Henrik Unné

Am I still an Objectivist?

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Ewv wrote in a post in my thread “An hypothesis about intelligence” in the Psychology section that some of my views are not in accord with Objectivism. He wrote, for example – “His [Henrik Unné´s] speculations and moral denouncements do not follow from Ayn Rand´s philosophy.” And – “These statements do not represent Ayn Rand´s philosophy of and emphasis on reason . . .”

And other persons have written posts that seem to agree with this assessment. So the question arises whether I really am an Objectivist. Of course, I do not have to agree with Ayn Rand on every concrete issue in order to be an Objectivist. But Objectivism is the name Ayn Rand gave to *her* philosophy, so if I disagree with her on philosophical *principles*, then I have no moral right to continue to call myself an Objectivist. So I ask the question whether my disagreement is on a question of philosophical principle, or “just” on a concrete? I am not certain. If I just disagreed with Ayn Rand about the moral status of one specific individual, then I think that it would be clear that I could be an Objectivist anyway. But I am disagreeing in regard to a generalization about the majority of common men, and about second-handers, so maybe I am disagreeing about a principle. And if so, then I suppose that I will have to stop calling myself an Objectivist.

I apparently do disagree with Ayn Rand in regard to my assessment of the moral status of the majority of common men. At least I disagree with the assessment that Ayn Rand made *after* she changed her mind, after having written the short story “The Little Street” towards the end of the 1920s (an account of the writing of that short story is related in The Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman). I agree with the view on the moral status of the majority of common men that Ayn Rand apparently had when she wrote that short story. Ayn Rand probably based that negative assessment of the moral status of the majority of common men, which was conveyed by that story, on her experiences of the common men in the Soviet Union. Many of those common men were the kind who would report a neighbor to the GPU, in order to receive an extra ration of cooking oil. But Ayn Rand changed her mind, probably due to her subsequent observations of the common men in the USA. Most of the common men in the USA were pretty decent people, existentially. They were the kind of civilized creatures that you would be glad to have as friends.

But I see things differently. I agree with Ayn Rand that the majority of common men in the USA are decent human beings, existentially. But I ask myself - *why* are the majority of the common men in the USA better than the majority of the common men were in the Soviet Union? It is, in essence, merely because they were *lucky*. They had the good luck to be born in a healthy culture – the culture of America.

The majority of common men in any society are second-handers. They do not care to think critically about abstract subjects. They do not think much about abstract subjects at all. Therefore, they are not in control of what kind of ideas they accept, and of what kind of persons they become. They just accept whatever ideas happen to be floating around them in the culture that they happen to be born in. So if they have the good fortune to be born in a relatively healthy culture, such as America, or even my country Sweden, there is a good chance that they will become decent human beings. But if they have the bad fortune to be born in a vicious culture, such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or some pesthole in the Middle East, they are likely to end up becoming vicious creatures, existentially.

Now, Ayn Rand apparently decided that since the majority of common men in the USA, were decent men existentially, they were morally good, or at least mixed. But I see things differently. Morality is about that which is under an individual´s volitional control, not about that which is due to mere luck. And a second-hander has virtually no volitional control over what kind of man he becomes. If he happens to be born into a healthy culture, he probably becomes an existentially decent human being. If he happens to be born into a vicious culture, he probably becomes existentially vicious. So I do not think that the majority of common men in the USA, and the majority of common men in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or the Middle East are *essentially* different. It is essentially just luck which makes the majority of common men in the former society, into existentially more decent human beings, than the majority of common men in the latter societies.

So, apparently, my disagreement with Ayn Rand, and probably most Objectivists, comes down to the question of whether each second-hander is morally the same as every other, regardless of how much luck he has had in regard to what society he is born into. My view is that a second-hander qua second-hander is immoral (let´s leave aside for now the question of just *how* immoral he is), because of the way he (mis)-uses his mind. Ayn Rand, and most Objectivists, seem to have the view that the second-hander deserves moral credit for that which is due to mere luck, because that is what is *actualized* in physical action in reality (i.e. a typical American common man lives a civilized life in action, he is a “nice guy”). So Ayn Rand, and most Objectivists, hold that a man deserves credit for his existential virtues, even if it is merely due to luck that he has developed those virtues.

But can´t you condemn a man morally, for the mere fact that he lets himself become a second-hander? I think that you can. Being a second-hander is like driving down a highway in your car, when you are drunk. A drunken driver is guilty of criminal negligence. And he is immoral, even if he is lucky enough not to get into an accident, and doesn´t hurt anybody. A second-hander goes through life without thinking for himself, and he therefore is bound to get into accidents, just as a drunken driver is. So, just as you are immoral as soon as you get into a car and begin driving while under the influence, even before you get into any accidents, so you are immoral as soon as you let yourself become a second-hander, even before you meet with any existential catastrophes. The mere fact that a drunken driver is lucky, and does not get into any accidents, does not render him blameless. And the mere fact that a second-hander is born in the USA, and therefore becomes a decent human being existentially, does not render him blameless.

OK, now you see why I view any second-hander, qua second-hander, as being immoral, the question is – how can I justify my view that he is not just immoral, but a moral monster?

