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A further postscript to Barbara's notes...

1. The TOC Summer Seminar will be held 3 miles from my apartment. I could probably walk there, but it'll be hot out, so I'll drive in the air conditioned comfort of my luxurious 2001 Ford Focus. (Yes, Focus, you whim worshippers! :-)

2. I will be presenting at the Summer Seminar, too! My piano partner and I will be doing an hour of romantic and jazz music at 8 PM on July 4 (unless the party animals make it necessary to reschedule our session). I tried to talk Will Thomas into letting me do my "Passionate Pop..." material, but he apparently is trying to include me in a way that doesn't involve so much controversy as my talks in 2002 and 2003. In any case, I'm glad to be able to share some of what I do best!

REB

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Why is there such intensity?  Why do people get so personally involved in what happened between Rand and the Brandens?  What is at stake for people?  And a more overarching question:  Why do Objectivists act the way they do?  Why do they savage each other's characters over disagreements?  Why are they so quick on the trigger finger with condemnations?  What is the source of these behaviors?  Is it something in Objectivism itself which encourages moralism?  I believe that there is something in Objectivism, an attitude which was conveyed by Rand, although I think it would be possible to filter that attitude out.  But many Objectivists don't seem to want to filter it out; instead they seem to want to cling to it; they seem to derive a sense of virtue from judgmentalness.

Hey Ellen,

I've been trying to fathom the answers to these questions since first I encountered Objectivism several months ago when I joined SoloHQ. I find it oddly satisfying that I come to Oism by its people first and by its founder only secondarily. What I mean is that I have the peculiar freedom, so rare in these parts, of not being a fan.

Fandom is an inescapable part of Oism because of the novels (and to a lesser degree, because of the personality of Ayn Rand herself). People are usually fans first and Objectivists second. Also, people tend to read the novels in adolescence, a time when they're looking for heroes to worship and Rand gives them that with a vengeance.

Now, from where I sit, hero worship seems an odd thing to bundle with Oism. I find it particularly difficult to square hero worship with high self-esteem.

I was recently afforded an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Bible for the first time since college (long story short: I did it as a favor to a friend, nothing to worry about). This time around, I was distinctly underwhelmed. I was struck by Jesus' ordinariness. Sure, the guy had some revolutionary things to say for his time, and he was prolly a pretty decent guy beyond the death wish and the delusions of grandeur (delusions reported by only one of the 4 evangelists, btw), but what's the big deal? Judging by his words, what made Jesus anything more than a pretty decent guy? Why would any self-respecting person devote his life to him above any other above averagely decent guy out there? You can tell me that he was an evil altruist and I won't argue with you, but people worship him as a hero and many of his worshipers do everything they can to be just like him. As far as I can see, it's not healthy, no matter who you want to be "just like," unless the person you want to be just like is yourself.

But that's a big problem with Oism. Actually there's a fat cluster of problems I've been trying to unravel here. There seems to me to be a conflict between what makes for good philosophy and what makes for good psychology. I first came across this discrepancy in a discussion of the benevolent universe premise on the old SoloHQ.

It became clear to me that the benevolent universe premise was a crucial foundation of a healthy self-esteem; we as living creatures need to believe that our focused attention and willful action will produce positive results. Without that belief, we will cease to strive, become apathetic and fall into depression. This is true of animals as well. A baby elephant is tied to a stake. No matter how hard he tries he can't pull the stake out of the ground and free himself. So he learns that he is helpless against the stake. But then the elephant grows until he can uproot whole trees, but he won't even try to free himself from the now inconsequential stake. What that elephant needs is a healthy self-esteem that teaches him to keep trying in spite of his many experiences of failure.

But the benevolent universe premise runs into all kinds of trouble from strict philosophical inquiry. Even Peikoff has to soft-peddle the thing and rationalize it away as mere "poetry" or "metaphor." (I'm sure Ayn would love that!)

Similarly, free will is a fundamental building block of a healthy self-esteem and an integral counterpart to the benevolent universe. Free will is psychologically necessary for a healthy self-esteem. As appealing and simple as determinism may be philosophically, emotionally it is deadly, simply dehumanizing and discouraging.

So there are aspects of Objectivism that make for excellent psychology, but remain philosophically questionable unless we understand the central importance of healthy self-esteem in our existence.

Then there's the matter of "A is A," rock solid philosophy, the very definition of logic, but what happens when a Rand fan tries to apply such a formula to psychology?

Take our emotions, for instance. The difference between anger and grief can be as little as a few moments' of simple attention. But where does that attention come from? Emotion is not a physical object; nor is it static. All repressed emotion starts to look the same eventually. The process of repression causes rigidity in our natures and even our bodies. The only way to feel repressed emotion once it's been walled off from the conscious mind by these barriers of will and habit, is if it comes with a charge of explosive harshness. Who hasn't experienced a rush of anger at not being heard, only to realize that he himself had been ignoring his own needs all along? Eventually all repressed emotions come to look a lot like rage.

But if we apply A is A to our emotions, then Anger is Anger and introspection stops when we assign a rational cause and go gladiate on someone!

I think Rand tried to apply A is A to her emotions and it got her into a whole lot of trouble. Now, o'course, Rand was no dumby, she knew emotions were mercurial and elusive, so she didn't go for a ham-handed "emotional materialism" but rather conceived of emotion as something happening only as a result of "the thinking we have done, or failed to do,"--a kind of foot print in the sand of our natures left by our premises--which put her on seemingly much firmer ground, because in the realm of ideas and principles, A will remain A no matter how long you sit with it.

Thing is, if A is A and emotions are unreliable and constantly changing, then emotion stands in need of extensive and constant manipulation by the rational mind to keep it in line. And this kind of constant self manipulation is a sure recipe for repression and profound estrangement from the self, not to mention, a fair amount of knee-jerk rage.

"The Affair" and "The Break" undermine Rand's particular pose of rational control of the emotional realm thoroughly and irrevocably. Regardless of who's interpretation of the events in question you credit, the fact remains that Rand profoundly misjudged the man she chose to be her intellectual heir. Rand's own "reality gap" is a major stumbling block for a philosophy founded on a direct encounter with reality. Nathan was not the man she thought he was. In spite of all her thinking and her exquisite premises, what she never quite got around to considering was emotional honesty. For Rand, the emotions were merely the afterglow of glorious thinking. With the proper premises, emotion was supposed to work like clay under logic's hand, or like the tulips that bloom after careful preparation. Really, the only meaningful honesty, therefore, was intellectual honesty, and in that arena Rand was unmatched. Obviously, she gave emotional integrity a lot less significance than philosophical integrity and paid a terrible price.

