Archive for the ‘Ayn Rand’ Category
Posted by Jerry on December 20, 2010
My friends and I submitted the “Sixth Sense” video. Admittedly, the philosophy and concept behind the video is not easily accessible at first–beyond the most obvious message to “Think”; so, I’ll just give a brief explanation of our thoughts that went into creating the script of the movie and then the movie itself.
First, when we decided the enter the contest, we decided to stay away from the political and economic themes of Atlas Shrugged, for the following reasons:
1) These themes are difficult to capture on a personal and emotionally-connective level.
2) It’s easy to get preachy with such themes
3) It’s the most obvious and superficial interpretation of Atlas Shrugged
4) We were sure that political and economic themes would be the ones most commonly captured by other videos in the contest.
Hence, I decided to first identify the core theme of AS, namely: The role of man’s mind in existence.
From there, I began thinking of themes most directly relevant and affecting to me (and my friends) here in India. We thought of themes like the right to free speech (but dismissed it because it didn’t convey powerful images to us in our minds, without being preachy).
We thought of the struggle of Indian youth in asserting their goals and lives in a collectivist society like India (for example, publicly open gay men like myself face some kinds of resistance almost regularly in our lives). We dropped this idea because–again, we didn’t think it hit the core of Atlas Shrugged, would be difficult to execute, may not be relevant to a global or Western audience, and we wanted to avoid an ambitious project that would turn out sloppy.
Finally, I hit upon the idea of contrasting Mysticism versus Reality. Specifically, I wanted to contrast Eastern Mysticism versus a rational view of the world, since Eastern Mysticism is attractive many many people in the West as well. So, I sat through the night and typed up a 6-page long concept paper explaining all the major premises of eastern mysticism (primacy of consciousness, One-ness of Being, illusion of reality, etc.) and debunking their arguments with strong rational, logical, and objective counter-arguments.
Essentially, my concept paper came down strongly and harshly against the side of mysticism and how mysticism makes the act of living effectively and productively impossible–and reiterated the role of the mind as our *only* competent tool of survival in this world.
In the interest of full disclosure, the filmmaker that I was working with is himself a believer in mysticism (as is very common in India). He was very uncomfortable working on such a script. Therefore, the scripwriter in our team tempered the concept-note heavily by introducing a less controversial path to conveying a similar message (albeit, invariably and through no fault of hers, losing some impact of the original message along the way). She conceived of the brilliant metaphor of the five senses–which, when used effectively and in tandem with the “sixth sense”, namely, our minds–can make our life in this world tremendously more efficacious and *human*.
Thus, was born the concept of the Sixth Sense.
The script thereafter went through several more changes by the filmmaker and the scriptwriter.
To explain the final video, the voice over is of the adult character who is reflecting on her childhood. The concept of the five senses is intended to allude to how we generally take the competence of our senses as valid, but *not* the competence of our mind as valid (we accept any truths said by scriptures, priests, collectives, parents, cultures, etc.). Our message is to not surrender the mind to the various “conspiracy theories” of mystics and collectivists. The theme of our video is the competence of our mind, which we have dubbed as “The Sixth Sense” as a deliberate subversion of the mystic’s claim of “extrasensory” or “sixth sense” connection to higher truths.
For successful living, you must trust in the competence of your mind to achieve a successful life.
Watch our video, and if you like it, please do vote for it.
Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, My Friends, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged Video Contest, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute videos, Ideas, Movies, Objectivism, Objectivism videos, Philosophical videos, Philosophy, The Sixth Sense, Videos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on December 9, 2010
This is the video we created as our submission to the Ayn Rand Institute‘s Atlas Shrugged video contest.
The movie was filmed and edited by Abhay Kumar–a friend and talented filmmaker.
The concept for the script was developed and written by Gazal Dhaliwal–a close friend, gifted writer, and scriptwriter for Bollywood movies.
I provided the philosophical content, guide, and direction–giving advice on the message, ideas, implications, and choices that our video must make.
So here is our finished product. I am very pleased with the outcome. If you like it as well, then please show your support for our video by VOTING for it at the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest website.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Movies, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged movie, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute, Ayn Rand Institute videos, Movies, Objectivism, Objectivism videos, Philosophy videos | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on September 29, 2008
The Atlas Economic Research Foundation is calling for proposals for grant money to promote the ideas of Atlas Shrugged. Here is the relevant part of the press release:
“Proposals should outline at least two educational events or activities designed to achieve the goals of the proposed program. This can be translation and/or distribution of the book, events such as book launch, reception, discussion forum, seminars, courses, press conferences, or any creative form of educational outreach such as a movie, interviews, contests, etc.
Proposals should include a draft budget of how the money would be spent and a timeline of how the project would be executed.
Grant proposals are due in English by October 15, 2008. Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to Ms. Yiqiao Xu at email@example.com.”
The grant is made possible by the BB&T Bank.