Well, what is a second-hander? He is a person who subordinates his mind to the minds of others. He makes himself, volitionally, into a cognitive serf. Now that is an act of self-abasement. And he renders himself helpless to boot. Which is figuratively an act of gratuitous suicide. I say that self-abasement and gratuitous suicide are morally depraved on the face of it. Do you say now – “But you, Henrik, have not *proven* your idea that self-abasement and gratuitous, figurative suicide are morally monstrous acts”? Well, that is like saying – “But you, Henrik, have not *proven* that the grass over there is green.” I say that self-abasement and gratuitous, figurative suicide are morally monstrous acts on the face of it, just as grass is green on the face of it. If you cannot not see, on your own, that self-abasement and gratuitous suicide, even figurative such, are morally monstrous acts, then I cannot make you see it. I just value my self-esteem and my life, and therefore I cannot tolerate self-abasement and gratuitous, figurative suicide. Let me just remind you of the point that Dr. Peikoff made in a lecture, when he was discussing the principle that life is not an intrinsic value, that any person who commits suicide *gratuitously*, is a moral monster (and if I recall correctly, Dr. Peikoff used the very words “moral monster”). Life is too precious a value to just be thrown away. And a second-hander, qua second-hander, throws away his life, at least figuratively.

A possible objection to my way of reasoning, is that it is wrong to make moral judgments into a question of acts of consciousness exclusively. For example, it would clearly be wrong to say that if I just had the thought – “My boss is such an a-hole, I want to punch him in the face.” – then I would be morally the same as if I actually did punch my boss in the face. And it would clearly be wrong to say that if I just had the thought – “Wouldn´t it be nice to go over to that beautiful woman and fondle her breasts, without bothering to ask for her consent?” – then I would be morally the same as if I actually did fondle the woman´s breasts without her consent. Morality is fundamentally about actions in reality, and not just about the actions in a person´s consciousness.

But – a person “sets himself up” for misfortune “out there” in reality, if he lets himself become a second-hander. He endangers himself and others, when he makes it a habit to default on thinking, just as a drunken driver endangers himself when he drives under the influence. A drunken driver is guilty of criminal negligence. A second-hander is guilty of the moral equivalent of criminal negligence.

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Now, Ayn Rand apparently decided that since the majority of common men in the USA, were decent men existentially, they were morally good, or at least mixed. But I see things differently. Morality is about that which is under an individual´s volitional control, not about that which is due to mere luck. And a second-hander has virtually no volitional control over what kind of man he becomes. If he happens to be born into a healthy culture, he probably becomes an existentially decent human being. If he happens to be born into a vicious culture, he probably becomes existentially vicious. So I do not think that the majority of common men in the USA, and the majority of common men in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or the Middle East are *essentially* different. It is essentially just luck which makes the majority of common men in the former society, into existentially more decent human beings, than the majority of common men in the latter societies.

Henrik,

I understand that you are somewhat down on the general run of mankind. Among other things, we Objectivists spend a lot of time focusing on the most productive, the most creative, the hero; we often do not spend much time thinking about the “average man”.

What I believe Ayn Rand realized after her experience in the U.S. is that given the chance the average man will not be a second-hander. The average man in the United States is fact oriented. He may not be the creator, the leader, the hero, but he will pay attention to the world, judge, and act in accordance with reality, as best he can. He can enjoy his life and have honestly gained self-esteem. She recognized his potential. Think of how much better he would be if we had a good educational system.

However, if the culture he is in is bad, the average man will adapt to survive. If he sees his neighbor drug off to jail for trying to be honest, he will be less honest, and so on. He will feel self-disgust, self-contempt, etc., but he will do it. He can be beaten down. He will bend. He will break. He can learn to pay more attention to the consciousness of his boss, his leaders, etc., if it means surviving. It is a learned behavior, maybe even at an early age. What it means today is that because of the prevalence of evil outside the U.S. the average man suffers. He is faced with having to put up with irrationality on most fronts that is much stronger than he is.

The plight of the average man is the recognition of the dependency of mankind in general on the context. It is not a condemnation of humans to recognize their dependency. Of necessity, there must be a division of labor. Only a few humans can be philosophers, leaders, professors, originators. The vast majority must be workers. It must be so. This is why the average man needs to protect the genus, the creator, the thinker. It is how his life improves. That is the point! In that sense, you have it backwards. Do not condemn the average man because he is an average man, support the above average man.

What you are calling luck is the actual context you are born into and it applies to every person, to every birth. It is "luck" if your parent is a monster and you develop multiple personalities. It is "luck" if your parent is Jimmy Carter. It is "luck" if you were born in the Ayn Rand era. It is "luck" if you were born a slave. It is important what the context is in a person's life. For a human this is existence. Existence exists. Every life has a context. You might call being born in the United States after the writings of Ayn Rand good fortune, but it isn't luck. It just is.

Ayn Rand did not neglect to include the average man in Atlas. Her average characters are Eddy Willers and Cheryl Taggart. They were as good as they were because of Dagny. They still suffered and lost in Atlas. When you want to think about the average man, think of them.

