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Post 0

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 5:26amSanction this postReply
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Bob, I will be interested to know how your professor and fellow students respond/ed to this paper. 

I was once at a dinner table full of people who were discussing their various "addictive personality tendencies": almost all of them had at least one, and one woman had an "addiction" to just about everything, from shopping to overeating.  As they cackled on, I finally reached threshold, and firmly stated that such a theory was nonsense, and just an excuse for indulging in whimsical behavior. 

The entire table full of people turned on me at once.  I had shattered their excuses, and they were not happy about it.  How could I say such a thing?  People simply couldn't help it!  How could I "make fun" of people with a serious problem?  The cacophony of angry responses was shockingly amusing -- I've never experienced anything quite like it. 

Did you have a similar discussion during your class?  If so, what was the dynamic like?




Post 1

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 8:37amSanction this postReply
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Jennifer,

Your post explains why I generally prefer to eat alone.  I have no patience for the nonsense your dinner companions spouted.


Luke Setzer




Post 2

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 7:39amSanction this postReply
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Jennifer Iannolo wrote: "... and firmly stated that such a theory was nonsense, and just an excuse for indulging in whimsical behavior.  ... People simply couldn't help it!  How could I "make fun" of people ... "

I think that Jennifer handled the people at the  dinner table quite nicely with a direct and concise statement of opinion.  On the other hand, Bob Palin had other needs.

"Addictions" (so-called) and other preferences have causes that are not always affectable by reason.  Nathaniel Branden referred to "chocolate versus vanilla" issues.  In other words, there is no moral judgement to be made because a person prefers one to the other.  The question remains: why do some people prefer one thing to another?  Some people are "addictive" and others are not.  Much of what we do is open to our choices; not everything is.

Each person is unique.  We learn to point to the same thing that everyone else does when we all say "red."  Whether it is our favorite color or not is another problem  entirely. 
Color blindness is yet another problem. 

Attraction to pleasure is a survival trait.  Similarly, the ability to defer pleasure allows for other opportunities to live long enough to pass on one's genes.

I believe that once a person identifies themself as being "addictive" they have the choice to do something about it or not.  Whether the word "addiction" carries much meaning at all is still to be addressed.  Bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, addictive, etc., may be meaningless or may only be misused.  On Designing Women, the character played by Julia Duffy (Stephanie on Bob Newhart/Vermont)  discovered that her problem was really OPD -- Obnoxious Personality Disorder.




Post 3

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 1:56pmSanction this postReply
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Bob, I really enjoyed your book review - and I loved how you tied arguments and concepts to the fundamentals which allow humans to thrive in reality.

However, I don't have "faith" that it will go over well (pun intended). Now hold your breath - I feel that you defended Objectivist principles too mightily, though I acknowledge that I may be incorrect in this.

This is really only an aside, as your essay was - and can be rationally proven to be - accurate; but I would've enjoyed a question or two, interjected in between your successive propositions. This is because I've come to the conclusion that all learning is discovery, and that learners readily maintain a more active and critical mind when they are involved in the discovering of the truths involved.

This is really merely a technique of mine that has worked well, so my criticism of your essay is merely a personal peripheral issue. A distinguished professor once said (of this style of mine): "He gives them about 80% of what they need to know." And I leave it to the learners to come up with the other 20% on their own.

Also, while there is nothing and no one that is on an equal moral basis as rational self-interest (self-interest trumps all), I feel that you were too harsh in your distinction of what constitutes self-interest vs. world interest. This occurred when you illuminated the point that self-interests lead to best-interests overall. In this paragraph, you said that the world is not the concern of the individual (though individual concern does save the world).

I'd argue - and remember that I agree that self-interest trumps all - that part of the "individual" concern is world concern. On this notion, Mencken (Prejudices: Fourth Series, 1924) is illustrative: "A large part of altruism, even when it is perfectly honest, is grounded upon the fact that it is uncomfortable to have unhappy people about one."

Taking Mencken's words to hold truth, benevolence is a part of human nature (nonbenevolence would be inhuman). Again, values must always be traded - hell, even the Bible got this right in a passage or two - don't throw pearls to swine, thou shall not work so that another may eat, etc!

Ed



Post 4

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 3:39pmSanction this postReply
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Jennifer,

I received an A on my paper with the comment, "Thanks for the philosophy lesson & insight into your point of view." The paper wasn't shared with classmates and I saw no one else's report, though I did hear other people comment that they did not like the book. The instructor seems to like it though and she has said that some have spoken very highly of the book in the past.

