Monday, November 29, 2010

A $6 Billion Fix-America Plan

You read that right, $6 Billion, with a B. In this day and age, that's a drop in the bucket. Hell, with this plan, it virtually pays for itself overnight. On the heels of the addendum to my last entry, here's the plan:

Buy and distribute $20 worth of Ayn Rand books for every man, woman, and child in America. It means buying up about 30 million copies each of the following mass-market paperbacks:

We the Living
The Fountainhead
Atlas Shrugged
For the New Intellectual
The Virtue of Selfishness
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
The Romantic Manifesto
Philosophy: Who Needs It
(we might need double or triple orders of this one)

plus about 15 to 20 million copies each of the following trade paperbacks:

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
Return of the Primitive
The Ayn Rand Lexicon
Letters of Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand Answers
Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
(by Leonard Peikoff)

Just buy 'em up and distribute 'em however they'll make the most impact. Put 'em in libraries, put 'em in schools, just put big stacks of whole boxes of books in spaces where large numbers of people usually gather, wherever. Just get 'em out there. For a mere $6 billion, the results would be fucking mind-blowing.

How could you possibly not get your money's worth with this plan?

(The story behind the "Read Ayn Rand" image here.)

Plan updated here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More From the Anti-Capitalist Mindset

The Distinguished Professor, Brian Leiter, is such an ass. In his own way, he's analogous to or a counterpart to Sarah Palin, who is Too Fucking Stupid to Take Seriously (TFSTTS, or TFS for short). He's close to the archetype of the out-of-touch, arrogant, elitist academic professor of the Humanities. (He's actually a professor of Law first and foremost; as a philosopher it's clear he's an incompetent piece of shit in virtue of his blind and ignorant hatred of any and all things capitalistic. That's right, a piece of shit. A big, fat, ugly, walrus-looking, fucking piece of shit. I'm thinking maybe a hybrid of Balph Eubank and Wesley Mouch. Come the Revolution, he's completely discredited and out of a job qua philosopher-pretender. Thus spake the Ultimate Philosopher.) His latest piece of hatred of the good for being the good mostly quotes from another article. The question: Does Wall Street Produce Anything of Value? (Like I said, a piece of shit who hates the good for being the good.) The Distinguished Professor says, "yes, but not much," according to an assessment he regards as "sensible."

It really makes no difference to this that he's quoting from an "economics reporter" (anyone with common sense should know that this is codeword for "pundit with an econ degree," and pundits are almost uniformly idiots - near-sighted idiots - fucking idiots). Economics reporters get things wrong all the time - which is why there are people out there, smarter than they are, who beat the market and the CW/punditry. Who are those smarter people, exactly? Youuuuu guessed it - the ones hated most by the Leiters of the world. The ones who "owe" the rest of society for their superior mind and vision. And Leiter is fundamentally a dishonest evader at root, picking and choosing which "economics reporter" he decides to find "sensible commentary" from. I mean, isn't it obvious how dishonest and cowardly his whole M.O. is?

Now, what does the pro-capitalist mentality say, in reaction to the higher-than-before salaries commanded by "not very productive" Wall Street people? One thing the capitalism-hating mentality can't seem to get its head anywhere near around, is globalization and its effects. Globalization is like the exact opposite of what the Academy is all about. With globalization, there's no tenure. There's no taxpayer-subsidized intellectual fraud. There's no incentive and reward for stagnation and conformity and ass-kissing. There's only the thing the leftists pathologically fear and hate: the capitalistic process of supply and demand. It is supply and demand that determines prices, including salaries. In an anti-capitalist, globalization-ignorant, economics-ignorant, market-ignorant mindset, it's incomprehensible how the greater Wall Street salaries can be tied to greater economic value.

(Remember that Piece-of-Shit Leiter's intellectual hero is another piece of shit, Karl Marx, who dishonestly promoted the idea that workers are the source of all value and that capitalists are exploiters. One thing about Marx is that he was a loser who mooched off of Engels, and played the victim of capitalists his whole life. Marx also fantasized that capitalism and individualism would be transcended and superseded by communism. What an idiot! One could discern that he was an idiot, well before historical experience discredited him entirely. In the facepalm department, this dishonest idiot still makes the top ten amongst philosophers most cited in the mainstream academic journals.)

If we are forward-looking and visionary - much like capitalists but much unlike tenured academic leftists - we can use the Wall Street People's superior earning-power as an example to emulate rather than one to denounce, denigrate, undercut and hate. We could use their example to learn important lessons. We might do things like discover what underlies this shift in market values from the way they were before, prior to advancing globalization. What this shift tells us is that America and Americans could - given the right leadership and direction - very well play a certain kind of role as globalization inevitably advances further and the developing world becomes industrialized. The role I have in mind is one of extreme profitability: Americans increasingly become like the Wall Street People (though hopefully with a more philosophical and less philistinic mindset than the current crop). In other words, Americans increasingly would fill the job of deciding how investment resources get directed worldwide. America would become more and more like Wall Street itself.

In other words, the average American would become a big-time capitalist, and profit immensely.

Now, whose philosophy do you think would best equip and encourage Americans to take on this role as financiers to the world? Karl Marx's? John Rawls's? Immanuel Kant's? G.W.F. Hegel's? Plato's? (Plato, the proto-communist, the intellectual and spiritual father of all the terrible shit that happens under the banner of philosophy, starting with the wholly arbitrary Forms?) Martin Heidegger's? (Heidegger, the guy who signed onto National Socialism?) Jesus's? Some other major thinker with insidiously anti-individualist, anti-capitalist ideas? Some other mainstream/left academic? Some other intellectual figure out to stifle people by making them feel guilty for making money while others are in need?

Are you fucking kidding me?

This stuff is so slam-dunk, innit?

[ADDENDUM: On tonight's new episode of The Simpsons, Moe remarks that the people of Detroit are "living in Mad Max times." I'd like to propose an experiment: carpet-bomb Detroit . . . with books like Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. I think it could be absolutely mind-blowing just how much difference a good idea can make, even amongst the nation's supposed throwaway-people. Besides, they've been carpet-bombed enough, so to speak, by The Communist Manifesto and A Theory of Justice; why not give the truth a chance for a change? Prediction: Detroit would be a mecca of greatness within a generation. No shittin'! Just gotta think big . . . like a capitalist.]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kudos Again to Greenwald

Greenwald picks apart a Nation article which cast doubts on the authenticity of the "don't touch my junk" guy.