“Common man” depends upon good philosophers, moral leaders, a just society to have the chance to become a good man. But so do I and you and the rest of us. Without Ayn Rand, we would all still be altruists to one degree or another, possibly religious, really a mess, much more like the common man. Her existence, her creations, her insights, her discoveries, her genus has made it possible to free the world completely. It can become free for you, for me, for the “common, average” man.

So, are you any less of an Objectivist because of your less than stellar opinion of the “average man”? If you are declaring that the average man can only be a second-hander, you need to rethink that. One of your premises is wrong. If you are expressing your own experiences, then you are arguing from your own judgment. You should not substitute another’s for yours, but you might want to think about Ayn Rand’s own experiences and consider them as useful. If you are using reason, working to recognizing the facts of reality, being logical, honest, and clear, that is, being objective, then I think you can keep the name. After all, Leonard Piekoff liked horror movies.

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“Common man” depends upon good philosophers, moral leaders, a just society to have the chance to become a good man. But so do I and you and the rest of us. Without Ayn Rand, we would all still be altruists to one degree or another, possibly religious, really a mess, much more like the common man. Her existence, her creations, her insights, her discoveries, her genus has made it possible to free the world completely. It can become free for you, for me, for the “common, average” man.

I beg to differ. I have met many people who have rejected the rot of altruism without any help from Ayn Rand. I am one of those people. I am not an Objectivist (although I am objective). I discovered the primary status of existence long before I read any of Ayn Rand's work. I formulated my own version which I call Reality Lite.

1. There is an Out There out there.

2. We, as humans, have the wits (by way of evolution) to grasp enough of what is Out There to win our survival in a world that is not entirely safe for us.

3. We do it but deploying our wits and doing the necessary work if we choose to do the necessary work and we choose to think.

4. We are children of The Cosmos, as much a part of things as wind and wave, fire and water, lightning and air.

I got that all by myself. Ayn Rand aided me into polishing up this view of things, but I did not get it from her. I found Ayn Rand helpful, but not the source of my thinking. And I am not alone in this. There are millions of people out there who never heard of Ayn Rand, but are doing the right thing and following the right course. Unfortunately, such folks, at present, are in the minority or not in a position to prevail.

Bob Kolker

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I am one of those people. I am not an Objectivist (although I am objective).

That's an interesting statement. Could you elaborate a bit?

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I am one of those people. I am not an Objectivist (although I am objective).

That's an interesting statement. Could you elaborate a bit?

I pay attention to facts. I am more convinced by empirical evidence than by philosophic arguments.

I do not hang on every word Ayn Rand has written. I disagree with her a great deal on the matter of aesthetics. I regard aesthetics as having little or no objective basis. People like what they like and dislike what they dislike. It is a matter of taste which is subjective.l

In the matter of politics and morality I am flat out anti-collectivist and anti-altruistic. I am pro-capitalist, primary for pragmatic reasons. Capitalism works and the various forms of collectivism and non-market economic controls fail. That is just a fact of life. I act and judge accordingly. I am anti-altruistic for a very simple reason: I own my life, my time, my body and my energy. They are not tools for others to use just because they need to.

Above all I agree with Heinlein's Axiom: TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Everything of value we have is either extracted from Nature by wit and labor or created from the materials nature provides by wit and labor. Even the good things that grow on trees have to be discovered and picked and both require wit and labor.

I think you get the general idea where I stand on certain matters.

I differ with big "O" Objectivists on certain issues and agree with them on others.

Bob Kolker

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A person can convert to a faith and "be" Christian, Moslem, pagan, but no one can "be" Objectivist. No one arrives at Objectivism the way a religious person can arrive at a "state of grace."

For Objectivists, there's only the spiral: the spiral of further knowledge, further integration, further application, further action. There's no plateau, no arrival. The spiral defines the Objectivist.

I think that Rand may have unintentionally done the philosophy a disservice by creating John Galt. Galt is the perfect man, the Jesus of Objectivism. Galt was the man who developed as a completely rational (that is, virtuous) human being. I believe he is more of an abstraction than a concretization because even Rand could not satisfactorily concretize what that would entail. Even she could not imagine it well enough.

Galt is a fictional device. We can use the fictional device as a model, but we cannot be a fictional device. None of us developed as a completely rational person. None of us can tell exactly what we would have been and done if we had developed correctly. We have to constantly work toward Objectivism.

So, Henrik, my answer is: Grow, and to the extent that you grow, you're an Objectivist. Stall, and to the extent that you stall, you're not. That goes for all of us.

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I beg to differ. I have met many people who have rejected the rot of altruism without any help from Ayn Rand. I am one of those people. I am not an Objectivist (although I am objective). I discovered

I got that all by myself. Ayn Rand aided me into polishing up this view of things, but I did not get it from her. I found Ayn Rand helpful, but not the source of my thinking. And I am not alone in this. There are millions of people out there who never heard of Ayn Rand, but are doing the right thing and following the right course. Unfortunately, such folks, at present, are in the minority or not in a position to prevail.

The context of that particular paragraph did not imply that an awareness of reality could only come from reading Ayn Rand. Nor am I talking about any particular individual. I am talking about cultures and the importance of prevalent ideas. More specifically, in the paragraph you excerpted I am referring to the tremendous advantage that mankind has gained because she lived, thought, and wrote.

