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Post 40

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 1:04pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn, I have no reason to believe that she didn't (certainly no reason based on the Brandens' accounts). And I have every reason, from the very fact that that quote was written BY HER, that she did think about this and consider thinking about this consistently to be a moral imperative. How many people do you know who think such a thing, other than objectivists?

I guess you can count me as an innocent-until-proven-guilty juror on this. And YOU would have to give me a reason for thinking otherwise in Rand's case, ESPECIALLY considering what she believed, wrote extensively about, and the evidence for how she lived her life. Beyond that, you're asking for unavailable evidence no matter what human being you might be considering.

Casey


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Post 41

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 1:29pmSanction this postReply
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Well, well, well...

Ayn Rand was capable of saying one thing about moral perfection one minute and then hold a completely different view at a different one?

Hmmmmmmmm...

Maybe time to write a book?

Or maybe think of "unbreached rationality" as a process and not as a state of being? (You know, acting in a morally perfect manner at this time, that time, many times, all the time - if you think you can pull that one off - instead of being morally perfect?)

Maybe time to really understand what she was saying? One of the two conflicting views of hers has to win out. Or does it?

Michael

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Post 42

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 1:29pmSanction this postReply
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By the way, I would ask, what, specifically, was Rand's immorality? You may believe that the affair itself was immoral despite the honesty involved. Leaving that aside, where was the immorality on her part at all?

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Post 43

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 1:55pmSanction this postReply
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Casey said:
By the way, I would ask, what, specifically, was Rand's immorality? You may believe that the affair itself was immoral despite the honesty involved. Leaving that aside, where was the immorality on her part at all?

(I'm assuming this was asked of me.)
Casey,
I'm not referring to any particular case of immorality.  I simply don't believe that anyone could exercise "the full and relentless use of [their] mind" all the time and in all circumstances and thereby achieve moral perfection by Rand's description.  But, more importantly, I don't see how I could possibly know whether they did or didn't.
Glenn


Post 44

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:20pmSanction this postReply
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Washington never told a lie--he admitted he chopped down that cherry tree. Ergo, our first President (under the Constitution) was morally perfect!?

--Brant


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Post 45

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:28pmSanction this postReply
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The question isn't whether it is known if another did or didn't - that is a case of innocent until proven guilty... what Galt was speaking of was to you, each of you, as individuals - to you and only to you, of yourself, not according to any dogma, but to the extent of your own understanding of what is rational and your unbreached use of it...  it is, yes, a process, because as your knowledge increases, your understanding enlarges...

Rand wrote this as a guide to living on earth, that is as a means of self fulfillment as a flourishing human... not as a means of seeking to convert others or creating any 'heaven on earth', but as a way of showing the essential nature of being human, and the requirements of said humans for living with each other..

To claim that "unbreached rationality" is impossible - is merely to say a personal statement about oneself, and to admit to a dogmaticism beyond your means...


Post 46

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:46pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

I haven't seen anybody state that "unbreached rationality" is impossible on this thread.

Maybe I missed something?

I do admit that I don't like dogma because of the "unproved and/or unproven principles" part that keeps popping up in definitions and use (owing to it being used for predominantly religious or religious-type doctrines) - meaning that it is not rational.

Michael


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Post 47

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:50pmSanction this postReply
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Michael - Glenn in post 43 sure seemed to indicate this...

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Post 48

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:54pmSanction this postReply
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Well, I'll indicate total agreement with Robert on this. Well-stated, man.

Casey


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Post 49

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 2:56pmSanction this postReply
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Robert said:
To claim that "unbreached rationality" is impossible - is merely to say a personal statement about oneself ...
I wouldn't say "merely", but, yes, it is partly a personal statement about myself.  I hereby admit, to all who read this, that I have not been able to maintain an "unbreached rationality" throughout my life.  Not in the way Rand interpreted it:
Moral perfection is an unbreached rationalityónot the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.
I have not been able to make full and relentless use of my mind.  I acknowledge reason as an absolute, but I haven't been able to "accept" it in the way I take Rand to mean in this quote.  For those of you who have, all I can say is: fantastic, congratulations, and keep up the good work.
Glenn


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Post 50

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn,

Are you fucking someone over? (You know the answer to that!)

Are you fucking yourself over? (You know the answer to that, too!)

Mystery over.

Act accordingly.

How hard is that, tough guy?

I have no sympathy in this direction for anyone who's already made it to this site. You know better. Frankly, to believe that Ayn Rand was some wacko after following her ideas to this site is out-of-whack to me, but I've also seen the evidence that contradicts all the personal bullshit the Brandens' spread about Ayn Rand, so I forgive you. All I can say is, check your premises, Dude.

Casey


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Post 51

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 3:12pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn,

Thank you for the quote from Atlas Shrugged, on moral perfection as "unbreached rationality."

