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(The following is just me thinking out loud, as I follow this thread...)

This conversation/debate, in a nutshell, sounds like a question of teleology, and the is/oughts that arise around that....seems like it's asking the question, what is primary, the species or the individual, regarding "who sets the goals?"

It was either ATLAS or THE FOUNTAINHEAD that had THE GALLANT GALLSTONE story, which mocked the idea of an individual having the hubris to declare itself primary vs. society by comparing one to a cellular part of the body that decides to declare its sovereignty...seems like a good time to bring that example up...

Rand addressed Aristotle and teleology and "final causation", oddly enough, in relation to writing in THE ART OF FICTION. I know MSK has brought this up before, and not a fan of her method for teaching fiction that way, but perhaps this is a good place to bring it up again, anyway, because that disagreement seems to be the nucleus in the nature of this debate. Rand:  "In nature, there is no final causation; but in man’s action, action, final causation is the only proper guide."

(I'll put her detailed quote in a followup post, for reference...)

Maybe it's a false dichotomy, or maybe it's a question of evolutionary goals and competition between the individual vs. the genetic program. It seems like that debate is shown in microcosm in Arthur Koestler's GHOST IN THE MACHINE, with the idea of the triunal brain competing against each other (something MSK has addressed.) It doesn't seem like it's "either-or", but that there's a "dynamic tension" that gets played out in macrocosm on the individual vs. collective scale...the only way out of this tension would be through some kind of evolution, most likely technological, involving AI and such, but then, we would not be dealing with humanity, at that point...(thinking of "the singularity" and such...)

(But do we have to go that far? Think about the evolution of ideas...we've moved largely away from the "heirarchy" idea of government, of kings and queens and emperors to a trader system...nature, itself, doesn't care if genes are replicated through coercive or nonviolent means, because it is AMORAL, but humans are not bound to that. And yet, there are species that only know such violent means...more on this in a moment...)

Then, there's the arguments put forth in Richard Dawkins' THE SELFISH GENE. Is the individual primary, using the given of his metaphysical nature to pursue individual pursuits as a primary? Or is the individual merely the puppet of the genetic program to reproduce, making the species  primary? Can a genetic program be said to have values? Is it an end in itself, with its own intrinsic value? Or just a fact of nature?

For me, this all boils down to "cutting the Gordian knot":
It's clear that we have a "species nature"  that includes reproduction, and that the genetic program has a "design" of its own that it is trying to fulfill. At the same time, so does the I, the Ego...sometimes they work in tandem, sometimes they're at odds. But the knot-cutting comes here: Does the individual have the RIGHT to override/go against the "program"?

Just like when Rand "cut the knot" when she said the question is not whether or not one should or shouldn't give money to a beggar, but is whether or not the individual has the RIGHT not to, the same comes into play with the individual vs. the genetic program.

Now, because rights, in the O'ist sense, are only applicable to moral agents, and nature is AMORAL, then the species, the biological genetic program, etc, cannot claim to have any rights. Only the individual can have rights, in that scenario. (Obviously not taking into account the religious claims of an omnipotent consciousness, or the Christian belief that the individual DOES belong to "Him", or a "Collective unconscious". By that logic, the answer would have to be "yes", the individual has a RIGHT to go against genetic programming. "Nature", "genetics", whatever you call it, cannot claim any rights, positive or negative.

Now, of course, does that mean that the individual SHOULD go against nature?
THAT brings to mind Rand's quotation of Francis Bacon: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." (Or, the Spanish Proverb, "God said take what you want, and pay for it.")

Some more quotes from Rand re teleology and biology, for reference:

From "The Objectivist Ethics":



"An organism’s life depends on two factors: the material or fuel which it needs from the outside, from its physical background, and the action of its own body, the action of using that fuel properly. What standard determines what is proper in this context? The standard is the organism’s life, or: that which is required for the organism’s survival."

"When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of an organism, the term “goal-directed” is not to be taken to mean “purposive” (a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness) and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature. I use the term “goal-directed,” in this context, to designate the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they result in the preservation of an organism’s life."

Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.

"An organism’s life depends on two factors: the material or fuel which it needs from the outside, from its physical background, and the action of its own body, the action of using that fuel properly. What standard determines what is proper in this context? The standard is the organism’s life, or: that which is required for the organism’s survival."


From ITOE:


Teleological Measurement

In regard to the concepts pertaining to evaluation (“value,” “emotion,” “feeling,” “desire,” etc.), the hierarchy involved is of a different kind and requires an entirely different type of measurement. It is a type applicable only to the psychological process of evaluation, and may be designated as “teleological measurement.”

Measurement is the identification of a relationship—a quantitative relationship established by means of a standard that serves as a unit. Teleological measurement deals, not with cardinal, but with ordinal numbers—and the standard serves to establish a graded relationship of means to end.
For instance, a moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value. The standard is the end, to which man’s actions are the means.
A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly. Thus all his actions have to be guided by a process of teleological measurement. (The degree of uncertainty and contradictions in a man’s hierarchy of values is the degree to which he will be unable to perform such measurements and will fail in his attempts at value calculations or at purposeful action.)

Teleological measurement has to be performed in and against an enormous context: it consists of establishing the relationship of a given choice to all the other possible choices and to one’s hierarchy of values.

The simplest example of this process, which all men practice (with various degrees of precision and success), may be seen in the realm of material values—in the (implicit) principles that guide a man’s spending of money. On any level of income, a man’s money is a limited quantity; in spending it, he weighs the value of his purchase against the value of every other purchase open to him for the same amount of money, he weighs it against the hierarchy of all his other goals, desires and needs, then makes the purchase or not accordingly.