What's at stake in the Rand/Branden conflict today is exactly what was at stake for Ayn Rand when it happened, because she (and by extention, her followers, fans, and intellectual heirs) was unable to integrate what she learned from Nathan's betrayal. Her first hero, whom she "recognized" in young adulthood, turned out to be only the body of her ideal. Her second hero had the mind, certainly, but not the soul. Sadly, she never integrated the data from this second heroic trial and Objectivism remains broken and unfinished to this day.

-Kevin

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This is just a quick note. My husband is scheduled to arrive home at any moment (he's been visiting his sister in Florida), and I'm expecting to be interrupted. I haven't yet read Kevin's long reflections. But I wanted to say a few things about "the story so far" up to that post.

(1) Your doughnuts comment is a gem of a gem, Roger.

(2) Re this from Michael:

I have a twinge of residue guilt that makes me want to read Popper to make sure that I was right.

Might I edit the remark? ;-) Read Popper to find out if you were right?

I'm interested by your describing Daniel as condescending. I think I'm going to have to try to find the time to read the history of his participation. I never managed to keep abreast of it while it was going on (and wasn't even aware until some weeks after he and Laj left that they had left). In the parts I read of his posts, he didn't come across to me as condescending. The message that registered with me from skimming was regret at my still not having acquired much familiarity with Popper's views of mind. That's a lack in my background which I hope to remedy.

(3) Regarding reasons for the animosity toward the Brandens... Among the factors which I think is operative is a desire to deify AR, a seeing her as a god figure, though people who see her that way generally deny that they do. The Brandens show her as a human, and that's a threat.

(4) Barbara: Darn. California is impossible for us this summer, what with our being headed to Budapest in August. I sure would like to witness the conference, though. Wow, you and Nathaniel and Linz at the same meeting. I expect it to be historic.

(5) Roger: You said something about their wanting something less controversial than your 2002 and 2003 presentations. What were those presentations, and what was the controversy (if you have time to indicate)?

Ellen

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While we're on the subject of the Split...

I am not ready to share my overall evaluation of James Valliant's book, and I am not eager to do so in any event, because it appears that whatever one says will be taken out of context in order to provide laudatory blurbs for Valliant.

But, to this group, and at this point, I will say this: as a result of having read Valliant's book, I have actually changed my opinion of Rand for the better in regard to one very specific event. It has to do with the day of the "big explosion," when Rand damned Branden to 20 years of impotence for his having deceived her.

When I first read about this outburst years ago, my impression was that the curse of impotence was totally over the top, a gratuitous wishing of sexual unhappiness on someone in reprisal for his having deceived her about his own desires.

After reading Rand's journals (as excerpted in Valliant's book), it now appears to me (and this is more a counter-impression than something I'm absolutely sure of) that Rand's words had an actual context. Apparently Branden had deceived her at one point specifically about his ability to perform sexually. (She referred to it as his "sexual problem" or something like that -- I also remember the phrase "sexual freeze.")

It is much more reasonable to lash out at some one, wishing them real impotence as retribution for his feigned impotence, considering the degree and extent of deceit that surrounded it. In that light, Rand's harsh words seemed not gratuitously vicious (as one might expect from a "woman scorned"), but morally justified -- or at least understandable.

But I offer these thoughts with the added comment that I have found nothing to change my opinion of Nathaniel or Barbara. Everything I have concluded about them and their shortcomings (as well as their efforts to try to make amends, something precious few of the Loyalists have tried to do), I concluded after reading Barbara's biography and Nathaniel's memoirs 20 years ago.

Despite Valliant's prodigious efforts to condition the mind of the reader by pre-analysis, interruptive analysis, and psychologizing the Brandens, he has succeeded only in irritating me and making me wish that there were some way for us to see the original, undigested, unedited journal entries -- ALL of them, not just the ones that he cherry-picked to make his case. That, and my marginally improved view of Rand's own psychology at the moment of the Split, is all I gained from reading his book.

REB

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Ellen, you wrote:

I'm interested by your describing Daniel as condescending.

Please forgive me for making back-to-back posts to you, but I wanted to separate this one from the humor in the one above. Also, that statement of yours has had me thinking for a bit.

You know, I made a confession that I went overboard with moral denunciation in order to justify intellectual laziness. It didn't feel like laziness at the time, but as I reflected on it, that is exactly what it was.

One of the reasons I strongly reject the kickass school of arguing with colleagues right now is because of a lesson I learned from this.

But first, let me say that by making such an admission, I have committed a cardinal sin in Objectivism. I have admitted to a recent moral failing - and it is not even one from my youth, when I was still full of piss and vinegar. And not only is that a SIN, it is not, er... fashionable to say it.

It kind of leaves Objectivists with a raw taste in their mouths. They want to feel superior, but given my recent history of writing, I'm one of the people who are NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. You can easily look down on a bumpkin or newbie. Somebody like me poses a much harder problem. (btw - I am not referring to those on this forum, but to a bunch of Objectivists I have engaged over the last year, and please just look the other way about the fat head.)

I discovered this friction by admitting failure on other occasions, where I simply forgot that I would be greeted with confused hostility. I started thinking about this because when I was younger, I also used to harbor the standard Objectivist emotion of always wanting to be right - especially morally right, regardless of how wrong I was.

What happened was that I became seriously addicted to substance abuse twice in life for long periods of time, and in order to get out of that - meaning literally and physically survive - I had to give up that emotion and look at what was really going on inside myself. In the circles where I learned much about myself in order to recover, like AA and NA, that emotion was called pride.

So I had to give up my pride in order to get better.

Say that to any normal Objectivist and you will get a kneejerk that would do a mule proud. But there it is. There is good pride and bad pride. Wanting to be right all the time - even morally right - regardless of what you just did is bad pride. Also, setting yourself up (or anybody at all) as morally perfect is bad pride.

Do I still feel the emotion to be right when I am not? A little, but now it is like a minor itch or an urge to yawn. Nothing earth-shattering. What has taken its place is a sort of innocence in admitting mistakes (so I can correct them) - and a rock-solid self-confidence. This admission of mistakes has become so second nature so that I hardly notice it when I do it.

That's one reason I have never "withered" under scathing sarcastic remarks when I have admitted that I slipped on the banana peel. I either apologized or let loose with a bellylaugh. What was in my head at those times was that I needed to find out what the problem was in order to fix it - and the rest simply didn't matter. It was gist for bantering and learning something.

