Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekend Update

I'll start with one bit of good news: I feel quite rested, and that's a beautiful thing.

A dream I had before waking: I don't know all the details, but the home team had a something-and-goal at the 1-yard line. I don't think I was quarterback. I'm pretty sure I was running back. The QB was maybe a Cam Newton type, but I just don't know that for sure. Anyway, QB hands off to yours truly, and a sneak the ball in for a TOUCHDOWNNNN!!!!! I risk thousands of pounds of bodies piling up on me as I cross the goal line, but our team's training prepared us well for all that. I have no idea what stage of the game this was, but it meant great progress for the home team. I have little expertise when it comes to the psychology of dream states, but I hear that they can involve re-creations or integrations of past experiences, as well as a sort of mental prep for future scenarios. If that's the case, then I rather liked this particular dream sequence.

Here's hoping that all of us have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend! :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Update on the Perfectivism Saga

I originally planned my project as a book looking at the similarities between Ayn Rand and David L. Norton's ethical individualisms or eudaemonisms. The whole project has led to something way more than I had ever expected, of which a book would only be a part. Some readers of this blog may already know that I have roughly 20,000 words or 50ish pages' worth of manuscript, all in first rough draft form, composed in December of last year. It covers approximately 3 chapters' worth of material; the first chapter, which at the time I titled "Perfectionism," is a basic introduction to the idea I'm aiming at. Depending on the vibe I get I may post the first chapter here as preview for the public as well as prospective agents or publishers. But I just haven't figured that part out yet.

The good thing is that things have been getting back to a more even keel than they were a few days ago, but a number of things have also been keeping me on edge. So if there doesn't look like there's much activity going on in this blog, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of progress going on. One pleasing aspect to all this is just how efficiently things have been moving along. "It's taken a hell of a lot of doing to get here, but it's been worth it." (Don't know who might have said that before and in what forms.) As time, interest, and what-have-you permit, I may take part in philosophy discussion over on reddit, but I really have quite a lot on my plate right now. It's all about prioritizing at this point. Shout-outs to all my for-real friends and others enjoying the ride. This really has been a most mind-blowing experience for me. :-)

[ADDENDUM: Just in the past few days, I've been adding names to the "perfectivism honor roll" along with Rand, Mises, et al, and the number of names keeps on expanding at a brisk pace. I'm having a tough time even sorting out who belongs and who doesn't at this point. Ain't integration fun?]

[ADDENDUM #2: Now that it isn't any secret at this point who Yours Truly is, I've re-opened my personal webpage for public viewing, which you should be able to, uh, Google up. It's already rather out-of-date on some things, so don't take it as state-of-the-art in the saga.]

Quote of the Day

"It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain... The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love."
--Benjamin Britten

(I don't share that view, but I think I see where he's coming from.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playlist for the Day

Sibelius Symphonies 4 and 5 (Karajan/BPO/DG)
Nielsen Symphony No. 3 (Blomstedt/SFO/Decca)
Franz Schmidt, Symphony No. 4 (Welser-Most/LPO/EMI)
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 (Haitink/RCO/Decca)

Scheduled for tomorrow:

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 (Walter/CSO/RCA)
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 (Karajan/BPO/DG)
Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 (Karajan/BPO/DG)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."
--Victor Hugo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mind = Blown

In the "Spiritual Uplift" department . . .

On tonight's tentative playlist (I might improvise on it, of course):

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
Radiohead, OK Computer
Euphoric Classics
The Most Uplifting Classics in the Universe
The Most Inspiring Classics in the Universe
Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 (Levi/Cleveland SO)
The Beatles, 1
Simon and Garfunkle's Greatest Hits

As Linz Perigo would say, that's KASS! :-)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Question for the Day

Is all philosophy, as Alfred North Whitehead once said, a series of footnotes to Plato?