The same kind of measurement guides man’s actions in the wider realm of moral or spiritual values. (By “spiritual” I mean “pertaining to consciousness.” I say “wider” because it is man’s hierarchy of values in this realm that determines his hierarchy of values in the material or economic realm.) But the currency or medium of exchange is different. In the spiritual realm, the currency—which exists in limited quantity and must be teleologically measured in the pursuit of any value—is time, i.e., one’s life.


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For reference: Rand on Aristotle, teleology, and final causation:

"Final causation means that the end result of a certain chain of causes determines those causes. Aristotle gave this example: A tree is the final cause of the seed from which that tree will grow. From one perspective, the seed is the efficient cause of the tree: first there is the seed, and as a result, the tree grows. But from the perspective of final causation, Aristotle said, the future tree determines the nature of the seed and of the development it has to follow in order to end up as that tree.

"This, by the way, is one of my major differences from Aristotle. It is wrong to assume what in philosophy is known as teleology—namely, that a purpose set in advance in nature determines physical phenomena. The concept of the future tree determining the nature of the seed is impossible; it is the kind of concept that leads to mysticism and religion. Most religions have a teleological explanation of the universe: God made the universe, so His purpose determined the nature of the entities in it.

"But the concept of final causation, properly delimited, is valid. Final causation applies only to the work of a conscious entity—specifically of a rational one—because only a thinking consciousness can choose a purpose ahead of its existence and then select the means to achieve it.

"In the realm of human action, everything has to be directed by final causation. If men allow themselves to be moved by efficient causation—if they act like determined beings, propelled by some immediate cause outside themselves—that is totally improper. (Even then, volition is involved: if a man decides to abandon purpose, that is also a choice, and a bad one.) Proper human action is action by means of final causation."

Ayn Rand; Tore Boeckmann. The art of fiction: a guide for writers and readers (Kindle Locations 456-457). Plume.


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On 6/19/2021 at 9:53 PM, Peter said:
On 6/19/2021 at 7:56 PM, MisterSwig said:

My general take is that a man's standard is a complex of physical, biological and mental factors.

That got me thinking about the Tom Hank's movie "Castaway" when he begins to take stock of his situation.

I watched Cast Away last night. I think the "taking stock" portion actually begins before the crash. As the situation becomes more desperate on the plane, he leaves his seat to recover his watch with the picture in it. This act is clearly motivated by the mental aspect of his standard of values. The object is important to his happiness. Then on the beach he addresses other aspects of his life. Purely physical concerns include shelter from the elements and shoes for his feet. As a biological organism he must also sustain his life, so he creates things like the spear to hunt for food and fire to signal for help. His volleyball doll is a little silly, but I suppose it falls into the mental aspect, particularly the value of having someone to talk to. It keeps him mentally active, emotionally invested, and distracted from his solitude. Though if I were stranded on an uninhabited island for four years, I wouldn't create a male doll.

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37 minutes ago, tmj said:


Does BENEFICIAL to.. extend to benefitted from ?

They might be related, in that something beneficial which you gain will be something that you benefited from in the past or continue benefiting from throughout your life. But this doesn't necessarily mean that something you benefited from in the past is still beneficial to you now, because things and contexts change over time.

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17 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

They might be related, in that something beneficial which you gain will be something that you benefited from in the past or continue benefiting from throughout your life. But this doesn't necessarily mean that something you benefited from in the past is still beneficial to you now, because things and contexts change over time.

I see that .

I'm still stuck on universal/objective , species/individual dichotomies and how these are identified and applied in this discussion.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

This act is clearly motivated by the mental aspect of his standard of values. The object is important to his happiness.

Excellent mini review of the movie. I am sure you have heard or thought of something like this, MisterSwig: By Galt man, if you are not of “like minds,” how can you be a friend of someone who is not an objectivist or at least a conservative libertarian? How can you have a romantic relationship if they don’t, yadda, yadda, yadda. The following two letters are interesting and have some Barbara Branden quotes. Another aspect of this dilemma could be, how can you adore (Rand) a performer or a song or the performer's entertaining skill set, when they may not ALWAYS be a very good human being offstage? Peter  

From: "Michael Miller" To: aynrand Subject: AYN: Itemizing value judgements Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 15:14:24 -0600 (MDT) The quotes cited are from messages on another list (OWL). My message, however, is about very basic techniques of applying Objectivist principles, and avoids highly technical subject matter and terminology. If I understand the distinction being attempted between OWL and AYN, this belongs here.

Richard Allen wrote (OWL-5/17) of Roark and Mike in "The Fountainhead":  >There was simply the unspoken acknowledgement that regardless of the various beliefs or opinions they held, they did share those values that were most important.  Their like-minded nature was not readily apparent, nor would it be to others. But to them it was immediately recognizable. and later in the same message: >I have read that Rand often did not want to allow (or acknowledge) contradiction in her own life. As I understand her, she might suggest that to allow friends with such opposite beliefs into our lives would be a compromise of our own nature.

Have I misunderstood her, or is this an area where Rand and I would disagree?

Michael writes: There is frequently a laxity in Objectivist dialogue on the subject of personal value judgments and the social relationships based upon them. It confuses and inflates our discussions and provides the fuel for doubts like the one Richard is expressing.

The source of the problem is the culture from which we come. Very few of us were raised in an Objectivist household. We have had to claw our way out of intellectual habits installed as we ripened. Specifically, we were drilled with the idea that personal value judgments were the exclusive province of emotions, and each of us could form our own private collection of these, which need not be subject to question by others. "What's good for you is good for you, what's good for me..."

