Guyau

Ayn Rand Explained

Recommended Posts

You have not been following my many and various discussions here on OL of the triune brain. Nor of my interest in persuasion.

No, I haven't. Nonetheless, if you know the theory of the triune brain, I assume you meant the limbic system (paleomammalian brain) not reptilian brain. Yes?

Ellen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

Limbic system works for me for nitpicking outside the context I was talking about, but "reptilian brain" has penetrated into the marketing and propaganda culture as a common metaphor. It basically means the limbic system and the brain stem combined--and a little bit more (and maybe even a little more than that). You have to admit, the image comes with some very interesting subconscious whispers that can include everything from the fight-flight response to vulnerability to covert hypnotic commands.

Here are a couple of visuals for you from a marketing book, The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. It gives the approach far better than I can. (This is a wonderful book, btw. Outside of marketing, it is an excellent primer in how to think visually.) Roam was discussing how a guy, Jeff Hawkins, presents his ideas to different audiences. Basically Hawkins has a cloud-based company Numenta that mimics the neocortex in its applications. When he talks to the public at large to explain it, here is how he does it:

Back-napkin1.jpg

When he believes he is going to have trouble with experts who say he doesn't know what he is talking about and is oversimplifying, and they load on the jargon, etc., he shows them this one first by way of introduction and talks it up a little in brainiac-speak:

Back-napkin2.jpg

He usually shows both, but merely exchanges the order depending on whether he is addressing the public or predominantly experts. Here's a quote (p. 114):

The most interesting part of this whole story is that by the time his presentation is over, Jeff has shown both audiences--experts and newbies--both pictures. For the lay audience, seeing the wildly complex drawing after they understand the basics of how the brain works is amazing. And the neurobiologists and PhD's get really excited by Jeff's simple drawing because once they believe he knows what he is talking about, they find the drawing refreshing.

There is a small difference between Hawkins's use of reptilian brain metaphor and the one new hot-shot marketers like, say, Oren Klaff do, since Hawkins was talking more along the lines of sensory processing (albeit not totally). But all users of this metaphor agree on its buzz-whirr nature.

(btw - Klaff gets cute because he calls it the crocodile or "croc" brain. :smile: )

I'm elaborating on this right now because I have taken a long time to decide on a new career and this is a great example of it. I have chosen this with care and a butt-load of study (but it only feels like I have sniffed the aroma, much less plucked a petal). Pretentiously, you can call it the celebrity expert or guru field (but not in the sense of "Objectivist guru wannabe" I often bash).

I think of it as more of a filter through today's information overload and model-explainer--usually to address some painful problem or other of a specific audience and provide an actionable solution.

In other words, a "new intellectual" in the sense Ayn Rand wrote about, but without the emphasis on Objectivism. (Interestingly, I just had that epiphany as I was writing this. I literally had not tied it to Rand's term before in my mind.)

A true celebrity expert takes very complex ideas--ones he actually understands and is not just faking it, simplifies them in big-picture chunks, ties them to colorful metaphors, projects different easily-understood scenarios, sets up some attractive outcomes and gives his audience a simple step-by-step plan for working with this material to get repeatable results.

In this sense, when I spoke of scarcity earlier, I was wandering about in this pasture, not simply showing off knowledge of Cialdini (although his work is good to know). To me, I was merely pointing out how one item in covert persuasion stuff works in a rather dramatic form--for you, at least, since it was based on your description of your own behavior.

I might as well fess up, though. I pushed the simplifying thing beyond what a solution-provider should do and took it into forum banter. (I know, I know, I'm working it. Someday I'll get it right and focus correctly, though.)

You see, I know how much you like--scratch that, need--to be right and appear in control, so maybe I was a little wicked in doing it the way I did. :smile:

incidentally, your reaction--this doesn't work with me most of the time (while feeling a slight sting)--is a great example of a very common cognitive bias.

Buzz-whirr...

:smile:

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael,

You and your preacher's podium -- and love of psychological diagnosing.  You didn't even bother to note what was going on with my promptly clicking the button instead of tarrying to read the blurb first as I would have done usually.  I didn't buy the book because of the hurry sign, as you seem to think.  I went to the page intending to buy the book.

About the term "reptilian brain," it occured to me yesterday that probably I was mistaken in assuming that you're familiar with MacLean's triune-brain theory and that you were referencing specifically that theory with the term.  I gather from your description in the above post that you came across the term in a marketing context and are using it merely to mean anything in the human brain which is sub-cortical.

Here's a webpage which provides a synopsis of MacLean's theory, including a graphic illustration of the hypothesized three brains.

---

On-topic comment:  Larry and I talked with Marcia Enright by phone yesterday.  Among the issues discussed was the Amazon blurb for her book.  She's aware that the blurb could use improving, and that the date it gives for the Rand/Branden(s) break is off by a year.  She says that Amazon just picked up from advertising material for Merrill's book, and that she's trying to get a different blurb substituted for the current one.

Ellen

EDIT: Oops, I misspelled the name. MacLean, not MacLaren.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

I was and am familiar with MacLean. I read him a couple of years ago when I started getting deeply into this stuff. Since he's more of a pioneer, I don't find much value in the sundry efforts to debunk him. When you brought him up, it came off to me like someone hearing someone else using the term "natural selection" and saying, "Hey, there's a guy named Darwin you might be interested in, here's a link..." So I didn't bother commenting.

But I ain't preachin'.

I just get amused at your snobbish presumptions (like you did again just now, but usually expressed in phrases like, "What you really mean is xxxx," followed by name-dropping). So I have a little fun with them.

Especially seeing as how you generally get flustered and argue a minor point to death when the only subtext I can discern is control of the conversation and being right on some nitpick. Both, by the way, are strong constants I have observed in your posting behavior over the years. And you jabber on and on and on gnawing this stuff like a dog with a bone until you wear your imagined opponent down out of sheer weariness.

It's your reptilian brain raising it's ugly noodle, but on social level concerns (i.e., status), and totally hijacking your rather attractive frontal neocortex.

Hey, I'm cool with that. I realize it's bigger than you.

:smile:

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The books belatedly mentioned by the thread-deleting Mr. Boydstun include a variety of contributions by non-ARIans.

Those he initially mentioned did not.

Mr. Boydstun knows all of this material, so there is no reason to suppose his omissions were inadvertent.

And he is still leaving off the Ashgate volume on Atlas Shrugged,

This wouldn't be on account of the identity of one of the chapter authors, would it?

Dr. Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's get to the deeper issue.

