Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

A Condemnation and a Letter
by Bob Palin

As I've stated previously, I'm taking a class called "Drugs and Human Behavior" at my local community college. I posted the first paper I wrote for this course here.

My second assignment was as follows:

"All students will be required to submit a summary report on the Nakken book [The Addictive Personality by Craig Nakken] which will be due by week 9 (see syllabus). Acceptable formats include:
    a.  Discussion of 10 of the most important points you learned, or 10 things that stood out for you personally.
    b.  Write a critique of the book."

The following is what I submitted. I present it here for your consideration and reactions:

A Condemnation and a Letter
Bob Palin
There is a cultural war being fought for the mind of man. It is a war between the followers of Aristotle and Ayn Rand and the followers of Plato and Immanuel Kant, between advocates of reason and freedom and advocates of faith and force. I side firmly with the former while Craig Nakken in his book The Addictive Personality sides firmly with the latter. The Addictive Personality accepts thoroughly the evil concepts of faith and altruism and, as such, I morally condemn this book.

Dear Susan,

Cultural war? Dead philosophers? Evil Concepts? Moral Condemnation? You’re probably wondering, “What in the name of Clara Barton is this guy talking about?”

Richard Maybury writes in his book Uncle Eric Talks about Personal, Career and Financial Security, "Models are how we think, they are how we understand how the world works. As we go through life we build these very complex pictures in our minds of how the world works, and we're constantly referring back to them - matching incoming data against our models. That's how we make sense of things.” Though Maybury doesn’t state so, what he is talking about is philosophy, explaining the concept in the easy to understand fashion that is his forte.

My favorite writer and philosopher is Ayn Rand. Rand’s mind is the greatest I’ve encountered in my lifetime. Rand defined philosophy in more explicit terms, in “The Chickens’ Homecoming,” The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution, as “the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics)---and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics.”

Man does not have a choice about whether or not he will have a philosophy, only about what philosophy he will have. There are few original thinkers in the world of the caliber of genius of Rand. There are more thinkers, like myself, who will think explicitly about these ideas but who need the giants like Rand to guide us in understanding these ideas. Most men, however, only think implicitly about philosophy and too often give sanction to the dominant ideas in their culture without the intellectual tools to defend themselves when these ideas are wrong.

Rand in her powerful essay “Faith and Force: the Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It and her even more powerful essay “For the New Intellectual,” For the New Intellectual clearly and accurately identifies altruism as the greatest danger that exists to the mind of man. Altruism is a philosophy of self-sacrifice, of putting the values of others before your own values. The ultimate consequence of practicing such a philosophy is death. Rand presented her own philosophy to the world in her writing, especially her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, and she called it Objectivism. Objectivism is the opposite of altruism as it is a philosophy of rational self-interest, of putting your own values first. The ultimate consequence of practicing Objectivism is life.

Altruism is faith-based, and faith is the opposite of reason; it is the subordination of one’s ability to reason to someone else’s authority. It is “blind acceptance…induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof” (Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels).  Further, Rand said, faith and force “…are corollaries: every period of history dominated by mysticism, was a period of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny” (“Faith and Force: the Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It).

Susan, I began studying Objectivism nine years ago. In the past three years, I’ve been able to make the time to pursue my studies more aggressively. I did not come to be an Objectivist overnight. No one can. It requires explicit focus and thought, checking one’s previous premises and correcting them when discovering contradictions. People who call themselves Objectivists are followers of Ayn Rand only in the sense that we came after her. She is our greatest teacher. A major virtue in Objectivist ethics is independence, which is thinking for oneself and coming to one’s own conclusions. One is not an Objectivist if one accepts ideas on faith, even if those ideas come from the founder of our philosophy. Reason is the only source of conceptual knowledge.

One of the great things I’ve learned from studying Objectivism is that the universe (existence, reality) is finite. Previously, I was always stumped as to whether reality was finite or infinite. After much thought and contemplation, I finally understood that the universe was finite and that it had to be. Albert Einstein came to the same conclusion by studying physics. I’ve learned that life is the standard by which to measure right and wrong. I’ve learned the very real and moral reasons why ideas are important. Concepts that I once regarded as just silly, I now understand to be vastly evil.

I had mentioned to you in class, Susan, that The Addictive Personality is the worst book I’ve ever read; the reason being that any time I’ve ever started reading a book I didn’t like, I would toss it aside to the junk heap. I made myself read this book. I find it illogical and faith-based as it promotes altruistic concepts and the disease model of addiction. My notes in the margins contain phrases like “wrong,” “I don’t agree,” “ugh,” “psychobabble,” “yuck,” and “awful, awful, awful.”

