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Post 40

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:26pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, I do agree. My point is that the origination of ideas does NOT have to be in a university or academic setting -- that, in today's world, the generation of earthshaking new ideas is more often than not occurring outside the university setting -- and that universities have too often become entrenched orthodoxies that set up impediments to the discovery and communication of important new ideas.




Post 41

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:52pmSanction this postReply
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Robert, point well taken.

Michael




Post 42

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 11:23pmSanction this postReply
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I would argue that JP2 is noticed because he is a symbol of  past philosophy made real -- already accepted by the world as it is. The fuss is , in my view, a nostalgic goodbye to the last giant institution of faith in the world. The dearth of new Priests, the takeover of the daily functioning of the church by the laity, and the decline of  membership all point to its eventual collapse. Derrida and Rand are symbols of two possible futures, on the other hand, and each received little notice on their  deaths (Rand a little more but mostly because of the widespread popularity of her novels, not her philosophy or her philosophical works).  I would argue that this is where the battle lies for the future.  Is Objectivism and, even more, are Objectivists, ready to step into the void and make their case to fill it?  Or will the remnants of Kant take the field?  I have my doubts about Objectivists, but am willing to listen to anyone that thinks otherwise.

Is "enemy" too strong a word? That it is thought to be by some Objectivists is part of my concern.  One cannot win a battle of any kind believing that one has no enemies and that one need not fight them with everything at ones disposal.




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Post 43

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 12:20amSanction this postReply
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Fred:

"Given all the fuss about JPII, it seems to me that IF Objectivism has an enemy, a real enemy, it is NOT post modernism (Derrida died recently and who noticed) but rather pre-modernism. What do you think? I wonder what Hicks and Newberry think about this?"

Me:

Post-modernism is as bad as, & interchangeable with, pre-modernism. I certainly noticed that Derrida died, & rejoiced mightily. JPII & Derrida are flip sides of the same coin, only JPII is far more appetising. Meaning—conservatives are more admirable than nihilists, albeit equally confused. Conservatives at least retain & repair to an appeal to "the best within"; post-modernists say there is no "best."

And Fred—your revisionist adulation of Plato, Kant & Hegel is about the handiest tool that both pre- & post-moderns could be offered.

Linz



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Post 44

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 2:22amSanction this postReply
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Linz states it perfectly. More admirable, equally confused. Just think of who you'd prefer to have in your company: someone who's humorous, colorful, and intellectually engaging -- as JPII was -- or the damp and desultory Derrida.

Although I would modify the claim that conservatives and post-modernists are *equally* confused. Conservatives may be confused and flawed in some of their fundamentals, but they often still maintain an extent of clarity and consistency in their beliefs. Postmodernists, on the other hand, deliberately identify themselves with confusion. They are confusionists, whose ideology is a maze of endless layers of deconstruction...until nothing is left.

Alec




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Post 45

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 12:20pmSanction this postReply
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Robert: " Too many Objectivists look at the irrational, faith-based content of religion and simply recoil. They prefer to assume that the appeal of religion is entirely irrational: e. g., people are looking for authority figures, they don't want to think, they are motivated by fear and guilt, etc. They seldom bother to ask themselves whether there are any valid reasons for religion's enormous and enduring cultural appeal."

I don't deny that many people find religion appealing for valid psychological reasons. Nevertheless, they end up wanting schools to teach creationism, and agreeing with the Pope that Africans, living on a continent being destroyed by AIDS, should not use contraceptives and should continue having a stream of babies doomed to agonizing and brief lives. There's a book I want to recommend that deals with the destructiveness of religion better than anything else I've read: THE END OF FAITH, by Sam Harris. You won't agree with him on morality, but you cannot avoid agreeing with him about the monumental destructiveness that has resulted from the acceptance of faith as superior to reason.

I wasn't clear when I stated my acceptance of the "trickle down" theory of the spread of ideas. I was speaking of the adherence to Objectivism as an integrated philosophy (to the extent that it is integrated). This is the function of the universities, and of those among laymen who are interested in philosophy. Post Modernism began in the universities, and surely has trickled down to a horrifying extent; it now shows itself in novels, movies, art, and so forth, permeating out culture in endless manifestations. Those who are interested only, say, in the arts and not in formal philosophy will become Post Modernists -- or Objectivists -- without realizing it; they will not accept all of it, but they will accept its central tenets as those tenets become part of the mainstream. Yes, this was not the method of Ayn Rand, but too many people who were content to read only her novels attempt to combine what they learned from the novels with religion, Scientology, or numerology; it doesn't do them, or our culture, much good. It is only the presence and the work of the academics which ultimately will go far prevent this from happening, because they will present a consistent set of principles, write about them, and teach them to their students.

