Nate Smith

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Everything posted by Nate Smith

  1. What is collective bargaining?

    That's a good article, thanks.
  2. What is collective bargaining?

    If it is true that the means justify the ends, and I don't see anything wrong with the means used in my scenario, then I'm not sure how to condemn the ends. Rather, I think if unions are redefined in a proper way, the ends are nothing to be feared.
  3. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    Let's say a doctor (or psychologist, teacher, etc) gets a lot of pleasure from his work because he really enjoying helping others. Is this motivated by altruism? Is this wrong? Part of me is wary that this is necessarily altruistic, but I also think that the desire to help others (at least to some degree) is essential in doing these sorts of jobs well. I can't imagine why one would want to do these sorts of jobs if one didn't want to help people. My concern though is if I my work is motivated by the desire to help others, don't I get very close to accepting a premise of altruism? I think of the TV character House who sees no moral worth in helping others, he just enjoys the mental challenge. I have found myself at times being very sympathetic to this attitude, but I think this might be a misinterpretation of how not to be altruistic. I am having trouble integrating all of these ideas, so any suggestions would be appreciated.
  4. I've created a Facebook group for Objectivists and fans of Ayn Rand in SE Wisconsin to connect with each other. I figure there must be a good number between Madison and Milwaukee. If you are a fan of Ayn Rand and live in the region (or even if you're not), feel free to join. It is my hope that eventually a group could be formed to discuss Objectivism and related ideas. But even if that doesn't happen, this could be a good way for Objectivists to find each other, whatever their purpose. Here's a link to the group: Southeastern Wisconsin fans of Ayn Rand & Objectivism Thanks.
  5. I have some questions about man as a social animal; in particular, what is this nature exactly? I’ll give some examples of questions in a moment, but I want to begin with some of my interpretations of Objectivism and how they relate to this question. I’ve learned from Objectivism that the values we hold we choose volitionally (though not necessarily consciously). We see people accept as “good” some very bizarre things, things that have clearly no benefit towards their life and in many cases things that are very harmful. We see people drive their lives into the ground in an attempt to live by their chosen moral codes. Acknowledging that we have the ability to learn what is good for us and to be guided towards this end is of immeasurable value in living one’s life. I do wonder though if we have the ability to truly choose all of our values. Are there any values that are “programmed” into us? For example, there seems to be a strong desire for food, water, happiness, sex, etc. By nature, do we desire these things or are they things that we learn to desire? Could it be possible to not value these things? The latter two I am more comfortable saying yes to, the former seem more difficult to imagine not valuing. I ask because I wonder how this relates to man’s seeming “need” for relationships (both romantic and friendship). Is this a “programmed” need? Or is it something we learn to value at a young age and would have a hard time not valuing (maybe like food)? The Fountainhead was one of the first things I read by Ayn Rand, and I think I inferred some qualities about man’s nature that aren’t correct. Watching Howard Roark live, we see a man with an almost singular drive towards architecture. He seems to have no need for friendship. He is not bothered by irrational people, and he only values others’ opinions insofar as he can learn from them. It seems he would be very happy living in solitude as long as he had the ability to perform his work. On one hand, this seems very consistent with a major aspect of Objectivism—that is, that we choose our values and our psychological life is a result of these values. Some people really value studying physics, others do not. Some value theater, others do not. It seems “right” that we could choose to not value relationships and only get happiness from the other values we choose. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a rationalist and prescribe what I think is “right” onto reality. There seems to be so much evidence that man’s social nature is much more complex than what I described above. Almost all people have a very strong desire to find someone to love. (Could we go so far as to say this is a need?) We see the power of public opinion on changing minds and influencing cultures. There are numerous threads on this site where people discuss the difficulties of being surrounded by irrational people. The depiction of the type of man that Roark is seems very “unreal” in some ways. His genius and his integrity seem very possible to me; his indifference to others and to irrationality are hard to relate to and don’t seem fully possible. So in questioning my premises, I don’t have much of an answer at all as to how to regard the “social needs” we have. Are they needs, or just wants? Is it possible to live happily all by oneself? Why do we have these needs, and what is their origin? What do we get out of friendships and why? For example, I have a couple good friends, and I really enjoy great conversations with them and what I can learn from them. But the same could be said for a good book (the learning at least). Yet there is obviously something different. Friends are more than a source of information or learning. Does having a friend one agrees with serve as some kind of validation? If so, this seems second-handed. If not, then what other benefits do we get from friends? I can experience the benefits of friendship, but I can’t give much of an account of it, and I’d like to understand this better. I’ve got a lot more questions, but I’ve said enough. I’d appreciate to hear others’ thoughts on this. Thanks.
  6. What is the Nature of Man as a Social Animal?

