Online Objectivist Mediocrity


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I would contribute more to this thread, but I promised myself to put my time and effort predominantly into creating positive value, not about throwing verbal spitwads at second-handers and parasites. :-)

So, once I get a good night's sleep, I'm going to dive right in to my next rational, productive project -- uh, doing my income taxes. <gag>

REB

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Me too, Roger (double gag with a half-twist).

It is true that the best road is the high one. That is a nice way of saying ignore. It's better to not get stuff caught on one's clothes and shoes.

But, clearly there is going to be discussion of the bad behavior. Even though I have never had all the "stuff" like that intrude into my inner circle, I still find myself kind of baffled because I expected more; something completely different.

rde

Trying so hard to keep his windows wiped off.

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Roger,

Thanks for the great quotes from Peikoff's lectures. I recall him being comparably laudatory of Aristotle, back in the 1970s. This is the Peikoff I admire.

I would call what Aristotle used to develop his logic "reflective abstraction" (a term derived from Piaget) rather than "induction," but it's not a big deal in this context. ITOE includes the formation of concepts of consciousness under induction.

Ellen,

You took a course from Henry Veatch? I'm envious!

I attended a talk that he gave in San Antonio, Texas, around 1980, and one he gave in Austin two years later. It was a small group in SA, so we all introduced ourselves, and I said I was a grad student in psychology. I remember his expression of mock horror, about having to defend his views in the presence of a "behavioral psychologist." And his answer to a question, about why he wasn't giving detailed instructions on how to live a good life--he said that living the good life is like fly fishing (i.e., it's a skill).

I still recommend his book on ethics (Rational Man), and John Christopher and I used one of his late essays ("Is Kant the Gray Eminence of Contemporary Moral Philosophy?") in our critique of Kohlberg's theory of moral development.

Wonderful guy. If only there were more like him.

Robert

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> I would call what Aristotle used to develop his logic "reflective abstraction" (a term derived from Piaget) rather than "induction"

Robert, I'm very interested in any new (or even slightly modified) mode or type of thinking. Can you explain what you mean by this phrase...and how someone like Aristotle (or any of us) might be doing something different from the standard processes we're familiar with, such as concept-formation, induction, deduction, concretization, reduction, etc.?

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Robert,

I would like to point out an interesting phenomenon in crowd psychology (especially regarding that of gangs).

The mediocre people who have been so busy attacking TOC are now turning their attention to viciously attacking JARS (claiming that it is biased, of all the stupid boneheaded notions!). I believe this is partly do to the fact that TOC is not paying attention to them. As you did give them attention through your posts there, they are not into merely attacking you - they want to get at JARS.

Their nature is to bitch and not produce. They will attack whatever is in front of them if the leader says so - and I have no doubt that he is busy busy busy busy busy in e-mails and on the telephone about this. (I think they will hold off on ARI for a while, but if Valliant ever goes away, they will direct their yapping in the ARI direction, as in the past.) This is a perceptual-level mentality. The glee and irrationality of the arguments I am now reading against JARS reminds me of savages who used to think that if they ate the heart or brain of their enemy, they would gain his courage and knowledge.

There are interesting principles to be studied here.

Michael

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Phil,

I published an article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies in 2002 that I think would serve as an entry point for people who are familiar with Rand:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/goalsvalues.pdf

There's a (fairly quick) analysis of what Aristotle was doing, when he developed his treatment of categorical syllogisms, in a book that I co-authored with Mark Bickhard back in 1986. It's titled Knowing Levels and Developmental Stages and was published by Karger.

Robert

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Am I the only one who has noticed that Ethan Dawe, the esteemed editor of Rebirth of Reason is completely incompetent in his editing skills? He has always been the worst speller on that site, but yet he is editor. A spell checker is built into the RoR software, the Google toolbar and there is also dictionary.com. There is no excuse for anyone posting with so many spelling and grammatical errors on a regular basis. It is certainly not something you would expect from an editor. For an example, here is his latest post (rant) to Michael. I am only highlighting the spelling, not the grammar. He will probably edit his post if he sees this.

There is an implication in MSK's last post that the so-called "hecklers" of his posts are not independant Against Freedom thread, as well as this thread completely.

My heckling of MSK is not because I have no answer for his arguments, they've been dealt with elsewhere. I heckle MSK becasue

He is now calling for Michael to leave or apologize. PULEEEZE!!!! Michael has not been dishonest and has no reason to apologize. On top of that no one has answered his arguments! Ethan should step down as editor of RoR or learn to use spellcheck.