It is certainly possible that in any particular point in time that there are individuals who live in irrational cultures but are able to maintain their mental health. It is certainly possible for a person to live in the United States and be able to focus on reality without Ayn Rand, oh!, wait a minute, that was implied in the earlier part of my post that you didn't include.

Nothing that you have said has anything to do with the discussion instigated by Henrik: are men who are not geniuses, creators, etc., automatically second-handers or are generally morally inferior because they may not be able to withstand an irrational culture?

That some people may not need the full extent of her philosophy to understand and apply ratioality does not detract from the importance of her creation of a fully integrated philosophy of reason.

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A person can convert to a faith and "be" Christian, Moslem, pagan, but no one can "be" Objectivist. No one arrives at Objectivism the way a religious person can arrive at a "state of grace."

I agree, but quite a few people want to treat it that way. That's why whenever I hear the question, "Is ______ an Objectivist?" my first reaction is to ask, "Why does it matter?"

I think that Rand may have unintentionally done the philosophy a disservice by creating John Galt. Galt is the perfect man, the Jesus of Objectivism. Galt was the man who developed as a completely rational (that is, virtuous) human being. I believe he is more of an abstraction than a concretization because even Rand could not satisfactorily concretize what that would entail. Even she could not imagine it well enough.

I seriously disagree with this. In terms of character, intelligence, and intellectual achievement, Ayn Rand was John Galt's equal. She had to be in order to create Galt and his ideas -- especially his ethics. In terms of character and moral stature, I have personally known several real people like John Galt. In fact, I was married to one for forty years.

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I think that Rand may have unintentionally done the philosophy a disservice by creating John Galt. Galt is the perfect man, the Jesus of Objectivism. Galt was the man who developed as a completely rational (that is, virtuous) human being. I believe he is more of an abstraction than a concretization because even Rand could not satisfactorily concretize what that would entail. Even she could not imagine it well enough.

Galt is a fictional device. We can use the fictional device as a model, but we cannot be a fictional device. None of us developed as a completely rational person. None of us can tell exactly what we would have been and done if we had developed correctly. We have to constantly work toward Objectivism.

I disagree with your statements as I do not think Ayn Rand did a disservice by creating John Galt nor do I think he is to abstract. I think Ayn Rand gave people something worthy of striving for through the illustration of her moral man.

In other words, it seems that you are implying that John Galt is the perfect man that no one can reach which is to say that real men are morally flawed, if so then I disagree.

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I pay attention to facts. I am more convinced by empirical evidence than by philosophic arguments.

This is what is known as a false alternative. Actually, just the way you stated your proposition demonstrates that your "evidence" is packed with all sorts of philosophic arguments. You could have said that you are more convinced by perceptions, but when you get much beyond the perceptual level, you are back to the philosophical issue, specifically what are concepts and what is their relation to reality. Perhaps what you meant was that you find that inductive reasoning, based in perceptions is a source of knowledge while deductive reasoning is fine if the premises are true.

I disagree with her a great deal on the matter of aesthetics. I regard aesthetics as having little or no objective basis. People like what they like and dislike what they dislike. It is a matter of taste which is subjective.l

Actually, the way you put this, you disagree with Objectivism not only regarding art but the origin and role of emotions, which touches on ethics and the source of knowledge. The problem with cherry picking parts of an integrated philosophy is that you end by with nothing, really. If her aesthetics is incorrect, then her epistemology fails, the ethics goes, politics crumbles, and existence no longer exists. "Taste" and "like" are emotions that have roots in an individual's value judgments, their ethics. Emotions just do not exist in a vacuum. If "likes" are subjective, then ethics and value judgments are subjective and rational self-interest is nonsense.

Someone who says that they agree with Ayn Rand on a single issue are only paying attention to the words, or the conclusions. Usually, in nearly all cases, they aren't really agreeing at all. They do not know what they are agreeing with. Ayn Rand generally means something different than they think she does. This problem is a little less in politics, since capitalism was an idea that had been developed before her.

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So, are you any less of an Objectivist because of your less than stellar opinion of the “average man”? If you are declaring that the average man can only be a second-hander, you need to rethink that. One of your premises is wrong. If you are expressing your own experiences, then you are arguing from your own judgment. You should not substitute another’s for yours, but you might want to think about Ayn Rand’s own experiences and consider them as useful. If you are using reason, working to recognizing the facts of reality, being logical, honest, and clear, that is, being objective, then I think you can keep the name. After all, Leonard Piekoff liked horror movies.

I do not think that *any* man "can only be a second-hander". That is my whole point. Being a second-hander is volitional. It is a *chosen* abdication of the mind. Nobody *has* to be a second-hander. Everyone with a normal brain has the potential to be a hero. By "hero" I do not mean an original thinker, like Ayn Rand, although I suspect that everyone is born with the potential to be one, but that most men waste that potential (see my post "An hypothesis about intelligence"). By "hero" I just mean a person who puts forth *some* significant effort to make something of himself. As I have said before, the vast majority of the men that I have observed here in Sweden are not even Eddie Willers, they are more like the inhabitants of Starnesville. And, as far as I can recall, a great many of my schoolmates in America during my childhood were also totally without ambition (many of them "goofed off" all the time, many became hippies, etc.) to make something of themselves.