Now back to giving up the kick-ass discourse approach and Daniel. Yes he was condescending as all get-out and I was loud-mouthed as all get-out. You see, regardless of who you are, if you start caring strongly about the ideas you are discussing and don't pay attention to anything else, you tend to pick up the environment around you and inject it into your discourse.

That is part of what moves crowds. A crowd manipulator induces them to consider highly important ideas and gives them an emotional model to run on. He shows them the emotion by doing it himself - he weds the idea and emotion by inflamed or impassioned urgings - and most of the crowd then follows the leader. Even you. And this gets stronger and even more automatic as more people do it.

Well that's exactly what I did and what Daniel did. He was somewhat more restrained than I, but he certainly held his own in cutting monkeyshines.

I don't think all this ugliness would have come out in a different environment - and you know what? I think we would have been just as passionate about our ideas as we were in that one. Except, maybe we would have stayed on topic more. And we both might have learned a lot more from each other.

Does this mean that I now think making a strong moral denunciation is bad? Nope. If you are talking about Bin Laden or Jack the Ripper, "evil scumbag" is way too mild an expression. There is a scale of evil that needs to be considered. Lesser evils, like wrong ideas that are not acted upon, require the use of another word, not evil. (I thank Barbara for emphasizing that to me once.)

It is necessary to learn to control your emotions while still allowing yourself to feel them. It is GOOD to do that. It is BAD to snap and snarl - or even gush - at the slightest provocation. I believe learning this is what's called growing up.

Now that I look back and remember those exchanges with Daniel, I have learned something more about myself. I have learned that it is necessary to make a conscious choice. It is necessary to consciously reject kickass loudmouthing as the norm. If I don't make that choice, if I don't look at cause and effect regardless of how good it feels at the moment, I will automatically adopt that obnoxious posture if it is around me.

I find that I am more impressionable than I thought. I am more open to being influenced than I would like, and I guess that I'm not an invincible superman after all. And, on reflection, I really don't like myself much when I get loudmouthed and obnoxious. So I simply decided to stop.

Kickass loudmouthing is not a means of cognition.

I can't speak for Daniel, but I would bet good money that he thinks very similar to me on this.

Michael

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Ellen, you wrote:

(1) Your doughnuts comment is a gem of a gem, Roger.

Thanks, Ellen! I used to represent that remark. But I've lost 40 pounds since this time last year (not from 300 to 260, but from 230 to 190), and I'd like to think that turning my focus to healthier activities played some role in helping me change my more obsessive eating patterns. :-)

(3) Regarding reasons for the animosity toward the Brandens...  Among the factors which I think is operative is a desire to deify AR, a seeing her as a god figure, though people who see her that way generally deny that they do.  The Brandens show her as a human, and that's a threat.

Yes, Ellen, that is a nice companion observation to my thinking that the animositized folks want to demonize NB, to see him as a devil figure. It's all very quasi-religious.

(4) Barbara: Darn.  California is impossible for us this summer, what with our being headed to Budapest in August.  I sure would like to witness the conference, though.  Wow, you and Nathaniel and Linz at the same meeting.  I expect it to be historic.

Please forgive me, Ellen, but I think that with Linz there, it will certainly be histrionic. :-)

(5) Roger: You said something about their wanting something less controversial than your 2002 and 2003 presentations.  What were those presentations, and what was the controversy (if you have time to indicate)?

Well, Will Thomas has always expressed an appreciation for my thinking outside the box and exploring new areas, such as my 2002 talk "Art as Microcosm" (published in JARS vol. 5, no. 2 and posted in PDF on my website at http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmmm.html ) and my 2003 talk on mind and will as objective phenomena (the original version still posted on the TOC folder about the Advanced Seminars).

In the art talk, I advance the thesis that by "re-creation of reality," Rand meant not just that the artist is doing a selective rendering of things from reality, but that he instead more fundamentally was inventing a new reality, being as close to God as humans can, and that this new reality (which has to include intelligible things in order to function as an imaginary world) embodies an abstract view of this world, either how this world is or how this world should be. That's the thesis, and I delved into both architecture and music as "difficult cases." Will and I were working on putting together a TOC monograph consisting of an expanded, revised version of the essay, critiques by Michelle Kamhi and John Hospers (who commented at the Advanced Seminar), and a rejoinder essay by me. At some point, without letting me know for 4-5 months, TOC pulled the plug on the project, ostensibly due to cutbacks in funding. I always wondered whether it wasn't over the radical re-interpretation of Rand's views -- not really inconsistent with Rand, and actually bolstered by more recent comments by Peikoff, but certainly flying in the face of interpretations by people like Kamhi.

As for my mind-body, free will talk in 2003, I upended a lot of standard interpretations. First, I challenged the Rand-Peikoff swerve in the early 70s, in which they went from Peikoff's lucid presentation of perception being objective, rather than subjective or intrinsic to his Rand-induced denial that perception was objective, on the grounds that it is not volitional. I brought out the fact that "objective" as used in Rand's trichotomy has a historical basis, the Scholastic concept of "objective" as pertaining to an object as it is held in the awareness, and the Kantian concept of awareness as adhering to reality. (This is from the Oxford English Dictionary, though not quoted exactly.) I argued that "objective" thus actually has two facets: an aspect of reality held as the object of an act of awareness, and an act of awareness holding an aspect of reality as its object. Rand actually refers (or alludes) to each facet in her discussion of the trichotomy in "What is Capitalism?" (in Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal). What happened in the 70s swerve was that Rand & Peikoff ditched the Scholastic prong of the concept and went with the Kantian. As a result, "objective" now has a distinctly epistemological and laudatory flavor, referring to a consciousness that volitionally adheres to reality. I claim that this is far too narrow and actually guts the great power of Rand's trichotomy. More than this, it makes it difficult to understand how introspection, like perception, is an objective process of awareness, that just as perceptual realism is the correct view, so is introspective realism. Even though the sensed quality of red and the introspected quality of consciousness are not causal primaries, they are real causal consequences of things that the apple or our brains are doing -- and our awareness of red and consciousness is the form in which we are directly aware of what the apple and brain do. So, you can see that this has ramifications for "causal efficacy of mind" and free will and so on, which I went into in my paper. Mind is not an entity, so there is no mind-body interaction. The interaction is between parts of the brain, and we are aware of that interaction directly in the form of mind-body interactions. Mind and will are powers of the human organism, just like redness is a power of the apple, and they are that by virtue of which we and the apple do certain things, but it is we and the apple that are doing things, not mind, will, and redness. This understandably raised a lot of hackles and probably made some attendees wonder why I was allowed to spew my heresies, even to a relatively more open-minded faction of Objectivists.

