Sign in to follow this  
Robert Campbell

Contextual Virtues: A Wee Test

Recommended Posts

Robert C wrote:

Mentioning Ayn Rand herself in connection with "privacy lies" is hardly letting off a stinkbomb. It's just facing facts. I admire Victor Hugo's incredible achievement as a writer while being distressed by the way he treated his wife and his mistress. For that matter, I am moved by Charlie Parker's music despite knowing that he was grossly dysfunctional when off the bandstand.

I disagree. I don't think Rand's social life was more unconventional than Einstein, Feynman, Von Neumann, Picasso, Ingrid Bergman or others and yet people, including those who admire her feel free to dump on this aspect of her life. Why?

I reject privacy lies for two reasons. One is that honesty is a principle that deserves to be established in the same strong terms as rejecting taxation. It isn't that some small tax is going to kill you, it's that once you allow for the erosion of the principle, all sorts of things can be justified. The second is that honesty is a moral habit. It's not something you can turn on and off like a lightswitch.

I've always been perfectly happy with the MYOB answer.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree. I don't think Rand's social life was more unconventional than Einstein, Feynman, Von Neumann, Picasso, Ingrid Bergman or others and yet people, including those who admire her feel free to dump on this aspect of her life. Why?

Jim,

Actually, I would have to dig, but I recall some very unsavory parts of the lives of some of these people mentioned during discussions, and also some other celebrities. I don't ever recall you stranding up and saying that people were setting off stink-bombs about them. I also ask, why not? Why just Rand?

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> Snooper: "Hey, I know that Janey is a really good friend of yours who tells you everything...do you know if she's....sleeping with [Tom]?" [You:] "...I would never tell you anything about her private life..."

The more likely scenario is that S and you talk about all sorts of things about the private life of your other friend Janey. You've talked about how she dresses, how she had to stay for detention this week, who is she is dating now. Guys she's dated in the past when she was younger and how they seemed and why they broke up. Like most people (witness people gossiping and speculating about Ayn Rand), this is a huge source of interest and fun topic of discussion.

And you have felt perfectly free to discuss -all kinds of things- about Janey.

So, yes, anything other than "yes", "no", or "I don't know" often gives away the answer -to a high degree of probability- in such cases. Or leads the snooper to suspect . . . and ask more people, watch Janey and Tom in school more carefully. Follow them in your car, etc.

(And, Ellen, you personally may not have experienced one. I'm not arguing frequency, but -possibility- and I'm not arguing for a general or universal or even prevalent need to lie to protect privacy.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Judith,

In general, I agree with you, and I include most of your comments under the heading of "falling in love and trying to make it work." However, I have a couple of comments on your little list.

Having the courage to approach a man to begin an affair when she was of the position that men should be the aggressors.

I am not the one who has a problem with this part. James Valliant is. Part of the discourse in PARC is to prove that Nathaniel Branden was the aggressor and Rand the poor innocent victim. That, apparently, is the ARI party line.

Not "letting it go" when she realized what her feelings were for him and what his were for her, when "letting it go" would mean giving up what she believed to be the greatest happiness of her life and an answer to decades of frustration.

No problem whatsoever. Something to admire.

Refusing to lie about it to their respective spouses and sneak around as if they were doing something shameful. (I don't think they had to go so far as to "ask permission" from their spouses, but they did have an obligation to let them know what they were doing.)

This is one part where I disagree with you. I find this neither admirable nor non-admirable. It is very contextual. I once had a girl-friend who used to say to me: "If you ever have an affair, then damn you if you tell me. I will be happy in my ignorance. If you tell me, your will silence your guilty consciouses, but you will make me miserable. So if you love me and ever have an affair, don't ever tell me. You did it. You keep your misery and don't give it to me."

Also, in my experience, some people are OK with extra-marital affairs, but most are not. If a person is not, it doesn't matter whether you lie or tell the truth. You have turned his/her world upside down just by having the affair. How would you like to be told, "I am going to kill you to your face instead of hitting you from behind. I want you to know that I am being honest with you." Would that make you feel any better about dying? Would you admire your imminent killer for being honest? ("I am being killed by a virtuous person. Boy, do I admire him!" :) ) Virtues like honesty are contextual and are only admirable within the specific context.

