Henrik Unné

An hypothesis about intelligence

111 posts in this topic

If a workmate begins discussing some subject with me, such as for example politics, and then I try to present the Objectivist viewpoint to him, and he *refuses to listen* (for example one of my workmates exclaimed to me - "Oh, politics, philosophy, ideas! I am not interested!" - and stopped the conversation), then am I not justified in concluding that they do not care to find out what explains things? So they are not *trying* to understand things?

You are not at all justified in concluding that because there are other reasons why a rational person may have given you exactly that response. Several other possible explanations come to mind such as

1. Every other person he has met who initiated a discussion of those topics was a crackpot with crazy ideas.

2. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss the issues on company time since they are not work-related.

3. He knows how passionate people can get about those subjects and how they often take disagreements about them personally and he doesn't want to cause a potential conflict with a co-worker.

4. The subjects are so personally important to him that he only discusses them with his closest friend.

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Those are the reasons why people would get entierly different responses from me if they bring these subjects up at work or privately. At work I usually respond with something vague enough to make it clear that I don't agree but don't want to start an argument, or if asked a direct question I answer but make it clear that it's my final word on the subject.

When someone tells you they are not interested it can mean a number of different things. For example; "not interested... in discussing this with you, the way you present your arguments, right now, at this place, when I haven't first had the chance to present my views properly, because my cat is sick...".

Even if you find people who just can't be reasoned with you're not justified to make claims about most of humanity. It doesn't matter wether it's one, ten or one hundred people.

In my own experience though the responses you get often has a lot to do with your own approach. So, if most people don't want to listen to you I think it would be wise to take a good look on how you communicate with them.

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If a workmate begins discussing some subject with me, such as for example politics, and then I try to present the Objectivist viewpoint to him, and he *refuses to listen* (for example one of my workmates exclaimed to me - "Oh, politics, philosophy, ideas! I am not interested!" - and stopped the conversation), then am I not justified in concluding that they do not care to find out what explains things? So they are not *trying* to understand things?

You are not at all justified in concluding that because there are other reasons why a rational person may have given you exactly that response. Several other possible explanations come to mind such as

1. Every other person he has met who initiated a discussion of those topics was a crackpot with crazy ideas.

2. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss the issues on company time since they are not work-related.

3. He knows how passionate people can get about those subjects and how they often take disagreements about them personally and he doesn't want to cause a potential conflict with a co-worker.

4. The subjects are so personally important to him that he only discusses them with his closest friend.

Reminds me of when I vaguely tell people "oh I'm not interested in talking about politics..." at work because

1: it's a Leftist charged atmosphere

2: I think talking about politics at work can be obnoxious and unprofessional

3: it's an effortless way to dodge futile discussion

If Henrik were there though I'd be one of the unwashed masses who doesn't care to think, and he'd "know" that about me for sure....

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If a workmate begins discussing some subject with me, such as for example politics, and then I try to present the Objectivist viewpoint to him, and he *refuses to listen* (for example one of my workmates exclaimed to me - "Oh, politics, philosophy, ideas! I am not interested!" - and stopped the conversation), then am I not justified in concluding that they do not care to find out what explains things? So they are not *trying* to understand things?

You are not at all justified in concluding that because there are other reasons why a rational person may have given you exactly that response. Several other possible explanations come to mind such as

1. Every other person he has met who initiated a discussion of those topics was a crackpot with crazy ideas.

2. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss the issues on company time since they are not work-related.

3. He knows how passionate people can get about those subjects and how they often take disagreements about them personally and he doesn't want to cause a potential conflict with a co-worker.

4. The subjects are so personally important to him that he only discusses them with his closest friend.

1) Even if so, that does not justify the assumption that I also am a crackpot. He should at least listen long enough to find out if I´m a crackpot.

2) These attempted discussions have almost always occurred on coffee and lunch breaks. Of course, nobody wants to spend all his breaks discussing politics or philosophy, but if they had decided that they wanted to find out what various viewpoints there are, then they would in reason be willing to listen to me for at least a minute.

3) We have a very tolerant atmosphere at my workplace. I do not think that there is any rational reason to be afraid of what might follow from mere disagreements.

4) Anyone who is serious about finding out what various viewpoints there are, should not restrict himself to hearing only his closest friend´s views. After all, what if his friend happens to be one of the ones who is wrong on whatever the subjects in question are? He cannot just assume that his closest friend happens to be a reliable authority.

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Those are the reasons why people would get entierly different responses from me if they bring these subjects up at work or privately. At work I usually respond with something vague enough to make it clear that I don't agree but don't want to start an argument, or if asked a direct question I answer but make it clear that it's my final word on the subject.

When someone tells you they are not interested it can mean a number of different things. For example; "not interested... in discussing this with you, the way you present your arguments, right now, at this place, when I haven't first had the chance to present my views properly, because my cat is sick...".

Even if you find people who just can't be reasoned with you're not justified to make claims about most of humanity. It doesn't matter wether it's one, ten or one hundred people.

In my own experience though the responses you get often has a lot to do with your own approach. So, if most people don't want to listen to you I think it would be wise to take a good look on how you communicate with them.

I do not think that it is my responsibility to "adjust" to my workmates´ irrational unwillingness to listen to new (to them) ideas. It is *their* responsibility to realize that they cannot assume that I am wrong and/or not worth listening to, before they have heard what I have to say. They ought to realize that I *might* have something valuable to say, and that they do not know that I don´t until they have heard it. Of course they must in reason have some reason to believe that it would be worth their time to listen to me, but it is common knowledge at my workplace that I am one of the most "intellectual" employees there, and that I have done more reading about "serious" subjects than just about everyone else. Maybe it is that very fact that puts them off. Maybe they are *afraid* of the "risk" that I might know enough to be able to teach them that their established premises are wrong? A lot of people do not like to be shown that they are wrong.

If the swine (excuse the expression, but that is the way the saying that I am alluding to is worded) reject the pearls, then it is the fault of the swine, not of the person who is throwing the pearls to them (I am conceited enough to think that I have a lot of valuable knowledge that I could teach the people around me, and that they would benefit from that knowledge, it is Objectivism after all).

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Both I, and the people here who disagree with me, have been writing post after post, and we seem to be restating our positions time and again. We have, as a Swedish expression goes - "been arguing past each other". I think that I see now what the cause of the impasse is.

