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Doings of Barbara Branden 1968 – 1986?

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How did Barbara Branden occupy her time in the 19 years spanning 1968 (when Rand broke with her) to 1986 (when her biography of Rand was published) besides working on the biography?   Especially where she lived, where she traveled, events she attended.

 

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BB spent time on some web sites. Below is the first letter of hers that I saved in 2001. Peter

From: Michael Carriger To: Atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Ayn Rand:  Manic Depressive Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 16:48:45 -0400. Kyle and everyone, I am a psychologists so I can speak to the symptoms of Manic Depression.  But I would never attempt to diagnose someone with any psychological disorder without meeting the person, let alone posthumously.

Manic Depressive Disorder is today typically called Bipolar Disorder which falls under the category of Mood Disorders.  Bipolar Disorder is typically differentiated from Unipolar Disorder, often referred to as Major

Depression.  The primary distinguishing characteristic of Bipolar Disorder is the tendency of manic episodes alternating with major depressive episodes.  In many ways Bipolar Disorder parallels Major Depression.  For example, the manic episode may occur only once or repeatedly.  So even a person who alternates between major depression and normal mood  (having had one manic episode) may fall under the category of having a Bipolar Disorder.  A milder but more chronic version of bipolar disorder is called Cyclothymic Disorder.  Cyclothymic Disorder involves a chronic alternation of mood elevation and depression that does not reach the severity of mania nor major depression.  Individuals with Cyclothymic Disorder tend to be in one mood state or the other for many years with relatively few periods of neutral mood.  This pattern must last for at least 2 years to meet the diagnostic criteria.  In most cases, individual's suffering from Cyclothymic Disorder are just considered moody.  However, the chronically fluctuating mood states are, by definition, substantial enough to interfere with functioning.  Furthermore, individuals with Cyclothymic Disorder are at an increased risk of developing the more sever Bipolar Disorder.

Further Bipolar Disorder has been divided into two distinct types – Bipolar I and Bipolar II.  Bipolar II involves depressive episodes alternating with hypomanic episodes rather than full manic episodes.  Hypomanic episodes are less severe than full-blown manic episodes.  Bipolar I involves depressive episodes alternating with full manic episodes.

Symptoms of the Depressive Episodes - cognitive symptoms (feelings of worthlessness and indecisiveness), disturbed physical functions (altered sleeping patterns, significant changes in appetite and weight, notable loss of energy), marked general loss of interest and the ability to experience any pleasure from life, and significantly depressed mood.

Symptoms of the Manic Episodes - exaggerated elation, joy, or euphoria; finding disproportionately extreme pleasure in daily activity; hyperactivity; grandiosity; self-destructive behavior (buying sprees, irresponsible driving - I once worked with a Bipolar gentleman who bankrupted his rather wealthy family in one buying spree during a manic episode and I saw videotape of another gentleman who drove 90 miles an hour down the main street of a small mid-western town crashing in a burning heap on a bridge and emerging from the car screaming that he was the Phoenix rising from the ashes); rapid and possibly incoherent speech; and flight of ideas.

Additional information of interest:

Average age of onset - 18 to 22 years of age.

Duration - chronic and lifelong.

Treatment of Choice - typically therapy involving managing the disorder with ongoing drug regimens.

Prevalence - (Weissman, et. al. 1991 (reference on request)) 7.8% of people in North America have had a mood disorder at some point in their lives, 3.7% have experienced a disorder over the past year; (Kessler, et. al. 1994 (reference on request)) 19% of the North American population experienced a mood disorder at some point in their lives.

There is the information.  Do use it responsibly.  Arm-chair psychologizing can be a rather dangerous sport.

Michael

At 12:56 PM 4/11/01 -0700, Kyle Varner wrote:

>Ayn Rand was a genious, there is not question about that.  She wrote what I consider to be the best books I've read.  They often call Manic Depression the "Disease of Geniouses". But Ayn Rand also did some really irrational things(Namley her actions at the time of "The Split). (Note:  I have no first hand experience- just what I've read.)  I would also take into account Nathaniel Branden's account of Ayn Rand's conversations with his wife, Devers, which is available here:

>http://www.nathanielbranden.net/ayn/ayn04.html

>Her behavior makes me think that she might have been manic depressive.  I'm not a psychologist and I didn't know her, so I  can't really judge.

>What do you all think?  Has anyone else speculated that she might be a manic depressive?

>-Kyle Varner

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Ayn Rand:  Manic Depressive Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 01:46:38 EDT

Kyle Varner wrote: << Her [Ayn Rand's] behavior makes me think that she might have been manic depressive >>

No, she was not. She had none of the symptoms of manic depression. She did go through a bad depression, and some of the reasons for it certainly were psychological But that's another story. In almost twenty years with her, seeing or speaking with her almost daily, I saw no signs of manic-depression. And even the depression, although t it lasted for some years, was not typical of her. It's too bad that she did not seek help in the form of antidepressive medication, but her view of herself did not permit even the possibility of this kind of help. Barbara

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Ayn Rand: Manic Depressive? Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 14:39:41 EDT

Peter Taylor wrote: <<If only Ayn had had friends and family (including children) living near her or even on the same floor as her apartment in New York City. Then she may have had the optimism, support and distraction she needed as she grew older.>>

Ayn Rand did have friends living near her. Nathaniel and I lived in the same building, and a number of other friends lived nearby. We certainly gave her our support, and we tried very hard -- especially Nathaniel, in seemingly endless conversations over a period of years -- to instill her with some of our own optimism, but it was impossible to do; she would grow angry if it seemed to her that we did not understand or evaluate as she did the terrible disappointment that followed the publication of ATLAS SHRUGGED.

There were many things she did not recognize about her own emotional state. One crucial reason for her depression, I am convinced, was that she had finished ATLAS. It was the book she had wanted to write all her life: she had presented, to her full satisfaction, her concept of "the ideal man." This had always been the goal of her writing, it had been the goal of her life. Now, still in her fifties', she had completed her life's work. What was she to do now? There was no other book she wanted to write, she had said what she wanted to say, and, with her enormous intellectual energy still working in high gear -- she was unemployed, and there was no job she wanted. But since she did not see her problem this way, she could not solve it. She looked only at the world outside her for the source of the problem.

I remember that a couple of months after the publication of THE PASSION OF AYN RAND, my Doubleday editor said to me: "Well, Barbara, has the post-partum depression hit yet?" She was referring to a phenomenon very common among writers. While one is working on a long project, that work is one's life. (I recall thinking, when I was close to finishing PASSION, "They can drop atom bombs and I won't mind -- if they'll just let me finish!") Then, when the book is finished, and one has had years of working in a state of almost unbearable excitement, with the feeling that nothing else is so much worth doing, that one wants only to remain in this intellectual and emotional state forever, that there is a bright golden light shining over one's life, that THIS, the work, is reality and everything else exists somewhere in a dim, distant background -- one looks at the real world, which had seemed for so long unreal, and it is flat and dull and inconsequential in comparison to the endless wonder of the work years.

So very many writers have experienced this "post-partum depression." William Styron wrote about his own terrible depression after he'd finished SOPHIE'S CHOICE, and spoke of other writers who had had the same experience.

I believe that this experience was Ayn Rand's experience after she had completed ATLAS. Would could the world offer her to compare with what she had experienced in creating John Galt, and Francisco, and Rearden? But she did not know what she was experiencing, nor did I at the time, nor did Nathaniel, and so we could not help her.

The only thing that seemed to help at all was her turning to the writing of nonfiction, after Nathaniel had convinced her that that's what she should do. But it could not completely solve the problem. A few years after ATLAS was published, she began speaking of writing another work of fiction, which she called her "non-philosophical novel." She even reached the point of signing a contract for the book with Random House. All through her conversations about the book with Nathaniel and me, I had -- and I suspect he had, although I've never asked him -- the slightly sickish feeling that she would never write it. How could the writer of ATLAS SHRUGGED bring herself to write something lesser? And she never did.

I feel so many sad "if only's" when I think of her years of depression. If only she had understood . . . if only Nathaniel had understood . . . if only I had understood. But none of us did. Barbara

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BG,

Thanks, that will be useful.  (For a while I’ll have to put off giving the reason for my question.)

Peter,

It’s hard to see how your post addresses mine.

 

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Sorry. I cut and pasted that piece of a thread and then realized it didn't fit your timeline, or questions . . . but I decided not to delete it since people might still find it interesting. Hmmm? Are you writing a article or biopic? Her moniker BBfromM? I seemed to trend towards Memphis. Peter  

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Why didn’t you post Moby Dick, Peter?

Then, you could have noticed that it is not relevant.

Then, you could have told us it stays regardless, because, well, someone might want to read Moby Dick.

The Bible, Peter! Someone might want to read the Bible. Post it.

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Mark,

Here's the payoff I think you're looking for--Jewishness.

Ta-Daa!

:)

I personally knew Barbara for some of the time you are interested in. I don't have times and places, but she embraced her Judaism, not religiously, but culturally. According to what she told me, she worked for a time at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. She often wore a large yellow star on the left side of her chest at public events when she thought that was relevant. 

She still stayed in the Objectivist movement, mainly through TAS, but she wasn't publicly active all that much. After the splash of The Passion of Ayn Rand and the movie, the Internet came along and she started posting online, mostly on the old Atlantis forum, then on SoloHQ (which splintered off into Solo Passion, RoR and OL), then over here on OL after that breakup. In the very last two or three years of her life, she was sick and withdrew from many of the people who cared about her. She did not want to be a burden on anyone.

Kat and I took her around during the AS 50th anniversary and one TAS-sponsored Objectivist convention in California (I would have to look up the dates). She also stayed active with many libertarians. Jim Peron was a good friend of hers. I believe James Kilbourne was her best friend in her latter years. She also had a circle of friends left over from her NBI days, but the ones I met are not public people and I doubt they want to be. 

Barbara stayed in touch with Nathaniel Branden and rained hell down on him when Judgment Day came out. She got him to rewrite it and republish it as My Years With Ayn Rand. (NB kinda painted her as too much of a hottie in the first book. :) I teased her about that a few times, and she laughed, but she was really mad at him over that.) Still, they were fairly good friends during when I knew her. They sought each other's counsel a lot.

I thought of putting together a bio of her, but I'll leave that to others. I'm not sure there is a market for it.

But, just for the record, I do have a fiction work in the works loosely based on her with the working title of The Apostate. I don't intend for the guru to be Ayn Rand, but some of my fictional guru's ideas will reflect a reasoned view with some woo-woo thrown in. My interest for this story is in the psychology of a person changing their worldview after being clobbered over the head hard by the social dynamics of closed groups, especially by falling from grace and being excommunicated, not the actual ideas of respective worldviews. 

Barbara was a great lady in that respect. She came out alive and with no suicidal impulses, nor did she waste away. In fact, she wrote a bestselling memoir-biography in her own voice, not the voice Rand would have had her use. Nor did she give in to the impulse to get revenge. She used a witness perspective rather than teacher and told her story--in her own voice--to the best of her ability, which was considerable. She is a much better writer than she has been given credit for.

I don't think I need to say this, but I have great love for Barbara and I miss her. So please be respectful to her when you talk about her on OL.

That's about all I've got right now.

Michael

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18 hours ago, Mark said:

How did Barbara Branden occupy her time in the 19 years spanning 1968 (when Rand broke with her) to 1986 (when her biography of Rand was published) besides working on the biography?   Especially where she lived, where she traveled, events she attended.

 

this is a question for Michael. What clues do you see that suggest Mark is asking about BB's cultural attachment to the Jewish culture? Trump is giving an update at 3:21pm 

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Peter,

Just a hunch.

:)

Michael

Well, Pilgrim, your picture shows you massaging your chin, and it looks like you are chuckling as you say, :"hmmm."

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I may have shared this before but Whew! Here’s the tough side of Barbara Branden. Be sure to read the last sentence. Peter

Re: ATL: Re: evil ideas and moral judgments – Barbara.  BBfromM Fri 5/5/2000 12:43 AM To: atlantis. Oh, Ellen Moore, there's no point in calling me the same names all over again. You wrote: Rand did say in '68, "I cannot say as much for Barbara Branden."

She did indeed say it, in an article in which, terrified that truth about her affair with Nathaniel Branden might be revealed, she flailed out blindly, irrationally, and dishonestly at the two people who knew the truth. But you see, I do not agree with Ayn Rand--or with Ellen Moore--about the moral necessity of being judgmental. I am able to say that although what she did was certainly wrong, I feel and always have felt great sympathy for the agony that led her to do it. By the way, Ayn Rand also said the following, as quoted by Nathaniel Branden in "In Answer to Ayn Rand:"

<On Mrs. Branden's parents' copy of Atlas Shrugged, Miss Rand wrote the following inscription: "To Reb and Johnny — the parents of a girl who has the spirit, the ambition and the talent of the best characters in this book. Affectionately, Ayn."