I am working with the Liberty Institute to secure this grant and here’s the preliminary set of ideas I have come up with. I’m posting these up here to get feedback and additional ideas on how best to promote the ideas of Atlas Shrugged in India. Please note that the deadline for submitting the proposal is very near.
- Essay contest on Atlas Shrugged—across Indian colleges—with cash prizes for 3 winners.
- Create professionally designed brochures and pamphlets of key ideas from Atlas Shrugged:
- Francisco’s Money speech
- Excerpts from John Galt’s speech
- Other excerpts that highlight philosophical and artistic integration
Leverage these brochures on all events, activities, cross-country trips, bookstores, etc.
- Create and distribute large-sized posters of Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand across large-chain bookstores in India–to raise the visibility and sales of the novel.
- Discussion seminars across various locations in India on themes from the Atlas Shrugged–moderated by me or representatives from the Liberty Institute
- Philosophical themes for college professors from philosophy departments
- The artistic merits of Atlas Shrugged—for students, artists, and professors from theaters, art institutes, and colleges
- Panel of experts session on the moral theory of Atlas Shrugged versus other moral theories:
- Panel of clerics, NGO representatives, journalists, doctors, scientists, etc.
- Screening of the documentary film Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life on a cross-country tour across major movie chains such as PVR Cinemas–perhaps with the additional help and sponsorship of the American Center in Mumbai, tied-in with promotions of Atlas Shrugged—distributing brochures, books on sale, etc.
- Buy media space (in newspapers and online media such as emails, etc.) for promotions of the above-mentioned events and activities
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on May 29, 2008
Practically everyone I know at work has read at least one of the major works of Ayn Rand. They seem to regard her primarily as a literary figure, and I think, they mostly don’t much agree with (or understand) her philosophy. Rand’s novels, to them, are just that–novels; not a dramatization of a true philosophy of life, just an unusual and radical storyline.
My work also has both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in its library. It’s pretty clear that Rand has an established place in the corporate world–and is particularly well-known in India. I have blogged about Rand’s particular significance to Indians in previous posts.
This Friday, I will be conducting an informal discussion session with my colleagues on Objectivism in general and The Fountainhead in particular, since that is the book most of them have read. Also, since they learned that I have studied Objectivism in some detail for so many years now, they were very eager to hear me make the case for the philosophy. I am happy to do it.
Rand continues to be a polarizing figure; and she still manages to get people involved in animated discussions. My colleagues have been excitedly talking about the Friday session all this week–everytime we gather in the cafeteria for a meal or snack or hang beside each other’s cubicles. I’ve already heard some of the usual criticisms carelessly thrown about: “she was too extreme. It’s too rigid.” But I resist the urge to engage them in full-on discussion because I want to make a proper, prepared, and well-organized presentation on the philosophy. However, I’m not going to be lecturing or doing most of the talking; I’d rather prefer to facilitate the discussion–offer some guideposts, introduce some new ideas, elicit opinions and reactions, ask them to probe deeper into their questions and reactions, etc.
Anyway, if this goes well, I expect to hold additional sessions on the philosophy. I am quite certain that people will want to have more things to say and hear about Rand. After these sessions, I would be eager to get them started on We The Living, because it is my favorite novel and which I have read three times now.
So, cheers for personal activism! Hip hip Hurray! 🙂
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, Uncategorized | Tagged: Activism, Ayn Rand, Ideas, Morality, Novels, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rand, The Fountainhead | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 24, 2008
I know of some Objectivists whose moral views on sexuality, romantic love, and virginity have a remarkable resemblance to the views of the Catholic Church on these issues (I am deliberately choosing to not provide links to substantiate my claim). Of course, being an Objectivist does not make you immune to errors of judgment; neither does it mean that an Objectivist would accept anything merely because Ayn Rand said so.
Here is what Ayn Rand had to say on these issues in her Q&A session titled “Of Living Death”:
On the question, “If romantic love includes more than one person, what does this do to the institution of monogamy?”
Ayn Rand: To begin with, if you want to ask it in principle, I’m fine. It is not only permissible, it is virtuous and moral. I have never said that marriage is the only proper form of romantic love. There is nothing wrong with a romantic affair, if there are reasons why a couple cannot be married or if they are too young to marry; and that is not promiscuity, provided it is a serious feeling based on serious values.
Now, as to more than one love, now remember men have free will. It is the Catholic Church that advocates indissoluble marriage. I don’t. And a reason one cannot is because man is not omniscient. He can make a mistake in his choice of partner or the partner may change through the years and therefore a man may fall out of love, or as so can a woman, if the partner he or she has chosen no longer lives up to the proper values. In Atlas Shrugged, … [Hank]… was romantically in love with [Lillian] at first because he thought she was a certain type of woman and she deliberately faked the kind of image she thought he would want and he got disappointed. Now, he was very wrong in carrying out a secret affair with Dagny, but what was wrong with it was not sex, but secrecy—the lie.