(Some thoughts on that question: Plato's ideal utopia described in the Republic had a strict regimen of activities inculcating virtues. At the "head" of this utopia is a Philosopher King. Seems that if Whitehead is right, then everyone throughout the history of philosophy is responding to that ideal. I, for one, like Aristotle's more integrative, or perfective, sensibility, as I've made clear on numerous occasions in this blog, about which recent newcomers to this blog might not be aware. The contexts of understanding may be clashing. But Aristotle was, as dialectical grandmaster or perfectivist, a master of the art of context-keeping. That's why certain perceptive philosophers - Ayn Rand, for one - have the highest regard for him. You can't refute perfectivism. :-) )

For Your Viewing Enjoyment

The internet seems to be getting more and more funny by the day (well, for me, anyway). I'll happily return the favor:

Couldn't embed this one, but it's worth it.

Ain't integration fun? :-)

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

I'm just amazed this band isn't more well-known. May not be exactly to everyone's liking, but it is to mine. :-)

(There are two videos of this on YouTube, but the audio quality is way better on this one.)

And a bonus:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tying Together Strands

In recent days, there have been a lotta facets, lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what have you's, lot of interested parties. Not only that, what was at first a modest task has turned into an ordeal, an odyssey if you will.

Nothing is fucked here, though. Nothing is fucked.

Quote for the day: "All the Dude ever wanted was his rug back. It really tied the room together."

Quote #2: "And this guy peed on it."

Quote #3: "I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand here! Across this line, YOU DO NOT-- Also, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please."

Enjoying the ride yet? :-)

(And to all my online "collaborators" out there: Thanks for the input. :-) )

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The highest responsibility of philosophers is to serve as the guardians and integrators of human knowledge."
--Ayn Rand

Question for the Day

Ain't integration fun? :-)

The Benevolent Universe Premise

The Benevolent Universe Premise of which Ayn Rand spoke is something that takes years to really understand, deep down. It takes years and years of automatizated or habituated integration before the full reality of it becomes clear to oneself. People coming way, way, way late to the game here are not going to understand what whirlwind they have sown for themselves.

If you accept the Benevolent Universe Premise, you refuse to accept the potency of evil. The existence of evil depends upon sanction from the good. When that sanction is withdrawn, it is as if a whole new universe of possibilities opens up to oneself. You don't have to accept that the injustice and irrationality of the status quo are the given. In fact, if you operate on the Benevolent Universe Premise, you creatively find ways to turn negatives into positives. The last day has taught me that in a completely first-handed way.

If you accept and act upon the Benevolent Universe Premise, you know that evasion comes at a price, but that the good - i.e., justice - can and might win out in the end. You even learn that a single dedicated independent individual can win out over an entire army of context-droppers and second-handers thrown together hastily and with a sometimes-appalling disregard for principles - or even for simple human decency. I hope that the coming days, weeks, and months will illustrate the importance of the Benevolent Universe Premise in fueling and fulfilling one's life.

In the name of the best within us,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

Wouldn't it be great if a lot more music today was this inspiring? (You go, Lenny!)

Story about Mahler's masterpiece here.

Go forth and eudaemonize! :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

From the "Roarkian Soul" department:

(h/t: Frank O'Connor) (Also: TUW)

(ADDENDUM: More spiritual uplift.)

(ADDENDUM #2: Is this far and away the best philosophy blog on the internet, or what? :-D )

(ADDENDUM #3: Nicely done, self. Keep it up! :-) )

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ayn Rand isn't Going Away, Ever

(Story here.)

The "educators" are going to have a real problem on their hands if they don't clean up their acts, and fast.

Perhaps you've heard of Ayn Rand or her Objectivist philosophy in the news, in blogs, and in real-time discussions a lot more lately than you did a few years back. There's a reason for this. It's called the power of ideas - especially when the ideas carry such a fascinating and compelling quality that they cannot but generate discussion. This is especially true in the case of the ideas of Ayn Rand.

One thing that Ayn Rand's way of thinking inspires other like-minded thinkers to do, is to think long-range, long-term. If you think long-range enough to search and consider this graph, for example, you find that her ideas just keep on growing, growing, growing over time. If you'll notice, this particular Google application only goes up through 2008. Ayn Rand-related discussion has risen quite markedly since then; I don't think there is any denying this. (Note that this graph refers to percentage, not volume.)