Then Rand appeared and explained the mechanics of the process. The emotions were like booster rockets launching our actions, pushing them this way or that (my metaphor). They were directed, however, by a guidance system we had previously programmed with the relevant value judgments of our mind  -- those we had consciously constructed and those we had sub-consciously adopted from the culture around us.

We learned what I call "judging from aspects" -- the ability to identify all of the component issues implied by what previously would have been regarded as one judgment, then to evaluate them, categorize them, retain them, and use them as needed to communicate precisely and comprehensively our position on any issue from the aspect called for by the context in which the value judgment was being rendered. No longer would one merely "like" or "dislike"; nobody and nothing would be merely "good" or "bad". Though one's initial utterance of an opinion might be so simply worded, a long and detailed list of because-ofs and in-spite-ofs (each weighted for relative significance) waited in the wings to be called on if discussion continued and deepened.

Such judgments could be held as ratios of because-ofs to in-spite-ofs. It was not necessary to engage in the agonizing attempt to establish a fixed scale or system for dividing them into closed-end good/bad boxes. Each component because-of and in-spite-of was still a fixed, objective judgment, but the dividing line between "this is good for me" and "this is bad for me" would not be drawn without integrating them with an objective assessment of the context of the action to be taken.

But old habits die hard, and it is, as Rand said, one thing to understand a philosophy, but quite another to live it. The rockets are externally visible and make a lot of fire and smoke. The guidance system is enormously complex and extraordinarily sophisticated. Working entirely behind the scenes, it is easily and often taken for granted and/or overlooked.  It is important therefore to develop an ever watchful self-discipline to itemize complex judgments of value. These must be ever present --  as implicit or explicit attachments  --  not only when one's own judgments are made or expressed, but also when the judgments of others are reported or critically analyzed. Apply this to Richard's question about Rand's social and intellectual relationships with those who harbored contradictions:

First note that every relationship in "The Fountainhead" resulted because-of/in-spite-of, not just the one between Roark and Mike. Every personal value and relationship Rand formed (and revealed to us) of people, politics, or art was because-of/in-spite-of. She left volumes of explicit examples and a dearth of evidence to the contrary. That is not to say I am certain that she always executed the process without error. Rather, I say that if one is going to support or condemn her judgments and consequent actions, one must first tabulate her because-ofs and in-spite-ofs and weigh them in the proper context.

When one reads or hears of Rand's desire to purge contradiction or other irrationalities from her life, particularly the so-called "excommunication" of long-time associates or friends from her inner circle, one should not draw conclusions without itemizing her judgments to so act and without understanding and integrating the contexts within which they were made. Furthermore, when doing that, one must remember: 1) It is virtually impossible for anyone to compile the complete list she weighed at the time, and 2) the verdict, if one could compile such a list, would have relevance only to Rand's personal character, and has none whatsoever to the validity of the body of ideas that is Objectivism.

For this reason, the significance of the reported incidents that are the ultimate source of Richard's wonderings above, like the prototypical Blumenthal / Beethoven saga for instance, has been too often exaggerated. Few, if any, have a thorough knowledge of what intellectual habits of the Blumenthals may or may not have sent Rand crawling the walls. As far as I know, no comprehensive account of their arguments with Rand has accompanied any revelations or discussions of their split. Without knowing if and/or how the in-spite-ofs that Rand tolerated while they were friends expanded to outweigh the because-ofs thereby convincing her to severe their relationship, one must remain neutral on the subject.

Barbara Branden wrote (OWL-5/18) in reply to Richard: >I believe that what she overlooked is the human capacity to hold contradictions. That is, people who go by faith in some areas, may predominantly accept only reason in their daily lives.

I continue: And precisely because that very contradiction did not stop Rand from putting Thomas Aquinas on a pedestal for enabling the Renaissance, what I believe is that she did not overlook anything. Rather, within her judgment of the Blumenthals, the balance between because-ofs and in-spite-ofs shifted. Time alone could have sufficed to tip the scale: Every seasoned investor knows that some stocks have a proven record of steady growth, while others have not, but show great long-term potential. They also know that while a stock of the latter type could be a good investment for the young, those nearer the end of life should delete such a stock from their portfolios if there is little or no sign of progress. The same company with the same fundamentals (the same absolute because-ofs and in-spite-ofs) will have a different objective value to each person, because inclusion of the context of time will alter the balance.

Rand's so-called "excommunications" were possibly no more than cases of cleaning unproductive investments from her socio-intellectual portfolio as "the days dwindled down from May to December". Exhaustive, detailed critiques of the component value judgments that led to those acts remain valid and valuable, but failing to do that before issuing blanket support or condemnation of the acts per se is not.

Here are two more hills to climb when evaluating Rand's (or anyone else's) value judgments: 1) It is neither appropriate nor possible to express every itemized detail of a complex judgment every time one speaks or writes it. Rand's judgments, which often appear to newbies as isolated proclamations of dogma, are usually supported in detail by material that is scattered throughout her oeuvre. Do not jump to conclusions from first encounters with her judgments.

2) Rand was not a specialist. She attacked every subject she could find with equal vigor. Inevitably, some judgments she waded into lost their battle with time for further attention. Do not jump to conclusions from her incomplete judgments.

For those with enthusiasm for Ayn Rand's achievements and the contribution they are to their own life, it requires much self-discipline to sustain a neutral objectivity in the barrage of critical attention fueled by the lists and newsgroups. The speed with which threads appear and vanish disvalues the allotment of time for deliberations like the itemization of value judgments. Compounding the job is the rapid-fire puffery engaged in by those who are racing to be first to discover and proclaim this-or-that mistake made by Rand. Superficial scholarship will get us nowhere. Take your time. Itemize. Michael

From: Prasad Srihari To: objectivism Subject: OWL: RE: values and recognition in a relationship Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 13:47:02 -0400 Sorry, I couldn't reply earlier.