My experience is that short of *really* bad contexts, much worse than today´s America, or even today´s Sweden, to break a person. I was afflicted with a psychosis when I was a teenager, but that did not stop me from thinking to myself - "What happens in the world affects my life. Therefore I need to understand why the things that happen, happen. So I need to find out what determines such things as politics and economics. I made a conscious decision to search out the books that provided the intellectual basis for freedom. It was just common sense to me that freedom was a value, and that freedom needed an intellectual defense. I asked people around me to recommend good books. and I began by reading a couple of books by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. I was not satisfied so I kept looking. After about 5 years I discovered Objectivism. So my own experience is that a person can save himself by his own efforts. If I could search out and find Objectivism, on my own initiative, when I was recovering from a psychosis and living in Sweden during the 1970s, the heyday of the New Left - then why can´t other people, most of whom are laboring under lesser handicapps than I was, do the same?

So I do not think that the bad culture (and I agree that it is bad) can constitute an excuse for the lack of initiative, in regard to the pursuit of knowledge, that most people exhibit today. Context matters, but I do not think it plays as powerful a role as you seem to think it does.

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Actually, the way you put this, you disagree with Objectivism not only regarding art but the origin and role of emotions, which touches on ethics and the source of knowledge. The problem with cherry picking parts of an integrated philosophy is that you end by with nothing, really. If her aesthetics is incorrect, then her epistemology fails, the ethics goes, politics crumbles, and existence no longer exists. "Taste" and "like" are emotions that have roots in an individual's value judgments, their ethics. Emotions just do not exist in a vacuum. If "likes" are subjective, then ethics and value judgments are subjective and rational self-interest is nonsense.

I shall not have a dispute with you. I have worked out a system ("Reality Lite") which suits me well. I live in and at peace with those who mean or do me no harm. I do no harm to others who are at peace with me. I am generally content with my personal lot and I do not suffer torments or guilt. My system works for me, and that is all I require.

Would you do me a kindness? Do not refer to my efforts to put my life in order as "cherry picking". I worked very hard to make my system work for me and it does. I have some sweat equity in my approach. I do not use pejorative terms to describe what you do, and I would really appreciate it if you extended the same courtesy to me. Thank you kindly.

I do not try to "sell" my approach to others since in doing so I will not gain anything I really require. I will not be a burden to you or others (I am inclined to production and trade, not using other folks). Nor will I permit others to be a burden to me. Life is short. Why waste our precious time doing unnecessary things.

As to emotion, I do not process emotion like you. I am an Aspergarian (or an Aspie). I do not process emotion like you do. My brain does not work quite like yours. From a neurological point of view, I am a high functioning autistic. I have a very high I.Q. and I do very abstract things with my wetworks. Statistically I am one in about 150.

Professionally I am an applied mathematician and problem solver (that is how I made my living -- I am retired now). I did applied math and software development and got paid rather well for my effort. I still do math because I like to do math. I have learned to adapt some of my external behavior to fit in with the Neuro-Typicals who are the majority of the human race. It is very difficult to earn an honest living behaving a "nutty" manner. So among the Neuro-Typicals I am just a nice friendly old guy with no chip on my shoulder and no personal axe to grind. I have been diagnosed both by behavioral survey (the Simon Baron Cohen test and surveys like it) and also by MRI scan. Like Popeye the Sailor Man, I Yam what I Yam. I have learned over a long time how to get along with my Neuro-Typical neighbors. That makes things easier for me (I have to earn my living) and easier for them. I come in peace. I am at peace.

Peace. Shalom.

Bob Kolker

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[My experience is that short of *really* bad contexts, much worse than today´s America, or even today´s Sweden, to break a person. I was afflicted with a psychosis when I was a teenager, but that

So I do not think that the bad culture (and I agree that it is bad) can constitute an excuse for the lack of initiative, in regard to the pursuit of knowledge, that most people exhibit today. Context matters, but I do not think it plays as powerful a role as you seem to think it does.

Henrik, I am not trying to offer "excuses". Nor am I willing to let slide the immorality of the person who refuses to think or acts to perpetuates evil. My examples were of extreme cultures, but it really only takes a culture that is opposed to individuality and independence to lead to second-handers. I merely wanted to point out that a benevolent, reality-oriented culture would be a better place to live and be reality-oriented than one that isn't. This may seem trivial or of minor consideration, it isn't. "Give me liberty or give me death!" is the correct sentiment.

Allow me to offer an observation. I do mean this in a respectful manner. It is actually a logical fallacy to suggest, "Since I did it anyone can do it". It is not true. Many people make this mistake. Examples: "If I were you, I would do...." "Why don't people act like me?" "Why don't you like what I like?" One man I knew and respected was annoyed because an employee went to a psychologist, saying that the person should have been able to handle the issue without help. What you are able to accomplish has no bearing on what anyone could do in a similar situation, not on what they should do, either. When the bad culture works to block you at every turn, different men are going to have different levels of capacity to continue trying. That is not a moral issue.