The reason I mentioned Mr. Boydstun at all, on a thread pertaining to Ronald Merrill and Adam Reed, is the following.

What do Mr. Boydstun and Dr. Reed have in common?

Both are proponents of ideas and interpretations at variance with latter-day Peikovian Objectivism.

Both have published in outlets—the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Objectivity—that are righteously shunned by the faithful Peikovians at the Ayn Rand Institute.

No article by either will ever be published in an outlet controlled by ARIans, at least not while Leonard Peikoff is still breathing.

No article by either will ever be cited by an ARIan author, not while Leonard Peikoff is still breathing. (Adam Reed and Stephen Boydstun are as surely comprehended in the house noncitation policy as Nathaniel Branden, David Kelley, Chris Sciabarra, or Robert Hessen.)

Yet both offer disdain and condemnation to those who agree that their work is worthy of publication.

And both profess unbounded admiration for those who despise them.

What the roots might be of such spiritual masochism, I don't pretend to know.

But I have no doubt that it is a sickness.

A sickness rarely encountered outside of Rand-land.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dennis,

I gather that some of Ron’s more extravagant speculations have been omitted from the revised version. I have finally, after 21 years, ordered Ron’s original The Ideas of Ayn Rand, as I have become fascinated with knowing exactly Marsha’s revisions. In stretches of substantial alterations, she notifies the reader by referring to Merrill in the third person and relating what he had said on the issue. This is followed by her own alternate view, which is prefaced with a first-person “I think” or the like.

. . .

I have received Ron’s Ideas now. There is much expansion by Marsha in Explained, beyond the three new chapters. She left Ron’s section “The Nietzschean Vision” as he had it, with only minor stylistic changes of words not affecting meaning. There is no attempt to incorporate subsequent scholarship on relationships between Rand and Nietzsche. Comparison of Ron's understanding of those relationships with expanded scholarship on them subsequent to Ron's treatment is left to us.

That section is in Chapter 3 of Ideas, which is Chapter 4 of Explained. Later in that chapter, Ron wrote “Rand’s predilection for paradox and her pleasure in surprising and shocking the reader probably owed much to the influence of O. Henry and Oscar Wilde.” That statement, its paragraph, and its section remain in Explained. But the element of paradox and six others (mostly additional to those remarked by Ron) in Rand’s literature receive fresh and delightful notice and discussion from Marsha. Ayn Rand Explained is looking very worthwhile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh yes, in #20 I neglected to mention Ashgate (13).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having received the book from UPS yesterday, I note that it is part of an "Explained" series that Open Court is offering. (Open Court having done pretty well with its Harry Potter and Philosophy series, and other such.)

Well, an Ayn Rand Explained would be a most useful thing. But why not commission a new book?

Marsha Enright could easily have written one.

I remain highly skeptical about the pont retreading Ronald Merrill's work.

Let him speak for himself. Let other authors speak for themselves.

The whole project reminds me uncomfortably of Rand getting Mayhewized, Boeckmannized, or Harrimanized—with the important difference that Merrill's book was published and can still be found.

I may like it better when I've read it, so more later.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From two positive remarks added yesterday at Amazon for Ayn Rand Explained:

Novelist and Philosopher

“Ultimately, any explanation of Ayn Rand must focus on the power of ideas.” – JH

Great for the Novice and the Advanced Scholar “I get approached often by people who have heard about Atlas Shrugged but for whatever reason haven't picked it up. I know that once I put this in their hands, they are going to be hooked.” – D

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ron’s treatment of the relationships between Nietzsche and Rand is poor. I see, now that I’m finally reading his book, he had little knowledge of Nietzsche, and some of his representations of Nietzsche are erroneous. Thence, he sees only a little of the Nietzsche that is transmuted in Rand and misunderstands some of what he see. As popular press, not scholarly, Ideas (likewise Explained) does help to counter the picture of Rand as largely Nietzschean. For the education of Rand’s close readers—usually having read little, if any, Nietzsche (and anyway usually much less than Rand read of him)—the misguidance is regrettable.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

To my 2010 list of Rand-Nietzsche scholarship blocked in #23, scholarship beyond my own at OL, we could now add the chapter “Egoism and Virtue in Nietzsche and Rand” in Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue (2011). The authors in that chapter are Christine Swanton and Darryl Wright.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've learned of another book that should be added to the list begun in #20. It is not from an independent publishing house, but it looks to be essays I'm sure would be of high quality.

The Literary Art of Ayn Rand (14)

William Thomas, editor (2005)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In following up on the middle section of #34, I looked into Adam Reed's essay on Merrill and Rand-Nietsche in JARS (2009). There was no further information there about the level of Ron's study of Nietzsche. We have only what Ron said about his Nietzsche sources in Ideas itself. Those sources are thin, and the Mencken source is not good.

One small sidebar about Adam's paper: He mentions that Ron learned the principle of the Primacy of Existence from the Nathaniel Branden's introductory course on Objectivism in the 1960's. The idea is in Galt's speech, to be sure, but the name "primacy of existence" is not. Has anyone come across it in Vision? It is not indexed there. So far as I know, Rand introduced the phrase in her 1973 essay "The Metaphysical versus the Manmade," which was well after her split with Branden.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...]

In following up on the middle section of #34, I looked into Adam Reed's essay on Merrill and Rand-Nietsche in JARS (2009). There was no further information there about the level of Ron's study of Nietzsche. We have only what Ron said about his Nietzsche sources in Ideas itself. Those sources are thin, and the Mencken source is not good.

One small sidebar about Adam's paper: He mentions that Ron learned the principle of the Primacy of Existence from the Nathaniel Branden's introductory course on Objectivism in the 1960's. The idea is in Galt's speech, to be sure, but the name "primacy of existence" is not. Has anyone come across it in Vision? It is not indexed there. So far as I know, Rand introduced the phrase in her 1973 essay "The Metaphysical versus the Manmade," which was well after her split with Branden.

No, Nathaniel does not use the term "Primacy of Existence" in the lectures that were transcribed for The Vision of Ayn Rand. It's certainly possible that he used the term in an earlier form of the lectures, though I would be inclined to doubt it.

However, it is a certainty that the first public Objectivist use of the term was not in Rand's 1973 essay, "The Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made," but from well before the 1968 Rand-Branden Split. It's possible that Rand was the primary source of the term, but it was first used not in print, but in the first lecture of Leonard's course, "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge." I have two sets of lecture notes from that course, both of which include multiple instances of the term.