It's almost like reading Ayn Rand dissecting all the conceptual evasions in a run-of-the-mill article of her day (most likely one attacking, undercutting, or impugning good things like capitalism). Outlets like The Nation are left-partisan to begin with, so already there's reason for suspicion, prima facie. Then come all the conceptually sloppy associations, "wonderment" passing as legitimate fact-based observation, etc. Hell, the Nation's smear-piece reads much like your typical hit-piece on Ayn Rand herself. I wouldn't be surprised if the history of the Nation is peppered with all kinds of sloppy, shoddy, awesomely-committed-to-misconception (h/t Michael Herr) references to Rand.

In fact, googling up "the nation ayn rand" brings up this incompetent pile of shit as the first result. See?

Big, Long Sigh

First, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Ayn Rand. The authors of that entry are Neera Badhwar and Roderick Long, who are sympathetic to Ayn Rand, are partly involved with "non-orthodox" segments of the Objectivist movement, and are philosophy professors. This last part should have a Rand fan concerned already. Combined with the middle part, there is even more cause for concern. Why? Because the probability that an academic philosopher - much less one not intimately familiar with Peikoff's lecture courses - would understand Objectivism properly, is exceedingly small. The only ones (who come to mind right off) who do a really good job of coming quite close, are the "Dougs," Rasmussen and Den Uyl. But to do things like write Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand or to understand and integrate the inductive methodology behind that book and courses like Understanding Objectivism, requires many years of immersion and habituation in the philosophy. Outside of this process, it's a crap shoot whether you end up "getting" Objectivism or not.

One thing that the academy of present day simply does not and cannot do is habituate philosophers to think in such a way as to "get" Ayn Rand and the way she thinks. There is simply a fundamental disconnect between the two models. It's like apples and oranges how the two modes of "doing philosophy" happens. If we are intellectual cowards and go by strength in numbers, we'd conclude the academy is where it's at and that Objectivism is some kind of cult-like and sheltered fringe. The academy, meanwhile, emphasizes "rigor" (this carries an inherent danger of "paralysis by analysis" if you don't come at it from a proper methodological context) and peer review, and those are ostensibly good things, but - and I'd have to spend much more time on a longer posting or book chapter to explain all this - these things are applied in such a way as to stifle the development of good things like Rand's ideas. The closest the academy has to exposure to Rand at this point - aside from one prominent book published four years ago (Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics published by Cambridge Press) - is the work of Aristotle. (Speaking of Aristotle, I'm reading Henry B. Veatch's Aristotle: A Contemporary Appreciation. At the time he wrote it - 1974 - the most dominant figures in professional philosophy were Heidegger and Wittgenstein, while Aristotle was just beginning to be looked at by the English-speaking world. Fucking ridiculous!) The current generation of ARI-trained folks going into academia simply could not come out of the academy with their methodological faculties intact, which is why they require the dual-training.

So, getting back to the authors of the Stanford Encyclopedia entry. I encountered this collection of links to a discussion between Profs. Long, Badhwar, Rasmussen and Michael Huemer, a libertarian intuitionist. (Incidentally, intuitionism is a total dead-end. But never mind that, it's a prominent position and it comes from the academy! Yay!) Now, I hardly know Prof. Badhwar; about the most I know is that she contributed articles to the libertarian-friendly Social Philosophy & Policy journal, a leading journal in that area of specialty. (Don't get me started on "area of specialty" or AOS; hell, that alone could explain why the academy as a way of "doing philosophy" is so damaging, by encouraging compartmentalization and paralysis through analysis. For evidence, see the contrast between Rand and Rawls.) I trust she has only the best of intentions and is going on the best of her understanding. But this is simply unacceptable:

Doug is right that the omission of the virtue of practical wisdom from Rand’s discussion is an important one. But I don’t find it surprising: she was not a systematic philosopher, and she omitted to discuss a whole lot of important things, such as generosity, kindness, forgiveness, and charity.

(This is where you're supposed to let out that big, long sigh like I did.)

I just don't know how this shit gets into the mindset of those "analyzing" Rand. I'm sorry, but if - whatever the reasons, whatever the causes - you end up saying things like "Ayn Rand is not a systematic philosopher," you really haven't a clue what you're talking about. You simply are not coming from a proper context of understanding.

One thing about thinking systematically is - seemingly obsessively, but more just a matter of habit and mental organization (see Kubrick for another example) - keeping mental notes about all kinds of concretes and relating them in logical fashion to other instances based on relevant similarities. In this case, I note that we have a "Rand-sympathetic" professional philosopher who doesn't really "get" Rand, who also happens to be the same person to co-author the entry on Ayn Rand at the internet's leading philosophy encyclopedia. To a systematic-integrated mind, this otherwise-unnoticed connection raises red flags. One thing it says is that there is no real effort within the academy as it's currently set up to approach Ayn Rand's writings and ideas on the demanding terms Miss Rand set for her readers. Only a truly corrupt mentality would equate her plainspoken style of writing with such vices as being "simplistic" (I believe Rand identified this as an anti-concept, BTW, but what does she know - she's "simplistic") or unsophisticated. I guess the idea of condensation and essentialization (more Randian buzzwords used in connection with concept-formation, integration, and unit-economy), a process which captures all the original content and applies it to an appropriate (popular) format, means a thinker who isn't "serious" or "rigorous."

(Never mind the eye-opening, free-flowing rigor on display in the ITOE workshops. Never mind that her ideas emerge virtually intact under the rigorous Rasmussen-and-Den-Uyl treatment. One thing you mustn't forget about the ethos of academia: Rasmussen and Den Uyl aren't "prominent" enough for the message to reach the mainstream there. So, in addition to rigor and peer review, you also need prominence and specialization. But those latter can't be all that insidious and corrupting, can they? And if Leiter's views about former UT colleague Tara Smith and her book are any indication, not even prominence helps. Hell, Nozick was prominent. Nozick even gave a biting explanation for why so many academics embrace socialism and oppose capitalism. And even that gets ignored. Rocks the boat too much or something. Boat-rocking is frowned upon as well, and "rightward" political leanings can cost you career-wise. Now there's nothing insidious and corrupting about that, could there be?)