<When Mrs. Branden was interviewing Miss Rand, in preparation for the writing of Who Is Ayn Rand? (the interviews were tape-recorded), Miss Rand made the following statement: "As far as you're concerned, career-wise, the turning point was when I saw the first few pages of that short story which you started and didn't finish. It was those pages that convinced me that you're going to be a great writer, and, as you see, I was right. . . . Up to then, I thought that you were very intelligent, and since you talked about writing intelligently, that you probably would be a good writer, but one has to see the real work. And it's those pages that made me think that this is something of enormous size.">

Sorry, Ellen, but one must tell the truth, mustn't one?

Ellen also wrote: <"You cannot bring yourself to take me seriously" ???  Truth is, Barbara, you always do take me seriously; I know it and you know it. >

Oh dear, Ellen, you're reading my mind again, after you said <<I am not qualified to tell her the content of her mind because I cannot conceive of a mind that is so evasive about facts and moral judgments. >>

Ellen wrote: <You may wish to preen and glow in the likes of Roger's and Jay's support and sanction of you. . . >

I haven't been doing a lot of preening and glowing, but thanks for the suggestion.  

Ellen made another suggestion: <<You are free to continue to exist as you have in the past by advocating this inconsistent, subjectivist, anti-moralism position on judgments, and non-principled libertarianism, but after that you cannot claim to be an advocate of Objectivism - while betraying its author and the fundamental principles that constitute its philosophical identity.>>

Ellen, do you want to know the exact value to me of your nonsense?  It’s that occasionally you provide comic relief. Now I have a suggestion for you: If you want to convince people that I'm a worthless human being, you would do better to be a tad more subtle. Ranting and raving doesn't work.

I will now step out of character and say what I never have said to anyone, and have not wanted to say even to Ellen Moore: Ellen, you are a hostile, presumptuous, spiritually ugly, hate-filled, intellectually pretentious woman. Barbara

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One more? This may have appeared on OL but not for a long time. Notice the spelling of Patrecia. I wonder what she is doing. Peter

BBfromM Wed 8/23/2000 2:48 AM  atlantis Here we go again! Ellen Moore wrote, "The simple fact is that I do not believe that Barbara wanted to 'humanize' Ayn Rand.  I do not believe that love and admiration was, or is, her purpose.  I had a meaningful but brief association with Alan and Joan Blumenthal, with Barbara's sister-in-law, with MaryAnn Sures, with Leonard Peikoff, with Edith Packer and George Reisman, as well as with many other friends of Rand over the years.  None of them treat Ayn Rand's personal characteristics with the maliciousness of the Brandens. There are still many left who can "tell the tale," and they knew the Brandens too.  I know how to judge the difference between objectivity and subjectivity when the facts are retold by those from all sides of a conflict.  Most of the people on Atlantis naively believe only the Brandens, so I judge them as being willing dupes of malicious intent." 

How nice of Moore to judge most of the Atlantis members as being "willing dupes." Is it just possible that such "dupes" recognize the truth when they see it, and are no one's "willing dupes?" No, love and admiration for Ayn Rand, although I feel them, were not my purpose in writing PASSION. My purpose was to tell the truth.

Ellen's "meaningful but brief association" with the people she names need to be more meaningful and less brief. She will find that, particularly but not only in the case of the Blumenthals, their understanding of Ayn Rand is perfectly consistent with mine and in fact their judgments are more harsh than mine.  Why don't you find out, Ellen Moore? That's a rhetorical question; I know perfectly well why you don't find out.

Moore also wrote, "Remember that Rand withdrew from him {Nathaniel Branden} personally when he wrote her a repugnant letter in July '68. . . "

Do you care to say what were the contents of that "repugnant letter," Ellen? Apparently not. The letter was a tortured effort to explain, as you well know, that the age-difference of twenty-five years, now that Ayn Rand was in her 60's and he still in his 30's, had become an insuperable barrier to a sexual relationship, despite his love and admiration for her. She had wondered if that were the reason for his emotional withdrawal, and he confirmed it. Surely most women would have accepted and understood the inevitable change in their relationship.  Ayn Rand did not.

 

Ellen Moore states that Ayn Rand "repudiated" me when she learned of my past lies and deceptions. Not so.  She did not repudiate me when she learned that I had been covering for Nathaniel; she accepted that and made excuses for me that I would not have made for myself. It was only when I refused to attend a kangaroo court of her choosing that she repudiated me. It's a good idea to have your facts straight, Ellen, before you hurl accusations. But then, you might not be able to hurl them, and what would be the purpose of your life if that were taken away?

Ellen wrote, "And even if Rand had been hurt by the truth that he loved Patrecia, that fact could have been resolved between them by some private agreement. "

You must be joking! It was precisely when Ayn Rand learned of Nathaniel's love for Patrecia that she turned on him and informed him that if he had an ounce of morality left he would be impotent for the next twenty years!

Ellen wrote, "I have never understood, and I disagree with those who condemn the 'Affair.'  I understand their agreement about having an affair, and I do not think that the affair destroyed their relationships."

Oh, Ellen, there go the facts again! Of course the affair destroyed our relationships. How do you think Frank O'Connor felt, as only one example, when Nathaniel twice-weekly walked into the apartment Frank shared with his wife and he had to go out in order to allow them to experience love and sex? Despite Nathaniel's repeated suggestions, his pleas, Ayn Rand had refused to allow him to take an apartment--in the same building if she wished, since she was terrified of the affair being known--where they could have time together without putting Frank O'Connor through the hell Ayn Rand insisted on putting him through.

Who, I wonder, has the greater allegiance to Ayn Rand and Objectivism--you, who insist on ignoring the facts and/or twist them out of all recognition, or I, who am concerned only with the facts?

Although this letter is addressed to Ellen Moore, I know better than to think she is open to reason. It is intended, rather, for "the willing dupes" of Atlantis whom I respect and many of whom I admire, and who wish to separate facts from Moore's fantasies. Barbara

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14 hours ago, Peter said:

I will now step out of character and say what I never have said to anyone, and have not wanted to say even to Ellen Moore: Ellen, you are a hostile, presumptuous, spiritually ugly, hate-filled, intellectually pretentious woman. Barbara

Barbara captured quite well my recollection of Ellen Moore. Ellen considered herself an expert on Objectivism. I once had an exchange with her about her assertion that 'similarity reduces to measurement omission.' This was about 20 years ago. So my memory of our exchange is now vague, but it went something like follows. Peter posted what looks like part of it here. Seeing her assertion as gibberish,  I challenged Ellen to clearly explain it, with at least one example, and to cite passages written by Ayn Rand, especially from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, to support her assertion. She tried multiple times without success, usually remarking about how dense I was for not understanding the obvious. She would cite a passage from Rand which didn't support her assertion along with repeating or adding more of her own gibberish. Eventually I made a parody of Ellen forming the concept of orange (the fruit), that went something like follows.

Ellen gathered together several oranges, not all identical. For example, some navel, some Valencia, some large, some small, etc. She could perceive their similarity, but she didn't yet have the concept orange. So she proceeded to measure the oranges in various ways -- their circumference around the middle, how thick the rind was, how many seeds were inside, how much each weighed, etc. She still didn't have the concept orange or grasp the oranges' similarity conceptually. Then I told her she had not yet measured how much juice she could squeeze out of each orange. She had a sudden flash of insight. She finally realized she had omitted the measurements of how juicy each orange was. Thus she finally grasped similarity conceptually and the concept orange.  😄

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5 hours ago, merjet said:

Barbara captured quite well my recollection of Ellen Moore. Ellen considered herself an expert on Objectivism. I once had an exchange with her about her assertion that 'similarity reduces to measurement omission.' This was about 20 years ago. So my memory of our exchange is now vague, but it went something like follows. Peter posted what looks like part of it here. Seeing her assertion as gibberish,  I challenged Ellen to clearly explain it, with at least one example, and to cite passages written by Ayn Rand, especially from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, to support her assertion. She tried multiple times without success, usually remarking about how dense I was for not understanding the obvious. She would cite a passage from Rand which didn't support her assertion along with repeating or adding more of her own gibberish. Eventually I made a parody of Ellen forming the concept of orange (the fruit), that went something like follows.

Ellen gathered together several oranges, not all identical. For example, some navel, some Valencia, some large, some small, etc. She could perceive their similarity, but she didn't yet have the concept orange. So she proceeded to measure the oranges in various ways -- their circumference around the middle, how thick the rind was, how many seeds were inside, how much each weighed, etc. She still didn't have the concept orange or grasp the oranges' similarity conceptually. Then I told her she had not yet measured how much juice she could squeeze out of each orange. She had a sudden flash of insight. She finally realized she had omitted the measurements of how juicy each orange was. Thus she finally grasped similarity conceptually and the concept orange.  😄

Maybe you already know this but you write like she is gone. Ellen is here at OL, posting as Ellen Stuttle.

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I typed in Merlin and lo and behold I found some correspondence. But it was too deep for me and I still don’t get it. I tried getting rid of the spaces but I changed something and the spaces were back. Peter.

Ghs. . . . God Almighty, what a nightmare of confusion is Ellen Moore's mind. It's a wonder she can get through a day without accidentally killing herself.

“And we can dump Merlin Jetton into the same antiquated pit of stultifying misinterpretation,” sayeth Lady Moore and damn does she make Ghs angry too, which she yells, “George!!!  Metaphysics!!!” Ellen Stuttle is mentioned.

PaleoObjectivist wrote, “Oh, baloney. I mean, that is ~total~ baloney!

Ellen Moore wrote to Ellen Stuttle, "That's so ungracious of you, Ellen, and so ignorant of past history."

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: "George Smith Rejects Objectivism" is old news Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 15:50:36 -0600. Jason Alexander has been right about George Smith all along.  George belongs to the antiquated history of Philosophy -- he has not begun to integrate the originality or the revolutionary aspects of Rand's new philosophy.  [And we can dump Merlin Jetton into the same antiquated pit of stultifying misinterpretation.]  George's post, Jan. 9, 17:45, "New subjective poll" is the clearest statement so far made by George indicating his failure to understand and integrate the writings of Rand.

He offers here a few old platitudes about his scientific thinking about the development of Consciousness, none of which are validated by science, and he's not "interested in discussing evolution", saying, "My original point stands, namely, that *none* of this has anything to do with the axiomatic concept of consciousness."

It's True, nothing he wrote has anything to do with the Objectivist premises about understanding the axiom of Consciousness. Then GS skips on to his antiquated, traditional view of Reason, thus, "Rand was using the traditional and widely accepted definition of man as a "rational animal" -- where "rational" signifies the faculty of reason, i.e., the innate ability of conceptual thought. This business about "epistemological identity" is something that Ellen has concocted from the recesses of her own mind. Rand was simply referring to man's *ability* -- an ability inherent in his nature -- to engage in a process of conceptual thought. Period."

This bears no application to Objectivism; it's nothing but the outworn, historical platitude that Reason is an innate attribute of man's metaphysical nature - "reason" is "in the physical brain at birth". It's Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!!  Reason is a epistemological faculty which is volitional and acquired.

Here is what Rand wrote about "acquired skills", The Comprachicos, p.156-158. TNL "If, in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius.  To focus his eyes (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking - and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation, and learn to speak - these are some of an infant's tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their lives."  AR

"The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally, It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned - it is the most crucially important part of learning - and all of man's other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it."

"This skill does not pertain to the particular *content* pf a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the *method* by which he acquires and organizes his knowledge - the method by which his mind deals with its content.  The method *programs* his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function.  The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology."  AR

 [Read on what she wrote here about concept formation, integration and usage as volitional, p.158.  Here is the KEY to understanding that Rand meant concept formation, integration, and usage is an *acquired skill*, i.e., meaning Reason is NOT INNATE.  Now I suppose, if George (or his kind) read these passages, he responded, "No, Rand did not mean what she wrote, and I will not believe it."

 In another essay, The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made, Rand clearly and totally rejects "The Myth of Innate Endowment" regarding authentic intelligence along with any other professional or artistic talents, goals or desires.  The fact of man's possessing *volitional consciousness* makes all of the above, especially Reason and Conceptualization, NOT INNATE according to Rand, because all are acquired skills volitionally initiated, directed, and learned.  This is what Objectivism entails. George, and Merlin [and some others] have evaded these entire points, as well as the fundamental revolution and intellectual genius that is Rand's Objectivism.

 George wrote even further errors, "Man does not have an "epistemology" per se; it is not a "power" of some kind. What he has are epistemological theories about the origin and nature of his knowledge."

 [George's views imply that he employs a theory versus practice dichotomy in his mind. He acknowledges no connection between the theories and the individual methods and applications of cognition - it's his theory divorced from practice - which also indicates a lack of employing an inductive epistemological method.]

 GS is wrong!  "Epistemology" does not apply to only one theoretical, specific category of Philosophy.  Everyone has "an epistemology, per se" which applies to his/her own individual contents/methods of learning cognitively. The facts are that every person has one's own individual volitional epistemology including a volitional psycho-epistemology.

