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The Psychology of the Rioters in England

Posted by Jerry on August 12, 2011

Over the past few days, as I read the reports about the sickening and terrible loss of lives and property at the hands of looters and marauders in England, I wondered what could have caused such a spectacle.

There was a nagging sense that I was witnessing a rotten malaise spreading within the minds of the youth in England. But what was the cause and nature of this psychological malaise afflicting these youth?

At various discussion threads on Facebook, I kept alluding to and grappling with the psychological cause of these riots. What makes a person behave like this? Note that from all reports we know, these rioters come from very different races–including native English people–varying age-groups, different jobs, and includes men as well as women. Among those found looting shops were people in their 30s as well as kids as young as 11. Many of them were seen laughing and having a grand ol’ time as they ransacked liquor shops and stashed up on cigarettes and whiskey and beer bottles.

riot shop hackneyThe only element in common among most of these rioters was that they were mostly socio-economically disadvantaged. They were largely the poor members of English society. Many–perhaps most–of them were jobless or employed at bare minimum wages. Many of the under-aged youth were drop-outs from school.

Using this as a launching point, left-liberals and others have argued that this sense of alienation, disadvantage, disconnection, poverty, invisibility, unemployment, and disempowerment among this segment of the English community has led to this cathartic exercise of maniacal and delirious power. There has been some sudden class-consciousness among these oppressed peoples and they have finally decided to end the exploitation by staging an “unrest.” This explains the robbing and looting of gadgets, liquor, and expensive clothing–they argue–because it finally gives them what they have always been denied by the “power” elite.

However, in my opinion, this line of rationalization is very lazy. It shouldn’t take you more than a second to remember that this world has far, far more people living in utterly despicable conditions of poverty and disempowerment. There are way too many millions on this earth who–despite their invisibility, alienation, and lack of power–do not have the luxury of wearing warm, hooded sweaters, track pants, and white sneakers and step out on a looting rampage. If Marxist doctrine is to be believed, then every “oppressed” person languishing in poverty across the world should be up in arms rioting and revolting under the enlightenment of a brand new unified class-identity.

And yet, something constrains them; something which clearly did not constrain the rioters in England.

The Arab Spring, the African revolutions, and Islamic Jihad cannot be counted as examples of class-awakening. Theirs are movements driven by ideologies of varying kinds–for better or worse.

The rioters in England have no ideology as such. There is no proclamation for any particular viewpoint. This is in fact one of the reasons why there are so many conflicting interpretations and analyses of these recent events in England. These rioters are rudderless, mindless, collectivist drones.

And therein lies the clue to their behavior. Ask yourself, how does one become a rudderless, mindless, collectivist drone? One answer is when you are never confronted with the necessity to use your own independent mind.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain–one of the largest welfare states in the world–has been nurturing and breeding a mind-numbed cadre of youngsters who are living on dole-outs, whose life, survival, and sustenance are someone else’s responsibility.

These are people who are not demanded to think and confront the fragility of their own survival. These are Britons who are not demanded to be productive. These are citizens who are shielded from the bitter sting of starvation; from the panic of creeping death and the urgency of survival.

What we see now is the logical consequence of a mighty, paternalistic welfare state breeding a class of moochers who simply find no urgency in using their own mind to think–to reason–and therefore, believes that they simply cannot find their own way out of marginalization.

Indeed, this underclass of citizens has been so disempowered–not by any remnants of a capitalist structure in English society–but by the very bloated welfare government that was allegedly meant to “empower” them that they no longer believe it possible to them to get out of their miserable conditions.

It’s not their job to do so–the government has to bring them out of poverty. Indeed, they believe they are *incapable* of doing it themselves–they have been taught so by leftist philosophers, post-modernists, and welfare statists; the capitalist structures apparently are so oppressive that these people are helpless and powerless in front of it. Thus, they *need* the government to manage their lives and direct their course. It is the government’s responsibility–other people’s responsibility–to fulfill their needs and wishes.

How can one expect any sense of self-esteem or empowerment among such a class of people who have been bred and nurtured to be helpless beggars–to be recipients of dole, welfare, free lunches, and other people’s money?