It comes down to a point made by Harry Binswanger on the HBList. Harry has explained that the choice to think or not is completely independent of environmental factors. Progressive education, Kantian philosophy, even internment in a concentration camp, cannot make it more difficult for a person to perform the act of focusing his mind.

But - environmental factors can very much influence how far a person gets with his choice to focus his mind. If one person, who has grown up in a rational environment, chooses to think, he is likely to be able to achieve much more with the same effort, than a person who has had his mind sabotaged by progressive education and Kantian epistemology will, when he chooses to think.

I think that Paul´s Here, Bob Kolker, Betsy Speicher and others have been trying to tell me that I cannot blame common men for being ignorant, because they try honestly to find answers, but get nowhere, because of all the intellectual handicapps that they are laboring under (the modern anti-education system, for example).

Well, I agree that common men could not be blamed for being ignorant, if they had tried to gain knowledge, but failed. Their intellectual and psycho-epistemological handicapps are not their own fault.

But what I am arguing is not that the common men are ignorant because they have tried to gain knowledge and failed. but that they are ignorant because (most of them) have not even *tried* to gain knowledge. And the default on trying, i.e. the default on thinking, is as Dr. Binswanger explained, in no way due to environmental factors. It is a *free* choice. Such things as bad philosophy and progressive education are neither here nor there in regard to the choice to think or not, i.e. to try to gain knowledge or not.

Please to not argue against a straw man (I am not accusing you of doing that deliberately, I have probably not been clear enough).

I can conceive of two objections that some people here may have. They may argue 1) "But it just is not true that most people neglect to even try to think. You have not seen a representative sample of humanity, or you have made a mistaken inferrence about the people that you have observed" 2) "Yes, it is true that people *can* try to gain knowledge, despite all their handicapps, but the going is so hard that it is excusable if they just give up and therefore remain ignorant".

As to objection 1). Well, there I think that we are at an impasse. I am a first-hander. I would rather rely on my own observations of reality, and inferrences on them, than on other people´s assertions, and you are of course right to do the same. We have presented each other with the evidence that we have, and we cannot do more (I do not agree with those who claim that I have provided no evidence, and that my views are arbitrary).

As to objection 2). I do not buy that objection. My refusal to do so is colored by my own personal experiences. I do not think that giving up is an option. Not with what is at stake, namely the knowledge needed to survive. As I have related in other posts, I did not give up myself, despite the fact that my psycho-epistemology had been seriously damaged by a psychosis, and because I did not give up, but persisted in seeking out knowledge about political subjects (politics was what I initially was interested in) for 5 years, I discovered Objectivism and saved myself. After that I cannot believe that it is beyond most people to seek out knowledge. After all, most people are not laboring under the handicapp of the after-effects of a psychosis, as I was. So most people have still less of an excuse for giving up than I had.

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If a workmate begins discussing some subject with me, such as for example politics, and then I try to present the Objectivist viewpoint to him, and he *refuses to listen* (for example one of my workmates exclaimed to me - "Oh, politics, philosophy, ideas! I am not interested!" - and stopped the conversation), then am I not justified in concluding that they do not care to find out what explains things? So they are not *trying* to understand things?

You are not at all justified in concluding that because there are other reasons why a rational person may have given you exactly that response. Several other possible explanations come to mind such as

1. Every other person he has met who initiated a discussion of those topics was a crackpot with crazy ideas.

2. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss the issues on company time since they are not work-related.

3. He knows how passionate people can get about those subjects and how they often take disagreements about them personally and he doesn't want to cause a potential conflict with a co-worker.

4. The subjects are so personally important to him that he only discusses them with his closest friend.

1) Even if so, that does not justify the assumption that I also am a crackpot. He should at least listen long enough to find out if I´m a crackpot.

2) These attempted discussions have almost always occurred on coffee and lunch breaks. Of course, nobody wants to spend all his breaks discussing politics or philosophy, but if they had decided that they wanted to find out what various viewpoints there are, then they would in reason be willing to listen to me for at least a minute.

3) We have a very tolerant atmosphere at my workplace. I do not think that there is any rational reason to be afraid of what might follow from mere disagreements.

4) Anyone who is serious about finding out what various viewpoints there are, should not restrict himself to hearing only his closest friend´s views. After all, what if his friend happens to be one of the ones who is wrong on whatever the subjects in question are? He cannot just assume that his closest friend happens to be a reliable authority.

In other words, you think you can deduce the "rational" human behavior of every possible person that happens to be in your workplace with such precision that you can then examine their actions and speculate with confidence about their "real" motivations? This is rationalism. Every human being reacts differently for different situations and for different reasons, all of which depends on their personality, philosophy, and their emotions at that exact moment; throw in a dash of free will, and no wonder these swine and joe-sixpacks seem to behave so "irrationally" to your deduced from the platonic world of forms code of "rational" behavior.

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Those are the reasons why people would get entierly different responses from me if they bring these subjects up at work or privately. At work I usually respond with something vague enough to make it clear that I don't agree but don't want to start an argument, or if asked a direct question I answer but make it clear that it's my final word on the subject.

When someone tells you they are not interested it can mean a number of different things. For example; "not interested... in discussing this with you, the way you present your arguments, right now, at this place, when I haven't first had the chance to present my views properly, because my cat is sick...".

Even if you find people who just can't be reasoned with you're not justified to make claims about most of humanity. It doesn't matter wether it's one, ten or one hundred people.

In my own experience though the responses you get often has a lot to do with your own approach. So, if most people don't want to listen to you I think it would be wise to take a good look on how you communicate with them.

I do not think that it is my responsibility to "adjust" to my workmates´ irrational unwillingness to listen to new (to them) ideas. It is *their* responsibility to realize that they cannot assume that I am wrong and/or not worth listening to, before they have heard what I have to say. They ought to realize that I *might* have something valuable to say, and that they do not know that I don´t until they have heard it. Of course they must in reason have some reason to believe that it would be worth their time to listen to me, but it is common knowledge at my workplace that I am one of the most "intellectual" employees there, and that I have done more reading about "serious" subjects than just about everyone else. Maybe it is that very fact that puts them off. Maybe they are *afraid* of the "risk" that I might know enough to be able to teach them that their established premises are wrong? A lot of people do not like to be shown that they are wrong.

