Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

We Evolve into Preferring Monogamy

Posted by Jerry on November 20, 2008

People generally can’t quite decide whether monogamy is natural–or even possible–for humans (men, for the most part, I think, tend to pose this doubt). There’s usually debate about the morality of monogamy or multiple partners. Some people believe that monogamy is properly moral, but we are weak-willed humans and therefore cannot live up to the ideal in our relationships.

Others argue that monogamy is unnatural–and offer biologically deterministic arguments in their defense.

I have always held the view that monogamy is neither inherently moral or immoral — a relationship’s morality is the function of the character, values, and virtues of the people involved.

Having said that, I also hold the view that monogamy is a more prudent setup–and that we consciously come to recognize it as such usually only much later in our lives–for reasons that have nothing to do with a person’s character but because of the natural context that evolves around us.

Take this analogy:

When one is younger, one is tempted–and rightly so, I would argue–to try out different majors in college, simultaneously take different courses from different streams, trying to make up one’s mind about what one prefers. Likewise, when it comes to choosing a career, a young person is eager to try different streams; he is likely to switch jobs more frequently, hunt for jobs while staying on his current one for less than a year. A younger person is more open to physical mobility–to relocation, travel, new experiences, and new friends. A younger person has a higher tolerance for transformation, upheavals, and new starts.

As one gets older, the context evolves. People tend to get settled in their careers; their tenure at a job tends to get longer–perhaps even life-long. People tend to decide upon and setup a “base” which they call home, even if they are open to long trips away. People tend to make fewer, but longer-lasting friendships. As one gets older, the tolerance for transformation, upheavals, and new beginnings diminish greatly.

Hence, my argument around the choice of monogamy–and by implication, my views about its morality–takes a similar road. I think it’s primarily a matter of prudence in response to changing contexts.

It is clear that monogamy does not come easily to most people–and certainly not naturally–in the younger days of one’s adulthood. This is due to various reasons that make up the context within which this issue arises. And in my opinion, the reasons are as follows:

  1. For various physical and biological reasons that may differ among men and women, younger people tend to have a greater sexual appetite–not just in terms of frequency but also in terms of variety. (Of course, this does not mean that such “appetites” cannot be controlled or channeled, but that’s not the point here.)
  2. For various psychological reasons, younger people tend to be more resilient to break-ups. Even though while they undergoing one, they might think that a break-up is the end of the world, younger people become quickly aware of the fact that a whole life is ahead of them and that they can move on, that they deserve better, or that they can find another mate.
  3. For reasons similar to the one above, the pressures of maintaining fidelity and abiding by the rules of a relationship tend to be weak among younger people–again, because the end of a relationship is really not the end of the world.
  4. Younger people generally have access to–or are frequently placed in–social environments that open possibilities for exploring outside the relationship (e.g., clubs, colleges, etc.). Moreover, the modern world has opened up innumerable possibilities for younger people to connect with each other–across boundaries, even. (This opens up the tangential issue of whether a person having a purely online affair can be considered to be monogamous.)
  5. Younger people generally have a lower level of tolerance when things don’t go their way in a relationship or when they experience dissatisfaction in an aspect in that relationship.

For the reasons I outlined above, I think monogamy is harder to come by and equally harder to impose upon oneself when you’re young.

As people grow older, however, I think we generally shift our predispositions quite naturally to prefer monogamy–to prefer a kind of stability in romantic relationships. 

It becomes more prudent–more sensible and in accordance with our nature as older adults–that we focus all our emotions, efforts, time, and money on a single partner (and expect likewise in reverse) because this is what lends us the most amount of physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional satisfaction.

To conclude, monogamy or open relationships are neither inherently moral or immoral. However, having said that, I believe that most people will tend towards monogamous relationships later in their lives of their own will as a consciously recognized and evaluated option that is most sensible for them–and hence, properly moral as well. Since what is rationally good for you with your life as the standard, is also properly moral.

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Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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 »

What Can India be Proud Of?

Posted by Jerry on August 14, 2008

The celebration of Indian independence should be more than a record-keeping of years. Yes, it is undeniable that India has progressed appreciably in recent years; however, realize that while India rides on the shoulders of foreign and multinational giants, who lead this march towards prosperity, India simultaneously shackles them under the burden of its contradictory and arbitrary legal dictats. In truth, India’s freedoms are not yet secured; and the greatest threat to it is the Indian government empowered by the Indian Constitution, which is the entire basis upon which this country is founded. We are building castles of concrete and glass upon thin air.

I am reprising an article I wrote sometime around last year’s independence day. The specifics are different now, but the general theme continues to be relevant.

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I find it rather apt that, in the run-up to the day of India’s independence, the nation finds itself embarrassingly servile to the hooliganism of some idiots who sit in the legislatures of this country.

