Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rand Contra The Ayn Rand Institute—Coda

In doing the barest minimum of research for the Rand Contra Bush postings, I ventured over to The Ayn Rand Institute, to see what sorts of things The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism had to say.

Mind you, I've seen things from the ARI show up on the op-ed pages of my local paper. These are usually the sorts of "laissez faire über alles" that one generally gets from Randians and corporate libertarians. These arguments are part of the general shell game of the kleptocracy, railing against government regulations that have been placed on businesses, but never, ever, complaining about the favors and privileges that businesses receive from government. It's "heads I win and tails you lose," a profitable little game that depends upon selective arguments and special pleading.

I forget if it was Rand or Nathaniel Branden, her then favorite acolyte, who once made the statement that selective enforcement of the law was a pernicious doctrine that is commonly used to provide the illusion of legality to what is basically a corrupt system. Given a broad enough law, everyone is guilty, so then the policeman becomes the only and arbitrary judge of who is punished. Of course, the same is true for philosophical principles, only more so, and the little hypocrisies in which people engage tells you volumes about their prejudices, their "unexamined premises," to use more Randian jargon. Selective argument is one of the most powerful weapons of rationalization, and a doctrine that holds reason and rationality above all else often resorts to rationalization to come to the "proper" result.

So I've seen the op-ed pieces from the ARI about affirmative action being racist, and about how health care is not a "right," and how environmental laws are crippling the economy, and, for that matter, how all regulations on corporations are crippling the economy. I hadn't seen any of the pro-abortion rights articles that the ARI has cooked up, but maybe I just missed them.

I also noticed, in my brief little foray, that Leonard Peikoff, who founded the ARI, has moved to a more distant connection with it, no longer being either on its board or staff. Cynic that I am, I notice that the ARI has a budget of about $5 million per year, and that it's director, one Yaron Brook receives a salary of $352,538 per year, which is 7/8 of the entire administrative expenses of the Institute. However, given that Peikoff is Ayn Rand's legal heir, and that the ARI's primary program is to supply copies of Rand's books to high school students (duck hunting where the ducks are, to quote Barry Goldwater), I imagine that Peikoff's royalties from that program may exceed Brook's salary. Just sayin'.

In any case, Rand's books sell even without the ARI collecting donations to pay for them, giving Peikoff the freedom to say anything he damn well wants to, and that would include such things as endorsing John Kerry for President and supporting Democrats in the 2006 election. I'm thinking that the ARI must be somewhat more circumspect; otherwise, some of that tasty donation money might be at risk. That money goes to those who follow the plutocracy/kleptocracy's strategy of "socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor," to use the old quote.

Still, squirreling around in the ARI's archives can be scary.

On October 2, 2001, when he was still part of the ARI, Leonard Peikoff wrote an article that blamed Iran for the WTC bombing (with a nod to the Taliban and a possibly prescient comment that Bush did not seem much interested in pursuing the Taliban leadership as a target). Peikoff essentially called for a full scale war with Iran.

That's pretty ignorant. How many of us have chuckled at the congressmen, etc. who did not know that there were both Sunni and Shia Muslims? There was not a single Shiite among the 9/11 hijackers, and every one of them was connected to schools and mosques that have been financed by Saudi Arabia, not Iran. One would think that a Randian philosopher would understand that education and philosophy matters, but, oh, hell, who am I kidding? No, I wouldn't. Besides, some ARI folks get their licks in on Saudi Arabia, as we shall see.

Still, Peikoff seems to have come to his senses, at least in part, and how many of us can say that we were thinking clearly just three weeks after the WTC went down? But other articles on the ARI web site are much more chilling.

In “'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense" by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein, we are told that the real threat to America is something called "Islamic Totalitarianism," which is much more academically acceptable a phrase than "Islamofascism," isn't it?

The civilian population of an aggressor nation is not some separate entity unrelated to its government. An act of war is the act of a nation—an interconnected political, cultural, economic, and geographical unity. Whenever a nation initiates aggression against us, including by supporting anti-American terrorist groups and militant causes, it has forfeited its right to exist, and we have a right to do whatever is necessary to end the threat it poses.