If the swine (excuse the expression, but that is the way the saying that I am alluding to is worded) reject the pearls, then it is the fault of the swine, not of the person who is throwing the pearls to them (I am conceited enough to think that I have a lot of valuable knowledge that I could teach the people around me, and that they would benefit from that knowledge, it is Objectivism after all).

The problem here might be that you are talking alot about your ideas but what you're communicating could be something entierly different.

Most people don't understand these ideas at all. It is so completely out of their frame of reference that they probably don't know what to make of it, and even if they tried they may not always have the proper tools. Simply put, you are trying to make people listen to ideas that, to them, are pretty far out there.

To put yourself in their position imagine what it would be like if you were working with a Jehovas Vitness or Scientologist who wants to enlighten you on their beliefs. Maybe he means well - it's about the salvation of your soul after all - and maybe he's not even preaching, but how much attention would you devote to that persons ideas?

Sure, in this case you actually got reason and logic on your side, but unless you communicate well chances are it goes all over their heads. And, communication is about alot more than just words.

Now, I don't know what you are actually communicating, it can be many different things, but if it's a common problem that people don't listen and take you seriously it's a good idea to take a carefull look at it and make necessary adjustments(without compromising your integrity, of course).

Let me make a little analogy here to illustrate this further.

I worked a little bit with sales a few years ago where my job was to convince people to change mobile phone operators. At this time we were the only ones on the market offering the kind of service that we had, which was a flat rate on phone calls. Our closest competitor had a similar service but with limitations. We offered this to companies that made alot of phone calls and often they could make a significant cut in costs.

So, I set out thinking this could not be too hard to sell. People like saving money and do more fun things with them than pay phone bills, right? Of course I wasn't completely naive, but this was truly a golden oppurtunity to make loads of money because of how the market looked like then. The problem however is that you can have a great product, a perfect pitch and many rational reasons for people to buy the product and your sales figures are not even going to look mediocre. Why is that?

The problem is that people don't hear what a great product it is and all the rational reasons to value it. It's like if you're buying a sports car, the first question in your mind is probably not going to be what the spec. sheet looks like but rather how it is to drive and what it's like to own that car. So what's in fact communicated here is; "Good day sir/ma'm, i'm an obnoxious salesman trying to part you from your hard earned money and waste your valuable time trying to pitch a product that won't do half of the things I claim". Just like any other salesman they've met. Is it fair to brush me off like that and assume that i'm going to rip them off without any supporting evidence? Without giving them any reason, a reason they can understand, I think that's perfectly fair. I think it's only rational to have some sort of defenses and filters to what you listen to and take under rational consideration.

Take a different approach instead. Get to know the person and what he values, find out a little bit about his needs and on top of that, if you get the chance, try building a little rapport. Then show how the product matches his values and meets his needs and you'll have a fair chance of closing the deal and have a happy customer. Now you are more likely to communicate the concern for a happy customer, that you understand him and what you're selling to him is actually what he wants.

There are alot of similarities here to "selling" ideas. Of course there are differences but the same principles apply. If I were to do that i'd first look at establishing some common ground in terms of fundamental values, i'd do my best to understand the persons concerns and try to build some form of friendship. Then i'd present the ideas so as to show how it applies to that persons values. Atleast that would be a very simplified and condensed version of it.

To me it seems like you are trying to shoot down peoples defenses and think they are stubborn and irrational when you can't break through. My suggestion is to look at what you are communicating and see how that matches what you actually want to communicate, then make adjustments if necessary. Hopefully that will give much better responses.

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In other words, you think you can deduce the "rational" human behavior of every possible person that happens to be in your workplace with such precision that you can then examine their actions and speculate with confidence about their "real" motivations? This is rationalism. Every human being reacts differently for different situations and for different reasons, all of which depends on their personality, philosophy, and their emotions at that exact moment; throw in a dash of free will, and no wonder these swine and joe-sixpacks seem to behave so "irrationally" to your deduced from the platonic world of forms code of "rational" behavior.

I know some general principles about what is rational and irrational in this context.

1) You need knowledge about reality to live in it.

2) You should not be too quick to decide that you know everything that you need to know.

3) You can learn from other people.

4) You should be open to the possibility that a given person *might* have something significant to say on any given subject - and you do not know for certain that he does not until *after* you´ve heard it.

5) It´s worthwhile to invest time in the project of acqiring knowledge. Therefore you should read serious books, you should be willing to hear people out and you should go to a wide diversity of sources, in regard to books to read, and people to listen to, in order to find that knowledge.

I thiink that these principles are so on the level of "common sense" that I can reasonably expect even my workmates, who are factory workers, to be aware of them. And I practice what I preach. I have studied Objectivism for 30 years, but I do not imagine for a moment that I now know everything that I need to know. So I spend spare time almost every day, reading books, magazines and things on the Internet. I find it hard to tolerate the mentality who does not value mental/intellectual activity. I see no excuse for enyone, not even a factory worker, not to be a "man of the mind". Lack of moral and of intellectual ambition are major vices.

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Those are the reasons why people would get entierly different responses from me if they bring these subjects up at work or privately. At work I usually respond with something vague enough to make it clear that I don't agree but don't want to start an argument, or if asked a direct question I answer but make it clear that it's my final word on the subject.

When someone tells you they are not interested it can mean a number of different things. For example; "not interested... in discussing this with you, the way you present your arguments, right now, at this place, when I haven't first had the chance to present my views properly, because my cat is sick...".

Even if you find people who just can't be reasoned with you're not justified to make claims about most of humanity. It doesn't matter wether it's one, ten or one hundred people.

In my own experience though the responses you get often has a lot to do with your own approach. So, if most people don't want to listen to you I think it would be wise to take a good look on how you communicate with them.

I do not think that it is my responsibility to "adjust" to my workmates´ irrational unwillingness to listen to new (to them) ideas. It is *their* responsibility to realize that they cannot assume that I am wrong and/or not worth listening to, before they have heard what I have to say. They ought to realize that I *might* have something valuable to say, and that they do not know that I don´t until they have heard it. Of course they must in reason have some reason to believe that it would be worth their time to listen to me, but it is common knowledge at my workplace that I am one of the most "intellectual" employees there, and that I have done more reading about "serious" subjects than just about everyone else. Maybe it is that very fact that puts them off. Maybe they are *afraid* of the "risk" that I might know enough to be able to teach them that their established premises are wrong? A lot of people do not like to be shown that they are wrong.