Why should it be surprising then to watch these psychologically disempowered people–who have been robbed of their uniquely human ability to think, reason, value, judge, and be productive–rioting and asserting their “power” in the only way possible to non-conceptual animals, that is, through violence?

When you have the government enforcing moral values upon you, making moral decisions on your behalf, and distributing a regular monetary allowance to you, then why–and how–would you bother to think for yourself, exercise your own rational faculty, and earn your own living?

Ayn Rand noted this inseparable unity between using your own mind, living productively, and having self-respect:

“To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.”

Self-esteem comes with the knowledge that your mind is capable and competent at ensuring your survival qua man on this earth. By doling out freebies and free money, welfare governments may treat the symptoms of poverty, unemployment, or alienation, but never the root–which is, an unproductive lifestyle encouraged by a nanny state.

It is only through productivity and achievement that one gains a sense of pride in one’s own life–that is, self-esteem.

Atlas sculpture, New York City, by sculptor Le...

Image via Wikipedia

The events of these past few days in August 2011 mark the exposure and bankruptcy of the leftist-socialist philosophies. The youth of England have been robbed of their ability to nurture a healthy sense of self-esteem–not by capitalists but by those who allegedly claim to be their well-wishers.

“The need for self-esteem is a matter of life and death,” Ayn Rand had said in her novel Atlas Shrugged in 1957.

Today, in the riots of England, we are witnessing its proof.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Release of “Atlas Shrugged” in Marathi

Posted by Jerry on February 17, 2011

Professor Mugdha Karnik from the University of Mumbai had undertaken the monumental task of translating Ayn Rand’s epic novel Atlas Shrugged into Marathi — the regional language of the state of Maharashtra–one of the most populous states in the country.

I have personally heard Prof. Karnik read an excerpt from her translation during one of the Atlas Sunday Club Philosophy Salon’s I organize in Mumbai. She read the passage in which Hank Rearden is holding the dying young wet nurse in his arms. It is a stirring scene in the original novel–and listening to Prof. Karnik read it out in Marathi was equally moving.

I remember telling her at that time that I believe she did not just translate the language of Atlas Shrugged but also managed to translate the spirit of the novel.

Anyway, all of this is in preamble to the reason for this post. The new Marathi version of Atlas Shrugged is being released officially in the city. The following are details. All who are in Mumbai or can travel to the city are urged to attend:

DATE

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011

TIME

7 pm to 8.30 pm

VENUE

Shivaji Mandir
Dadar, Mumbai

GUEST SPEAKERS
Veena Gavankar and Sharad Joshi
Dhananjay Karnik will introduce Sharad Joshi

COMPERE

Jyoti Ambekar

For more details and information about the book, you can reach out to Professor Karnik at the following address:

Mugdha D. Karnik,
Director
Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai,
Vidyanagari, Kalina, Santacruz (E),
Mumbai 400098

Tel: 022-65952761/65296962
www.extramural.org

 

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Story behind Our Entry into the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest

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.

http://wildfireapp.com/website/6/contests/42465/voteable_entries/12473666?order=recency

Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, My Friends, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Sixth Sense – Atlas Shrugged Video Contest Entry

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: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Broken Britain Phenomenon

Posted by Jerry on February 18, 2009

Little Alfie from the UK has been making big news around the world: at only 13 years of age, he conceived and is father to a newborn with his 15 year old partner.

This, people claim, is symptomatic of a phenomenon spreading across Britain called “Broken Britain.” From the Associated Press report, I quote:

Sir Bernard Ingham, once press secretary to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told the Associated Press that people from across Britain’s political spectrum are in despair over the country’s social breakdown.

“It’s an indication that we’ve lost our way, that people don’t know the difference between right and wrong.” [emphasis mine]

In light of the above quote, I can’t help but be reminded of my own article, written some time ago, titled “Enforcing Moral Values“. In the article, I explained how the government–by interfering in the private affairs of individuals–effectively undermines the moral rudder of a society and erodes the ability of individuals to make moral decisions for themselves. Here’s some pertinent quotes from my earlier article:

Governments have assumed the role of a moral authority and have begun passing down moral laws–what it considers as being in the benefit of the “greater human family.” The government has replaced the individual as the moral and causal agent.