As to the date of the term's first appearance in Leonard's lectures, I'm not sure. It could have been as early as 1965 and as late as 1966. He first gave the lectures at the University of Denver in the Fall of 1965, and then in over 25 cities via tape transcription under the aupices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute from 1966 to 1968.

I would not be at all surprised to find that Rand had introduced the term within the Circle, and that both Nathaniel and Leonard had used it in either lectures or question-answer sessions during the mid-1960s.

But what is clear is that at least Leonard was publicly using the term "Primacy of Existence" at about the same time that he and the others, including Rand, were phasing out their use of the term "objective reality." They were pushing the trichotomy sense of "objective," in the sense of "adhering to reality," which was being contrasted with the term "intrinsic," which was replacing the use of "objective" in the sense of "independent of consciousness."

The terminology shifts were a bit dizzying, but Leonard put the official stamp on "metaphysically objective" being a secondary, but harmless usage in his 1976 lectures, and said that the best way of expressing the point was "Primacy of Existence." So be it. I like the trichotomy usages of the terms, anyway. They're truer to the original way "objective" was used in the Middle Ages, rather than the way the Kantians and Austrian economists used it.

To the Austrians, "objective value" was what Rand called "intrinsic," and "subjective value" was what she called "objective." She had to stand on her head in "What is Capitalism" to coin two new variants, "philosophically objective" and "socially objective," the latter being her stand-in for the Austrians' "subjective value." Rand most indignantly denied that valuing things like Mickey Spillane novels over Victor Hugo novels, or Elvis Presley music over Rachmaninoff music was subjective!

REB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Other studies of Nietzsche and Rand, additional to the present thread, are these:

[...]

A Symposium on Friedrich Nietzsche & Ayn Rand (2010)

– Stephen Hicks, Lester Hunt, Adam Reed (& Ronald Merrill), Peter Saint-Andre, and Robert Powell

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 10(2), Spring 2009

A minor correction: the complete list of authors for this symposium should read:

-- Stephen Hicks, Lester Hunt, Adam Reed (& Ronald Merrill), Peter Saint-Andre, Roger Bissell, and Robert Powell.

Also, some good news: the entire issue is available in free downloadable PDF format at:

http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/v10_n2/10_2toc.asp

My own essay, "Will the Real Apollo Please Stand Up? Rand, Nietzsche, and the Reason-Emotion Dichotomy," is located here:

http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/archives/jars10-2/jars10_2rbissell.pdf

Cheers!

REB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the hazards Nathaniel Branden had attended to in “The Benefits and Hazards of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy” is perhaps more a psychological hazard than a philosophical one: repression.* His lectures The Basic Principles of Objectivism, as transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand, contain much more psychology than does Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. As readers here know, Branden published quite a bit of psychology in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. In recent years, he has allowed that the psychology he propounded then as well as his later corrections and extensions to it are not part of the philosophy of Objectivism, and he has acknowledged that Peikoff’s OPAR is an accurate representation of Rand’s philosophy.

The divide between philosophical psychology (as my Thomist first philosophy professor called it) and what we call cognitive psychology* or therapeutic psychology* is not sharp. For example, Rand would not have gotten far in posing her view of the nature and role of reason in human life without saying things about the nature of perception and emotions and their relations with reason. Theory of perception and emotions at some level of outline has to be part of a philosophy such as hers.

Moreover, emotional dynamics figure into film, such as Love Letters,* and novels, such as Fountainhead and Atlas. It is in connection with Rand’s literature that Branden sees a hazard in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand. He writes:

If, in page after page of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, you show someone being heroic by ruthlessly setting feelings aside, and if you show someone being rotten and depraved by, in effect, diving headlong into his feelings and emotions, and if that is one of your dominant methods of characterization, repeated again and again, then it doesn't matter what you profess, in abstract philosophy, about the relationship of reason and emotion. You have taught people: repress, repress, repress.

No such lesson took on me as a young person reading those books. In Fountainhead again and again Roark is shown to be the character not evasive about himself, the character most not evasive about himself. In Atlas Dagny, Rearden, and Galt are shown as kin of Roark in that respect. Rand was no Doris Lessing when it came to space devoted to self-reflection in characters. Lessing is no Rand when it comes to space devoted to the glory of sustained productive achievement. The two authors had different aspects of human existence, both of them important, that they especially wanted to embroidery.

The view that Rand’s protagonists are emotionally and introspectively inept has become a cliché. It was a pleasant surprise to find that in Ayn Rand Explained that cliché is challenged. This work counters that image, specifically with respect to Branden’s contentions about emotions and repression as portrayed in Atlas (pp. 120–25 in Explained; 79–84 in Ideas).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As readers here know, Branden published quite a bit of psychology in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. In recent years, he has allowed that the psychology he propounded then as well as his later corrections and extensions to it are not part of the philosophy of Objectivism, and he has acknowledged that Peikoff’s OPAR is an accurate representation of Rand’s philosophy.

Stephen,

As you stated, I know NB published a lot on psychology. However, I am not aware of anything he said in public about OPAR (but then again, I don't know everything he has said in public). Do you have a quote or source for that?

Nor am I aware of any place where he removed his old published works on psychology, say those in The Objectivist and The Objectivist Newsletter, from the Objectivist canon. From what I know, Rand declared that stuff to be explicitly part of Objectivism and never changed her mind. This is why I find your claim that NB did remove it... new.. for lack of a better word. Once again, do you have a quote or source?

I'm truly curious.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

However, I am not aware of anything he said in public about OPAR (but then again, I don't know everything he has said in public). Do you have a quote or source for that?

Q: What do you think of Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand?

Branden: That book wouldn't influence anyone who was not already a believer. There is no attempt to build a bridge from other perspectives to Rand's. Very disappointing. Here is the first major non-fiction work to introduce Objectivism to the world -- and it's stilted, pedantic, totally non-inspirational. No fire and no sense of joy. I had hoped for more from Leonard.

Observe that in the preface he gratuitously insults the academic community, yet he wants that community's support, or else why would the book be advertised in academic journals? So, like a person with an inferiority complex, he beats the academics to the punch -- rejecting them before they can reject him. The book that this one started out to be still needs to be written.

This is all that I'm aware of. Unless Stephen's found something else, I think it's reading into it too much to say that he's given OPAR a 'clean bill of health' as a representation of Objectivism. Besides, I don't think that's something he'd be willing to do, no matter who the author is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Micheal and Dennis,

Branden’s statement about OPAR is right off the bat in the interview

. His ideas about psychology and its relation to Objectivist philosophy are stated on page 2 here.

