|Regarding Ed's essay concernig animousity between Kant and Rand:|
A lot of very unprofessional biases are evident in the form and content of your essay. This is easy to see simply by considering each and every adjective and adverb that you use. You often use adjectives and adverbs that are clearly pejoratives, but you try to sneak them by as if they were commonly used modifiers or in some sense objective modifiers.
Actually, any use of adjectives or adverbs reveals bias. Nothing wrong with bias, but the more biased is a piece of writing the less able it is to change carefully thinking minds, though the more able it is to titilate the choir.
suggestion: try writing without any strong or pungent or hidden-meaning modifiers. I think Prof John Searle at UC Berkeley has a great writing style because he does just that.
Another technique you use, whether you are aware of it or not, is to use certain key words in vague ways so that you can use the same word to mean different things at different places in your writing, thus misleading the reader in a manner similar to shuffling the pea under the cups. "Reality" is one word you use in this way. What exactly did Kant mean by reality, and what exactly did Rand mean by that word. In fact, they had different definitions, so apples are being compared to oranges. "morality" ---same problem. Rand and Kant had different definitions of the word. As you have described Rand's issue with Kant, I see not a debate about something really important or sublime, but an tussel over who gets to own those words. And yet, neither word has a single, objective defination. Every "definition" of reality is a tautology.
Rand's claim that Kant hated life is just soooooo.....dramatic. It's high drama. High drama is usually a sign that careful cognition is not taking place. We know from Kant's biography that he was somewhat ascetic, but he did have some mild pleasures. He had a certain quiet disposition, but I think it unfair to say he hated life - actually I think he rather liked it. And for all we know he had some secret sex life and was not really withered down there. In that day a biographer would not make such a mention if he know about it.
I think it is fairly well accepted fact now that an individual's constitution/disposition is largely inherited and not something for which to be blamed. I will go further and say that an individual's hereditary constitution also determines their world view. Regardless of subject matter, or at how high a level one discusses the subject matter, one can't escape one's worldview since it is largely hereditary and bio-mechananical. Yes, I am saying that no matter how much one studies, or what one studies, or under which famous author one dedicates one's study, even if one's mind is changed a bit here and there, in the end one is little different at 80 than one was at 12. A strong dynamic man is still that at 80, though weakend by age, and a wimp is still a wimp. Some wimps "overcome" their wimpiness, which seems like a dramatic change and refutation of the mechanistic claim, but in fact that individual was destined to overcome and the intitial steps to overcome were only taken because of a pre-existing worldview in which the wimp saw him or herself as someone who has a point beyond which they will not continue to submit to the will of another. Has Woody Allen changed much since he was 12? Or Boy George? Or Hugo Chavez? Was Marx not fated to write what he wrote? Don't the details of his life suggest he could not have written anything else? Marx had low impulse control - a mechanical feature of the brain - and thus I suggest his worldview was an excersize in excuse-making about just that. What drunk, what drug addict.....doesn't favor socialism or Marxism? All of those types who I have known have that same worldview.
From each person's basic worldview, which is hereditary, comes each person's desire to know and how much to know. Yet the entire process of seeking knowledge is only done in support of the pre-existing worldview, applying synaptic filters that are also inherited. Thus each person's pursuit of knowledge is sort of vain, because the nature or flavor of the path of the pursuit is likely caused by some of the same synaptic and biological conditions that create the initial worldview. One's own particular variant of human consciousness is confined to follow a predestined path in support of it - sometimes that's called ego. Ego, if there is such a construct, has to be bio-mechanical.
Thus Kant's and Rand's philosophy, and everyone's, are naught but reportages of the person's time-space coordinates in the socio-political power pyramid, those coordinates being fixed at any given instant. Any changes in the coordinates during one's lifetime are as destined as one's initial coordinates. Easy to understand example: an ugly person will never win a beauty pageant. Another example: A good, inherited faculty of cunning will be a boon to the businessman. And yet, that cunning may not be enough to go way up in the pyramid, as there are other needed qualities that are not so well known, but certainly it is not cunning alone that has enable Khun Sa to corner the opium trade in the Golden Triangle and have his own kingdom and army numbering in the tens of thousands, and to remain unharmed by the Chinese, Thai, Myanmarese or USA authorities. ( I would rather be Khun Sa than a professor of philosophy - you only live once!) Hail to Khun Sa, the last living bonafide Asian Warlord. Blessings be upon him.
I am not making an argument for solipsism. There could be more right and more wrong individual consciousnesses, however that really never does matter, because in any clash of wills the more powerful will prevails. In one instance the King may prevail and put down the rebellion, and the King may be a bit of an idiot and prevailed only because he had inherited a good army from his father - and in victory he will proclaim the manifest destiny of his bloodline. In another instance the people's rebellion may be successful, and they will cite things like "truth" and "righteousness" and "morality" and "god" being on their side, and they will write songs about these verities. Yet the fact of the matter may simply be that the people outnumbered the King's men, or the King's general made a foolish mistake. In both cases, might made right. So do profess solidarity with my muddy, gap-toothed brothers in the French Revolution, or do I sort of take the view presented in "The Scarlet Pimpernil"? My decision will be based on my genetics and how they place me and move me in the socio-political power pyramid.
And I could have sympathies for both viewpoints, but still that will be as mechanistic as any other viewpoint.
Obviously this kind of understanding makes a mockery of professional philosophy. (Let us take a minute to note that professional philosophers are genetically similar: rarely good looking nor physically strong, nor even particularly vital).
But I suggest that the highest level of honesty requires that we admit of being totally mechanical, and accept that reasons we give for this and that, as well as excuses, are epiphenomenon of the brain and play no role in changing destiny. In fact, it is our story telling ability that gives a major clue: horrified that we can see that our ship moves under it's own direction and that we can't change course or slow down or speed up, we invent fables of every kind to create such mass confusion about "life" - such entertainment - that we can experience some reduction of anxiety via forgetfulness and distraction as we careen towards our certain death, which we unfortunately know will most likely be horrific to various degrees. Who doesn't hope for a quick heart attack while sleeping soundly?
Unless we all, all humans, admit to being mechanisms then philosophical debates will continue for perpetuity and never be resolved. The solution is to drop the debate. But as long as an income can be generated from philosophical debate via professorships, the debate will not be dropped, just as any shopkeeper will keep the shop open as long as there are customers and profits.