I offered several possible topics this year, including "True Alternatives," that applied conjunctions of alternatives (a & -a) & (b & -B) = ab v a-b v -ab v -a-b to apply to controversies in the history of philosophy, as well as my "Passionate Pop & Serious Schmaltz" talk, and my attempt to refute the modern claim that Aristotle's Square of Opposition is invalid for non-existent objects. Will was of the opinion that these were too controversial and giving them the several sessions I requested would devote too much time to non-mainstream Objectivism. (Multiple sessions are more for chewing than for exploring, basically.)

So, it's pretty frustrating to be a really independent Objectivist. I guess I should be happy that Will scheduled me and Ben DiTosti to play music and comment on it for an hour. :-) Sorry you and Larry can't be there, Ellen. It promises to be a VERY interesting conference.

REB

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Ellen:

I think that his leaving headed the list toward a moribund state, but that there's more to the problem than Mike's absence and RCR's being at the helm. Connect with events in the wider O'ist-related world. Truth is, I think there's been a turning against Nathaniel on the part of several who were former fairly frequent flyers on his list.
Hm, the only name that comes to mind is Brant Gaede; are there really more who became anti-NB? IMO the quality of the discussions on that list wasn't great anyway. I remember having written a refutation of Peikoff's article on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, while Peikoff's argument was repeatedly used in discussions. There wasn't any serious reaction to my article, only an ad hominem attack by Michael Moeller, who finally became so obnoxious that I put him into my killfile. Nathan Hawking was also constantly frustrated by RCR, and he started his own forum (I'm still waiting for its renaissance after the upgrading).
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Dragonfly, would you please post here on Objectivist Living your refutation of Peikoff's view of the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy? I promise to give it serious consideration -- hopefully, also, feedback that is helpful and not obnoxious. :-) (I, too, had considerable friction and unpleasantness with Michael Moeller. I used up two bottles of Tums interacting with him. And that's not much of an exaggeration.)

Best,

REB

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I wrote: "Truth is, I think there's been a turning against Nathaniel on the part of several who were former fairly frequent flyers on his list."

Dragonfly

Hm, the only name that comes to mind is Brant Gaede; are there really more who became anti-NB?

Michael Moeller is at minimum headed in that direction. He's made comments on RoR. There are some others whose sentiments I suspect have changed but who haven't said anything outright. One little sign: The number of members dropped by 5-7 in the last couple days. The vast majority of the members on that list have never posted anything. And the membership has tended to show a steady small increase. I figure that an awful lot of the membership is people who signed up just to read whatever Nathaniel himself posts, who don't look at the list very often, and who might even tend to forget that they are members. (I'm on a couple lists which I joined out of curiosity to see what they're like and have never bothered to drop my membership on, though I haven't looked at the posts there in months and months, maybe more than a year. I suspect NB's list has a lot of inert members of this type.) The number was hovering around 785-787. It was 780 when I looked today. It's easy to suspect that this drop was people who voted with their feet when NB versus Rand issues re-arose as a result of Michael Lee's post.

IMO the quality of the discussions on that list wasn't great anyway.

I agree with your opinion. It was an odd kind of list, neither fish nor foul, without a clear purpose. (Notice, I'm thinking of the list in past tense, since it certainly is ghost city these days.) Was it supposed to be a list where Nathaniel answered questions and gave "helpful hints from the doctor"? But he rarely posted, and even when he did, his replies were usually very brief -- and then occasionally he'd pipe in with a remark which showed that he wasn't quite tracking what was going on. Or was it supposed to be an actual debate forum? To the extent it functioned as a debate forum, it couldn't do that well, since there were too few people with much intellectual background. Plus there was the fine line not to be exceeded of being too critical of NB's work in his own house (a line that Walter was better at managing than RCR).

Whatever the exact blend of causes, there's no fire there at present.

Ellen

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REB to Dragonfly:

Dragonfly, would you please post here on Objectivist Living your refutation of Peikoff's view of the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy?

But start a new thread with it, so those interested can find that discussion without having to remember that it's interleaved in a discussion of a different topic?

(I, too, had considerable friction and unpleasantness with Michael Moeller. I used up two bottles of Tums interacting with him. And that's not much of an exaggeration.)

How large of bottles? ;-) Michael M. has "a way" -- somehow adversarial right off. (I'm thus far ignoring the questions he asked me yesterday on NB's list; I'm thinking I'll probably continue ignoring them.)

Ellen

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I'd written:

"(3) Regarding reasons for the animosity toward the Brandens... Among the factors which I think is operative is a desire to deify AR, a seeing her as a god figure, though people who see her that way generally deny that they do. The Brandens show her as a human, and that's a threat."

REB says ("Re: The funniest line this year"):

Yes, Ellen, that is a nice companion observation to my thinking that the animositized folks want to demonize NB, to see him as a devil figure. It's all very quasi-religious.

I think that the quasi-religious dynamics need straight-out acknowledging and discussing. It's been the tendency of Objectivists ever since the "it's a religion" charges started to be made to deny the validity of the charges. But Rand was presenting a new dispensation in Atlas, the nucleus of a code for a new way of life, complete with god/saint figures. The dynamics which occur in the Objectivist world, with the schisms and breaks, the emotional reactions re the moral statuses of the leading figures, are those which occur in religions. (And the similarities are strong to the formative history of Christianity. I often feel watching the Objectivist world -- and I think this is a major reason for my interest in watching -- that I'm seeing happen, now, today, and amongst people known to me, processes which give me a strong felt sense of those in the development of Christianity.) I believe that understanding the dynamics requires categorizing them as the type of dynamics they are, definitely at least "quasi" religious. (Myself, I think outright religious without the "quasi," since I don't think that "faith" is a defining characteristic of religion. Instead, I think the essential characteristic is that of providing a mythos -- an overarching "tale" -- about what human life is and should be, its meaning and place in the cosmos, including ethical instruction. But I'm not desirous of becoming sidetracked into whether "quasi" is needed as a modifier or not. The modifier will do. The issue which I think begs to be understood these days is that the canonization/demonization are the same phenomena which occur in religious groups re the chief figures of those groups' mythologies.)

Ellen

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Ellen, you wrote:

I think that the quasi-religious dynamics need straight-out acknowledging and discussing. It's been the tendency of Objectivists ever since the "it's a religion" charges started to be made to deny the validity of the charges.