I guess that what I'm trying to say here, is that if Ayn Rand's ideas go under the "rigorous, analytical" microscope according to the present-day academic ethos, prepare for a train wreck. You can start with encyclopedia entries on her by those who seem to understand her by demonstrating a superficial understanding that a legitimate insider can only find inadequate.

Rand and the Academy (as we know it) are fundamentally at odds, and something has to give. I'd even go so far as to question the "infiltrate academia" strategy the ARI has been going with. How do you un-corrupt a corrupt institution? I'm thinking it could only be done from "the outside" - busting the whole system at its root. You can start with how academia these days is funded in large part by taxpayers rather than by a straightforward market process. Alternatively, you could start by noting that "best minds" doesn't mean "best minds in academia," and that a lot of our best minds become rich capitalists whose ethos is way at odds with the academic one (for the reasons Nozick explained). There's no mystery how many of the best minds look at the present state of the academy - the humanities in particular - and throw their hands up in disgust or incomprehension, and move on. This doesn't seem to be a reality that many within that institution have woken up to - hence the intellectual elitism, the insularity, and such. Facepalm.

Anyway, the success of Rand's system of ethics - her individualistic eudaemonism with rationality as the central virtue - in contrast to the trainwreck-theories mulled over for decades on end by the "trained academics," is enough prime facie evidence right there that she's got her act together more than the academy has. That's before you even get to her theory of concepts and - most fundamentally - her (system-oriented) methodology, which will prove the most revolutionary in the end.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Essential Writings of Ayn Rand

As I am (constantly in a process of) organizing mental content, the idea occurred to me that, some day, there will be a "Basic Works" compilation for Ayn Rand like we see with Plato, Aristotle, Kant and other big hitters. So what might a Basic Works of Ayn Rand look like? What constitutes the essentials? The essays Rand wrote that might be considered foundational. Such essays as "The Objectivist Ethics" are prime examples of this. What else might be considered foundational in some important way? I think an essay such as "'Extremism,' or the Art of Smearing" covers certain epistemological essentials even while covering a political topic, so I think it qualifies. But we don't want to start doing the borderline-case, slippery-slope kind of thing, so we need a process of elimination. After such a process, I come down to the following writings:

Part 1: Speeches from the Novels (those excerpted in For the New Intellectual)

Part 2: General Essays on Philosophy
"Philosophy: Who Needs It" (1973) (PWNI)
"Philosophical Detection" (1974) (PWNI)
"For the New Intellectual" (1961) (FTNI)
"Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" (1960) (PWNI)

Part 3: Metaphysics and Epistemology
"The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made" (1973) (PWNI)
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1966-67)

Part 4: Ethics
"The Objectivist Ethics" (1961) (TVOS)
"The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests" (1962) (TVOS)
"Doesn't Life Require Compromise?" (1962) (TVOS)
"Causality Versus Duty" (1970) (PWNI)

Part 5: Politics
"Man's Rights" (1963) (TVOS)
"The Nature of Government" (1963) (TVOS)
"What is Capitalism?" (1965) (CTUI)
"Patents and Copyrights" (1964) (CTUI)
"Conservatism: An Obituary" (1960) (CTUI)
"'Extremism,' or The Art of Smearing" (1964) (CTUI)
"Racism" (1963) (TVOS)
"The Roots of War" (1966) (CTUI)
"The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy'" (1969) (TNL/ROTP)
"Censorship: Local and Express (1973) (PWNI)

Part 6: Aesthetics
First six articles in The Romantic Manifesto plus "The Goal of My Writing" (TRM)
Introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead

Part 7: Essays on American Culture
"Apollo 11" (1969) (TVOR)
"Apollo and Dionysus" (1969-1970) (TNL/ROTP)
"The Comprachicos" (1970) (TNL/ROTP)
"The Age of Envy" (1971) (TNL/ROTP)
"Don't Let It Go" (1971) (PWNI)

I figure such a book would run to about 800 pages total with an index. (Part 1 would be about 140 pages, Part 2 about 90 pages, part 3 about 90 pages, part 4 about 60 pages, part 5 about 130 pages, part 6 about 130 pages, part 7 about 130 pages. That total comes to 770 pages.)

Abbreviation code: CTUI = Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal; FTNI = For the New Intellectual; PWNI = Philosophy: Who Needs It; TNL/ROTP = The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution / Return of the Primitive (rev/updated ed. of The New Left); TRM = The Romantic Manifesto; TVOR = The Voice of Reason; TVOS = The Virtue of Selfishness.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Genius of Glenn Beck

I want to start out by saying that to really "get" Glenn Beck, you have have have to watch his show for yourself over a period of at least a few weeks. (Perhaps this is a rule for immersing yourself in just about anything or anybody.) It simply will not do to rely on the hit-piece style of "quoting" from his show by (probably Soros-supported?) sources. Otherwise, what I say in praise of Beck's show would seem incomprehensible and/or crazy. But his show is some of the most riveting stuff in television; an hour of Beck just flies right on by. You just have to go into it with no preconceptions and get drawn in over time by the core message.

Anyway, to capture this man's genius in a nutshell: on today's show he quotes from a document called the United States Declaration of Independence, thusly:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Then he proceeds to ask: How do you "progress" beyond this principle? "There is no higher principle than this!"

Take that, "progressives" (a.k.a. cowards afraid to identify themselves openly with socialism and/or substance).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's tidbit concerning Rand and Peikoff

In his Art of Thinking course, Peikoff made a crack concerning collaborating with Ayn Rand, "which means taking notes."

The testimony of those on Ayn Rand's intellectual wavelength ("unparalleled genius"; "Mrs. Logic") reminds me very much of people's testimony concerning Stanley Kubrick's thought processes. These two people's minds - Rand's and Kubrick's - were like the smoothest-running engines of cognitive integration, making the seemingly toughest tasks all quite habitual and natural and commonsensical, while everyone else could only try to keep up. It takes years of reality-oriented, focused-on-essentials mental processing to automatize one's cognitive activities at such a true-genius level.