Barbara Branden wrote: (05/21) < Friendship is not merely a utilitarian value. It gives us as well the great pleasure of contemplating in another human being, the virtues and values we cherish. No amount of self-actualization can negate that pleasure. A life without significant attachments to other human beings would be a lonely and unfulfilling one indeed. >

Don't you think ethics play an important role in forming a friendship, and do we really need another person's perception and understanding of us, for pure pleasure, kind of making you dependent on somebody else. If you have really defined "you", I would say that friendship is a more of an exchange, than getting approval.

I don't know a lot about neuroscience, but from what I have read, there is an emotional and logical part of the brain. But research is still at an infant stage, in terms of determining how exactly the brain functions, for eg., what stimulates the neuron impulse, what chemicals are released for a particular emotion, How exactly does a particular part of the brain process its input. Well, what is joy?.  [ I remember reading (some time ago) Ayn Rand saying "Real happiness is achieved only after fulfillment of longterm values," How would you relate it to simple joys and pleasures?

Mike Rael Wrote:(05/19) < If you drop your friends as soon as you're happy, I question the extent of the original friendship. It sounds like you'd be using folks to attain a state of bliss, and then dropping them because they're of no further use to you. >

I wouldn't drop friends as soon as I am happy because there is also an element called commitment. Regards Prasad Srihari

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PSYCHOLOGY TERMS? I started looking for threads that discuss how objectivists think. Is “intuition” an objectivist quality? Srinivasa Ramanujan, mentioned below sounds cool. Interesting discussion. Peter

From: Michael Hardy To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Intuition Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 17:23:07 -0400 (EDT) Mike Rael stated in his post of 5/17/01 that: >Rand herself was about as intuitive as they come.

John Kimball <> objected (5/18): >The Random House College Dictionary defines intuition as the:  '1. direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any  reasoning process; immediate apprehension ..'  This appears to fly in the face of  Rand's basic epistemology as I could not find  no reference to the concept of intuition in any of the major works by Rand. This seems to be an unwarranted assumption on the part of Mr. Rael. I would appreciate having the references that would justify this conclusion.

The word "intuition" appears to admit several definitions, one of which was endorsed by Leonard Peikoff in an article in the 1985 volume of  “The New Scholasticism,” titled "Aristotle's Intuitive Induction."  Peikoff explained that the way in which we become aware of the truth of logical axioms cannot be by logical deduction   --- that would clearly be circular reasoning --- but is a rational cognitive process that involves coming to understand the concepts involved and what the proposition says, and that that process is called "intuitive induction."

"Intuition" also means something like "emotional without feeling", which needs to be explained more long winded-ly less mysteriously to be understood.  Recall Peikoff in his 12-lecture basic course saying an emotion results from a super-rapid subconscious evaluation of something as good or bad.  At one point in that course he tersely mentioned that a similar super-rapid subconscious process could result in a conscious hunch, whose justification is not conscious.  That is also called "intuition."  Perhaps Mike Rael had that in mind. Mike Hardy

From: Jackie Goreham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: My stay at the hospital...what happened Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 14:23:52 -0700 (PDT) I would have to say that I agree that Objectivism and intuition do not mix, that there is some evidence that what Rand lived and what she wrote had a slight disconnect in this area.  After all, this was a woman who described love at first sight with her husband and also described it in her main characters (Roark and Francon and Taggart and Galt).  In fact it is kind of a running joke that objectivists just 'know' who each other are in a crowd by their 'way' of looking.

I think it is important, if somewhat difficult, to separate Objectivism the philosophical system from Rand, the woman. The philosophy allows for no contradictions, but we know the person lived some.  As for the topic at hand, I know only one objectivist and that's my boyfriend. I have never met another in person.  If I were to make all people I know pass a philosophical test I would be a very lonely person indeed.  There is value to be found in relationships with people who think differently than I do. Jackie Goreham

From: Jeff Lindon To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 09:04:08 -0400 (EDT) I agree with Kurt's distinction (5/19) between senses of "intuition", and have often thought that the term takes unfair abuse. Along the lines Kurt suggests, I think of an intuition (in its secularized sense) as a conscious awareness of pre-verbal subconscious processes. Depending on a person's psycho-epistemology, those processes will be predominantly rational or irrational. Granted that intuition is *not* a  means of knowing, I do wonder whether it's a necessary stage one goes through (even if only briefly) when grappling with large, difficult problems.

Suppose that after thinking about a complex problem for a while, you can think of several different ways of proceeding, but you're not sure which is best. How do you decide -- not which is best, but which to *investigate* first? Well, your subconscious is munching on lots of things, and the only conscious awareness you have of those calculations is a "sense" or "feel". Let's say you sense that one approach to solving the problem will prove to be the best. If pressed on the issue, you may have a hard time giving concrete reasons for your sense, precisely because you don't understand the problem. But you have to decide how to proceed *somehow*, and the fact is that if you've cultivated a rational psycho-epistemology, your subconscious will generally do a good job in these kinds of "preliminary evaluations". Sometimes it takes the conscious mind a lot of (necessary) effort to see just *how* good our intuitions actually are.

Consider artistic creation as an example. Rand argued in her fiction writing lectures that it would be not only counterproductive but literally impossible for an artist *consciously* to justify each choice he makes while creating a work. The only workable method is to rely on your subconscious while writing and then *edit later* using your conscious judgment. Hopefully (and with practice, over time), your subconscious judgments come to embody your conscious principles fairly consistently. But the conscious mind is always the final arbiter. (My experience as a composer confirms the value of this method.)