The well-known Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen was attacked by Islamo-loonies at a book launch event here in India, and the only people protecting her were–no, not the police–but the media persons. Nasreen was physically attacked by members of a muslim political party who alleged that her books were insulting to their “prophet” Mohammad. The leader of that muslim political gang demanded that Nasreen’s head be chopped off. Even the most widely read muslim Urdu newspapers faulted the muslim thugs not for attacking the author but–get this–for not having done enough! They wanted her blood.

Carrying pictures of [the muslim party] legislators hurling bouquets [at the author], a newspaper came down heavily on the leaders for allowing her to leave Hyderabad unhurt.
Considered a critic of MIM, the Siasat newspaper lampooned the legislators for their failure to inflict injuries to a woman. The paper suggested that Nasreen could have been killed as the police reached the scene 30 minutes after the attack.

Not to be outdone by this height of vicious irrationality, the Indian police decided to register a case against Miss Nasreen, faulting her for writing a book that stoked communal discord and unrest, while letting the rioting Islamic marauders go scot-free!!

So, as we get closer to the day of India’s independence, we are faced with a political party whose members sit in the people’s house of the Indian parliament; we have a bunch of muslim idiots who get on a brutish rampage against an author and demand that her head be chopped off–a clear and actionable threat that warrants arrest; we have an unarmed, helpless author who had no police protection of any sort; and finally, we have the Indian police registering a criminal case against the author for writing a book, for which she could be imprisoned for up to two years, while those savages who made the actionable threat are roaming the nation free to celebrate India’s independence day.

Is this merely a one-off incident? Most certainly not. Rioting marauders epitomize the Indian democratic machinery at work. In this country, democracy means rioting on the streets, attacking innocent civilians, going on strike every two days, stifling expressions of speech, destroying property, and spreading civil terror. Most of these marauders are religious-political parties, political leaders, and their hired goons. In other words, the very people who pull the levers of this democratic machinery are the ones looting and plundering on the streets.

Political power wielded through violence is the predominant medium of “democratic” expression in this corrupt nation–a nation founded upon a ridiculously long, obtuse, and inept constitution that guarantees no rights to any citizens. Truth be said, Indians should properly have nothing to be proud of about their country–and should rightfully be enraged that this is the case!

If you choose to point out the economic progress achieved over the past 17 years in India, note that it has been achieved mostly despite the mangled laws and institutions of the Indian democracy and predominantly by the willingness of non-Indian investors to take on the high risks of functioning in this chaotic, corrupt system, and persevere in the face of it all.

Indians are being made complacent by the illusion of a sanguine future made possible by the global enterprising system of the free market; however, we are missing the crucial fact that the future of this free market is precarious given the lack of a rights-protecting institutional system. Where there’s an institutionalized political system of force and violence, where the government is itself the perpetrator and idle spectator of violence, there can be no freedom.

What exactly can we claim as the proper achievement of Indians? Certainly not the wealth and prosperity we see today made possible mostly by the foreign entities. The legacy that properly and wholly belongs to Indians is the abject poverty among the masses and the hopelessness of a dim future among the youth that permeated this nation prior to the early 1990s. It is no wonder that all those who could, scrapped every loose rupee to flee India during those years. If we are to be proud of all the 60 years of our independence, we must answer the question why were our parents fleeing the freedom of a newly independent India? What were they running from? Did they not share the sense of pride in a free nation? Were we truly free? Are we still?

Happy 62nd, India.

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Related posts:

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms
The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
Not a Tourist Brochure: India

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Indian Blogs, Islamo-loony, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 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 »

Wealth Buys Happiness–Study Finds

Posted by Jerry on July 1, 2008

As if the Gandhian romanticization of self-sufficient, modest village economy needed any more discrediting, a new study finds that happiness is nicely correlated with economic prosperity:

“the new survey finds people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. And controlling for economic factors, certain types of societies are much happier than others. 

“The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives,” Inglehart said.

A survey released last week found one reason America doesn’t top the list: Baby Boomers are generally miserable compared to other generations. Further, a public opinion poll released by the Pew Research Center in April found that 81 percent of Americans say they believe the country is on the “wrong track.” The response is the most negative in the 25 years pollsters have asked the question. “

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

An Odd Addiction

Posted by Jerry on July 1, 2008

In general, we humans no longer perform back-breaking work in farms, for example; nor do we run on our two feet–with a spear in hand–chasing prey. As a species, we have removed ourselves far away from the direct tasks of survival. We have moved into the phase of flourishment–or survival qua man; i.e., living as appropriate not to “man the animal” but “man the rational animal.”

Actually, it is more accurate to say that the best and brightest among us have ushered the phase of survival qua man for the rest of us humans. Human civilization progresses in the wake of these men of brilliance.

Today, a few taps on the keyboard, a few meetings in plush boardrooms, and a little ride to a high-rise office building ensures our “survival”–it deposits a fat check in our bank accounts. Of course, the leading motive behind all activity today is a sophisticated body of knowledge acquired by our minds. The point is, although reason was always our basic tool of survival, in today’s information age, reason has come to the fore as our most directly used tool of survival.

Reason–like all tools–has to be sharpened, developed, nurtured, and honed over time with repeated use, learning, and development.