    There are two categories in your comment that could be labeled as first or second handed. The first is in respect to forming the judgments of Cameron's buildings, Halley's music, etc. We can decide for ourselves if these are valuable things or let other decide for us. I agree with you on this point. The question that I'm more interested in is why there is value in "seeing your own values objectified in the character and actions of another". Is this a chosen value, or does our nature choose it for us (if that is even possible)? People don't seem to rationally decide that they want friendship or companionship; it seems to be a natural human need or desire. Reason's role seems not to lie in the choice for friendship but in which friends one chooses. If this is correct, then it wouldn't be correct to label the valuing of friendship as either first or second-handed. I want to think out loud on the topic of our nature choosing values for us. On one hand, this troubles me; it sounds like it's bordering on the notion of innate knowledge. In order to value something "by nature", doesn't one need to have knowledge of it "by nature"? I think so. On the other hand, I think the "valuing" of food can be used as a good analogy. The need for food is objective, that is chosen for us by our identity. But what about the valuing of it? I would claim that since we don't have any innate knowledge of food, we don't value it initially. But in the first days of our life and every day after that it satisfies a strong biological desire. After we come to know of food and we acknowledge that it satisfies a desire, only then can we value it. And though it would be very difficult to not value food (perhaps someone with an eating disorder would be close), the valuation is still volitional. I'm comfortable with this evaluation. I think I was confusing a biological desire with a nature-chosen value. Since values are volitional, the latter is a contradiction in terms. I am assuming then that friendship is very much like food in this respect. We have a natural desire for it, and in turn we early on come to regard it as a value (assuming that one has had at least some valuable friendships early in life). I think about the question that I started this thread with often, and the reason is that there seem to be second-handed elements to friendship, and I'm trying to figure out why this is. I'll keep thinking.
  7. Multiple Intelligences

    I was conversing with some teachers, and at one point I referred to the "smarter students" which is a phrase that did not go over very well with a couple. I was told that that phrase has negative connotations--that the other students must be the "dumb students". I asked if they agree that there are different levels of intelligence, and they did. So I asked, if there are some students of higher intelligence, what's wrong with acknowledging that fact? (Not to the students themselves of course, just as professionals speaking of how to best deal with particular students' needs) A number of the teachers mentioned how the phenomena we were discussing (and I won't go into all of the details) can better be explained by multiple intelligences. There are people who are intelligent in some areas and others who are intelligent in other areas. I am vaguely familiar with Gardner's theory, and it seems to pop up frequently in education (it also seems to be highly motivated by egalitarianism), though I don't know much about the theory or the research behind it. Having read ITOE, it seems that much of what intelligence is is the capacity for abstraction (and abstract thought) and the theory of multiple intelligences fades away. I seem to remember a few comments somewhere on this forum reading people disagreeing with the theory as well. I'd like to hear some thoughts by Objectivists on this topic. Do most Objectivists disagree with the theory of multiple intelligences, or not? And why? And if it is disregarded, what would explain that we might see one individual with very high math skills and another with very high creative writing skills? It does seem that there are tendencies for strengths in different areas. Is artistic ability (drawing, painting, composing) solely the result of the one thing that is intelligence? Or are there other factors at play, like with athletic abilities? Thanks.
  8. Evil Thoughts

    I have to disagree. I have found The Disowned Self to be one of the most useful books I have ever read. And I think it is very clearly written. If you are disagreeing with Branden in his denial of the existence of evil thoughts or emotions, I have since found this quote from Atlas Shrugged: "There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think." And it could probably be argued that the refusal to think is more of an action than a thought.
  9. What is the Nature of Man as a Social Animal?

    Here's a quote from Ideal that is interesting. How do we get "fuel" from others? Is it second-handed to need it? And why do we need it? The sentiment of a spirit needing fuel seems very different from what is portrayed in The Fountainhead. Would Howard Roark feel that way? Am I correct in assuming that Ayn Rand created characters that are psychologically plausible? If not, then there's not much point in trying to answer these questions using these characters as guides.
  10. What is the Nature of Man as a Social Animal?