Given that a nation's civilian population is a crucial, physically and spiritually indispensable part of its initiation of force—of its violation of the rights of a victim nation—it is a morally legitimate target of the retaliation of a victim nation. Any alleged imperative to spare noncombatants as such is unjust and deadly.

That said, if it is possible to isolate innocent individuals—such as dissidents, freedom fighters, and children—without military cost, they should not be killed; it is unjust and against one's rational self-interest to senselessly kill the innocent." -- "'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense" by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein

Oh, and it gets better. In "The 'Forward Strategy' for Failure," by Yaron Brook and Elan Journo, we get the following:

To defeat Japan thoroughly, however, required even more: To cut short the war and save untold thousands of American lives, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs laid waste to vast tracts of land, killed thousands of Japanese—and demonstrated that if Japan continued to threaten America, thousands more Japanese would suffer and die.

That overwhelming and ruthless use of force achieved its intended purpose. It ended the threat to the lives of Americans and returned them to safety—by demonstrating to the Germans and the Japanese that any attempt to implement their vicious ideologies would bring them only destruction. Defeated materially and broken in spirit, these enemies gave up. Since then Nazism and Japanese imperialism have withered as ideological forces.

Today, American self-defense requires the same kind of military action.

Yes, the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute has called for massive thermonuclear strikes against Iran, Saudi Arabia, and any other country harboring "supporters of jihad against the West who cheer when Americans die."

A number of years ago, I made an attempt to deprogram a Randite or two, and my most potent argument seemed to be that Rand's "John Galt Pledge" was unworkable:

"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." --from Atlas Shrugged

It's a potent promise, actually, similar to the virtue that some people believe can be obtained from Aikido, the ability to protect yourself from the predations of others, but to refrain from harming innocents. In my attempts to deprogram Randites, I started with the fact that it is sometimes impossible to keep from harming innocents, what we call "collateral damage." Then what? Because once the line is crossed, once you allow yourself to harm, even kill, innocent people for the sake of your own interest, then where is your morality? How much of a sham does this make of your ethics?

A few actually wavered, and maybe later they began to think critically about Randian philosophy. Maybe they even began to think for themselves.

But I am now left with the unsettling feeling that perhaps they just cranked it up to 11, and rationalized it all into a nice genocidal package, just like the folks at the Ayn Rand Institute. Dear god, they really are bugfuck crazy.

21 comments:

Richard said...

On ARI "never, ever, complaining about the favors and privileges that businesses receive from government."

ARI and Objectivism object just as highly to those favors and privileges to which you refer —all any honest mind need do is read Atlas Shrugged to see that. It is enough of a task to slow the steady onslaught of gov't interference into the lives of Americans. Laws once made are outrageously difficult to undo, for obvious reasons.

Having read the rest of your post it is clear you have not done due diligence. On every point you raise as objection to ARI and Objectivism, there is a deeper fundamental you have utterly failed to detect, even many that are virtually hitting you in the face.

Your post is a remarkable case of "not reading the writing on the wall when your back is up against it" —a characteristic of Atlas Shrugged's President Thompson. Having just heard a resounding indictment of the way America was being governed, he says, "That wasn't real was it?"

James Killus said...

"Due diligence" my ass, little man.

So you've read Atlas Shrugged. BFD. I had a subscription first to The Objectivist Newsletter, then to The Objectivist. I read Anthem, We, the Living, and The Night of January 16th. Hell, I even have a copy of Calumet K, an early 20th century novel, based on Rand's recommendation of it.

Go to the second posting in this series and read Leonard Peikoff's next to last paragraph, the one that talks about people having "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life, which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

"Detached from the world" is the impression I get from your message, sport.

And, just incidentally, how do you feel about the prospect of preemptive nuclear attacks on major population centers in the middle East? The Ayn Rand Institute has managed to rationalize overt genocide. How's that for a "deep fundamental?"