Barbara



Post 46

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 12:26pmSanction this postReply
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Lindsay: "To repeat (sigh): my article was not a eulogy to religion or to the Pope."

I didn't take it as such. Your point was clear. My ranting about the evils of religion was just that: a ranting about the evils of religion, not a criticism of the valid point you made.

Barbara




Post 47

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 8:56amSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

A wonderful post. I join in the standing ovation.




Post 48

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 9:06amSanction this postReply
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Lindsay,

I couldn't -- and didn't, in my late night, stumbling, attempt just above yours in this thread -- say it better. 

Thanks for pointing this out.

Despite my bravo to Barbara Branden's post re: religion, I think your central point -- that we must understand the appeal of religion to trump it, is well taken.




Post 49

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 2:24pmSanction this postReply
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“There's a book I want to recommend that deals with the destructiveness of religion better than anything else I've read: THE END OF FAITH, by Sam Harris. You won't agree with him on morality, but you cannot avoid agreeing with him about the monumental destructiveness that has resulted from the acceptance of faith as superior to reason.”

 

You might have already read it, but just in case… there’s a book called God and the State by Michael Bakunin (an anarchist).  One of his especially interesting comments, contrasting Voltaire’s (who said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”), is that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”  From what I can tell, one of his basic premises is this:  the concept of God and humanity is a contradiction.  If God exists, then man is a slave.  If man is a slave, then human liberty does not exist.  If human liberty does not exist, and liberty is supposedly derived from God, then humanity is non-existent.  He also contends that God is merely a “safety valve” for controlling people, one of the primary purposes of religion (besides money/power).

 

- B.

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Post 50

Friday, April 8, 2005 - 4:54pmSanction this postReply
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Linz is right - the pre-modern religionists and the post-modern nihilists have become interchangeable. Interestingly, just as post-modernism is beginning to recede in academia, outside of academia post-modernism is being popularized by pre-modern religious politicians. There is even proposed legislation in parts of the United States, to require that faculty treat students' religion-based beliefs in creationism, "intelligent design" and miracles, with respect equal to the respect given to scientific explanations. After all, the theocratic politicians proclaim, who is to say that evidence from observations and experiments is more valid than "evidence" from arbitrary belief - isn't it all a matter of subjective opinion and social convention? Nihilism is then packaged as "freedom" - as in freedom of religious students in biology classes to have creationism treated as an alternative scientific theory, freedom of pharmacy employees not to be fired for refusing to fill prescriptions for birth-control pills on grounds of their supposed "immorality," and so on. Where there is no moral vacuum for theocratic politicians to exploit, they create it. They may not believe in post-modern nihilism, but it does give them a handy "moral vacuum" pump.



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Post 51

Saturday, April 9, 2005 - 9:53amSanction this postReply
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Just a brief reply to Michael N.  There is nothing in my post that suggests any fundamental disagreement with you on the principle that "ideas come first, cultural osmosis follows."  The whole point I was making is that the ideas are now out there, and they are being filtered through a variety of sub-cultures, popular culture and academic culture among them.  And I see these movements as reciprocally reinforcing.  I agree with Robert that, at this point, given the high tide of informational dissemination, the "trickle down" theory (from "university" to "comic books") should not be taken "literally."

I don't know enough about the arts, except what I like, but I certainly recognize that the same dynamics are at work.  And if we go by the premises held by the contemporary "artworld," I think we can safely say that, like the universities, this "artworld" too has "entrenched orthodoxies" as Robert puts it, and that innovation is likely to come from those who challenge it from the outside.  The outsiders might eventually become the insiders; today, there are many more institutions that are capable of undermining those "entrenched orthodoxies," not the least among these being the Internet itself.

Finally, there is nothing in my post to suggest that I justify any value by basing it on "cultural popularity."  I was merely suggesting that Rand's ideas are reaching a certain level of cultural popularity, and that her establishment as a cultural icon is an indication of the very "cultural osmosis" to which Michael has pointed.