Does this mean that there is no good to be found in this book at all? No. As Rand said about religion, "...as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very--how should I say it?--dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith" (Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand). I believe that both religion and The Addictive Personality have good in them, but only where they deviate from their basic premises and embrace reality.

Following are some excerpts from The Addictive Personality with my own thoughts afterward:

Intimacy, positive or negative, is an emotional experience that is not logically evaluated.

Emotions are automatic responses to previously formed value judgments. Intimacy, like any other existent, most certainly can be logically evaluated.

In our spiritual lives, we believe in a power outside of ourselves, greater than ourselves. The definition of this power varies from person to person. For some, a spiritual Higher Power is a religious God; for others, God is nature or a close, supportive group of friends.

Talk about “sitting on the fence” while trying to please everybody. Everything that is, is something. Everything that exists can be defined from the tiniest particle of matter to the entire universe. And it all can be understood by the mind of man when he applies his reason to understand it.

In natural relationships there is a connecting with others—an act of giving and an act of receiving.

My relationship with others is as trader. I trade value for value. I neither give nor receive without a value being exchanged. It can be as subtle as an exchange of ideas or paying for someone’s meal in exchange for the pleasure of their company or opening a door in exchange for a smile.

…it’s human to be imperfect and powerless, and chasing the illusion of control is really running away from the reality of being human. Addicts seek perfection instead of humanity.

On the contrary, it’s human to be perfect and powerful. When people say that nobody is perfect, by what standard are they measuring perfection? Part of being human is making errors. To not make errors would be inhuman. So I am perfectly human. And I am not powerless. You might say that about a newborn infant, but not about an adult. Man is the most powerful creature on the face of the earth and his mastery of nature is vast and continues to expand with time.

…we seek a Higher Power because we feel estranged from it. We seek Higher Principles because we have a natural home for them inside of us. Our awareness of this separation often takes the form of guilt and anxiety, and this creates the force within us that drives us to connect.

This is psychobabble. There is no basis given for these conclusions and none can be given.

Through pleasure, we can transcend our present state and step outside the limits of space and time.

Nakken must know something that Einstein didn’t. I get my own pleasures by accepting reality, pursuing my values, and staying within the limits of time and space.

To paraphrase a holy book, it is only by losing ourselves that we can find ourselves again.

Huh? I think Nakken’s holy book has holes in it.

Meaning-centered people want to better themselves and the world. They believe that it is better to give than to receive and that it is better to add to the world than to take away from it.

This is pure altruistic nonsense. I want to better myself; the world can take care of itself. But by my pursuing my own rational self-interest, the world will be better off from my productive efforts. That is the benevolent nature of the universe. The world benefits even though that is not my goal.

Meaning-centered people work hard to develop a healthy skepticism of themselves and of their own rightness.

It is impossible for man to be omniscient or infallible but that does not mean he cannot know some things with certainty and to know them absolutely. Here are some examples of things I know absolutely: Existence exists; I am conscious that existence exists; for something to be, it must be something (Aristotle stated this as “A is A”).

The ego is kept right sized through humility.

I am an egoist. Humility is a vice, not a virtue.

Honesty…is free of critical judgment.

I suppose Nakken would like me to believe this so I wouldn’t criticize his book. My life depends on the judgments I make.

dishonesty is a lifestyle, but it is at odds with reality.

Well, what do you know? Nakken finally got something right. Unfortunately, I don’t think Nakken is being honest with himself.

As you can see, Susan, the more I quote from Nakken, the more sarcastic I become. It is because I find his ideas so repugnant. The philosophical ideas behind this book are so contrary to my own philosophy, I find it difficult to not get passionately angered. I can do nothing less than morally condemn The Addictive Personality.

A final point on addiction: the most important factor that is not being addressed in Nakken’s book or in Charles R. Carroll’s Drugs in Modern Society is the factor of individual human volition. It is part of man’s nature that he has free will. Yes, genetics and environment have an effect on everyone and can make one more susceptible to addiction, but the most important factor is man’s volition. We are not automatons that can be programmed by some behaviorist. We are not powerless and at the mercy of God, society or anyone. Some of us make bad choices and pay the consequences. Others of us make good choices and reap the rewards. Free will is a wonderful thing but only the individual can choose how to use it.

Rationally yours,
Bob Palin

P.S. Susan, I posted my last paper on an Objectivist web site to see what reactions I would get. If you’re interested, this is the site: http://solohq.com/Articles/Palin/Assignment_Infiltrate_Alcoholics_Anonymous.shtml

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