Everyone,

Here's the passage I had in mind from "The Objectivist Ethics" (it's from p. 27 in the paperback edition of The Virtue of Selfishness):

The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term "moral ambitiousness." It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one's own highest value by achieving one's own moral perfection--which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational--by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected--by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one's character--by never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one's own self-esteem. And, above all, it means the rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal... [Bold added by me]


This is a good deal fuller than the Atlas Shrugged passage.  But there is also some question as to how it all hangs together.

There are multiple versions of the "unbreached rationality" standard within it (e.g., "never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one's self-esteem").

Before anyone can properly be proud, Rand requies unflagging practice of all of the other virtues ("never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational"), which of course would include perfect integrity. 

The Ancient philosophers were fond of assuming "the unity of the virtues": each virtue is internally related to the others, so if you've attained one, you've attained them all. You can't be honest without being courageous, because sometimes it requires courage to express one's judgment honestly, etc. etc.  (It would be fair to call this assumption Platonic, at least in a broad sense.) The Stoics were so taken with it that they made Virtue one single global thing (and practical wisdom one single global thing). Aristotle accepted it at times, and made some dubious arguments that presuppose it, though I would argue that much of his ethical system does not depend on it.

But Aristotle's presentation of pride ("greatness of soul," etc.) declares that no one can be proud without possessing all of the other virtues. Rand seems to be following him closely, for when you read the fine print you discern that to be proud, a person must always practice rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, and productiveness in any context in which any of them is called for.

The unity of the virtues is a nonstarter, psychologically. No major theory of personality is consistent with it; nor is any serious account of the self, goals, and values. The manner in which we human beings develop provides many opportunities for conflict among the goals and values that we pursue. And our adoption of high-level standards (such as those put forward in the Objectivist ethics) does not, in and of itself, make all of our previously adopted goals and values comply with our high-level standards.

So in response to Casey... Rand's notion of moral perfection is residually Platonic, insofar as it clings to that old assumption of the unity of the virtues.

Robert Campbell

PS. What partly compensates in this passage, from a psychological standpoint, is Rand's allowance for acting badly and making amends ("never leaving [any earned guilt] uncorrected"), or for having flaws in one's character and correcting them. Here she offers a distinct improvement over her previous flat statement about unbreached rationality. But she also leaves it mysterious how one could practice the virtues unflaggingly and have any earned guilt--unless the guilt dates from a period in one's life before one decided to practice all of the virtues.  (Do those in the ARI orbit who believe in Rand's moral perfection include instances of Rand making amends for wrongs that she did, or of acknowledging flaws in her character and improving on them? Or do they assume that she never did wrong, and never had any character flaws, so could never have needed to make amends, or change her character for the better?)

(Edited by Robert Campbell on 10/05, 5:05pm)


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Post 52

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 3:19pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,
I can honestly say that I have no idea what you are talking about.  Are you suggesting that I think that Ayn Rand was a "wacko"?  Based on what?  Are you suggesting that if I'm not fucking over someone, or myself, right now that I have an "unbreached rationality"?

You say that I know better.  Apparently I don't.


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Post 53

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 4:31pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, come on, Glenn,

You know what is the intent of the rant that is post #50: The Brandens were and are so evil that declaring Rand morally perfect is, when one holds the contrast, close enough. You found your way to this site, but you canít grasp that? Get your head checked, dude.

Jon


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Post 54

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 6:07pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn,

When you say that you "have not been able to" use your mind to its relentless maximum, you already suggest that this is no longer a moral issue, nor the tiniest blot on your moral perfection. Remember, Rand also said, again and again and in dozen ways, that "able to" is a precondition of moral judgment. Moral perfection must be possible, or we can't be talking about "moral" perfection at all, in any event.

Of course, no one can say if another person has used his own mind as much as he could have or should have in every case. But evidence of great virtue, say, some great achievement, set against essentially no evidence of (knowing and willful) moral failure, results, for me, in the conclusion that the person was morally perfect. (Providing, of course, that there is sufficient evidence to make both sets of evidence significant.)

I'm willing to bet that moral perfection has occurred in many more cases than even instances of great achievement, too, where the high virtue can be appreciated by many. I even think that I've met several morally perfect people, leading their own quiet lives to the fullest that they are ~ able.

BTW: I think Casey has left the table for some well-earned, morally perfect R & R ...

(Edited by James S. Valliant
on 10/05, 6:11pm)


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Post 55

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 7:41pmSanction this postReply
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James (and Casey),

Let's try a fairly minor, but well attested example of Ayn Rand's behavior.  We needn't rely for it on the testimony of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, or anyone else who ever got the boot from Rand's circle.

(1) Did Ayn Rand ever use the argument from intimidation?

For instance, did she unleash it on Bertie Russell when she made the following declaration in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology?

(As an illustration, observe what Bertrand Russell was able to perpetrate because people thought they 'kinda knew' the meaning of the concept 'number'--and what the collectivists were able to perpetrate because people did not even pretend to know the meaning of the concept 'man.') (1900 edition, pp. 50-51)

See my post at http://solohq.com/Forum/GeneralForum/0611_24.shtml#493 and Peter Reidy's at http://solohq.com/Forum/GeneralForum/0611_24.shtml#489 for further examples.

