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ISSUES OF METHOD, SKILLS, APPROACHES, ATTITUDE

> this distracting meta-argument (that you are so good at).

Roger, that sounds a bit contemptuous. But if meta-argument does not mean disingenuous, but instead means discussions about method, steps, procedure, process, these are actually what interests me quite often much more than discussions about content.

My interest in Kant, unless he turns out to have really brilliant and unique insights in some areas, is minimal compared to that . . . although I may be willing to go a few more rounds looking at quotes from him.

Reasons why my interest in method is so primary:

I am a teacher and every day I see the problems students get into in every subject coming from using the wrong analysis, thinking, or work method. The reasons Objectivists fail or missperceive or missargue or fail to persuade the world often tend to be that they are using a wrong thinking method or a wrong argument or conversation method.

Rationalism is an error of method that will completely derail one as a thinker. But there are many others. (Aside: Civility is an issue of method, of how one approaches people and whether they are open to reason and how one approaches persuasion.)

Steering a conversation to these 'meta' issues to me is not distracting. It's what's of primary importance and what makes good analysis possible. Feel free to disagree, but this is why I'm *constantly* focused on these kinds of issues within or underlying the topic.

(I would hope the reader would respect this -- I've certainly been reasonably clear about most of it, I think.)

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The Sublime, always fun! But so complicated in explanation. (e.g. the Tate site). And amazing, the associations you can pick up in a word. The man said it above, it doesn't exist in nature, it is all

Linked photo sends you to the Tate museum's web project on the 'Sublime' 20 hours ago, Newberry said: ..Read more follow the link below: https://atlassociety.org/commentary/co

ISSUES OF METHOD, SKILLS, APPROACHES, ATTITUDE

> this distracting meta-argument (that you are so good at).

Roger, that sounds a bit contemptuous. But if meta-argument does not mean disingenuous, but instead means discussions about method, steps, procedure, process, these are actually what interests me quite often much more than discussions about content.

My interest in Kant, unless he turns out to have really brilliant and unique insights in some areas, is minimal compared to that . . . although I may be willing to go a few more rounds looking at quotes from him.

Reasons why my interest in method is so primary:

I am a teacher and every day I see the problems students get into in every subject coming from using the wrong analysis, thinking, or work method. The reasons Objectivists fail or missperceive or missargue or fail to persuade the world often tend to be that they are using a wrong thinking method or a wrong argument or conversation method.

Rationalism is an error of method that will completely derail one as a thinker. But there are many others. (Aside: Civility is an issue of method, of how one approaches people and whether they are open to reason and how one approaches persuasion.)

Steering a conversation to these 'meta' issues to me is not distracting. It's what's of primary importance and what makes good analysis possible. Feel free to disagree, but this is why I'm *constantly* focused on these kinds of issues within or underlying the topic.

(I would hope the reader would respect this -- I've certainly been reasonably clear about most of it, I think.)

Contemptuous??? Good grief, Phil. Don't you recognize impatience and irritation when you read it? I am merely "pulling your covers" and welcome you to pull mine, if and when I bug the crap out of you with how I conduct myself on OL.

You have been bugging us for quotes of ~readable~, ~interesting~, ~significant~ Kant, and when you spend most/all of your time ~instead~ talking about talking, discussing about discussing, etc. -- that's what I mean by meta-level, getting bogged down in preliminaries and framework -- it starts looking like you are throwing out conditions and requests as a delay or diversion, rather than a good-faith attempt to engage with someone's ideas.

It isn't just in regard to this current focus on Kant. It's even in regard to ~your~ ideas. You do your strip-tease preliminary about what we all have to do before we're worthy of hearing your ideas, then you back off and leave us wondering whether there was any "there" there.

You don't do it ~all~ the time, but you do it enough that it makes interacting with you very frustrating. If that is your goal, you are succeeding!

REB

P.S. -- Yes, Michael, couldn't have said it better, or more succinctly. Perhaps I take too many words to state the obvious.

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But OK, let's have your evaluation of the humor quote -- as well as the Enlightenment essay Bill P. posted. How much time do you need? These pieces are not encyclopedic, and they are no more long-winded than anything I've seen posted by you on OL. Not an insult, just a fact.