If the swine (excuse the expression, but that is the way the saying that I am alluding to is worded) reject the pearls, then it is the fault of the swine, not of the person who is throwing the pearls to them (I am conceited enough to think that I have a lot of valuable knowledge that I could teach the people around me, and that they would benefit from that knowledge, it is Objectivism after all).

The problem here might be that you are talking alot about your ideas but what you're communicating could be something entierly different.

Most people don't understand these ideas at all. It is so completely out of their frame of reference that they probably don't know what to make of it, and even if they tried they may not always have the proper tools. Simply put, you are trying to make people listen to ideas that, to them, are pretty far out there.

To put yourself in their position imagine what it would be like if you were working with a Jehovas Vitness or Scientologist who wants to enlighten you on their beliefs. Maybe he means well - it's about the salvation of your soul after all - and maybe he's not even preaching, but how much attention would you devote to that persons ideas?

Sure, in this case you actually got reason and logic on your side, but unless you communicate well chances are it goes all over their heads. And, communication is about alot more than just words.

Now, I don't know what you are actually communicating, it can be many different things, but if it's a common problem that people don't listen and take you seriously it's a good idea to take a carefull look at it and make necessary adjustments(without compromising your integrity, of course).

Let me make a little analogy here to illustrate this further.

I worked a little bit with sales a few years ago where my job was to convince people to change mobile phone operators. At this time we were the only ones on the market offering the kind of service that we had, which was a flat rate on phone calls. Our closest competitor had a similar service but with limitations. We offered this to companies that made alot of phone calls and often they could make a significant cut in costs.

So, I set out thinking this could not be too hard to sell. People like saving money and do more fun things with them than pay phone bills, right? Of course I wasn't completely naive, but this was truly a golden oppurtunity to make loads of money because of how the market looked like then. The problem however is that you can have a great product, a perfect pitch and many rational reasons for people to buy the product and your sales figures are not even going to look mediocre. Why is that?

The problem is that people don't hear what a great product it is and all the rational reasons to value it. It's like if you're buying a sports car, the first question in your mind is probably not going to be what the spec. sheet looks like but rather how it is to drive and what it's like to own that car. So what's in fact communicated here is; "Good day sir/ma'm, i'm an obnoxious salesman trying to part you from your hard earned money and waste your valuable time trying to pitch a product that won't do half of the things I claim". Just like any other salesman they've met. Is it fair to brush me off like that and assume that i'm going to rip them off without any supporting evidence? Without giving them any reason, a reason they can understand, I think that's perfectly fair. I think it's only rational to have some sort of defenses and filters to what you listen to and take under rational consideration.

Take a different approach instead. Get to know the person and what he values, find out a little bit about his needs and on top of that, if you get the chance, try building a little rapport. Then show how the product matches his values and meets his needs and you'll have a fair chance of closing the deal and have a happy customer. Now you are more likely to communicate the concern for a happy customer, that you understand him and what you're selling to him is actually what he wants.

There are alot of similarities here to "selling" ideas. Of course there are differences but the same principles apply. If I were to do that i'd first look at establishing some common ground in terms of fundamental values, i'd do my best to understand the persons concerns and try to build some form of friendship. Then i'd present the ideas so as to show how it applies to that persons values. Atleast that would be a very simplified and condensed version of it.

To me it seems like you are trying to shoot down peoples defenses and think they are stubborn and irrational when you can't break through. My suggestion is to look at what you are communicating and see how that matches what you actually want to communicate, then make adjustments if necessary. Hopefully that will give much better responses.

I don´t think that your analogy is very good. If I think that Jehova´s Witnesses´ creed and Scientology are irrational, then that probably means that I am rational. But if my workmates think that Objectivism is irrational, then that means that they are *ir*rational. And I am polite when religious people try to persuade me. If listen to them at least a half minute, and if they are not too far out, I often engage them in discussion and explain to them why I think that atheism is more rational than religion. And my workmates are just being arbitrary if they assume that Objectivism is like the Jehova´s Witnesses creed or Scientology before they have heard me explain it. And I am careful not to make Objectivism appear to be some crazy sect, by "hard-selling" it.

It is true that most Swedes regard the content of Objectivism as being "far-out", but if they have "defenses" that I have to break down, then they are being irrational. A rational person is not prejudiced against new ideas. The ethics of egoism was "far-out" in my eyes when I first came across Objectivism 30 years ago, but I did not reject Objectivism out of hand, when I began reading The Virtue of Selfishness (the first Objectivist book that I read). I had the rational attitude that I would find out whatever it was that this Ayn Rand, whoever she was, had to say. So I made a point of reading the book through, cover to cover. And I let myself be convinced by Ayn Rand´s very rational arguments.

I suppose that I am holding people to high standards, when I expect them to be as open to new ideas as I was, and still am, but I insist that I am justified in doing so. There is no reasonable excuse for being prejudiced or for thinking that you already know everything that you will ever need to know. Of course I know that my explanations and arguments are not on the level of Ayn Rand´s, but they are still far more rational than just about anything else that my workmates are likely to have heard or read.

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I thiink that these principles are so on the level of "common sense" that I can reasonably expect even my workmates, who are factory workers, to be aware of them. And I practice what I preach. I have studied Objectivism for 30 years, but I do not imagine for a moment that I now know everything that I need to know. So I spend spare time almost every day, reading books, magazines and things on the Internet. I find it hard to tolerate the mentality who does not value mental/intellectual activity. I see no excuse for enyone, not even a factory worker, not to be a "man of the mind". Lack of moral and of intellectual ambition are major vices.

Sounds like you place intrinsic value on abstract study and discussion. I studied Objectivism so I could learn how to live on Earth, not so I could be an intellectual. My idea of heaven is to work hard every day doing a job I enjoy then have fun for what's left of the day doing things like playing video games, traveling, cooking and exercising. For me spending time on extended study is booooorrring! I guess you can't tolerate me either... :D

Whether I'm solving physics problems for my work, focusing on cutting potatoes the most efficient way, trying to learn a new armlock in jiu jitsu or playing an exhilarating video game what I am really doing is reveling in the joy of successfully applying my mind to something that enjoys me. Whether it is "abstract" or "intellectual" is irrelevant.

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1) Even if so, that does not justify the assumption that I also am a crackpot. He should at least listen long enough to find out if I´m a crackpot.

2) These attempted discussions have almost always occurred on coffee and lunch breaks. Of course, nobody wants to spend all his breaks discussing politics or philosophy, but if they had decided that they wanted to find out what various viewpoints there are, then they would in reason be willing to listen to me for at least a minute.

