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Been scrounging on my own. A few more and I will stop? And then I will get on with any chores I may have, Roger and everyone else. This goes back 18 years. The > sign indicates a quote in case you haven’t figured it out. Closed up to save space. Peter

Joke. From “Wild Life on Computers Magazine.” What should you do if confronted by a Bissell Moose? Where you’ll see them: In the United States Bissell Moose inhabit all of the Americas, the forests of the Northeast, upper Midwestern states, The Rocky Mountains, Alaska, etc., and internet sites. This gargantuan creature’s brain can weigh a lot and he often has antlers that measure up to 6 feet wide. Imposing as he might seem, he is a benign creature and will often (but not always) log off when he feels angry. If a Bissell Moose starts to move toward you, run away and try to put an obstacle, like a boulder or a tree between him and you or just shut your computer down! You have been warned.

From: AchilleRB To: Atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Individual Rights Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 13:19:16 EST. I'm going to correct Ellen Moore on her argument regarding which is man's (i.e., we human beings') fundamental characteristic, reason or volition ‑‑ but first I have to correct her on another matter. Two‑thirds of the way through her ritual flinging of the dust of her sandals at Bill Riggins (this is a Biblical reference in re Ellen's writing off further discussion with Bill), Ellen out of nowhere decides to take a potshot at me in reference to a different thread of discussion:

>  Re: those two dimwitted birds of a feather (you know who you are) who

Birds of a feather?? Curious words from an old crow. :‑)

>  fallaciously dropped the context of my use of the word "impotence", let   me explain that I praised Carol Low for rejecting the idea of any state  >  interference to extend or legalize anti‑abortion laws. This context did   not refer to ‑sexual‑ power, it referred to their expressed desire for the political power to legalize anti‑abortion laws in our society ‑ a direct abrogation of individual rights.  When I wrote "dictators and power‑lusters reduced to impotence" it meant reduced to legal and   political powerlessness in having any control over the lives of pregnant   females of any age.

Ahem. AHEM!...there was no ~fallacious~ dropping of context by me, since I was not trying to make a logical argument. I was merely being (or attempting to be) humorous. Last time I looked in all those logic books I paid good money for, humor is not a fallacy. Even when it's interwoven with a logical argument, it's not a fallacy (however distracting or irritating it may be) as long as the logic is sound. But again, I was not trying to engage in syllogizing, so you're way off base here. You really should be more careful in slinging the words "fallacy" and "fallacious." It's fallacious...oops, OK, it's ~invalid~ to use them in the contexts you often do.

Also, what does it mean to "legalize anti‑abortion laws"? Sounds like "criminalizing crimes."  Next are you going to lecture us about "validating validations", "defining definitions", "valuing values", and "creating creations"? (I ~know~ what you ~mean~, but the way you have expressed it is very funny. To me, anyway.)

Now, you tried to refute Bill Riggins statement that "Rand claimed, in several places, that the ability to reason is what distinguishes human beings from all other species." You said "I responded by saying that you are mistaken, and I suggested you read two lines in 'The Objectivist Ethics.'  Rand wrote, 'Man's particular distinction from all other living species is the fact that ‑his‑ (in italics) consciousness is ‑volitional‑ (in italics).' "

OK, now that we have all read those two lines, let me point out two things that you have overlooked: (1) Rand says "man's PARTICULAR distinction from all other living species", and (2) the context of her remark explains why she used the word "particular" and why your analysis/interpretation is incorrect. Rand's context is a discussion of ~ethics~, and she was explaining why humans need ethics, whereas animals do not, viz., because animals have an automatic, built‑in code of values, whereas humans do not. We differ from animals, she said, in that we must acquire our values and code of values by choice (volition). Volition is the fact of reality that gives rise to the need for ethics, Rand claims. So it ~is~ a distinguishing characteristic, an essential characteristic of human beings. But it is not the ~fundamental~ distinguishing characteristic, the ~defining~ characteristic of human beings. Rand's definition of "man" ‑‑ as did Aristotle's ‑‑ rightly focuses on ~reason~ as the fundamental distinguishing characteristic.