What this has led to is the following:

If an individual has no reason to hold a value other than because it is mandated by law, then he will also have little or no knowledge of how to pursue and maintain that value nor any incentive to discover the reasons; in other words, he will not know what is a virtuous life and how to lead it nor will he care to learn of it. He will seek further mandated guidance in the realm of virtues, thoughts, and actions. This breeding of intellectual laziness entrusts the job of thinking to others.

What we are seeing in Britain is certainly not just germane to that country. The Broken Britain phenomenon has to a considerable extent spread across the entire world.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Bisexuality and Commitment

Posted by Jerry on January 27, 2009

In brief, my thoughts on bisexuals and their capacity to have committed, romantic relationships with a single partner.

The incomprehensibility surrounding a person’s bisexuality has mostly to do with the fact that people impute more layers of complexity to the matter than is actually warranted.

Bisexuality is just like any other sexual identity. Merely because a bisexual has the possibility of forging deep and romantic relationships with both sexes (or the possibility of being physically intimate with both sexes) does not mean that he is inexorably led to do so at every juncture! Neither does it mean that he will more quickly tire of his current partner and seek someone of the other sex than his heterosexual and homosexual counterparts would!

A bisexual may well choose a partner of either sex and live in a committed, long-term relationship. The bond that keeps two people together in a lasting relationship is not sexual orientation (that’s more like a precondition), but love–and all the necessary elements that lead to the summary emotion of love.

And are we to deny that bisexuals have the same capacity to experience true love–for whichever gender that may be?

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, Love and Romance, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Grant Proposal for Atlas Shrugged

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 yiqiao.xu@atlasusa.org.”

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.

  1. Essay contest on Atlas Shrugged—across Indian colleges—with cash prizes for 3 winners.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Panel of experts session on the moral theory of Atlas Shrugged versus other moral theories:
    • Panel of clerics, NGO representatives, journalists, doctors, scientists, etc.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 »

The Morality Presented in The Dark Knight

Posted by Jerry on August 7, 2008

To the extent of my knowledge, nobody–not even any Objectivists–have pointed out some of the crucial complications in morality that occur toward the climactic scene in the movie The Dark Knight. I haven’t the time to write all of it down right now in detail, although I have stated these in conversations with my friend soon after we watched the movie for the second time.

Let me say this: The Dark Knight is a fantastic example of superb artistic integration–including music, plot, theme, character, ideas, logic, and conflict. It’s a cinematic achievement that occurs only rarely in a lifetime. However, it’s themes are dark, evil, and at very critical junctures, even ambiguous, which I think becomes its failing. This is not Nolan’s fault, however. I think it’s a matter of the philosophical context he functions in–the one in which we all find ourselves–the predominant one holding sway in this world today.

At the Atlasphere review of this movie, this is the comment I left:

I loved the movie as well; however, this review like all the others I have read by Objectivists, fail to identify some crucial failures in the morals held up as ideals by the director for the characters of Batman, Dent, and the people of Gotham.

For one, Rand would never have approved how the boat scene in the end turned out, nor would she have approved of how Batmand undercuts his own virtue and corrupts the image of good by accepting the mantle of a criminal fugitive. It’s a very Christ-like self-sacrificial attempt to take on the “sins of the world.”

In addition to the above, let me clarify that the boat scene requires a moral context that is ignorant of how the plot eventually plays out; imagine yourself as a citizen of Gotham on one of those boats and not having even an inkling about how your fate’s going to turn out. You do not know that Batman will eventually save the day. Now, given this context, analyze the morality of the actions that people on that boat commit–and the implicit affirmation of a certain course of action as the right and moral one.

UPDATE: Hello, yes, there is the gun-point scenario and the game theory. However, there is more, and unfortunately, I don’t have the time to make a detailed case, so here goes: The choice made by both parties in the two boats–and in particular, the choice made by the convicts–would logically have led to the destruction of the lives of everyone on both boats.

Essentially, between choosing to blow either one of the boats, *some* people made the “executive decision” to end the lives of every single person on both boats (by leaving the decision upto Joker to blow both boats at midnight).

However, this evil choice and its horrendously destructive logical outcome is cloaked under the garb of altruism that the movie affirms as the ideal and self-sacrificial course of action, when in fact there it is more a butchering of others than of the self that is being advocated, and the evil is not just altruism but annihilation, a worship of death.