REB

Phil, I will add, just so I don't appear to be "contemptuous" (did you mean "condescending"?), the pieces Bill P. and I posted are no more long-winded than anything ~I've~ posted on OL. (I don't mean our casual, brief posts. I mean our essays.)

There is no justification that I can see for not simply rolling up your mental sleeves, read the eminently readable and interesting pieces, and forming some judgment about them that you can share with us.

If you need a little more time in order to make airtight, unassailable comments, fine, be my guest. But can't you form some ~initial~, first-glance ~impression~ as to whether these pieces by Kant are interesting and insightful? As against turgid, incomprehensible, etc.? Come on! Can't we talk about Kant, instead of talking about talking about Kant?

REB

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ISSUES OF METHOD, SKILLS, APPROACHES, ATTITUDE

Rationalism is an error of method that will completely derail one as a thinker. But there are many others. (Aside: Civility is an issue of method, of how one approaches people and whether they are open to reason and how one approaches persuasion.)

Phil, I couldn't agree with you more. However, attempting to avoid such charges as rationalistic (or simply irresponsibly claiming something without justification), and responding to your request (and then badgering), at least two of us on OL have provided evidence to back up our claims about Kant. Now you beg off, or want some unspecified delay because the quotes we provided are allegedly "long-winded."

Come on! This seems more like you setting up a bunch of hoops or hurdles for us to jump through, with no indication as to when, if ever, you are going to keep your end of our collegial bargain to discuss in good faith here on OL. It seems that ~you~ are the person hobbled by (and hobbling our discussion with) rationalistic concerns. We have some ~facts~ here to look at and talk about. Can we talk -- instead of just talking about talking?

Was that too long-winded? More simply: it's time for you to read, ponder, and share comments on the Kant passages Bill P. and I provided. As a wise man recently said, it's time to "put up or shut up." :poke:

REB

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Again, I'm no spokesperson for or defender of Kant, other than to say that the depiction of him as the most evil man who ever lived is very much overblown.

I think that the depiction of Kant as personally evil at all -- let alone as comparatively the "most evil" -- is "very much overblown." I'm unaware of any evidence for thinking that he was evil, period. (I'm by no means convinced either of the supposed case for his ideas having been so all-fired disastrous, but even if something of a case can be made on the score of bad effects of his ideas, this wouldn't demonstrate the truth of a characterological charge against him as a person.)

I have a memory of Rand's having made a statement about Kant at some point, I think in The Objectivist Newsletter, that went like this: In terms of his effect, I -- that is, Rand -- would have to describe him as the most evil man in history. Her later depiction of Kant personally as "the most evil man who ever lived" occurs, I believe, in her last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.

Could one of you who has the CD-ROM try a search on the phrase "in terms of his effect" and see if you come up with anything?

[ Quote ] from Peikoff podcast of 24 March 2008, speaking of Kant:

"He even went so far to take the side of the United States for liberty and independence as against Great Britian so there was (sic) a lot of things that he put in his philosophy to conceal from himself the full meaning."

How Leonard would scream when persons make similar mind-reading accusations against AR.

Ellen

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle
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(snip)

I have a memory of Rand's having made a statement about Kant at some point, I think in The Objectivist Newsletter, that went like this: In terms of his effect, I -- that is, Rand -- would have to describe him as the most evil man in history. Her later depiction of Kant personally as "the most evil man who ever lived" occurs, I believe, in her last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.

Could one of you who has the CD-ROM try a search on the phrase "in terms of his effect" and see if you come up with anything?

[ Quote ] from Peikoff podcast of 24 March 2008, speaking of Kant:

"He even went so far to take the side of the United States for liberty and independence as against Great Britian so there was (sic) a lot of things that he put in his philosophy to conceal from himself the full meaning."

How Leonard would scream when persons make similar mind-reading accusations against AR.