Earlier in "The Objectivist Ethics", Rand says that "Life is a process of self‑sustaining and self‑generated action" (p. 15) and "Consciousness ‑‑ for those living organisms which possess it ‑‑ is the basic means of survival" (p. 18). Rand correctly makes the fundamental distinction between the two main classes of conscious living organisms (animals and humans) by focusing on the two radically distinct ~means~ of survival: sensation/perception (perceptions are "retained sensations") and "conceptualizing", the latter process being directed by the faculty of reason (Rand, p. 20) It is having the faculty that directs conceptualizing that fundamentally distinguishes humans from the other animals. This is not ~epistemology~. It is basic biological fact, which is what I would prefer to use in forming ~my~ definitions that I use in philosophizing.

>When Rand wrote that man's essential characteristic is his rational   faculty, it refers to his characteristic epistemological faculty.

When Rand said that the objective definition of "man" is "a rational animal," she meant that being a rational animal is the ~fundamental~ characteristic of man. It is reaching the stage of being able to conceptualize that confronts us with the need to focus or not; without the need or opportunity to conceptualize, volition would be pointless and would never arise in an organism. Thus, reason ~is~ the fundamental attribute of human beings ‑‑ "metaphysically...that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible [and] epistemologically...explains the greatest number of others" (including volition).

In her essay, The Metaphysical versus the Man‑made, page 38 of PWNI, she clearly stated, "by ‑its metaphysically given nature‑ (in italics), a man's volition is outside the power of other men.  What the unalterable basic constituents are to nature, the attribute of a volitional consciousness is to the entity "man".  Nothing can force a man to think. ..."

A man's ~reason~ is also outside the power of other men, by ~its~ metaphysically given nature. Your distinction between volition as metaphysical and reason is epistemological is invalid. Both are biological attributes of human beings. And reason is fundamental.

>  Bill, I am presenting the argument (without any gap) that volitional consciousness is the necessary, fundamental, metaphysical attribute of   man that distinguishes him from all other species.  Volition is the essential precondition for man's rational faculty,

The essential precondition for man's rational faculty is the absence of coercion, disease, or defect. This is fact. Anything beyond this is speculation. But even if volition ~is~ a fact, it is not fundamental. As I explained above, it is only because of reason that volition exists, not vice versa.

>  meaning that man must   acquire (learn) the ability to reason, and may or may not choose to do so volitionally from moment to moment for the rest of his life.  If he chooses ‑not to learn‑ to reason, he will not acquire a "rational faculty", and he must then count on his automatic faculty of perception,  and his perceptual associations, for his survival just as lower animals do.

>  My entire argument for individual right is based on the identity of man  in the context of a society that recognizes and protects an individual's  freedom of action.  Each human is FREE, physically, metaphysically, and epistemologically, BECAUSE each human has a volitional consciousness,  i.e. free to act according to the principles of individual rights.

Freedom of action is not important because of volition, but because it is the basic requirement for the successful function of man's rational faculty, which (volitional or not) is his distinctive means of survival.

 >  That base validates the non‑initiation of force.

No. What validates the non‑initiation of force as a principle for organizing human society is the need of our means of survival, our rational faculties, to be free from coercion. If ethical and political principles are fundamentally for the purpose of guiding us in living our lives, particularly (in regard to rights) in a social context, then it is above all ~reason~ and its preconditions for efficacious functioning (absence of coercion) that must be considered.

This is what Rand talks about in "Man's Rights," not the supposed fundamentality of volition. Reason must be free to function, regardless of whether it is volition, since reason is how we escape the here/now level of human consciousness and are able to envision alternative courses of action and plan on a long‑range basis how to live our lives in ways that animals cannot even dream of (except maybe porpoises and gorillas :‑) All 4 now, Roger Bissell

From: AchillesRB To: Atlantis Subject: Ellen Moore's volitional errors (was Re: ATL: Re: Individual Rights) Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 14:05:55 EST. To amplify and clarify a bit my earlier comments in criticism of Ellen Moore's argument about the fundamentality of volition. I stated: When Rand said that the objective definition of "man" is "a rational animal," she meant that being a rational animal is the ~fundamental~ characteristic of man.   It is reaching the stage of being able to conceptualize that confronts us with the need to focus or not; without the need or opportunity to conceptualize, volition would be pointless and would never arise in an organism.

I meant to say "pointless", of course. But this is a very crucial point. It is ~reason~ that metaphysically gives rise to the need for ~volition~, not vice versa. Ellen has claimed numerous times that babies are volitional from birth but has not given any validation for this claim. She says that newborns display focused awareness, and I agree, but so do baby animals, some more than human newborns. More importantly, this is not volitional focus, but automatic perceptual focus from the sensory level interest of the newborn in exploring its immediate environment. This is ~not~ volition in the sense relevant to ethics or philosophy.