The great thing about this growing phenomenon, is that it gets ideas out there which - despite a constant stream of forest-missing, misrepresentations, distortions, and outright smears against them (including even from some leading "educators") - really cannot be refuted once they're actually understood. Ayn Rand's ideas are too perfectivist to succumb to the usual attacks. Given the Rand-haters' decades-long cognitive stagnation, this is a juggernaut they simply are not prepared to handle.

And you ain't seen nothin' yet.


[ADDENDUM: For advanced students of Objectivism: Peikoff/ARI and Sciabarra: A shining example of clashing contexts. Chew/integrate that one for a bit.]

[ADDENDUM #2: Focus!]

The Nature of the "Educators"

From the interview with author, educator and psychotherapist Larry Cole, in 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, p. 468:

I read [Ayn Rand's essay] "The Comprachicos" during the time we were in the middle of a totally chaotic educational fiasco in this country, and it nearly brought me to tears. They were partly tears of recognition, especially her translation of the segment from Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs. I told Ayn that I promptly sent it to all my radical educator friends, trying to stir up dialogue. They were all the big names in education. I sent them the article with little notes on it saying, "I think you should read this, and we should talk." It was the only time they did not respond, none of them, ever.

Zons of Beetches!

Not even the courtesy of a response? The only time they didn't ever respond?

I'm past the point where this sort of corruption surprises me any longer. (If I were steaped in pragmatism, like the "educators" are, I'd devolve quite naturally into cynicism, pessimism, defeatism, and stagnation, just like they have done, and just as they've fostered it in their victims. This is why Rand, Aristotelianism and Perfectivism will win, and why they will lose (or come to the winning side by necessity). It's just a matter of time.)

It's one thing to reject the arguments in Miss Rand's article and explain why; it's another not to even address it and to pretend it doesn't exist.

I have a pretty good idea as to why they did not bother to address it: She's absolutely right-on in her masterful identification of the naked essence of what Aristotelians are up against in this country, and they have no way to refute her. This is a recurring pattern with Ayn Rand's ideas, and there's no denying it. The light comes on, and the cockroaches scatter. It's like clockwork at this juncture.

Good thing that the butchers' days are numbered, 'cause I for one am sick of 'em.

The honorable educators, whoever they might be, they can stay. But definitely not the cockroaches.

(Rand's recommended alternative.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Essentialized Comprehensiveness

If you have a look at the selection of books in my Profile, you find that it has a lot of books by or about Ayn Rand, enough to take up about half of the intellectual-theoretical books listed there. The rest consists to a large extent of economic-theoretical works in the "Austrian" tradition. Why, if I aim for comprehensiveness, don't I include a massive selection of influential works from all across the spectrum of ideas? Because the list is essentialized for the sake of unit-economy. Unit-economy is a highly capitalistic principle. Ayn Rand's whole system is geared toward people who think like capitalists. She recognized the essential principle behind capitalism: that it is, unavoidably and undeniably, the system geared to the requirements of human life, i.e., of the mind. (Hint: It's the principle behind Aristotle's boundless intellectual activity and productivity.)

So, the list basically gives you all that you need to know, in essence, to figure out what's what, and then to flourish like you've never flourished before. The key is not in resenting the capitalists (and stagnating), but in becoming a capitalist (and growing). (The truth here is an exact inversion of Marx.)

In this, Rand was so far ahead of her time that, for the most part, and so very tragically, she was casting pearls before swine. (See, e.g., here.) Only swine turn away from the essential message of John Galt's radio address - the role of the mind in human existence - and of Ayn Rand's body of work. Only anti-capitalist uber-swine who call themselves "philosophers" would blank out this stark and glaring theme, and indulge the mainstream swine in their base and ignoble ignorance regarding the role of the mind in human existence. (To paraphrase a pearl cast heroically before so many swine, such "philosophers" should be provided a club and bearskin and a cave to dwell in, instead of chaired university professorships. The latter situation is fucking insane for an advanced civilized society.)