Oh, yes, and they deny it with such...fervor! :-) Did you see the thread Bill Dwyer started on SOLOHQ, just after being dumped off Diana Hsieh's Noodle Food for daring to raise the issue? The quasi-cult mentality is alive and well, and those most steeped in it are oblivious about it. It is a true blind spot, a conceptual disconnect, for these people.

I don't think that "faith" is a defining characteristic of religion. Instead, I think the essential characteristic is that of providing a mythos -- an overarching "tale" -- about what human life is and should be, its meaning and place in the cosmos, including ethical instruction.

I definitely agree. Back in the 1970s, when I was trying to "churchify my libertarian-Objectivist beliefs in order to qualify for tax exempt status," I used a dictionary definition which served as a perfectly good conceptual umbrella under which my own world-view fit nicely. I thought it was cute, how people like me -- "godless atheists," heh-heh -- could, in theory, at least, beat the theistic tax-dodgers at their own game. But I ran into enough difficulties with Tennessee bureaucrats that I abandoned my efforts to keep "the faith," as it were. I think I allude to this in some of the material on my web site (e.g., in re: can the state define what is a religion?), in case anyone is interested in details.

REB

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I've read this thread with interest because I think the problems that many people encounter in Objectivism stem not from any particular personality clash (of which there are many), but from thinking we can safely rely on any authority to do our thinking for us. There is no substitute for relying on our own judgment. Rand is quite clear on this:

"Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience--that your mind is fallible but that becoming mindless will not make you infallible-- that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error." Ayn Rand in Galt's Speech

The ultimate irony of course is that many Objectivists do not redeem their minds from the hockshops of authority. If the method of concept-formation in IOE is a difficult mode of thinking for them, there must be something wrong. If their choice of romantic partner does not embrace Objectivism, there must be some underlying problem. If someone does something wrong it is our duty to act as a moral policeman and correct it. None of the aforementioned, of course, is true but it takes independent judgment and a great deal of contextual sensitivity to know how to apply Objectivism correctly.

I refer back to the girl who wrote a letter to Barbara Branden. The mistake she made is a large, but totally innocent one. In the face of a new, profound and exciting philosophy she accepted that Ayn Rand and other Objectivists knew better what was good for herself than she did.

In order for people to practice Objectivism effectively, they have to act within what they know. They have to pursue their goals and dreams, their careers and romantic aspirations within their own hierarchy of values. A systematic understanding of the philosophy of Objectivism may or may not be a cardinal value to them. In many cases it is much more effective to assimilate Objectivism as the questions come to you naturally rather than through systematic study.

In my own life, I try to achieve balance by making sure that formal Objectivism only occupies about 5-10% at most of my activities at any given time. Of course, sometimes study or mastery of a given work or lecture set will require much more than that, but that will be balanced by periods where I study no Objectivism at all. Of course, people will vary enormously on how they achieve balance between their optional values, subjects Objectivism had little to say about and their study of Objectivist philosophy. However, they must make sure that Objectivism does not drown out their own unique needs, voice and personality.

Jim

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I was on NB's list almost from the beginning, before it went to Yahoo. I was one of the heaviest posters.

There were some amazing days on that list, and yes, it was all over the map. We were pushing the line incredibly hard. There was a lot of creativity, and there were a few nasty firefights. I did a lot of stupid stuff on there, and I wasn't the only one. It went through a lot of iterations.

We got to one point where we started looking at exactly what was pointed out in this thread- that there was a large amount of lurkers. We thought that some people were afraid to go on there, given the pyrotechnics that were being set off on a regular basis.

See, the thing is that the website is ultimately about talking about Self-Esteem. That's what you're supposed to do with it, more or less. I'm not sure that makes for extended discussions. You either read the books and understand what the work challenge is, or you don't.

I don't really know for sure why it toned down. Well, I kind of do. One reason is that there became other more appropriate places to work- more eclectic menu choices. I took most of my stuff over to SOLO, (and occasionally Atlantis II) because of the broad categories. I mean, you can almost justify anything topically on the Branden forum, but it started turning into the Kevin Bacon game. It just didn't seem right to make it such a catch-all.

Of course, SOLO backfired for a lot of us. I'm suprised I had the run I did on there. The whole thing is really a shame, how it broke down or broke out or whatever you want to call it.

I'm not an Objectivist. I used to be one, and I think I integrated and grew out of Objectivism into something else. But that dog doesn't hunt real well on a lot of O'ist forums. Certainly was no problem on NB's site, which I always appreciated.

I don't want to be in a "club," you know? The whole "club" aspect of what is struggling to be a community annoys me. I got ripped on for converting to the UU faith, but mainly that is out of ignorance. Objectivism could stand to learn a lot about how the UU community operates- we get things done, big time, and there is no ad hominem crap, period. We have a covenant that involves being together in mutual respect.

Results are important. I'm looking at places where they are, in theory, talking about activism. I see talking, and very little action. I could give you a list of the brick and mortar activism I accomplished while I was watching people play intellectual footsy with each other, creating brainstorms.

Sorry, but that is just the way it is. Show me some skin!

I hope more folks here visit and post on NB's forum. The fact is, there are a lot of people that surf in there, and they are trying to improve themselves. The more of us that give them a warm welcome, the better.

best,

rde

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I want to put in my own plug for the TOC Summer Seminar. There will be just about every conceivable variety of Objectivist you can imagine (Well Leonard Peikoff, Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz might not be able to make it :-)). The atmosphere is benevolent, friendly and respectful. Cutting edge exploration of Objectivist ideas gets done.

We are united in our contention that differences should be settled (or not settled as the case may be) by rational argument; not peer pressure, social ostracism or other underhanded tactics. We believe, like Rand, that everyone should see and decide for themselves.

Joseph Rowlands, Lindsay Perigo, Phil Coates, Roger Bissell, Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden are confirmed. I'm sure we'll hear from David Kelley, Robert Bidinotto, and Will Thomas as well.

Last year was a blast! This year is shaping up to be even better. I can't wait to see the program! Best of all, you'll get to hear me jamming away at my Irish fiddle :-)

Jim

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I want to go back to James' previous post, which had some good points. In it he refers us back to Barbara Branden's remarks about a letter she received from a young lady. The letter writer is quoted as saying:

"Although my involvement with objectivism is relatively mild compared with some of the other horror stories I hear about, I still do believe it had a significant negative impact on me. It had a bad effect on my emotional and social life, made me rigid, humorless and judgemental, slowly lose friends and nearly precipitated a bitter split from my boyfriend of 3 years, whom I loved dearly. . . ."

