organon

A question regarding a particular venue of wealth acquisition, in an ethical context.

339 posts in this topic

My question on HBL was somewhat different than what's been discussed here, particularly since I included the case of a man who dies having thought of an invention before ever being able to commit it to an externally perceivable form - e.g., a focus on the act of thinking as productive itself, even if it does not directly lead to an externally perceivable output. There are interesting questions involving the timeframe of thought prior to action, the delayed effects of thinking on perhaps much later thinking (years later) which then leads to material creation, etc., but I've lost interest in discussing/arguing those (and some other) particular questions here. I am not likely to be posting further on this thread.

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...I've lost interest in discussing/arguing those (and some other) particular questions here. I am not likely to be posting further on this thread.
Though I might disagree that the HBL question was "somewhat different" than what's been discussed in the thread, I certainly understand and respect the desire not to pursue the subject any further here.

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I would only add that, just as a man who thinks about performing an honest action, but cannot be judged as honest until he performs that action, so a man who invents a way to make something new is not productive until he has actually acted to (at the very least) put his thoughts on paper. To be virtuous is to act (and "act" means act in reality, not act in your mind) toward values, to be productive is to produce products.

One cannot say that a man has invented something in his mind. There is no THING in his mind. A man cannot write a poem in his head. The brain does not hold pen and paper. One can only say that a man can think about actions he should or wants to take, but unless and until he takes them he is neither virtuous nor productive. That is, he has not acted (in reality) to achieve a value, nor acted (in reality) to produce a product.

But when a man IS thinking about what actions he should take, is he not being virtuous? HOW do you know what he is thinking about? If he tells you about an action he plans to take, do you say, "You are a virtuous man"? Or do you wait and see if he _follows through_ before judging him? What would be the point of judging him before he acted? What is the point of judging yourself as virtuous when you are in the middle of thinking about something? (I'm in focus, I'm thinking, I'm rational, therefor I'm virtuous!) If you don't follow through with the appropriate action, were you virtuous? If you don't follow through you have betrayed your mind, but you have not betrayed virtue; you merely have never exhibited virtue.

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I would only add that, just as a man who thinks about performing an honest action, but cannot be judged as honest until he performs that action, so a man who invents a way to make something new is not productive until he has actually acted to (at the very least) put his thoughts on paper. To be virtuous is to act (and "act" means act in reality, not act in your mind) toward values, to be productive is to produce products.

Despite what I said about probably not posting further, I do want to comment on this. I think that the time prior to actual material output must be considered as productive, even if it ultimately does not produce an externally visible action. A man may spend 25 years going through a process of complex thought before writing or speaking a word about it, or otherwise acting on it. If that 25 years of thought were required for the right action to be performed, it must be considered productive. A real example would be a young man born in a lethal dictatorship who dares not write or even speak a word of his thoughts which nonetheless one day compel him to escape; that would be Viktor Belenko, a Soviet fighter pilot who defected with his MIG jet to Japan. He had hid his thoughts so well that the Soviet authorities didn't have the slightest clue what he was planning, nor his wife. The book MIG Pilot (which I read long ago), is, as I recall it, largely psychological/philosophical because it focuses on the private thinking that he did over those years that ultimately led him to escape.

A thought that's occured to me, as well, is that if Harry Binswanger's theory about the nature of the brain is correct - that a lot of it is a deterministic physical system that stores processed thoughts and memories, that effectively, what we call the subconscious resides in the material brain - then it would be the case that when non-material consciousness produces thoughts worth remembering, that in fact it was being, in a way, materially productive, since the memory mechanism is brain (material) based. I think that's a key to connecting the fact of individuality and cognition being an individual function, to productiveness being fundamentally an attribute of the individual. In light of that, I have to respectfully disagree that you (Brian) have not been productive if you thought of a poem and memorized it but haven't yet committed it to an externally perceivable form. Certainly I and others will be grateful when you do, but I don't think appreciation by others is necessary in order to have productiveness.