One of the hazards Nathaniel Branden had attended to in “The Benefits and Hazards of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy” is perhaps more a psychological hazard than a philosophical one: repression.* His lectures The Basic Principles of Objectivism, as transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand, contain much more psychology than does Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. As readers here know, Branden published quite a bit of psychology in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. In recent years, he has allowed that the psychology he propounded then as well as his later corrections and extensions to it are not part of the philosophy of Objectivism, and he has acknowledged that Peikoff’s OPAR is an accurate representation of Rand’s philosophy.

The divide between philosophical psychology (as my Thomist first philosophy professor called it) and what we call cognitive psychology* or therapeutic psychology* is not sharp. For example, Rand would not have gotten far in posing her view of the nature and role of reason in human life without saying things about the nature of perception and emotions and their relations with reason. Theory of perception and emotions at some level of outline has to be part of a philosophy such as hers.

Moreover, emotional dynamics figure into film, such as Love Letters,* and novels, such as Fountainhead and Atlas. It is in connection with Rand’s literature that Branden sees a hazard in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand. He writes:

If, in page after page of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, you show someone being heroic by ruthlessly setting feelings aside, and if you show someone being rotten and depraved by, in effect, diving headlong into his feelings and emotions, and if that is one of your dominant methods of characterization, repeated again and again, then it doesn't matter what you profess, in abstract philosophy, about the relationship of reason and emotion. You have taught people: repress, repress, repress.

No such lesson took on me as a young person reading those books. In Fountainhead again and again Roark is shown to be the character not evasive about himself, the character most not evasive about himself. In Atlas Dagny, Rearden, and Galt are shown as kin of Roark in that respect. Rand was no Doris Lessing when it came to space devoted to self-reflection in characters. Lessing is no Rand when it comes to space devoted to the glory of sustained productive achievement. The two authors had different aspects of human existence, both of them important, that they especially wanted to embroidery.

The view that Rand’s protagonists are emotionally and introspectively inept has become a cliché. It was a pleasant surprise to find that in Ayn Rand Explained that cliché is challenged. This work counters that image, specifically with respect to Branden’s contentions about emotions and repression as portrayed in Atlas (pp. 120–25 in Explained; 79–84 in Ideas).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is some earlier sampling from the methodical mind of Adam Victor Reed.

Peter Taylor

From: Adam Reed <adamreed@shell.monmouth.com>

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: OWL: Morality and knowledge

Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 11:44:46 -0400

Michael Miller (6/28) asked "those who have argued that erroneous convictions are tantamount to murder" to "please consider that an error in retaliatory force is not the moral equivalent of initiated force."

Really? Consider the similarities. The extra-legal murderer evades one fact of reality: that men have rights. The judge who imposes the death penalty without truly conclusive evidence evades two_ facts of reality: the difference between objective reality and subjective belief, and the irreparability of his "mistaken" action. Moreover, the latter evasion is usually more explicit. In some cases, prosecutors were allowed to prevent the analysis of DNA evidence for years; by judges who considered "finality" - that is, the primacy of a jury's subjective judgment over the actual facts of reality - a sufficient reason to kill an actually innocent man. Which is the greater evasion? The greater evil?

Adam Reed

Context matters. There is seldom only one cause for *anything*.

From: Adam Victor Reed areed2@calstatela.edu

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: OWL: Grounding of Rights

Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 19:17:10 -0800

I have been too busy to butt into the "Inheritance" and "Animal Rights" discussions recently, but the density of ungrounded abstractions in both discussions is such that a reminder, of how rights are grounded in reality, is something I can no longer resist posting.

The Objectivist argument for rights in the social context runs like this:

1. There are conditions - "rights" in the individual context – that are indispensable for me to live a life appropriate to a human being. Since I intend to live a life appropriate to a human being, I will not act in any way that would deprive me of those rights.

2. I can derive many worthwhile benefits from cooperation and trade with other rational beings. Given (1), however, this applies only to cooperation and trade with those who would not violate my rights.

3. Since all my potential partners in cooperation and trade are rational beings like myself, they will trade and cooperate with me only if I respect their rights. Therefore, in order to enjoy the benefits of cooperation and trade, I must respect the individual rights of other men - "rights" in the social context.

Note that the Objectivist grounding of rights only applies in contexts in which cooperation and trade are possible, beneficial, and compatible with the preservation of my own life and attainment of my own happiness. Fortunately, exceptions are rare - as Ayn Rand said, "men do not live in lifeboats."

Let us see how this applies to the two discussions.

1. Inheritance. In a free society, a testament would be a contract between me and a persons or persons - the executor(s) of my estate - who have been paid for their services in assuring that my property is distributed or administered according to my will. It would be a violation of my rights if the conditions under which the executor was paid by me are not met, and a violation of the rights of the executor - who is still alive - if she were forcibly prevented from fulfilling her part of the contract. There is absolutely no way, given the Objectivist grounding of rights, to justify taxation of estates, or of limiting wills (except the obvious requirement not to violate the rights of other persons in administering them.)

2. Animals. Animals are not rational beings capable of cooperation and trade with rational persons; it is not possible for them to meet the requirements for claiming rights in a social context. Although the same is true for human infants who are not yet capable of cooperation and trade, so that infants cannot be said to have rights of their own, infants nevertheless are a supremely important project for their parents. Since parents are ready to die, if necessary, in the defense of their children, a reasonable penalty for killing a pre-rational child (at least without the deliberate consent of both of the child's parents) would be the same as for killing its parent(s). But this context clearly does not apply to any animal: I love my cat, but while I would risk death to defend my child, no rational person would risk his life for his cat.

-- Adam Reed

areed2@calstatela.edu

Context matters. Seldom does *anything* have only one cause.

From: Adam Victor Reed areed2@calstatela.edu

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: OWL: Falsifiability

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2004 23:18:53 -0700

Peter Reidy writes that "Falsifiability was never an important part of Objectivism. Historically the Rand circle seems to have been of two minds about it. When Peikoff gave his epistemology course at NBI, he denounced falisfiability as the devil's work; almost simultaneously, The Objectivist published an article by Robert Efron in which he blithely took the notion for granted and invoked it as part of his case against psychological materialism." (Minor technical correction: Efron was arguing against reductionism, NOT "materialism.")

No two minds about it (although someone new to Objectivism, and still in the habit of what Rand would call "intrinsicism," was indeed likely to see it that way.) The fact that "falsifiability" as a _general_ criterion for meaningfullness of propositions is a very bad idea, rooted in some of the worst ideas ever, does not mean that falsifiability is not an _excellent_ criterion in assessing the meaningfullness of propositions in specific contexts, such as the philosophical foundations of experimental psychology that Efron was writing about. I discussed the issue with Efron at that time. Any errors of recollection are my own.