You think you're rational? You'd better learn to distinguish between rationality and rationalization. I've lost patience with such rubbish. I suspect that Leonard Peikoff has as well. I know Nathaniel Branden did, a long time ago, 'round about the time that a "good Randite" in an Objectivist Society meeting put forth all the "rational" reasons why it would be perfectly moral to kill him, Branden, for his "betrayal" of Rand.

See Branden's Judgment Day for details. You've read that, right? You know, due diligence.

Richard said...

""Due diligence" my ass, little man"

Nice; is that a thoughtful argumentation?

As for your other recommendations: I did them 20 years ago, give or take. I read A.S. several times and I believe I did so with a great more care than you presume.

As for L.P. I believe your are referring to the following statement:
"In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life, which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

Note that he is referring to people who do not think in principles, including those who present themselves as Objectivists. E.g. I was somewhat torn between Bush dealing with the terrorists, and choosing Kerry because he was more secular than Bush. In the end, Peikoff WAS indeed right... Bush is more harmful to Americans than Kerry could possibly have been. No matter how disgusting Clinton or Obama may be, McCain will do greater harm to America!

"Impressions" are not necessarily a consequence of rational thinking, and given your entire approach to my comment... it is consistent with your original post, which is based more on impressions than on studious examination.

As for the Mid-East: if ideas have anything to do with human action, Iran is the center of extreme Islamic dogmatism (ID). ID is the driving intellectual force *behind* the USS Cole killings, the Saudis in the 9/11 airplanes, behind the Taliban, behind the insurgents, behind the Lebanese attacks on Israel, behind Moammar Khadafi and behind the *average* 250 terrorist attacks on US property and people since the Munich Olympics! (Most were thwarted by the CIA.)

Preemptive strikes on "major population centers" does not strike me as the approach Yaron Brooke advocates. As I heard him, he advocated dramatic destruction of government and military structures, such that the general population would get the message. Some civilians might die, but the smart ones would understand that their destruction was not the intent of the bombing. In fact, their destruction is an unequivocal consequence of the violent policies of their own government. Further, I believe the term was "micro-nuclear", which was advocated for use in only a very few locations.

As for killing Branden: just because a few people call themselves Objectivists do you instantly believe they *are*? A great proportion of 'Objectivists' are not. In fact there is an entire group organized around David Kelley (of the The Objectivist Center) who are emphatically not Objectivists!

Re: "Judgment Day"; I read it fully and carefully. Branden dug himself into a rationalist 'corner' of embarrassing proportions. Didn't you notice? Due diligence!

...
You a) write quite well, and clearly seek to make cogent arguments. However, be sure you have thoughtfully read the material you criticize. You have repeatedly missed some of the most obvious principles that Rand identified in her fiction, let alone her non-fiction.

James Killus said...

After I wrote my first response, I checked your blogger profile, and I might well have answered differently had I known that you were an actual adult, rather than an impressionable high school or college student. I might have been more kind, although, as you no doubt know, pity is considered a bad thing in the Randian universe.

I am, as you might discover with only be barest of background checking, both a scientist and science fiction writer. In the latter capacity, I have seen numerous examples of little "sub-fandoms" where people become so enamoured with some fantasy universe that they spend an inordinate (and often unhealthy) amount of time in it. The SCA/RenFaire folks are one such group, as are the D&D enthusiasts, the Hobbit crowd, the gamers, the Second Life crew, the Space Colonists, and so forth.

There is a substantial contingent of Randites (sometimes called Randroids) in SF fandom, and a larger group of self-styled libertarians.

You show all the attributes of one of those escapist fandoms. And make no mistake about it, they are escapist. Tell me, do you have a tendency to reread Atlas Shrugged when you are depressed, or out of sorts?

Look at your original posting. Is there actually a single argument in it, a single fact, followed by a process of reasoning? No, there is not. There are vague opinions, assertions, (including a comparison of me with a fictional character; the truth is that there have been several fictional characters based on me, and more based on my wife, but none of them resemble any Rand villian) and one conclusion (that I don't know Rand's writings) that is clearly false. So you've decided, rather than revise your opinion, that I'm simple incapable of grasping the glory of it all.