Kat

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If one has friends in a particular forum, I think personal e-mails could be an alternative instead of posting. This way one can avoid worthless discussion, and name calling.

I think we must respect those who want to deal just with similar.

Kindness, pity, benevolence, if misinterpreted could be understood as dishonesty or as lack of integrity--as someone called me in private.

CD

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Jody, I know, but I discovered that I have a problem, which is that I for some reasons since I was a child could resist seeing people being stoned

to death. I react automatically in their defense, and that costs me to expose my self like I should have.

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But sometimes, Jodie, the loud sound of silence can be misinterpreted.

I know that, above all, we have to choose our battles. We should not and cannot leap into every battle. But when our heroes and friends are being trashed, should we take part in those forums but remain silent? I think something has to be said in protest -- but I think it is vital to know in advance how far you are willing to let yourself be sucked into the fray. Personally, I can't justify the amount of time and effort that Bob Campbell is valiantly (no pun intended) putting forth on so-low bashin', but I also wonder whether it isn't morally mandatory to register my position and then say "no discussion; comment if you like, criticize me if you like, but I will not respond."

Personally, also, I think that Michael spends too much time bickering with people who have trouble spelling "the" correctly. But that is his choice. Me, I have several books on epistemology and aesthetics -- or is it aepistemology and esthetics? -- to write, as well as lots of music to write and record, and these pointless palavers with parasites just distract me from my goals.

Thoughts?

REB

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And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never shared

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence

With thanks to Paul Simon

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Those who don't have an inner flame to drive them and guide them need to steal it from those who do. I won't sacrifice my inner flame to anyone. Mutual exchange, that's all I'm interested in.

Paul

(Edit: Michael makes his own bed; he acts on his own judgement; he bares the responsibility of facing the consequences of his own actions; he can fight his own battles. If it were a fight I believed in, I would stand with him all the way. I think there are better ways to fight for Objectivism. Certainly becoming part of Objectivism's problem--eg: the bickering and infighting-- is not the best use of energy.)

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All right, all right, all ready!

Dayaamm!

I'll cool it where people bicker and heckle- and you folks are correct.

(Also, you make me feel like you care - I'm loved! I'm loved! I'm loved! Yipeeeee! //;-)) )

I can't say I will stop posting over there altogether, though. Much of my writing over the last year is archived there. But I will avoid the "forbidden" topics.

How I keep getting sucked into this is that when some poster or other isn't answered, he then makes the insinuation that I stopped appearing because I cannot refute him - and this topic is very important to me right now.

Anyway, if I am going to bitch about mediocre Objectivists (like in the article at the head of this thread), there is no sense in engaging in mediocre behavior with Objectivists myself. I stand duly admonished and shall correct myself.

Michael

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Michael, you wrote:

How I keep getting sucked into this is that when some poster or other isn't answered, he then makes the insinuation that I stopped appearing because I cannot refute him...

Read what you said and where it comes from in you. Consider the concept of causality and the orientation of consciousness in your words. To be "sucked in" is to assume determinism, there is no choice in the matter. I know you see yourself as having "free will" but it is interesting to see how you frame your behaviour.

Consider your orientation of consciousness. It is an empathic perspective. You are empathically interpreting the position of the general audience and reacting to this perspective. You are not engaged in objective facts. You are engaged in perceiving reality as interacting nodes of consciousness competing for who's perspective will be held as the standard of truth. You then get caught in a game of defending and manipulating perspectives.

I suggest you stay true to your core. You know you have choice. You have decided to use it. You know the objective facts. Stick with them, they won't be easily manipulated. See the social metaphysical game and choose not to play. Generally, if you talk to the substance of your opponent's position, and consider the value of his perspective, you will break free of the negative side of the intersubjective dance.

By all means, I recommend you continue to be a passionate voice in the evolution of Objectivism. Keep posting on your forums of choice but do so with your eyes wide open. And may the proactive force be with you!

Paul

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Paul,

I should have said "enticed" instead of "sucked in." That was my intended meaning. Actually, I am much better now than I was before. I've had a hard life with some pretty hard characters in it. I survived. I learned.

My previous "concept of causality and the orientation of consciousness" was more like the "causality and orientation of a fist landing hard on a nose" when somebody shot off his mouth (like the insults I received for questioning premises about children's rights).

//;-))

Nowadays I shake it off. Ah... the blessed wisdom that comes with age...

Michael

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Ellen,

You took a course from Henry Veatch? I'm envious!