Essentially, Objectivism recognizes several categories of propositions that are known to be both meaningful and true:

1. Propositions that are demonstrably axiomatic.

2. Propositions whose negation has been observably disconfirmed.

3. Propositions derived by valid logic from categories (1) and (2).

It is not possible to postulate a coherent disconfirmation of any proposition in the above 3 categories. Popperians claim that propositions in categories (2) and (3) are still falsifiable (and only then meaningful) because one could allegedly "imagine" the relevant experiments to have turned out differently than they did. But once the general facts of reality responsible for the actual observations are understood, this would amount to "imagining" an incoherent universe.

However, the Objectivist criterion of meaningfulness is that a proposition be, in reality and knowably, either true or false, even if for the moment we don't know which. Therefore for a proposition whose truth (or falsehood) is not yet known, meaningfulness requires that there exist a criterion for eventually learning either that this proposition is true, and its negation false, or that it is false (and its negation true.) Thus (and only) for propositions that one does not already know to be actually true or actually false, the Objectivist criterion of meaningfullness does correspond to Popperian falsifiability. This is the criterion that Efron was using.

John Enright <jenright@ameritech.net> wrote,

>I can imagine a thought experiment for this. It requires developing a Star-Trek style "replicator" and applying it to humans under highly controlled conditions. So, you replicate me, down to the exact spin, etc., of every sub-atomic particle. You then put both of me in a room of identical physical conditions, and you start giving me choices via computer. If both of me make the same choices every time, then free will is in trouble. If the two of me make different choices at times, then determinism is in trouble.

The above does not meet the coherence requirement of a valid thought-experiment. If two entities had exactly the same attributes, that is the same identity, they would be the SAME entity. In objective metaphysics, this is a direct corollary of the fact that existence IS identity. Physicists who are ignorant of objective metaphysics

consider this a law of physics, the "Pauli exclusion principle." The problem with this "thought-experiment" isn't just that we don't have the technology to carry it out; it is that the "thought-experiment" is itself incoherent. And so is any argument that includes it.

Adam Reed

areed2@calstatela.edu

From: Adam Victor Reed areed2@calstatela.edu

To: Objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: [ddfr@best.com: Re: OWL: David Friedman's critique of Ayn Rand]

Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 17:40:20 -0800

David Friedman has posted to this list some very long articles arguing, as he has argued before in his book, that (1) retaliatory force is an individual right, regardless of its social context, and morality requires that the individual remain free to delegate this right to whomever he might choose; and (2) a society in which this right is delegated by each individual to one of several competing "defense agencies" would be more conducive to the enjoyment of individual rights than one in which, as Ayn Rand advocated, retaliatory force is placed under the control of a single, uniformly enforced system of evolving but increasingly objective law ("the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control", _Capitalism, The

Unknown Ideal_, p. 19.)

Political theory is David's full-time occupation. For me, it is an occasional distraction from more interesting work on computer information systems, so I an not going to respond to each of the arguments Friedman has presented in his book or on this list. When developing my own perspective on political theory I discussed the issue at length with Roy Childs (who changed his mind after our discussions) and Murray Rothbard. I've read Friedman's book, and the evolution of my views on this issue owes a great debt to his insights. At some point, I may take the time to write at greater length about this issue, although right now other matters - like developing a way to mount SMB shares on Unix systems that don't have SMB support in the kernel - interest me a great deal more than political theory.

>From an Objectivist perspective, the main objection to (1) above is grounded in the contextuality of rights, while (2) suffers from a failure to apply Rand's insight that objective knowledge of reality is necessarily derived from measurements, which are omitted during concept formation, but remain indispensable in the application of abstract knowledge to reality. The latter problem is unexpectedly pervasive among libertarians and Objectivists, and I last dealt with it in my discussion with Robert Campbell (on objective measurement of

preferences and the applicability of detection theory.) So having dealt with both issues before - the first with Childs, the second with Campbell - I hope that I can deal with them now without taking too much of my time away from more interesting things.

With regard to issue (1), Friedman has written that "Arresting and imprisoning someone is [only] a violation of rights [i.e. not just that specific person's rights, but of rights in general] if he is in fact innocent...." But in reality, the accuser's judgment of the other's innocence is compromised by partiality, by confirmation bias and other biases in the collection of evidence, and by the fact that the accuser can minimize his _eventual liability for having been in the wrong_ by first depriving the suspect of life or limb or freedom, so that the suspect, if innocent, becomes less likely to be able to demonstrate his innocence. So as long as retaliatory force has _not_ been placed under objective control, all men live in fear that one could be forced into imprisonment or combat by another's false belief or dishonest claim. And in a social context in which men already know how to minimize the likelihood of wrongful punishment _by placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control_, it becomes a condition of optimal human life to live without fear that one might be deprived of liberty (or of life itself) without due process of law. Anyone who subjects another to punishment, without first having demonstrated the suspect's guilt by the most impartial and objective procedure available in their social

context, has violated the individual rights of everyone around him by his reckless endangerment of their lives and freedoms. In fact, if the suspect happens to be guilty, then he is the only one whose rights have _not_ been infringed. Everybody else was subjected to an arbitrary and dehumanizing risk of unjustified punishment - and they have an objective right, subject to due process of law, to retribution for having been placed at risk.

On issue (2), Friedman has demonstrated in his book that under a system of competing "defense agencies", every person's influence on the law is strictly proportional to the amount of resources that this person is willing to commit to the "market for liberty". Rand's reasoning, on the other hand, favors constitutional principles broadly similar to those of the Western republics in the last years of the 19th century - largely abandoned in the United States today, but still current in Switzerland, Luxembourg and others - which were specifically designed to limit the relative influence of the less rational actors. I asked Friedman to do the math, but he has not, so I shall:

1. Only citizens literate enough to read and know their constitution can vote. This eliminates from the decision process those who lack the mental capacity for optimal rationality in the political context, and those who would be most likely to follow the lead of anti-objective demagogues.

2. The votes, of those eligible to vote, count equally. This reduces (to the limit of his influence in convincing others) the disproportionate influence of the fanatic who is willing to commit a disproportionate amount of resources to his political cause. That gives the rational man, who allocates his resources in balance with his rational interests, an electoral advantage (relative to Friedman's strict resource-proportionality scheme) over the fanatic.