The essential evil is this: Gotham city affirms the exact same premise of burning death and destruction that motivates Joker’s desire to see “the world burn.”

Moreover, the interference of Batman to save the day distracts the movie-watching audience from fully processing the horrendous and evil nature of what had just transpired–something more evil than the Joker himself, and something the Joker should have been proud of. By saving the day, Batman (and thus, the director) sheilded Gotham and the movie-audience from witnessing the explosive mutilation and barbarity that would have resulted from the altruistic choice they had made. Nobody on the boat would have known that Batman would interfere to save them. Thus, Joker won and he didn’t even know.

Thus, in the end, actually, evil in this movie triumphs in more ways than even Joker could grasp–or the director. This is because the evil is served to us on a sappy, emotionalist plate that has all the sprinkling of humanity, humanism, altruism, brotherhood, love, self-sacrifice, etc.

ADDENDUM

Finally, another really disturbing aspect of the movie was that the convict in the boat was shown as the one being able to make the so-called “moral” decision without a thought—of throwing the detonator out of the boat, saying this was something that should have been done a long time ago. I agree that the detonator should have been thrown out–but as I said above, there should have been an explicit statement of the reason–even briefly–that this was being done in defiance of the terrorist, not because we want to accept death and then congregate to pray together during our final moments (as it was shown in the movie among the convicts).

Meanwhile, the free citizens of Gotham were shown as immoral people who not only debated on whether or not to trigger the bomb but also who were ready to press the button right up until the last moment when the man got a moral crisis of guilt (or cowardice, whichever).

Why did Nolan choose to show convicts as making the “right” choice without a thought and show the free citizens debating the matter endless but then not being able to follow through? Is this a matter of undercutting the moral legitimacy of the good citizens?

For these reasons, my argument stands that the ending of this movie is morally ambiguous at best, critically wrong and evil at worst, and the actions of the citizens of Gotham on both those boats were terrifyingly evil for the logical consequences that would have played out. These citizens were not moral, were not virtuous, and were not defying the Joker. Hence, Joker should have been happy.

Posted in General Work/Life, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

I Smile at my Rationality

Posted by Jerry on May 30, 2008

Since childhood, I had always loved mango-flavored drinks–even artificially flavored ones. I absolutely loved mango milkshakes, mango breezes, mango smoothies, mango blasts, Mangola (a Coca Cola beverage), Frooti and Maaza (both artificial mango-flavored drinks), and Real Mango fruit juices. At any point, I would prefer one of these to any other softdrink. Strangely, however, I didn’t have the same craze for the actual mango fruit itself. I only liked its pulp and flavor in juices–and perhaps, its yellow color.

In fact, after I had newly arrived in India two years ago, I got into this habit of consuming entire one-liter packets of Real Mango fruit juices at every meal. Sometimes, I would have about 3 to 4 packets a day. Added to that, I was alarmingly indiscriminate about my eating habits and neglectful about my physical appearance.

I suspect this kind of behavior might have had some kind of psychological roots–in addition to just mindless indulgence when it came to food. I realize that this was the phase in which I was undergoing drastic transformations in my physical, emotional, and romantic life. However, it is a fact that these transformations were not the cause of my behavior, but merely my excuse. I know this is true because once I made the conscious decision to snap out of my mindless gluttony and recapture my rational judgment in this matter, I acted upon the decision–immediately and consistently.

I was fortunate enough to find a gym that truly exemplified motivation and fitness professionals who were competent experts in their field. With the help of a well-planned nutritional program, in only about 4-5 months, I lost 16 kilograms (35 pounds) and returned to the appropriate weight category for my height and age.

While I acknowledge the role of my trainers and my nutritionist, the predominant onus of action obviously was upon me: I had to choose to go to the gym every evening after work (which I still do, albeit at a different gym now); I had to choose to stick to a proper diet; I had to choose to be discriminating about the kinds of food I ate; I had to choose to modify my emotional responses to food in accordance with my conscious decisions.

To be straightforward about it: I was acting rationally. The combined psychological and physical result of practicing rationality was that I was able to gradually detoxify my body, which made it progressively easier to continue eating healthy, staying fit, and maintaining my ideal weight.