    Interesting, but I'm interested in the social nature of man qua man, not particular men who have created themselves in a particular way. I presume you aren't claiming that there are men that are second-handed by nature, therefore all men are capable of being first-handers. So to clarify, are you saying that men do not need social relations? That seems like a strong claim with a lot of empirical evidence to suggest otherwise. I'm open to any arguments though.
  11. Evil Thoughts

    Let me see if I understand your point. Since religion upholds that (to varying degrees) consciousness creates reality, a belief can be evil insofar as it can affect what is real. On these grounds, thoughts can be evil. But since this isn't true, since reality is independent from thoughts, thoughts can't be evil. It never occurred to me that the PoC premise was the genesis of the idea of thoughts being evil.
  12. What is courage?

    Here's a passage from the Lexicon: "Courage and confidence are practical necessities . . . courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one’s own consciousness." I don't really understand what "courage is the practical form of being true to existence" means. This sounds a lot like a definition of integrity. And it doesn't seem to get at what I think of as courage. If I acknowledge that I need water to live, I am being true to existence, but that acknowledgment doesn't seem to require much courage. I agree that at times being true to existence can require courage, but this definition doesn't seem to get to the essence of what courage is. And this begs my question as to what courage actually is. At first it seems to me like courage is a virtue; we may choose to be "strong" and do the right thing, even if it may be scary or difficult. But the more I think about it, it seems an awful lot like courage is more of an effect than a cause. When people do give in to fear, I think most of the time this is because they don't believe they can succeed at obtaining whatever value they desire. When people do believe they can obtain something they want (i.e. they have self-esteem), it is almost a certainty they will pursue it. I do acknowledge that there is a "chicken-and-the-egg" relationship going on here. Success leads to confidence which leads to future action, etc. And failure leads to self-doubt which leads to inaction, etc. And I am not arguing that people are completely deterministic. There certainly seems to be the potential for an act of will in the face of adversity. But I think that what is often observed as courage is actually the result of a judgment of one's efficacy largely based on past experience. It seems that much of what might seem to be courage really isn't. I'd appreciate to hear others' thoughts on this.
  13. What is courage?

    That makes sense, thanks.
  14. What is courage?

    This sounds exactly right. But then doesn't Ayn Rand's definition seem too broad? ("Courage is the practical form of being true to existence") Not every form of being true to existence requires courage.
  15. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    I think you are making the same "House fallacy" that I did and referred to earlier (hopefully you're familiar with that character). I think one way one may rebel against altruism is to believe that any desire to help others is bad. There is good reason to want to help others, just don't do so in spite of yourself.
  16. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    Good point, thanks.
  17. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    There are some very interesting points here--it's given me a lot to think about. Thanks. I'm curious about this comment. Why do you distinguish Objectivism in this respect? No matter where we get our morality from, isn't it always natural to be a little fearful when we think we might be mistaken?
  18. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    I'm glad I asked this question. I think there's something I definitely have misinterpreted in Objectivism. So are you saying that the criterion for choosing one's work is only that one benefits from the transaction? It seems that if one does choose a career based on some belief in duty or altruism, then there should be more to say about that choice. I guess if one is motivated by duty, then one won't get pleasure from it and the choice can be condemned on those grounds. But if I go into medicine because I genuinely believe it is moral help others, and I get pleasure as a result of it, is that an acceptable career choice? Am I mistaken in remembering something she wrote on Mother Teresa? I don't remember if Ayn Rand condemned Mother Teresa or held her morally neutral (in other words, not a saint like many do). And I don't remember exactly for what reasons. The impression that I got was that AR didn't hold Mother Teresa in high regard because she was motivated by altruism to help others. But if she was happy doing what she did (even if it was based on an altruistic premise), then it sounds like many here are implying that this is reasonable behavior.
  19. "Words have no meaning."