To which Ms. Branden added:

This young woman now refers to herself as "a recovering Objectivist".

A question I've had for a while is: what do "recovering Objectivists" do? In other words, after being "turned off" by people involved with Objectivism, do they revert to their former philosophies? Do they no longer accept that A is A, that altruism is bad, that the emotions are not tools of cognition, that the meaning of a concept is its units, etc.

I'm not trying to be facetious here. It occurred to me that we have people who get interested in the ideas of Ayn Rand, read her books, etc., and, I assume, accept as true much of the philosophy of Objectivism. Then, they get treated badly by an Objectivist or an organization and become disenchanted. Do they then conclude that everything that Rand said must be false? I wonder what parts of what they learned they keep and what parts they reject. And (this I think ties in with what James was saying) why do they let the bad treatment they received change their minds about what they have learned.

Thanks,

Glenn

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Glenn,

I know what one such person did. After he rejected Objectivism, he became a best-selling fiction author (hitting the NYT best seller list several times). His name is Michael Prescott. (His genre is suspense, usually involving serial killers). I am friendly with Michael, both on his blog and through emails. Here is the URL of his blog.

http://www.michaelprescott.typepad.com

Michael wrote extensively about Rand and Objectivism in several earlier blog entries. He wrote one of the funniest lampoons I have ever read (called "Reversalism, A Philosophy For Living It Up"). He posted the history of Hickman, a child murderer, one of the unfortunate hiccups in Rand's early inspirations from real-life.

Some of Michael's comments and criticisms are so penetrating that I intend to organize them for easy reference and discuss them later on OL. I believe that it is vitally important to analyze intelligent criticism and assimilate it when it is correct. His remarks about Objectivists normally being underachievers and the causes for this are scathingly spot-on.

The impact Objectivism has had on him is evident in our communications. (He tries to deny it, but it shines through anyway.) On the dark side, he has become very interested in ESP and spiritism, although he is essentially a sceptic. He also has become acquainted with works from the wealth of mankind's culture which Objectivists normally do not look at (including many classics and religious texts). We both agree about the importance of this.

The one idea that he has emphasized over and over is that most people generally do the best they can with what they have. As bad as they look to others, to themselves they are doing the best they can. I find it hard to think this way about Bin Laden, but this posture is a refreshing tonic from the hysterical moral denunciations that I have witnessed in the Objectivist world.

I find Michael to be an excellent person and consider it an honer to be communicating with him. I have read three of his books so far and am now reading the fourth book. He is a marvelous storyteller is in the popular suspense vein. And he keeps me turning pages.

In my own life, despite being strongly based on Objectivist philosophy. I believe that many valuable lessons can be learned from successful "heretics" like Michael Prescott.

Michael

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Michael,

With all due respect, I've read Michael Prescott's "Shrugging Off Ayn Rand" and I was underwhelmed. I went back and found it. Here's a classic bit from there:

What was it that gradually altered my point of view? The simplest answer is that while practicing Objectivism, I didn't attain the contentment, the sense of being comfortable with myself, that ought to be the hallmark of a successful philosophy of life. Instead, I found I'd developed character traits that made me unhappy - and which were probably unhealthy, to boot.

The rest of it is, well ..., since he's a friend of yours, I won't comment further except to say that he should stick to fiction writing.

The point I was trying to make in my previous post was, I think, a little obscure, so let me try again. There seem to be people who approach Objectivism as a movement that they want to belong to. It really is approached by them as a religion would be. But the difference is that, supposedly, they intellectually accept the philosophy and the arguments made. They study the metaphysics and epistemology, which, I assume, must make sense to them. They think about the ideas in the Objectivist ethics and politics and accept them using their ability to reason.

But then, something happens to change their mind. As with Prescott and the example Ms. Branden gave, they don't like the person they've become. Then what? All of the arguments they once accepted are no longer valid? Their reason now tells them that the Objectivist theory of concepts is wrong, that altruism is the right way of life, that an external reality doesn't exist independent of your mind?

I'm going to give my simplistic and much too general explanation of what happens to these people. They accept the package whole, without, in most cases, actually understanding it (or perhaps 'integrating it' would be a better way of putting it). They don't get the method. So, when disenchantment sets in, they drop the package.

Thanks,

Glenn

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Glenn,

You ask a good question. I don't expect Objectivists to be thrilled with Michael Prescott's comments, but he is an example of a person who was (a) unhappy, (B) unfulfilled and © unsuccessful with Objectivism as his working philosophy. then once he stopped being an Objectivist, he became (a) happy, (B) fulfilled and © successful.

If Objectivism is to be a philosophy for living on earth and not merely a manner of thinking about "truth" for truth's sake, then it obviously didn't meet the needs of Michael. But there is much to Objectivist metaphysics, epistemology, etc., that he still holds as valid. By rejecting the philosophy, I think he rejected only parts of it.

Also, I have a theory about Michael. If you look at his earlier writings on Rand, you will see that they are much more venomous against her and Objectivism than his later ones. I think that whenever you make a declaration of a change of heart (er... mind) like that, you tend to focus only on the negative, even to the point of exaggeration. In Michael's case, I sensed a bitter resentment at having wasted so much time and a kind of anger at almost having fallen into a trap where he never would have become fulfilled professionally. Now that this is solved and he has let some of the poison bleed out, he seems to be mellowing - at least in his last emails with me (over a month ago).

But if I get the gist of your question, you want to know how a person discovers and accepts some ideas as true, then wakes up one day and claims that they are false. Did I get that right?

You might be on to something with the comment that they did not understand the full package, but I think it goes deeper. Different people have different needs in life. A fiction writer, for example, needs to know a great deal about universal truths of man's nature, much more so than about ontology. As Objectivism only covers this partially (at least I find the picture given of the whole character of the human being in Objectivism strongly in need of being filled out, especially in terms of psychology), that it already comes wanting for a fiction writer.

If you think of Rand's fiction, you will find her characters doing and feeling so much more than what is given in her nonfiction or explained in the speeches. As an artist, Rand knew that the human character was extremely complex, so even when they do the standard Objectivist things that are talked about and studied, there are little touches of this complexity all over the place. They suddenly shake their heads or look off into space. Their voices modulate. They are alive in small details in a manner that is never conveyed in Rand's nonfiction.

Yet nobody ever talks about this side of her writing. They brush it off a nonessential and try to imagine that Ragnar is the symbol of justice in Atlas Shrugged - and only that - or something equally repressive to fiction-writing creativity.