That is really and truly sad, a perfect example of what I'm referring to when I say that it is much easier to rationalize than to reason. Your first message was written from emotion, and your second message is beyond hopeless. Do you have any knowledge of Islam, other than what has been spoonfed to you by propagandists (I'm including the ARI in this group)? Do you even know a single Muslim? Could you describe the differences between Sufis, Wahabbists, and Shiites in even outline form? You insist that ideas matter, yet you don't even know the basics of the ideas that you are criticizing.

As for whether or not nuclear war "strikes you" as what Brooke advocates, you seem to have developed some new method of reading, which would explain a lot. "Shock and awe" through nuclear attack is exactly what he advocates. Anyone reading this can verify it for themselves by following the link in the posting.

By the way, have you really read Calumet K or the entire run of The Objectivist Newsletter? The latter ceased publishing in the mid-1960s. Wherever did you find it?

Richard said...

So on thinking I was younger, you thought it acceptable to be abusive to younger minds... not very nice.

Sadly, you have not chosen to argue the issues raised but have, instead, engaged in smearing.

You presume to know my "attributes", simply on the basis of the briefest of commentary by me. You have instead revealed much more about your own intellectual methodology.

You argue I have made no facts or conclusions. On what basis?

Consider that each of the following facts or points respond to certain of your claims, each can be easily grasped and each can be verified, but you just dismiss them:
Fact1: -ARI and Objectivism object just as highly to those favors and privileges for businesses to which you refer
Fact2: —all any honest mind need do is read Atlas Shrugged to see that.
Fact3: -It is enough of a task to slow the steady onslaught of gov't interference into the lives of Americans.
Fact4:-Laws once made are outrageously difficult to undo, for obvious reasons.

Again, those facts contradict at least two key statements in your original post, which were your unfounded and unsupported conclusions, which you presented as if they were facts.

Do I really need to spell out to a 'scientist' that he has written a complete and utter falsehood, one that any teenager of reasonable intelligence would immediately recognize, had they read Atlas Shrugged. Specifically your statement with respect to Objectivism and ARI that,
"These arguments are part of the general shell game of the kleptocracy (a floating abstraction), railing against government regulations that have been placed on businesses, but never, ever, complaining about the favors and privileges that businesses receive from government." (emphasis mine)

The principle, Mr. Killius, is maintaining context. I responded in the context of your own writings, without repeating them. Of course I have 'telescoped' my comments, necessarily leaving out a lot. You should be quite able to grasp how they are connected to what you have written. I gave you facts that contradict your stand, and in a few cases I provided a conclusion, such as the conclusion (which is also fact3) as to why ARI does not approach matters the way you expect.

I was not comparing your entire person with President Thompson, simply the nature of your thinking: "That wasn't real was it." Know the difference, and stay in context.

I have read some portions of the Q'uran, and found it so shockingly irrational that my mind rebelled (as it does with the Bible). I also know quite a bit of the history of the Mid-East (did you know the Palestinians delivered an entire Division of trained soldiers to Hitler so he could kill more Jews. They knew about it before the Allies did. No wonder they were not given their own nation!) But with no evidence whatsoever you oppose my argument by simply assuming I lack such knowledge and disparaging me, rather than addressing my argument. That sir, amounts to ad hominem.

Of what I have written about you, you state that I only provided"one conclusion (that I don't know Rand's writings) that is clearly false.. On the contrary, it is clearly true. You may have read some of Rand's writings, but you clearly know almost nothing of what they were about. That conclusion is supported by the following argument and facts:

A significant group of Rand's major antagonists (the bad guys) in Atlas Shrugged were businessmen functioning on and seeking government handouts. That aspect of her novel is blindingly obvious, yet you accuse ARI and Objectivism (which includes Atlas) of the opposite. If you read OpEds from ARI you would see, as fact, that their stance is consistently against all government handouts, again, the complete opposite of what you claim. To reiterate, the obvious conclusion is: you don't know what you are talking about.