    After reading a few articles about Jared Lee Loughner, I'm curious what is meant by people who say things like "words have no meaning" and his question "What is government if words have no meaning?" (This is an interesting article from this post.) How might someone who makes these claims respond to me if I were to point at a cat and say the word "cat" refers to that? I am aware that this is probably a belief that one can't hold consistently, but I'd like to have a better understanding of what "words have no meaning" means. I don't want to try and diagnose Loughner per se (since we don't know a lot about him), but more generally someone who fits the character of the little we know about him--in other words, an abstraction of him. I'd like to have an idea of what philosophy underlies these sorts of claims and how it might lead to his behavior, if it could. I'll take a shot at answering my own question and see if there are any better answers. Since words refer to reality, this claim seems be the result of some type of detachment from reality. Maybe this belief is founded in a primacy of consciousness metaphysics, but I think it's more likely the result of some version of social metaphysics. (Maybe those two are closely related.) A passage from Ayn Rand's The Comprachicos seem relevant: The sentence "The issue, to him, is now metaphysical" is powerful. She points out that this type of person allows others' opinions to be the source and standard of values, and therefore of one's happiness and self-esteem. If one lived in this type of "reality", the primary purpose of words would be to affect and control others. They wouldn't necessarily refer to objects that exist. There is no objective reality, because that changes as others change their minds. Reality is chaos. Also, this would explain his animosity towards others. If one is trapped in a world where the achievement of values is determined by others, we are much more likely to resent them. The more consistently one holds this metaphysics, the less objective reality would seem to exist. And in frustration at being at the mercy of others for achieving one's values, one might even go so far as to attempt to kill those that represent the greatest threat to the inability to achieve values, i.e. those in the highest positions of power. The fact that Loughner's friend places a lot of significance in Gifford's inability to answer Loughner's question suggests there's something to that.
  20. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    I agree, I'm trying to figure out what, properly speaking, underlies those who do desire to help others.
  21. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    I need to clarify. When I said "And I think I assumed that being motivated to help others must be the result of altruism", I was referring to those one doesn't know and doesn't value. I wouldn't consider it altruism to help friends, family, etc.
  22. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    I seem to recall Ayn Rand commenting briefly on Mother Teresa, but I can't remember where (please let me know if you remember). I may have misinterpreted what I read, but the meaning I took from it was that it was bad to be motivated by altruism. And I think I assumed that being motivated to help others must be the result of altruism. I'll keep thinking about this.
  23. Work, Motivation & Altruism

    Do you distinguish between being motivated by the desire to help others and simply getting pleasure in others being happy? For example, let's say I choose to be a doctor because the field is very interesting to me. And secondarily I get satisfaction from helping others at the same time. (This is the way Ayn Rand spoke of her work.) On the other hand, let's say I choose to be a doctor because I am motivated to help others. I value human life and desire to preserve it. I enjoy healing people and seeing them happy as a result. Would you say both of those motivations are perfectly reasonable and healthy?
  24. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    I'm still working through some psychological/philosophic issues in my life, and it's been very complicated untangling all my thoughts, values and emotions. I hope those here can help me with a question that I've been stuck on. I recently read a passage from Branden's Psychology of Self-Esteem that resonated with me. From the section on anxiety and depression (p167): I have often run into a paralyzing emotion when I consider pursuing some values. I find my self thinking "I wish I wanted that." For example, if I have some free time, I think to myself that I really wish I wanted to read a new book I have. Or I really wish I was motivated to start some new project with my son. Intellectually I want it, but emotionally I don't (not fully at least). I'm really confused with what to do with my emotions in these instances. I'm really worried about ignoring these emotions and acting solely on my conscious convictions, for two reasons: 1) I'm worried about repressing important elements of my psyche, and 2) I believe that just like central planners aren't capable of micro-managing a full economy, an individual is not capable of micro-managing his consciousness. The integrative function of the mind is invaluable, and one's emotions are part of that. I feel like it would be dangerous to ignore what my emotions are telling me, that they are useful guides in some what (in what way I don't know). So I'm worried that I might be relying on them as tools of cognition. I know ultimately I need to identify all of my values and these emotions, but in the mean time, do I just ignore these emotions when it comes to my actions? Do I push the emotions to the side and just act on my conscious convictions? This is really scary when the value is significant.
  25. Emotions are not tools of cognition

    I'm curious what would cause one to have values that don't motivate actions. I can think of two reasons: 1) The value falls low enough on one's hierarchy that one ends up pursuing other values first. Maybe the supposed value is never pursued. 2) The value is obtained second-hand. An individual doesn't really desire the value but believes consciously that he should. Are there any other causes?