 George has completely failed to integrate the fact that Reason is a volitional faculty, and that a "faculty" may be *acquired* as well as being automatically habituated.  Rand has discussed these issues so clearly, I can only consider that George has evaded the entire import of her writing.  He quotes a few quotes while missing all the fundamental understanding and integration.  What we are seeing here is not only George's evasions, it is George's " inability to distinguish concepts from their referents."

 I repeat, when Rand defined man as the 'rational animal' she had integrated the fact that reason and rationality are, at root, products of man's metaphysical attribute of *volitional consciousness*.   And when she named "reason" as man's fundamental distinguishing characteristic - which differentiated man from all other living beings - it meant that his methods of epistemology, his volitional initiation and acquiring of reason, distinguish man from all other living beings.  It meant that the *faculty of reason* is volitionally acquired and learned.  And when she said that rationality does not mean invariably acting in accordance to reason, she referred to the fact that the volitional Faculty of Reason, [logical conceptualization] IS ACQUIRED AND LEARNED by means of effort expended by each human individual. [Recall that Rand maintained the mind is 'tabula rasa' at birth.]

 Frankly, I am appalled that so many students have not grasped the volitional nature, the acquired nature, that is the faculty of reason. It is more than obvious from everything Rand wrote about her basic understanding and integration of Objectivism.  If I were to mention only two magnificent achievements about Rand's genius pertaining to human life, they would be the axioms of Existence, Identity, Consciousness standing as the guardians of Objectivity, and her stand on the volitional process of acquiring, integrating and using concepts which are rational - Reason actually is the complex, derivative process of a consciously volitional, integrated conceptualization about things in reality.

 Whether the members here integrate Rand's premises, or not, is up to each individual, but no one can say I have not presented the evidence in her own words, and to reason with you as to what Rand has written objectively in Objectivism - an innovative philosophy - that is a consistently integrated, rational, modern, and revolutionary treatise in the history of Philosophy. Ellen Moore

 From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith Rejects Objectivism" is old news Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 19:38:51 -0600 . . . . I wrote: " Rand was using the traditional and widely accepted definition of man as a "rational animal" -- where "rational" signifies the faculty of reason, i.e., the innate ability of conceptual thought. This business about "epistemological identity" is something that Ellen has concocted from the recesses of her own mind. Rand was simply referring to man's *ability* -- an ability inherent in his nature -- to engage in a process of conceptual thought. Period."

 Ellen replied: "This bears no application to Objectivism; it's nothing but the outworn, historical platitude that Reason is an innate attribute of man's metaphysical nature - "reason" is "in the physical brain at birth". It's Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!!  Reason is a epistemological faculty which is volitional and acquired."

 Ross Levatter asked: "Does Ellen Moore, based solely on her published work on Atlantis, demonstrate a good understanding of Objectivism?" Well, let's see.

 Rand embraced the traditional definition of man as "a rational animal," while stating that "man's rational faculty is his essential distinguishing and defining characteristic" (ITOE, 46). She also stated that "rational, in this context...means 'possessing the faculty of reason'" (p.44) So what is the "metaphysical referent" of an essential characteristic, according to Rand? "An essential characteristic is factual, in the sense that it does exist, does determine other characteristics and does distinguish a group of existents from all others...." (p. 52). And: "Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic [ i.e., 'the proper defining characteristic'] is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible" (p. 45).

 It is transparently obvious (to everyone except Ellen Moore) that when Rand speaks of a "rational faculty," "conceptual faculty," "cognitive faculty," "faculty of consciousness," "faculty of volition," etc. that her meaning of "faculty" is in accord with the standard definition, viz., "an inherent power or ability" (*American Heritage*). As Rand puts it, "The possession of a rational faculty does not guarantee that a man will use it, only that he is ABLE to use it and is, therefore, responsible for his actions." ("Ayn Rand Letter," 27 July, 1972. All caps are mine.) Consider also the following statement by Rand: "Man's volition is an attribute of his consciousness (of his rational faculty) and consists in the choice to perceive existence or to evade it." (ARL, 27 July, 1972).

 Now, as Rand has reminded us, "attributes cannot exist by themselves." Hence if it is the case (as Rand says) that volition is an attribute of man's rational faculty, and if it is also the case (as Ellen Moore says) that the faculty of reason is not innate but acquired, then it would logically follow that volition is also an acquired characteristic of man. But of course when Ellen Moore speaks, logic has nothing to do with it.

 Ellen wrote: "Here is what Rand wrote about "acquired skills", The Comprachicos, p.156-158. TNL."

 [snip] The gist of this passage is that "The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process...." Of course, I have never denied that this is a crucial aspect of Objectivism; on the contrary, I have emphasized it in my many posts on free will.  According to Rand as I have said repeatedly) man's faculty of reason must be exercised volitionally. But there must exist an inborn ability, or power, to exercise in the first place -- and it is this ability, or "faculty," that is referred to in the definition of man as a rational animal. To repeat a quotation from my previous post:

 "'Rational,' in this context, does not mean 'acting invariably in accordance with reason'; it means 'POSSESSING the FACULTY of reason.'" (ITOE, p. 44.)

 What on God's green earth does Ellen suppose that Rand meant in her many statements about man "possessing the faculty of reason"? This refers to an innate conceptual ability, or power. As Rand wrote in her Journals (July 20, 1945):

 "If men claim that the rational faculty is an INNATE gift (WHICH IT IS, or rather its POWER is, just as the degree of any physical talent varies from birth) and, therefore, a man cannot be blamed if he is born with a mental capacity insufficient for his survival, and he cannot make it the standard of his survival-the answer is that he has no choice except to EXERCISE his mind to the full extent of his CAPACITY...."

 There it is, in black and white: the "power" to which "rational faculty" refers is "innate." But will this deter our intrepid Moore or cause her to rethink her claims? No, of course not. She will doubtless find some way to squirm around this statement -- either that or she will ignore it altogether, as she is wont to do with explicit remarks like this – even though it is repeated and confirmed by Rand in *many* of her published works.

 If reason is an acquired characteristic, why would Rand insist that it is the fundamental, and therefore the proper distinguishing and defining characteristic, of man? This would make no sense whatsoever, given her theory of definitions and essential characteristics. And why would she call reason a "faculty" and refer to man as "possessing" it?

 Notice that Ellen prefers not to address elementary problems of this sort. Gee, I wonder why? Apparently Rand did not know how to write clearly, thereby causing nearly every reader to misunderstand her intended meaning until Ellen Moore happened on the scene to teach us all the esoteric meaning of Objectivism. Is there no end to this lunacy?

 Ellen wrote: [Read on what she wrote here about concept formation, integration and usage as volitional, p.158.  Here is the KEY to understanding that Rand meant concept formation, integration, and usage is an *acquired skill*, i.e., meaning Reason is NOT INNATE.  Now I suppose, if George (or his kind) read these passages, he responded, "No, Rand did not mean what she wrote, and I will not believe it."

 Yes, the volitional exercise of one's rational faculty is an acquired skill, according to Rand -- but the rational faculty itself, the *ability* to think conceptually, is something we are born with. Christ, why do I feel like am teaching a bunch of third-graders?

 Ellen wrote: "In another essay, The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made, Rand clearly and totally rejects "The Myth of Innate Endowment" regarding authentic intelligence along with any other professional or artistic talents, goals or desires.  The fact of man's possessing *volitional consciousness* makes all of the above, especially Reason and Conceptualization, NOT INNATE according to Rand, because all are acquired skills volitionally initiated, directed, and learned.  This is what Objectivism entails."

 Notice how Ellen goes quotes from a discussion on a different subject and then tailors her own absurd conclusion to fit. Atlanteans should read (or reread) this article for themselves to appreciate how badly Ellen has mangled it.

 Btw, though it is not directly relevant to this debate, it should be noted that Rand did believe intelligence is innate to some degree. As she wrote in "The Missing Link, Part II" (ARL, 21 May, 1973): "But the DEVELOPMENT of a man's consciousness is volitional: NO MATTER WHAT THE INNATE DEGREE OF HIS INTELLIGENCE, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice."

 I once again grow weary of teaching Objectivism 101 to a dunce. "Does Ellen Moore, based solely on her published work on Atlantis, demonstrate a good understanding of Objectivism?" LOL! Ghs

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith rejects Objectivism ... Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 13:09:39 -0600. George can quote till hell freezes over. He thinks he is teaching Obj. 101 to a bunch of morons - well, maybe he is able to rationalize for his favored audience who still fail to grasp the genius of Rand's fully integrated philosophy.

 But to me his efforts are a plethora of isolated quotes that fail to integrate her full meaning.  When Rand wrote that the full process of conceptualization is NOT INNATE, but is an ACQUIRED SKILL, she was talking about the faculty of Reason. She was not talking about an innate metaphysical power innate at birth.  It has to be acquired by volitional effort. Only than does it become an epistemologically acquired faculty.

 GS still thinks, " . . .  where "rational" signifies the faculty of reason, i.e., the innate ability of conceptual thought. "

 Since each concept must be formed from scratch as identified by Rand, and detailed explicitly in ITOE how this is acquired, organized and integrated hierarchically, then what can it possible mean for GS to make his [ridiculous] claim about  "the faculty of reason, i.e., the innate ability of conceptual thought."

 GS makes no attempt to prove the ability INNATE, he offers an arbitrary assertion. The fact is, concepts are not INNATE, but acquired by means of a volitional process undertaken is a series of steps, as Rand outlined.  It's also a fact that many people fail to form concepts beyond the first concrete level stage, so there is proof there is no "innate ability in their nature".  It's obvious GS failed to integrate the full meaning of concepts he tosses around to fill the dusty spaces in his brain.

 Rand's dictionary, and mine, refers to a "faculty" as - either an inherent or acquired ability or power.  Even here GS evades the full meaning of 'faculty' as Rand used it - *Either inherent or acquired*, George!!!

 George!!!  Metaphysics!!!   Volition is an attribute of human consciousness - it's the causal primary of actions in a human consciousness.  Then, concepts and reason may be acquired with proper effort. Yet, GS continues to maintain that there must be a pre-existing, innate, faculty in the brain prior to birth - this is directly in the face of contradicting Rand's premise of 'tabula rasa'.  This is evidently GS's hard-headed irrationality exposed.  NOT INNATE!!! GS.

 It's cause and effect.  PRIOR TO the faculty of reason being acquired volitionally there is no such faculty, and no concepts, *in the brain". Obviously, I'm writing to counteract a dunce's misinterpretations of quotations.  George has not had a new idea since he became a juvenile atheist.  He lives on within the past.  He proves over and over again that he cannot wrap that thing he calls his mind around the premises of Objectivism.

 One would think, in reading the passages GS quotes, that Rand never changed her mind or updated her thinking.  But she did.  George just wants to cling to the concretes he read when he was a boy, and never ever after questioned again - he's passé and antiquated, now. Those who gather around him to *think just like George does* will get what they deserve,  a stagnant cesspool of yesterdays' errors and conundrums. Ellen M.

 From: PinkCrash7 To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith rejects Objectivism ... Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 14:06:31 EST

Ellen Moore wrote: < I repeat, when Rand defined man as the 'rational animal' she had integrated the fact that reason and rationality are, at root, products of man's metaphysical attribute of *volitional consciousness*.   And when she named "reason" as man's fundamental distinguishing characteristic - which differentiated man from all other living beings - it meant that his methods of epistemology, his volitional initiation and acquiring of reason, distinguish man from all other living beings.  It meant that the *faculty of reason* is volitionally acquired and learned.  And when she said that rationality does not mean invariably acting in accordance to reason, she referred to the fact that the volitional Faculty of Reason, [logical conceptualization] IS ACQUIRED AND LEARNED by means of effort expended by each human individual. [Recall that Rand maintained the mind is 'tabula rasa' at birth.] >

 Yes, Rand maintained that man's mind is 'tabula rasa' at birth, however, to my understanding, George Smith is not saying that man is born with pre-conceived ideas or concepts already formed at birth, which is what tablua rasa means.  (Rand derived her idea about the mind being "tabula rasa" at birth from Aristotle and John Locke.  It was not an original idea of her own.)  There is a difference between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of concept formation.  It is that misunderstanding by Ellen M. which seems to be at the root of the conflict between her and George Smith.

 Ellen Moore wrote: < GS makes no attempt to prove the ability INNATE, he offers an arbitrary assertion. The fact is, concepts are not INNATE, but acquired by means of a volitional process undertaken is a series of steps, as Rand outlined.

 Again, Ellen Moore seems to be confusing the concept of "ability" ( to form concepts) with the concept of "concept" itself.

 Ellen M. wrote: < Yet, GS continues to maintain that there must be a pre-existing, innate, faculty in the brain prior to birth - this is directly in the face of contradicting Rand's premise of 'tabula rasa'.  This is evidently GS's hard-headed irrationality exposed.  NOT INNATE!!! GS.

 < It's cause and effect.  PRIOR TO the faculty of reason being acquired volitionally there is no such faculty, and no concepts, *in the brain".>>

 Not meaning to beat a dead horse, but I would assume by now that it is clear that while concept formation is an acquired skill, the *power* or capacity to engage in this process in the first place is something which is innate in man, i.e., something he is born with.