The driver for me personally to better understand these ideas is that the modern world has many professions which are extremely intellectual and whose value is not material in the conventional form. Computer programming is probably the best example of that fact, since the ultimate physical instantiation of a program has more to do with energy states rather than material form. Lack of understanding of the real source of value of intellectual output is one reason why intellectual property is under attack today or not well understood, as even threads here have shown. People who would never steal a car will copy a program and think nothing about it, equating the ease of physical production with the value of the product; you can't copy a car in 5 seconds, and the parts are expensive too.

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Despite what I said about probably not posting further, I do want to comment on this. I think that the time prior to actual material output must be considered as productive, even if it ultimately does not produce an externally visible action.
The issue is not one of "visible action" but the creation of material value. That is what the virtue of 'productiveness' identifies. As such, if one fails to produce a material value (for whatever reason), then one's mental and one's physical efforts cannot be identified as productive.
A man may spend 25 years going through a process of complex thought before writing or speaking a word about it, or otherwise acting on it. If that 25 years of thought were required for the right action to be performed, it must be considered productive.
The fact that a man intends to be productive does not mean he will be productive. The potential is not the actual. If, after much intellectual effort, a man does not give material form to that intellectual effort (whatever the reason), he has not exercised the virtue of productiveness. He has not completed the process of creating a material value. And since such creation is fundamental to the nature of 'productiveness', such a man simply does not meet its criteria. Whatever else he might be (including rational, honest, etc) he has not been productive. He might have tried to be productive. But without having created the requisite material value, he failed in that attempt.

(Of course, if the man in question, after the 25 years of necessary thought, did create a material value based on all that intellectual effort, then that intellectual activity would certainly qualify as 'productive' - since it was part of the process which created that material value.)

The driver for me personally to better understand these ideas is that the modern world has many professions which are extremely intellectual and whose value is not material in the conventional form.
Such examples have already been dealt with - specifically by identifying the fact that, contextually, that notion of 'material' is invalid here.
Computer programming is probably the best example of that fact, since the ultimate physical instantiation of a program has more to do with energy states rather than material form.
Since 'material' in the context of 'productiveness' identifies values outside consciousness, unless the claim here is that "computer programming" takes place entirely in the mind and is never given any form outside consciousness, this statement is entirely irrelevant.

As indicated in OPAR, the mind/body split must be rejected in regard to the virtue of productiveness. The creation of a material value necessarily involves both intellectual and physical effort. Just as productiveness is not limited to the physical effort alone, neither is it limited to the intellectual effort alone. To accept either limitation is a grave error.

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Since 'material' in the context of 'productiveness' identifies values outside consciousness, unless the claim here is that "computer programming" takes place entirely in the mind and is never given any form outside consciousness, this statement is entirely irrelevant.

If you want to accept the premise that the differences between conventional physical ("material") production and property, and intellectual property, is irrelevant and has no existential consequences in today's world, then of course you could draw that conclusion.

As indicated in OPAR, the mind/body split must be rejected in regard to the virtue of productiveness. The creation of a material value necessarily involves both intellectual and physical effort. Just as productiveness is not limited to the physical effort alone, neither is it limited to the intellectual effort alone. To accept either limitation is a grave error.

I am not advocating a mind/body split. I am observing that the chief value, which must be considered as part of the virtue of productiveness, of some professions is in fact the mind part. As far as I can tell, part of our disagreement here is that I consider a person who's in the process of thinking towards the solution of a problem to in fact be productive during that time - and you don't, unless they ultimately "do something" with it. I also indicated, which you ignored, that in a way such thinking *does* have physical consequences, in the fact that the brain of the person thinking is being used to store intermediate conclusions and other products of non-material conceptual consciousness. It is possible, indeed common, for somebody to do such thinking which is *never* externally conveyed, but which makes possible, down the road, thinking which does lead to externally visible production. You've stated that you wouldn't consider that initial thinking productive, and I do, because it's causally required for the effect of that external production.