It's only when babies acquire enough experience and conceptual knowledge that they realize that continued learning will not come automatically, but require effort, that they decide or not, in any given situation, to put out the effort to focus. Before then, their focusing of awareness, even in learning low‑level concepts, is as automatic as their and other animal babies' perceiving. If psychology and neuro‑science discovers that I am wrong about this, I will rejoice in the knowledge. But all of my experience, and everything I have read ‑‑ with the exception of Ellen's arbitrary assertion of the volitionality of newborns ‑‑ tells me that this is how volition ~arises~ in human beings. It is an innate ~potential~, but not an innate ~capacity~. Like reason, the capacity for volition unfolds in very specific circumstances, and those circumstances are precisely when conceptualizing (the exercise of reason) is first experienced as not being automatic.

It is this factual priority of the development of reason, the experience at some point that conceptualizing is no longer automatic, and the choice to continue conceptualizing (or not) in situation after situation, that establishes the fundamentality of reason, not volition. Which is why I said: >  Thus, reason ~is~ the fundamental attribute of human  beings ‑‑ "metaphysically...that distinctive characteristic  which makes the greatest number of others possible  [and] epistemologically...explains the greatest number of others" (including volition).

I am still open to a reasonable, factual argument that volition exists in newborns. But simply ~saying~ that volition is the "metaphysical" attribute of man's consciousness" does not prove anything ‑‑ particularly that volition is present from birth. We know that sexual reproduction is a "metaphysical" attribute of certain animals, and its absence at birth does not invalidate this knowledge, nor does it require that we insist that animals ~are~ sexually reproductive from birth in order to save our knowledge that sexual reproduction is an essential (though not fundamental) feature of certain animals.

I think that this illustrates accurately the pattern in the error behind Ellen Moore's continued insistence that human babies are volitional from birth. All 4 now, Roger Bissell, musician‑writer

From: AchillesRB To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Reality and Ellen Moore at war ( was O'ism and neuro‑scientists are not at war) Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 23:09:20 EST. Once again, Ellen's "mind, with [her] volitional consciousness, and reason identified and integrated" must be n vacation. She said: >  Gayle Dean and Lilah Kerrug appear to think that there is conflict  between philosophy and science.

 

The appearance is only in your mind, Ellen. It's obvious to me, and I'm sure nearly everyone else on the list, that what they are pointing to is a conflict between certain ~philosophers~ and ~truth~. Specifically, they are protesting (and correct me if I'm wrong, please, Gayle and Lilah) the presumptuousness of those philosophers (some of whom are Objectivists) who think that the human power of choice can be defined from the armchair, and that studying this power in the laboratory is somehow suspect or invalid.

In particular, Ellen, ~I~ object to your repeatedly stating the absurdity that infants are volitional from birth. This makes absolutely ~no~ sense logically, and is unsupported by observation, as I have repeatedly stated. You choose to ignore this point. I ask you to stop avoiding the point and to face it squarely.

 >  I protest the invalidity of that spurious idea.

Well, ~I~ protest your spurious protest. This is an utter and complete red herring, because Gayle and Lilah never challenged the importance and validity of ~either~ science ~or~ philosophy. And you know it. So, what is your excuse for this nonsense???

 >  Here we have two lay‑women who [....] denigrate philosophy,

This is ~absolutely untrue~. Please stick to the facts, Ellen.

 >  especially the philosophy of Objectivism and Objectivists who study its principles and applications.

Again, you're straying from the facts. They said ~nothing~ derogatory about Objectivism as a philosophy. Further, you make it appear as if they were issuing ~blanket~, ~global~ condemnations of "Objectivists who study its principles and applications," when they clearly were not.

 >  Why?  Because they both have their personal axes to grind.

Sure, they have an axe to grind. It is with rationalistic Objectivists ‑‑ and others ‑‑ who presume to pontificate about the nature of reality, without reference to empirical, scientific data, and who presume to criticize those who ~do~ study real phenomena and use their findings in speculating about the connection between brain function and morality.

 >  There is no justification for a subjective approach.

