming active in IOS. When I read OPAR, in 1999, I made lots of critical notes in the margins, but decided not to write any extended analysis of it, because... his lectures were so much better.

    Well, Dr. Peikoff's lectures often are better. Even the ARIans tacitly concede this, when they extol Understanding Objectivism as the be-all and the end-all.

    But TOP and OPAR are what he chose to publish. They're what he thinks he adequately thought through.

    All Peikoff scholarship and Peikoff criticism should proceed on the same assumption. If he presents a weak case in OPAR, or goes over the top, we all need to quit excusing it on the grounds that he did a better job elsewhere. Our readership has little or no access to elsewhere, and Dr. Peikoff apparently isn't sufficiently confident in the stuff he did there to afford them access to it.

    Amen to that, and kudos to Dr. Campbell for all the excellent archaelogical sifting he has done in various versions of Peikoff's writings and speakings on the topic of "The Peikovian Doctrine of Arbitrary Assertion." See his excellent essay of that title in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Volume 10, No. 1 (Fall 2008).


  22. Barbara Branden, who always thinks carefully and deeply about issues and whose remarks are always thoughtful, pointed out the difficulty of identifying exactly “what Rand believed” (or did not believe) “to be logically entailed by her outline of essentials.” Barbara opined that Rand “would certainly not agree that the denial of volition is allowable; after all, she wrote that ‘Volition is an axiom of consciousness’ – and, clearly, she meant volition as she had explained it.”

    While I’m not sure exactly where Rand said what Barbara quoted her as saying, I do know that she said man's consciousness is volitional in Galt's Speech, "The Objectivist Ethics," etc. I also know that Peikoff in OPAR says in one place that volition is a corollary of consciousness, but in another place that it is an axiom. It's not clear whether he's really talking about axioms (propositions) or axiomatic concepts, but he's clearly confused. (He makes the same error in re causality and validity of the senses, calling them both axioms and corollaries. As he defines "axiom" and "corollary," they cannot be both. Hence, Peikoff has offered up some really confusing verbiage for folks to puzzle over.

    I do know this: insofar as it exists, volition is an attribute of human consciousness. We can state this as a proposition, but that does not make it an axiom, as far as I can tell.

    Metaphysics identifies what is true of all existence, of Being qua Being, as Aristotle put it. And as Peikoff pointed out in OPAR, existence and identity are everywhere, but consciousness is only here and there. So, neither the fact that man is conscious nor the fact that man has volition can be axioms of metaphysics.

    However, insofar as it is unique and essential to human consciousness and the gaining of knowledge, it is a starting point, and thus an axiom, of epistemology. I believe Ron Merrill said this in his Objectivity essay on axioms. He also said that consciousness (i.e., that man is conscious) is an axiom of epistemology, and he included in this that the senses are valid (which I think should be a separate axiom of epistemology).

    So, what I want to acknowledge is this: without man's being conscious, there is no knowledge; without man's basic form of awareness, perception, being valid, there is no knowledge; and without the power to regulate his consciousness and check for errors in his conclusion, there is no knowledge. The last of these is my understanding of what volition is; if we want to engage our minds and check our thoughts for error, we are free to do so.

    Does that qualify me as an advocate of volition? Even though I also hold that we must (i.e., are determined to) do what we most want to do -- which, on a given occasion, may in fact not be to engage our minds and correct errors, etc.? This is what I get from reading John Locke, who argued that it is absurd to say the will is free, but that human beings are free.

    It may just be that I will have to toss the term "Lockean Objectivist" into the ring, as a counter-weight to "Randian Objectivist." His explanation of human freedom to act and think being conditional makes more sense to me than anything I have read by Peikoff or Binswanger or Kelley or NB. And these are bright guys, so it's not like they haven't tried!

    Now, I'm not saying Locke agrees with Rand on everything other than free will. Just that several of his ideas make more sense to me than what Rand et al have said, and that his view of freedom to act and think is one of them. And it is consistent with the rest of her philosophy.