I do not remember where I heard the following. I think it was from a lecture by Leonard Piekoff. He said that he asked Ayn Rand what would have happened if Roark had not been called back to NYC. What if he had not been able to achieve his dream? She said that he would have drifted down into a sullen bitterness (my words and memory). She said that no man could withstand continued rejection and contempt. That is the story of Leo and of Roark's mentor. This can happen to the best of us, which again underscores the importance of correcting the one we live in.

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Objectivism, qua philosophy, does not entail any specific evaluation of the "majority of common men." The "majority of common men" makes no difference in metaphysics, nor in epistemology, nor in ethics, nor in anything built on that. If Objectivism tells you anything about the "majority of common men," it is to forget about them and go on living your life.

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I do not remember where I heard the following. I think it was from a lecture by Leonard Piekoff. He said that he asked Ayn Rand what would have happened if Roark had not been called back to NYC. What if he had not been able to achieve his dream? She said that he would have drifted down into a sullen bitterness (my words and memory). She said that no man could withstand continued rejection and contempt. That is the story of Leo and of Roark's mentor. This can happen to the best of us, which again underscores the importance of correcting the one we live in.

Interesting! So this could explain why so many people consciously choose not to pursue their dreams. Just as with startups, the (perceived) failure rate is high; whilst the upside is magnificent (happiness and wealth, amongst other things), the downside is both terrifying and very likely. So they go for the "safe" middle-ground, become a chartered accountant or an administrative assistant; the upside is moderate, but much more likely, and the downside is alright too since it will be temporary (plenty of gigs for accountants and AAs). By aiming average you hit average.

However, an interesting thing I have discovered through the Market Wizards series and other sources of materials about great traders is that they are all defined by the same thing: extreme resilience. They never gave up. There's one in the 2nd Market Wizards book who bankrupted himself 4 times (never hitting big in between) - every time, he worked in his version of the "quarry" until he had packed enough savings to not be eaten by fees, and tried again. 5th time, he managed to grow his AUM and became one of the world's most successful traders. Over and over again you hear the same story: the guy gets bankrupt or close to bankrupt, sometimes multiple times, but is persuaded that he'll be a great trader, and so keeps going until he learns enough to make money.

So maybe Roark would have done it, through sheer resilience. He'd have tried again, harder, he'd have gone and found the clients. I felt that Roark's mentor had almost "given up" in the face of adversity, rather than been a "victim of society", when I read the book.

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However, an interesting thing I have discovered through the Market Wizards series and other sources of materials about great traders is that they are all defined by the same thing: extreme resilience. They never gave up. There's one in the 2nd Market Wizards book who bankrupted himself 4 times (never hitting big in between) - every time, he worked in his version of the "quarry" until he had packed enough savings to not be eaten by fees, and tried again. 5th time, he managed to grow his AUM and became one of the world's most successful traders. Over and over again you hear the same story: the guy gets bankrupt or close to bankrupt, sometimes multiple times, but is persuaded that he'll be a great trader, and so keeps going until he learns enough to make money.

So maybe Roark would have done it, through sheer resilience. He'd have tried again, harder, he'd have gone and found the clients. I felt that Roark's mentor had almost "given up" in the face of adversity, rather than been a "victim of society", when I read the book.

The thing that made the Market Wizards a little different than Roark was that they had made it once. I have also seen a book about businessmen who had gone through bankruptcies and divorces, etc. But again, each had success first. Maybe if Roark had put up one of his buildings he would be more resilience. At that point in the book he not had any success.

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However, an interesting thing I have discovered through the Market Wizards series and other sources of materials about great traders is that they are all defined by the same thing: extreme resilience. They never gave up. There's one in the 2nd Market Wizards book who bankrupted himself 4 times (never hitting big in between) - every time, he worked in his version of the "quarry" until he had packed enough savings to not be eaten by fees, and tried again. 5th time, he managed to grow his AUM and became one of the world's most successful traders. Over and over again you hear the same story: the guy gets bankrupt or close to bankrupt, sometimes multiple times, but is persuaded that he'll be a great trader, and so keeps going until he learns enough to make money.

So maybe Roark would have done it, through sheer resilience. He'd have tried again, harder, he'd have gone and found the clients. I felt that Roark's mentor had almost "given up" in the face of adversity, rather than been a "victim of society", when I read the book.

The thing that made the Market Wizards a little different than Roark was that they had made it once. I have also seen a book about businessmen who had gone through bankruptcies and divorces, etc. But again, each had success first. Maybe if Roark had put up one of his buildings he would be more resilience. At that point in the book he not had any success.

Roark gets everything thrown at him that one person could possiblly withstand and he still overcomes it all to succeed. I do not know how much more resilient a person could be than what Ayn Rand gave us a glimpse of in Roark. Ayn Rand never quit, do you think she would create a hero that would quit? I do not think so.