(2) Is resorting to an argument from intimidation a moral failing?  (Keep in mind what Rand says in her own essay on the subject.)

(3) If one commits a moral failing and does not make amends for it, has one not fallen short of moral perfection, according to Rand's characterization of pride in "The Objectivist Ethics"?

Robert Campbell
 



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Post 56

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 8:04pmSanction this postReply
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When I picked myself up off of the floor, I knew that if this was the sort of example to be offered (and feel free to use the Brandens as your source; I'm willing to evaluate their reports on a case-by-case basis for you -- in this context), there can't be much else.

There is, of course, always the possibility that, maybe, just maybe, this was her honest opinion and not an "argument" at all. Rand may be stating what she regards as a straightforward conclusion of her theory, and not a "case against Russell" at all.

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Post 57

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 8:49pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

I know that this has not been a very popular notion, but the bad behavior cases you cited show me very clearly that moral perfection (including integrity) as Ayn Rand saw it is a process, not a state. Her quote:
... by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected--by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one's character...
[my emphasis in bold]

As you properly asked, if one has achieved moral perfection, how do these things arise?

The only proper answer is that such perfection is a process of thinking during a human life where lapses do occur, not a blissful state of rational nirvana. I have a saying I made up that has helped me a great deal in getting out of some pretty terrible scrapes in the past (a few of which I have written about here on Solo - so yes, there was much more - dayaamm am I hardheaded!!!  LOLOLOLOL...). The saying:

Falling down is not a sin. Not wanting to get back up is.

Is that moral perfection? I never could say in my own life. I have always been too busy getting up or trying to stay up to worry about it. And I always used reason - with brutal self-honesty - in addition to that intense desire. That's the only thing that has worked for me.

Michael
(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 10/05, 8:52pm)


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Post 58

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 9:23pmSanction this postReply
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James,

No, this is not the only example of a moral failing by Rand that I can think of.  Quite the contrary.

I picked it because it is simple and self-contained and has been documented recently on SOLO. No need, for example, to cite many pages from Rand's journals, as reproduced in your book.  No lengthy arguments necessary to establish why certain patterns of conduct (such as keeping an affair secret) might in fact be ill-advised or just plain wrong.

The question is not whether Rand honestly thought ill of Bertrand Russell and his philosophy.  It's abundantly clear that she had genuine contempt (one of her favorite emotion words) for both.  Her reasons for rejecting some of Russell's ideas can even be reconstructed, though only if you know a fair amount about Russell's philosophy, and are willing to range into Peikoff's history of philosophy lectures and other unpublished material to try to figure out what Rand must have been thinking.  As for Rand's insinuation that Russell came up with some of his characteristic philosophical views out of sheer dishonesty or an urge to bamboozle his readers--I've seen no evidence that Russell wasn't simply taking on some really hard problems while armed with a lot of technical skill and some not very good assumptions.

The question is what kind of philosopher condemns an opposing position without stating what it consisted of, and why it was wrong?  What kind of philosopher, adhering to what kinds of values, substitutes an assertion that Russell was a baddy (he "perpetrated" something) for a statement of Russell's objectionable idea and a refutation of said idea?  The quotation (which is presented in ITOE without a shred of supporting argument) leaves the reader with only the vague notions that Russell was dishonest and that he said something really stupid or grossly misleading about number.  (One is tempted to say, the reader comes out of this section of ITOE "kinda knowing" that something is wrong with Russell.)  There's no "case against Russell" anywhere in Rand's published work.

You say that she may have regarded this verdict on Russell as a straightforward conclusion from her theory.  OK, spell the straightforward conclusion out for us (which would have to include specifying what Russell said that was wrong).  Or did Rand not bother to provide you with the means to do it...

After all, that anti-Aristotelian professor, in Rand's article on the "argument from intimidation," who shuts up the inquiring student by referring to Professor Spiffkin's piece in the 1912 issue of Intellect magazine, may genuinely believe that old Spiffkin did a number on Aristotle once and for all.  That's not what makes his argument fallacious, or fuels Rand's objections to it.

Suppose an enemy of yours offered this one-sentence evaluation of your book: "Look what Valliant gets away with in PARC, because his readers are already halfway convinced that Ayn Rand should be exempted from ethical standards that apply to other people."  Would you be mollified to learn that the individual who said this genuinely believed that the statement was true and that it followed straightforwardly from facts regarding the arguments you present in the book and the beliefs and prejudices of your intended audience?  Or would you call the statment an argument from intimidation?

Robert Campbell

(Edited by Robert Campbell on 10/06, 5:42am)

(Edited by Robert Campbell on 10/06, 5:42am)


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Post 59

Thursday, October 6, 2005 - 7:26amSanction this postReply
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Jon said:
You know what is the intent of the rant that is post #50: The Brandens were and are so evil that declaring Rand morally perfect is, when one holds the contrast, close enough.
You're right, Jon, but I still feel like I've just had an encounter with Steven Mallory's drooling beast.
Glenn

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