3) We have a very tolerant atmosphere at my workplace. I do not think that there is any rational reason to be afraid of what might follow from mere disagreements.

4) Anyone who is serious about finding out what various viewpoints there are, should not restrict himself to hearing only his closest friend´s views. After all, what if his friend happens to be one of the ones who is wrong on whatever the subjects in question are? He cannot just assume that his closest friend happens to be a reliable authority.

I think you missed my point.

A person responds -- and ought to respond -- based on his experiences, within his context, and according to his hierarchy of values -- not necessarily as you would expect, wish him to, or think he should. This is something you need to understand and appreciate.

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I do not think that it is my responsibility to "adjust" to my workmates´ irrational unwillingness to listen to new (to them) ideas. It is *their* responsibility to realize that they cannot assume that I am wrong and/or not worth listening to, before they have heard what I have to say.

In fact, it is your responsibility to be aware of your workmates' contexts and to adjust your communications appropriately if you want to communicate successfully. It is also your responsibility to motivate them to want to listen to you.

(I am conceited enough to think that I have a lot of valuable knowledge that I could teach the people around me, and that they would benefit from that knowledge, it is Objectivism after all).

That's not enough. You also need the necessary communication skills -- and you're not the only one. That's why Dr. Peikoff gave a whole course called "Objective Communication" (link) and I think you would find it very helpful.

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Other threads have discussed the issue of intelligence, and I've added some thoughts here and there. Henrik, it may be worthwhile to search and read through those.

Suffice it to say here that one must be clear to define his terms, particularly intelligence and genius. Intelligence has been studied since the late 1800s (if not longer, although more crudely). There is a huge amount of evidence that some portion of intelligence is genetically-based. In the literature on intelligence, this is referred to as "g" and refers to general intelligence.

This being said, there are many different intellectual abilities that compose what psychologists consider intelligence. A standard IQ test has around 13 particular subtests, each of which measures some ability (and some more than one ability). Since the 1980's, a variety of other definitions of intelligence and related tests have been developed (with more or less validity).

Intelligence is not merely one's performance on an IQ test, nor is it delimited to those abilities measured by such tests. Nevertheless, standard IQ tests provide very reliable and valid data on the abilities they do test, and many studies show strong correlations between IQ scores and success in different parts of life. Of course, correlation is not causation. Furthermore, acknowledging that there is a genetic basis to intelligence is not an endorsement of determinism.

But to the main point of whether there is or isn't a genetic basis to intelligence, I can confidently say there is.

Thank you for posting this, Scott. I think it is an important point. Having a good understanding of Objectivism is not sufficient qualification for pontificating on scientific issues, whether it be global warming, fundamental physics, or the nature of human intelligence.

One can form a hypothesis based on what one knows, but then the proper thing to do is check that theory against reality, by checking the facts. One should look into the relevant facts in the field and see if the the theory has already been addressed. There could be ample evidence for or against the hypothesis which one could quickly use to confirm or refute the idea, or in more controversial cases, use as a starting point for long-term exploration and study.

In this case, I would suggest reading up (at least on the internet to start) about the nature of the mind. There are also several good books that deal with this issue, available from Amazon or a local library. If one's primary interest is the facts of reality, this would be the next step to pursue.

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I don´t think that your analogy is very good. If I think that Jehova´s Witnesses´ creed and Scientology are irrational, then that probably means that I am rational. But if my workmates think that Objectivism is irrational, then that means that they are *ir*rational. And I am polite when religious people try to persuade me. If listen to them at least a half minute, and if they are not too far out, I often engage them in discussion and explain to them why I think that atheism is more rational than religion. And my workmates are just being arbitrary if they assume that Objectivism is like the Jehova´s Witnesses creed or Scientology before they have heard me explain it. And I am careful not to make Objectivism appear to be some crazy sect, by "hard-selling" it.

It is true that most Swedes regard the content of Objectivism as being "far-out", but if they have "defenses" that I have to break down, then they are being irrational. A rational person is not prejudiced against new ideas. The ethics of egoism was "far-out" in my eyes when I first came across Objectivism 30 years ago, but I did not reject Objectivism out of hand, when I began reading The Virtue of Selfishness (the first Objectivist book that I read). I had the rational attitude that I would find out whatever it was that this Ayn Rand, whoever she was, had to say. So I made a point of reading the book through, cover to cover. And I let myself be convinced by Ayn Rand´s very rational arguments.

I suppose that I am holding people to high standards, when I expect them to be as open to new ideas as I was, and still am, but I insist that I am justified in doing so. There is no reasonable excuse for being prejudiced or for thinking that you already know everything that you will ever need to know. Of course I know that my explanations and arguments are not on the level of Ayn Rand´s, but they are still far more rational than just about anything else that my workmates are likely to have heard or read.

Yes, if they think that Objectivism is irrational they're probably judging it by some irrational standard. We're talking people here who have been fed irrational ideas all their lives, of course they have made mistakes in their thinking. However, they might also have rational standards which they apply to your presentation and not necessarily the ideas themselves. The point with my examples is was to show that you will be viewed very differently depending on how you communicate. I can't say if this means they think you're part of some crazy sect, or if you're pushy, argumentative, confrontational, "hard-selling" it or anything else; since I don't know you and don't know how you approach these subjects I can't judge that. What I do know for a fact however is that your approach here has a great impact on the results you will get.

I'm also polite to religous people btw. I give them a friendly smile and say; "Oh, religon? I'm not interested. Have a good day!". I'm not open to their ideas and see no reason to hear them out and engage in any discusions.

To have "defenses" is both rational and important. If you don't have any sort of filter you'd soon have to consider every idea that's ever thought of. You would waste alot of valuable time that you could spend on more productive things. Also, ideas are very important and accepting the wrong ones can have serious consequences - especially when we're talking ideas that can fundamentally change a persons world view. Being open-minded is not a good thing. Active-minded, yes, but not open to anything.

A persons "defenses" can of course be based on misconceptions and false ideas, which is not a good thing either, but unless you're preaching to the choir that's just going to be the reality of the situation. On top of that, as mentioned earlier, you may encounter problems just by bringing these things up at work.

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I do not think that it is my responsibility to "adjust" to my workmates´ irrational unwillingness to listen to new (to them) ideas. It is *their* responsibility to realize that they cannot assume that I am wrong and/or not worth listening to, before they have heard what I have to say.