 As I already mentioned, Ayn Rand meant the mind is tabula rasa at birth in regard to ideas and concepts, just as Aristotle and John Locke before her did -- that man is not born, or endowed with, ideas or concepts already pre-formed in his mind.  Yet the power or capacity for man to be able to do so is already there for it is inherent in his very being.

 Ellen Moore also wrote: < One would think, in reading the passages GS quotes, that Rand never changed her mind or updated her thinking.  But she did.  George just wants to cling to the concretes he read when he was a boy, and never ever after questioned again - he's passé and antiquated, now. >>

 In what areas did Rand change her mind?  Did she change her mind since she wrote the following in *Atlas Shrugged* (Galt's speech, p. 1020-1021): "...as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining -- that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul -- that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is BORN ABLE TO CREATE..." [emphasis mine] Debbie

 From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith rejects Objectivism ... Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 14:40:08 -0600. Debbie Clark wrote: "Yes, Rand maintained that man's mind is 'tabula rasa' at birth, however, to my understanding, George Smith is not saying that man is born with pre-conceived ideas or concepts already formed at birth, which is what tablua rasa means.  (Rand derived her idea about the mind being "tabula rasa" at birth from Aristotle and John Locke.  It was not an original idea of her own.)  There is a difference between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of concept formation.  It is that misunderstanding by Ellen M. which seems to be at the root of the conflict between her and George Smith."

 Yes, exactly. As Rand put it "The Objectivist Ethics": "Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are 'tabula rasa.'"

 The "cognitive mechanism" to which Rand refers is his "faculty of reason" -- or his "conceptual faculty," as she sometimes calls it. And this is what she meant in an earlier Journal entry when she referred to the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." She meant we are *born* with a "cognitive mechanism" that enables us to think conceptually, when we so choose.

 All of this is so basic that I cannot imagine how anyone could misunderstand it, or think that it conflicts in some way with Rand's theory of volition. If we did not have an inherent power to conceptualize, then the "choice to think" would be utterly futile. To put it in Aristotelian terms, if we did not have the potential (the power) to think, then it would be impossible to actualize this potential by any means, including choice. If man did not have the innate physical ability to run, then he could not "choose" to run. Similarly, if man did not have the innate mental ability to conceptualize, then he could not "choose" to think.

 Rand makes this point very clearly in "Kant Versus Sullivan": "The possession of means and their use are not the same thing: e.g., a child possesses the means of digesting food, but would you accept the notion that he performs the process of digestion before he has taken in any food? In the same way, a child possesses the means of "interpreting" sense data, i.e., a conceptual faculty, but this faculty cannot interpret anything, let alone interpret it "correctly," before he has experienced his first clear sensation."

 Here Rand states that a child "possesses" a "conceptual faculty" even before ""he has experienced his first clear sensation." This is the inherent "means" that a child must "use" volitionally. That Rand compares this conceptual faculty ("in the same way") to the "means of digesting food" leaves no doubt that she viewed man's "conceptual faculty" as innate. (I doubt if even Ellen Moore will claim that our digestive capabilities are acquired.)

 I'm beginning to think that Ellen Moore has a Pavlovian reaction to the word "innate." She appears to equate it with a theory of innate ideas, which is something I have never defended or attributed to Rand. To say, as Rand does, that the faculty of reason is "innate" is merely to say that we are born with a power to think conceptually, and that this potential must be actualized by a volitional choice. Ghs

 From: Ellen Moore <ellen_moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: RE: George smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 15:01:29 -0600. Ellen Stuttle wrote to answer this that I wrote, >what can it possible mean for GS to make his [ridiculous] claim about  "the faculty of reason, i.e., the innate ability of conceptual thought."

 Her answer, "It would be impossible for an organism to learn to do something which that organism isn't biologically able to learn.  That's what it means.  You keep confusing the *ability* to learn to think conceptually with the results of the learning process."

 No, I don't.  None of us were talking about earthworms' biology here, ES; we are discussing human concepts -- how they are acquired, integrated and used in human thinking processes, as per Rand.

 I had quoted Rand, thus "The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally,  It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned - it is the most crucially important part of learning - and all of man's other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it."

 "This skill does not pertain to the particular *content* of a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the *method* by which he acquires and organizes his knowledge - the method by which his mind deals with its content.  The method *programs* his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function.  The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology."  AR

 Now George, in continuing arguments, deleted these important words which clearly signify that concepts are NOT INNATE, they are formed, integrated, and used volitionally.  They are derived by means of a process, an ACQUIRED SKILL. [George is still claiming that REASON and concepts, and conceptual thinking, are INNATE in human nature at birth in human biology.  George is wrong!] My fundamental point is that we must accept human nature, i.e., the integration of matter and consciousness.  Specifically we must accept the metaphysical human nature of volitional consciousness which, as AR stated, distinguishes man from all other living entities. But all contents and actions, beginning to end, birth to death, pertaining to human thinking are initiated and directed by using volitional consciousness.  There is nothing INNATE about the process. In total, it is an acquired skill - from the first implicit grasp of percepts, and deriving the first concept to the last, broadest, highest organized conceptual abstractions.  All is acquired volitionally, by choices made - or not made. Neither George, nor before him Roger, has integrated the Objectivist epistemology.  They cling to ideas learned in their past, about the past, and because of this, they will not understand the import of Rand's new premises and insights. Now, you claim that I confuse the "ability" to learn with the "results" of learning.

 I fail to understand your point which you did not see fit to explain. But I'll try to pose some questions and ideas.  What is the "ability" to learn think conceptually?  And what are the "results" of learning?  And what is REASON? The ability to think is a conscious volitional process in dealing with the automatic percepts we are aware of when we focus, and are conscious of something.  Rand explains the steps of deriving the first concepts [so assuming you have studied and itemized that process, I'll not need to repeat it here].  So when this stage is accomplished, we reach the key to entering the conceptual level having implicitly grasped "UNITS" when our volitional consciousness has the ability to abstract [Rand gave the description of "abstract" as "to isolate out and separate a characteristic from the object and holding the characteristic in one's mind] -- so we integrate two or more units having the same characteristic with their particular measurements omitted. -- and then, we have formed one concept, our first concept.  This process is volitionally initiated and directed all the way through -- There is nothing INNATE about it; concept formation, integration and usage IS an acquired skill which we learn to do, or not.

 The "result" you want to consider are the valid conceptual knowledge anyone has gained when they volitionally use this method often enough and long enough to see signs of valid conceptual intelligence - which is the ability to deal with a broad range of conceptual abstractions over a lifetime.  This "result" is not INNATE - Knowledge and intelligence are ACQUIRED SKILLS.

 So now you tell me, what is REASON?  Was it innate in the brain at birth?  Was it metaphysically axiomatic?  Or did we have to learn to acquire the SKILLS and METHODS of human cognition as we volitionally learned to form concepts and to think conceptually.  Reason is the volitional method of human cognition.  AR - Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses.  Begin with that description, and trace back through the logical hierarchy to its derivatives to the base in percepts.

 [I do not believe that you'll make the effort, but I wanted to help you grasp why George is so wrong.]

 Ps, In reference to your recent insult to Dennis May about his incorrect ideas about Objectivist axioms, combined with your insult to me that I should not be asked to explain them to him.  That's so ungracious of you, Ellen, and so ignorant of past history.  Dennis has enjoyed many discussions about Objectivist axioms, and he long ago decided to define them in his own way because he does not accept the metaphysical premises and axioms of Objectivism.  Your "helpfulness" is a waste - Dennis's is not interested. Ellen Moore

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 15:01:43 -0600. George wrote, "Note that Ellen does not address *any* of the passages I cited from Rand, including one in which she expressly describes the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." What a dishonest, pathetic spectacle is this woman named Ellen Moore.'

 And Members, please note that George deliberately "snipped" out the passage which proved that Rand stated that concept formation, integration and use is a volitionally acquired skill, and is not *innate*.

<< I had quoted Rand, thus "The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally.  __It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned - it is the most crucially important part of learning - and all of man's other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it."__ (underline emphasis mine)

 "This skill does not pertain to the particular *content* of a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the *method* by which he acquires and organizes his knowledge - the method by which his mind deals with its content.  The method *programs* his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function.  The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology."  AR

 The entire conceptual process, according to Objectivism, is described in detail, and is NOT INNATE, BUT IS AN ACQUIRED SKILL.

 George insists that Rand thought the rational faculty is innate. Perhaps If I go back into VOS, I can offer a simple explanation for George and his followers.  Read Rand, page 20.

 Rand makes it clear here that, " *conceptual* knowledge cannot be acquired *automatically*, but is acquired volitionally. Also clear to Rand is that Reason "is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice." – i.e., volitionally, "man is free to think or to evade that effort. - i.e., volitionally. "Thinking requires a state of full focused awareness." - i.e., volitionally.

 Rand describes two long paragraphs about what concepts are, their process "consists of a method of using one's consciousness."  - volitionally - and she provided a detailed account of the process she named "conceptualization".

 Rand wrote, " The faculty that directs this process, the faculty that works by means of concepts, is: *reason*.  The process is *thinking*.

 I knew a student who had trouble integrating all this information into a clear understanding.  So I offered an analogy [much as I dislike analogies]. The problem is the same as George has - Which comes first, the faculty of reason, or the faculty of thinking, or the faculty of concepts?  All can be described in various ways as a power, or ability, and all have been called innate and acquired, physical and mental, and metaphysical and epistemological.  It's time to understand what Rand meant!

 Take an example from physical labor.  Suppose you want to sweep the floor.  What is the hierarchical process required?  First, you cannot sweep a floor without a broom-like tool.  Which do you act on first, the broom or the sweeping?  Answer, the broom - you first need a broom by means of which to sweep the floor.  This is the same required relationship existing between concepts and reason.  You have to provide the means, the concepts, before you can do the exercise of reasoning.

 Rand said Reason is the faculty that WORKS by means of concepts.  So there must be a process or method of forming concepts, integrating, acquiring and using concepts prior to there being an acquired faculty of reason one may exercise by choice - i.e., conceptually and volitionally.

 "Reason" is simply the *conceptual* name given to the conceptual-logical methods required in human cognition, and includes the processes of thinking Rand named "conceptualization."  Once this state is achieved [the acquired skill] we have acquired the faculty of Reason,, i.e.,  the rational conceptual, logical faculty of cognition in epistemology.

 The opposing view presented by George and Roger, is to claim that reason is metaphysical, physical, automatically in the brain at birth – so 'tabula rasa' is denied - concepts are in the brain apriori so that "innate" reason directs their use in either automatic/volitional thinking processes -- so reason, exercised by choice, can arbitrarily dictate the contents and action of the human mind - and no one is responsible for his thoughts and actions "because reason made me do it".  Now this is not what they say in public.  They offer paragraphs of verbiage that confuse the issues, because the conceptual issues are so clearly confused in their minds - that which Rand called   "lamely and disastrously" cognitive processes in their psycho-epistemology.

 Victor, please note the continuous insults and assertions George offered here only as a substitute for rational argument.  Is this why he is so pandered to by members, and you never call him on it?  I do understand how continuously intimidating insults might make one want to submit rather than fight back, but, thanks be, there are two or more members here who will not submit in silence. Ellen Moore

 From: "George H. Smith" Reply- To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: George smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 15:57:03 -0600. I wrote: "Note that Ellen does not address *any* of the passages I cited from Rand, including one in which she expressly describes the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." What a dishonest, pathetic spectacle is this woman named Ellen Moore.'

 Ellen Moore replied: And Members, please note that George deliberately "snipped" out the passage which proved that Rand stated that concept formation, integration and use is a volitionally acquired skill, and is not *innate.*

 Yes, I snipped *most* of this passage (a common e-list practice when dealing with lengthy quotations), but I did in fact summarize and comment on it as follows:

 "The gist of this passage is that "The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process...." Of course, I have never denied that this is a crucial aspect of Objectivism;  on the contrary, I have emphasized it in my many posts on free will.  According to Rand (as I have said repeatedly) man's faculty of reason must be exercised volitionally. But there must exist an inborn ability, or power, to exercise in the first place -- and it is this ability, or "faculty," that is referred to in the definition of man as a rational animal.....

 And later in the same post I wrote: "Yes, the volitional exercise of one's rational faculty is an acquired skill, according to Rand -- but the rational faculty itself, the *ability* to think conceptually, is something we are born with."

 In short, I agree with the passages that Ellen quoted from Rand.

 Ellen wrote: "Also clear to Rand is that Reason 'is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice.' - i.e., volitionally."

 I must sometimes wonder if Ellen has even a modicum of common sense. Can she really be *that* oblivious to what Rand is saying in this and many similar passages? Rand is saying that the *exercise* of the "faculty" of reason is volitional, not the *possession* of this faculty. Man must first possess a faculty (a power or ability) before he can "exercise" it, whether volitionally or in any other manner.