Ellen

___

Well, in the September 1971 issue of The Objectivist, Rand says (speaking about an essay by Peikoff):

"Dr. Peikoff's essay will help you to understand more fully why I say that no matter how diluted or disguised, one drop of this kind of intellectual poison is too much for a culture to absorb with impunity- that the latest depredations of some Washington ward-heelers are nothing compared to a destroyer of this kind—that Kant is the most evil man in mankind's history."

Bill P (Alfonso)

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(snip)

I have a memory of Rand's having made a statement about Kant at some point, I think in The Objectivist Newsletter, that went like this: In terms of his effect, I -- that is, Rand -- would have to describe him as the most evil man in history. Her later depiction of Kant personally as "the most evil man who ever lived" occurs, I believe, in her last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.

Could one of you who has the CD-ROM try a search on the phrase "in terms of his effect" and see if you come up with anything?

[ Quote ] from Peikoff podcast of 24 March 2008, speaking of Kant:

"He even went so far to take the side of the United States for liberty and independence as against Great Britian so there was (sic) a lot of things that he put in his philosophy to conceal from himself the full meaning."

How Leonard would scream when persons make similar mind-reading accusations against AR.

Ellen

___

Well, in the September 1971 issue of The Objectivist, Rand says (speaking about an essay by Peikoff):

"Dr. Peikoff's essay will help you to understand more fully why I say that no matter how diluted or disguised, one drop of this kind of intellectual poison is too much for a culture to absorb with impunity- that the latest depredations of some Washington ward-heelers are nothing compared to a destroyer of this kind—that Kant is the most evil man in mankind's history."

Bill P (Alfonso)

I don't think she began to realize what a joke this made of her impotence of evil theme, which is the backbone of her novels and philosophy. She'd say she wasn't sanctioning evil so it had no power, but with billions of people on earth sanctioning it it has tremendous power. The fact it is parasitical makes it no less potent. But what is the power of Kant compared to the power of those billions? Potence/impotence, good/evil, production/destruction: This theme needs considered and considerable exploration especially using her two big novels as points of reference and criticism re actual human being, social and individual. She just got started but thought she had essentially done and finished the job except for the practicality of application.

--Brant

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Roger:
"...at least two of us on OL have provided evidence to back up our claims about Kant...and share comments on the Kant passages Bill P. and I provided."

!!! I guess I am chopped liver. :)

LOL. I'm looking forward to the response to our postings, after getting reminders of it having been a WHOLE FOUR DAYS sine the request for quotes...

Bill P (Alfonso)

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(snip)

I have a memory of Rand's having made a statement about Kant at some point, I think in The Objectivist Newsletter, that went like this: In terms of his effect, I -- that is, Rand -- would have to describe him as the most evil man in history. Her later depiction of Kant personally as "the most evil man who ever lived" occurs, I believe, in her last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.

Could one of you who has the CD-ROM try a search on the phrase "in terms of his effect" and see if you come up with anything?

Well, in the September 1971 issue of The Objectivist, Rand says (speaking about an essay by Peikoff):

"Dr. Peikoff's essay will help you to understand more fully why I say that no matter how diluted or disguised, one drop of this kind of intellectual poison is too much for a culture to absorb with impunity- that the latest depredations of some Washington ward-heelers are nothing compared to a destroyer of this kind—that Kant is the most evil man in mankind's history."

Bill, you're right that it was in the last issue of The Objectivist, not of The Ayn Rand Letter, that she made the "most evil man" statement -- which you've quoted.

The next-to-last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (October 1975) is about a book by a Kantian, Friedrich Paulsen, a book titled Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, first published in 1898.

Ellen

___

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(snip)

I have a memory of Rand's having made a statement about Kant at some point, I think in The Objectivist Newsletter, that went like this: In terms of his effect, I -- that is, Rand -- would have to describe him as the most evil man in history. Her later depiction of Kant personally as "the most evil man who ever lived" occurs, I believe, in her last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.

Could one of you who has the CD-ROM try a search on the phrase "in terms of his effect" and see if you come up with anything?

Well, in the September 1971 issue of The Objectivist, Rand says (speaking about an essay by Peikoff):

"Dr. Peikoff's essay will help you to understand more fully why I say that no matter how diluted or disguised, one drop of this kind of intellectual poison is too much for a culture to absorb with impunity- that the latest depredations of some Washington ward-heelers are nothing compared to a destroyer of this kind—that Kant is the most evil man in mankind's history."