That is all.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Palin: Unqualified. End of Story.

I have posts on the metaphysics of perfection, on where is-ought unity obtains, and on sense-of-life defects in Atlas Shrugged in the queue, and yet I've gotta spend my valuable fucking time addressing something else here.

Sarah Palin is a dingbat. She exercises poor judgment on matters political. She couldn't hack it for more than half a term as governor of Alaska. She's proudly ignorant. She's proudly anti-intellectual. She's incompetent at basic grammar and spelling ("refudiate"). She's unqualified to be president of the United States. She was unqualified two years ago when she ran, and she's unqualified now. Nothing has changed in this regard. It's the same old Sarah Palin. She's demonstrated amply that she refuses or is simply unable to do the work necessary to get or be ready for such a job. She's nothing more than a celebrity these days, riding her name-recognition for all it's worth. She's a phony and a fraud, which alone is enough to disqualify her from the office. She refuses outright to answer any hardball questions from the media. Whenever she is caught off guard with a question from someone and stoops to answer, she makes an ass of herself all over again.

So why in the fuck is Sarah Palin still even a prominent figure in American politics? And why does the GOP establishment run around like panicked pragmatistic cowards trying to contain the Palin Phenomenon? Since political operatives tend to be so anti-ideas (it's essentially not about ideas but about strategy - basically, Machiavellianism and narcissism), they have no clue at all how to contain it. To those embroiled in the political cesspool, the Palin Phenomenon is a given, something that simply cannot be beaten down because her following is so rabid and willing to believe pretty much anything.

Given that context, the political establishment cannot even wrap its puny intellectual capacities around the glaringly obvious fact that she is unqualified to be president. What's the upshot of the intellectual mess here? A concern that she is unelectable. They are apparently incapable or unwilling to address the core fundamental problem, which is her lack of qualifications. Almost no one in the lamestream media seems able or willing to address this very point in the necessary bold and clear terms. The only name that comes to mind is Keith Olbermann, and he has a "boy who cries wolf" problem anyway, while his ratings and audience are disgruntled-left-focused. The only other place you get a rational Palin-is-unqualified analysis is Sullivan's Daily Dish.

Sullivan specializes in shooting GOP fish in a barrel, see. He's really good at that, seeing as he's a political wonk and in a similar trap of confronting Palin as a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of sorts. Sullivan, being ignorant of Ayn Rand, hasn't the faintest how to deal with this phenomenon at a deeper, wider and long-term level. But at least he identifies Palin as thoroughly unqualified and thoroughly lacking in any credibility whatsoever. That part he's obsessively gotten right for two years and counting.

So why won't anyone but a couple lone voices in the media-political establishment call out this fucking farce for what it is? I mean, it's a plainly obvious fact to anyone capable of even semi-principled integration that she's way out of her depth qualifications-wise. Then again, it should be plainly obvious to anyone capable of even semi-principled integration that the whole political scene today is a circus of insanity, or that Ayn Rand offers the appropriate long-term intellectual solutions to what ails Americans individually and collectively. Only a small minority of people - mostly those deeply familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas - seem able to recognize the problem and the solution.

Absent such an engine of cognitive integration, you're at the mercy of the outside forces that are a seeming given. Just the very idea of Palin having a roughly 20% shot at the 2012 nomination is a kind of uncertainty that a rational polity shouldn't and wouldn't be subject to. So the conclusion to draw here is that we simply don't have a rational polity right now. Not rational in any deep and fundamental sense. Maybe at some superficial social-scientific pragmatistic "rational irrationality" level, what we do have is a rational polity. What democratic polity isn't rational by such a standard?

Back to the fucking Republicans. Their chief concern seems to be her electability, as no prominent Republican has the guts to call it like it is concerning her being unqualified. Everyone with a lick of common sense knows that the GOP would be all over a Democrat candidate so lacking in qualifications. Say it's not even a matter of guts, but plain old intellectual recognition. Are they so lacking in that? They may very well be. Politics today is so extremely cynical and anti-intellectual as it is (this comes from a pragmatistic orientation towards life), so such a lack of recognition would not be surprising in the least. Whatever the causes, we're left with a totally pathetic GOP reduced to the complaint that she is unelectable, and what's more - anti-concept alert! - she's "polarizing" and "extreme." Ayn Rand is so prescient on these things. This is also to say that the reason for, scratch that, the cause of Palin's popularity is intellectual disintegration. A polity incapable of recognizing the more fundamental underlying problem - not just that she is patently unqualified, but how someone patently unqualified has any place of prominence in the world's most significant polity - has much bigger problems than whether some dingbat is electable or too "polarizing" or "extreme."

At this point, there's really nothing further to be said. An unqualified dingbat has prominence of place in our insane politics because our insane politics is the product of intellectual disintegration. Perhaps the intellectual elements in our society had better get past their issues/phobias and consider a paradigm shift by seriously considering Ayn Rand's consistently-reason-based, pro-integration alternative. Just maybe?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Peikoff vs. McCaskey

Well, I'm prepared to admit a bit of an egg-on-face problem in light of Peikoff's explanation for the "split" with McCaskey.

One thing to mention as a matter of my context, was the impression that his released email criticizing McCaskey was a "last word" type of thing on the subject - a policy he adopted with respect to David Kelley upon publishing "Fact and Value." (I'm still disappointed with how the Kelley-split thing was handled, probably by a good number of those involved.) I'd also like to mention how Peikoff's statements of this sort come off in sense-of-life terms: a sense of needlessly contemptuous tone. The same tone drags down the ability of his magnum opus, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, to engage most effectively with a normal reader. It comes across in Rand's writings at times as well. (I'm not yet through with my multi-part explanation of my sense-of-life differences with Atlas Shrugged.) But one thing I simply don't have is a personal acquaintance with Leonard Peikoff, and such a personal-level acquaintance tends to help in situations such as this.

Further, a general epistemic lesson to take away from this is to consider that a wider context may well exist where we haven't heard "definitively" from both sides of a dispute. Just imagine watching a court case and forming a judgment based only on what the prosecution said. This lesson is particularly crucial when applied to the Rand/Branden break, where all kinds of people (myself included) drew conclusions about Ayn Rand based on distorted and one-sided accounts from the Brandens themselves without having seen/read/heard Rand's side of things (again, having been under the impression that "To Whom it May Concern" was Rand's "final" statement on the matter . . . which actually meant Branden getting off easy considering that the truly reprehensible nature of his misdeeds remained hidden from the public until James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics).