 God Almighty, what a nightmare of confusion is Ellen Moore's mind. It's a wonder she can get through a day without accidentally killing herself. Ghs

 From: PinkCrash7 To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith rejects Objectivism ... Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 17:00:51 EST

I previously wrote: "Yes, Rand maintained that man's mind is 'tabula rasa' at birth, however, to my understanding, George Smith is not saying that man is born with pre-conceived ideas or concepts already formed at birth, which is what tablua rasa means.  (Rand derived her idea about the mind being "tabula rasa" at birth from Aristotle and John Locke.  It was not an original idea of her own.)"

 My wording above left a little to be desired, though I thank George that the intent of my words was understood anyway.  Obviously, what I meant is that "tabula rasa" means not having any pre-conceived ideas or concepts already formed at birth (though I might insert here that with the current knowledge of the fetus in utero, it may not be accurate to pin this at birth since it is known that the human being does experience sensory perception prior to birth), not that there is no innate capacity for reason, and the assertion that man has the innate capacity of reason does not deny the idea of the mind as tabula rasa, as Ellen Moore apparently thinks.  (One might make an argument against the idea of the mind being tabula rasa at birth anyway, but that is not what George is arguing.)

 Continuing from what I previously wrote: "There is a difference between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of concept formation.  It is that misunderstanding by Ellen M. which seems to be at the root of the conflict between her and George Smith."

 George Smith replied: << Yes, exactly. As Rand put it "The Objectivist Ethics":

 < "Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are 'tabula rasa.'"

 < The "cognitive mechanism" to which Rand refers is his "faculty of reason" -- or his "conceptual faculty," as she sometimes calls it. And this is what she meant in an earlier Journal entry when she referred to the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." She meant we are *born* with a "cognitive mechanism" that enables us to think conceptually, when we so choose.

 < All of this is so basic that I cannot imagine how anyone could misunderstand it, or think that it conflicts in some way with Rand's theory of volition. If we did not have an inherent power to conceptualize, then the "choice to think" would be utterly futile. To put it in Aristotelian terms, if we did not have the potential (the power) to think, then it would be impossible to actualize this potential by any means, including choice. If man did not have the innate physical ability to run, then he could not "choose" to run. Similarly, if man did not have the innate mental ability to conceptualize, then he could not "choose" to think. >

 I would only insert here that while "ability" and "capacity" are often used as synonyms, I prefer the term "capacity" in this sense because I think it better conveys the idea of an innate power to learn or innate potential for growth whereas as "ability" tends to convey the idea that it is a presently actualized skill, which is how Ellen M. is interpreting it, thus causing all kinds of confusion.

 (I have more to say, but my youngest daughter is issuing me ultimatums right at this very moment about getting off the internet....) Debbie

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 16:09:13 -0600 Debbie wrote, "There is a difference between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of concept formation.  It is that misunderstanding by Ellen M. which seems to be at the root of the conflict between her and George Smith."

 What is "the innate power to form concepts" - versus - "the actual process of concept formation". For us to understand, you will have to describe "the innate power to form concepts"  - what it is - and how it differs from the actual process detailed by Rand.

What exactly exists to cause this "innate power" to form in the brain prior to birth, and we do all the work after birth volitionally conscious.  Hmmmm? Ellen M.

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 16:09:23 -0600 George wrote, Quoting Rand; "Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are 'tabula rasa.'"

 "The "cognitive mechanism" to which Rand refers is his "faculty of reason" -- or his "conceptual faculty," as she sometimes calls it. And this is what she meant in an earlier Journal entry when she referred to the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." She meant we are *born* with a "cognitive mechanism" that enables us to think conceptually, when we so choose."

 "All of this is so basic that I cannot imagine how anyone could misunderstand it, or think that it conflicts in some way with Rand's theory of volition. If we did not have an inherent power to conceptualize, then the "choice to think" would be utterly futile."

 George, Prove that Rand stated "the cognitive mechanism" IS " the faculty of reason" or is "the conceptual faculty" - and that reason is innate some specific place in the brain, or in the mechanized organization of the body.

 The term "mechanism" usually refers to a physical mechanism that operates automatically. That will get you from sense data to percepts, but the rest, concepts and reason, are volitionally acquired.  What evidence can you offer for an innate physical mechanism of rationality?

 As we all know a child is not aware of his first, or any sensation, he is aware of automatically integrated percepts in his brain - these he can think about and may interpret, but he still starts from scratch in order to form his first concept by the volitional process Rand went to great effort to detail and explain.  The effort is not innate, the steps are chosen, initiated volitionally.

 You go on quoting Rand, "In the same way, a child possesses the means of "interpreting" sense data, i.e., a conceptual faculty, but this faculty cannot interpret anything, let alone interpret it "correctly," before he has experienced his first clear sensation."

 You say, "Here Rand states that a child "possesses" a "conceptual faculty" even before "he has experienced his first clear sensation." This is the inherent "means" that a child must "use" volitionally."

 Again, describe the possession of a mechanism of "a conceptual faculty" - that exists even before the first clear sensation appears. What exactly are you proposing as such a pre-existent mechanism? Describe it for us.

 You claim, "To say, as Rand does, that the faculty of reason is "innate" is merely to say that we are born with a power to think conceptually, and that this potential must be actualized by a volitional choice.'

 Describe this mechanism of innate power.  Where is it? What is it?  What is this "potential" that "must be actualized by a volitional choice"? Volitional consciousness assures us that no particular volitional choices of awareness MUST be made.  We are FREE volitionally Not to make the choices to be aware - we can evade awareness.

 You speak of THE INNATE POWER as if it were an INNATE mechanistic Dictator of our Choices. This, certainly is NOT what Rand identified in the philosophy of Objectivism.  Rand told us that "Man is a being of self-made soul".

 Describe to us this kind of mechanism that directs minds to make choices.  Are you saying, the Soul is Master Director, and we are not Free --- or are we Free from pre-existing innate mechanistic forces that direct our lives?  Objectivism, Please! Ellen M.

 From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: RE: George smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 17:13:54 -0500. EM quotes Rand, thus: >"The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally, It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned..."

 She then says: >Now George, in continuing arguments, deleted these important words which clearly signify that concepts are NOT INNATE, they are formed, integrated, and used volitionally.  They are derived by means of a  process, an ACQUIRED SKILL.

EM,  Rand is saying, in the passage you quoted, that the *process* of conceptualization is not innate.  George has said nothing at all disagreeing with that.  What he's saying is innate -- and what Rand also said is innate -- is the capacity to learn to perform that process.  The capacity as such is innate; otherwise, no one could learn to perform the process.  Please, try to think in terms of the example of walking.  If humans didn't have the capacity to learn to walk, then they couldn't learn to walk. This doesn't mean that they're born knowing how to walk. Ellen S.

 From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 16:52:10 -0600. I quoted Rand as follows: "Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are 'tabula rasa.'"

 I then commented: "The "cognitive mechanism" to which Rand refers is his "faculty of reason" -- or his "conceptual faculty," as she sometimes calls it. And this is what she meant in an earlier Journal entry when she referred to the "power" of our "rational faculty" as "innate." She meant we are *born* with a "cognitive mechanism" that enables us to think conceptually, when we so choose."

 Ellen Moore replied: "George, Prove that Rand stated "the cognitive mechanism" IS " the faculty of reason" or is "the conceptual faculty" - and that reason is innate some specific place in the brain, or in the mechanized organization of the body."

 Ellen, do you know what the word "cognitive" means? It is the adjectival form of "cognition," which means "the mental process or faculty by which knowledge is acquired" (*American Heritage*) Ellen, do you know how Rand and other philosophers have used the term "tabula rasa"? This refers to the doctrine that the *mind* is a "blank tablet" at birth, and that all *knowledge* is based on sensory experiences.

 Ellen wrote: "The term "mechanism" usually refers to a physical mechanism that operates automatically.   That will get you from sense data to percepts, but the rest, concepts and reason, are volitionally acquired."

 Rand spoke of a "COGNITIVE mechanism," not a perceptual mechanism – and she was perfectly aware of the difference between the two.

 Ellen continued: "What evidence can you offer for an innate physical mechanism of rationality?"

 First, we are discussing the question of what Rand believed. Second, Rand never claimed that we have "an innate physical mechanism of rationality." (The faculty of reason is not the same thing as "rationality.")

 As for the meaning of "mechanism," in this context it clearly means "an instrument or process, physical OR MENTAL, by which something is done or comes into being" (*American Heritage.* my caps).

 Ellen, you need to step back for a moment, forget how much you dislike me, and get some perspective on this. This is truly becoming sad. If you don't believe me, solicit advice from someone you trust. I don't like you either, but even I find it hard to witness this much desperation. Ghs

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 17:01:30 -0600. George wrote, "Yes, I snipped *most* of this passage (a common e-list practice when dealing with lengthy quotations), but I did in fact summarize and comment on it as follows: ... Yet he deliberately omitted that each concept formed, integrated, and used is "not innate, but is an acquired skill." AR Her earlier paragraph claimed that physical faculties like visual focus and efforts like walking are not innate but are an acquired skill as well. Yet George continues to claim, "But there must exist an inborn ability, or power, to exercise in the first place -- and it is this ability, or "faculty," that is referred to in the definition of man as a rational animal....." Why?  So far he offers no proof of a pre-existent mechanism of reason and cognition, nor offers any notion of what it entails, or where it is in the body.  Might I mention that science has not yet discovered its presence either.

 Again GS asserts. "...but the rational faculty itself, the *ability* to think conceptually, is something we are born with."

 Still no evidence or proof or validation added.  [He can't.]

 And, "In short, I agree with the passages that Ellen quoted from Rand." Really? Then how come I disagree with most of what you say they mean.

 And, "Rand is saying that the *exercise* of the "faculty" of reason is volitional, not the *possession* of this faculty. Man must first possess a faculty (a power or ability) before he can "exercise" it, whether volitionally or in any other manner."

 Why?  Show us, prove to us that we possess an innate faculty of reason, or of concept formation - somewhere.  Rand taught that these faculties of reason, and conceptualization have to be INNATE in order to be volitionally formed, integrated and used  - and that only if they are INNATE can we possibly possess and use them.  The point is because they are volitionally formed, integrated and used before we possess the faculty - after the skill is formed, not before.

 George, don't you talk to me about having common sense and getting through the day alive.  The confusions about the meaning of Objectivism are all of your making.

 And there is Debbie, who regurgitates the confusions GS tosses about. What distinction is there between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of forming concepts?  I really want to know what you mean and why you both insist that "innate" must be tossed into this issue to create more confusion -- Rand stated  the conceptual process is "not innate, but is an acquired skill" as viewed in Objectivism.  There is absolutely no requirement for there being innate faculties when such faculties as reason and conceptualization are volitionally acquired skills.  To call them "innate" defies sense and imposes pre-existing capacities in the body that are obviously not in there at birth.  They are volitionally learned! Ellen M.

 From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 17:24:36 -0600. I wrote: "In short, I agree with the passages that Ellen quoted from Rand."

 And Ellen Moore replied, presumably with a straight face: "Really? Then how come I disagree with most of what you say they mean."

 Take a wild guess, Ellen. (I hope Atlanteans will note my admirable self-restraint in responding to this tempting set-up line. 8-))

 Ellen is now challenging me to "prove" this and "prove" that. She seems to forget that we are presently engaged in a *historical* dispute about what *Ayn Rand* did and did not believe. And I have provided an abundance of passages from Rand to substantiate my commonsense claims. When and if Ellen Moore cares to address those passages, I have plenty more. Ghs

 

From: PinkCrash7 To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: George Smith rejects Objectivism Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 20:12:54 EST. Ellen Moore wrote: << And there is Debbie, who regurgitates the confusions GS tosses about. What distinction is there between the innate power to form concepts and the actual process of forming concepts? >

 I fail to understand why this is so difficult for you.  For that matter, what difference is there between the innate power to sexually reproduce oneself and actually doing so?  What difference is there between the innate power of a pregnant women to nurse her baby and actually doing so?  I fail to understand your question.

 Ellen M. continued: <  I really want to know what you mean and why you both insist that "innate" must be tossed into this issue to create more confusion -- Rand stated  the conceptual process is "not innate, but is an acquired skill" as viewed in Objectivism.  There is absolutely no requirement for there being innate faculties when such faculties as reason and conceptualization are volitionally acquired skills. To call them "innate" defies sense and imposes pre-existing capacities in the body that are obviously not in there at birth.  They are volitionally learned! >>

 Ellen, it is not necessary for you to attempt to denigrate me by saying that I am regurgitating George Smith's confusions.  First of all, George Smith is not confused about this matter and, secondly, I am not merely regurgitating what he is saying, but   repeating what I have said on this list many times in the past for as long as I've been here (over 3 years) -- previously stated in the course of excruciating debates over abortion (and no, I do NOT wish to get into that subject again).

 You still have not addressed what Ayn Rand wrote in *Atlas Shrugged*, pages 1020-1021, through the character of John Galt, which I quoted in a previous post and will quote again:

 "...as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining -- that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul -- that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is BORN ABLE TO CREATE..." [emphasis mine]

 If you want to argue with what I am saying and what George Smith is saying, then stop evading and address the quote above, the very words of Ayn Rand, plainly stating that man is "born able to create" himself as a rational being.