Your response, to the idea of using nuclear weapons, uses the "shock and awe" adjective, but that does not necessarily mean Brooke was advocating the use of today's massive nuclear weapons which are hundreds of times more powerful than the two that ended WW2 in the Pacific theater. Brooke, Holcberg and Lockitch, at ARI, may advocate the use of nuclear weapons, but that does not give you license to presume how they would do so.

Yes, I have read "Calumet K", and all of Rand's fiction and non-fiction books, all issues of "The Objectivist", "The Objectivist Newsletter", "The Ayn Rand Letter", "The Journals of Ayn Rand", "The Objectivist Forum" and a great deal of related literature including Leonard Peikoff's "Ominous Parallels" and "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand". The latter was done using Gary Hull's Study Guide, and was interrupted to study Rand's "An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" by designing my own study guide for it. All of the aforementioned titles are usually available at The Ayn Rand Bookstore, and can be seen on its website.

I came to Objectivism via my own efforts to learn the Philosophy of Science, because I wanted to ensure that my graduate studies theses were rational, objective science... that is that they reflected some Truth about Reality. In short order I discovered that large numbers of scientists and professors (like Dr. Stadtler, in Atlas Shrugged) do not really understand the fundamentals behind what they are doing, save within the narrow confines of physical facts. Even there, far too many fail horribly. The may have a PhD, but they do not know Philosophy in the modern sense.

There is a logical importance behind the fact that there are now Objectivist lecturers and Professors in 30 American universities. Further, The American Philosophy Association has a distinct branch for the study of Ayn Rand's ideas. Cambridge University Press recently published one of Tara Smith's works on Objectivist Ethics. She is at the University of Texas. I am not stating this purely as ad verecundiam, but only to indicate that there is a movement among intellectuals that is growing because the ideas are indeed rational and logically compelling.

Being a 'scientist' should give you reason to pause, rather than risk being intellectually irresponsible and dishonest outside of your immediate endeavors. In fact, given the egregious lapses in your posts and comments, I have good reason to question how you go about being a scientist (that is a warranted conclusion). The method of your approach gives you away. Your accusations that I am being emotional is only half true —it is Objective to be disgusted with dishonesty, especially if put forth as a product of careful intellectual examination. Don’t take offense, instead check Objectivism with greater care, and check your premises.

James Killus said...

No, when I thought you were younger, I thought that your world view was more malleable and better able to withstand the strain of being told the truth.

You have not, for example, yet even realized that the essays I wrote were to the effect that Ayn Rand, whatever her faults, would not be a fan of G. W. Bush, and would, in fact, have hated him. Nor do I think that she would have fallen for the "blow them all to smithereens" arguments of the papers from the Ayn Rand Institute, given that Rand was against holding groups of people collectively responsible for the acts of individuals and considered the harming of innocents to be immoral, (not that she was entirely consistent in this viewpoint).

However, that doesn't really have much to do with the case at hand, which is that you've gone out of your way to pick a fight with me--to what purpose? To whose benefit? Yours? Why is this important to you?

You see, I read you as a typical Randite, of whom I have met plenty, stuck in a largely hermetic and completely sterile worldview, useful only in keeping the confusions of the world at bay. If someone wishes to pursue reason and rationality, then the first thing they must do is to deal with the human tendency to rationalize, to put a faux rationalistic gloss on their prejudices and, to use Randian cant, "whims."

But guarding against one's own prejudices is tricky stuff. It requires skepticism not only about what one is told (e.g. CIA estimates on the number of "terrorist attacks" that they have thwarted) but also what one thinks and believes. It requires frequent self-analysis, self-scrutiny, and a tolerance for ambiguity and doubt that, in my experience, is rare to non-existent in Randites. Randites want, not objectivity, but absolute assurances of truth.

Since you have some scientific training, you can understand the analogy with absolute zero, something which exists as a calculated entity in thermodynamics, but which thermodynamics tells us can never be reached. Does the unattainability of absolute zero invalidate thermodynamics? No. Does temperature not exist because AZ cannot be reached? No. It simply means that one must content oneself with greater or lesser temperatures, with a "relative" scale, as it were.

Similarly, do the concepts of Relativity in physics mean that physics is not "Objective?" Again, no, it simply means that there are no absolute reference frames.