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Ayn Rand never quit, do you think she would create a hero that would quit? I do not think so.
Ray, you may have missed this, but I think he was operating on what he remembers Peikoff saying:
I do not remember where I heard the following. I think it was from a lecture by Leonard Piekoff. He said that he asked Ayn Rand what would have happened if Roark had not been called back to NYC. What if he had not been able to achieve his dream? She said that he would have drifted down into a sullen bitterness (my words and memory). She said that no man could withstand continued rejection and contempt. That is the story of Leo and of Roark's mentor. This can happen to the best of us, which again underscores the importance of correcting the one we live in.

As an aside, I think comparing Howard Roark to your typical entrepreneur is invalid. Howard Roark was not simply trying to make money. I think the difference is quite clear. Rarely are entrepeneurs as unyeilding and integrated as Roark. If Peter Keating had started his own firm, he wouldn't have had nearly as much difficulty.

I do not know whether or not Roark would have given up eventually. But I don't think it's correct to compare him to Ayn Rand because, despite some setbacks, she achieved quite a large amount of success in her lifetime. Had she never been able to find anyone willing to publish her books, who knows what she would have done. Perhaps she would have eventually given up...? Perhaps she would have become like Leo?

This is a very interesting topic, but I think we're stealing Henrik's thread.

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The thing that made the Market Wizards a little different than Roark was that they had made it once. I have also seen a book about businessmen who had gone through bankruptcies and divorces, etc. But again, each had success first. Maybe if Roark had put up one of his buildings he would be more resilience. At that point in the book he not had any success.

Last note on that topic before we get back to the original topic (perhaps this ought to be split into a new thread): the interesting thing was that no, they hadn't had any success. The trader mentioned above literally worked a couple of very boring low level jobs for weeks until he had amassed enough capital to go trade, he'd lose it, then do it again, and again, years of intense effort towards one goal (and he had a fanstastic wife who would support him through this). These guys usually failed multiple times before tasting success. So based on this I have no trouble believing in Roark's resilience as realistic; the kind of "become rich or die trying" spirit.

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Henrik, I am not trying to offer "excuses". Nor am I willing to let slide the immorality of the person who refuses to think or acts to perpetuates evil. My examples were of extreme cultures, but it really only takes a culture that is opposed to individuality and independence to lead to second-handers. I merely wanted to point out that a benevolent, reality-oriented culture would be a better place to live and be reality-oriented than one that isn't. This may seem trivial or of minor consideration, it isn't. "Give me liberty or give me death!" is the correct sentiment.

Allow me to offer an observation. I do mean this in a respectful manner. It is actually a logical fallacy to suggest, "Since I did it anyone can do it". It is not true. Many people make this mistake. Examples: "If I were you, I would do...." "Why don't people act like me?" "Why don't you like what I like?" One man I knew and respected was annoyed because an employee went to a psychologist, saying that the person should have been able to handle the issue without help. What you are able to accomplish has no bearing on what anyone could do in a similar situation, not on what they should do, either. When the bad culture works to block you at every turn, different men are going to have different levels of capacity to continue trying. That is not a moral issue.

I do not remember where I heard the following. I think it was from a lecture by Leonard Piekoff. He said that he asked Ayn Rand what would have happened if Roark had not been called back to NYC. What if he had not been able to achieve his dream? She said that he would have drifted down into a sullen bitterness (my words and memory). She said that no man could withstand continued rejection and contempt. That is the story of Leo and of Roark's mentor. This can happen to the best of us, which again underscores the importance of correcting the one we live in.

The frequency of second-handedness would be about the same in an ideal, Objectivist society. The choice to become a second-hander, i.e. in essence not to think, is not dependent in any way on environmental factors. But in an Objectivist society, the second-handers, who would be in a majority, would be much better people, existentially, than they are today, since they would have better premises by dint of good luck. But I would probably still feel some contempt for them for letting themselves become dependents on their environment (although I would not despise them so intensely as I do today, since they would be "nice guys"). Incidentally, if you are wondering, I do not feel contempt for my wife, because she has shown clear signs of independence and ambition, althoush she is not an Objectivist (she had never heard of Objectivism before she met me). My thanks to Harry Binswanger for explaining this point to me on the HBList.

Yes, Howard Roark would probably have drifted into sullen bitterness if he had not been called back to NYC, and I would probably have become a failure, if I had not discovered Objectivism, but the difference between Howard Roark and myself on the one hand (I am not saying that I am on the same level as Howard Roark, but I am better than average), and most common men on the other hand, is that we (the former) at least *tried*. Even if I had never discovered Ayn Rand, the fact would have remained that I made a serious attempt to find the abstract knowledge that I needed to live.

Yes, it is important that we correct the world that we live in. But does not that apply even to the Immoral Majority as well (That is in fact my point! *They* should put forth some effort too.)?

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Allow me to offer an observation. I do mean this in a respectful manner. It is actually a logical fallacy to suggest, "Since I did it anyone can do it". It is not true. Many people make this mistake. Examples: "If I were you, I would do...." "Why don't people act like me?" "Why don't you like what I like?" One man I knew and respected was annoyed because an employee went to a psychologist, saying that the person should have been able to handle the issue without help. What you are able to accomplish has no bearing on what anyone could do in a similar situation, not on what they should do, either. When the bad culture works to block you at every turn, different men are going to have different levels of capacity to continue trying. That is not a moral issue.