 If you don't agree with Ayn Rand, then just say so.  Nobody is going to tar and feather you and run you off the list.  (Lord only knows we would have done that a long time ago if such was our proclivity.) Debbie

 From: PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: George smith rejects Objectivism Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 00:52:29 EST

 Ellen Moore wrote:  > The opposing view presented by George and Roger, is to claim that reason is metaphysical, physical, automatically in the brain at birth – so 'tabula rasa' is denied - concepts are in the brain apriori so that "innate" reason directs their use in either automatic/volitional thinking processes

 Oh, baloney. I mean, that is ~total~ baloney!

 Both man's faculty for reasoning and his faculty for digestion are innate, their existence and development dictated by his genetic code (DNA) and the circumstances of his gestation, birth, and childhood experience. But having an innate potential for reasoning does not mean that our brains are born full of concepts, any more than having an innate potential for digestion means that our stomachs are born full of food! The rational faculty is an attribute of the brain/nervous system, just as the digestive faculty is an attribute of the stomach/ digestive system. And these attribute are inborn, developing step by step, handling first simple material (percepts and soft food, respectively), then the tougher stuff (concepts and hard food, respectively). I've always thought that Rand's analogy between consciousness and digestion was well taken and a sign of her creative ability to shed light on difficult subjects with simple comparisons. Surely EM could appreciate this line of thought, and stop bashing George and me with grotesque misrepresentations of our views. Best 2 all, REB

 From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Will they never learn Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 13:40:01 -0600

George wrote, "Ellen is now challenging me to "prove" this and "prove" that. She seems to forget that we are presently engaged in a *historical* dispute about what *Ayn Rand* did and did not believe. And I have provided an abundance of passages from Rand to substantiate my commonsense claims. When and if Ellen Moore cares to address those passages, I have plenty more."

 As I said, George can quote Rand till hell freezes over, but what he fails to prove is that he understands her meaning.   And since Roger has weighed into this disagreement I suggest those interested read Rand's essays, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made", and "The Missing Link", and "The Comprachicos" for relevant premises.

 No, George and I are not in an "historical" dispute about what Rand believed, or about the words she wrote; the dispute is about the *meaning* of the words she chose to write. There is nothing more serious that George fails to understand about Rand's philosophy than the fact that Objectivism is the innovative, integrated work of a genius who proposes exactly the opposite of what George is trying to perpetuate with his "commonsense claims".  Rand's philosophical integration is unique and revolutionary, not a regurgitation of past philosophy.  She identified that there is a certain kind of mentality that chose to "treat abstractions as if they were *perceptual* concretes", and never chose to take the next, crucial, fully volitional step: the higher levels of abstraction from abstractions, which cannot be learned by imitation.".

 It's a fact that many students have never grasped the truly open-ended context of Rand's concepts, premises and axioms.

 Now to the present, ongoing dispute. Some members here insist that reason and concept formation are "potential" - metaphysical, or physical, innate capacities in the human body at birth.  Still, they refuse to state or describe, let alone prove, exactly what is innate about such named capacities.  They do not identify whether innate capacities are actually “metaphysical" or "physical", or state where they are located in the body at birth.  They don't describe this 'potential' that they claim is innate, nor do they offer reasons as to why they think such capacities are innate at birth. They assert without evidence.  And when asked that they prove their claims, they react as George did in the above quote; they evade, change the subject, and offer their own undigested, misunderstood quotes.

 These "commonsense claims" are woefully inadequate, offered with no deep philosophical analysis or integration of Rand's statements evident - whereas these specific characteristics of analysis and integration are abundantly evident in all of Rand's innovations, applications, and conclusions within the philosophical system of Objectivism.

 George is not talking about "innate ideas" in this discussion, but about metaphysical, physical, mental *capacities* he claims are *innate* in man's body at birth. Yet he will not validate any such claim - or he would have done so by now.

 Ellen S. tries to come to George's support with the following comments, "Rand is saying, in the passage you quoted, that the *process* of conceptualization is not innate.  George has said nothing at all disagreeing with that.  What he's saying is innate -- and what Rand also said is innate -- is the capacity to learn to perform that process.  The capacity as such is innate; otherwise, no one could learn to perform the process.  Please, try to think in terms of the example of walking.  If humans didn't have the capacity to learn to walk, then they couldn't learn to walk. This doesn't mean that they're born knowing how to walk."

 Without including further quotes added by Roger, since they offer the same conclusions, it's obvious to their minds that what exists *innate* in the human body at birth is the *capacity* to learn to perform a process of learning to conceptualize.  ES gives the example of walking as a pre-existing attribute, an "innate capacity" at birth.  What she evades is the effort required in *learning* to walk.  ES thinks a body with a spine and legs is sufficient for possessing the innate capacity of learning to walking.

 Is this "capacity" innate even if one never learns to walk?  No one can be forced to learn to walk, it can be avoided just by remaining passive and limp.  Walking is a chosen, learned action.  ES's claim is that *capacity* is innate even if the skill is never learned or actualized. Evidently, she thinks all such capacities just reside innate at birth, unformed, unlearned, and unused in actuality.  Like concept formation, I guess, ES thinks "capacity" is a "potential" ability that one never chooses to be completed as "man-made", never formed, integrated, actualized or used.  What, I ask, is the proof for those "innate capacities" when one can choose to acquire and to learn the skills, OR never to make the effort to actualize them.

 What actually is "the metaphysical" in humans that is actually innate at birth?  1. the physical process, once initiated, is automatic and a body is born  2. metaphysical volitional consciousness is inherent.  George claims Rand meant that man's "emotional mechanism" and the "cognitive mechanism" are innate at birth.  What she wrote, VOS p. 22 is: "Nothing is given to man on earth except a potential and the material on which to actualize it.  The potential is a superlative machine: his consciousness ... *he* has to discover how to use it and *he* has to keep it in constant action ... by his own choice, by his own effort, by his own mind."

 The only "emotional mechanism" innate in the body at birth is that emotion is an automatic, integrated response to man-made value judgments -- no value judgments - no emotions follow.

 The "cognitive mechanism" is both automatically physical and sensory perceptual, and consciously volitional - conceptual cognition is volitionally man-made; thus not innate.   Rand's premises agree with the premise stated by Aristotle, " Actuality precedes potentiality."

 Lets view the dictionary - Rand did. "Innate' means existing at birth, inborn, not learned. "Capacity" means the ability to contain or hold; the amount or volume that can be contained; the ability to learn or understand. But, according to Objectivism, all learning and understanding is achieved volitionally with the effort of initiating and directing the proper process, so the ability is not an inborn innate capacity at birth - it is learned.  As Rand stated in many different ways and contexts, concepts must be formed, integrated, used *before* the capacity is actualized.  Potentially, all that is inborn, or innate, is human "volitional consciousness" and "the material on which to actualize it."

 If, in the anti-conceptual and/or concrete-bound mentality, there are few if any *volitionally* formed abstraction from abstractions, none integrated, none used, none actualized, then there exists no actualized capacity. Memorized imitations of verbalizations do not count as actual self-made conceptualization, or as reasoning.

 "Innate Capacity", where there is no actuality, makes no sense, common or otherwise. The term "capacity" is neither appropriate nor relevant to volitionally acquired faculties of reason, concept formation, conceptualization. "Innate capacity" does not apply to "rational faculty" or "conceptual faculty".  The term "innate" is not relevant to volitionally acquired faculties which do not actually exist anywhere prior to them *actually being acquired* as a skill by means of initiating and directing the required volitional process.

 Reason is not metaphysical, not physical, and not innate in the brain at birth.  Reason is a volitional conceptual faculty: Reason is not innate or axiomatic.  Reason is the human learned method or skill of *acquiring* abstract, conceptual knowledge.  Humans, individually, may volitionally choose to make the effort to acquire a conceptual, rational faculty, but they are free not to make the effort.

 As for using the term "innate capacity" in reference to conceptual knowledge and reason, it is totally irrelevant as well as a category mistake.  Check your premises. A one gallon pail has the actual capacity to hold one gallon of liquid.  But, that standard is totally irrelevant to the context of concept formation and reason.  Human knowledge, according to Rand, is conceptually *open-ended*.  The only limit that can be applied appropriately to an individual's knowledge is the length of his lifetime; how long does one live to actually work at conceptualizing one's knowledge.   Cognition would be viewed as finite only if humans could reach a state of omniscience - which is never ever a commonsense claim - it's an impossibility.

 When Rand stated that "Reason is not axiomatic" she meant that Reason in not metaphysical or innate - it's an acquired skill. When Rand stated that concepts are "not innate, but an acquired skill", she meant it, actually. And when Rand stated that concepts and knowledge are "open-ended", she meant that the "capacity" for conceptualization and cognition exists *only after* the work has been done and the skill has been acquired by learning it - but *not before*. And the lack of evidence and proofs for such non-objective, and nonsensical claims as "innate capacity" that have been offered here so far, it is certainly not a premise related to volitional consciousness, or to the cognitive premises within Rand's Objectivism. Ellen Moore

 From: "Peter Taylor" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: "George Smith rejects Objectivism ... Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 18:30:31 +0000. I am just starting to read the discussion between Ellen and George about the innate versus the acquired. I think the issue is subtle because quotes can be used to back either position. A discerning reader should not rely on one isolated quote or on one instance of their misapplication of their own theories by any philosopher.

 As Ghs has pointed out many times concerning Descartes, Aquinas, Aristotle and Rand, one needs to understand the totality of their works. True knowledge is to notice growth in a philosopher’s stance, to only use the “mature” version if it seems to contradict the earlier "simpler" version, and to always grasp the totality of a philosophy unless we are focusing on a history of a philosophy’s growth.

 Rand always insisted her philosophy was a cohesive whole but should we consider her earliest writings, or her marginalia as part of her philosophy or just her words written and spoken after she declared she was always speaking about her philosophy? Everything she ever said is of interest, but I consider her “cohesive philosophy” as what she wrote after she wrote “Atlas Shrugged,” and if it was meant to be philosophy. Ayn saying, “Frank, did you pick up the ‘Times,’” does not count as Objectivism :O)

 Ellen Moore wrote to George H. Smith: “Yet, GS continues to maintain that there must be a pre-existing, innate, faculty in the brain prior to birth - this is directly in the face of contradicting Rand's premise of 'tabula rasa' . . . . ” end quote

 Consider a pre-conscious human. Up to the point of the “initialization of consciousness” the necessitating physical baby is in existence and the living apparatus is growing or in place. Even at pre-conscious levels sensory data causes reactions, especially if the sensation is discomfort. The infant will change its cramped position. It will scratch its tingling ear as a sonic wave resonates at that point during a sonogram. It will seek comfort by sucking its thumb.

 Move forward to the momentous instant a human being becomes conscious for the first time. Push back Rand’s concept of 'tabula rasa', from birth to that instant. By the logical implications of Rand’s axioms the conscious human being exists, and if it is conscious, it is conscious of some “thing.” As the infant begins to perceive some “thing” with its senses, it then remembers and categorizes its memory of those “things.”

 This is the beginning of the inner reality we call consciousness. Is it aware of itself at the beginning? Perhaps. (As an aside, in computer terminology the infant is initializing and actualizing its mental brain.)

 If we are only considering the pre-conscious physical / chemical / electrical human being can we say the emergence of a rationally thinking human is “possible” or “probable”? To have gotten this far in an evolutionary sense we can safely say adults will nurture the infant when it is born and see to its physical and mental growth or we as a species would not be here to argue the point. We are the evidence.

 So, is it “probable” the infant will have the chance to become rational. Yes. But is it rational yet? No, it has a ways to go; it is still at the perceptual stage. The next steps towards rationality are up to the infant. It must choose to think beyond the perceptual level.

 Either: George is right and Ellen is wrong.

or, Ellen is right and George is wrong.

or, Neither George or Ellen is right.

 Or I am right :O) I would say the contextually true position is that that there must be a physical, pre-existing, innate, ***possibility*** of a “rational faculty” in the brain prior to the initialization of consciousness – and this does not contradict Rand's premise of 'tabula rasa'. Semper cogitans fidele, Peter Taylor

 From: "Peter Taylor" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: animal conceptuality? Merlin Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 20:29:06 +0000

 I wrote about Ayn Rand: She is ALWAYS REFERRING TO HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS unless she specifies otherwise.

 And Merlin responded: “That's fine as a general rule, but her Consciousness axiom *as stated* is true for non-humans, too.”

 This is a fine point but I disagree. I don’t think her descriptions of the axiom *Consciousness* as stated  in “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology,” concerns animals at all, except for those few, brief times she expressly says so. You may extrapolate that the axiom pertains to non-humans because animals possess consciousness but that is not what Rand says in the first few chapters. Do you know of any instances where she does say her axiom, or epistemological concept of human consciousness also pertains to animals? I have been looking for one.