An open relationship with as many men as you can meet if you are unlucky—but not several at a time—is appropriate, except that of course, one cannot be as unlucky that often, one would have to then check one’s standard if one makes constant mistakes. But as a principle of romantic love, one cannot say that only a single life-long romance can appropriately be called romantic. That is the ideal. If a couple achieves that, they are extremely lucky and they must have extremely good premises, but one can’t make that the norm. Sometimes it is an exclusive single love for all time; sometimes not. The issue to judge here—the moral principle—is the seriousness of their feeling and one gauges that by what kind of values is it based on. What is it that the person is attracted to in a man or a woman, and why. That is the standard of romantic love.
I have transcribed Rand’s speech verbatim; you can hear the entire Q&A session for yourself by going to the Web site of the Ayn Rand Institute, create an account (if you don’t already have one), and then go to their library of free multi-media resources.
I have edited Rand’s references to events in Atlas Shrugged in order to not have spoilers, because my friend who reads this blog is currently reading the novel. Please keep this in mind when you choose to comment.
Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, Love and Romance, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: affairs, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, fidelity, Love, marriage, Morality, Open relationships, Romance, romantic affairs, sexual experience | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 21, 2008
Dr. Yaron Brooke has an excellent article–I mean a remarkably clarifying, coherent, logical, and lucid article–on Forbes.com entitled “War on Free Political Speech.”
Following Ayn Rand, Dr. Brook exhorts those who assume that in a free society, the rich will mostly be in control of all the media, and that presidential races will be funded by the extremely rich people who will promote their pet candidates through all means available, to “check their premises.”
Here’s just a hint:
“What is the actual effect of wealth on political speech? Is it true that a diversity of political viewpoints would be shut out without campaign finance restrictions? Clearly not, when wealthy Americans include a vast diversity of individuals, and when we are free to watch Fox News or CNN, read the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, listen to Rush Limbaugh or Air America, visit Instapundit or Daily Kos.”
This article reinforces a thought I’ve had in my mind for a long time now: there is simply no one from any philosophical school of thought who understands the entirety of the concept of rights–particularly, the right to free speech–as comprehensively, cogently, and non-contradictorily as an Objectivist does (for example, just read this post about two philosophers arguing over what free speech is). The flipside of this is, unfortunately, there are only so few people in this world who know what rights are and can defend them objectively without being driven towards a fatal contradiction.
Posted in 2008 US Elections, Ayn Rand, Culture, Economics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand, campaign finance reform, Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, Free speech, John McCain, Morality, Objectivism, Political speech, Rights, Yaron Brook | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on March 14, 2008
It is a matter of fact that science can never disprove the existence of God. The tools of science–experimentation, observation, and empiricism–are inherently inadequate for the job. At best, empiricists can only reach approximations of certainty–and can claim, like Richard Dawkins does, that they have a very high degree of certainty that god does not exist.
This, however, does not indicate any weakness in the position of atheism as such; rather, it highlights the fact that science is inferior to philosophy and that philosophy is and should be the foundation of all scientific thought. Once reason and objectivity are evicted from their epistemological base in philosophy, a free floating set of rules like that of pragmatism and relativism or a blinded philosophy like that of the skepticism is spawned: neither of these philosophies can agree on what can be known or indeed whether anything at all can be known.
As Ayn Rand said: “Science was born as a result and consequence of philosophy; it cannot survive without a philosophical (particularly epistemological) base. If philosophy perishes, science will be next to go. It is philosophy that defines and establishes the epistemological criteria to guide human knowledge in general and specific sciences in particular.”
It is philosophy that reveals to man the proper methods of thinking and the laws governing sensible, valid, and rational thought. In other words, it is philosophy that identifies the axioms of knowledge and the non-contradictory nature of existence, and then devises the epistemic rules of thinking (logic) that mimic the nature of existence.
The lack of absolute certainty in the non-existence of god actually indicates the categorical confusion of metaphysics and nature that scientists like Dawkins commit. Atheism is often reinterpreted as being a naturalistic worldview; and although this is not false, it has resulted in the belief that atheism is actually a position reached at the end of a personal scientific and empiric quest. And often, this is indeed how many people become atheists: they start with their studies in evolutionary science, physics, or astronomy; they begin to ask the right questions and push for honest answers; they examine claims of miracles and seek scientific explanations; and eventually, they reach a point where atheism becomes the only plausible and default position to hold. Quite correctly, they see no empiric evidence to believe in the supernatural.
However, such atheists arrive at their conclusion through very weak and fundamentally unsubstantiated grounds. Indeed, such atheists can never deny that the next scientifically inexplicable event may suddenly turn them into theists or agnostics: in fact, some atheists (misguidedly) consider such “open-mindedness” in the face of an inexplicable even to be a sign of honorable intellectual honesty–the mark of a skeptic who is even proudly skeptical of atheism.