(I would add here that I am not convinced that one could always verbalize *all* the reasons one had a particular intuition. Also, in my own experience, if my conscious mind contradicts my intuition, there is very often something that my conscious mind is missing. Again, that feeling does not constitute *proof* that the conscious mind is wrong, but if one knows that one has a predominantly rational psycho-epistemology, then such intuitions should set off warning bells.)

I reconcile Rand's attacks on intuition with the position she takes elsewhere by supposing that she would suggest a word other than "intuition" for what I have been describing. That makes the term a little bit like "faith", which I've discovered that many people use simply to mean "confidence". But whereas the alternative between "confidence" and "faith" is obvious, I can't think of a better alternative to "intuition" off-hand. -Jeffrey Lindon

From: Matthew Ferrara To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 10:31:19 +0000 Just to weigh-in on the intuition-question: I do not think that intuition is counter-Objectivism in any way; in fact, from what I can tell from Rand's writings, she's not entirely counter-intuitive (in both meanings of that phrase): Note that some of her characters like Rearden and even Cherryl (Taggart's wife) take long journeys toward knowledge by identifying, clarifying, and reflecting upon a "peripheral sense" or what we could call "gut feeling" that something in their experience was not "quite right." They then proceed to investigate their surroundings and then come to clear, rational knowledge that the people around them are acting in an irrational manner, guided by their feelings. Many times in Atlas, Rand refers to a character's sensation of something on the "edge" of their cognition that is fleeting, but re- occurs often enough to induce them to further pursue clarification. In fact, in a sense, Rearden's character is this very journey from sense-perception of "something is wrong" to "explicit knowledge" that his premises were wrong.

I think it is too easy to simply "reject" intuition because it is often equated with feelings, which are also often "rejected" by Objectivist thinkers in an off- hand manner. Rather, I think that intuition has to be put in its proper position in the epistemological hierarchy. Many great scientific discoveries have come from what we would call an "intuitive" notion of an hypothesis or experiment, which led to the discovery of a result that then was clarified "backwards" so to speak to a more full, explicit knowledge. Thinkers like Suzanne Langer or Polanyi (The Tacit Dimension) have excellent discussions on this "meta-communicative" or not-yet-expressed dimension of human thought. It is important, from the standpoint of Objectivism, to make sure that intuition is not considered a "primary" tool to knowledge and not used as the sole basis to guide one's overall actions or life; but like emotions, intuition is a second-order activity of the rational mind.

It may help to start from a definition: I think intuition can be considered just like Rand's concept of emotions: Both are indicators or feedback-mechanisms (positive and negative) of one's thought processes. Intuitions are often "not-yet-clarified" or emerging recognitions of facts of reality. In some ways, they may be recognitions of fact that have happened faster than linguistic or fully-logical expression has occurred - although such description later emerges. Intuition in this sense would not be the same as "revelation"  or mere "gut-impulse" that religious or psychologies of noumenal-worlds/minds would have us believe (always refreshing to bash Kant this early in the morning! grin!). And while it may not be a "rigorous" tool of knowledge like "pure logic" it still may play a valid function in cognition, so long as it remains a "stage" of knowledge and not the final or determining aspect of it. Good morning! Matthew Ferrara

From: Brian Gordon To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 09:07:16 -0700. All, Intuition is indeed a fascinating topic, as we all use it, yet it seems at first glance to run counter to objectivism. In fact, Nathaniel Branden has pointed out that sometimes one's intuition is correct while one's reason is not. I think that intuition is an unconscious conclusion one has reached – the criteria and decision-making process are unconscious. This does not mean that some reasoning has not taken place, simply that one is unaware of it. I once took an excellent course entitled "The Skilled Facilitator's Workshop", in which the participants' goal was to learn to facilitate group meetings effectively and to improve the group's ability to function. This involved pointing out inappropriate behaviors, areas of conflict, and so on, and oftentimes I (and others) would pick up on things intuitively rather than explicitly. When I asked the instructor about this, his point was this: Whatever you have noticed intuitively, there is evidence for, and you must  bring that evidence into your consciousness. You cannot present your intuitive beliefs to anyone, because then they lack any facts to deal with. It was a great workshop! Very objectivist, now that I look back on it. Brian Gordon

From: Ming shan To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 22:28:18. Merlin Jetton wrote (5/22): > I wish to second Kurt Keefner's remarks (5/19) about "secular" intuition.

I wish to third them;  I have not seen as much common sense brought to the discussion about intuition in a long time.  He definitely based his remarks on careful observation.

>Indeed, this form of intuition is a requirement for being a skilled, or more skilled, mathematician. Here, of course, it is hardly a mere, mystical feeling. Consider the mathematician in search of a solution to a problem, which might be a path to a proof. By analogy, this intuition is the ability to see the glimpses of light down a possible path before the path is more fully lit through fuller exploration and work.

OK, that's great, but what about the mathematician who had it the most, in abundance, Srinivasa Ramanujan?  This guy filled notebook after notebook after notebook with incredibly complex and deep theorems and  formulae of Number Theory, but he rigorously proved not one of them.  He had a power of insight that is rare, even among mathematicians.  He could see clearly what the solution would be to something, and he did not need to prove it, because he already knew it was right.  Some mathematicians these days are busy going through his notebooks and rigorously proving the entries he put down;  so far, it's all panning out.  That's how good the guy was at this type of insight. My point is this: surely R's power of insight does not really come from "reason."  The proof is that the man barely had a high schooler's understanding of trigonometry. What we are calling intuition here strikes me as very much the same thing that Spinoza called "the third kind of knowledge."  But he said that it only arises from "the second kind," which is reason.  But if it only arises from it, then (1) it is surely different from it, and not the same thing, and (2) it is superior to reason. Mingshan

From: Mike Rael To: objectivism Subject: Re: OWL: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 08:48:52 -0700 (PDT) Good morning yourself, Matthew:) I really appreciate the way you fleshed out my original post on this subject, though I doubt you had the intention of doing that :)  I don't have the energy or patience to check through Atlas, for example, to bolster up my position about intuition. I just know what I know. I really have no criticism at all. You point out that Rand's characters use intuition (true). You mention that intuition is a stage of knowledge only (true). You say that intuition is part of the creative process (true). You infer that reason is the final arbiter of knowledge (true).