Bill, you're right that it was in the last issue of The Objectivist, not of The Ayn Rand Letter, that she made the "most evil man" statement -- which you've quoted.

The next-to-last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (October 1975) is about a book by a Kantian, Friedrich Paulsen, a book titled Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, first published in 1898.

Ellen

___

Ellen, I don't find it there, but if I look in Volume 4, #1 (October 1975) of The AYn Rand Letter, I find (there are actually two issues after this one, not only one):

Just as, at the end of Atlas Shrugged, Francisco saw a radiant future contained in a few words, so I saw the long, dismal, slithering disintegration of the twentieth century held implicitly in a few sentences. I wanted to scream a warning, but it was too late: that book had been published in 1898. Written by Friedrich Paulsen, it is entitled Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine.

Professor Paulsen is a devoted Kantian; but, judging by his style of writing, he is an honest commentator—in the sense that he does not try to disguise what he is saying: "There are three attitudes of the mind towards reality which lay claim to truth,—Religion, Philosophy, and Science....In general, philosophy occupies an intermediate place between science and religion....The history of philosophy shows that its task consists simply in mediating between science and religion. It seeks to unite knowledge and faith, and in this way to restore the unity of the mental life .... As in the case of the individual, it mediates between the head and the heart, so in society it prevents science and religion from becoming entirely strange and indifferent to each other, and hinders also the mental life of the people from being split up into a faith-hating science and a science-hating faith or superstition." (New York, Ungar, 1963, pp. 1-2.)

This means that science and mystic fantasies are equally valid as methods of gaining knowledge; that reason and feelings—the worst kinds of feelings: fear, cowardice, self-abnegation—have equal value as tools of cognition; and that philosophy, "the love of wisdom," is a contemptible middle-of-the-roader whose task is to seek a compromise—a détente—between truth and falsehood.

Professor Paulsen's statement is an accurate presentation of Kant's attitude, but it is not Kant that shocked me, it is Paulsen. Philosophic system-builders, such as Kant, set the trends of a nation's culture (for good or evil), but it is the average practitioners who serve as a barometer of a trend's success or failure. What shocked me was the fact that a modest commentator would start his book with a statement of that kind. I thought (no, hoped) that in the nineteenth century a man upholding the cognitive pretensions of religion to an equal footing with science, would have been laughed off any serious lectern. I was mistaken. Here was Professor Paulsen casually proclaiming—in the nineteenth century—that philosophy is the handmaiden of theology.

Bill P (Alfonso)

Edited by Bill P
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END OF DISCUSSION / END OF FRIENDLY RELATIONS

Roger and Michael:

Once someone has accused me of not discussing things in good faith (and the other related charges in your posts of today) --- which essentially means intellectual dishonesty or trying to deviously manipulate the discussion and avoid the topic --- I want nothing further to do with them.

And my discussion and social or intellectual interaction with both of you is now closed, as long as that incredibly ignorant "smear" is not clearly and explicitly withdrawn or corrected.

I don't mind so much being called stupid or lazy or deeply mistaken or guilty of rationalism or illogical, but I have *zero tolerance* for my character or integrity being questioned:

That is a Diana Hsieh or Lindsay Perigo type form of moral denunciation or publicly impugning someone's motives and psychologizing, which I thought the two of you were opposed to!!

YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES FOR SINKING TO THAT LEVEL.

------------

Just to wrap up though, since several people were involved in the discussion: the only quote that was a really good, insightful one by Kant was the one by Bill. The 'humor' thing where he says this: "Something absurd (something in which, therefore, the understanding can of itself find no delight) must be present in whatever is to raise a hearty convulsive laugh. Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing." is a narrow-minded attempt to fit all humor or laughter into an oversimplified category.

I'm amazed no one has been able to give more or better, since in fact ***I do suspect Kant had interesting and valuable things to say*** outside of his bizarre formal philosophy.