In essence, such atheists hold their belief at the mercy of the next concrete event, discovery, alleged sighting, or claim that would dictate whether or not they remain atheists or turn into agnostics.
The only way to rescue this unhinged concept of atheism from total collapse into subjectivism is to extract it from the domain of science and place it back where it belongs–in philosophy.
The position of atheism is a particularly philosophical position, not a scientific one. This is because atheism belongs to a subset of ideological positions, namely, the ideological position pertaining to metaphysics and spiritual belief. Particularly, atheism is the ideological position that holds as fact that there is no god. The only way to ascertain the validity of this assertion is by applying the laws revealed by philosophy, not by the implementation of any empiric, experimental, or observational method of scientific enquiry. In other words, the only permanent path to atheism is one primarily or fundamentally grounded on rational philosophical enquiry, not a scientific one.
Ayn Rand identified that existence exists and that existence is identity. It is on the basis of these fundamental and irrefutable metaphysical axioms that we know–with absolute certainty–that god does not, and indeed cannot, exist.
Existence is identity; that is, to be is to be something. A thing cannot be and not-be at the same time: this is a law that identifies a fact of existence. The supernatural not only means something outside of our Earth or our galaxy, but literally outside of everything in the Universe, including the Universe itself. Therefore, to be supernatural is literally to be outside existence qua existence, since existence is the totality of all that exists. Therefore, for the supernatural to exist, it must not exist. Therefore, the supernatural does not exist.
Likewise, if god is omniscient, then he must know everything; but then he cannot know what it is like to not know something. Therefore, god is an omniscient being who does not know everything. Therefore, god does not exist.
Likewise, if god is omnipotent, then he should be able to do anything; but god cannot kill himself. Therefore, god is an omnipotent being who cannot do everything. Therefore, god does not exist.
Likewise, if god is infinite, then he must transcend space, time, and measurement; but then he cannot have an identity–or be an entity–because to exist is to be an entity (to be is to be something; like the Universe is itself an entity). Therefore, god is an entity who is not an entity. A is non-A. Therefore, god cannot exist.
Likewise, if god is intelligent, then he must be rational, logical, and sensible. In other words, god would also have to obey the laws of rationality and logic; but then, our use of logic and reason above has demonstrated that were such an entity to exist, he would have to be full of contradictions; since logic does not permit contradictions, and contradictions do not exist, god does not exist.
And so on…
It is only at the end of such personal philosophical enquiry in the context of metaphysics–by employing the tools of logic and reason and holding objectivity as the standard of knowledge–that absolute atheism can be arrived at. And this pure atheism is immune to whatever claims or random events that may give someone a sense of wonderment or of being inexplicable. This kind of atheism knows that there is–and can be–no gods.
Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atheism, Ayn Rand, empiricism, existence of god, New Atheists, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Theology | 28 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 13, 2008
The Ayn Rand Institute has recently started uploading videos onto YouTube. Since I have an account on YouTube, I have already subscribed to the ARI video feed. I urge you all to do the same.
The ARI’s most recent posting is a series of Question and Answer videos–a series of 8 Q&A clips–that were recorded at one of their conferences on Reason versus Faith. They are excellent viewing.
Some of the questions from the audience members are quite baffling–like in videoclip 2, a man insists that Objectivism impoverishes the human spirit by emphasizing reason. I’m not sure which philosophy he is indicating when he says “Objectivism”, but his version surely cannot be the one developed by Ayn Rand, because Rand in fact wanted and fought to repossess the concepts and sentiments of exaltation and worship that religion had expropriated for itself.
I am reminded of this beautiful quote–that I have enshrined as my own personal religious credo on my blog–which expresses the high value and esteem Objectivism proffers to the properly spiritual in man:
“You see, I’m an atheist. And I have only one religion; the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest man possible, and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one’s spirit wants to kneel bareheaded… do not call it hero-worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat, where admiration becomes religion and religion becomes philosophy and philosophy, the whole of one’s life.” – Ayn Rand
Videoclips 3 and 5 are also very interesting for the answers given by Dr. Ghate and Dr. Brooks. Indeed, watch all 8 of the clips, vote your favorites, leave a comment if it so moves you, and subscribe to the ARI video feed.
Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: ARI videos, Ayn Rand Institute, Ayn Rand Institute videos, Objectivism videos, Philosophy videos, YouTube videos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on March 7, 2008
Syrian-born political commentator and American psychiatrist, Wafa Sultan, speaks with the ferocity of a sword-wielding soldier in the battlefield of ideas.
“I have decided to fight Islam; please pay attention to my statement; to fight Islam, not the political Islam, not the militant Islam, not the radical Islam, not the Wahhabi Islam, but Islam itself… Islam has never been misunderstood, Islam is the problem…. (Muslims) have to realize that they have only two choices: to change or to be crushed.”