That is correct. So why don't ~you~ drop ~your~ unjustified subjective approach and start commenting on ~what they wrote~, rather than on what you choose to ~misrepresent~ them as having said? The utter gall of your trotting out yet another inapplicable label to bash your opponents with is only exceeded by the irony of the label's utter appropriateness in describing ~your own~ feeble process of argumentation.

 >  Gayle insists that Objectivists hold a mystical view of "man and his  consciousness, and of "free will" (volition).  Her idea is false.

To the extent that Objectivists are unable to give a coherent explanation of how consciousness and volition are ~instances~ of causality, rather than ~exceptions~ to it, their view ~is~ mystical. It is not an adequate reply to simply say ~we~ cause our actions. Sure we do. ~Every~ entity causes its actions; causality is the relation between an entity and its actions. But until and unless Objectivists can spell out ~how~ consciousness causes things to happen ‑‑ as opposed to we, the conscious entities, who act consciously ‑‑ they will not be taken seriously by people who want to grow beyond the spooky, religious, ghost ‑ in ‑ the ‑ machine view of consciousness, epitomized by Descartes. (See Damasio's ~Descartes' Error~ for an excellent discussion of this.)

 >  Lilah shifts it into nasty personal attack by accusing  any 10 Objectivists,

This is an utter falsehood, Ellen. You are putting words in Lilah's mouth that she did not utter. Well, ~one~ word, anyhow: the word "any". What Lilah ~said~ was: "Personally, I'd trade ten Objectivists who refuse to dirty their hands with the empirical findings of modern science and presume to philosophize from the arm‑chair about the nature of reason and volition (are you listening, Ellen Moore?), for one intelligent, conscientious neuro‑scientist, like Antonio Damasio."

Lilah did ~not~ say ~all~ Objectivists are anti‑empirical, rationalists in their views of reason and volition. Perhaps the absence of a comma following Objectivists was to subtle for you to pick up on. Maybe a refresher course in grammar (especially how punctuation relates to meaning) would be a good idea, Ellen. There most definitely ~is~ a difference in meaning between what Lilah wrote, and what you are ~asserting~ she wrote. And the difference may appear quite small:

Lilah wrote: "...10 Objectivists who refuse..." (some)

Ellen interpreted:  "...10 Objectivists, who refuse..." (all)

But your cavalier insertion of "any" to guarantee that readers would adopt ~your~ interpretation is ~worse~ than a fallacy. It is damn dirty pool! Surely, however, there are ~ten~ who fit this description! :‑)

 >  and me in particular, of being one, "who refuse to dirty their hands  with the empirical findings of modern science and presume to  philosophize from the arm‑chair about the nature of reason and volition   (are you listening, Ellen Moore?)".

Apparently you ~were~ listening. :‑)  But you apparently are unable to connect this point with the fact, repeatedly pointed out, that you assert the volitionality of babies from birth, because "volition is a metaphysical attribute of human consciousness." Where did you get this notion, if not from your own erroneous ~thinking~? You certainly didn't get it from observation. Focused awareness, which is also characteristic of animal babies, is ~not~ the same thing as volition, because ~some~ awareness, especially in the earliest days/weeks/months of life is focused ~automatically~.

 >  Now, I loudly protest that injustice!

I hear you! But I'm not aware of any injustice being committed, other than your persistent misrepresentation and bashing of your opponents.

 >  I know of no Objectivists who refuse to accept the valid  findings of science, or who do not integrate scientific facts with their philosophical ideas.

Well, Ayn Rand is dead, isn't she! She was the one who, without the benefit of empirical observation ‑‑ by her own choice, to be childless, and thus removing herself from the best source of observational data about the cognition of children ‑‑ foisted off on a generation of young Objectivists the erroneous Jamesian notion that newborn babies are incapable of perception. (Indeed, we now know ‑‑ actually, we have known for over 20 years, but that information has only recently trickled into Objectivist circles, it appears ‑‑ that not only newborns but also late‑term fetuses have integrated sensory awareness.) Does it strain credulity to consider the possibility that there are ~some~ living Objectivists who still refuse to look at and seriously consider this data? Or do you simply reject them as "not really Objectivists," if they take that attitude?

And I've already discussed your own armchair approach to misinterpreting the Objectivist theory of volition. If you claim to have ~observed~ volition in newborns, I will say you have observed nothing of the kind. Again, focused awareness is the genus, volitionally focused awareness is the species. All animals are capable of focused awareness. Only humans (so far as we know) are capable of ~volitionally~ focused awareness ‑‑ and ~not from birth~. More on this below....