People other than Bill (so far - maybe more is yet to be said) are just not doing a very good job of being his advocates.

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Just to wrap up though, the only quote that was a really good, insightful one by Kant was the one by Bill. The 'humor' thing where he says this: "Something absurd (something in which, therefore, the understanding can of itself find no delight) must be present in whatever is to raise a hearty convulsive laugh. Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing." is a narrow-minded attempt to fit all humor or laughter into an oversimplified category.

I'm amazed no one has been able to give more, since in fact *I do suspect Kant had interesting and valuable things to say* outside of his bizarre formal philosophy.

You guys (other than Bill) are just not doing a very good job of being his advocates.

Philip -

Again, I'm not an advocate of Kant. I am an advocate of abandoning the rhetoric that he was the "most evil man in history." I think it's overblown. (See previous commentary on the subject.)

Bill P (Alfonso)

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The next-to-last issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (October 1975) is about a book by a Kantian, Friedrich Paulsen, a book titled Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, first published in 1898.

Ellen, I don't find it there, [...]

Right again. The last essay ("A Last Survey") is in two parts. The October 1975 AR Letter is next-to-next-to last.

Fixing some punctuation details of the quote you kindly typed in, and setting it as a quote...

The Ayn Rand Letter

Vol. IV, No 1, October 1975

pg. 1

ellipses in original

Just as, at the end of Atlas Shrugged, Francisco saw a radiant future contained in a few words, so I saw the long, dismal, slithering disintegration of the twentieth century held implicitly in a few sentences. I wanted to scream a warning, but it was too late: that book had been published in 1898. Written by Friedrich Paulsen, it is entitled Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine.

Professor Paulsen is a devoted Kantian; but, judging by his style of writing, he is an honest commentator - in the sense that he does not try to disguise what he is saying: "There are three attitudes of the mind towards reality which lay claim to truth, - Religion, Philosophy, and Science....In general, philosophy occupies an intermediate place between science and religion....The history of philosophy shows that its task consists simply in mediating between science and religion. It seeks to unite knowledge and faith, and in this way to restore the unity of the mental life....As in the case of the individual, it mediates between the head and the heart, so in society it prevents science and religion from becoming entirely strange and indifferent to each other, and hinders also the mental life of the people from being split up into a faith-hating science and a science-hating faith or superstition." (New York, Ungar, 1963, pp. 1-2.)

This means that science and mystic fantasies are equally valid as methods of gaining knowledge; that reason and feelings - the worst kinds of feelings: fear, cowardice, self-abnegation - have equal value as tools of cognition; and that philosophy, "the love of wisdom," is a contemptible middle-of-the-roader whose task is to seek a compromise - a détente - between truth and falsehood.

Professor Paulsen's statement is an accurate presentation of Kant's attitude, but it is not Kant that shocked me, it is Paulsen. Philosophic system-builders, such as Kant, set the trends of a nation's culture (for good or evil), but it is the average practitioners who serve as a barometer of a trend's success or failure. What shocked me was the fact that a modest commentator would start his book with a statement of that kind. I thought (no, hoped) that in the nineteenth century a man upholding the cognitive pretensions of religion to an equal footing with science, would have been laughed off any serious lectern. I was mistaken. Here was Professor Paulsen casually proclaiming - in the nineteenth century - that philosophy is the handmaiden of theology.

What she says Paulsen's statement "means" is her loaded "translation." It's a nice little example of the way she went about Rand-doctoring.

Ellen

PS: A copy-editing detail: Notice the sententce starting "I thought (no, hoped [...]." She separates the noun clause from the verb clause with a comma, an error she made a lot. I think she did it for emphasis. I've often wondered if Bertha Krantz, the (famous in publishing circles) Random House copy-editor who copy-edited Atlas, had to grit her teeth at Ayn's insistence on keeping such commas. Maybe Bertha managed to dimish the number of them. ;-)

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Phil,

Ashamed of what?

That was quite a diatribe, but I notice that there was still nothing substantial about Kant coming from you.

Yet you were the one who asked for him. Several times, in fact.

I made no accusations. I just asked and I am still waiting.