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Since 'material' in the context of 'productiveness' identifies values outside consciousness, unless the claim here is that "computer programming" takes place entirely in the mind and is never given any form outside consciousness, this statement is entirely irrelevant.

If you want to accept the premise that the differences between conventional physical ("material") production and property, and intellectual property, is irrelevant and has no existential consequences in today's world, then of course you could draw that conclusion.

I would be very interested in learning the logic by which one concludes the fact that a material value here is properly identified as a value outside consciousness, somehow is a claim that the difference between physical and intellectual property is irrelevant and has no existential consequences.

I suggest a major check of premises here, since the former is neither synonymous with the latter, nor a logical implication of the latter.

In other words, the claim here is a complete non-sequitor.

I am not advocating a mind/body split. I am observing that the chief value, which must be considered as part of the virtue of productiveness, of some professions is in fact the mind part.
The dispute is whether intellectual effort alone may be regarded as productiveness. Accepting that intellectual effort alone qualifies as productiveness is accepting the mind side of the mind/body split.
As far as I can tell, part of our disagreement here is that I consider a person who's in the process of thinking towards the solution of a problem to in fact be productive during that time - and you don't, unless they ultimately "do something" with it.
I will simply repeat here the statement from OPAR:
If the scientist or scholar is to qualify as productive, he must proceed in due course to the next step. He must give his discoveries some form of existence in physical reality and not merely in his consciousness—usually, by writing treatises or delivering lectures.
You've stated that you wouldn't consider that initial thinking productive, and I do, because it's causally required for the effect of that external production.
This claim is false. It has been identified as false many times now - including in my very last post. As such, it is unclear as to why it is still being asserted as if it were true.

Since this falsehood continues to be repeated, I will try to correct it once more:

IF particular thinking is part of a process of creating a material value - ie if material value which embodies that thinking is created - then that thinking is part of the process of creating that material value. In other words, that thinking qualifies as productiveness.

IF particular thinking is NOT a part of a process of creating a material value - ie if NO material value which embodies that thinking is created - then that thinking is NOT part of the process of creating 'that' material value, because there is no particular material value which has been created. In other words, that thinking does NOT qualify as productiveness.

Just as without the intellectual value, there is no material value and thus no productiveness - so too without the material value, there is no material value and thus no productiveness. Productiveness necessarily requires BOTH - both the intellectual effort AND the physical effort (the proportions of which are immaterial here). In other words, productiveness requires BOTH the mind AND the body.

Put simply, just as it is an error to limit productiveness to the body, so too it is the same error to limit productiveness to the mind.

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Regarding intellectual effort considered (erroneously, I aver) as production.

No, we do not produce ideas. We put ideas _into_production. We think of a new kind of toaster. When we have set up the factory to make the toaster we produce the means of making it. When the factory is up and running, then we are producing our idea of the toaster. We started out by creating an idea. We ended by producing a new thing.

Production is the process of putting an idea into reality. It starts when you pick up a pen or turn on a typewriter, or switch a light on, or pick up a shovel, etc. Creation of the idea is a great thing, but it is only just that---the creation of an idea.

You might create many ideas, but produce but one or a few of them. The difference in creation and production is that production, like all virtue, requires a new act of will, will that is directed outward. Just as in the political realm many men can think that they should speak out (against an injustice, say), but only few choose to do so.

Assume a man who had spent his life inventing many useful things, and who was known to be honest in all he said and did. He then spends ten years thinking about a new type of steel. One day he comes out of his office and says, "I have thought of a new type of steel, better than anything previously known, but I am not going to write about or make it. The world is not ready for it."

He was an inventor; is he still an inventor? He was productive; is he still productive? Of what? An idea in his mind?