You have to distinguish between the metaphysical and the manmade, between questions of ability and questions of volition.

The mere fact that an Olympic athlete can run 100 yards in less than 10 seconds does not mean that I can. But every man can choose te be really ambitious, to try really hard, to persever and to overcome great obstacles. Every man can be a hero. Ayn Rand was adamant about that, and I agree with her on that point completely. Everyone can be a first-hander if he wants to. And everyone is morally culpable if he doesn´t make himself one.

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I think that a lot of us have been arguing "past each other" as a Swedish expression goes. I think that I have hit upon the reason for this.

I have presented my idea in post #56 in the thread "An hypothesis about intelligence" in the Psychology section. I do not want to spam, so I will not repeat that post here. I recommend that anyone who is interested in my view on the moral status of the majority of common men, reads that post.

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I do not remember where I heard the following. I think it was from a lecture by Leonard Piekoff. He said that he asked Ayn Rand what would have happened if Roark had not been called back to NYC. What if he had not been able to achieve his dream? She said that he would have drifted down into a sullen bitterness (my words and memory). She said that no man could withstand continued rejection and contempt. That is the story of Leo and of Roark's mentor. This can happen to the best of us, which again underscores the importance of correcting the one we live in.

Interesting! So this could explain why so many people consciously choose not to pursue their dreams. Just as with startups, the (perceived) failure rate is high; whilst the upside is magnificent (happiness and wealth, amongst other things), the downside is both terrifying and very likely. So they go for the "safe" middle-ground, become a chartered accountant or an administrative assistant; the upside is moderate, but much more likely, and the downside is alright too since it will be temporary (plenty of gigs for accountants and AAs). By aiming average you hit average.

However, an interesting thing I have discovered through the Market Wizards series and other sources of materials about great traders is that they are all defined by the same thing: extreme resilience. They never gave up. There's one in the 2nd Market Wizards book who bankrupted himself 4 times (never hitting big in between) - every time, he worked in his version of the "quarry" until he had packed enough savings to not be eaten by fees, and tried again. 5th time, he managed to grow his AUM and became one of the world's most successful traders. Over and over again you hear the same story: the guy gets bankrupt or close to bankrupt, sometimes multiple times, but is persuaded that he'll be a great trader, and so keeps going until he learns enough to make money.

So maybe Roark would have done it, through sheer resilience. He'd have tried again, harder, he'd have gone and found the clients. I felt that Roark's mentor had almost "given up" in the face of adversity, rather than been a "victim of society", when I read the book.

I am a bit surprised by the content of Bob G's quote. One difference between Roark and Cameron is that Roark was more impervious to the influence of secondhanders; he wasn't too affected by Wynand's paper's editorials, for instance, though Cameron was. I thus find it hard to see Roark becoming like Cameron, even if he had not achieved professional success. Roark may have been poor, lonely, and perhaps depressed, but I can't see him as despondent.

I think success at a challenging goal takes real commitment -- just not quitting or expecting an effortless, immediate success. Many give up and go for something easier. To succeed means choosing to put in the effort, to really work at something, hourly and daily for years if need be. It means trying what others haven't already done, coping with minor failures until one finds something that works. (I like the example of Edison trying 1000 materials for a lightbulb filament; they said it couldn't be done, and he didn't quit!)

[Note: In general, a direct quote or a citation is preferred to verify the paraphrase and/or determine the surrounding context. If possible, it would be nice to see it, though I, too, recall quotes but not the exact source on occasion.]

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Objectivism, qua philosophy, does not entail any specific evaluation of the "majority of common men." The "majority of common men" makes no difference in metaphysics, nor in epistemology, nor in ethics, nor in anything built on that. If Objectivism tells you anything about the "majority of common men," it is to forget about them and go on living your life.

I do get on with living my life. But it is good, in principle, to acknowledge the facts of reality. And a couple of facts about reality are:

1) The majority of the members of mankind are second-handers.

2) Second-handers, by their nature, are morally depraved.

What good does it do me to morally condemn the majority of the members of mankind? It gets a load off my shoulders, psychologically. I am giving them justice, when I pronounce moral judgment on them. It is a kind of "katharsis" for me.

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Objectivism, qua philosophy, does not entail any specific evaluation of the "majority of common men." The "majority of common men" makes no difference in metaphysics, nor in epistemology, nor in ethics, nor in anything built on that. If Objectivism tells you anything about the "majority of common men," it is to forget about them and go on living your life.

I do get on with living my life. But it is good, in principle, to acknowledge the facts of reality. And a couple of facts about reality are:

1) The majority of the members of mankind are second-handers.

That is unproved and is the fallacy of questionable cause. Are you telling me that an industrial civilization is maintained by second-handers? I doubt it.

2) Second-handers, by their nature, are morally depraved.

That is the logical fallacy of composition (among others that have been pointed out thoughout these threads).

What good does it do me to morally condemn the majority of the members of mankind? It gets a load off my shoulders, psychologically. I am giving them justice, when I pronounce moral judgment on them. It is a kind of "katharsis" for me.

Don't expect others to share your psychology. You are not giving them justice. You are missing out on many other attributes.

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