So if the primary value of a person is his writing, but he adopts a subculture where people are consistently nasty to each other and even try to belittle the complexity of human beings, he is not served well. Regardless of what the other truths are in the philosophy, he does not feel that life on earth is worth living according to doctrines that teach him to be that way - and he certainly will not write any fiction worth publishing.

I am only discussing a writer here, but this applies to any person who loves a profession and that profession is not philosophy.

How a person, on rejecting Objectivism, will deal with some of the truths he left behind is to find those truths in other places, usually with different words and jargon. There are a lot of truths Objectivism has in common with other philosophies and religions.

You mentioned altruism. It is evil as a philosophy for deriving ethics, and Rand's exposure of how it becomes an excuse for power mongers to rule was brilliant.

But empathy is a wonderful emotion if it is considered only as an emotion and not a philosophical doctrine. Family-life is built on empathy. Well, you won't get too much empathy among typical hardcore Objectivists, but you will get some jerk or another telling you that the empathy you feel is the all-despicable altruism. Just on that point alone, many people end up thinking that Objectivism is merely a philosophy to justify people being mean or callous to other people.

There is a lot to discuss here, but the core of the matter is precisely in the Prescott quote you gave. If a person comes to the conclusion that the ideas he holds are bad for him, then he gets rid of them and distances himself from whence they came. Often the good goes out with the bad like that.

This is all the more reason to find out why Objectivism affects so many people in a manner that turns them into rip-roaring assholes and try to come up with corrective ideas.

Objectivism is a philosophy for the good guys. Unfortunately many good guys don't act like it. They want to act like bad guys while giving lip-service to happiness, but what they really want is to feel superior to others and be morally sanctioned for it.

With examples like that to look at, who needs bad ideas to run people off?

Michael

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Glenn said

A question I've had for a while is: what do "recovering Objectivists" do? In other words, after being "turned off" by people involved with Objectivism, do they revert to their former philosophies? Do they no longer accept that A is A, that altruism is bad, that the emotions are not tools of cognition, that the meaning of a concept is its units, etc.

I find this to be an incredibly good question. I can give you the other side of the coin, to a point.

I wasn't so much turned off by other Objectivists, because I rarely ran into any of them. If anything, I'd meet people that had read AR novels, and those were always (well, almost always) exciting moments for me. There just weren't that many ways for me to network, because I really didn't get decent internet access until about 1990. As far as that went, I didn't find all that much in the green-screen and early web world, but of course there were some things there. I remember getting knocked around a few times when I attempted polite outings.

The real problem for me was that I had developed an edge, and it definitely was related to my Objectivist learning. I became off-putting and harsh. A lot of times, I didn't even think I was, but I was. People were getting treated like they were being grilled. You know, the typical Objectivist logical drilldown that you can subject people to if you know what you are doing. I attributed this to sticking by my principles. There was a point where people who knew me were requesting me to avoid getting into philosophical conversations in social situations, avoid bringing up Ayn Rand in general. Looking back on this, from what I can tell, anyway, I don't think I was even as guns forward as a lot of people with the same background, but a little bit seemed to go a long way. I was particularly harsh and cruel with religious people, whether they "deserved" it or maybe not so much, if at all. I got to the point where, while, I still believed in the big chunks of Objectivism (particularly those things related to capitalism, and general human dealings in the value-to-value area), I decided to withdraw from these kinds of activities, because I was isolating myself, and a lot of times burning bridges before I even got the opportunity to discover if I wanted to cross them or not.

Around this time, in the course of my business career, I became exposed to a lot of different training, particularly in the area of interpersonal skills; learning about the personality types, modes of communication, other things. And, I started looking at eastern mysticism, starting way back by reading a book called "The Tao of Physics." I had been exposed to eastern thought because I had been in martial arts since I was eleven, and had the benefit of training with some early generation asian masters. So I started reading Lao Tzu, and I found Taoism the closest thing to spirituality for me. For years, if you asked me what I was spiritually, I would have said just that. I found the Taoist mindset to be a very useful way of working with life (because it was using the eye of contemplation, rather than the eye of flesh or of mind, I suppose). I would still continue to turn people on to Atlas Shrugged, though.

Flash forward, I happened to discover that NB was still around, and he had a website, and he was still working in the area of self-esteem. I had read "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" a number of years before that, in the course of devouring anything related to Objectivism (I have read virtually anything in print, at least the big chunks, down to including any copies of "The Objectivist" I could snag, which were residing bound in a few libraries. I don't think I really understood TPOSE that well, because I didn't know as much about psychology in general as I thought I did.

Anyway, I started the devouring process on NB's books, and contacted him out of the blue, to which I received a cordial reply. The work on SE became majorly impactful in my personal life, not just for me, but for my wife, and our family. Impactful to such a point that I went up to Toronto for a two day thing NB was doing at the Learning Annex, and it was incredible.

At that point, I suddenly found myself in a state of mind where I could appreciate Ayn Rand again. I had a different approach to it, and it was softer. I would have never reread any of that work were it not for NB's work somehow making it "re-available" to me.

The rest is recent history. Unfortunately, in my mind, I found a number of interpersonal issues within the movement that mirrored my own back in the day. And, some amazing people as well.

But, at that point I had gone further into other areas, and that included things like Joseph Campbell, William James, and, ultimately, the UU church.

So that's kind of how it played out for me.

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Michael S K,

I think it is wrong to put all of the "incompleteness" of Objectivism at Rand's doorstep. Objectivism is a powerful system of integration, but it is not a substitute for a significant study of psychology and readings in self-improvement. There are other authors who have addressed the questions of control of consciousness that you are getting at. Nathaniel Branden, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, many writers on evolutionary psychology(Robert Wright being one), Viktor Frankl, Stephen Covey, Alan Lakein, and others. Many very important things about the human experience are outside the scope of Rand's Objectivism. What else is new?

Does the foregoing mean that we should embrace a false idea because it may help us with some emotional or motivational issue we are having? No, it means we should try to understand why the false idea seems to "work" in the context of human consciousness. That way we learn something new. My wife is a practicing Soka Gakkai Buddhist. Her chanting, meditations etc. seem to work for her in the area of control of consciousness. Does that mean I'm going to become an advocate for Buddhism? No, it simply means that some form of meditative practice seems to improve the state of mind of many people. I even listened to a lecture tape by Ken Livingston at TOC that went into the effect of various meditative practices on EEG patterns in the brain.