About my only disagreement is that intuition is not simply the unconscious filling-in of holes in logic that have been derived at super-speed. Ain't nuthin' wrong with gut impulses, Matt. Sometimes, for whatever reason, gut impulses are right while our "rationally derived" reason is wrong! That's why some women going down the bridal path need to heed it when they get a strong inner feeling that they shouldn't be there--despite all the "logic" that insists they are in the right place! best always, Mike

From: James H Cunningham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 23:42:28 -0400 Ming Shan wrote (5/24): "[the 'third kind of knowledge' - intuition, as in the case of Srinivasa Ramanujan] is superior to reason."

And how? Surely I could not begin to understand - let alone create - such intricate mathematical theorems without relying on a conscious reasoning process; indeed, to decide what I shall eat for dinner takes enough thought on its own, and I have not enough leisure for those high pursuits.  Are you saying that Ramanujan's intuition is superior to my reason, when I cannot even decide my diet without some mental plodding-out?

When I was a child I was forced to put two and two together - when I eat food that tastes bad, I dislike putting it my mouth; and when I dislike putting something in my mouth I should not eat it - but now it is intuitive that I not eat food that I dislike; still I went through conscious reasoning at some point, so I should hardly think that my intuition is contrary to and higher than reason.  It is simply something that followed.

And why is what you describe above intuition, in the non-reasoning sense? Ramanujan was equipped with a mind more able to grasp complex truths than mine or yours, and quickly; that he needed think less does not mean that he needed not _think_ at all; why not consider that his 'reasoning ability' was sufficiently inborn that no real effort was required to prove to himself that he _was_ correct?  It is not necessary for me to 'think' to add simple sums, and I am rarely asked to prove my answers afterward; why is it so much to think that a man of a much greater mind can handle greater thoughts, without striking the call of superiority to reason?

Anyone who theorizes must do so before proving any theories he puts forth. If Ramanujan had proven his own work, would you consider it less intuition and more reason? James H Cunningham

From: Roger Bissell To: objectivism Subject: OWL: What is Intuition? Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 01:52:12 EDT The recent discussion of the nature of intuition has been quite interesting, and I would like to suggest another way of looking at intuition in re thinking. As against the idea some suggest that intuition is relatively more unconscious and thinking relative more conscious, I think it's more helpful to see them both as different kinds of conscious cognitive processes. In support of this, here are some ideas I have gleaned recently from a non-Objectivist thinker, along with some personality-type-related thoughts stimulated by his ideas...

Howard Margolis in PATTERNS, THINKING, AND COGNITION (U. of Chicago Press, 1987) claimed that cognitive activity tends to be either a combination of broad focus with loose "scan control," which he labeled "intuitive" -- or a combination of narrow focus with tight "scan control," which he labeled "analytical," which is reasonably synonymous with "thinking." Since induction would seem as though it should work better in the former case (intuitive preference), while deduction would seem as though it should work better in the latter (thinking preference). I find this approach very persuasive.

However, I want to suggest another way of looking at it. I think that what Margolis is describing as "intuition" by loose focus, broad scan control is actually ~extraverted~ intuition (intuition directed toward the "outer world," which is the kind of intuition that is used by introverted thinkers, who are not nearly so analytical as their extraverted thinking brethren (and sistern...?). And the form of intuition used by extraverted thinkers may not even be recognized as such by them -- focused as they are on assessing the external world and how it can be changed, improved, corrected, etc. – but their intuition almost surely has a tighter focus and narrower scan control (since internal or "introverted" and thus not ranging around in the environment, but instead in their own internal store of ideas) than the kind used by introverted thinkers. In compensation, though, the thinking of TJs (extraverted thinkers) is easier to apply in flexible, broad fashion to assessing and planning things in the world than the thinking of TPs (introverted thinkers).

In other words, I think Margolis' model is somewhat oversimplified, but helpful in aiming us in the right direction. His suggestion that a stronger preference for intuition would make one's thinking relatively fuzzier is an interesting hypothesis, but the type results I have seen do not bear this out. My wife has a stronger intuitive preference than thinking, but she is a very precise thinker--and I have a stronger preference for thinking than for intuition, but I am a much fuzzier thinker than her. So go figure! Perhaps we are the exception to the rule, but I think the answer lies elsewhere. I am very precise and focused in my inductive, model-building process, but this is not usually regarded as thinking, but rather intuition. My wife is very precise and focused in her deductive, analytical process, but her strong inner vision, being more in the "tacit" dimension, is overlooked by those who see only her logical thinking process. I encourage others to read Margolis' work, but discussion of the above is welcome, in any case. Best regards, Roger Bissell (INTP)

From: Jackie Goreham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 13:16:58 -0700 (PDT) Mike, I don't know to whom you are referring, but eliminating emotion is Vulcan, not Objectivist.  I repeat that if there is a disconnect between your emotions and your thoughts then you have made an error somewhere. There should be no disconnect. Emotions tell us nothing other than that we are having an emotion.  We must use reason to identify its cause. It might be a tip off that something is wrong, sure, why not.  Like a symptom... But our emotions are not "right" or "wrong" really.  It's just that they either do or do not fit the context.  They are only right or wrong based on our thoughts:  reason. Jackie Goreham

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If "human nature" meant the nature of mature, fertile humans, I could see the foundation for your position. But that's not what it means. It includes non-fertile humans too. Children and old women are not exceptions to humanity.