If that offends you and you have no wish to study Kant, then don't ask for Kant anymore. (That isn't rocket science.)

But pretend that things are not what they are and not ask questions because that offends your sensibilities?

Heh.

Gimme a break.

I will not be an accomplice to faking reality.

Michael

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Phil,

Ashamed of what?

That was quite a diatribe, but I notice that there was still nothing substantial about Kant coming from you.

Yet you were the one who asked for him. Several times, in fact.

I made no accusations. I just asked and I am still waiting.

If that offends you and you have no wish to study Kant, then don't ask for Kant anymore. (That isn't rocket science.)

But pretend that things are not what they are and not ask questions because that offends your sensibilities?

Heh.

Gimme a break.

I will not be an accomplice to faking reality.

Michael

Nor I!

What is going on here??

Phil asked us to put up or shut up, repeatedly. We put up. He did not respond. We asked him to put up or shut up. He still did not respond to our Kant examples, but instead took his marbles and left, while accusing us of insulting his character.

What is going on here??

Phil accused me and Michael of engaging in Lindsay Perigo or Diana Hsieh moral denunciation. What???

Perigo and Hsieh ~stifle~ and ~censor~ discussion with those they disagree with, and they morally denounce and refuse to associate with or discuss with them. We are not morally denouncing you. We are chiding you for your failure to keep your end of the implied contract to honor each other's providing of requested information and opinions. We are urging you to stop stalling and get on with the discussion! We ~welcome~ discussion. You seem to be the one who does not wish to dialogue. Except on a meta-level.

Give ~me~ a break, too! Sheesh.

REB

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Roger:
"...at least two of us on OL have provided evidence to back up our claims about Kant...and share comments on the Kant passages Bill P. and I provided."

!!! I guess I am chopped liver. :)

Of the very finest sort, Michael! :hug:

I still have some more Kant quotes to share regarding aesthetics and art, but at this point, I'm wondering just who of the people who were clamoring for them recently ~really~ want to see them. :hmm:

reb

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The 'humor' thing where [Kant] says this: "Something absurd (something in which, therefore, the understanding can of itself find no delight) must be present in whatever is to raise a hearty convulsive laugh. Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing." is a narrow-minded attempt to fit all humor or laughter into an oversimplified category.

Perhaps Kant ~is~ being "narrow-minded" and "oversimplified" in his view of humor -- but how different is this from Rand's own description of humor as denying the metaphysical significance of whatever you are making fun of? (If I recall correctly, this is from her participation in the Q-A of one of Peikoff's 1976 lectures on "The Philosophy of Objectivism.") They sound very similar, if not identical (which I noted in brackets, though Phil apparently did not notice).

Ironic, isn't it, that Phil's brush sweeps so wide as to tar Rand as well as Kant. :hmm:

Too bad he's not interacting with the likes of me and Michael any more, or he might be able to explain this a little better, perhaps to make a meaningful distinction between humor that reduces something to nothing vs. humor that reduces something to metaphysical insignificance! :huh:

reb

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The 'humor' thing where [Kant] says this: "Something absurd (something in which, therefore, the understanding can of itself find no delight) must be present in whatever is to raise a hearty convulsive laugh. Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing." is a narrow-minded attempt to fit all humor or laughter into an oversimplified category.

Perhaps Kant ~is~ being "narrow-minded" and "oversimplified" in his view of humor -- but how different is this from Rand's own description of humor as denying the metaphysical significance of whatever you are making fun of? (If I recall correctly, this is from her participation in the Q-A of one of Peikoff's 1976 lectures on "The Philosophy of Objectivism.") They sound very similar, if not identical (which I noted in brackets, though Phil apparently did not notice).

Ironic, isn't it, that Phil's brush sweeps so wide as to tar Rand as well as Kant. :hmm:

Too bad he's not interacting with the likes of me and Michael any more, or he might be able to explain this a little better, perhaps to make a meaningful distinction between humor that reduces something to nothing vs. humor that reduces something to metaphysical insignificance! :huh:

reb

Rand on humor, from The Art of Fiction:

Humor is a metaphysical negation. We regard as funny that which contradicts reality: the incongruous and the grotesque. Take the crudest example of humor: a dignified gentleman in top hat and tails walks down the street, slips on a banana peel, and falls down in a ludicrous position. Why is this supposed to be amusing? Because of the incongruity: if a dignified man falls down over a stupid object like a banana peel, it establishes him as contradictory to and unfit to deal with reality. That is what one laughs at.