3. To be elected to the legislature in single-member districts, a potential legislator must attract a plurality of voters. This reduces (except in occasional balance-of-power situations) the influence of those who have not been able to persuade a majority in some district to vote for them. Thus the ability of non-localized minorities to exact legislative compromises is very much reduced, at least relative to their numbers and their commitment of resources (and the latter would give them proportional, and therefore much greater, influence in Friedman's system.) Most of the time extreme minorities, which are much less likely to be rational in their politics than the majority, don't get into the legislature at all.

4. The influence of extreme partisans is further reduced by the requirement that legislation vetoed by the executive or judicial branches can only be rescued by some large super-majority in multiple votes in multiple chambers.

5. The effect of temporary passions on legislation is reduced by a requirement for a legislative majority in several readings separated by intervening elections.

I must add that in the one case where Friedman asserts a quantitative datum, that datum seems wildly implausible in the context of the relevant international comparisons. The four countries of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth had a population of about 10 million around 1790 and about 100 million around 1990 - growth by a factor of 10 in two centuries. Iceland's population today is under 280,000. If Friedman were right, then the population of Iceland grew only by only a factor of 4 in 8 centuries. This is possible, but it would require convincing evidence to demonstrate. If the population of Iceland had changed at the same rate as the rest of Europe, by a factor of 10 in the last 2 centuries and a factor of 3 in the 6 centuries before that, then the population of Iceland around 1200 CE would have been 10,000 or so.

-- Adam Reed

areed2@calstatela.edu

Context matters. Seldom does *anything* have only one cause.

From: Adam Victor Reed areed2@calstatela.edu

To: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>, objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: Re: OWL: The mind-body mystery NOT

Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 10:30:42 -0700

On Tue, Jul 22, 2003 at 05:38:16PM +0200, Ram Tobolski wrote:

>Let me elaborate. According to Roger's Aristotelian materialism, only entities, that is physical bodies, act. So it is clearly entailed by this view, that whatever thinking is, it is the _body_ that thinks. And my question is: _how_ can a physical body think?

1. The body is a physical entity. In the absence of evidence for the belief that the body _differs_ from other physical entities in ways that would make it incapable of doing what other physical entities do, it is enough to show that physical entities are capable of doing whatever it is that the body - more specifically the brain – does when it thinks.

2. All measurements of thought measure the manipulation, or processing, of information. So in the absence of any evidence for the belief that thinking requires capabilities beyond those needed for information processing as such, it is enough to show that physical entities are capable of processing information.

3. It can be shown, and is shown in basic courses on digital circuit design or on neural networks, that, and exactly how, physical entities, such as neurons or transistors, can perform the logical NOR (neither-nor) operation on their inputs.

4. It can be shown, and is shown in basic courses on logic design, how assemblies of neural or electronic NOR circuits can perform all logical operations that may arise in the course of any information processing; and how other capabilities need for thought, such as storing information over time, can also be obtained by, or in the evolution of organisms emerge from, appropriate interconnection of NOR circuits.

5. Therefore physical entities that contain the requisite components, including physical bodies of organisms with nervous systems composed of interconnected neurons, are known to be capable of doing everything

that is known to be required for thought.

QED.

--Adam Reed

areed2@calstatela.edu

Context matters. Seldom does *anything* have only one cause.

From: Adam Reed adamreed@shell.monmouth.com

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: OWL: How immigration barriers violate the rights of citizens Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 02:41:59 -0400

In his posting on "Re: OWL: Citizenship" dated Thu, 12 Jun 2003, Allen Weingarten <allen23@optonline.net> calls "protection against removal" a "positive benefit" that governments are entitled to deny to non-citizen immigrants. This claim ignores the natural human right of each individual citizen to deal with all other people, including non-citizens of his choice, as he will, provided only that these dealings respect the individual rights of all persons. It is not possible for governments to restrict the immigration of

non-criminal persons without, in the process of doing so, carrying out obscene violations of the rights of their own citizens.

Fact 1: Every adult person has the natural right to the society of non-criminal persons of his choice, and to share anything he owns and enjoys with the person of his choice. But one's right to choose whose society one privately enjoys is violated, when governments presume to control one's ability to share one's life and home with the person of one's choice. One of my friends was forced to live abroad for several years, until his bride was finally allowed to immigrate to the United States. The situation is worse for people in homosexual relationships, since their romantic partners or spouses have no possibility of immigration to the United States, forcing the citizen in these relationships to live outside his country - often for the rest of his life. During the Shoah, American citizens were forcibly prevented from offering refuge in their "own" homes to brothers, sisters, and parents trying to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. In some cases, permission to immigrate was denied to siblings and parents of American soldiers, and most of those siblings and parents were trapped and murdered. I put "own" in quotes because real ownership implies the right to share what one owns with any non-criminal person(s) of one's choice, which is something that government immigration controls make

impossible.

Fact 2: Every adult person has the natural human right to lease or sell his property to whomever one wishes. When a government forcibly prevents a non-criminal person from moving into a home leased or bought from a citizen, the government is violating the citizen's right to engage in voluntary commercial transactions of according to the individual citizen's will. For example, I was selling my previous home when Hong Kong was about to be abandoned to Communist China, and my best offer was from a citizen of Hong Kong who intended to move to the United States - a scientist with an offer of employment from Bell Labs, where I also worked at the time. The deal fell through when the buyer was forcibly prevented, by "my" government, from moving to the United States. It cost me close to 100,000 dollars, in carrying multiple mortgages for several months and in eventual lower price. This is how governments confiscate the difference between the true market value of properties on the world market, and a price that has been artificially depressed by the enforcement of immigration restrictions.

Fact 3: Every adult person has the natural human right to employ the consenting worker of his choice when they agree on the terms of employment. For example, one of my neighbors is having his bathrooms remodeled. He negotiated the remodeling to be done by a respected tile artisan from Mexico for $ 5,000, but the artisan was stopped at the border and not allowed to enter the United States. The job is now being done by a much less competent US citizen for over $ 10,000. It is an egregious violation of the citizen homeowner's rights, for the government to confiscate from him over $ 5,000. in differential wages and in the value of craftsmanship by forcibly preventing the immigration of his chosen worker.

In short, immigration controls against non-criminal potential immigrants inevitably violate the natural human rights of citizens: the right to the society, business, and contracts with other humans, irrespective of whether those humans are or are not on the government's list of government-approved people.

-- AdamReed@Monmouth.com

Context matters. There is seldom only one cause for *anything*.