    An Open System Objectivism would at least entertain these various challenges from Locke, without writing them off as non-Objectivist. Yet, all I hear (if anything) from the main Objectivists about Locke is either that he is so eclectic that he's not worth considering, or they misinterpret him as being a proto-Randian in re volition. He is neither!

    Either Rand's say-so forever forecloses what is Objectivist, or there has to be some wiggle room for considering that some of the corollary or derivative ideas could be understood in a way that makes more sense and still agrees with our experience.

    Here's a comparison that might be helpful. When I first read Mortimer Adler's works, I viewed him as, like Rand, an Aristotelian who was saying what Aristotle said better and clearer than Aristotle, and correcting his mistakes. They both agreed with Aristotle's foundational ideas, including his view of an independent reality, reason for knowing it, etc., but at certain points they diverged from his line of reasoning.

    Does that make Rand and Adler not Aristotelians? Of course not. If he were alive, they would tell him, "I agree with your starting points, your basic premises, so I'm in your camp, but I disagree with this argument and the things that follow from it, so I'm suggesting this correction in your philosophy." If Aristotle didn't see their point, they would argue and probably be kicked out of his school of philosophy over it, even while protesting that they were only trying to make his system of thought more consistent and true to reality.

    But since Aristotle's dead, what happens if various of his followers disagree about an implication from his foundations that he did not satisfactorily address himself?

    Does one group get to define the other group out of the school of philosophy? That's what ARI and their mentality want to do in re Objectivism.

    Or do they schism into rival sub-schools of Aristotelianism? That's what TOC has done in re Objectivism.

    Since I don't have a "gang," and I don't have a major reputation, what exactly am I? Do I have to start my own obscure little cult? (a la Bissellianism?) Can I hyphenate my philosophical allegiance? (a la Lockean-Objectivist?)

    I'm not asking permission, because I'll do what I think is best. But I'd like some clarification from anyone who can take a fresh, non-dogmatic, non-authoritarian look at all this.


    P.S. -- It may amuse or interest readers to know that some people are now referring to me as a "confused volitionist," since I argue that humans are governed by final causation and teleological determinism, and are conditionally free (to act and think) if that's what they most want to do. Would that make me a confused Objectivist? I know that there ~are~ such things, because I've read their writings and heard them speak! :-)

  23. Hi, Isola!

    One more thing I can contribute is this: Rand argues that we have rights because they are survival requirements of rational beings in a social context--which I take to mean: in a relationship with any other human being who can do them harm. Certainly, babies in utero are already in a social context.

    The only question, then, is: are they, or at what point are they, ~rational beings~?

    In OPAR, Leonard Peikoff says that the elements of the rational faculty include not only logic and concept-formation, but also perception. Babies, prior to their forming concepts or using logic, are still recognized as having rights. (Rarely will an Objectivist or Libertarian challenge this, and none of them convincingly.) This is presumably because they have ~begun~ to exercise their rational faculty, specifically by perceiving, the results of which are in due course integrated into concepts and used as tools of survival.

    Now, we have known for over 30 years, via EEG evidence, that 3rd trimester fetuses are perceptual beings, so they are presumably of the same status as newborn babies-- especially since a very brief operation can if needed make them not just separable, but separate, ~individual~, rational beings. This is why I am opposed to late-term abortion (as a violation of the right to life of the viable, perceiving fetus), when it is not necessary to protect the mother's life.

    This decision is best left in the hands of the mother and her doctor, but it is also appropriate to legal review, if there is any question of wrong-doing (false claims of medical necessity) on their part.


  24. Bal, I sympathize with your ideal of a win-win-win-win-win philosophy. However...

    Reciprocity or "pay it forward" has definite limits. I have heard of numerous instances of fiscal conservatives agreeing to tax increases as a quid pro quo to spending cuts. Surprise! The liberals got their tax increases, which they promptly used for higher spending. The spending cuts, which were really cuts in ~increases~ in spending, never happened.

    So much for "benevolence" in politics. Same for "civility."