When I create a poem in my mind I have not yet produced a poem. But I do not look askance at myself and say, "Woe is me, I am not practicing the virtue of production." I think how wonderful it is to create. When I have written it down, usually with some excellent and necessary improvements, then I have produced.

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I might add that when I get a good idea for a verse in my head, I write it down. Having produced that small bit of verse makes the rest easier to develop, because it is then a part of reality, it is real and acts to inspire me to further effort.

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Phil, I must disagree with your statement from post#179: "I have to disagree that have not been productive if you thought of a poem and memorized it but haven't yet committed it to an externally perceivable form."

Art is a recreation of reality. An image, or blueprint, in my mind is not reality recreated. Specifically, in the case of poetry, a poem IS an AUDITORY expression. If you can't hear it, it's not poetry. In music, if you can't hear it, it's not music. If you can't see it, it's not a painting, no matter how vividly the would-be painter imagines it in his mind. And no matter how vividly the dreamer dreams of Paradise, Paradise does not exist.

Now, it is true that people (myself included) say that they are listening to music in their heads. But that is a very loose way of speaking. It is necessarily loose (and metaphorical) because we don't have, as yet, an exact way of speaking or thinking about these kinds of mental events which is not full of difficult scientific terms. Clearly, however, listening involves the striking of sound-waves on an eardrum, which is how a listener comes into contact with the product called music. Note that conductors often say that they are creating music. Not so (or only in a very minor way). The composer created the sense of the music in his head, gave it physical form by writing the score, and the conductor, guided by that score, is guiding the orchestra in the final expression of it, which is the product called music. The writing of the score, the conducting, and the playing are all acts of production; Creating and having the sense of music in the composer's head was neither part of production, nor of art. Art is a recreation of reality.

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I see some equivocation between productiveness, the virtue of engaging in the process to gain and keep material values and productivity, meaning actually producing material values. The difference between productiveness and productivity is the difference between an action and the results of that action.

Eddie Willers is as virtuous as Dagny when it comes to the virtue of productiveness. He always acts to gain and keep the same material value she does: Taggart Transcontinental. Of course Dagny is much more productive than Eddie, but that is different than the virtue of productiveness. The issue, with regard to the virtue of productivesness is: is the person acting to gain or keep a material value, not whether they have, in fact, gained or kept it.

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The difference in creation and production is that production, like all virtue, requires a new act of will, will that is directed outward.
I don't see this distinction. I take the two terms, in the context of this discussion, to be essentially equivalent. How do you define the two terms?

Production is a process with a material value as the ultimate goal; it is the nature of the ultimate end that establishes whether an activity is productive or not. Is one unproductive until that material value is completed? Once one starts to focus one's thinking along that path, I hold he is being productive. If I'm thinking over the lines of a new poem, but have not yet put pen to paper, I hold I am indeed being productive, because the ultimate goal is a poem in some material form. Productiveness is not limited to just the direct manipulation of material entities, but rather encompasses the whole effort from initial flash of inpsiration to the final completed product.

Contrast watching a movie for one's own pleasure with watching the same movie in order to write a review. It is the ultimate purpose of the action that is a factor in determining whether it is productive or not.

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Clearly, however, listening involves the striking of sound-waves on an eardrum, which is how a listener comes into contact with the product called music. Note that conductors often say that they are creating music. Not so (or only in a very minor way). The composer created the sense of the music in his head, gave it physical form by writing the score, and the conductor, guided by that score, is guiding the orchestra in the final expression of it, which is the product called music.
Well, my first post on this forum. Let's see if I go down in flames or hold my own. :ph34r:

Thought is not disembodied. I'm one of the many people that can hear music in my head. I don't mean think of music. I can literally hear music, and have practiced at this ability sufficiently that I can do it nearly at will. The difference is that my eardrum is not receiving the signals, because there is not physical manifestation outside of my body. While this doesn't make it real for others, it certainly does for me.