If you want an actual real-life instantiation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, look no further than the widespread swinish reaction to Ayn Rand's pro-mind and pro-life ideas. Only swine run from the word "selfishness," for instance, without giving any sort of careful thought to meanings (intended or otherwise), or to context, or to hierarchy, or to integration. The swine have been conditioned to react to stimuli in certain ways (e.g., to words instead of concepts or ideas or essentials), so much so that they revolt even against a messenger who advises them to use their minds to the utmost so that they might then move past swinehood and into the adulthood of the intellect.

Unlike myriad academically-tenured destroyers of the mind, this here philosopher is no swine.

And things are going to change drastically for the better, and much faster than the out-of-it crowd could even begin to realize.

Mark my words.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


(Published initially under the title, "Testing Rand's Theory of Culture.")

The theme under consideration: That philosophy is the driving force of a culture.

Some patterns already recognized/presupposed going into this analysis:

(1) The more Ayn Rand's (supremely perfectivist) philosophical ideas are exposed to the light of critical scrutiny, the more it turns out they hold up admirably and defeat their critics in the process.

(2) The "liberal" Ivy League intelligentsia are at present utterly unequipped and unprepared to deal with fact (1).

(3) The "liberal" Ivy League intelligentsia supposedly have all the best intellectual resources on their side; so why are they so utterly helpless in waging the war of ideas against their "neanderthal-like" anti-intellectual opposition on the political Right? What's stopping them from making an all-out slam-dunk effort to prove that their whole "progressive" worldview is so superior? I mean, it's so obvious how superior they believe it to be, isn't it? Couldn't they prove everything beyond a doubt in all their rigorously-peer-reviewed, Ivy-League-Press-published treatises, just like how peer-review helps ensure quality, thoroughness and true authoritativeness in the natural sciences?

(4) The "liberals" seem utterly weak at selling their ideas to an American audience. And the act of selling is so darned . . . capitalistic and entrepreneurial, innit? (For more evidence, see the stark contrast between the success of "conservative" talk radio and the failure of "liberal" talk radio to connect with listeners. If we used "liberals" as the model of reason, it would seem that reason has no selling-power, that it is impotent to change minds, and that the failure here can only be rationalized away attributed to a dumbed-down plutocracy. Also, note how this alleged model of reason illicitly smuggles in a neo-Marxian, materialist explanation for cultural conditions, another byproduct of modern Greek-ignorant philosophizing. Time for the "reality-based" and yet in-denial "liberals" to check a few premises and save themselves yet further embarrassment, perhaps? They might start by shifting their cognitive context away from the likes of Descartes/Hobbes/Hume/Marx/Rawls and toward true giants like Aristotle/Aquinas/Spinoza/Mises/Rand. It really works wonders, liberals! As an awesomely liberating, productivity-enhancing bonus, you'll become much less pathologically fearful and ignobly ignorant of capitalism in the process.)

(5) Neither the pro-Republican FOX News nor pro-Democrat MSNBC networks ever have any guests that you might term "serious philosophers." I mean, surely MSNBC could enlighten its audiences by have lots of university-professor guests who prove everything so well? Surely MSNBC's audiences would lap up the "manufacturing consent" theories of Noam Chomsky, if only this GE-owned subsidiary would have him on as a guest. Surely there's a whole coalition of Ivy League professors who could have broadcasted widely about the naked-emperor-like discrepancy between intellectual liberalism and MSNBC? Surely MSNBC could have them as guests to get the word out and enlighten the audience? (Surely, the professors are not too helpless and too un-enterprising to get the word out otherwise?)