But Randites want absolutes, and they also want escape from doubt, ambiguity, and all those pesky details that require one to learn more about a subject than the received truth of a fantasy philosophy. You want to be able to blame Iran for the troubles of the world, despite the fact that blaming Iran for 9/11 is roughly equivalent to blaming the Catholic Church's opinion on abortion on the politics within the Southern Baptist Convention. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, would you have decided that the U.S. should attack the Soviet Union? That is similar to the case that you and the ARI are trying to make.

As you yourself have said, merely claiming to be a follower of Ayn Rand does not mean that one is rational or moral. You seem to believe that this stricture does not apply to you.

You have my pity. Anyone who reads Rand in an attempt to create a philosophy of science deserves at least pity. That is also the most that you will get here. You certainly won't get any satisfaction. I suggest that you go off and brag to your friends how you bested me. Maybe they will believe you, or at least tell you that they do.

Richard said...

"If someone wishes to pursue reason and rationality, then the first thing they must do is to deal with the human tendency to rationalize, to put a faux rationalistic gloss on their prejudices and, to use Randian cant, "whims."

But not you, of course. A patent self-excluding statement if ever their was one. So we are expected to disregard your use of outright lies? Why? Hmmmm... the term "rationalize" comes to mind.

It seems you are projecting your own mental practices on others.

Lots of things, like absolute zero, are useful extensions of real world phenomena. Infinity cannot exist either, but it is a useful concept in mathematics. Both those points are absolute Truths.

You again make presumptions about my views concerning Iran, failing to grasp that the more grand fundamental is the ideas that motivate men, in this case the serious Muslims, that the source of those ideas is the Muslim leadership, particular in Iran --whose president was an active participant in the hostage taking under Pres.Carter! Never mind the infusion of actual men into numerous aspects of the Islamic Jihad against Israel and the US, or that oil rich Iran needs nuclear power for 'domestic' purposes. Do you believe them? The Q'uran is clear that it is perfectly moral to lie to an infidel.

Science requires honesty in facing facts and characters of all kinds, and adjusting one's understanding accordingly. In contrast, you have not bothered to check the characters of Atlas nor the ARI information. Either of which will easily put the lie to your post. Even in the face of something so obvious, you have shamelessly stuck to your lies and besmirched your standing as a scientist. By using a stream of arguments that persistently evade the falsity of your claims, you have sought to rationalize away the threat they present to your anti-Onjectivist whims.

As for why I am on your site, once in a while I check out the odd blog that uses Rand's name. Most are positive. Sometimes I learn things, and sometimes I add to a point or principle that was raised. When someone posts things that are wrong I may comment. If the blogger is honest and has simply erred, the resulting conversation can be quite rewarding, otherwise, like you, they further expose their intellectual dishonesty as they struggle to hide it. Ironic, but how unintentional?

Jeff Montgomery said...

Yaron Brook is worth every single penny of his salary. He's a great advocate and The Ayn Rand Institute is doing great work with its high school books program, academic center, op-eds, and media appearances. Bravo!

Hopefully for every cynic who reads Rand and rejects her, there will be someone who takes her philosophy "to brain" as it were, and lives it (or at least is not hostile towards it). I did.

black dog barking said...

I have read some portions of the Q'uran, and found it so shockingly irrational that my mind rebelled (as it does with the Bible).
-- Richard, March 10, 3:36pm

That's exactly my experience with Atlas Shrugged. Well, maybe not "ir"-rational but some mutated form of rational that revolved around talking about Ideals at too great a length. I just didn't (and don't) see the magic. Lots of people do see it -- good on y'all.

Some years back I had an epiphany that atheism was not the opposite of theism, that one involved faith in the existence of an organizing power and the other involved faith in the non-existence of said power. Same logical structure to both arguments; on one the doors open inward, outward on the other. Not opposites, more like different floor plans in the same development tract.

One of the ideas that has kinda come together for me hanging out at this site is that we are really taking a lot of important stuff for granted as we develop our ideas. I suppose it is because the topics here move in and out of science and writing — opposites by conventional thinking. Science-ing and Write-ing have come to look like two very similar structures working toward a similar end. The writer that ignores science does himself no favor, vice versa.