Yes, I had a course with Henry Veatch, also a number of contacts with him in the years after I left Northwestern. And there's more to envy. I feel SO fortunate in my educational background, hardly a day goes by when I don't at some time in that day's progress -- reminded by one or another thought of one or another teacher of yore -- feel a sense of gratitude for blessings received.

It's my belief that my educational good fortune is an important factor in my never having gone through a "Randroid" phase upon encountering Rand. My sense of the glories of the word of the intellect was well in place even before I read Atlas Shrugged (at the end of my freshman year of college) and still more established by the time I found out Objectivism as such was being taught at a place called NBI (news I learned almost two years later, spring quarter of my junior year). I'd meanwhile had courses with a pantheon of luminaries at Northwestern; plus I'd had a superb high school, and even grade school, education. (One of my high school teachers -- who became after I'd graduated a treasured personal friend -- remains to this day in my thoughts as possibly the ultimate example of good teaching. She taught "English and Literature"; I was her avid student for two years, my junior and senior years of high school.)

Plus, in my freshman year of college, I'd worked out my own ethics -- which remains the ethics by which I've lived. Upon first encountering Rand (through reading Atlas Shrugged), I thought that what she was saying was a more adult version of my fledgling version. I later came to think that there were differences between Rand's and my approaches to ethics, but that's a whole long 'nother story. Another time.

The point of this "story" is my feeling that, yes, I was fortunate. Thus I can't feel superior when reading the histories of those who experienced a "Randroid" phase. I might have done likewise, had I not been lucky. And had I been unlucky enough, I suppose, I might have become a permanent "Randroid." I don't know. Thus, when I read comments -- such as I've frequently read on SOLOPassion and elsewhere -- to the effect that the "tolerationists" can tolerate anything except real Objectivists, I think: I can tolerate real Objectivists. I just don't want to spend much time amongst them.

Ellen

PS: A number of posts have appeared since I looked at this thread several hours ago. Robert's post brought to mind many happy memories of some wonderful teachers at Northwestern; hence, I sat down and penned the above post. It isn't meant as a comment on anything which has transpired since in the thread. I haven't yet read the subsequent offerings in detail, and don't expect I'll get around to doing so until tomorrow or later. I gather, though, from a quick glance, that people have been attempting to cool Michael down a bit. I, too, Michael, believe that you'd serve your purposes better by being less precipitate in negative judgments and remarks.

___

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> pointless palavers with parasites

Roger, I love it! What about nattering nabobs of negativity (Vice President Spiro Agnew, 1970s)? Or festering fulminators of foobar (Phil Coates, just now)?

> I have several books on epistemology and aesthetics -- or is it aepistemology and esthetics? -- to write

It's only one man's opinion, but out of the four, (1) I would skip ape-istemology since teaching apes to speak politely at dinner parties does not have a large market. And, (2) I would skip the a-esthetics, since "a" is the latin prefix for away from or against...and, again, the market for anti-esthetics guidance has already been captured by the pomos.

You have my permission to write the other two books, however.

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> One of my high school teachers -- who became after I'd graduated a treasured personal friend -- remains to this day in my thoughts as possibly the ultimate example of good teaching. She taught "English and Literature"; I was her avid student for two years, my junior and senior years of high school

Ellen, can you give us a little bit of detail: What did she do that was different and an example of the best way to teach? Were there particular books she assigned that were riveting? Did she have a way of making literature not seem dull or make it seem relevant to the life of the adolescent?

Thanks!

Phil

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Ellen, can you give us a little bit of detail [...]?

I can give you "a little bit " -- more than that -- of detail; but not today. Later. Someplace in my files I have a tribute I wrote to Emily Elizabeth Rice. Haven't time to look for it right now though.

Ellen

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Ellen,

I envy you your excellent education. I really do. My life would have been a lot simpler if I had that, or if I had learned how to learn at a very early age instead of trusting adults so much. For the longest time, my assumption was that my teachers knew what they were doing and some of them didn’t have a clue.

My education was basically OK, but it was marred by several lapses of teachers. Some really bad experiences marked me – with the result that I ended up dismissing academic learning from my own life. (I am essentially an autodidact who reads and thinks a lot.) I eventually overcame this prejudice and have even taught quite a bit over the years, but I still do most of my own learning from my own efforts at home.

As this has turned into my bitching thread, let me bitch a little more. Here are a few education gems from my past.