This is a strawman argument because you are not groking what I'm saying (and I understand why since I didn't see this myself for years--not only didn't see it, I also resisted it as an attack on individualism).

The short version is that a birth-growth-death cycle is part of human nature. Why? Because it is in the nature of all animals. Why? Because it is in the nature of all living organisms.

Law of Identity.

If you don't identify something correctly, you cannot evaluate it correctly, much less formulate a code of values for it, except maybe for specific situations and conditions as decrees.

Just look. You are presenting your argument in a decree-like manner (with a "must" and even asking what we are identifying as if it were impossible to identify the growth cycle as part of human nature and universal to all individuals). 

5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

And when you're identifying something, you must identify it as it currently exists, otherwise what are you identifying? The human species consists of human individuals at all stages of life, both reproductive and not. 

But it is possible to include the growth cycle.

Besides, in your formulation, reason is not a universal human value for infants because they can't reason in the present. And that has to mean that reason is not a universal human value.

See where that leads?

A species value does not have to be acted on 24/7 nor by all individuals every second of their existence. Restricting values to the present is a premise that needs a lot of checking.


Reproduction is universal to the human species--to all species in fact. A species that does not reproduce becomes extinct. No species of anything I know of avoided becoming extinct if it did not reproduce. 

Just because a species doesn't become extinct in the immediate (if, by some miracle, all individual members stopped reproducing) doesn't mean reproduction stops being a value and condition for its survival. Remove it and the species dies off. Don't forget that survival is at the core of what a universal value means.

And once again, an individual human being cannot stop being a member of the human species. Law of Identity. 


Here's another example at the social level when a social group ignored biology: the Shakers. Due to religion, they believed that sex was evil. They did not reproduce. The Shakers are no longer with us. Neither as a group nor as individuals.

Asking what is a universal value for a Shaker is a non-starter. Values are for the living, not the extinct.

The error of the Shakers was to place ideology (religion) over biology. The only universal result was dying off. (This reminds me of the phrase from Galt's speech that "facts cannot be altered by a wish, but they can destroy the wisher.")


Biologically, there is an inbuilt nature in all humans, one that is more fundamental than all others, and this nature comes with needs, drives, automatic behaviors, automatic values (especially species values), etc. That's just who we are and how we are made.

(Reason goes on top of this, not as a replacement for it, and often that's a booby-trap in O-Land, but that's for another discussion.) 


Biological values include the growth cycle--all of it. My answer to your statement that "when you're identifying something, you must identify it as it currently exists," man, is that loaded. "Current existence" is not a separate reality, not a separate species. The correct way of saying this is "at the stage it currently exists."  Or even "in the state it currently exists" (as in situations where growth is not the thing being looked at like with homosexuals).

Besides, why in hell should I exclude old people from the human race if I am looking at infants and trying to identify the human species? It makes no biological sense treat old people and infants as different animals other than human.


An example on the lower animal level, the insect level: The species values of a butterfly exist in each individual member of the species whether the individual is a caterpillar, in a cocoon, flying, or in an exceptional state of some sort. Just because the state changes, that does not eliminate places to crawl, trees to get stuck to or the air to fly in as values universal to butterflies.


Rather than ask how this sort of identification of nature and values applies to--or what this looks like for--non-fertile humans, you are removing reproduction from the Law of Identity of the human species and refusing to consider it because some individuals can't practice it in the present (or at all).

That is a misidentification.

Like I said, coming from an Objectivist orientation myself, about a half a century of it, I know why.

But lets leave this for now and agree to disagree. Maybe take it up again later.

I fear all we will do at this stage is repeat and illustrate our repetitions.


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You are presenting a mighty fine case of working through ideas in this thread.



(btw - I discovered where Rand got her "final causation" method of plotting from. She added the Aristotle part, but the process is identical. This was taught and was quite famous for Broadway plays in the early decades of the 20th century, which is exactly the time she learned writing for real. Playwrights who learned this stayed successful.

I will be writing about this method a lot later, so I will give you facts and names and so on at that time. But here's one name just so you won't be left with nothing until then. A guy who currently teaches this method for screenwriters is Jeff Kitchen. And he didn't learn it from Rand, so he doesn't use the "final causation" jargon.

For now, let's just say I believe this system sucks for beginning writers, especially since I busted my balls for years trying to do it when I was a beginner. But it is very good for those who have mastered the basics of story creation. It's like algebra, which is great for people who know how to count, add, subtract, divide and multiply. For those who haven't master this basic stuff, though, it really sucks for learning math. :) )


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18 hours ago, tmj said:

I'm still stuck on universal/objective , species/individual dichotomies and how these are identified and applied in this discussion.

So, the way I'm using them, "universal" and "objective" are not dichotomous. A universal value (for example, air) is also an objective value. It's universal because it's of value to every single human being (indeed every single living organism that needs air to function). And it's objective because the value has a beneficial relationship to the object which is a particular human being. "Universal" describes the value's relation to a whole class of valuers. "Objective" describes the value's relation to a particular valuer. So while all universal values must also be objective, not all objective values are universal. Let's say you're allergic to peanuts but I'm not. Peanuts are an objective value to me, but an objective disvalue to you, thus they can't be of universal value to the human species.