I don't like things in the arts because they're popular and my artistic tastes vary greatly.  I simply believe that popular culture is one good barometer of the extent of an idea's dissemination and acceptance.  It's worth studying.  There are other cultures to study and influence as well:  from academic culture to the artworld.  And I think that in this division of intellectual labor, those of us who specialize in things academic or artistic need to devote time to those spheres.




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Post 52

Saturday, April 9, 2005 - 10:40amSanction this postReply
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Chris said: "I don't know enough about the arts, except what I like, but I certainly recognize that the same dynamics are at work." 

Chris, I too don't know enough about the arts, except what I like. But are you sure that the  dynamics are the same?

From the little that I do know, and have recently learned, it appears that those "entrenched orthodoxies" in the case of the art world are far and away more ‘entrenched’ and ‘orthodox’ than perhaps any other area of our culture. Certainly at least in the case of the higher or fine arts. Before even a slight ‘cultural osmosis’ can take place, there has to be at least a modicum of the ‘ideas’ penetrating into the culture in the first place. I just don't see any *significant* indication of this in the higher arts.
 
When I look at some of the trends within the universities, motion picture and media trends, and the trends in political discourse and attitudes: I cannot help but agree with you that Rand’s ideas have reached a certain level of cultural popularity. But I do not see the same level of penetration in the arts (painting, sculpture and music). As I said before, I am far from learned in this area, so I may be missing some important development. But within my limited knowledge in this area– it appears that the arts are the least penetrated part of our culture.

Am I missing something?

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 4/09, 10:41am)




Post 53

Saturday, April 9, 2005 - 1:33pmSanction this postReply
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Responding to Alecs comments in post #23, here is a validation of his point from an article in nature.
However, I see they conveniently forgot to mention that one of the Catholic Churches recent "scientific theories" is that condoms should not be used against AIDS because they contain micropores that let the virus through!
.......................................................................................................................................................................................

Nature 434, 684 (07 April 2005)

 

 

Pope praised for partial conciliation of science and religion

 

QUIRIN SCHIERMEIER

 

Scientists pay their respects to John Paul II.

 

 

[MUNICH] Catholic researchers and bioethicists have responded to the death of Pope John Paul II with tributes to his efforts to achieve reconciliation between faith and science. And some are optimistic that his successor will keep on the same path.

 

The Polish Pope had a strong personal interest in science and worked to reduce hostility between the scientific community and the Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless, his strict rejection of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and contraception, including the distribution of condoms to help contain AIDS, drew him into conflict with some scientists.

 

AIDS activist groups around the world still condemn John Paul's refusal to endorse the use of condoms. "It should not be forgotten that millions have died in Africa as a result of this theological rigidity," the London-based Independent newspaper said in an editorial.

 

However, John Paul frequently discussed scientific matters with such luminaries as Stephen Hawking, who is one of the 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. And the Vatican received regular scientific advice (see Nature 432, 666; 2004).

 

"Many of us have witnessed a special feeling between the Pope and scientists," says Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, a theologian and astrophysicist at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

 

In 1980 at Cologne Cathedral, Germany, John Paul declared that there was "no contradiction" between faith and science. He said on several occasions that the concepts of the Big Bang and darwinian evolution were more than mere hypotheses. In 1992, he officially rehabilitated Galileo Galilei, conceding that the Church was wrong to arrest him.

 

More recently, the Vatican has stopped opposing modern techniques such as organ transplantation and genetic modification of animals.

 

Ludger Honnefelder, a Catholic theologian and philosopher at the Institute of Science and Ethics in Bonn, Germany, claims that John Paul helped religion and science to coexist. He notes that the next Pope will have to deal with issues such as the implications of genetic modification in humans. "We expect well-balanced answers from the Church to new ethical challenges," Honnefelder says, "just as we expect science not to think of itself as an almighty system."




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Post 54

Saturday, April 9, 2005 - 1:55pmSanction this postReply
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George, I think it all depends on where you look in the arts.  The artworld is pretty snobby, in my view; they all tell us what art is... but I think most people when they look at a blank wall or a toilet displayed as an object of art... rightfully snicker.  There was a whole debate here in NYC when the "Gates" went up all over Central Park; it was a pretty display, but was it art?  The artworld simply argues that anything is art as long as people call it that.  Rand would have disagreed, so in that sense, yes:  there is a lot of work to be done in applying and disseminating Rand's aesthetic ideas.