This video of her interview on Al-Jazeera is a must-see:
When Islamic barbarism was revealed in the wake of the Danish cartoons fiasco, Wafa Sultan and members from the Ayn Rand Institute got together on panel discussions across the United States to stand up against the Islamic threat to freedom, liberty, and western civilization. The ARI website has the video of one their events in which Wafa Sultan participated:
Totalitarian Islam’s Threat to the West
A panel discussion featuring Daniel Pipes, Yaron Brook and Wafa Sultan
Recorded April 12, 2007
View video playback (requires RealPlayer®)
Part 1 (55 min.)
Part 2 (60 min.)
Watch more videos of this brave woman. [HT: Rule of Reason]
Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, Islamo-loony, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand, Danish Cartoons, Islam, Islamic barbarism, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamofacism, Muhammed, Muslims, primitivism, Religion, tribal beliefs, Wafa Sultan | 12 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 28, 2008
There’s an interesting discussion on the free market and individual property rights raging on Daylight Atheism. Tim (from Evanescent) had alerted me to the discussion. The post is a review of Michael Shermer‘s recent book “The Mind of the Market.” Most of the commentors there are mixed-economy cultists and Socialists.
I have posted two comments there so far. I encourage other Objectivists to do the same; I believe that blogs play a pivotal role in the dissemination of ideas at the grassroots level; it is how I explored Objectivism (by discovering Diana Hsieh’s blog very early on, among others), I know of several people who have been introduced to Ayn Rand and have even become Objectivists through reading my blog, and I believe it may be how many people (particularly the young) investigate and learn new ideas these days.
Below is one of the comments I left on Daylight Atheism, on the nature of the right to own property. I tried to make my comment as simply stated as possible so that readers who are utterly unfamiliar with the Objectivist theory of rights can grasp the premises easily:
The right to own property is the right that makes all other rights *practicable*, that is, possible to be practiced in reality.
The above principle is the political parallel of the metaphysical fact that humans are integrated entities of mind and body: there is no dichotomy or dualism between the two.
Since only individuals can think, the thoughts are undeniably and inextricably an individual’s *own*. The practical manifestation or implementation of his thoughts, therefore, are also his own–they are borne out of his actions motivated by his reasoning abilities.
However, while a man can never be denied of his thoughts, man can indeed be denied of the products or manifestation of his thoughts by the use of force or fraud from other individuals. This raises the necessity of establishing a moral principle among men that will objectively protect one man’s ownership (each man’s ownership) to the product of his thoughts, namely, the right to own property. This is the basis of the right to property, in brief.
The right to property is the moral principle that protects man’s ownership to the products of his thoughts (like, the right to own the book I wrote). To deny this right to the product of one’s thought is the political parallel of metaphysical dualism–to divorce man’s body from his mind, to invent a soul (religion), to invent a collective Borg (Socialism/Communism), to condemn man to brute physical existence (dictatorship, Statism), to divorce man’s faculty of reason from its practical uses and applications (Idealism).
To live, man must use his mind in dealing with reality. He must therefore be permitted to act freely on the directions given by his mind, his reasoning faculty, in order to tackle the task of survival. This includes being left free to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal. He may end up acting irrationally or erroneously; but he must be free to do this as well. He is however not free to initiate force or act fraudulently, because this undercuts the very basis of the freedom upon which he himself seeks to act.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Economics, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand, Ethics, free markets, Ideas, individual rights, Morality, Objectivism, Politics, property rights, Rights, the right to property | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 27, 2008
I have played a significant part in introducing my friend L’Innommable to the ideas of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. In fact, I think I have done the same with most (all?) of my close friends, who have now read the major works of Ayn Rand and agree with at least some of her ideas to some extent.
I think it comes with the territory: out of happenstance, if I befriend someone, they are bound to be exposed to my value-system; indeed, I am certain that my values play a role in the kind of people I keep and value as friends.
As a matter of fact, I know that simply running this blog and writing the occasional article on Objectivism here has introduced several people to Ayn Rand and helped them get a more mature grasp of her ideas. I am happy of these consequences–and they are an added perk because they are not wholly intended. I write on my blog simply because I like setting my thoughts into words, and I derive a serene sense of pride from my writings. That my blog has resulted in some positive–and hopefully, challenging–intellectual experiences for some is a delight to learn about.
Anyway, L’Innommable is in the midst of reading Atlas Shrugged and he has written of his impressions of the book so far. I liked what he had to say. Here’s just an excerpt of his post:
“[Atlas Shrugged] reminds me of a symphony… I see hints, suggestions, undertones, and allusions to what is to come; an exposition on the philosophy of Objectivism. The thing is, it starts out as any good symphony would, not giving too much away in the beginning, but enticing the listener to continue listening for his enjoyment and edification, climbing ever higher to a crescendo that seems inevitable.”
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged review, Ayn Rand, book review, Books, Fiction, Ideas, Novel, Objectivism, Philosophy, Reading | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 19, 2008
This Harvard University study seems to suggest that scientists are finally catching up to the insights of the Objectivist epistemology.