Anyway, for what it's worth, before I (just now) became aware of Peikoff's statement on the McCaskey matter, I had already purchased David Harriman's The Logical Leap, and Peikoff's The Art of Thinking course (one of the lecture courses from Peikoff's age 50-60 prime-period I hadn't heard yet) is already on its way. The more I study these two individuals - Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff - the more it keeps coming together and making total sense. Still not sold on all the (ultra-contemptuous) "Kant is evil" polemics, but I'm almost grasping the full context in which some of these polemics were formed. And her theory of concepts as inductive generalizations - the center of it all, the thing that really matters most in the end, long-term - is effing brilliant and cements Rand's place alongside Aristotle as the greatest philosopher to date. When Rand commends Peikoff for his ability to communicate Objectivist ideas "superlatively" (her word), there's no shittin' about it: he knows his Objectivism pretty much as well as anyone alive. (For whatever reason, Branden pretty fell off the map in this area; his theory-practice integration dropped through the floor, he indicates a failure to understand Objectivism by projecting his own psychological issues onto Objectivism's theoretical structure, and he hasn't produced anything like Peikoff's lecture courses since the Break. Just as with his relation to Rand, the Philosopher outlasts the Psychotherapist.) (Meanwhile, I'm the leading authority on the next level/integration beyond Objectivism: Perfectionism.) As his Understanding Objectivism course essentially established, the Objectivist methodology - the center of it all - is pretty much invincible, having to be invoked in order to be attacked. Once you account for how concepts (our means of grasping reality) are formed objectively, the rest falls into place.

(Damn, if only an in-fashion socialist had come up with the measurement-omission account, the academy would have lapped it all up already. But then again, the kind of integration it took to arrive at the theory of concepts is the same kind of integration involved in recognizing the truth of the moral rightness of capitalism. Hell, just to recognize this point requires an appreciation of and good job integrating the method. I ask again, as I did the other day, do present-day mainstream academic philosophers even know what "integration" means? By the way, there is ample justification for Rand's contempt towards the "academic model," a model drenched in social metaphysics. The contempt here seems quite mutual; they don't like her and she didn't like them. Of course, by a number of indicators, the academy isn't stuck in quite as big a pile of shit as it was mid-20th-century; the ascendancy of Aristotle - kinda hard to stop that juggernaut, innit? - and the relative decline of assholes like Marx and other socialists has surely added to the conceptual clarity going on there. And Rand is getting some traction in the area of ethics without any meaningful criticism in opposition, as well. Let's not forget about that.)

Speaking of integration, I'm still trying to integrate what Peikoff is doing bringing up his "stature" in the Objectivist movement in these kinds of disputes. Again, Peikoff does note that his comments in the email presupposed a context shared amongst all the recipients. Still, there's something "off" about it, perhaps part of the same tone that comes off (sense-of-life-wise) as so contemptuous. Anyway, I've got bigger fish to fry than spending a lot of time focusing on this stuff. I look forward to listening to his course, reading the Harriman book, and integrating it all as need be into my forthcoming treatise. This thing needs to come out of the starting gate full-speed with bases amply covered, see.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama vs. American exceptionalism?

Sullivan tears the GOP media establishment another asshole. Nice to see Sullivan in top form; if he kept that up consistently he'd be a Perfectionist!

Nonetheless, what's the Machiavellian Obama doing, setting himself up for such easy political smearing like that? Could it be his please-everyone pragmatism? What's the point of the first sentence in his response about exceptionalism, the one easily and readily exploited by an unscrupulous partisan media-political machine? Also, why doesn't Obama praise individualism and capitalism as central to America's greatness? He cites nebulous "core values" to America such as democracy (yay!) and the rule of law (yay!) and free speech (yay!) and equality (yay?), but nowhere do I see the words "capitalism" or "individualism". Why not? Is he afraid to declare these as the core principles? Is he ignorant of their being core principles? Would the boundlessly-intellectually-curious Jefferson, were he President today, aware of the obvious similarities between his worldview and Ayn Rand's, be so goddamn ignorant and/or fearful?

This does raise a core and fundamental question of the matter: with the likes of Obama as president, why should America be considered exceptional? How do we stand out, and in virtue of what? Is it in virtue of pragmatism and lack of intellectual curiosity and ignorance of moral individualism and capitalism? Obama only touches upon the principle when he says that only in America could a story like his happen. Why does he fail to explicitly and clearly identify the principle? He says America is exceptional, but doesn't really explain why in fundamentally convincing terms. Had he known a thing or two about Ayn Rand, he would know that by making watered-down and vague explanations for American exceptionalism, he fails to be convincing. People don't respond in fundamental sense-of-life terms to vagueness and pragmatism; they respond to clarity, principle and boldness. Upholding "free speech" as a principle without tying such a value to a more fundamental explanation of its rightness, is just to mouth an empty platitude. This is pretty typical for pragmatistic politicians, but not typical for great leaders (such as Jefferson). (As a pragmatistic politician with no fundamental understanding of what makes America great - and this lack of fundamental understanding is conveyed in conscious and subconscious ways to his audience - Obama actually represents something that should be repellent to his intellectually liberal supporters: a variant of anti-intellectualism. So much for the myth - initially a hope - that he could transcend the anti-intellectualism so pervasive in our politics.)

So, why does Sullivan fail to notice all this, in his smaller-fry campaign of taking shots at a right-wing media machine, as delicious as those shots might be? I mean, c'mon, if you're gonna shoot fish in a barrel, why not do so in regard to Karl Marx and John Rawls rather than nonentities like Charles Krauthammer or Rich "Little Starbursts" Lowry? Lowry? Really?

Justice vs. Force

From poll answers provided by Allen Wood, a Stanford philosophy professor and leading Kant scholar:

My real position could be accurately described as 'anti-hyperinegalitarianism'. But given the obscene inequalities we have in the actual world, this is close to egalitarianism,

Um . . . well, the Ultimate Philosophical Retort to this more or less academic-mainstream view is, "How are the inequalities obscene?"