 I wrote: When the infants are ready they provide the inner spark, connect the dots and think conceptually.

 Merlin responded: “I hope this is only an inaccurate expression . . . . never having thought before, the child suddenly and inexplicably decides to start thinking.  In my view it is part of the natural course of development for an infant to have some concepts. Saying it another way, a child thinks long before it ever *chooses* to think or not think. To even consider the question 'Shall I think or not think?' requires a degree of self-awareness that a child does not attain until past about two years of age.” end quote

 I would agree that a child thinks long before it ever *chooses* to think or not think, but it chooses to raise its level of awareness. If you study a baby close up, it will study you back. Now put your glasses on (or a fake mustache :O) and watch the baby renew its interest.

 One of the most awe inspiring experiences I can imagine is a baby growing up in a house without pets seeing a dog or a cat for the first time. The baby’s delight and complete absorption in watching this marvelous creature is a wonder to watch.

 Precipitated by an event, or staring at its toes or at nothing at all, a baby can volitionally raise its level of awareness. When a baby wakes up in the morning, happy and not uncomfortable and crying, listen to the sounds it makes in its crib. Those "intelligent sounds" you hear are VERY different from the ones you will hear from a litter of puppies. Semper cogitans fidele, Peter Taylor

 From: Ellen Moore <ellen_moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Will they never learn Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 14:46:54 -0600

 Ellen S. wrote, "As to what the word "metaphysical" means to EM, I never have succeed in translating that.  She seems to mean some kind of realm which pre-exists the physical. "

 No, I do not.  I've always used the term "metaphysical" as in the traditional philosophical meaning from Aristotle to Rand.  It means "beyond or transcending the physical." The subject of Metaphysics in philosophy means the branch that deals with the nature of Being, i.e., that which exists.  "Existence", in Objectivism deals with and subsumes all past, present and future existents. Not only that, but I have defined it this way in my posts fully over the time I've posted to ATL, so ES is not paying attention to me or to Objectivism.

 As to the usage of "capacity", I use it as Rand does when it comes to the volitional actions of human beings.  Traditionally, a capacity may be either automatic or volitional.  The automatic capacities are inherent in the nature of an entity, i.e., they are not learned, not volitional.  E.g., the heart has the automatic capacity to pump blood - and a one gallon pail can hold a limit of one gallon of liquid - no more - nor can a pail fill itself with water.

 But that meaning, automatic, does not apply to the characteristics, abilities and actions of a volitional consciousness.  Here, as per Rand, a volitional consciousness has the capacity for self-initiated and self-directed actions - volitionally, humans may choose to initiate the actions that direct its own levels of mental awareness.  Humans of all ages initiate and direct their non-automatic, i.e., volitional, physical and mental actions.

 So, ES, I have no quirky meaning of my own for terms.  Rather, you and others here are using the term "capacity" as if it only meant automatically pre-existing, "innate in its own nature [i.e., not learned].  When Rand stated that "reason is not axiomatic", it means that reason does not exist innate in the physical body of a human at birth; it is a volitionally acquired, learned skill.

 Likewise, Rand stated that concept formation, integration and use are "not innate, but an acquired skill".  Her meaning has been quite clear. Sensory perception is not volitional, its processes are physical and automatic.  But any processes, such as concept formation are volitionally acquired.  Therefore they are not innate; they are acquired by a conscious process that is learned - or they are not learned at all.  Because their achievements are volitional, they may be initiated and directed properly in accord with reality, or they may be acquired inefficiently by sloppy, indiscriminate, illogical, disorganized, unrealistic epistemological processes.

 To give simple examples:  Perception is physical. Consciousness is metaphysical. Conception is epistemological.

 The methods and conceptual contents referred to as "the faculty of reason" are volitionally acquired. Thus, the faculty of reason, does not exist inherently as an "innate capacity" in humans at birth.   Reason is an acquired faculty of cognition.  Reason belongs in the philosophical branch of Epistemology  And each human that chooses to learn to form concepts and think conceptually, achieves his/her own psycho-epistemology.

 If you don't grasp this about Objectivism, then you don't understand Objectivist epistemology. Ellen Moore

 From: PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Primary, in what sense? Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 21:14:38 EST. Dear Atlanteans: The primary (!) reason for the ongoing confusion about axioms, and on the relative fundamentality in human nature of reason and volition, is the failure to distinguish between the metaphysical and epistemological senses of "primary."

 Something is ~epistemologically~ primary if it is basic to our experience or conscious awareness and cannot be analyzed or broken down further. In this sense, the concepts of "existence" and "identity" and “consciousness" (and perhaps one or two others, such as "self") are truly primaries. ~Epistemological~ primaries. And in this sense, "reason" is ~not~ a primary, but a complex, derivative concept (as Rand notes in the final page of her chapter on axiomatic concepts). Reason can be broken down (as Peikoff notes in OPAR) into at least three more basic elements: percepts (the data of reason), concepts (the form of reason), and logic (the method of reason). For this reason, it is ~not~ an unanalyzable primary in one's experience, and is thus ~not~ an axiomatic concept. (So far, so good -- or should I say, OPAR, so good? :-)

 But there is a distinctly different issue in Objectivism, which is the nature of ~metaphysical~ primaries. Some mistakenly think that they are simply the same thing as the axiomatic concepts, equating "metaphysical primary" with "epistemologically primary." But they are definitely ~not~ the same thing, as can be seen from Rand's remarks to the Epistemology Workshops (as excerpted in the 2nd edition of ~Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology).

 In her discussion of why the concept of "fact" is not an axiomatic concept, Rand states a very important criterion for determining whether or not something is a "metaphysical primary." She says, "once you observe that the word 'fact' is a term which can be applied to a very broad category of phenomena, and actually that it is helpful only to subdivide a very wide idea, such as existence or reality, you know it is not a primary. It's a complex, derivative concept." (ITOE, p. 245)

 Got that? If it subdivides "a very wide idea, such as existence or reality," it's not a primary. At the very least, this also means that if it subdivides an idea ~less~ wide than existence or reality -- an idea such as "living beings" or "attributes of living beings" -- then it is not a metaphysical primary ~either~. And ~this~ is the very reason why ~neither~ reason ~nor~ volition is a metaphysical primary.

 Let's start with reason and see in more precise detail why it is not a metaphysical primary. There are many living beings who possess the faculty of reason, and there are many, many others who do not. Thus, the concept of "reason" helps to subdivide a much wider idea, the category of "living beings" into humans (living beings with rational faculties) and non-humans. Thus, by Rand's criterion, reason is not a ~metaphysical~ primary, any more than it is an ~epistemological~ primary. Going on...

 By the same reasoning, ~volition~ is not a metaphysical primary ~either~. (Whatever you might think about its status as an ~epistemological~ primary, i.e., an ~axiomatic concept~, is beside the point. We are talking here about ~metaphysical~ primaries.) Just as reason is the distinctive way that human beings deal with reality, so is volition the distinctive way that human beings regulate the way they deal with reality. ~Every~ organism has ~some~ way of regulating the way they deal with reality. Most organisms regulate their actions automatically; only humans do so as the result of conscious self-regulation. Thus, the concept of "volition" helps to subdivide a much wider area, the category of "living beings" into humans (living beings who regulate their actions self-consciously) and non-humans. Thus, by Rand's criterion, ~volition~ is not a metaphysical primary.

 (Note: the above reasoning, while showing that neither reason nor volition is a ~metaphysical~ primary, nonetheless does also show that reason and volition are both ~essential~ and ~distinguishing~ features of human beings -- though it does not resolve the issue of which is ~fundamental~ and thus properly ~defining~. Rand, of course, held that ~reason~ is fundamental and defining in chapter 5 of ITOE, and Peikoff underscored this point in his 1976 lectures on the Philosophy of Objectivism. No amount of Ellen Moore's squirming and obscure, irrelevant quoting to the contrary can blank out this basic fact about Objectivism.)

 Now, refer back once more to Rand's criterion for what is or is not a "metaphysical primary." Something is ~not~ a metaphysical primary if it helps "to subdivide a very wide idea, such as existence or reality." As a bonus question, before reading the final paragraphs below, can any of you bright Atlanteans deduce what this must imply about ~consciousness~?  :-)  (You know, consciousness, that attribute which ~some~ entities possess and other ~entities~ do ~not~?  :-)

 To conclude: I am ~not~ dissing Rand's axiomatic concepts. Nothing in what I say in any way diminishes their status as ~epistemological~ primaries. All that I am saying here is that, in the Objectivist ~metaphysics~, the primaries are existence and identity, and ~that's it~. (As Rand wrote in her Journal on June 9, 1958, " 'Existence exists' (or identity plus causality) is all there is to metaphysics. ALL THE REST IS EPISTEMOLOGY." (p. 699)

 In other words, neither reason, nor volition, ~nor consciousness~ is a metaphysical primary. Whether or to what extent any of them has a proper place in metaphysical discussions ~in relation to~ the primaries (existence, identity, causality) is another matter. Objectivism certainly holds that a basic fact about existence is that it is metaphysically independent of consciousness -- so you have to introduce consciousness into your metaphysical discussions ~if only~ to establish that the world is ~not~ the product of consciousness, but the ~object~ of it.

 As for volition, however, since it is a ~specific~ form of causality, it is ~narrower~ than causality and thus not only cannot be a metaphysical primary, but also is something that is not even true of every living creature (let alone of everything that exists. Volition, in other words, is neither a metaphysical primary, nor even ~metaphysical~.

 Both volition and reason are central features of the basic nature of man -- Rand and Peikoff say "man's metaphysical nature" -- but that does not make them topics in metaphysics! And again, whichever of them is ~more~ basic (fundamental, primary) in ~man's nature~, this does not make it more basic (primary) in ~reality per se~. Whatever we wish to call the branch of philosophy or philosophy of science that studies man's fundamental nature (and I think that some amount of confusion and harm was done by Peikoff's and Rand's referring to it as "Man's Metaphysical Nature"), we should have no difficulty in realizing that it is a more specialized field of study than ~metaphysics per se~. The fundamental nature of man is a more specific, narrower topic than the fundamental nature of ~reality per se~. Best 2 all, REB

 From: PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Will they never learn Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 23:14:00 EST. Ellen Moore wrote: >Yes, I am saying that we may learn to form concepts *before* we learn to reason.

 Merlin Jetton commented:  > Chalk up another howler for Ellen Moore. She claims that concept-formation is not part of the faculty of reason. That is about as bizarre as it can be. "Ayn Rand would roll over in her grave" comes to mind.

 Not exactly a howler, Merlin. Check out Peikoff on p. 152 of OPAR. While, concept-formation is an essential ~element~ of the operation of the rational faculty -- viz., the ~form~ of its operation. The ~data~ of its operation is provided by perception, and the ~method~ of reason is ~logic~. This last-named element of the rational faculty is what may (?) not yet be operating when babies form their first concepts.

Thus, though we can form concepts while still quite young, we cannot yet ~reason~ (employ concepts based on percepts with logic) until a later point.

 However, unlike EM, I do not think that our earliest concepts are formed volitionally -- and that self-aware use of our rational faculty (my understanding of what volition means) does not kick in until after one has formed a great deal of concepts. Precisely, in fact, at the point that one "logics out" whether and when to form concepts, instead of simply doing it with all the spontaneous, unself-conscious gusto that little babies do!  🙂  So, full-fledged functioning of the rational faculty and true volition (self-aware control over one's concept-formation) actually begin at the same time -- by most accounts, sometime around one's second birthday.

 The ~potential~ to logically, deliberately form (or not form) concepts, however, is ~innate~, inborn in every normal baby, and that potential ~will~ actualize, unless the parents "Comprachico" its brain and nervous system. So, I'd say that we ~do~ form concepts before we learn to reason, but also before we begin to exercise volition. The key is self-awareness. Before we reach that stage, we are un-self-consciously perceiving and forming concepts. Once we become self-aware, we deliberately and logically choose when and whether to form a concept. This is the beginning of reasoning -- and volition.

 Ellen Moore wrote: >When Rand stated that "reason is not axiomatic", it means that reason does not exist innate in the physical body of a human at birth; it is a volitionally acquired, learned skill.

 Not only is this false as to Rand's meaning (she meant simply that reason is not an irreducible part of our knowledge of reality -- and, of course, it isn't, since it's comprised of percepts, conceptualizing, and logic), but also false as an implication.

 If non-axiomatic means non-innate, then the fact that perception is not axiomatic must also mean that ~it~ is not innate. But it ~is~ innate; it is not volitional, but automatically acquired at birth (if not before).

 Also, logically, if non-axiomatic means non-innate, then innate must mean axiomatic. (This is the Aristotelian procedure called denying the consequent, which is logically valid.) And since perception and digestion and breathing ~are~ innate, then they must also be ~axiomatic~!!  NOT!!!

 Ellen Moore's attempted re-write of Rand's epistemology is certainly her right under the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the United States of America. But it really sucks eggs, and ought to be grounds for retribution from beyond the grave. :-) all 4 now, REB Roger E. Bissell, musician-writer

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49 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

Maybe you already know this but you write like she is gone. Ellen is here at OL, posting as Ellen Stuttle.