But in music, the situation is even more complex, because we have many genres to consider. Quite frankly, I'm not too thrilled about those who make harsh distinctions between "popular" and "higher" music forms.  The reason I say this is because too many people who claim to love "higher" music like to dismiss "popular music" as primitive; but in some respects, "popular" music has encapsulated a Romanticism that is absent from the works of "serious" 20th century composers. Those 20th century composers dismissed the achievements of, say, a Miklos Rozsa, who made "movie music," while they were embracing long periods of silence or traffic horns as "serious music."  (Some of these same people might also dismiss Mario Lanza for the reasons that he was a popular screen and recording artist, rather than a bona fide star of the opera stage.)

There is a lot of Romantic music being written today; it's being written (and has been written for some time) for the silver screen.  I also believe that there is enormous value in other forms of music (but I'm not going to revisit that debate here):  in jazz, in rock, in R&B, and, yes, even in country.  Not all "greatness" is in classical music; Vladimir Horowitz was a magnificent classical pianist.  Bill Evans was a magnificent jazz pianist.  I'd be unable to dismiss the latter, however, simply because he played a form of music that the classical snobs once dismissed as the music of the devil. Was Maria Callas greater than Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan?  I just don't understand those kinds of debates.

That's why I say:  the cultural war is something that takes place on a variety of levels, across many cultural forms and in many subcultures.  A division and specialization of labor is something that can serve us well in this regard.

(Edited by sciabarra on 4/09, 1:59pm)




Post 55

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - 5:15amSanction this postReply
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Linz, RE: post 43.

“I certainly noticed that Derrida died, & rejoiced mightily.”

I didn’t mean you. I meant billions paid attention the JPII demise while hardly anyone noticed Derrida’s passing.

“And Fred—your revisionist adulation of Plato, Kant & Hegel is about the handiest tool that both pre- & post-moderns could be offered.”

Yeah right, I’ve got priest and ministers and post-moderns lined up outside my house day and night for my latest revisions. Get real. There are pre-moderns who love Plato, Kant and Hegel. There are pre-moderns who hate Plato, Kant, and Hegel. And as for the post-moderns, compare the dramatic differences in the way Derrida and Fish deal with the three thinkers you mentioned.

Let’s say, just for the moment, that I’m right about these guys. How do we benefit holding to the false. And even you don’t believe that Kant was the most evil man in mankind’s history. Read your own stuff, dude.

Fred




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Post 56

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 2:26pmSanction this postReply
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It is infathomable to me that Objectivists could take inspiration from any religious figure, much less the pope of the Catholic Church.  How much of reality do you not have to see to respect a figure such as the pope?  The Catholic religion is arguably the worst evil ever unleashed upon the human race.  The dark ages, crusades, endless repression and persecution, impediment of advance of knowledge are swept aside because "his holiness" is a nice guy? 
Of course the pope took stands against Nazism and Communism, but for all the wrong reasons and only because they are competing ideologies which are incompatible with his own.  Bear in mind that the swapping of god with society neatly transforms his own evil into theirs.  A mafia family will oppose the expansion of others mafia families as well, but not because any of it members believe in the rule of law. 
A philosophy must be judged by the concepts which compose it.  On that point, all mysticisms fail and fail without redemption.  Once reason is lost, all other values will follow.  It can not can not be judged on the merits of its individual followers, since they may or may not agree or live up to all of its principles.  You can find nice Christians with a good sense of life, but this is not coming from their religion, and nasty Objectivists who are no fun to have around, but nor is this coming from their philosophy.  Do you think the pope's  wonderful sense of life, assuming it was not all just a phony act for the enticing of the world to his church, was actually derived from the abondonment of reality, abject irrationalism and self-sacrifice?  If you do, you better go back and start all over again.  
If there are problems within the Objectivist movement, and I certainly think there are, they must be resolved by Objectivists practicing the virtues which they espouse, not by looking to the dark beasts of mysticism.




Post 57

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 4:16pmSanction this postReply
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Crucify him! Crucify him!



Post 58

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 2:15pmSanction this postReply
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You have used a pronoun with undefined context.  Who are you referring to? 



Post 59

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 3:03pmSanction this postReply
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The Pope of course, given that he preaches Jihad, blood libel versus the Jews, has books and people burned, and is personally responsible for the Dark Ages.

Deodatus Carus



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