One simple but fundamental error in current-day mainstream moral and political philosophy (that is, unless A. John Simmons represents some kind of silent libertarian mainstream, but I kind of doubt it) is the confusion of matters of justice with matters of what rights people have. Rawls's Theory of Justice is focused almost exclusively with how coercive institutions ought to deal with questions of both liberty and equality. The stolen assumption here is that institutions ought to be coercive at all.

Okay, let's imagine a eudaemonistic culture. Eudaemonism is concerned with self-actualization and the conditions required for such. Those conditions are, first and foremost, the agent's own moral dispositions, and then things like good upbringing and education, a minimally supportive culture, having basic needs fulfilled and . . . freedom (to exercise one's capacities, as a necessary constitutive element of eudaemonia). Equality hardly enters into the picture at all except in minimal legal terms (i.e., equality under the law). But take the core concern here that a left-liberal might share: the importance of fulfilling the conditions under which people can flourish. Ensuring that basic needs are met is part of that moral vision. So let's just posit this plausible assumption: a eudaemonistic culture is one in which people are concerned that the basic needs of people are met.

Now, where is force supposed to enter this picture? If a theory of "social" justice is about "what human beings owe to one another" as a matter of basic human decency, that's all fine and good. How does that translate into a prescription that people or a polity engage in force to see to it that these obligations are fulfilled? It's a complete non sequitur.

The basic rational principle of political governance is that it secures logically prior rights, i.e., that it secures the conditions of freedom under which people can flourish. Protecting freedom is the only proper concern of government. Matters of "obscene" inequalities are a moral concern that people in non-coercive organizations have every right (and duty, if we're really dealing with moral obscenity) to address. The paradigm that absolutely has to be tossed out here, however, is the force-is-acceptable paradigm. It's an age-old paradigm used and applied across the ages where human beings as a species hadn't reached a high-enough stage of enlightenment to recognize the evil of using force against rational beings.

(As far as moral obscenity goes, let's not buy into the floating, irrational egalitarian notion that the social problem to be concerned with is inequality per se. There is no rational moral principle underlying any such concern. As some version of eudaemonistic ethics is the only rational underpinning for any social-political ethics, the proper focus of concern here is not inequality but rather whether the requisite conditions for self-actualization have been fulfilled. Equality or inequality plays no significant role in this analysis. To decry, say, starvation in the Third World as a moral obscenity is not to decry it on grounds of inequality. I do keep in mind Prof. Wood's hedge here; maybe he's not advancing his concern for moral obscenity on such irrational grounds as egalitarianism, but rather on grounds having to do with meeting basic conditions for self-actualization in light of current disparities that supposedly can [only?] be addressed through political means.)

What we should seriously consider as philosophers is whether the coercive state is anathema to (eudaemonistic) moral values, even and perhaps especially including the socially-oriented concern that the basic conditions for self-actualization are met. To say that good people ought to do certain things or provide such-and-such conditions for one another as a matter of justice, is not to say that the coercive state is the means by which people get (i.e., make, through force) one another to respect the demands of justice.

My "force is evil" view might be labeled or lumped into the cluster of views known as "philosophical anarchism." If that means, simply, that people ought not to use force against one another, then "philosophical anarchism" is the only acceptable social-political position and, frankly, the only one that common-sense analysis leads to. The basic social principle I endorse is that no one has the right to initiate physical force against anyone else, and that any social institution must respect individual rights; a social institution calling itself government isn't exempt from such a requirement. Government, like any other social institution, should be based only on the consent of the participants involved.

The scheme of voluntary communities envisioned by Nozick in "A Framework for Utopia" (the last chapter of Anarchy, State, and Utopia) is much like what I have in mind. Unlike Nozick, however, I have a broader moral vision to offer which makes a plausible road to "utopia" so much as realistically possible: a society in which eudaemonistic values are widespread is a society in which (a) people tend to be a lot more appreciative of the requirements of self-actualization and are therefore more empathetic and peaceful and (b) a society where the institution of government becomes (perhaps radically) transformed from government as we know it today.

Suppose, for instance, that the mindset that made "Galt's Gulch" possible is so widespread, and the success of such a model so compelling, that government functions amount to the functions performed by Judge Narragansett in the valley. Ayn Rand firmly denied that she was an anarchist, but the model of governance entailed by widespread acceptance and application of her moral ideals meets the social conditions demanded by the self-styled anarchists (excepting perhaps the left-anarchists, unless they really wouldn't mind the productive geniuses going off to form their own capitalistic societies, in which case the left-anarchists' desire for peace exceeds their desire to interfere with capitalist acts amongst consenting adults). The essential aspect of government in Rand's definition is the exclusive power to enforce laws in a defined geographical area, as a necessary prerequisite to the Rule of Law. That sounds consistent with the requirement that all governments must be based entirely on the consent of the governed and where the model of governance is not unlike the minimalistic dispute-resolution functions provided by an effective legal apparatus as was the case in the Gulch.

Doesn't this vision of a good society offer a lot more to inspire people than a force-based quasi-egalitarian vision does?

One thing entailed in this vision is that politics as we know it (and politicians as we know them) can be a thing of the past. No longer would we entrust our concerns about justice (or other things) to the fucking sociopathic narcissists running governments these days. No longer would we entrust these narcissists with coercive powers over our activities. How we interact with one another would no longer be a matter of how to employ force but how to get on with the task of flourishing (which includes taking an interest in the flourishing of others). Provisions of welfare goods thereby would become, properly, a matter of ethics rather than politics. Sounds to me that Ayn Rand identified the issues here at a greater level of fundamentality than Rawls did, ergo Rand > Rawls. Duh.

The Trolley Problem

(Thoughts that occur as I look through some of the answers and analyses of the answers in a philosophers' poll.)

How would Ayn Rand answer "the Trolley Problem"? My inclination is to think she would ask for any real-world scenario in history that comes remotely close to resembling such a scenario. She was concrete-oriented that way. In terms of general principles - not to be confused with a rationalistic "top-down" approach which takes such a scenario as a "good test" of some abstract principle that may or may not have been derived rationally and properly - her approach is indicated in "The Ethics of Emergencies." The Trolley Problem would fit the definition of an emergency situation as well as any. So what's the right answer? Is there a right answer?