From: Adam Reed <adamreed@shell.monmouth.com>

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: Re: Owl: Citizenship/ Immigration

Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 01:14:03 -0400

I must protest, in the strongest possible terms, the claim made by Allen Weingarten <allen23@optonline.net on Sat, 14 Jun 2003 08:54:25 -0400 that "Adam Reed .... does not express any disagreement about my guide for immigration, but addresses where it would be good for America." His assertion that I would ever write or think in such terms is absolutely false. I have never indulged in this kind of collectivist-utilitarian swill, and I do not intend to. The only humans that actually exist and have rights, and for whom anything can be good or bad, are individuals. Nations, such as "America", do not in fact exist except as figures of speech - and it is my practice to avoid such figures of speech and write what I mean. To think in terms of what would be "good for America" is a delusional reification of collectivist speech. I don't do that.

The only legitimate function of the American government is to protect the individual rights of individual people under its jurisdiction. My article dealt with the facts of reality that ground the principle: that to restrict the admission of non-criminal immigrants to America is in fact, and necessarily, an egregious violation, by the US government, of the very individual rights - the individual rights of individual people in America - that it is the only legitimate function of the US government to protect. Mr. Allen Weingarten is free to believe anything he may wish to believe, but to write that any Objectivist would justify any violation of individual rights by what is "good for America" is outside the scope of knowledgeable discourse.

AdamReed@Monmouth.com

From: Adam Reed <adamreed@shell.monmouth.com>

To: Objectivism@wetheliving.com

Subject: OWL: History Continues

Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2003 01:34:23 -0500

I am sorry that I have neglected this list in the last few weeks. I have been grading the work of nearly a hundred students in three courses for the last couple of weeks; now that my winter quarter grades are in, I am taking this opportunity to note my differences with the anti-war views of Chris Sciabarra and Russ Madden.

At the root of these differences is a disagreement about the relative importance of history in social and political judgment. By history, I mean the sum of the facts of reality in which political thought must be grounded if it is to be objective - that is, if it is to be coherent with the ontological and epistemological principles of Objectivism. However much I admire Chris' Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, I can't help noticing that only 3 articles in the first three years of the Journal had a significant historical component, and those dealt only with intellectual (2 articles) and economic (1 article) history. About social and political history the Journal, at least to date, has been silent. If you didn't actually read Chris' study of the Ayn Rand Transcript, you would never guess, from scanning the Journal, that Ayn Rand was a history major. Now I know that this is not Chris' fault - the American libertarian movement has a long history of ahistorical rationalism, that is, of treating politics as a floating abstraction ungrounded in history; and it is primarily libertarians who write about Ayn Rand today. But when it comes to politics, especially applicable politics, history matters.

And the strange, at least to philosophers, aspect of history is that social and political systems change in real time. The statements that Chris and Russ cite from Ayn Rand were grounded in the specific historical setting in which they were written. The context of statements quoted by Russ Madden, for example, was wars fought with conscripted armies, and the nationalist ideology - the sacrifice of the individual to the good of the Nation - in which conscription was grounded. The unfortunate fact is that nationalism had to putrify before collectivist intellectuals would recognize it as dead; the fortunate fact is that no one, not even the most constipated collectivist, takes the morality of nationalism seriously any more. The moral and historical evaluation of wars fought for a rational purpose with all-volunteer forces must be different, and one should not assume that this evaluation will have the same outcome.

Similarly, Rand's statements about "the New Fascism" responded to the presidency of J. F. Kennedy; one should not assume that history actually moved in that direction, because in fact, thanks mostly to Ludwig von Mises but also in part to Ayn Rand, it didn't. John F. Kennedy was the son and political protégé' of Joseph P. Kennedy, the most influential admirer and advocate of Fascism in the FDR administration, Democratic machine boss of Massachusetts and FDR's ambassador to Great Britain. After the outbreak of WWII the elder Kennedy censored himself of his previous praise for Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, but the substance of the values he inculcated in his children, and promoted through them, did not change. It was still 100%-pure Fascism, and Kennedy's court intellectuals did their best to promote a taboo on its name even as they promulgated its substance. Ayn Rand, of course, would not abide by this taboo. And about the actual politics of 1965 she was absolutely, 100% right. But the world - the facts of reality - did not stand still for the

last 38 years, and Rand herself would have been the last to try to embalm her take on the Kennedys as some kind of lasting principle of politics.

So what has changed?

First, Oscar Lange's conjecture about the possibility of rationally calculated central economic planning has been conclusively disconfirmed by the failure of every single experiment in central economic planning over the last century. As Robert Heilbroner, the world's most eminent Marxist economist until he gathered and

publicized the evidence that disconfirmed Marxist economics, wrote in 1995, von Mises was right, and "rational central planning" is _in reality_ an oxymoron. This, of course, includes the Fascist as well as the Marxist models of state-directed economy. No one, except for openly anti-scientific troglodytes, advocates state direction of the economy any more. And of course fascist economies - of which Saddam Hussein's Iraq is one of the last extant specimens - are just as extinct as their communist counterparts.

Second, Fascism has been replaced by a new invention, so far nameless, due primarily to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, of a political structure designed to maximize the dictator's payout without compromising his power: what I will call the klepto-conservative dictatorship. This new model of the proprietary state combines low taxes and a minimally constrained economy - maximizing the dictator's payout - with totalitarian enforcement of social, cultural and ideological conformity to the dictator's values. At this point, most of the world's states, including Russia, China, their former satellites, theocratic states of the Middle East and Latin America, and also English-speaking countries including the United States, have been moving in the direction of a Singapore-style klepto-conservative dictatorship.

The latter resembles Fascism in some respects, but in others is quite different, and the differences between the two must be kept clearly in focus if one is to oppose klepto-conservatism effectively.

Third, the theocratic variant of klepto-conservative totalitarianism has developed suicide terrorism as an effective delivery system for weapons of mass destruction. This permits dictators to blackmail the rest of the world, both for financial gain and obtain conformity with the dictator's values. While Al Quaida has been the most effective of the new quasi-private terrorist organizations, it is not the only one. And even if it were, there is nothing to prevent a Saddam Hussein (or other dictators) from organizing their own terrorist delivery systems for such weapons if they ever completed their development. Such quasi-private organizations can deliver mass death with near-complete deniability, and massive retaliation becomes very problematic, absent the kind of public proof that such organizations are optimized to eliminate.