In fact, it is your responsibility to be aware of your workmates' contexts and to adjust your communications appropriately if you want to communicate successfully. It is also your responsibility to motivate them to want to listen to you.

(I am conceited enough to think that I have a lot of valuable knowledge that I could teach the people around me, and that they would benefit from that knowledge, it is Objectivism after all).

That's not enough. You also need the necessary communication skills -- and you're not the only one. That's why Dr. Peikoff gave a whole course called "Objective Communication" (link) and I think you would find it very helpful.

Since I do not control any other individual´s consciousness, I cannot force any of my workmates to listen to me, if they choose not to listen. But I can blame them for making that choice. They are, objectively, harming their own interests by not seeking out knowledge that they need to live. And to harm one´s own interests, when the context is such that one ought to know better, is immoral.

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If a workmate begins discussing some subject with me, such as for example politics, and then I try to present the Objectivist viewpoint to him, and he *refuses to listen* (for example one of my workmates exclaimed to me - "Oh, politics, philosophy, ideas! I am not interested!" - and stopped the conversation), then am I not justified in concluding that they do not care to find out what explains things? So they are not *trying* to understand things?

You are not at all justified in concluding that because there are other reasons why a rational person may have given you exactly that response. Several other possible explanations come to mind such as

1. Every other person he has met who initiated a discussion of those topics was a crackpot with crazy ideas.

2. He thinks it is inappropriate to discuss the issues on company time since they are not work-related.

3. He knows how passionate people can get about those subjects and how they often take disagreements about them personally and he doesn't want to cause a potential conflict with a co-worker.

4. The subjects are so personally important to him that he only discusses them with his closest friend.

1) Even if so, that does not justify the assumption that I also am a crackpot. He should at least listen long enough to find out if I´m a crackpot.

2) These attempted discussions have almost always occurred on coffee and lunch breaks. Of course, nobody wants to spend all his breaks discussing politics or philosophy, but if they had decided that they wanted to find out what various viewpoints there are, then they would in reason be willing to listen to me for at least a minute.

3) We have a very tolerant atmosphere at my workplace. I do not think that there is any rational reason to be afraid of what might follow from mere disagreements.

4) Anyone who is serious about finding out what various viewpoints there are, should not restrict himself to hearing only his closest friend´s views. After all, what if his friend happens to be one of the ones who is wrong on whatever the subjects in question are? He cannot just assume that his closest friend happens to be a reliable authority.

In other words, you think you can deduce the "rational" human behavior of every possible person that happens to be in your workplace with such precision that you can then examine their actions and speculate with confidence about their "real" motivations? This is rationalism. Every human being reacts differently for different situations and for different reasons, all of which depends on their personality, philosophy, and their emotions at that exact moment; throw in a dash of free will, and no wonder these swine and joe-sixpacks seem to behave so "irrationally" to your deduced from the platonic world of forms code of "rational" behavior.

It is *rational* behavior for every human being on the planet to seek knowledge. Which is exactly what these "swine" do not do. They just coast through life, mentally. And it is inherent in being a human being that you cannot afford to do that, if you want to live. These people are just lucky that they have not already got themselves killed or enslaved. The good luck consists of the fact that there happen to be other, better people who do not make the same choice that they make, to coast through life, mentally.

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It is a philosophical principle, supported by a wealth of inductive evidence, that every man, including truck drivers and the like, have free will. So the truck drivers are not doing the best they can when they default on thinking about abstract subjects that are relevant to their own lives (and there are such subjects, for example if you are a victim of inflation, then you have reasont to think about economics, if you are a victim of socialized medicine then you have reason to think about political science and philosophy).

Having free will does not make one smart (or stupid). The young lad who cleans up at the local hamburger stand is mentally retarded and he has a much free will as I do. And he is a good hardworking kid, too.

Free will is one issue. Abstract intelligence (or the lack thereof) is another issue.

Bob Kolker

I am assuming a normal brain when I say that all men *can* think about abstract issues, if only they try.

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But the majority of the truck drivers and "common men" are *not* doing the best they can, and it is their *own fault* that they are missing what they are missing. The choice not to think *is* a choice. And everyone knows in some terms that they *should* think. So they are not morally innocent.

Present evidence to support that assertion, please. If you are going to condemn, pray do make an empirical case for the condemnation.

By my reckoning no one is proved guilty of anything until there evidence to prove their guilt.

Bob Kolker

It is a philosophical principle, supported by a wealth of inductive evidence, that every man, including truck drivers and the like, have free will. So the truck drivers are not doing the best they can when they default on thinking about abstract subjects that are relevant to their own lives (and there are such subjects, for example if you are a victim of inflation, then you have reasont to think about economics, if you are a victim of socialized medicine then you have reason to think about political science and philosophy).

Are people who choose habituallly not to think morally depraved? Well, they are abdicating their minds, they are violating all the virtues, they are turning themselves into parasites on consciousness, they are rendering themselves existentially helpless, they are wasting their lives. Aren´t all those things morally depraved? To abdicate your mind is an instance of moral treason. It is an act of moral criminal negligence, it is a form of "metaphysical drunken driving".

The fact that someone knows he should think does not in any way create the knowledge he needs to know what to think. And no amount of struggling will guarantee success. This is why your thesis is invalid: you have assumed that truck drivers don't think because they haven't come up with the answers you think they would come up with if only they think about it. That is not how volitional consciousness works, Henrik. Nor is your hypothesis for evaluating people in such a manner proper. There are two fundamental facts of human consciousness: that it is volitional and that it is fallible. You have ignored the latter very important element.

No, I have not ignored the fallibility element. I am not blaming my workmates morally for being mistaken, I am blaming them for not putting forth any effort to check if they have made errors in their knowledge, and for not making any significant effort to correct the errors that they have made (they often refuse to listen when their established, mistaken premises are challenged for example), and to fill in the blanks in their knowledge. And they should listen, because nobody is justified in assuming that he is infallible, and that there are no errors in his established premises. The kind of person who reasons - "I am so smart that I do not need to listen to alternative viewpoints." is unspeakably arrogant.

And my workmates, at the same time that they do not listen to me, support the welfare state. So they are thinking both - "I am so helpless that I need the government to take care of me." - and - "I am so potent that I do not need any more knowledge than I have." If my workmates feel so helpless that they think that they need the government to take care of them, then they should try to escape that state of helplessness,by trying to acquire more knowledge.