(6) As Exhibit A of how low the mainstream culture has descended in absence of a boldly and decisively Aristotelian influence: The leading "public intellectuals" at the present are mostly the New Atheists - Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett. Harris at present is trying to ground ethics (well, "morality") in biology, with a crucial element missing: Aristotelianism. His context inherits, as a given, a Humean style, with its unresolvable is/ought (or nature/goodness) dualism. (Were Aristotle around today, which philosopher - Sam Harris or Ayn Rand - do you think he'd be way, way, way more impressed by?)

(7) Thinkers like Aristotle and Ayn Rand manage to cover their bases like f***. Their performances are analagous to super-grandmastery in chess. The common standard is essentializing-comprehensiveness or assimilation, i.e., mastering the art of dialectic.

(8) An adjective, "Aristotle-like," comes to mind when I think of a pattern of instances of highly-functional human beings in this or that endeavor, such as the concretes listed in "About Me."

Okay, now the test.

If Rand's theory of philosophy's ruling power over a culture were correct, then our culture would be dominated by the basically Rawlsian views of the Ivy League intellectuals in political matters. In fact, Rawls is considered by the philosophy professors to be the most important philosopher of the last half-century, and by a pretty wide margin. This is also borne out by other data which show just how much greater Rawls' influence among academic philosophers is than Rand's. These data are pretty good evidence that Rand isn't worth taking seriously as a philosopher, aren't they?


Seriously, now?

In American culture, what is more widely read: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, or A Theory of Justice by John Rawls?

Moreover, while Atlas Shrugged has placed a distant second in polls of readers asked to name the book that influenced them most, what placed first?

Moreover, in what fundamental similar respect are the top two choices in these polls so very unlike John Rawls's treatise? Consider: the impact of a comprehensive vision of man and existence as against a merely-political focus. (See also: the Ivy League intelligentsia's utter helplessness in the face of theocratic and militant Islamism.)

Moreover, see point (4) in the list of patterns recognized.

Moreover, see all the other patterns recognized.

Moreover, the act of establishing the wider pattern among these patterns is one of first-handed thought and integration, and cannot be otherwise. (In this regard, Ayn Rand simply cannot be "taught" overnight, in talking-heads shouting matches, or undigested (or undigestible) soundbites; it requires something the ancients referred to as habituation, and what Rand referred to as automatization of well-functioning cognitive processes, which are essentially Aristotelian in nature. The modern revival of "virtue ethics" cannot be complete or understood by the community at large without the Aristotelian-Thomistic-Randian form of perfectivism.)

Unless or until you get this last part, you're pretty much out-of-it when it comes to understanding Ayn Rand's greatness - why she is, like Aristotle, always and everywhere vindicated by any attempt to deny her. The stated Objection is an example of jumping into an analysis of ideas mid-stream, i.e., of dropping context, thereby thoroughly failing to recognize the vast sum of integrated facts behind Rand's analysis of (in this instance) cultural causation. To them (the context-droppers), it would seem that Rand was - as they were themselves, in actual fact - jumping into cultural-causal analysis mid-stream, all arbitrary and dis-integrated. If ever there is an instance of psycho-epistemological projection among Rand's out-of-it critics, this is it.

(This is also why this psycho-epistemological deficiency needs to be systematically rooted out and discouraged among college students by the professors - but . . . you might see the vicious cycle involved here. And if there ever was an instance of jumping in mid-stream - by Aristotelian, though not Humean, standards - while appearing to provide systematic foundations, it's Rawls's theory of justice. [See also here.] This is held up as "great" philosophy by out-of-touch academics. Pseudo-foundational or insidiously un-foundational, anti-context, anti-hierarchy philosophizing is a characteristically "modern" technique - particularly in the "analytic" tradition, which the whole Aristotelian-dialectical tradition is lost on - and so by no means does it originate with Rawls; Rawls is just the terminal cashing-in of the whole methodologically and cognitively corrupt style. The non-integration involved here feeds into a festering non-integration between abstract theory and real-world practice. Integrating with pattern (4), we find that this is a by-product of a systematic rooting-out of capitalistic memes and personality characteristics among the wordsmith-intellectuals. Capitalist-types can't afford to flout context in their endeavors, see; that the fashionable wordsmiths have failed to recognize this - much less to understand it all the way down to the Aristotelian self-identical explanatory causal root - is a result of their failure to grasp the capitalists' context. Checkmated.)