Fourth, the new dictators are generic and, unlike the former satellite systems of Stalin and Hitler, capable of giving each other personal protection, refuge, and a luxurious retirement if one of them is overthrown. Stalin was held at bay precisely because he knew that if he ever lost power everyone, including his former subordinates, would turn against him. Osama bin Laden is, as far as we know, living privately in one of Sultan of Brunei's opulent palaces, and receiving, as part of the Sultan's hospitality, the services of the Sultan's world-famous sex slaves. There is no reason to believe that other potentates, including Saddam Hussein, are the

least deterred by the prospect of such consequences.

Under these conditions no responsible government, including even a hypothetical Objectivist government of the United States, could permit Saddam Hussein to continue the development of chemical and bacteriological weapons even more advanced than those he has used in the past. Of course success against Saddam Hussein will accelerate the movement of the United States in the direction of klepto-conservative totalitarianism, but the consequences of failure, and especially of appeasement, are likely to be more immediate and worse. To paraphrase ben Gurion, one has to fight Hussein as if there were no Bush, and fight Bush as if there were no Hussein. That's a difficult program, but we live in difficult times. And, in even more difficult times, ben Gurion's strategy worked.

-- AdamReed@Monmouth.com

Context matters. There is seldom only one cause for *anything*.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The following post is related to new material Marsha has presented in Ayn Rand Explained. I am unable to make the quote-function work across threads at this time. The original post is http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=376&p=2105'>here.

Ellen,



Hi! Good to 'see' you again after all these years.



Regarding Rand's behavior in public and in these private lessons, I do think she tended to be more on the defensive - or offensive, as one might see it - in public where she thought she might be more easily under attack.



Hey, were you listening the time Rand got mad at me and told me I should leave Frank alone? I had been waiting to talk to her during a break at one of those lectures in the '70's (Peikoff or Blumenthal, I don't remember), so I was making conversation with Frank about his painting. He was clearly infirm at that time, aphasic and had difficulty expressing himself. She kept throwing me dagger glances until she finally said in a stern voice to leave him alone, that I shouldn't bother him about Objectivism (which I hadn't), he was just her husband or something like that (John remembers the dialogue better than I!).



So I went away, realizing that she didn't understand what I had been saying to him, and that she was being protective, given his infirmity.



Did I ever tell you that she sought me out at the next break in the lecture and said, in her heavy Russian accent, "Please, dahling, forgive me. I didn't know what you were talking about!"?



Here, I was just some kid she didn't know- but she had done me wrong (obviously Frank had straightened her out), so *she* found *me* to apologize! No standing on ceremony there, or making anything of her position of fame and achievement. I was impressed.



Marsha

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

<p>reply to #45:</p>

<p> </p>

<p>The problem is trivial semantics.  It has to do with the meaning that one attaches to the word "selfish".  O.K. do not use that confusing word.  Use instead a phrase such as rationally pursuing one's interests ...  or being reasonably self assertive .... or some such.  The word selfish has been polluted like the word "gay".  When I was a kid,  "gay" meant happy, merry,  light hearted.  Now it means homosexual.  The word has been co-opted and its original meaning has been expunged or at least much obscured.</p>

<p> </p>

<p>The silliest thing one can do is start of War of Semantics.  If there is a substitute word or phrase  then use it and avoid  struggles over the meaning of this word or that word.</p>

<p> </p>

<p>Ba'al Chatzaf </p>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

.

The issue Dennis has introduced into this thread, in post #45, received significant discussion in another recent thread beginning http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12690&p=173121'>here and continuing http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12690&p=173175'>here and beyond, to which it would be nice to join Marsha's remarks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen:

I enjoyed this exchange because a] it provided the link to your 2004 article and b] it resulted in those 12 links above. Thank you.

One of the things that struck me from your 2004 paper was the following observation:

"When we pick up a ball, our sensory systems measure it in several
ways. When we perceive a similarity between two items, according to
Rand’s account, we are perceiving some same characteristic(s) they
both possess in different measure or degree (1966–67, 13–14;
1969–71, 139–40, 143). They both possess that characteristic in some
measure or degree. Items of their class possess that characteristic in
some degree, but may possess it in any degree within a range of measure
delimiting the class (Rand 1966–67, 11–12, 25, 31–32)."

I've posted references to the following easily accessible experiment in human perception using our senses several times in different forums. I offer it not as a contradiction to Rand's concept of 'possess,' but by including Man in the universe of objective things which possess characteristics, to illuminate(no pun intended, once you see the reference)the nature of that which Man does. It is, to me, an objective experiment that reveals the machine inside of Man, and if Man is going to accurately perceive that which is, that must include an understanding of his own means of sense and perception. (This isn't a contradiction of anything Rand ever posited; I think, instead, it is an illumination of what conclusions we can reach from what she posited.)

The experiment is the checkerboard illusion. Squares A and B are objectively exactly the same shade of gray, guaranteed. But this illustrates the perception machinery inside of Man. Almost everyone seeing the image below for the first time sees squares A and B as being different shades of grey; the amazing(to me)thing is, that after understanding the image, it soon enough becomes difficult to see the squares as being different shades of grey. That process of change of perception, to me, illustrates the machinery of perception inside of Man, and our ability to re-weight what we 'value' when interpreting the sensory inputs delivered to us. And, understanding that part of Man, as he is, in this universe, is part of understanding that which is.

checkershadow_illusion4med.jpg

regards,

Fred

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen:

Notice in that visual experiment that the -concepts- of 'similar' and 'identical' are at odds in our perception engines, and it is something in our internal weighting of those concepts that results in our perception...which can be subjectively changed with additional information. Objective reality is, they are in fact identical shades of grey...when we weight 'similar greyscale' over other characteristics such as, identical members of a light diagonal rank vs. a dark diagonal rank. But having weighted one metric of 'similarity' over another-- which we do by default, in the wild, when we see this image for the first time without explanation, that weighting actually influences our perception of the lower rated metric(rank over greyscale) and that 'which is.'

Is this anecdote, this visual parlor trick, extensible to other areas of perception by analog? And by asking that question, have I introduced onto the following spectrum a new member? "Identity/instance...Identical/class...Derivative/of a derived or base class ... Similar...Analogous...Model of..."

And, let me murk up my own post with the following observation; the most positively unique characteristic in that spectrum -- "Identity" -- is not possible without the existence of gradient (the rate of change of something w.r.t. anything else, usually time or space but not restricted to time or space...) It is interesting to ask if Identity is a consequence of gradient, or gradient is a consequence of identity, because they are inexorably lock-stepped.

regards,

Fred

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My, how topics drift. Anyway, this explains the checkerboard illusion. Also, grab a piece of paper, cover the image with the paper so you can see only squares A and B through two holes in the paper. Squares A and B will look alike.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...