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It is *rational* behavior for every human being on the planet to seek knowledge.
A boy isn't seeking knowledge when he learns from his father how to change a flat for the first time? The best way of cutting down a tree? The proper way to grease and maintain a disc plow? How to bottle-feed a calf the correct way so it doesn't get sick? How to properly keep his first car clean? How to cook a great burger? What to do when purchasing his first house, raising his first child?

The happy common man voraciously pursues this kind of knowledge precisely because he sees it as practical; he knows that this kind of knowledge enhances his life. This same man also ignores abstract knowledge and intellectuals because he has seen far too many ivory league intellectuals who have no contact with the real world that practical, happy people live and work in.

Which is exactly what these "swine" do not do. They just coast through life, mentally. And it is inherent in being a human being that you cannot afford to do that, if you want to live. These people are just lucky that they have not already got themselves killed or enslaved. The good luck consists of the fact that there happen to be other, better people who do not make the same choice that they make, to coast through life, mentally.
This kind of universal condemning of all normal people is horribly unjust, and I find it to be no wonder that your audience is never receptive of your ideas.

I'm done debating this, because you can't beat rationalism with arguments. You just have to demonstrate its folly and move on...

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But what I am arguing is not that the common men are ignorant because they have tried to gain knowledge and failed. but that they are ignorant because (most of them) have not even *tried* to gain knowledge.

Yes this is the crux. Here we have the issue clearly presented. Henrik, this is going to be tough for you. This statement above is a nonsense statement. That is it is made up of words that appear to make sense, but in fact do not. It is simply not possible for you or anyone to know, much less to claim, what the majority of men have done on this level. Attempting to make this claim is a logical fallacy. This claim is not available to proof.

Going back a little to your story about Ayn Rand coming to America and finding a difference in the way the “common man” acted. She did not decide that although men in Soviet Russia were all bad, the U.S. citizens were good, and therefore “common man” was good. She realized that each man has the volitional capability to be rational. She made no determination as to what the majority of “common men” did. She could not know. She only knew that it was possible for men to be good, that they had volition, and that made a difference.

The other difference is that she held the benevolent universe principle, which meant that the possibility could, underscore could, lead to societies of freedom, prosperity, and happiness, and hence, Atlas Shrugged. You, however, seeing the state that man can get himself get into, in spite of the existence of Ayn Rand, and many of us, have allowed yourself to jump to the conclusion that man is basically a second-hander and therefore at root, evil, or at least unworthy of respect.

But, if every person you meet in your entire life is a second-hander, knowing what you know about volition, you could not legitimately conclude that “(most of them) have not even ‘tried’ to gain knowledge.” You could not conclude anything about the next person you met. Maybe you could conclude that you live in a bad place, but that’s it.

Nor does it matter if it were the case that thinking is difficult, or obstructed, or punished, or treated negatively, or used partially, or compartmentalized. The only point that matters in regarding your fellow man is that every man has volition.

Your experience with you fellow worker who ignored you is something you need to consider deeply. All of us have had similar experiences. You have set this person up as a representation of the world. You might want to consider how personally you took it. I know that I have had to work through my own experiences to get perspective. It is not fun or easy. It is something we all have to do.

Most broadly, you need to make sure that you are not making the logical fallacy you are using in this argument as a standard mental process. Specific issues can be easily resolved, but poor reasoning skills tend to stand in the way of furthering your knowledge and ability to live in the world.

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I don´t think that your analogy is very good. If I think that Jehova´s Witnesses´ creed and Scientology are irrational, then that probably means that I am rational. But if my workmates think that Objectivism is irrational, then that means that they are *ir*rational. And I am polite when religious people try to persuade me. If listen to them at least a half minute, and if they are not too far out, I often engage them in discussion and explain to them why I think that atheism is more rational than religion. And my workmates are just being arbitrary if they assume that Objectivism is like the Jehova´s Witnesses creed or Scientology before they have heard me explain it. And I am careful not to make Objectivism appear to be some crazy sect, by "hard-selling" it.

It is true that most Swedes regard the content of Objectivism as being "far-out", but if they have "defenses" that I have to break down, then they are being irrational. A rational person is not prejudiced against new ideas. The ethics of egoism was "far-out" in my eyes when I first came across Objectivism 30 years ago, but I did not reject Objectivism out of hand, when I began reading The Virtue of Selfishness (the first Objectivist book that I read). I had the rational attitude that I would find out whatever it was that this Ayn Rand, whoever she was, had to say. So I made a point of reading the book through, cover to cover. And I let myself be convinced by Ayn Rand´s very rational arguments.

I suppose that I am holding people to high standards, when I expect them to be as open to new ideas as I was, and still am, but I insist that I am justified in doing so. There is no reasonable excuse for being prejudiced or for thinking that you already know everything that you will ever need to know. Of course I know that my explanations and arguments are not on the level of Ayn Rand´s, but they are still far more rational than just about anything else that my workmates are likely to have heard or read.

Yes, if they think that Objectivism is irrational they're probably judging it by some irrational standard. We're talking people here who have been fed irrational ideas all their lives, of course they have made mistakes in their thinking. However, they might also have rational standards which they apply to your presentation and not necessarily the ideas themselves. The point with my examples is was to show that you will be viewed very differently depending on how you communicate. I can't say if this means they think you're part of some crazy sect, or if you're pushy, argumentative, confrontational, "hard-selling" it or anything else; since I don't know you and don't know how you approach these subjects I can't judge that. What I do know for a fact however is that your approach here has a great impact on the results you will get.

I'm also polite to religous people btw. I give them a friendly smile and say; "Oh, religon? I'm not interested. Have a good day!". I'm not open to their ideas and see no reason to hear them out and engage in any discusions.

To have "defenses" is both rational and important. If you don't have any sort of filter you'd soon have to consider every idea that's ever thought of. You would waste alot of valuable time that you could spend on more productive things. Also, ideas are very important and accepting the wrong ones can have serious consequences - especially when we're talking ideas that can fundamentally change a persons world view. Being open-minded is not a good thing. Active-minded, yes, but not open to anything.

A persons "defenses" can of course be based on misconceptions and false ideas, which is not a good thing either, but unless you're preaching to the choir that's just going to be the reality of the situation. On top of that, as mentioned earlier, you may encounter problems just by bringing these things up at work.

