|Dennis, thank you very much. For someone like me who's introduction to Objectivism comes primarily from encounters on this board, you have clarified something that has baffled me since the first day I clicked the link that got me here.
I was talking to a friend yesterday (a friend who would never come here of her own free will, I'm sure) about the frequent use of the word "savage" to denote Native Americans and black Africans in the discussion of a recent article. As you might imagine, she was appalled and upset, but I tried to explain the context (see, I'm learning something). The way I saw it, the folks that were flinging "savage" around weren't really being racist. Yes, I'd say they were expressing their hatred. And yes, they were using a racially charged epithet to express it. But from what I could gather, their hatred extends far beyond racial lines, including everyone whom they judge to be committed to what they have defined as "irrationality." In that context, the racially charged language is just a convenient vehicle for their opprobrium.
So, in light of that, I had to ask myself, "What is it about Objectivism that encourages such remarkably hateful ranting?" And now I see. These folks feel that Ayn Rand herself has sanctioned this kind of behavior as the only appropriate response to evil. I'm not sure that that's really what she was getting at, but I'm new here. Seems to me that a lot depends on how very reasonable you are and how clearly you understand the person you are condemning. Any limit in your knowledge of the person or the rigor of your own reason could result in you flinging hate mistakenly. Thankfully, not everyone on this board believes that being hateful is the best policy.
The distinction between the goals of a philosopher and those of a psychologist seems important. A philosopher is not concerned first and foremost with helping people, only with stating her philosophy as clearly and conclusively as she can. Such statements may indeed help a person (as Jay Pastore #25 shows), but that is not the first priority. For a psychologist, the first priority is to help.
Dennis's article quite ably makes the distinction between knowledge and action. Certain knowledge (i.e.: this man who stands before me is evil) does not demand any particular action or expression in the abstract. Context is important. What are you trying to achieve? If you are merely trying to state your position as emphatically as possible, then rant away. But if you are trying to educate or bring someone to a better understanding of reality, perhaps there are more effective ways to go about it.
And finally, I'd like to speak to Adam Reed's post regarding the proper behavior of a therapist toward a child molester in his office. A friend of mine was exactly in that position. Often, a therapist can deduce a patient's pathology during the intake session alone, but to blurt out a diagnosis at the end of an hour's conversation on moral grounds would alienate even the most mildly disturbed patient and ensure that no patient ever come back for the second session. The fact that a child molester is in your office in the first place is a wonder of the natural world; a tremendous challenge and opportunity to test your metal, as it were, in the art of healing. That this child molester is in your office is enough to inform you that he is aware of a problem. That this child molester was himself molested in his childhood is a near certainty. One of his major problems, therefore, is likely to be the unprocessed and unacknowledged rage and shame of his own abuse, which he is reenacting as an ego defense. To heal this man, that's the place you have start. That a therapist, without eschewing his own moral clarity, work to understand the patient's subjective experience is a necessary tool of diagnosis and therapy. To laymen, yes, a distasteful task (even to my friend, it was at times daunting), but so's cleaning toilets and changing diapers, but it is worthy work for those who take it on.