Check your assumptions. See this post written by Ellen Stuttle. My post was about Ellen Moore.

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8 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

Maybe you already know this but you write like she is gone. Ellen is here at OL, posting as Ellen Stuttle.

 

7 hours ago, merjet said:

Check your assumptions. See this post written by Ellen Stuttle. My post was about Ellen Moore.

 

7 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

Well, I'll be damned. I always took them as same person, using both maiden and married names.


Jon,

That is the worst insult to my thinking ability I have ever received from anyone in the 21+ years I've posted on O"vish lists.  Is it that you haven't read any of the material Peter's posted from Ellen Moore?  Or do you actually think that I would have written such stuff?

I'm glad Merlin provided that link.  The linked-to post tells about Ellen Moore's death November 11, 2007, and how I learned that EM had died - from Barbara, who had written to EM with some fond thoughts and was saddened at learning from Mel, EM's husband, that crusty, feisty, valiant Ellen Moore had died.

Ellen Stuttle

 btw, Stuttle is my maiden name.  My husband's name is Gould.

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1 hour ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

Jon,

That is the worst insult to my thinking ability I have ever received from anyone in the 21+ years I've posted on O"vish lists.  Is it that you haven't read any of the material Peter's posted from Ellen Moore?  Or do you actually think that I would have written such stuff?

I have not really read her, no. I see her in the Atlantis postings that Peter puts up but I don't usually read that old stuff. Maybe I would agree about her thinking ability if I dug in but she seemed rational enough and making discerning points from what little I examined. No insult intended.

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36 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

I have not really read her, no. I see her in the Atlantis postings that Peter puts up but I don't usually read that old stuff. Maybe I would agree about her thinking ability if I dug in but she seemed rational enough and making discerning points from what little I examined. No insult intended.

Ellen Moore (RIP) always "seemed rational enough," but was, really, always irrational because that was out of her Rand ideational base which was in itself distorted.

--Brant

and quite the dogmatist

we really do miss her

she was smarter than what she ended up saying

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22 hours ago, Peter said:

... it was too deep for me and I still don’t get it.

Peter,

I only got through half of that selection. But I think I did understand something that has puzzled me since I first started posting online.

Ellen Moore's thinking is cockeyed in the same manner I have encountered at times and never understood. Setting aside the vanity issues of being told she is wrong (NONE of us likes that) and where she responded with more belligerence than logic, once she calmed down and started expressing coherently what she really believed, her words started seeming--to me--totally beside the point. Or worse, not even in the same neighborhood as the point.

(btw - I never knew Ellen Moore. My comments about her are based solely on the excerpts from Atlantis you post and the opinions of people who did know her.) 

 

My Article

The first time I came across this form of thinking in O-Land was back in 2005. I had posted an article to SoloHQ called, To Turn or Not to Turn - A Question of Cheek. I wasn't an experienced writer of prose back then, so I outlined the article as best I could (introduction, stating what I wanted to do, the problems I encountered, and so on and ending with a conclusion). Then I riffed in each section trying to make as much sense as I could while still being interesting and entertaining. And I wanted to include stories so I told one from my past. 

The point of my article was that, in trying to spread Objectivism, we should try to find common ground with religious people if we want to convince them to look at Rand's ideas. That, to me, was a better approach then denouncing them as evil to their faces. And one good way of finding common ground was reframing the different principles in each and seeing if and where they apply to the other side. The article was focused on only one such principle: turning the other cheek. I had intended to write more on this theme later with other principles.

(btw - I no longer want to do Objectivism missionary work and now think it is a bad idea, but not because I think spreading Rand's ideas is bad or that cross-pollinating different systems of thinking is a bad idea. Those things are great ideas. I just no longer want to save the world in the name of Objectivism. There are several reasons for that, but the main one is if that ever got close to happening out in reality, you can count on Objectivists to fuck it up. 🙂 In general, they don't know how to run things on a large scale. Just look at the shambles the Objectivist movement is in. Imagine the whole goddam newly "saved" world like that. 🙂 )

I just now reread my article and parts of it made me blush due to a certain awkwardness and stylistic rigidities beginners have, but I was clear in what I wanted to say and told the story well.

 

The Kaboom

Then, as people who are familiar with the history of this article well know, a huge kaboom followed. The comments to my article per se were almost all gushes. Then one of the site's owners, Lindsay Perigo, wrote a rebuttal article ("This Cheek's Not For Turning") mischaracterizing much of what I said and denouncing me as evil. 🙂 And, of course, many of the comments to his article denounced me as evil, too--some of them the same people who had gushed. 🙂 Well... there were people who were perplexed about the mischaracterizations and gratuitous insults. It certainly had people yacking...

I didn't mind the controversy or even the fickle crowd behavior since I had worked in classical music and show biz. Crowds are crowds and I had seen all kinds. But there were certain people who looked at that article and took it to places I did not understand. That is the identical feeling I got when I read Ellen Moore above. Here's a good example of what I am talking about. In the comments to the Perigo article (denouncing me as evil), the other site's owner, Joe Rowlands, wrote a summary of my article:

Quote

I see the argument as such:
1.) Just because they're religious, doesn't mean we can't find common ground.
2.) Instead of focusing on differences, we should discuss the similarities. This is the "soft sell".
3.) There is a difference between tactics and strategies.
4.) When he was a kid, it didn't work taking it literally.
5.) Hypocrisy is the rule at church.
6.) Redefine "turn the other cheek" to mean something about taking abuse and shaming an opponent.
7.) Therefore the Christian view of turning the other cheek is in fact compatible with Objectivism.

He also mischaracterized much of what I said and denounced me as evil, but that's beside the point. 🙂 

My problem was that I didn't recognize my article in his summary. Just like people talking with Ellen Moore above didn't recognize their own words in her mischaracterizations. And there is no fixing it in the minds of these kinds of people, either. (I recall a saying that you can't reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into...)

I saw pieces of my article, but not the skeleton or any semblance of a whole. It was as if, in describing me as a person, someone talked about the position of the sun when they saw me, the house down the road from where I was standing, the color of my pants, the dog that was running around that day, the shadows from the tree behind me, and so on. All of that might have been there when he saw me, but it does not give an idea of me.

So I responded to Rowlands:

Quote

... unfortunately I found your outline of my article a bit of a hodgepodge and frankly it came off as done without a real interest in understanding what I was saying. More of discharging an unpleasant duty. Here is another outline.

1. Introduction -
    a. Innocence of child approach.
    b. Unthinking preconception of Objecivists when religious principles are mentioned turning off newcomers before they understand Objectivism.
    c. Mention that similarities to traditional religious principles are present in Rand's works.
    d. Quote from Rand stating that good is to be found in many religious principles - her fundamental issue was with faith versus reason.
    e. Possibility of arriving at a different rhetorical approach with religious people.

2. How I came about the idea of applying strategy and tactics to moral principles:
    a. Prescott parody, which stated that ALL Objectivists ideas are the reverse of traditional ones (obvious exaggeration).
    b. Musing on "turn the other cheek," checking out a Rand quote on pacifism and arriving at a definition of the principle based on popular meaning (not retaliating against aggression).
    c. Watkins quote, stressing the need for overall moral principle before calculations, leading to thinking about strategy and tactics.
    d. Quote from Rand showing that ethical principles are guides to action based on getting/keeping values.
    e. Example from chess, showing which two types of action are available in terms of scope (strategy and tactics).

3. Examination of what "turning the other cheek" means in terms of strategy and tactics.
    a. Original quotes from the Bible on "turning the other cheek," with conclusion that no real use was originally specified.
    b. Personal story from childhood showing how "turning the other cheek" fails miserably as a strategy (thus as an overall moral principle).
    c. Three examples from Rand showing how not retaliating in kind ("turning the other cheek" as understood popularly) was used by her heroes as a tactic to get and/or preserve other moral values - (1) Roark's refusal to appeal the sentence to preserve his integrity, (2) Galt (even going so far as to help his destroyers) to demonstrate his contempt for the unthinking, and (3) D'Anconia not reacting to Rearden's slap because of the tremendous value he held for Rearden.

4. Conclusion.
    a. Showing similarities between Objectivist works and traditional principles is a good way to make a listener new to Objectivist ideas not hostile - it breaks the ice.
    b. "Turning the other cheek" only works as a tactic, and then only some of the time.

There. That certainly looks a lot better.

 

I Backed Off

At that time, this mental fog of Rowlands impressed me--it left a mark--much more than the controversy or hostility. I haven't written very much about that article since then. I think most people who know the story think I let it go as a misfire. But that was not my problem. I was literally taken aback by the sheer boneheadedness of "Objectivist leaders" mischaracterizing my ideas to bash a strawman, then showing clearly they not only did not understand what I was saying, they weren't interested in understanding. They just wanted to denounce someone from the safe space of pre-approved jargon.

What's worse, I couldn't figure out if they were faking it or not. Both cases were bad, though.

I thought back then, how in hell was I going to belong to a movement when the leaders did that crap? But it wasn't with the clarity I just said. I was also confused and struggled to believe what I was looking at.

I didn't know what made them tick. I could deal with their crap easily in terms of emotions or power or prestige or vanity or anything like that. I could check that off to the human condition (like I did with vanity in Ellen Moore's case above). My problem was that I literally wondered what damage they had done to their brains epistemologically to deform their reason to such an extent. Did they do that to themselves by using Objectivism incorrectly? Is that something Objectivism can cause? 

That was a hell of a doubt to harbor all of a sudden for someone as committed to Objectivism as I was back then. And I didn't know the answer. But I did know these idiots had no answers for me any longer. They didn't know how to think.

What's worse, I didn't know why and couldn't figure it out, especially since they had studied Objectivism and were self-proclaimed experts and leaders. They even had a following.

So that drove me to leave this article and episode in the drawer all these years. I thought I would get back to it once I understood things better.

 

The Answer

Well, now I do. In fact, now I know the answer to what and how these people think and why nobody can get through to them.

People like this replace reality with a core story of the future. They do not see ideology as a projection of an ideal future to help them make choices today. (That's basically what all ideologies are.) They see ideology--their story of an ideal future--as a replacement today for today's reality. So when they see something, they peg it to that story about the future, not to what their eyes are looking at today.

They don't perceive reality the way you and I do. They literally replace present reality in their minds with an abstraction of an idealized something yet to come. 

In Ellen Moore's case, part of her core story was deifying Rand. In her ideology, all of mankind is supposed to eventually fall down and worship Rand as the greatest human being who ever lived and utopia will reign on earth forever and ever. And, of course, she--Ellen Moore--was to be recognized as one of Rand's greatest disciples--one who helped this paradise come about. That was her ideal future that she brought into the present. (I'm basing this on what I've read of her.) And that caused her denouncing George Smith (and others) so harshly when they talked about the pros and cons of Rand's ideas. This was sacrilege to her, but her arguments of Rand's ideas always seemed beside the point. That's why she mischaracterized what George and others said so often, but offered rebuttals that didn't make any sense. Put all that in the light of her core future story replacing reality and it all makes perfect sense. What's a little fudge or nastiness here and there when paradise for all humans on earth is at stake? 

In the case of the Duo who Couldn't Shoot Straight on my article, part of their ideology was that they were reformers of the corrupted Objectivist community and they were the true keepers and bearers of the Randian torch. They, not who most people thought of as Rand's heirs, would save the world with themselves on top of it. That's what drove them and that's what they hoped for in the future. But that future is what they brought to the present as if it were the present.

My article back then (and its initial popularity among their flock of sheeple) threw all of that into irrelevance and that freaked them out. That's also why so many people--including me--were perplexed by their reactions. They weren't interested in the ideas I actually brought up. They were only interested in ideas that resulted in their personal projected futures according to their core story. They were on their stump right in front of everyone denouncing evil with certainty, but everything they were saying was beside the point. In order to make things fit that didn't fit, they had to mischaracterize it. That way they could denounce it and keep their certainty schtick rolling.

Now I can recognize this. For example, many people among today's elitist ruling class--including the fake news media--are dishonest scum, but others (ones I am now pretty good at identifying) suffer from the delusion I just mentioned. They believe their own bullshit so much, they think it is reality.

Why? Neuroses? Insecurity? Power lust? Delusions of grandeur? Resentment? Something else? I guess this varies from individual to individual. But the desire to see reality as it is does not belong to the reason or their motivations.

Anyway, I'm glad to get that out of my system.

🙂 

 

Sign Off

I hope this helps one or more of you out there to see something in a different light that might be confusing you. Maybe, I hope you can keep from wasting unrecoverable hours of your precious life running in circles trying to understand or fix someone close to you who has a deformed outlook on reality like I just described.

But that's all I can do--describe it and look a bit behind the curtain based on some pretty hard personal living and learning. I can't tell you how to fix it.

I fixed it in my own life by getting away from those kinds of people. I wish I had a more profound fix than that, but that's the best I've got.

Michael

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