 >  True, there are irrational philosophers and there are shoddy scientific  methods, but there is no justification for the invalid and untrue comments of these two women.  [Perhaps, for this default, they should be  banished into a room with Roger for a week. :‑) ]

You earlier referred to them as "lay‑women." I'm sure that Gayle and Lilah, being the fine Objectivist folks that they are, are "g‑i‑b," if you know what I mean. :‑)

But I sincerely hope that you aren't suggesting that the three of us do something immoral. I am happily married, after all. :‑)

 >  ...both Gayle and Lilah, regardless of their protestations and insulting comments, do not understand the Objectivist theory of volitional consciousness.  I'd stake my mind, with my volitional consciousness, and reason identified and integrated, on that fact.

Speaking just for myself, I understand it quite well. I just disagree with it. I don't know about Lilah, but I'm pretty sure that Gayle has much the same position as I do. But more germane to the present discussion, I ~also~ understand ~Ellen's~ view of volitional consciousness and, as I have explained in previous posts (which she refuses to respond to or acknowledge), her view is ~not~ the Objectivist view, nor is it grounded in fact. Here, again, is what I said, and with which I am ~still~ waiting for her to come to grips:

> Ellen has claimed numerous times that babies are volitional from birth but has not given any validation for this claim. She says that newborns display focused awareness, and I agree, but so do baby animals, some more than human newborns. More importantly, this is not volitional focus, but automatic perceptual focus from the sensory level interest of the newborn in exploring its immediate environment. This is ~not~ volition in the sense relevant to ethics or philosophy.

 > It's only when babies acquire enough experience and  conceptual knowledge that they realize that continued learning will not come automatically, but require effort,  that they decide or not, in any given situation, to put out the effort to focus. Before then, their focusing of awareness, even in learning low‑level concepts, is as automatic as their and other animal babies' perceiving.

 > If psychology and neuro‑science discovers that I am wrong about this, I will rejoice in the knowledge. But all of my experience, and everything I have read ‑‑ with the exception of Ellen's arbitrary assertion of the volitionality of newborns ‑‑ tells me that this is how volition ~arises~ in human beings. It is an innate ~potential~, but not an innate ~capacity~. Like reason, the capacity for volition unfolds in very specific circumstances, and those circumstances are precisely when conceptualizing (the exercise of reason) is first experienced as not being automatic.

 > [...] simply ~saying~ that volition is the "metaphysical" attribute of man's consciousness" does not prove anything ‑‑ particularly that volition is present from birth. We know that sexual reproduction is a "metaphysical"  attribute of certain animals, and its absence at birth does not  invalidate this knowledge, nor does it require that we insist  that animals ~are~ sexually reproductive from birth in order to save our knowledge that sexual reproduction is an  essential (though not fundamental) feature of certain animals.  I think that this illustrates accurately the pattern in the error behind Ellen Moore's continued insistence that human babies  are volitional from birth.

I'm waiting for someone, anyone ‑‑ Ellen included ‑‑ to show where there is an error in the above argument. Failing that, could someone, anyone simply acknowledge that it is correct? Roger Bissell, musician‑writer From: AchillesRB

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Thank you for referencing the thread "The Opposite of Nothing Is/Isn't Everything"    I think that thread was OL  at its very,  very  best.  It is a shame that we are so hung up on matters political a

Couldn't agree with you more, BC. And the next time you want to condescendingly, sneeringly put down my announcements about my work, at least give a passing nod to objectivity by actually quoting me i

I saw you need to go to their website to register for Roger’s talk.

The Atlas Society Asks Roger Bissell. Join us on August 19th at 2 PM PT / 5 PM ET for The Atlas Society Asks Roger Bissell.  Roger is a writer and musician who has considered himself an “Objectivist” since 1966. He has written four books plus many essays, most of which have been published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and he has edited numerous other books, including two by Nathaniel Branden. Tune in to hear what he has to say about how Objectivism and music has changed over the years!

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On 8/13/2020 at 8:56 PM, Peter said:

I saw you need to go to their website to register for Roger’s talk.

The Atlas Society Asks Roger Bissell. Join us on August 19th at 2 PM PT / 5 PM ET for The Atlas Society Asks Roger Bissell.

I registered ... I miss some of the old, departed gang.

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_R1muyMoGR3-rqXd4ax4DhQ

 

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