Why is that not completely off topic? Consider this: Man has created nothing. A chair, an engine, a book, a language... none of these are creations. Every thing a man "creates" in these aspects is a transformation. We transform wood into a chair and metal into an engine. We didn't "create" a process for melting the metal and reforming it, we transformed knowledge to achieve the goal in reality. Thus what production really is, is transformation. Useful, valued, or otherwise is subjective to each individuals values.

Example: A few pages back there was discussion about the medium employed for writing; one of the mentioned mediums was a computer hard drive. When information is stored on a hard drive nothing is created. Instead the magnetic properties on portions of the platters are changed. The overall nature of the medium has been transformed, not created.

And what does all this rambling have to do with the original topic? It all supports this:

"Productiveness" is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live–that productive work is the process by which man's consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one's purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one's values... (Galt's Speech) [italics added]

Nowhere does she state create (at least not here). Dr. Piekoff does... I think he was wrong, or at the very least we're missing context from what was quoted. Let's stop using that word?

To the original post: The virtue of production, to the purpose of acquiring value (money), was exercised. A piece of property was transformed into an item belonging to the middleman. That property was then translated and shaped into a profit for the middleman. This was part of the "process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one's purpose".

Production occurred, and is fully of value to the rational man. The rational man will then use the wealth in the pursuit of life and happiness.

... ... Or did I just totally screw up? :o

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Production is a process with a material value as the ultimate goal; it is the nature of the ultimate end that establishes whether an activity is productive or not. Is one unproductive until that material value is completed? Once one starts to focus one's thinking along that path, I hold he is being productive. If I'm thinking over the lines of a new poem, but have not yet put pen to paper, I hold I am indeed being productive, because the ultimate goal is a poem in some material form. Productiveness is not limited to just the direct manipulation of material entities, but rather encompasses the whole effort from initial flash of inpsiration to the final completed product.

Contrast watching a movie for one's own pleasure with watching the same movie in order to write a review. It is the ultimate purpose of the action that is a factor in determining whether it is productive or not.

That's what I'm talking about. Thank you Ed.

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Oh, and for the end run argument going on about thought versus material. If production is a transformation of reality that allows one to control existence, any thought that could provide this is production. Useful is another matter, but I would argue that it doesn't need to be strictly useful. If you learn CPR this knowledge gives you the ability to potentially save the life of a loved one in an emergency. It supports your values of life and happiness. If you never have to employ CPR, or never have the opportunity, it still wasn't useless... it helped support your values.

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IF particular thinking is part of a process of creating a material value - ie if material value which embodies that thinking is created - then that thinking is part of the process of creating that material value. In other words, that thinking qualifies as productiveness.

IF particular thinking is NOT a part of a process of creating a material value - ie if NO material value which embodies that thinking is created - then that thinking is NOT part of the process of creating 'that' material value, because there is no particular material value which has been created. In other words, that thinking does NOT qualify as productiveness.

You've clearly stated that you consider directed thought which does not ultimately result in a material value to not be productive, and it is precisely that with which I disagree. You are equivocating on the virtue of productiveness, and actual produced products. If a man performs the process of thinking required to ultimately produce a material value but is interrupted, he has still exercised the virtue of productiveness.

On 9/11 there were no doubt many men contemplating a future course of action in the creation of material values, whose lives were abruptly ended before they could implement those projected values. In your view they were therefore somehow acting unproductively that day since those particular thoughts did not and could not achieve material form. That view is completely and obviously wrong and I'm not going to debate it with you any further.

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I see some equivocation between productiveness, the virtue of engaging in the process to gain and keep material values and productivity, meaning actually producing material values. The difference between productiveness and productivity is the difference between an action and the results of that action.
This is an accusation without object. No particular argument has been identified as engaged in equivocation. So, for instance, does the accusation apply to this statement:
If the scientist or scholar is to qualify as productive, he must proceed in due course to the next step. He must give his discoveries some form of existence in physical reality and not merely in his consciousness—usually, by writing treatises or delivering lectures.