Philosophers of the "mainstream" variety like to use such hypotheticals to challenge either moral theories or moral intuitions or both. What do our intuitions on this say? "Intuition" seems like a euphemism for "common sense," and common sense tends to be a highly reliable indicator of at least being on the right track. (I like to think of Aristotelian and Randian philosophy as common sense carried through consistently and to the extreme.) Common sense would say that faced with such a scenario - and the scenario stipulates that one's actions affect strangers of an indistinct age, gender, intelligence, etc. - you "do the numbers" and flip the switch (resulting in one death as opposed to five).

Now, the question of interest to philosophers is whether doing the numbers validates utilitarianism as the ruling paradigm of moral reasoning.

Isn't that a bit insane? Isn't that more than a bit insane? What kind of philosophic/epistemic methodology leads one to such a conclusion? What if utilitarianism gets its appeal mainly from applying the ethics of emergencies to normal real-world scenarios? And that gets us back to the original question: what real-world historical scenario resembles the Trolley Problem? We need a theory we can apply to the real world and not just to a hypothetical scenario that may or may not resemble the real world.

My (and Rand's, and Aristotle's) moral theory is an individualistic eudaemonism, which would fall quite squarely into the "virtue ethics" category. Eudaemonism tends not to concern itself with such questions as what to do in a Trolley Scenario, but rather with what it takes to live a good human life. So ultimately what it comes down to is what decision is constitutive of the agent's living well as a rational animal. The broad principle is covered quite well in "The Ethics of Emergencies," and the broad principle aligns very closely with a common-sense orientation toward the world. Common sense dictates, without knowing anything about the people involved, without being provided any alternative to either one or five people dying, etc., that you flip the switch and save four lives. That seems to be the reasoning a eudaemonic agent goes through in such a situation. It looks like the decision a person trying to live the best life they can would reluctantly make.

But what bearing does that have on the way a eudaemonic individual lives his life generally? We get back to the real world and ask what scenarios look like that. I'll just throw this one out there as it seems like as good a concrete as any: the decision to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here we have political leaders faced with two basic alternatives, under the assumption that the Japanese army and its leadership are all brainwashed (much like the Nazis) and won't surrender peacefully: Drop the big bad radiation-spewing bombs, or go through a protracted invasion with much greater loss of life, especially of American life. Faced with such an alternative, what do you do? The American leaders "ran the numbers" and decided it definitely wasn't worth the cost in lives, especially in American lives. The real, main issue is what got these countries into such a fucking crazy scenario to begin with. But given the craziness of the scenario, the nukes - with all their own associated horrific effects - looked like the least-worst option. It so happens that no nukes have been used in wartime since. Coincidence? It also so happens that the leading nations of the world haven't gotten themselves into such a crazy fucking situation to begin with since then. Coincidence?

(Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove highlighted the fucking craziness of it all, and there hasn't been a nuclear showdown anything like the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis since that time. Coincidence?)

Okay, so we have a real-world scenario that kind-of resembles the Trolley one, and best as I can tell, eudaemonistic ethics emerges essentially intact, so what do we learn from the Trolley Problem? Why do "mainstream" philosophers obsess over such things? (It so happens that those philosophers most associated with the problem, Philippa Foot and Judith Thomson, are among the best of "the mainstream," so perhaps the main upshot was to highlight the inadequacy of deontology and consequentialism as ethical theories, or maybe better yet, how incompetent but influential philosophers have used these theories in all kinds of counter-intuitive ways. Long story short, the answers these theories or their proponents are likely to give in such a situation are counter-intuitive. I don't find that to be surprising at all. These moral theories are rationalistic constructions that don't gel with common sense. Foot, however, was a virtue ethicist. Coincidence? I don't think so, seeing as how eudaemonism does everything an ethical theory is supposed to do.) Perhaps the "mainstream" obsesses on such matters because of bad philosophical methodology, i.e., bad epistemology. This would not be any surprise, seeing as how "mainstream (academic) philosophy" has become so specialized and so compartmentalized that epistemological issues hardly enter into the picture amongst the mainstream moral theorists.

We already know that to be the case when it came to the most influential mainstream moral philosopher of our times, John Rawls.

But seeing as how the Trolley Problem is, at the most fundamental root, about philosophical methodology (i.e., epistemology), how do you really answer it without doing all the appropriate background integrations to begin with. How on fucking earth do you approach any such problem (much less any other problem) without having done the appropriate background integrations (which include a high regard for common sense)? In other words, how does the mainstream of contemporary moral philosophy deliver anything but epistemic paralysis, short of becoming thoroughly familiar with proper principles of epistemology? Do these mainstream academic philosophers even really know what the word "integration" means?

Seriously, do they?

(Hint: During the course of 2 years of graduate study at what was, at the time, a leading program in moral and political philosophy, I don't think I ever heard the word "integration" once. Maybe in effect during my course in ancient philosophy given by a prominent Aristotelian-Randian, I did. Aristotle's hylomorphic theory of the soul was a big focus there, and that's basically all about integration without using the word. But it's doubtful all that many contemporary academic moral philosophers understand the epistemic implications of Aristotle's approach to the soul much less anything else. If they did, the world of academic philosophy wouldn't be mired in such a bog of shit, for one thing, and it would be all familiar with Ayn Rand's theory of concepts for another. So, no, the academic mainstream really hasn't the faintest what "integration" really means. Note: it's not the same thing as Rawslian "integration" - read: laughable attempt at reconciliation - of rational and irrational moral positions.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dallas Cowboys Fire Head Coach

FOX News's Shep Smith reports that after the 45-7 trouncing at the hands of the Green Bay Packers (not too unlike the 41-7 dismantling of the Seahawks at the hands of the Giants to which I was a dark-humored observer yesterday), the Cowboys have fired their head coach.