Professor Marc Hauser recently presented his new theory, which postulates four key elements differentiating human cognition from animal cognition. Notably–as I have stressed in the past as well–Hauser regards human cognition as being not merely higher up on the same scale of cognitive complexity in comparison to that of animals, but as being of a fundamentally different nature in itself–in his words, a “great cognitive gap”:
“Animals share many of the building blocks that comprise human thought, but paradoxically, there is a great cognitive gap between humans and animals,” Hauser says. “By looking at key differences in cognitive abilities, we find the elements of human cognition that are uniquely human.”
The four key differences between human and animal cognition that Hauser identifies neatly aligns with the core elements of Objectivist epistemology. In the following, first is the element that Hauser identifies, which is then followed by the Objectivist concept that is its equivalent:
1. “the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding”
Integration–a cardinal function of man’s consciousness on all the levels of his cognitive development. First, his brain brings order into his sensory chaos by integrating sense data into percepts; this integration is performed automatically; it requires effort, but no conscious volition. His next step is the integration of percepts into concepts, as he learns to speak. Thereafter, his cognitive development consists in integrating concepts into wider and ever wider concepts, expanding the range of his mind.
2. “to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation”
Principles–an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes. It is only by means of principles that one can set one’s long-range goals and evaluate the concrete alternatives of any given moment. You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Concrete problems cannot even be grasped, let alone judged or solved, without reference to abstract principles.
3. “to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input”
Concepts and Words–Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication. The primary purpose of concepts and of language is to provide man with a system of cognitive classification and organization, which enables him to acquire knowledge on an unlimited scale. Concepts represent condensations of knowledge, which make further study and the division of cognitive labor possible.
In order to be used as a single unit, the enormous sum integrated by a concept has to be given the form of a single, specific, perceptual concrete, which will differentiate it from all other concretes and from all other concepts. This is the function performed by language. Language is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes. Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts. Every word we use (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind.
4. “to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.”
Focus–The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make. When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions.
There are, of course, many more insights into human cognition that Ayn Rand identified in her Objectivist epistemology that in my opinion are not exhausted by Hauser four identifications: for example, Ayn Rand’s theory of measurement-ommission and its role in concept-formation.
However, all of the above–and the entire corpus of the Objectivist theory of epistemology–indicates a simple and self-evident fact about human cognition that is denoted by single concept: the conceptual faculty; that is, man’s consciousness is uniquely conceptual in nature.
[I learned of Professor Hauser’s study from the Objectivism Online forum. Note: All four hyperlinked Objectivists concepts and their brief descriptions are quoted directly from The Ayn Rand Lexicon.]
Posted in Animal Rights, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy, science, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: animal cognition, animal consciousness, Ayn Rand, concepts, conceptual faculty, epistemology, Harvard University, human cognition, human consciousness, Marc Hauser, Objectivism, Objectivist epistemology, Professor Hauser, theory of knowledge | 11 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 18, 2008
The book Facets of Ayn Rand is now available online for free! Published by the Ayn Rand Institute Press, the book is a personal memoir of Mary Ann and Charles Sures, who were both friends of Ayn Rand for more than 20 years.
Here is an excerpt from the introduction by Leonard Peikoff:
Mary Ann and Charles Sures were longtime personal friends of Ayn Rand—Mary Ann for twenty-eight years, Charles for almost twenty. Their recollections in this delightful memoir make vividly real the Ayn Rand they knew so well.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand Memoir, biography, Books, Charles Sures, Facets of Ayn Rand, great minds, Mary Ann, memoir, Objectivism, Philosophers, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on February 1, 2008
Of all the places to find an article about Ayn Rand, there is this recent one on Zee News. The online version of the 24-hour Hindi News cable channel carried a decent article on Ayn Rand (in English, of course). Reading the title of the article, I was prepared for yet another misinformed, second-handed diatribe on Rand’s life and a grotesque caricature of her philosophy.
The article is fine, however; the author Ipsita Baishya treats the essential ideas of Objectivism fairly enough. Like in these excerpts, for example (note how Baishya points out Rand’s rejection of the libertarian party):
According to Rand, one’s highest value should be one’s ability to reason. This also manifested in the way she viewed her own life, not through feelings but through her interest in ideas and her thinking.
Politically, Rand wanted to provide liberal capitalism with a moral anchor, to take on the commonplace notion that communism was a noble if unworkable idea while the free market was a necessary evil best suited to flawed human nature. Her impassioned arguments against “compassionate” redistribution–and persecution–of wealth have not lost their urgency and relevance even today.
Although Rand denounced the feminist movement, one cannot help but see a strong feminist subtext in her repertoire. All of her heroines are strong-willed, independent women; feminism being all about women asserting their individuality. So it would not be incorrect to assume that Rand by default had a feminist streak to her as many feminists have interpreted. She rejected the Libertarian movement due to her emphasis on epistemology and her rational premise did not allow her to believe in the existence of any Superpower. [bold mine]
But the sprinkle of words like “cult”, “religious doctrine”, and “loopholes” leaves me wondering about the intent of the author. I suspect this article was published in time to mark Ayn Rand’s birthday on February 2.