In India, we are in the midst of a scorching summer–and particularly in Mumbai, the heat is made worse by the humidity in the air. Even after the sun sets, the air is hot and heavy, with water vapor, smog particles, and dust persistently suspended all around.

Therefore, in such climates, a refreshing chilled drink with lots of ice and flavor is like an image of paradise. I was sitting at Cafe Coffee day this evening, intending to take a glass full of just this kind of paradise. It was a long day at work, I was tired, parched, and hot. Now, It just so happens that the coffee shop was promoting its new Mango-flavored smoothie. The place was drenched with close-up images of yellow liquids in moist, beaded glasses. Their special menu boards had “mango” prominently written all over it. Mango was in the air at Cafe Coffee Day.

So, when the server came up to me to take my order, I said, simply, without conscious effort, and without a second thought:

“One lemon iced-tea please.”

Then I looked around again at all the heavy promotions of that special mango-flavored drink, and I smiled at myself realizing how rationally habituated I had become. 🙂

It’s not that I avoid the bad foods anymore–as a conscious decision. It’s like Howard Roark’s response to Ellsworth Toohey: I simply don’t even think of it.

Posted in General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Personal, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Activism at Work

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: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Government Stimulus During a Recession

Posted by Jerry on May 22, 2008

Question:

While you’re waiting for the free market to correct itself in the event of a depression or a recession, there are real people facing dire situations–going hungry, losing their jobs, struggling to make ends meet, and so on. In such situations of widespread economic crises, shouldn’t we allow at least for a temporary stimulation by the government in the form of investments, bail-outs, jobs, infrastructure projects, etc.? It would only be for the short-term, till the recession or depression is over, and then we can revert to free market normalcy. The problem with the free market is, while it is self-correcting, we can never guess how long or how quickly it might take to rectify a situation; in the meantime, we cannot leave people helpless, jobless, and starving. Can we?

My response:

From all appearances, the above question seems to be focusing on a pragmatic situation–specifically, a concrete economic scenario of nationwide economic depression or recession. The question seems to be about politics and economics and about the role of government. The question implies that it is in agreement with free market capitalism, but wants to allow for some government concessions in times of emergencies.

However, if you carefully consider this question, you will realize that it is actually a question about ethics–philosophy. It is asking about the proper ethical response that society must provide in times of economic crises. This is not primarily a discussion on the concretes of an economic crises but a discussion on the merits of rational egoism.

The question has already conceded the grounds to altruism; it mounts a challenge to rational egoism from the platform of altruism and the terrace of politics. The only proper response to this kind of a question is to offer an ethical alternative to choose from: does one man’s dire suffering morally justify the enslavement or sacrifice of another man? The answer to this will inexorably lead to an answer to the above question.

No amount of need in this world justifies human sacrifice. The only consistently logical foundation for laissez-faire capitalism is the ethics of rational self-interest; no other ethical system can logically justify capitalism without inherent contradictions. Thus, if capitalism is your goal in politics and economics, then rational self-interest in your means to get there. You cannot shortcircuit the ethical means and replace it with altruism and still hope to achieve the goal of capitalism. It just won’t work.

Now, specifically, with regard to those suffering the most during an economic crises, if you discard the hidden assumption that only the government can provide the best aid in such times of need–if you discard the altruistic premise that one man’s need becomes a moral obligation on another man–then you will be open to innovatively imagining how the free market can mobilize enterprising individuals and corporations to voluntarily, generously, perhaps even profitably, help those in dire need until normal conditions are restored.

My friend Dexter once pointed out to me how the Catholic Church–the richest Church in the history of human civilization and the one with the largest membership–is fully funded on a voluntary basis. Every church-goer is a voluntary contributor to the functioning of the mega-monumental church that the Universal Catholic Church is. Think about it: the Catholic Church owns its own country, even! And it manages to control, mobilize, and deploy funds to practically any corner of the globe; and all of that money comes from regular, faithful, individuals who enjoy the value of their religion and their membership in the Church.

Posted in Economics, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Audio: The Absurdity of Libertarianism

Posted by Jerry on May 22, 2008

Since I really can’t find the time to blog, or when I do have the time, can’t find the inclination to sit up and write something, I thought I’d speak into a voice recorder and post that instead!