My take is that the problem is not the way I present my ideas, but the nature of the ideas. My workmates do not want to have their cherised established premises called into question. For example they cannot stand the thought that there might be something wrong with the welfare state, which takes care of them. I could of course refrain from attempting the Sisyphos task of challenging the welfare state, but I value my integrity, so I challenge it nevertheless, and when they refuse to listen, I pronounce moral judgment on them. I take morality seriously. If that makes me moralistic and/or bitter, then so be it. I feel a psychological need to pronounce moral judgment on the injustice and the "volitional stupidity" that fills the world today.

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But what I am arguing is not that the common men are ignorant because they have tried to gain knowledge and failed. but that they are ignorant because (most of them) have not even *tried* to gain knowledge.

Yes this is the crux. Here we have the issue clearly presented. Henrik, this is going to be tough for you. This statement above is a nonsense statement. That is it is made up of words that appear to make sense, but in fact do not. It is simply not possible for you or anyone to know, much less to claim, what the majority of men have done on this level. Attempting to make this claim is a logical fallacy. This claim is not available to proof.

Going back a little to your story about Ayn Rand coming to America and finding a difference in the way the “common man” acted. She did not decide that although men in Soviet Russia were all bad, the U.S. citizens were good, and therefore “common man” was good. She realized that each man has the volitional capability to be rational. She made no determination as to what the majority of “common men” did. She could not know. She only knew that it was possible for men to be good, that they had volition, and that made a difference.

The other difference is that she held the benevolent universe principle, which meant that the possibility could, underscore could, lead to societies of freedom, prosperity, and happiness, and hence, Atlas Shrugged. You, however, seeing the state that man can get himself get into, in spite of the existence of Ayn Rand, and many of us, have allowed yourself to jump to the conclusion that man is basically a second-hander and therefore at root, evil, or at least unworthy of respect.

But, if every person you meet in your entire life is a second-hander, knowing what you know about volition, you could not legitimately conclude that “(most of them) have not even ‘tried’ to gain knowledge.” You could not conclude anything about the next person you met. Maybe you could conclude that you live in a bad place, but that’s it.

Nor does it matter if it were the case that thinking is difficult, or obstructed, or punished, or treated negatively, or used partially, or compartmentalized. The only point that matters in regarding your fellow man is that every man has volition.

Your experience with you fellow worker who ignored you is something you need to consider deeply. All of us have had similar experiences. You have set this person up as a representation of the world. You might want to consider how personally you took it. I know that I have had to work through my own experiences to get perspective. It is not fun or easy. It is something we all have to do.

Most broadly, you need to make sure that you are not making the logical fallacy you are using in this argument as a standard mental process. Specific issues can be easily resolved, but poor reasoning skills tend to stand in the way of furthering your knowledge and ability to live in the world.

No, I do not say that "common men" are, by nature, second-handers. I say that the *majority* of common men have become second-handers by *choice*, and they are therefore morally culpable. My premise that the majority of "common men" in the world today are second-handers, is an induction, which is supported by a wealth of evidence. How could you explain the state fo the world today, if the majority of men were *first-handers*? And I am not alone in thinking that the majority of men in the world have chosen to become second-handers. Harry Binswanger for one, has written extensively on the subject on the HBList. And I think that Ayn Rand herself would agree that the second-handers outnumber the first-handers by a very wide margin. Howard Roark is the exception, not the norm.

And second-handers are "by definition" men who do not think much, since there is no thought that is not independent. Why do I evaluate second-handers as such as harshly as I do? Because second-handers are made by their *own choices*. All men are self-made, in the metaphysical,not the economic, sense. Including the second-handers. That is in the nature of being a human being. Human beings are *volitional*.

Strange as it may seem, I apparently take free will more seriously than many other Objectivists do.

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No, I have not ignored the fallibility element. I am not blaming my workmates morally for being mistaken, I am blaming them for not putting forth any effort

You have no idea what effort they have made. Just because someone is not interested in hearing what you have to say to them, does not make that a non-effort.
to check if they have made errors in their knowledge, and for not making any significant effort to correct the errors that they have made (they often refuse to listen when their established, mistaken premises are challenged for example), and to fill in the blanks in their knowledge. And they should listen, because nobody is justified in assuming that he is infallible, and that there are no errors in his established premises. The kind of person who reasons - "I am so smart that I do not need to listen to alternative viewpoints." is unspeakably arrogant.

And my workmates, at the same time that they do not listen to me, support the welfare state. So they are thinking both - "I am so helpless that I need the government to take care of me." - and - "I am so potent that I do not need any more knowledge than I have." If my workmates feel so helpless that they think that they need the government to take care of them, then they should try to escape that state of helplessness,by trying to acquire more knowledge.

None of this makes them moral monsters. It simply means they are wrong.

I think we have gone beyond the end of my patience in discussing this with you. So, adieu.

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It is *rational* behavior for every human being on the planet to seek knowledge.
A boy isn't seeking knowledge when he learns from his father how to change a flat for the first time? The best way of cutting down a tree? The proper way to grease and maintain a disc plow? How to bottle-feed a calf the correct way so it doesn't get sick? How to properly keep his first car clean? How to cook a great burger? What to do when purchasing his first house, raising his first child?

The happy common man voraciously pursues this kind of knowledge precisely because he sees it as practical; he knows that this kind of knowledge enhances his life. This same man also ignores abstract knowledge and intellectuals because he has seen far too many ivory league intellectuals who have no contact with the real world that practical, happy people live and work in.

This kind of universal condemning of all normal people is horribly unjust, and I find it to be no wonder that your audience is never receptive of your ideas.

It is not rocket science that you need knowledge of such abstact subjects as political science and economics, in order to understand world events. And it is not rocket science that you need to understand world events in order to live and prosper in the world. So everyone who values his life must in reason pursue knowledge of such subjects as political schience and economics (and of philosophy, if they have come far enough to know that philosophy is the ultimate motor of the world).

Am I "horribly unjust" for condemning "all normal people"? First of all, I do not agree with the premise that it is "normal", in the metaphysical sense, to be a second-hander. But the majority of the members of mankind are second-handers (and I am certain that Ayn Rand herself would agree about that). So the question is - are second-handers per se to be morally condemned. I answer yes - because all second-handers are *self-made*, by the choice to automatize defaulting on thinking. Second-handedness if *volitional*.

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