My takeaway from this Rand discussion and my brief unsatisfactory experience with Atlas Shrugged is that the movement doesn't recognize the source of its strength. The continued existence of the ARI *requires* the existence of an economy, a social structure. The publication and dissemination of Atlas Shrugged *requires* technology as simple as pencils, as complex as banking systems. No social organization, no Atlas Shrugged, no ARI.

So the arguments, either for less-to-no government, or for more war (government's highest calling?) seem, from my perspective, objectively un-rational.

James Killus said...

Ah well.

Richard's comments have exceeded my Lucy Factor limit. I find them boring and sad, and the only reason I might have for letting this continue would be further observation of a psychopathology that I've seen too much of already. Life is too short.

Therefore, richard, please leave. You are no longer welcome here, and I will delete any further comments you might have. This space is, after all, my property.

To Jeff Montgomery, I will merely observe that I never said that Yaron Brook was not "worth his salary." The job of a 501c3 Executive Director is to raise money and to make donors and granting agencies feel that their money is well-spent. I believe that I've made clear that I think that he has fulfilled that function. The work of a shill is only mildly unethical, and I don't think anyone is really being fooled. It's only his genocidal fantasies that I find truly prepugnant. Anyone who reads his essays and does not find the genocidal arguments there is free to have a contrary opinion, just not here.

As I think I've made clear, BDB, I did connect with the Ayn Rand worldview when I was young, and I suspect that youth and inexperience has a lot to do with it. She does, for example, convey some insight into the petty jealousies that inform many people's view of the talented and lucky.

But there's a famous quote that says, "The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve." Sometimes slightly older ages (14 is fairly popular) are substituted. Atlas Shrugged is science fiction, and has a similar appeal to readers of a particular age, or particular psychology.

Richard said...

Welll Black Dog, (1) how do you think all that economy came to rise in the US? I suggest, with some knowledge of European and American history, that it began with European mercantilism, which became increasingly free (more capitalist) in England as the monarchs relinquished much of their control. It was largely the change in cultural thought, brought on by The Enlightenment, which set men to thinking for themselves rather than blindly obeying Kings and Priests.

English merchants were behind the expedition to Virginia: they sought to produce glassware. They were finding fuel (wood) too rare and expensive in England, as much of the forested land could no longer be touched —as it was the King's. It was Virginia that flourished NOT Massachusetts and Plymouth Rock. The economic freedom Americans had is what launched America —and don't bother with the slavery argument it doesn't wash. It was the social and economic freedom Americans had, and Rand and ARI know it, and seek a return to it.

Thomas Jefferson's grasp of the individual as the fundamental unit of society, that prompted him (and the other Founders) to devise the Declaration of Independence and the unique Constitutional Republic that respects Individual Rights: the Right to Life, Liberty and Property. Each is intrinsically bound to the other, undermine any aspect of one and the others are likewise undermined. Liberty means the freedom to function in pursuit of one's own Happiness without the coercive interference of other men. Freedom in a social context does not mean freedom to do anything you want to anyone you choose. Nor does it mean any larger group of men has any special right to interfere in the Rights of any smaller group, which is The Tyranny of the Majority. America was meant to choose its politicians by democracy, but its Constitution was meant to stop them from making legilslation via their platforms. Atlas Shrugged shows the consequences, which are nearly prescient in that respect, because many of the negative political events, not to mention individuals, have actually occurred in principle in the US.

(2) As for God, under Objectivism atheism is not a matter of faith, but of validation. The basic argument is not very complicated, but takes some people who have been raised under theism (self included) a bit of effort to 'wrap their head around it'. I have also worded it very briefly here.

Why invent a Supreme Being, for which there is no evidence, for the purpose of explaining Reality, when Reality is plainly evident. God is usually considered to be the creator of the Universe, but the Universe is, by explicit meaning, "everything there is", so God cannot be outside of it, and certainly could not have created it. After all, to exist he would have to be somewhere and be something because that is what "exist" means. At the very moment He existed, then he was a something in the Universe. He would have had to simultaneously come into existence with the Universe. Or, the Universe already had to be. Only the latter makes any sense at all.