When primitive man had to use his physical prowess to chase and kill his prey, he had to ensure that his body was fit for the purpose. Today, we don’t need to use our bodies in such physically demanding roles anymore. Our meat does not come warm, bloody, and fresh after a kill, but cold, frozen, and wrapped after days in transit. Today, we hardly think of our meals as necessary nourishment that sustains our body but as delectable pleasures to please our whimsical palate for the day.

Thus, although we have adapted our minds quickly enough to respond and act effectively in this new age, our bodies–slaves to the sluggish mechanisms of evolution–continue to remain in the state in which our hunting-nomadic ancestors were.

Therefore, I would assume that some level of physical activity–either through sports, dance, or light fitness workouts–are important routines to incorporate into our modern lives. I find it strange that someone would call physical activity “addictive.” This was exactly my reaction when–over the past weekend–someone told me that going to the gym is an “addiction.”

My mind thought: that’s like saying eating is an addiction. And indeed, while gluttony is unrelated to my thoughts, eating is an activity we indulge in very often every day! And never do we think that we are addicted to eating! Likewise, while steroid-induced body-building is unrelated to my thoughts, ensuring that you incorporate a certain level of physical activity on a daily basis is fairly essential to a healthy body in our modern lifestyle. To call this addictive is tantamount to saying that walking is addictive.

There is a rational approach to everything. And then, in corollary, there is an irrational approach that one can adopt towards anything. Like food, fitness and health can be approached either rationally–in which case, you can project how your activity aligns with your goal for a healthy life in the context of the reality you are surrounded in; or irrationally–in which case, you either ignore all needs for physical activity, become indiscriminate about your eating habits, or go overboard in body-building well beyond the reasonable needs of a healthy body.

Thus, to say the least, it is odd to disparagingly call a daily routine of physical fitness an addiction. Quite the opposite, it is a volitional and properly rational act done in the full pursuit of survival qua man. And this is not just my philosophical musings on the subject; I am confident that even medical doctors share the same opinion.

Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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 »

Happy Blog

Posted by Jerry on May 29, 2008

Ted Keer has started a new blog called “Radicals for Happiness.” He’s hosted over at blogspot, but he says he will soon switch over to his own domain; I hope he chooses to host on the WordPress platform.

I was going through some of his posts, and I love–absolutely loved–the following from a post on his site:

North Korean classical pianist Cheol Woong Kim, born in Pyongyang, gave his first performance in America as a free man in Manhattan on May 21st. He had escaped to South Korea in 2003. The New York Sun quotes him as saying “I did not leave North Korea because I was hungry for food, but because I was hungry for music… People do not leave because they know that they deserve food, but because they know that they deserve freedom.”

Posted in General Work/Life, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

Happy Birthday!

Posted by Jerry on May 11, 2008

Sinus Superstar, that is whatch you are!

Happy Birthday, Sinus! 🙂

Posted in General Work/Life, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 5 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 »

Get Crucified in Style

Posted by Jerry on March 20, 2008

On Obloggers, Paul Hsieh alerts us to “some important safety tips for those who plan to be crucified this weekend.” (Lol!)

==Excerpts:

This Holy Week, the thousands of guilt stricken or pious worshippers who will flay the skin off their backs, and the handful who will crucify themselves, are encouraged to get a tetanus shot first and be sure to use a clean whip or nails.

“Getting deep cut wounds during whippings or lashings is inevitable and being so exposed during the course of the penitence, with all the
heat and dust blowing in the wind, welcomes all sorts of infections and bacteria like tetanus,” he explained.

Re-enactments of the Passion of Christ are common in many parts of the mostly Roman Catholic Philippines but frowned upon by the church
authorities.

In San Fernando City 23 people, including two women, have signed up to re-enact the crucifixion at three “improvised Golgothas” around town.
Four of them will use real nails.

The city government’s website trumpets the preparations.

“The City Health Office (CHO) autoclaved all the nails to be used and will administer anti-tetanus vaccine to all the “Cristos” to ensure
their protection from possible infection,” it points out. City officials will conduct an inspection of the Golgothas on Thursday.

Some 23 people, including two women, plan to reenact the crucifixion. The festival is sponsored by Coca-cola and a company called Smart
Telecommunications.

In a break from the original tradition, penitents are encouraged to “bring enough drinking water for the whole course of the pilgrimage to
avoid dehydration, rather than buy bottled drinking water from unfamiliar sources.”

There is also government advice for the many tourists and spectators who attend the events.

“It is also better to bring self-prepared foods such as sandwiches, not only to save money, but also to avoid getting diseases such as
diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid after eating food bought from street vendors,” the health secretary suggested.

============

Just imagine, instead of asking for myrrh, Jesus would have called out for “some Coke please.” WHAT BRAND ENDORSEMENT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN!! Coke would officially have replaced wine in all the chalices of Catholic churches!

Posted in Atheism, Culture, General Work/Life, Humor, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

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 »

 
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