Finally, a better, widespread understanding of these points and their logical interconnections would lead to great improvements for American culture.


Ain't integration fun? :-)

[ADDENDUM: The chickens' homecoming. Remember, kids: Integrate! :-)]

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Big, Fat Anti-Euphemism

Ayn Rand was an expert at identifying and diagnosing the myriad techniques of intellectual sloppiness and evasion used by enemies of the American way of life, i.e., of reason, individualism and capitalism.

These techniques include (but are by no means limited to): package-dealing, smuggling in premises, stealing concepts, purveying anti-concepts, hurling ill-defined approximations, dropping context, equivocating, and weasel-wording.

One such occasion of expert Randian diagnosis occurs in a little-cited article, "How to Read (and Not to Write)" in a 1972 issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (reprinted in The Voice of Reason [1989]). There, Rand addresses a charge made against individualist ideas like hers time and time again, viz., that they promote "atomism." Rand breaks down a New York Times editorial, which stated that "this country cannot go back to the highly atomistic, competitive model of the early nineteenth century," as follows:
If a euphemism is an inoffensive way of identifying an offensive fact, then "highly atomistic, competitive model" is an anti-euphemism, i.e., an offensive way of identifying an inoffensive (or great and noble) fact -- in this case, capitalism. "Competitive" is a definition by non-essentials; "atomistic" is worse. Capitalism involves competition as one of its proper consequences, not as its essential or defining attribute. "Atomistic" is usually meant to imply "scattered, broken up, distintegrated." Capitalism is the system that made productive cooperation possible among men, on a large scale - a voluntary cooperation that raised everyone's standard of living - as the nineteenth century has demonstrated. So "atomism" is an anti-euphemism, standing for "free, independent, individualistic." If the editorial's sentence were intended to be fully understood, it would read: "this country cannot go back to the free, individualistic, private property system of capitalism." (Voice of Reason, p. 131)
(The chickens' homecoming, as far as any last shred of intellectual credibility in NYT editorials are concerned, has been dissected by Greenwald. The NYT euphemized torture so that the Bush Administration didn't have to, torture - usually a last-ditch, pathologically-agnostic, no-absolutes, panic-ridden attempt to force a mind - being the naked-essential end-of-the-line for a pragmatist ethos.)

I'd like to identify a massive anti-euphemism that has been perpetrated on this country, much to its long-term detriment. And that is the identification of the American ethos of "commonsense practicality" with pragmatism (either little-p or big-P).

This didn't happen overnight and the corruptions involved have hardly been made explicit much less manifest to the American people. America's implicit founding philosophy - groped toward by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine - was Aristotelian through and through. Rand is the only 20th-century American thinker to have made this fully explicit.

The fundamental difference one needs to know between Aristotelianism and Pragmatism has to do with their respective stands on the Law of Identity and the Primacy of Existence. Aristotelianism affirms Rand's statement that "Existence is identity; consciousness is identification." Pragmatism systematically undercuts this axiomatic principle.

Since Pragmatism understands truth in terms of "what works" rather than in terms of correspondence to an independent, term-setting, causal reality with its own definite identity, it fails right on its face to represent "common sense," whereas Aristotelianism clearly does not so fail. What's more, an Aristotelian primacy-of-existence approach recognizes the ontological primacy involved: something works in virtue of being properly in accord with reality. Pragmatism dispenses with any such talk as being "metaphysics" with no "cash value." But getting this right is fundamental to getting it right about the nature of existence and humans' relationship to existence, which includes having a philosophy that fully and adequately addresses the independent-fact-integrative requirements of our conceptual nature.