This is totally experimental, and it’s my first time. So, my recording is very unpolished: I stammer, stutter, ramble, grapple for words, my voice sounds funny, my modulations are whacked, and basically, it all sounds totally ridiculous.

But that’s all I’m willing to give–until I can get myself to write again.

In this recording, I discuss the following:

I find a pleasant coincidence in the topics discussed in Leonard Peikoff’s podcast of May 15.

I talk about my argument with a couple of libertarian friends: their contention was that individual adults should be allowed to murder each other if that is so consensually desired. Of course, one of them was also in favor of pedophilia. They argued that since the government has no place interfering in the private, consensual activities of adults, particularly if it occurs within a person’s private property, the governmen should therefore not interfere in the consensual violation of rights between two adults.

I fully and ferociously disagreed. In the recording, I discuss why and how Objectivism is in agreement with me. Objectivism does not permit even the consensual violation of rights–even if it is on private property. I discuss why and how this is justified.

I also criticize the nebulous, free floating notion of liberty that libertarians hold on to: basically, they just want to be free to do whatever they want, without a care for morality, existence, human nature, reason, or self-esteem.

Click the following link to go to the host site of my recording:

boomp3.com
 

Posted in My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

The Nature of Emergencies

Posted by Jerry on April 2, 2008

When discussing the ethics of emergencies, I have encountered the objection that if a moral system is unable to properly address life-boat scenarios, then the system is at least inadequate if not completely worthless. The argument is that a significant number of people actually do face emergency situations on a daily basis; if a philosophy is unable to address and offer moral prescriptions for such people in such situations, then—effectively—the philosophy has ignored a huge chunk of the human population and is inapplicable to them.

Let us consider the validity of such an objection. Here are some statements that highlight the dire plight and struggles of a large number of people around the world: 

  • Across the world, one child dies every five seconds due to hunger-related causes.
  • Nearly one in three people die prematurely or have disabilities due to malnutrition and calorie defeciencies, according to the World Health Organization.
  • In 2005, about 10.1 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday.
  • 25 million people have died from AIDS, which has caused more than 15 million children to lose at least one parent. Approximately 39.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world.

From the above, one would surmise that the world is indeed in a chronic state of emergency—that human life qua life is essentially always in a chronically anxious and uncertain mode of living. Are we always in an emergency?

This line of thought is grossly fallacious: it confuses the categories of the metaphysical and the empirical or man-made. A given state of affairs in empirical reality does not determine the metaphysical nature of reality. Reality is as is. Human life—by virtue of human free will—often diverges from the norm and ideal of its own nature. For example, while external reality contains and permits no contradictions, human minds and actions often involve contradictory ideas or behavior.

The emergencies faced by a large number of people around the world is a description of the actual state of affairs in the world; in other words, it is am empirical observation. This, however, does not mean that life qua life (in the metaphysical sense) is chronically in a state of emergency. It is meaningless to speak of emergencies without some reference to normality or normal conditions; it is an aberration from normal conditions that is regarded as an emergency. In the context of this discussion, “normal conditions” refers to the identity of reality as it is. Examples of an aberration in reality would be when you face a contradiction due to incorrect premises or irrational actions, or when natural or man-made disasters make nature hostile and threatening to your life.

An emergency situation, therefore, by definition involves a divergence from the normal state of affairs in accordance with the identity of reality. For example, a normal human heart functions in accordance with its identity, i.e., it does what it is metaphysically equipped to do. A malfunctioning heart is an aberration from this normality because its proper functioning is hindered. This creates a state of emergency with regard to the heart.

As a thought-experiment, imagine that 90 percent of the human beings on this planet suffered cardiac arrests at the same time. Would we be philosophically justified in stating that the essential identity of the human heart has now changed? That is, would it make sense to redefine the essential identity of the human heart? Hopefully, this comes across as an absurd suggestion. It is not the number of cardiac arrests that determine the metaphysical nature of the human heart; likewise, it is not the innumerable instances of crises in human lives across the world that determine the metaphysical nature of life and this universe.

Therefore, to claim that human life qua life is always an emergency is to plead for a redefinition of the essential identity of reality and human life. It is not just a particularly sloppy error in thinking but a grossly malevolent perspective on life and reality.