The instructor has made some very collectivist statements in the class such as that an addict's problems are everybody's problems (because of how they effect "society") and she has stated her support for smoking bans in privately owned places visited by the public such as restaurants and bars. However, she is receptive to other opinions and welcomes debate. After my last report, she showed me an autographed copy of a book sent to her by one of the authors, who is a friend of her's. It is Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction Without Treatment by Robert Granfield and William Cloud. I had time to read the introduction and peruse the rest of the book and some of the conclusions. It appeared to be the antithesis of The Addictive Personality. I told her I gave it my tentative approval.

Because I believe the instructor has an active mind and could be receptive to Objectivist ideas, I wrote my report as I did, with the hope that it would at least lead her to think about some of these ideas.

I remember nine years ago, when I had just started actively studying Objectivism, having a discussion with a friend. I don't remember the topic but I do remember going over my position with him point by point. And point by point he agreed with me. In spite of this, he came to a completely opposite conclusion from me. I remember being flabbergasted and asking him how he could agree with me on every point and come to such an opposite conclusion. He stated, matter-of-factly and quite correctly, "We have different philosophies."

If I am going to persuade someone to re-think their ideas, it is often necessary to get to the very root of their disagreement, that is their metaphysical and epistemological premises. This is not an easy task.

I am not shy about expressing my opinions with other people and I usually find people very receptive to rational ideas. I will not normally tell them their ideas are wrong, just that I have a different opinion, and I express it.

Recently, I was in classroom training where the instructor would talk about how "Christian" someone was and she would tell us how we should not be judgmental and we should be pursuing altruistic goals. I would often tell her politely but briefly how I disagreed and she would respond that "we need to talk" and "Bob, we should do lunch sometime." One day, when she was on the nonjudgmental and altruistic bandwagon more so than usual, I let her know that to ask me to not make judgements of other people is like asking me to stick a knife through my brain because my very life depends on my making judgements, and that I thought altruism was the most evil philosophy ever perpetrated upon the mind of man. She told me that I sounded just like her brother who was into "libertarian" stuff and Ayn Rand. This led to an interesting class discussion where I explained some of the basics of Objectivism. My ideas were met very favorably by the class, all of whom are social workers. The last time I spoke to the instructor, she was reading Ayn Rand's We the Living based on my recommendation.

There are definitely a lot of people it will do no good to try to persuade. Having the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep my mouth shut is a skill that I've developed over time.




Post 5

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 3:55pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,
Thanks for your comments.

Ed,
Points well made and appreciated. Thanks.




Post 6

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 4:00pmSanction this postReply
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Bob,

I am taking a psychology class at a community college to "better myself" (or at least earn points on my periodic evaluations) so, to borrow from President Clinton, "I feel your pain".  I enjoyed your paper and it is interesting how you used that class to introduce Objectivist principles.  Please keep it up!




Post 7

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 4:04pmSanction this postReply
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Bob, congratulations on your A!  I must say I didn't expect it, but am happy to discover it.

I know exactly what you mean about choosing one's battles.  There is a learning curve in this process -- one begins with fervor, wanting to share the ideas of Objectivism with anyone who will listen.  Over time, one discovers that sometimes the words fall on deaf ears -- ones that will never have the power to hear. 

Given my optimistic viewpoint that "surely once people understand this, they will see what I see (how could they not??)," it took me the better part of a decade to learn that such an end goal was not always possible.  I have since learned how to recognize when the effort simply isn't worth it, and have found a wonderful sense of peace in that.

I'm delighted to hear that your instructor picked up We the Living.  Well done.  :)  And even more delighted to hear that a room full of social workers would see Rand's ideas favorably.  Sadly, I'm sure these went out the window as soon as they reached the parking lot.  But you never know...  ;)




Post 8

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Just to clarify, the instructor who is reading We the Living was an instructor in a different class than the "Drugs and Human Behavior" class I am currently taking. I think I may have been unclear in my post and led some to believe I was talking about the same class and instructor.




Post 9

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 4:48pmSanction this postReply
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Actually, Bob, that's even more impressive.



Post 10

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 5:15pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, and by the way, I think I'm addicted to SOLO. :-)



Post 11

Friday, November 19, 2004 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, and by the way, I think I'm addicted to SOLO. :-)
Me too.  :-(




Post 12

Sunday, November 21, 2004 - 5:10amSanction this postReply
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Bob, your paper is truly excellent. I'm so glad your instructor had the wisdom to give you an A.

Barbara



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