I myself had made plans to commemorate the occasion over two days by airing an Oscar nominated documentary on Rand’s life—Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life and the Italian movie based on her book We The Living. However, as I was making my plans, I learned that Mumbai would be celebrating a 10-day long art festival slated to begin on the same day. Due to the festival, the venue I was considering for airing the documentary would not be available—Prithvi Theater, MaxMueller Bhavan, etc. Besides, I would be competing with more established festival events for an audience to the movies.
Perhaps, after the Kala Ghoda Art Festival concludes, I might set up the dates for screening these movies. The American Center Library in South Mumbai is open to hosting the event, when I spoke to them earlier this week. Let’s see how it all turns out.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: Art, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, birthday, commemoration, Documentary, Events, India, Movies, Mumbai, Objectivism, Rand, We The Living, Zee News, Zee TV | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on January 28, 2008
Lisa VanDamme’s unique approach to education, which has proven to be a great success among students, parents, and educators, was featured in an article in The Heartland Institute’s newsletter.
The VanDamme Academy, a K-8 school in Laguna Hills, California, has an unusual way of giving students a better foundation of knowledge.
Founder Lisa VanDamme said the students learn incrementally, not moving forward in concepts until they’ve mastered the one at hand. Moreover, teachers encourage them to make connections within and between the subjects, and between school and life.
“[We’re] teaching in a very deliberate, planned, incremental order that provides for real understanding on the part of the child,” VanDamme said. “They’re starting on the small, simple steps and building on it, so at each new stage, they thoroughly grasp the material.”
Using a carefully planned curriculum, teachers help students build core knowledge and hone skills necessary for their future success, VanDamme said.
VanDamme developed her teaching method when she began as a homeschool teacher to an exceptionally gifted child about 11 years ago. She drew on the experience of highly educated friends and the educational philosophy of Ayn Rand to put together her curriculum.
The school emphasizes science, math, history, and language arts, which VanDamme considers universally necessary for all mature, informed adults.
Students must demonstrate a thorough understanding of each topic, often writing essay questions to explain everything from scientific theories to vocabulary.
“Something can pass as knowledge when it’s really just memorized gibberish,” VanDamme explained. “We only consider ourselves successful if [students] can explain to us what they’re doing in complete thoughts of their own.
“We don’t give multiple choice or true/false [tests] at any time,” VanDamme continued. “We put a big emphasis on writing. We want them to really, fully, completely understand what they’re doing. We want them to grasp and be able to explain everything.”
VanDamme’s curriculum advances students without putting them in the traditional K-8 grade classes, letting them progress in subjects as quickly as they learn them and constantly challenging each student, she said.
Of the 25 students who have graduated from the six-year-old academy since 2005, one-third had made their way partially through calculus before entering ninth grade.
Other students are just as successful: One seventh-grader recently scored a perfect 800 on the writing portion of the SAT. VanDamme’s first student, now in his early 20s, is in his fifth year of graduate studies in physics at Stanford University. [bold added]
Read more here.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: childhood, Children, conceptual growth, curriculum, Education, growth, high school, knowledge, learning, Lisa VanDamme, school, VanDamme Academy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on January 15, 2008
If you want to look really crazy, you should go up to a doctor and say, “I understand that if I consume poison, I will die; but I don’t understand why I ought not to have poison just because I choose to live.”
Go tell an architect who is constructing a skyscraper, “just because of the fact that constructing a skyscraper requires steel, concrete, and building materials, it does not mean that you ought to use steel, concrete, and building materials to construct your skyscraper.”
Is it really hard to grasp that values are a species of facts? If the architect has identified the fact that constructing a building requires certain specific methods, tools, and materials, then the architect has to (ought to) obtain, acquire, and use those specific methods, tools, and materials to meet his purpose. The identification of the first factual premise necessitates the identification of the second: if you choose to build, you ought to get your tools and materials ready; both statements have the force and quality of stating a fact about how reality functions–in equal magnitude.
The fact that you are a living entity, determines a series of facts pertinent to your survival: the fact that you are, determines what you ought to do–or how reality factually functions in relation to your existence, i.e., matters of facts. For example, your immune system cannot withstand the fatal effects of poisonous venom; therefore, the fact of the matter is, if you consume it, you will die; or, staying alive requires–by force of fact–that you ought not to consume the venom.
The concept of value applies only to living beings–and in greater pertinence, to rational beings–because goal-directed action toward an ultimate end is only possible to living entities. Thus, values (which are a species of facts applicable to living beings) are inextricably linked to living entities and to the specific facts pertinent to their survival.