In another bromide of two-reel comedies, a man comes home while his wife is entertaining a lover. Hiding the lover in a closet, the wife then tries to keep her husband from opening it: he wants to hang up his coat and she prevents him, etc. Why is this supposed to be funny? Because you (the audience) and the woman know the truth of the situation. You are in control of reality; the husband is not. That is the essence of humor.

Observe that man is the only being who can laugh. There is no such thing as a laughing animal. Only man has a volitional consciousness, and thus a choice between that which he regards as serious and that which he does not. Only man has the power to identify: This is reality—and this is a contradiction of reality. An animal does not have the concept contradiction (or even the concept reality, except by implication); it cannot grasp the issue of being volitionally unfit for reality. But a man can find other men ludicrous if they indulge in contradictions. Why ? Because they have the choice of being consistent or not. Their contradictions are sometimes tragic; the smaller ones are funny.

What you find funny depends on what you want to negate. It is proper to laugh at evil (the literary form of which is satire) or at the negligible. But to laugh at the good is vicious. If you laugh at any value that suddenly shows feet of clay, such as in the example of the dignified gentleman slipping on a banana peel, you are laughing at the validity of values as such. On the other hand, if a pompous villain walks down the street—a man whose established attributes are not dignity, but pretentiousness and stuffiness—you may properly laugh if he falls down because what is then being negated is a pretense, not an actual value.

Observe that some people have a good-natured sense of humor, and others a malicious one. Good-natured, charming humor is never directed at a value, but always at the undesirable or negligible. It has the result of confirming values; if you laugh at the contradictory or pretentious, you are in that act confirming the real or valuable. Malicious humor, by contrast, is always aimed at some value. For instance, when someone laughs at something that is important to you, that is the undercutting of your value.

The best statement of the difference between the two types of humor occurs in Atlas Shrugged when Dagny thinks of the opposite ways in which Francisco and Jim laugh: "Francisco seemed to laugh at things because he saw something much greater. Jim laughed as if he wanted to let nothing remain great."

In this context, you can see why one of Ellsworth Toohey's most evil lines in The Fountainhead is his advice that "we must be able to laugh at everything, particularly at ourselves." The fact that one hears that line so often is the worst symptom of our nonvalue age. When that line is repeated too often in a society, it is a sign of the collapse of all values.

Observe modern magazines when they do profiles on celebrities whom they support or agree with: they always do it in a snide manner of laughing at the very people they are glamorizing. This style was once reserved for enemies; the press would do a ridiculing article only on someone they disagreed with or wanted to denounce. Today, it is the accepted style for those whom they want to glorify. That is a devastating sign of the policy that says: "Permit nothing to have value."

To say that one does not take something seriously means: "Never mind, it's not important, it doesn't matter one way or another." You can say that only about the things you do not value. If you take nothing seriously, it means that you have no values. If you have no values, then the first value, the base of all the others—namely, your life—has no value for you.

Let me give a few examples of the two types of humor.

Jean Kerr, the author of Please Don't Eat the Daisies, is a benevolent humorist. She is allegedly complaining about the hard lot of a mother and the difficulty of coping with children. For instance, when her children eat the daisies, that is supposed to be a great evil on their part. But is that in fact what she is saying? No; she is really conveying the adventurousness and imagination of her children—their high spirits, which she has such a "hard" time controlling. At one point, when she describes how impossible it is to talk to one of her boys who is very literal-minded, I fell in love with that boy. She tells him to throw all of his clothes into the washing machine, and their conversation then goes something like the following. He says: "All my clothes?" She says: "Yes." "My shoes, too? .... Well, no, not your shoes." "All right, but I'll put in the belt." What comes across from their dialogue is an extremely intelligent, rational child. What Jean Kerr is actually laughing at is the kind of mother who would really consider this bad or difficult. She is negating the difficulty of the situation, and she is glorifying the good qualities of her children.