I don't know what my IQ really is, but I imagine it is above average because of my performance in first grade. My parents were trying to make a living in a small coal-mining town in the southern part of Virginia (Coeburn) and that is where I first got a notion of the three "R's." I remember the praise from the adults (parents and their friends) because I "got it" about reading. I sat down one day and read the entire year's reading to my parents out loud within the first couple of months of school. I also learned to print and write longhand that year. (Southern basic education used to be surprisingly good.)

But a coal-mining town promises a coal-mining future and my parents wanted something better, so they moved up north to Alexandria, Virginia in search of better opportunities. There I was enrolled in second grade. Progressive education was the rage at that time. When my teachers learned that I knew how to both print and write script, they were appalled. I was only supposed to learn script in the third grade, so they essentially told me to forget what I had learned. I spent a long boring year "relearning" how to form printed letters. By third grade, I had dismissed all this as somehow worthless.

My disgust, which I had no way of identifying at that age, was so great that I never developed decent handwriting after that. Nowadays I merely print everything. My longhand handwriting is atrocious (worse than a doctor's). After my right elbow was fractured in an underworld "adventure" in São Paulo, my signature has become a problem. It changes every few months – and this used to cause me no end of grief with my checking account. I suppose I could make an effort and try to relearn calligraphy from scratch again, but that would take a huge amount of effort (as I would also have to unlearn stuff once again), so I moved on. Still, I think someday I might take a crack at it.

Another of these education horror stories concerns mathematics. I also have quite a knack for mathematics. I used to consider it a point of honor when calculators came out to never need one. I used to be able to do rather complicated calculations in my mind. (I remember back then doing multiplication and division with five digits and logarithms all in my head.) Then in seventh grade I had a challenging mathematics course – I think it was algebra – that started becoming fun. That is, until the day I solved a problem the rest of the school wasn’t able to solve. When the math teacher asked for the answer, there I was, bright as a polished apple raising my hand. He called on me and I gave the answer.

Then he got a real funny look on his face. He said that it appears somebody got his hands on the teacher's book and had been cheating. I was completely perplexed. We started having an argument (which was rare for me with adults at that time). He gave the answer he said that he and the rest of the school had come up with. I mentioned that I knew how they got there, but that it was still the wrong answer. He snidely turned the blackboard over to me so I could show my correct answer, which I not only did, but I also did the formula for the incorrect one and showed where the error was. He turned red and said, "Well anybody could come up with that once they had the answer." I shot back, "You didn't."

So I got sent to the principal for cheating and being a smartass – and the principal punished me. I believe this was the first time in my life I felt the total moral outrage of injustice at a really intense level. I lost all interest in mathematics after that. After years of disuse, this capacity has only returned a few times – when I start training it again (which I have done a few times), it gets better by leaps and bounds short-term, but I rarely do that, so it slides back. I never pursued mathematics. My direction in life went towards music instead.

As you can see, with school experiences like that (there were several more), I was ripe to become a Randroid on my first contact with Atlas Shrugged (at 18). What most struck me, however, was the focus on competence. I was in love with competence way before I ever read Rand. After I read her, I used to say that the only God I had was Human Competence.

In college, I had a different kind of educational experience with my trombone teacher. He used a “rational” approach. Here is an account of how some of my lessons went. I would play an assigned piece and in the middle somewhere I would fluff a note. After I finished, he would ask me why I fluffed that note – he asked me to think about it – to think about it hard. I would think then say I didn’t know. So he would have me repeat the section where the fluffed note occurred – a few bars before and going to a few bars after. If I fluffed it again (or another note), the same question. If I did not fluff it, he would ask me why I didn’t that time. Regardless, we would then go on to one bar before and play until one bar after. Then one note before to one note after. Then just the note. Then the note softer, then with a legato attack, then accented, then loud, then without tongue, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., all the time asking my why - if fluffed or not.

I would leave the lesson a nervous wreck.

I started putting up mirrors on my music stand in concerts so I could watch my embouchure and even tried to play for a while with pieces of cork between my molars to get the exact distance correct for the opening of the front teeth. I was a mess.

I had to unlearn a lot from my college education - including tons of garbage from music composition, theory, form and analysis, etc. Outside the avant garde stuff, I still haven’t used all that figured bass I spent hundreds of hours learning, even as a conductor. My greatest thrill was when I started taking private conducting lessons with Maestro Eleazar de Carvalho in São Paulo, and he started me solfeging everything, especially the scores I had to memorize. To help with memorization, I started analyzing them. I made up my own system as I went along, which included a complete harmonic analysis (by my system, not the one I learned), phrases and structure, making a breakdown of components into melody, countermelodies, direct accompaniment, background environment and what I call “leftovers” (elements from the preceding phrase that die off) and marking the main instrument entries in colored pencils. I didn't worry too much about motives (which was supposed to be the secret of great music - and it isn't).