Before Aristotle's complete works were translated into English in the early 20th century and before Ayn Rand's arrival on the scene - before America had had the opportunity to become a philosophical behemoth as a complement to its becoming a political and economic behemoth - its budding intellectual class, consisting first and foremost of the Pragmatists, had to cobble together the "best" of the philosophical ideas out there (again, in the absence of Aristotle). It must be kept in mind that inasmuch as people had heard of Aristotle, it was in terms of non-essentials - for instance, that his biology had been overturned by Darwin, or that his universal teleology was outmoded, or that the Church had canonized him into a dogma, or (among those less intellectually out-of-it) that he was being invoked by Hegel and Marx as a forerunner to modern "dialectics."

(Throw into this whole mix the rise of modern psychology: by the mid-20th century, many of the most adept minds were preoccupied by matters of psychology rather than philosophy - see Nathaniel Branden, Stanley Kubrick, David L. Norton. It's probably not at all accidental that people who developed like these three did were also all born right around 1930. An intellectually-minded person reaching college age ca. 1950s is more likely to be reading a lot of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Maslow, and Fromm, than to be reading Aristotle or Rand. Only a highly-unusual instance - namely, Branden - would have feet in both these worlds. What's more, young idealists aren't going to be interested much in reading middling, cynicism-breeding Pragmatist philosophy, and anyone who bothers to delve into philosophy around this time is going to be assaulted by positivism and existentialism. Given this default by the philosophers, one can hardly blame a perfective artist like Kubrick for being much more psychology-focused than philosophy-focused. This of course only reinforces Miss Rand's point about the inescapable power of philosophy to affect a culture for good or bad, be it through influence or default. Oh, and ain't integration fun?)

No, Aristotle was pretty much a non-factor on the intellectual scene at the height of the Pragmatist movement. Instead, the chief influences were Hume and Kant, and if you want the non-identity, non-primacy-of-existence version of doing philosophy (complete with - get this - an atomistic, homo-economicus conception of the empirical-natural person!), you get it in full force with these two. In this fundamental respect, Hume and Kant share essential premises that only an Aristotelian approach can answer. In more specific terms, Hume and Kant both agreed that you could not get the concept of causal necessity from experience. From there, it's a matter of preference whether you go the Humean route of giving up on finding such an account, or the Kantian route of assigning to necessity a subject-dependent ("a priori") status.

On this point, I think Peikoff and Rand may have misidentified just how strongly "Kantian" the Pragmatists were, because I see them much more as Humean. What is the "cash value," after all, of Kant's whole categorical scheme? As a primacy-of-consciousness view - hence the purported subjectivity of the category of necessity - Kant's view is still a metaphysical one of sorts. (If you want another anti-euphemism in connection with this, how about the identification of Kant's critique of Rationalist metaphysics with a critique of metaphysics as such. Just imagine the thousandfold-multiplied disasters that might proceed from that kind of imperfect lumping-together. For evidence of the cashing-in there, see post-modernism.) Hume, to his commonsensical credit, makes no pretense to overturning empty metaphysics and replacing it with a primacy-of-consciousness one. In this, the Pragmatists are much more akin to Hume. It's Hume's philosophy, his whole approach, which sets the terms for everything to follow. The Pragmatists were too "common sense" to go with Kant's (metaphysical) subjectivism over Hume's (epistemological) subjectivism, which - unfortunately for the Pragmatists - still devolves into skepticism. (Again, see post-modernism for the final dead-end of a Humean influence.)

In the mind of the pragmatism-bred mainstream American now, philosophy is associated with skepticism - with questions without answers. That, of course, isn't practically workable, so the average American "rationally" rejects the study of philosophy as a waste of time. ("Rationally," that is, in the morally-vacuous sense used by social scientists who just don't know better, while their cognitively-Humean counterparts in the philosophy departments never told them otherwise. Certainly it's not "rationally" in the sense used by Rand or Henry Veatch. [From Hume: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions," and "'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger." This, today's philosophical Establishment considers a formidable thing to have to respond to - and is ill-equipped to do so as things currently stand.])