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"Productiveness" is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live–that productive work is the process by which man's consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one's purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one's values... (Galt's Speech) [italics added]
Nowhere does she state create (at least not here). ...Let's stop using that word?
To 'shape matter to fit one's purpose' is an act of creation. As such, the term is quite valid in this context.

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Nowhere does she state create (at least not here). Dr. Piekoff does... I think he was wrong, or at the very least we're missing context from what was quoted. Let's stop using that word?

"The power to rearrange the combinations of natural elements is the only creative power man possesses. It is an enormous and glorious power - and it is the only meaning of the conept of "creative." "Creation" does not (and metaphysically cannot) mean the power to bring something into existence out of nothing. "Creation" means the power to bring into existence an arrangement (or combination or integration) of natural elements that had not existed before."

[Ayn Rand, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," Philosophy Who Needs It, p 25.]

I would say that it is perfectly fine to use the word in the context that I just quoted.

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Nowhere does she state create (at least not here). Dr. Piekoff does... I think he was wrong, or at the very least we're missing context from what was quoted. Let's stop using that word?

"The power to rearrange the combinations of natural elements is the only creative power man possesses. It is an enormous and glorious power - and it is the only meaning of the conept of "creative." "Creation" does not (and metaphysically cannot) mean the power to bring something into existence out of nothing. "Creation" means the power to bring into existence an arrangement (or combination or integration) of natural elements that had not existed before."

[Ayn Rand, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," Philosophy Who Needs It, p 25.]

I would say that it is perfectly fine to use the word in the context that I just quoted.

In that context I fully agree. I sumbit that this context includes thought in of itself.

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You've clearly stated that you consider directed thought which does not ultimately result in a material value to not be productive, and it is precisely that with which I disagree. You are equivocating on the virtue of productiveness, and actual produced products.
Again, this is a false statement. My claims have not been about "produced products". My statements have been about the "process" - the ENTIRE process - of creating a material value. In other words, my arguments have not invalidly limited productiveness to merely 'ANY effort (mental or physical) which might or might not lead to the creation of a material value'. That is not the definition of "productiveness." The process identified by 'productiveness' includes BOTH "acquiring knowledge AND shaping of matter". Unlike the claims put forth here, the process of productiveness is not limited to one or the other. Like the mind and body themselves, the process identified by productiveness is a unified one.

Put simply, as Miss Rand states quite clearly, productiveness is the process of "translating an idea into physical form". Thus, while the idea is important, without the actual act of translation (creation), productiveness has not occurred. This is precisely what Dr. P indicates and elaborates upon in OPAR.

To reference an earlier example: while the value which they create certainly differs, both Dagny and Eddie are virtuous according to productiveness. And they are so because they have completed the process of creating material values. If their thoughts had simply remained in their heads - if they had not created material values based on those thoughts - then neither one of them would properly be identified as virtuous in regard to productiveness.

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I sumbit that this context includes thought in of itself.
No argument has claimed otherwise, so the point of such a submission is unclear.

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I sumbit that this context includes thought in of itself.
No argument has claimed otherwise, so the point of such a submission is unclear.

You have equivocated creation with productiveness several times as the same concept. In your last post you attempt to draw a distinction that it's the end part of the process in the concept of productiveness, but this again excludes that THOUGHT is--in of itself-- the shaping of matter.

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...THOUGHT is--in of itself-- the shaping of matter.
Especially in the context of 'productiveness' I must disagree with this claim.

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...THOUGHT is--in of itself-- the shaping of matter.
Especially in the context of 'productiveness' I must disagree with this claim.
Note, in this regard, Miss Rand states 'productiveness' is a process involving two different things: "acquiring knowledge and shaping matter". In other words, certainly in this context, thought is not "the shaping of matter".

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