Once I started analyzing the symphonies of Mozart and Haydn and Beethoven for the purpose of being able to conduct them (I went hog-wild and did about 50 or so in the first few months), the extent of how much I needed to both unlearn and learn became clear to me. Going on to Richard Strauss, Rachmaninoff, etc., became much easier.

I have approached Objectivism in this manner over the years – especially recently when I have been rereading much and reading some things I never did before (like Rand’s letters, etc.). There is much that I have tried to “unlearn” and relearn in a different manner. I believe that my commitment to competence was one of the major factors in overcoming my early Randroidism.

Regardless of all the trouble I got into over time, I never lost my love of competence. Once I returned to the USA, I thought that competence would be in high regard among Objectivists. Instead, I encountered a lot of bickering spearheaded by underachievers and guru wannabees. My main conflict with them is over this. They are incompetent and don’t strive to get better.

So, Ellen, I’ll pipe down a bit on many things because we are building a very nice place here and negative vibes can spoil all that. I can’t let go of competence, though. I think striving for competence appeals to the best within ourselves. It is an inner command to rise. Experience doesn’t fall out of the sky. If we don’t strive for competence, we usually don’t attain it.

That is why I finally sounded off about those petty little souls who seek to enshrine mediocrity in the name of Ayn Rand. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were students trying to learn something. But they present themselves with all that pretentiousness and posturing as some kind of intellectuals, while pointing fingers at their betters and spouting obscenities.

I work too hard to say that what they do is OK. It isn’t. It’s mediocre.

Michael

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Michael,

I think a thread devoted to rants about our educational experiences, good or bad, would be of value. It is interesting to see the nature of a person's educational experience, the responses and conclusion he/she drew from that experience, the effects those responses and conclusions had on a person's development, and the striving to discover the path to personal potential. I get a sense of this in your post. I would like to contribute also, when I am not in a moment of being husband and Dad.

I must say, my experience is more in alignment with yours than Ellen's.

Paul

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Without going into a lot of detail, I would say that my grade school experience was similar to Michael's, while my high school and college experience was more similar to Ellen's.

Speaking of Henry Veatch, I must register my own appreciation and admiration of this man. He is one of two Aristotelian philosophers that I learned of because of Douglas Rasmussen -- long-time Objectivist friend, who teaches at St. John's Univ. in NYC and has published in numerous journals including JARS. (The other is Edward Pols.)

I devoured Veatch's books on logic (Intentional Logic, Two Logics, and Logic as a Human Instrument with Francis Parker) in 1970-71, and I applied what I learned to an essay "To Catch a Thief," on the Liar's Paradox, published in Individualist magazine in 1971. I find his writings to be head and shoulders above what Peikoff and Kelley have done in their thoroughness and clarity -- even though I think Peikoff and Kelley have a more correct foundation to what they have done.

Several years ago, I heard some lectures by Harry Binswanger in which he made some snide, condescending remarks toward Veatch. Other than that, Objectivists seem to have very little awareness of him. Hence my delight at learning that Ellen was one of his students in the 60s.

In about 1970 or 1971, Veatch spoke at the University of Iowa to the philosophy department, and Gustav Bergmann and his retinue (ontological atomists, I believe they called themselves) were gathered around him like a bunch of hungry vultures. Doug R. and I sat off to the side, in high suspense. Veatch quietly and politely unleashed a devastating critique of Bergmann's views on some topic or other, but he did it so gently and civilly that you hardly knew he was cutting Bergmann off at the intellectual kneecaps. What a tour de force it was!

Over the years, I have been able to find various essays by Veatch and pick up a number of insights which he transmitted to us from Aquinas and Aristotle and others. I have tried to incorporate some of these ideas in my own writings and my participation in Objectivist seminars, but usually all I get is a bunch of blinking or blank stares (or their electronic equivalent).

A few years ago, an online discussion group was all set to discuss Veatch's Intentional Logic, and I had digested the first couple of chapters as a lead-off essay, but the seminar was canceled with no explanation. And thus ended what seemed to be a really good opportunity to inject some rational neo-Aristotelianism into the stream of Objectivist thought.

That's all for now.

REB

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