I see nothing honorable about the honesty you mentioned in Rand's case. On the contrary, I think she used her position to manipulate the others, make them swallow what she wanted through pressuring them, and "gave her misery to them." In Objectivist terms, she insisted on sanction of the victim from Frank and Barbara so she would not have a guilty conscious. She used her "honesty" to extract that sanction. I find that disgusting and beneath her.

I have no easy answer to how she should have gone about it. If you want my answer about honesty, it would have been far more honest (in a Rearden kind of manner) to say to the respective spouses, "I love him, I'm going to have him and there is not anything on earth you can do about it." That is Randian honesty for a situation like that, not that manipulative bill of goods she laid down on them.

As to the rest of your post, I agree. If you love someone or value something highly and it is unconventional or unusual, risk will always be involved. Facing that risk openly is admirable. And since you mentioned it, I do admire Rand for having the guts to have an affair with a man half her age (and in that society and right under the nose of her whole philosophical movement!). That is the stuff of greatness.

But I don't admire how she went about it, how she reacted to the deception, nor how she treated her admirers about it after it was over. And "don't admire" is merely a polite way of saying what I really think.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree. I don't think Rand's social life was more unconventional than Einstein, Feynman, Von Neumann, Picasso, Ingrid Bergman or others and yet people, including those who admire her feel free to dump on this aspect of her life. Why?

Jim,

Actually, I would have to dig, but I recall some very unsavory parts of the lives of some of these people mentioned during discussions, and also some other celebrities. I don't ever recall you stranding up and saying that people were setting off stink-bombs about them. I also ask, why not? Why just Rand?

Michael

Michael,

I'm amused and I'll give you the answer to my question before you give it. The reason why people attack Rand for her personal behavior was that she had a penchant for telling other people what to do in their private lives and had some half-baked theories about it. I don't mind having discussions about that, but why do people go for the jugular in Rand's case, attacking her using conventional morality smears when she clearly believed conventional morality to be faulty?

I probably wouldn't have had much to do with Rand in life, just as I have had zero to do with Peikoff. This is less to do with Rand than the fact that I chafe under almost any authority who sets a bunch of conditions on what I can do. Many people should have (and some cases did) tell her to shove off or quietly drift away.

I do also think many injustices have been done to the reputations of the people I listed. Einstein always appears as some wild, crazy mad scientist with hair all over the place, rather than the staid, serious young man who came up with all the breakthroughs just for an example. It's possible that you can come up with a discussion in which I was involved that those people I mentioned were slandered and I didn't say something, but that's all the more reason to defend them.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm amused and I'll give you the answer to my question before you give it. The reason why people attack Rand for her personal behavior was that she had a penchant for telling other people what to do in their private lives and had some half-baked theories about it. I don't mind having discussions about that, but why do people go for the jugular in Rand's case, attacking her using conventional morality smears when she clearly believed conventional morality to be faulty?

Jim,

Since you put it that way, I presume you think my quip was an "attack" on Rand, going "for the jugular" by "using conventional morality smears."

Just to be clear, I was not attacking her, but outright condemning the immorality of her conduct. And I do not mean "conventional morality." I mean immorality according to her own standards. Not only that, by implication, I was condemning the hypocrisy of those who turn themselves into logical pretzels trying to justify it (and the list of rationalizations is enormous). Apparently they cannot conceive of Rand as a heroine if she engaged in monkey-shines once in a while.

I can.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When I learned that those two [NB and AR] had had an affair, my thought was, "Yes! There IS justice in the universe!" It would have been a cosmic tragedy had those two never slept together.

Judith,

I could feel like that about it, too, if it weren't for the mythologized way Ayn had to see the relationship. If she could have seen it unvarnished: She was 50, a woman on the edge of hormonal decline; he was 25, brilliant, electric with sexual potency (he crackled, I imagine, from having seen him when he was 33; he still crackled then). If she could have viewed the affair as nothing more philosophically portentous than a brief fling, a conflagration while she still had the fire, if she could have not mythologized it..."Because of the logic of who we are," and all that. IMO, what made long-run disaster nearly inevitable was their all buying into Ayn's theory of sex (though Frank least so and Barbara less than Nathaniel and Ayn).