The important thing which only a few astute intellectuals grasp at this time, is that Aristotle and Rand have Hume and the Pragmatists checkmated/trumped on Law-of-Identity and Primacy-of-Existence grounds, just like Aristotle had all the ancient skeptics and proto-pragmatists checkmated (in addition to having been more dialectically comprehensive-completist-perfectivist than was his otherwise beloved teacher, Plato - and having become the father of inductive Western science in the process). Rand's primary-of-existence terminology is her way of more effectively phrasing the fundamental essence of classical commonsense realism. American-style commonsense would dictate adopting the comprehensive/perfectivist style of an Aristotle or Rand over the disintegrative style of Hume and the Pragmatists. What's more, there's a lot more cash-value in adopting the former over the latter.

Relative to the implicit neo-Aristotelian philosophy of America's founding, Pragmatism represents a regression, and the chief force undermining what made this country great. By having Hume as the "best" to fall back on in the tradition, America has never really declared an intellectual independence from Britain (or British notions of common sense). The Intellectual Establishment here is so very Humean (that is, non-Aristotelian) in basic cognitive style and many of its leading practitioners don't even seem to be aware of it. (That's why I'm here to point this out.) It's quite undeniable, actually: had they been more Aristotelian in basic cognitive style, the Establishment leaders would have acknowledged the deep similarity of cognitive style between the venerated Aristotle and the snidely dismissed Rand. Absent Aristotelianism and Randism, these children of Hume are reduced to increasingly-complex acts of squaring circles: see, for instance, the various ingenious but non-Aristotelian attempts to get around Hume's "is-ought" distinction, attempts which serve no useful purpose to the community at large but which can make for exhaustive publication or dissertation material. And that's not the only thing the Intellectual Establishment is way out-of-touch about.

Pragmatism breeds staleness, conformity, mediocrity, stagnation, weakness, and cowardice. (And so much anti-euphemism-spouting, soul-killing cynicism!) For abundant real-world evidence of this, see the state of America today. For Rand's expert, naked-essentials, theoretical analysis of all that's wrong with Pragmatism as against Aristotelianism, see Peter Keating as contrasted (spiritually) with Howard Roark, or Mr. Thompson as contrasted (intellectually, morally and metaphysically) with John Galt.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Moral Leadership

If you want a damning indictment of the philosophy profession today, look no further than the fact that in the mind of the mainstream American, "moral leader" tends to signify "religious leader." Of course, given the meaning of "religion" in such a person's mind, this is a devastating package-deal, all rendered and accepted quite efficiently at the unexamined subconscious level; so why wouldn't "moral leader" tend to signify "philosopher"? Because (a) the mainstream of the philosophy profession has defaulted on moral theory, making it essentially useless to the community for workable moral guidance; (What moral leader is the Machiavellian-pragmatist Obama consulting these days, especially since he threw the Rev. Wright under the bus a while back?) and (b) When the mainstream American seeks moral advice on something, one can throw a stone and hit a priest, pastor, rabbi, etc. On the off-chance that consulting a philosopher for moral advice ever even occurs to such a person, how would the person know where to go?

In a perfectivism-enriched world, there would be no such problem.

Friday, April 1, 2011

OMG, Miss Rand!?

You're just totally fucking wrong about Beethoven, Miss Rand, and I'm most assuredly not a politeness-and-manners-dropping hippie in saying so!

Pastoral Symphony, op. 68 in F Major.

First movement: "Awakening of Cheerful Feelings Upon Arrival in the Country."

Third movement: "Merry Gathering of Country Folk."

Last movement: "Shepherd's Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings After the Storm."

MALEVOLENT UNIVERSE PREMISE? Man's heroic fight against destiny and eventual DEFEAT? The opposite of your sense of life? (Ref.: 1981 Ford Hall Forum Q&A.) How 'bout: the exact effing opposite of Ludwig Van's?


tisk, tisk, tisk

Oh, but I still love ya, though. Just gotta check those premises more perfectively, mmmkay?

But . . .

Miss Rand, you've been vindicated yet again. I'm gonna go sit in the corner now.

Your Loyal and Humble Servant,