It is hard to believe that there’s so much nonsense permitted in philosophy. When you begin to understand ethics as a science–as a subject dealing with very fundamental and clearly bounded facts about human existence and all that makes such existence possible–you begin to realize that you cannot permit any of the philosophical nonsense that is commonly accepted today, such as consciousness invalidates itself as a tool of awareness, the mind is wholly separate and distinct from the body, values are mystical, non-rational, not factual, and non-objective, etc.
The applied and physical sciences are fully dependent on the philosophical framework it chooses to work within. If philosophy itself is so incoherent, chaotic, irrational, and subjective, then how can it possibly provide a coherent, rational, and logical framework for the applied and physical sciences?
If an engineer cannot permit his crew to be subjective about their notions of numbers, measurements, laws of physics, motion, gravity, the existence of steel, the fragility of glass, the identity and nature of physical elements, then how can he be comfortable with a philosophy that preaches that there is no absolute truth, certainty is impossible to human cognitive tools, the noumenal realm is forever beyond our direct perception, the evidence of the senses is illusory, that a bridge ought not require certain methods of construction, etc.?
As Rand said:
“It is not the special sciences that teach man to think; it is philosophy that lays down the epistemological criteria of all special sciences.”
But if such irrationality passes as philosophical thought today, then Wittgenstein was right in insisting that nothing but nonsense can be said about philosophy and vehemently disparaging philosophers as foolish men entangled in a confused web of their own making.
You know that the state of modern philosophy is not healthy when philosopher Quee Nelson has to present her defense of objective reality under the name “naive realism” in her new book The Slightest Philosophy, because, apparently, it is “naive” in philosophical circles to hold that there is an objective reality and that we have direct perception of it.
Aptly enough, therefore, the voice in defense of naive realism in Nelson’s book is that of a young student engaged in a dialog with a more erudite and sophisticate professor. Here’s an excerpt (taken from John Enright’s article on The Atlasphere), where the sophisticate professor wonders whether we really see apples or only patches of the color red; the student replies:
Student: “I wonder why you don’t switch it the other way around, and say that you can only perceive sense data like colors by means of physical objects? Why does the ‘redness’ get the place of pride, instead of the apple? Why don’t you put things the other way around, and say that ‘redness’ is merely derivative, since it is obtained by a secondary process of intellectual abstraction from the apple, which is epistemologically more primary?”
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ayn Rand, epistemology, Ethics, is-ought dichotomy, Objectivism, Philosophers, Philosophy, Quee Nelson, science, The Slightest Philosophy | 14 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on January 7, 2008
It is well-known that Ayn Rand’s name elicits sharp and extreme reactions–either positive or negative. But the extremely dishonest lengths to which those who hate Ayn Rand go to smear her name, attack her philosophy, and discredit her impact is simply puzzling. Are these people actually afraid of Ayn Rand? Are they afraid of identifying what their reaction to her philosophy reveals about themselves?
The National Review has had a history of spreading lies about Ayn Rand; they are committed to smearing her legacy–this seems to be their raison d’etre. Here is their latest attack by Michael Novak, writing about atheists and their various beliefs:
Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the “death of God” has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will. This is the kind of moral nihilism that communist and fascist regimes depended upon, to justify the brutal use of power. It appears, also, to be the kind of atheism that Ayn Rand commended. [bold added]
Let’s take this point by point:
According to Novak, the kind of atheism Ayn Rand advocated had no “trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality.” However, here’s just a sample of what Ayn Rand in fact had to say about reason, science, objectivity, and morality:
I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.
This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.
To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem.
Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible.
Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival
The concept of objectivity contains the reason why the question “Who decides what is right or wrong?” is wrong. Nobody “decides.” Nature does not decide—it merely is; man does not decide, in issues of knowledge, he merely observes that which is. When it comes to applying his knowledge, man decides what he chooses to do, according to what he has learned, remembering that the basic principle of rational action in all aspects of human existence, is: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” This means that man does not create reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality.
Then, Novak declares that Ayn Rand’s philosophy is a mixture of nihilism and hedonism, where people may choose to live for any arbitrary reason, or for the “joy of exercising brute power and will.”
Here is what Ayn Rand actually states about hedonism:
I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality. Objectivism holds that the good must be defined by a rational standard of value, that pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence, that only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality. To say that pleasure should be the standard of morality simply means that whichever values you happen to have chosen, consciously or subconsciously, rationally or irrationally, are right and moral. This means that you are to be guided by chance feelings, emotions and whims, not by your mind. My philosophy is the opposite of hedonism. I hold that one cannot achieve happiness by random, arbitrary or subjective means. One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values. By rational values, I do not mean anything that a man may arbitrarily or blindly declare to be rational. It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue.
To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value”—which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.
And about brute power or force:
Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.
To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man’s capacity to live.
Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.
Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atheism, Atheists, Ayn Rand, Lies, Michael Novak, Morality, National Review, Objectivism, Philosophy | 6 Comments »