You sort of say this youself in writing: The problems came with the way both of them failed to deal with the end of the affair. But I think maybe you don't realize the extent to which their mutual belief system about the psychology of sex interfered with either of them being able to accept reality. You write: There's a time to let go and move on. Former lovers can make superb friends. It's a pity she didn't figure that out. But what he wanted to do -- and indeed was doing at the time when she wanted to resume their discontinued sexual relationship -- was having a sexual relationship with someone whom he believed Ayn would never countenance as his partner. Do you believe that if he'd just said to her -- in essence, although more tactfully than this -- "Yes, Ayn, you're too old now, and furthermore I'm having an affair with Patrecia," she would have been capable of saying, "Oh, well, then; ok; go with my blessing and we'll just be friends"?

Ellen

___

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
> Snooper: "Hey, I know that Janey is a really good friend of yours who tells you everything...do you know if she's....sleeping with [Tom]?" [You:] "...I would never tell you anything about her private life..."

The more likely scenario is that S and you talk about all sorts of things about the private life of your other friend Janey. You've talked about how she dresses, how she had to stay for detention this week, who is she is dating now. Guys she's dated in the past when she was younger and how they seemed and why they broke up. Like most people (witness people gossiping and speculating about Ayn Rand), this is a huge source of interest and fun topic of discussion.

And you have felt perfectly free to discuss -all kinds of things- about Janey.

So, yes, anything other than "yes", "no", or "I don't know" often gives away the answer -to a high degree of probability- in such cases. Or leads the snooper to suspect . . . and ask more people, watch Janey and Tom in school more carefully. Follow them in your car, etc.

(And, Ellen, you personally may not have experienced one. I'm not arguing frequency, but -possibility- and I'm not arguing for a general or universal or even prevalent need to lie to protect privacy.)

Phil,

I wouldn't describe the circumstances you've described above as being those of someone "who exercises discretion generally" (see my post #44), instead as those of someone who's a careless talker and then has no one to blame except him/herself if put in an awkward spot by a snooping question. Sure, in the scene you sketch, the person might feel a "need to lie to protect privacy," but I think this is the result of the person's not having been what I'd call a trustworthy confidant to begin with -- it's bad policy leading to awkwardness. I'm not saying that there could never be a circumstance where a privacy lie might be called for. But I think that in the sort of scenes which tend to be presented as examples, the people conducted themselves previously in such a way as to make a predicament likely.

Ellen

___

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael wrote:

Since you put it that way, I presume you think my quip was an "attack" on Rand, going "for the jugular" by "using conventional morality smears."

Just to be clear, I was not attacking her, but outright condemning the immorality of her conduct. And I do not mean "conventional morality." I mean immorality according to her own standards. Not only that, by implication, I was condemning the hypocrisy of those who turn themselves into logical pretzels trying to justify it (and the list of rationalizations is enormous). Apparently they cannot conceive of Rand as a heroine if she engaged in monkey-shines once in a while.

Michael,

I know people who have a sense of humor different than mine (and mine is crazy enough :)), so I'll assume you were making a joke in the vein of which this thread started and that I just didn't get it.

I think people can say they disapprove, even morally, of this or that action of Rand's without making a federal case of it. I loved the pre-biography and post-biography Rand. To me it didn't matter much. It did matter to me when I felt like people took cheap shots at either. What I dislike is the kinds of things said by people like Whittaker Chambers and Michael Prescott.

Some of the things you say about Rand irritate me, but I'll assume you just think many of her actions were unworthy of her and leave it at that. Rand has always captured my sympathy with the almost impossible odds of her battle and never my scorn.

One thing I will say about Rand is that with her tastes in art, she didn't leave many outlets for her gray moods and her blues. In the Fountainhead we saw it in Dominique Francon, but after that only in short bursts in Atlas. To me that does not broadcast happiness in a person, but losing touch with a piece of themselves. I love my melancholy Irish melodies as well as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. It expresses a part of me that is hard to share with people in other contexts.

Anyway, I'm not one of those people who twists themselves into logical pretzels. I just know, appreciate, love and defend greatness when I see it.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anyway, I'm not one of those people who twists themselves into logical pretzels. I just know, appreciate, love and defend greatness when I see it.

Jim,

Not so quick. I can go with the greatness of novelist and philosopher part. But do you see greatness in how Rand handled the affair with Nathaniel (before, during and after)? Your posts give the impression that this is precisely what you are defending.