I disagree that Objectivism turns people into "rip-roaring assholes". The Objectivists I've met in person have tended to be kind, courteous and generally fun to be around, but Objectivists exist in a spectrum just like everybody else. I didn't tend to like the way ARI folks practiced the philosophy, so I chose people that practiced it more in the vein of what was comfortable for me (IOS/TOC).

I think Objectivists on the internet are a bad sample to draw a conclusion about concerning Objectivists in general. Partly because it self-selects for people who are more aggressive and self-assertive. It further selects for things that those people feel strongly about.

In the end, however, none of what I have mentioned justifies what Michael Prescott has written about Objectivism. Most of it is outright distortion, vicious misrepresentation, and selective interpretation. I am, like Glenn, underwhelmed. That wouldn't stop me from conversing with the guy, but at some point I would put the question to him, politely, about whether he really thought the things he was saying were accurate.

Jim

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Perhaps I was not inclusive enough, I was only mentioning a couple of things from the long experience there, you know? :) For the longest time, that was the only place I ever posted.

The NB board has always been sporadic. The truth is, it's very easy to start things moving there, pretty much at will.

I suppose some of us always felt like we were self-imposed exiles over there, because a lot of us wouldn't post on Objectivist forums, not being interested in the bloodsports (unless we created our own).

Mike Psych at one point actually came out and said that the whole reason there was any real activity on the board was because of him, and if he left there wouldn't be- he made some modest announcement to that effect. But that was part of his beauty. He did contribute some very good stuff to the forum. There was this stylistic thing he used to do once in awhile that used to make me want to work him over. It got funny. But we got along OK. I think one time I even sent him a powerpoint presentation I had to help him with a school thing he was doing.

Mike Lee and I for sure have had to seriously reign in our style due to management requests, which I understand to a point. I do like vulgarity on occasion, but still- the forum should be a welcoming community.

In a lot of ways I'm glad the usual suspects haven't spent much time over there. On the other hand, they could stand to learn a lot. NB reads that board, and he will reply if he's asked a straight question, one that he hasn't had to answer over and over. Isn't it funny that someone like him makes himself awfully available even though he's busy, and more people don't take advantage of it due to preconceptions or whatever other issues they think they have involving him.

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James, you wrote:

I think it is wrong to put all of the "incompleteness" of Objectivism at Rand's doorstep.

This is the kind of thinking that I am leaving behind. I really don't care about pointing fingers and blaming. I will leave that to the new crusaders and their respective forums and publications.

On the issue itself, since you brought it up, I don't see how one human being, Rand or anyone else, could ever lay claim to "ownership" of an entire philosophy and then claim that it is complete. But somehow I don't think that this is what the point is. I am interested in looking clearly at strengths and weaknesses - at knowledge - so I can make good decisions about my own life and I suspect that you are looking at attacks on Rand and defenses of her.

What I am really interested in doing is looking at a problem and trying to see what needs to be fixed. This is a very selfish desire. Like Rich, I got it all wrong once and now believe that I am getting it right. I traveled a hard road to get where I am right now.

Maybe I wasn't as clear as I could have been with the comment on how Objectivism affects some people (who really do become "rip-roaring assholes," and I can certainly point a finger at a few of those). My point is not to blame the philosophy in itself, but to find out what the attractions are in it that make some people assimilate it in a completely unhealthy manner.

Lots of people do that, you know. You gave the typical response of saying that there are many good people who are Objectivists. Well there are and I know some of them. (I am one, for instance. //;-)) ahem... but so are you. So is Glenn. So are many I know. Er... let me get the plug in. The good ones post on OL!!!)

That still does not make the problem go away, though. If you read Rich's post right after yours, he highlights some of the negative characteristics that happened on his own hide. Does this stem from inner weaknesses of the people who get it wrong or are there any intellectual traps in the way the philosophy was and is packaged?

Whereas it would be nice to "lay at the feet of the Internet" all of the personality problems that "negative" Objectivists display, I am convinced that this is not accurate. It is true that the Internet is a wonderful attack weapon for the more cowardly among us. There is no real consequence to being obnoxious and vituperative except to receive a hostile post or email. So that immunity is a characteristic of the Internet in itself that brings out the worst in people. Thinking as a parallel, this is the kind of characteristic I am looking for in Objectivism.

The bombastic type Objectivist, in general and with some exceptions, will not be interested in attending affairs like TOC conferences or ARI courses, unless he or she is an attraction - or they can use the material for more posturing to their own crowds later. That would be one good reason why you don't find them there. People interested in learning enough to shell out money and take time off for it are usually good people.

I don't sense interest in learning wisdom in many of the Objectivist people with whom I have interacted. I do sense an overwhelming need to teach others what they do not know themselves. That is one of the reasons why it is so hard for many Objectivists to admit they are wrong or apologize. (I hope you won't try to deny seeing that particular trait.) My take on this is that underneath, many are simply bluffing about their actual knowledge. And to psychologize, I believe the urge to be superior is a cover-up for some serious insecurity and unhappiness.

Then we come to someone like Michael Prescott. I suppose we could set up a strawman (to use the jargon) when we ask what is wrong with people who adopt Objectivism and reject it. We could say that they are evaders or dishonest or never really understood the philosophy or any of the stock phrases.

But then, are we really interested in the question or are we more interested in merely pointing a finger and blaming others? All of us can be underwhelmed all we want about what Michael says, but we cannot deny that (a) his writings show him to be happy, (B) his books are extremely well written and highly competent thrillers, and © he is successful.

Isn't the possibility of having those experiences - on earth - in our own lifetimes - part of what we all expect for our own lives when we adopt a rational philosophy? Well he did it. And he says we are wrong. By all means, let us be underwhelmed with whom and what we disagree, but not overwhelmed with the underachievers among us who merely want to show off, or even drag us down to their own level of misery and mediocrity.

I say, let's look and try to see what the traps are and what needs to be done so we will not become like that - embittered underachievers or loudmouths with precious little underneath. I adopt the posture of getting next to highly successful achievers and listening to what they have to say. I may not agree with everything, but I can see with my own eyes that they are getting some things right. I would be a fool to ignore my own eyes.

btw - Your question about accuracy is precisely one of the things I have talked to Michael about. Like I said, he is still convinced, but mellowing as he goes into another stage of inner growth. I believe where he will end up will not be too far from basic Objectivist principles, if you skip over the mystical part. Meanwhile, he writes his ass off and sells oodles of his products on the free market and has a great time doing it.

I want those things for my own life.

Michael

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