Every moral theory—of any philosophical system—has to rest on a metaphysical view of existence. It has to begin with a set of premises that define the nature of reality and then build a moral theory that prescribes moral actions that will indeed work in such a reality, because it is based on the way in which reality functions.

A moral system cannot be constructed on premises derived from emergency situations because emergencies do not determine or change the metaphysics of reality as such. One example of an emergency situation is wherein no volitional choice by the human agent is possible; therefore, in such a situation, no moral prescriptions can exist as well. However, it is a self-evident fact that we are regularly faced with alternatives in normal conditions and we certainly do make choices; therefore, a moral system must respect and recognize this metaphysical fact in the kind of prescriptions it offers.

Another example of an emergency is wherein a man acts to save the life of another person—perhaps even at the cost of his own life; to apply this as a principle of behavior even in normal state of affairs is to condemn every man to matyrdom—as a sacrificial animal for the other. I hope there is no need to speculate about the consquences of such a moral prescription.

Thus, to fabricate a contorted moral system on the premises of such emergency situations will result in disastrous consequences. A logical system of premises that is based upon the metaphysical nature of reality and human life is the only foundation for a proper code of morality.

Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

On Facebook

Posted by Jerry on March 29, 2008

I have created a new group on Facebook called “Ayn Rand Fans in Mumbai.”

Here is the description I wrote:

I have created a new group–primarily for people in Mumbai, but also open to all fans of Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophy around the world. You are welcome to join and participate in the group. Occassionally, there might be events and socials organized in Mumbai, the details of which will be posted here. A tentative upcoming event I am planning is an Ayn Rand movie festival, showcasing the Oscar nominated documentary “Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life” and the Italian movie “We The Living.

I intend this to be a place for fans of Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophy to meet, network, socialize, and be updated on city events related to the activities of this group.

I intentionally avoided making the group exclusive to Objectivists because I do not want this to be primarily and fundamentally a philosophy group, although the common interest here is largely philosophical–or intellectual. The group is also open to those who admire Rand’s novels but do not have a philosophical bent of mind, including those who properly do not call themselves Objectivists until they fully understand what subscribing to the philosophy entails.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Consistent Irrationality

Posted by Jerry on March 28, 2008

Most people function on a mix of rational and irrational ideas in their lives. There are only two ways you can survive: either you be consistently rational and act accordingly or you allow for instances of irrationality and hope that you will luckily escape the consequences of it or have someone else (usually, the government or rational neighbors) bail you out from the mess of your own creation.

It is only the human mind that can harbor contradictions, because it has free will—and since external reality does not permit such a mix of contradictions, the extent to which a person functions on irrationalities and contradiction, to that extent he is at war with reality.

Religion is fundamentally irrational. To the extent that you practice your religion consistently, it won’t be long before you either seriously or fatally harm yourself or someone else. It is the inescapable nature of reality. Here are just a couple of examples that highlight this principle manifesting in reality (from John Enright’s blog):

An eleven-year old girl is dead because her parents refused to take her to the doctor for a treatable condition. Instead, they chose to pray to god for a healing to occur. When, miraculously, no healing occured, and the child’s condition worsened over 30 days until she eventually succumbed to her death, her parents said that they did not pray with enough faith. Not to accept defeat in their battle against reality, the girl’s mother has now vowed to pray for her daughter’s resurrection:

An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday in Weston, just outside Wausau.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

A very troubling aspect of this story is that the government’s child services division apparently finds nothing alarming about these parents’ behavior and its implications to their three other daughters. The dead child–whose death was directly caused by the faith and irrationality of her parents–has three siblings between the ages of 13 and 16.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

In another account of a battle against reality, a father allegedly placed his infant baby in a microwave oven to burn; his wife explains that her husband was under the influence of Satan, who had taken advantage of a “weak moment.” Through some means, the wife acquired the knowledge that Satan was angry at her husband for choosing to become a Christian preacher. Therefore, Satan compelled her husband to put their infant child in the microwave, shut the door, turn it on, and watch as the baby suffered serious burns.

The wife of this demon-haunted man, however, does admit to an interesting fact:

Mauldin said her husband had a mental disability and her efforts to get him help have failed.