That is also precisely Valliant's premise: Rand's greatness was manifest in her innocence before the big bad evil NB.

Would you see greatness in this behavior out of someone not famous and not Rand? Say your daughter (if you have one) or your wife? Would you even excuse it?

I speak specifically about manipulating admirers into agreeing to sanction of the victim, lying on a public platform about a lover who jilted you (and his wife), and lying to all your intimates until the end of your days about what went on.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anyway, I'm not one of those people who twists themselves into logical pretzels. I just know, appreciate, love and defend greatness when I see it.

Jim,

Not so quick. I can go with the greatness of novelist and philosopher part. But do you see greatness in how Rand handled the affair with Nathaniel (before, during and after)? Your posts give the impression that this is precisely what you are defending.

That is also precisely Valliant's premise: Rand's greatness was manifest in her innocence before the big bad evil NB.

Would you see greatness in this behavior out of someone not famous and not Rand? Say your daughter (if you have one) or your wife? Would you even excuse it?

I speak specifically about manipulating admirers into agreeing to sanction of the victim, lying on a public platform about a lover who jilted you (and his wife), and lying to all your intimates until the end of your days about what went on.

Michael

Michael,

I don't see greatness in it, but I understand it. By the way, I've lived with loved ones with anger problems. My father as great a person as he was had bouts of it, largely as a result of his chronic ulcerative colitis. My wife has some of it, although now that I've gotten her to do regular exercise and yoga, I don't see it as much anymore.

I have a favorite uncle who had a nasty divorce and saw my cousins only once until they were 18. He is one of my favorite people in the world. He had an emotional block about how to deal with his former wife's bipolar disorder. I didn't really have to deal with much of any of this firsthand, but the quizzical outside looking in feeling I have is somewhat the same as my view of the Inner Circle.

In any case, that's not how Rand is to me. I never saw a video of Rand until I was 23. I was surprised, but not disappointed. As far as what the history of what went on is, there is a lot of disagreement from different quarters, but I believe the Rand I've seen in videos and on tape. Both PARC and the biographies were some kind of strange universe that is alien to me. Everyone seems angry about it :). The journal entries in PARC give me an understanding of several parts of the biographies I didn't understand. The rest of it was difficult to get through and not easy to check.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
> Snooper: "Hey, I know that Janey is a really good friend of yours who tells you everything...do you know if she's....sleeping with [Tom]?" [You:] "...I would never tell you anything about her private life..."

The more likely scenario is that S and you talk about all sorts of things about the private life of your other friend Janey. You've talked about how she dresses, how she had to stay for detention this week, who is she is dating now. Guys she's dated in the past when she was younger and how they seemed and why they broke up. Like most people (witness people gossiping and speculating about Ayn Rand), this is a huge source of interest and fun topic of discussion.

I wouldn't call what I see most people doing as "gossiping" about Ayn Rand, but as scrutinizing her behavior in the context of discussions about ethical issues, or discussion about why the Objectivist movement is often a laughing stock.

Phil,

I wouldn't describe the circumstances you've described above as being those of someone "who exercises discretion generally" (see my post #44), instead as those of someone who's a careless talker and then has no one to blame except him/herself if put in an awkward spot by a snooping question. Sure, in the scene you sketch, the person might feel a "need to lie to protect privacy," but I think this is the result of the person's not having been what I'd call a trustworthy confidant to begin with -- it's bad policy leading to awkwardness. I'm not saying that there could never be a circumstance where a privacy lie might be called for. But I think that in the sort of scenes which tend to be presented as examples, the people conducted themselves previously in such a way as to make a predicament likely.

With the type of situation that Phil is describing, I wouldn't say that it's even accurate to call the person who is asking the unwanted question a "snooper." If your relationship with a friend consists mostly of discussions about who is dating, breaking up with, or having sex with whom, such questions are the normal style and substance of your relationship. If that friend is suddenly a "snooper" just because you've stupidly promised someone else that you wouldn't talk about something that you would normally talk about, then any of us could be "snoopers" for asking each other unwanted questions about what we normally talk about -- our views on philosophy, physics, art, psychology, history, current events, etc.