Furthermore, if there was Nothing before the Universe, how can nothing become something? Where does Nothing begin and end? Nothing is strictly a term Man developed to contrast with "Something". All this takes us back to the invention of this Supreme Other.... how did that being arise out of Nothing? God as Creator is an absurd figment.

In light of all the above, the Universe is everything including Space (which is not Nothing) and is eternal. The Universe itself cannot have a 'location' because all locations are a part of the Universe. The Universe cannot have a time, because time is a function of the motion of objects in relation to one another within the Universe. Essentially "The Universe" is out of time.

The Dawkin's and Hitchen's arguments for atheism are lightweight by comparison. That is one of the problems with most Atheists, they really haven't thought it through, rather like all theists.

America needs separation of the economy from the State in at least as much as it benefited from the separation of the Church from the State.

Incidentally, returning to (1), The Big Bang theory may have a certain validity with respect to the behavior of the matter of the Universe, but it in no way constitutes the creation of the Universe, as journalists (and not a few 'scientists') who try to popularize the science often suggest.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Killus said...

I will consider Richard's post of 12:56 to be in ignorance of my request and I'm not deleting it for now. I deleted his subsequent posting because he disregarded my request and violated my property rights, which is to say that he acted like practically every Randite I've ever met.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nico Oey said...

Wow, self-proclaimed scientist James Killus might I add that you are a damn-good coward, as well.

One suggestion for your "Unintentional Irony": why not consider yourself one? For someone who flames on "Randites" (nice word, by the way) you are neck-deep and looking for more in "Randite" universe. "hell, i even have calumet k. bla bla bla"

How about this for a conclusion? You are a pathetic "little man" who only wished you had the balls to live as the all-so-ever-fictional John Galt did (quit fantasizing about your slans, sicko!), hence your laughable attempts at "being rational" and pure, unadulterated jealousy!

Oh, and don't even bother commenting on my age - I am 20 years old and boy am I glad I am not the jealous coward scum that you are - and I don't plan on growing up to that.. :D

James Killus said...

Ah, another example of the logical and rational argument that I've found to be the hallmark of so many Randites since I myself was twenty, and thought that there might be something to it all.

RnBram said...

Well, I suppose you will block this, given what you did to Richard. Nonetheless, YOU know that your censorship of smarter people than you says more about you than it does about them.

Here we have a twenty year old who sees through your shallow pretense at understanding Rand. Yet, all you can do is ridicule him rather than debate him.

The fact is, you have not even come close to understanding Rand. I have observed many sixteen year olds show more intellectual honesty than you. You apparently lack the character needed to respond properly and intelligently to genuine and, in this case, youthful challenges to your disingenuous post. Most bloggers would make a better attempt than to stoop to your scorn-as-argument approach.

You are a shallow man, Killus. Whatever your psycho-epistemological problem is, it is pretty severe. Be the better man, respond fairly.

James Killus said...

This is pity, he thought, and then he lifted his head in wonder. He thought that there must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue.

Samurai said...

ARI has largely turned its back on Objectivism to become a cheering squad for Israel. Its dominant line is that America must destroy Muslim nations to benefit Israel. The implicit Jewishness of Objectivism has now become a full-blown pro-Israel propaganda machine under the control of ARI. The director of ARI was born in Israel. ARI's positions on Israel, Iran, torture, and many other issues are extremely irrational and have nothing to do with Ayn Rand's philosophy. The ideas of a (conflicted) genius (Rand) cannot be carried forward by third-rate imitators such as Peikoff and Binswanger. By the way, I knew all of these people.

LanceThruster said...

The Randians (Ayn, not James) come across as "True Believers" in the same fashion that I've seen Scientologists behave.

I remember seeing that piece of dreck, "The Fountainhead", and wondered why gary Cooper's character Howard Roark would not compromise his creative vision as an architect, but saw no problem slavishly quarrying marble for someone else's.

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