A few facts here:

(1) This was FOX News
(2) I'm the self-styled Ultimate Philosopher
(3) I'm watching a lot of FOX News lately
(4) Earlier in the show Shep was interviewing Judge Napolitano on Bush and Cheney's, scratch that, Obama's, unconstitutional abuse of presidential authority (see Glenn Greenwald's blog for details).
(5) The Ultimate Philosopher is especially observant
(6) The typical cable-news viewer is not especially observant
(7) The Ultimate Philosopher is not your typical cable news viewer

Now, the Ultimate Philosopher poses a question: Is FOX News's Shep Smith reporting on the firing of the Dallas Cowboys head coach as a significant news item a sign of the Apocalype, or a sign that if that's the most significant thing to report, then things must be pretty darn good these days? Also, how does that integrate with FOX's apparent duplicity with respect to presidential abuses of power depending on whether the schmuck in question has a (R) or (D) after his name? Finally, what does the Ultimate Philosopher's watching a lot of FOX News portend?

More from the Facepalm Dept.

By way of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter's highly bigoted America-hating blog, a link to this more or less typical anti-capitalist, anti-rights whining. A perceptive reader notices the following failures of cognition:

(1) The zero-sum, fixed-pie mentality.

(2) No attempt to identify the underlying cause of increased inequality in the United States. Part of this has to do with how to measure income (more income is being taken in the form of benefits, particularly health insurance). Ask an economist, and the answer is more likely to be that globalization has caused a shifting in incomes. From the global vantage point, speaking of increasing inequality in one country is a massive context-drop. So, we have here a failure to identify cause and context.

(3) No recognition of any principle whatsoever, such as the absolute right of private property; perhaps the only principle involved is, "More equality good, greater inequality bad." Good luck in trying to ground any such principle. The highest court of appeal in this screwed-up mindset is Rawls's Theory of Justice, which is ultimately against groundings (since Rawls's theory is consensus-obsessed, and it's a given in such an approach that people cannot agree on groundings, such as the absolute human requirement to be free to create, earn and keep the product of one's own efforts).

(4) Focused on solutions that don't promote growth and initiative and expanding the pie, but rather on how to redistribute the pie. This follows more or less naturally from point (1). The fucking "liberal" socialists don't have any idea how to expand the pie, which has approximately 100 percent to do with individual initiative. Any policy should therefore be oriented towards actualizing individual initiative, and punishing success through force doesn't seem like a good way of doing that. Then again, I'm not a pragmatism-eaten economist, so I don't usually analyze policies in terms of "desirable" (read: consensus-wanted) results.

(5) A (quasi-?) Keynesian tenet whereby tax cuts going to the wealthy don't stimulate growth because "they don't go out and spend the money" the way the poor do. So whether or not you deserve to keep the products of your own talents, efforts and initiative depends on whether some fucking coercive policymaker in Washington determines whether you're going to "spend" the money rightly. Do keep in mind Keynes's axiomatic dictum for the pragmatism-eaten mindset: "In the long run we are all dead." Apparently, tax reductions for the wealthy just go into some unproductive bank account. Of course, then again, maybe those extra funds go into productive investments where the highest return is going to be had. Apparently those higher returns come from various developing countries with higher rates of economic growth. That would "exacerbate" the inequality right here at home, since these investments benefit the businesses and workers abroad, less so here at home. But this concerns underlying causes that the fucking liberals with their pragmatistic refusal to deal with underlying causes (that's "metaphysics" and nonsense) rarely if ever get into. That would require consulting the economists, and the economists have had this tendency to be a lot more pro-capitalist than the fucking liberals and socialists have been. I wonder why?

(6) Apparently, it's better to let fucking politicians, bureaucrats, public employees unions, and all their ilk decide how economic resources are to be directed, than to leave those decisions to the Evil Rich who got that way by . . . you guessed it, doing a better job deciding how economic resources are to be directed than everyone else did. But as we all realize by now, success in directing economic resources to their most profitable and productive lines is something that should be punished so that the fucking politicians can redistribute things more evenly and the American economy can stagnate more relative to the rest of the world.

(7) Stagnationism, not growth, as the basis for policy. This more or less sums up all the previous points. See also Nathaniel Branden's article, "The Divine Right of Stagnation," in The Virtue of Selfishness.

(8) America is a rotten place according to the fucking "liberal" socialists, so much so that people must be miserable living here. That's why so many immigrants come here to work, save, and invest. By the way, poor immigrants coming here just adds to the percentage of poor here in the country, which is Bad. Also, see point (7), where the basic mindset is that of stasis and stagnation. The poor immigrants coming here must be the same poor that come here five years from now.

Fact is, America is amazingly rich on average (or median); the only real issue here is how we Americans capitalize upon this great advantage. Sitting around like a bunch of whiny defeatists complaining about people making a lot of wealth is just not going to cut it here. What we absolutely need to do here, is to adopt the mentality of growth, i.e., of capitalism. What this entails is a rather new, scary, and initially-disorienting perspective: that Americans could become a huge rich capitalistic "class" (do please keep in mind how the term "class" is totally abused, applied totally out of context, basically undefined, etc. by the fucking Marxism-eaten "liberal" socialists) for the whole world. That would require a lot of Americans taking on the mentality of ownership rather than of stagnation in its various manifestations. Now, if we're defeatists, and pragmatists, and traditionalists, the argument is that "this can't be done." Why? Because it would be hard? Would it be too hard? Perhaps it would be too hard for people deeply embedded and devoted to a mentality of stagnation and weakness, e.g., many in the Democrat voting base.

But (a) we shouldn't tailor policy or rights-theory to that mentality and (b) it really isn't that hopeless a situation. Growth can happen in many amazing and unexpected ways if you just foster the right conditions for it. Fostering a zero-sum, fixed-pie, envy-eaten, whiner mentality is not the way to do it. Fostering a radically capitalistic, individualistic, pro-strength, pro-independent-thought mindset is the key. Likening the United States of America to a banana republic is such a failure of cognition that it's, sadly, telling how it receives prominence of place in our leading news outlets.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Facepalm Dept....

(Surprisingly enough, not from the Leiter Hate Factory this time.)

National Review is still in the intellectual shitter 50 years later with respect to all the hate/fear/ignorance directed towards Ayn Rand. This hit-piece isn't as world-historically bad as the Chambers review, of course, but has "conservatism" really been this stagnant, for 50 whole years? Well, of course it has been! "Conservatism" is essentially defined by stagnation. It's a fitting counterpart to the "liberals'" do-everything-half-assed pragmatism, innit?