O. Henry is a benevolent humorist, as is Oscar Wilde in many of his plays, particularly The Importance of Being Earnest. Cyrano de Bergerac contains a lot of comedy, all of it aimed at destroying the pretentious or the cowardly. Cyrano laughs at villains, not at values or heroes.

Ernst Lubitsch was the only screen director famous for romantic comedies. Ninotchka, the Greta Garbo picture he directed, is a good example: it is comedy, but also high romance. What is laughed at is the sordid, undesirable aspects of life—and what comes across by means of the humor is the glamour, the romance, and the positive aspects.

In the benevolent type of humor, something good is always involved, as in Ninotchka, where the hero and heroine are quite glamorous. They are not funny—some of their adventures are; or they are acting humorously toward certain things, but not in a way that undercuts their own dignity, value, or self-esteem.

On the other hand, Swift is a humorist of a dubious kind. I read Gulliver's Travels so long ago that I remember little of it, but I do remember that it is a satire against something—which does not project what the author is for. He satirizes all kinds of social weaknesses, but upholds nothing.

In a more modern style, Dorothy Parker laughs in a nasty, bitter way. She is regarded as a sensitive writer, yet manages to deal humorously with the most heartbreaking subjects possible, like lonely old maids or ugly, undesired women.

Humor as the exclusive ingredient of a story is a dubious form of writing. While some people have acquired great skill at it, such humor is philosophically empty because it is merely destruction in the name of nothing.

In sum, humor is a destructive element. If the humor of a literary work is aimed at the evil or the inconsequential—and if the positive is included—then the humor is benevolent and the work completely proper. If the humor is aimed at the positive, at values, the work might be skillful literarily, but it is to be denounced philosophically. This is true also of satire for the sake of satire. Even if the things satirized are bad and deserve to be destroyed, a work that includes no positive, but only the satirizing of negatives, is also improper philosophically.

Bill P (Alfonso)

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Roger,

One thing is for sure. You should never ask someone for knowledge around here unless you really want it.

One of the values I consciously chose when OL started was to surround myself with people smarter than me and encourage them to express themselves. I admit that it is a real challenge to live around that. I find I need 50 hours in a day to get through everything I need to and consider it to my satisfaction. Since I do not have 50 hours, I unfortunately have to skim over some over things.

I do know, however, that my life is immensely richer for doing this. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Michael

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The 'humor' thing where [Kant] says this: "Something absurd (something in which, therefore, the understanding can of itself find no delight) must be present in whatever is to raise a hearty convulsive laugh. Laughter is an affection arising from a strained expectation being suddenly reduced to nothing." is a narrow-minded attempt to fit all humor or laughter into an oversimplified category.

Perhaps Kant ~is~ being "narrow-minded" and "oversimplified" in his view of humor -- but how different is this from Rand's own description of humor as denying the metaphysical significance of whatever you are making fun of? (If I recall correctly, this is from her participation in the Q-A of one of Peikoff's 1976 lectures on "The Philosophy of Objectivism.") They sound very similar, if not identical (which I noted in brackets, though Phil apparently did not notice).

To me it sounds more as if what Kant is saying is something similar to Koestler's idea of a bifurcation of contexts.

Ellen

EDIT: I meant "bisociation." Roger gives the term correctly in post #53 below. I tried to edit to correct the term after I submitted this post last night, but the server went off-line just then and the edit didn't go through.

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle
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Another quote (this one very brief to make it easy to digest and contemplate in a short time) for commentary:

"All consciousness is reason. All reason is logic. Everything that comes between consciousness and logic is a disease."

Thoughts on this one?

Bill P (Alfonso)

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Another quote (this one very brief to make it easy to digest and contemplate in a short time) for commentary:

"All consciousness is reason. All reason is logic. Everything that comes between consciousness and logic is a disease."

Thoughts on this one?

Bill P (Alfonso)

Fatuous. Each sentence is false, too. Not to mention that the third sentence contradicts the previous two.

--Brant

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