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> Sure, in the scene you sketch, the person might feel a "need to lie to protect privacy," but I think this is the result of the person's not having been what I'd call a trustworthy confidant to begin with...I think that in the sort of scenes which tend to be presented as examples, the people conducted themselves previously in such a way as to make a predicament likely.

But, Ellen, the kind of scenario where people talk about people they know is perfectly natural and understandable and I don't think many of us -don't- do it (which is why I mentioned the example of gossiping about Rand). And it's either natural or even simply appropriate to talk about Janey's dressing and getting detention and previous boyfriends.

The problem arises when someone is told something in confidence and Janey told you (or common sense would indicate) that it's inappropriate to let this be known.

I may know that Objectivist X is gay and is not yet "out" (this has actually happened). But it's conceivable I might have to lie when asked about this if I wish to protect his privacy. I will certainly do so.

...And I hope you will lie when you are asked if I like to have sex with barnyard animals while being showered in grapefruit juice, wearing a tutu, and singing God Bless America.

(Please delete this communication.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...And I hope you will lie when you are asked if I like to have sex with barnyard animals while being showered in grapefruit juice, wearing a tutu, and singing God Bless America.

Showered in grapefruit juice? That's SICK!

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MSK asked about my family: here's a cool picture of my brother Tom, my wife Rita and me last New Years' !!

PICT0010.jpg

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Francisco: "I never deny anything."

--Brant

Brant,

When you get into as much trouble as I do, you always deny everything unless it's true, then you plead the Fifth :).

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim,

Tom and Rita are prettier than you.

(I go for the jugular every time...)

:)

Michael

No arguing there :):) . At least I can claim good taste and that someone got all the good genes in the family :) .

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,

Tempe, Arizona partying with Joe Duarte and Dan and Nova Walsh.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More pictures from the same party. There's me and Joe, rabid Dallas Cowboys fans :) . There's Dan and Nova and Tom being a scamp. Dan and I were roommates for a year in Silicon Valley. He worked at Intel at the time and I worked at Applied Materials across the street so we carpooled a lot. We lived right off University street in Palo Alto. You've got to be close enough to walk home after you've had a few beverages.

PICT0026.jpg

PICT0019.jpg

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Getting back to the Contextual Virtues thing, it's too easy for human beings to kid themselves that they have some bigger purpose or benevolent motive in mind when they lie. ARI has sanitized and dribbed and drabbed truth when it was convenient for them. If ARI's application of privacy lies is any indication, it's a very difficult principle to apply correctly. I'm equally skeptical of Nathaniel and Barbara.

I also think it's ridiculous and sad that we've had an abject failure of leadership in Objectivism from Ayn Rand on down. Ayn Rand, the philosopher and novelist, deserved better from Ayn Rand the movement leader and all of the cronies and court attendants.

Objectivism has had the benefit of two geniuses, Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. It also has the benefit of the writings and lectures of Leonard Peikoff and David Kelley and others. Objectivism will grow beyond its founding. Hopefully, we can stand on the shoulders of giants, see farther and learn from our past and present mistakes. Michael is a fan of unvarnished truth. That's the way I see it.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim,

What is the varnished truth?

Michael

I'm not a fan of coverups, but honestyand fidelity to Objectivism have been used as weapons in the movement. Other movements do this kind of thing, but not to the same degree that Objectivism does. Objectivists play an old political game that is pretty universal everywhere. If someone knows something really uncomfortable about someone they can get them to do what they want. Someone on one of the forums called it NIGYYSOB. Now I've got you, you SOB.

You are right that there is manipulation, there was all along in the old movement and it is what has to be stopped. What I think was much worse and still is much worse than the affair were the purges, reputation leverage and status-seeking. You said earlier that truth sets you free. I think a compassionate truth with human understanding sets you free. Without that we get purges, the biographies, we get PARC, we get malicious outings on internet forums.

I see what it is now, the scores will never be settled, everyone wants to defend someone and it will continue to go on until people decide there is something better to do. I'm not above it all and I haven't completely gotten it out of my system (but mostly, thankfully) and I have my hot buttons that trigger it that I have to get control of, but I've gone on record about what I think and I'm comfortable with that.

So I guess, sadly, the varnished truth in Objectivism, too often, has been whatever people say when they want people to like them, follow them, have sex with them, stop having sex with them but not throw them out, protect their reputation, destroy someone's reputation or get someone to make donations ;).

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this