As for "species" and "individual," these are nouns that refer to the same things from different perspectives. In our case they refer to human beings. Each human is an individual because he's "not divisible." He can't be separated into multiple humans. And a human is also part of a species, because he's the offspring of an interbreeding pair of individuals, thus he is born into a biological group of individuals capable of interbreeding with each other. I suppose the "species-individual" problem is dichotomous in the sense that a single individual isn't also a group of individuals. So an individual is not literally a species. But to have a species requires having individuals that interbreed. And since "species" refers to these interbreeding individuals as a group, I don't see an actual species-individual dichotomy. "Species" identifies a real similarity among particular individuals: their capacity to interbreed when sexually mature and fertile.  

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17 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

(btw - I discovered where Rand got her "final causation" method of plotting from. She added the Aristotle part, but the process is identical. This was taught and was quite famous for Broadway plays in the early decades of the 20th century, which is exactly the time she learned writing for real. Playwrights who learned this stayed successful.

That's pretty interesting. Hadn't heard that before, but makes sense.

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56 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

... I don't see an actual species-individual dichotomy.


Here we agree, except I would add that I don't even see an imaginary dichotomy.

There are certain concepts I like to illustrate metaphorically by a two-dimensional circle. And it has to be a circle (or any closed single shape, for that matter). In a "beginning/end" dichotomy for a line, a sort of case can be made for a line that does not reconnect with itself. It begs the question of how can there be an end without a beginning, though.

But I like the circle (or closed image) metaphor. Choose any point and go clockwise or counterclockwise. That point is both the beginning and end of that particular instance.

I hold the "species/individual" dichotomy is like that. Are individual human beings members of the human species or is the human species merely a collection of individual human beings? It's not either-or. It's both and cannot be otherwise.

We can divide them to look at the different aspects, like looking at different facets on a gemstone, but we cannot separate one from the other just like we cannot remove a facet from a gemstone and have it be a separate entity.

Just a thought...


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21 hours ago, ThatGuy said:

This conversation/debate, in a nutshell, sounds like a question of teleology, and the is/oughts that arise around that....seems like it's asking the question, what is primary, the species or the individual, regarding "who sets the goals?"

Once we achieve volition, the individual sets his own goals, though often under social pressure from family or society. There is the context of being part of a species, so that should guide the goal-setting and seeking. For example, I could try to reproduce by ejaculating into a pot of soil and watering it each day, but of course that's not going to work. I need to align my goal with the nature of my species and find a fertile woman. So, if I understand your question, I'd say an adult individual is primary in terms of goal-setting, because the species is not actually a thing that sets goals, not like a political group that votes on goals for the group.

Prior to gaining volition, a baby pursues goals automatically or involuntarily. So we could say that nature sets the goal of living for a new, living organism. But really that's simply the nature of a living organism. And once we develop volition, we are then confronted with the choice of continuing to be a living organism or dying.

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7 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

And once we develop volition, we are then confronted with the choice of continuing to be a living organism or dying.

"Lord of the Flies?" In social settings there is ALWAYS the bossy one who wants to be in charge, and their decision to be the boss starts right after the accident and they are checking themselves to see if they are all right, and looking around at the competition. Yet, I also like the heroic, Hollywood corruption of that scenario, when the quiet guy in the corner suddenly, and with a commanding voice, contradicts the bossy one . . . .         

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On 6/25/2021 at 11:53 AM, Peter said:

"Lord of the Flies?" In social settings there is ALWAYS the bossy one who wants to be in charge, and their decision to be the boss starts right after the accident and they are checking themselves to see if they are all right, and looking around at the competition. Yet, I also like the heroic, Hollywood corruption of that scenario, when the quiet guy in the corner suddenly, and with a commanding voice, contradicts the bossy one . . . .         


For more serious literature on member archetypes within species (all species, not just human), I can't recommend highly enough The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, both by Howard Bloom. He's eccentric as all hell and a Trump hater, but he's also a genius--a real-life self-made genius, warts and all.

If you ever want to do a deep dive on premise checking, these two books will do it for ya'.


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I  posted this on the Coronavirus thread, but I think it has relevance here, as well, as a practical/"concrete" demonstration of theoretical ideas, and buttressing much of what MSK was talking about...

Neuroscience reveals how a year of social distancing broke our brains

"Too much time alone can make your social thermostat feel like it’s on the fritz."

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/24/2021 at 1:20 PM, MisterSwig said:

His volleyball doll is a little silly, but I suppose it falls into the mental aspect, particularly the value of having someone to talk to. It keeps him mentally active, emotionally invested, and distracted from his solitude. Though if I were stranded on an uninhabited island for four years, I wouldn't create a male doll.

Apparently, this part of the movie was based on a true story, although with a female doll, not a male head...(@10:41, already cue'd up...)


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Years ago I read something about the benefits out weighing the risks of drinking salt water if you are tremendously thirsty but then following that with fresh water. Drink saltwater. Drink fresh. Piss. Repeat if needed.

The "Cast Away" volley ball named Wilson was an excellent plot twist. I would have named mine, Marylin.     

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On 7/14/2021 at 12:18 PM, ThatGuy said:

Apparently, this part of the movie was based on a true story, although with a female doll, not a male head...(@10:41, already cue'd up...)

Those were some thoughtful friends who gave him a female doll. By the end of the voyage I'm sure it was his wife and she had ten children already.

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  • 1 month later...

Forrest Gump: ”I Don't Know If We Have A Destiny, Or If We're All Just Floatin' Around Accidental-Like On A Breeze, But I Think Maybe It's Both. Maybe Both Is Happenin' At The Same Time."

Kanye West has petitioned to legally change his name to “YE,” according to legal documents obtained by Variety.

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