Those who claim that religion is not something to be made fun of are correct in one sense. Religion cannot be taken so lightly as to be made fun of; know that the believers are not taking their religion lightly–and to the degree that they are not, we shouldn’t either, because life hangs in the balance. Religion should be criticized, denounded, and condemned as strongly as the practitioners who practice it hold their faith.

The pernicious death-premise of religion is hardly recognized by even most secular folks and atheists. While the secularists and atheists are content with rejecting religious beliefs, many of them often acknowledge that some people need religion and that religion can certainly provide a path to a virtuous and moral lifestyle. Indeed, many atheists share the same moral code that religion prescribes! Religion is seen as a guide to virtuous living that can be secularized, which is the insidious nature of this form of irrationality—it hides under the garb of universal virtue. 

A majority of people in the world (including many atheists) consider only religious people to be some of the most virtuous people on this planet. Think Teresa of Calcutta. How many people believe that Teresa was lacking in any significant moral virtue? I’d venture to say—very few. How many think she was downright evil?

Do you see my point? 

====

UPDATE: Yahoo! News and the Associated Press have just posted a more detailed account of the 11-year old girl’s death, including interviews with the parents and some relatives. Here are some of the details missing from the original link I posted in my article above:

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl’s mother, Leilani Neumann, said that she and her family believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but that they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors.

She insisted her youngest child, a wiry girl known to wear her straight brown hair in a ponytail, was in good health until recently.

“We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks,” she said Wednesday. “And then just the day before and that day (she died), it suddenly just went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering.”

Her daughter — who hadn’t seen a doctor since she got some shots as a 3-year-old, according to Vergin — had no fever and there was warmth in her body, she said.

The girl’s father, Dale Neumann, a former police officer, said he started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.

Family members elsewhere called authorities to seek help for the girl.

“My sister-in-law, she’s very religious, she believes in faith instead of doctors …,” the girl’s aunt told a sheriff’s dispatcher Sunday afternoon in a call from California. “And she called my mother-in-law today … and she explained to us that she believes her daughter’s in a coma now and she’s relying on faith.”

The dispatcher got more information from the caller and asked whether an ambulance should be sent.

“Please,” the woman replied. “I mean, she’s refusing. She’s going to fight it. … We’ve been trying to get her to take her to the hospital for a week, a few days now.”

The aunt called back with more information on the family’s location, emergency logs show. Family friends also made a 911 call from the home. Police and paramedics arrived within minutes and immediately called for an ambulance that took her to a hospital.

But less than an hour after authorities reached the home, Madeline — a bright student who left public school for home schooling this semester — was declared dead.

She is survived by her parents and three older siblings.

“We are remaining strong for our children,” Leilani Neumann said. “Only our faith in God is giving us strength at this time.”

The Neumanns said they moved from California to a modern, middle-class home in woodsy Weston, just outside Wassau in central Wisconsin, about two years ago to open a coffee shop and be closer to other relatives. A basketball hoop is set up in the driveway.

Leilani Neumann said she and her husband are not worried about the investigation because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”

Posted in Atheism, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

On Romantic Affairs and Sexual Experience

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: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Controlling the Media

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: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Deriving Atheism from Philosophy

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: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Reason Versus Faith

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: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Right to Migrate

Posted by Jerry on March 10, 2008

The right to migrate–that is, to move from one nation or society to another–is a derivative of the right to liberty and the right to own property wherever it is possible. Ultimately, all of these are derived from an individual’s right to his own life. Objectivism upholds a policy of open immigration for America–and not impractically so. It is impossible for a moral principle to be impractical in reality.

The Objective Standard–an Objectivist journal of culture and politics–has a new article on how the moral right to immigrate is not only consonant with individual rights but also fully and consistently practicable in reality. People wrongly associate issues like illegal immigration, over-population, competition in jobs and wages, cultural erosion, and so on as challenges to open immigration. What they do not realize is that these problems arise precisely because the U.S. government rampantly violates human rights by not permitting open immigration and instead legislating arbitrary immigration quotas and ethnic lotteries. 

The article in the Objective Standard explains in detail how current immigration policies give birth to greater security concerns and rights violations than a moral and objective immigration policy. Here is a particularly striking excerpt from the opening paragraphs of the article:

Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should.

And here’s another juicy bit from the article:

America’s border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Immigration Issues, India, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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