[an error occurred while processing this directive]
About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unread


Post 0

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 - 10:29pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

I must be more naive than I thought, because this list shocked me. The Kinsey Report? The Feminine Mystique? Darwin and Freud? Instead of bothering to list books, the report should simply have said: "We hate everything that might enrich life on earth."

Barbara



Post 1

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 12:31amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ayn Rand's ghost, if she had one, would be insulted.



Post 2

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 3:02amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
This is a list of what conservatives, today, believe to be the worst ideologies available. If you give this a second of thinking, you will see why so much is wrong with conservatives today. The core negative ideas to their definition of being conservative are presented here: equal rights to women, atheism, communism, self-reliance and scepticism.
I would have voted the same top 3 books, but from then on it gets a bit difficult for me to comprehend the list and reconcile it with the prime ideas of conservativism.
But perhaps I am just a liberal (in the original sense) fool, that sees danger in combining religious zealots with conservatism.




Post 3

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 4:21amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Did you people read the list?

If you examine the list you will find a great many books that Objectivists will also oppose.  Actually, I count 8.  (Comte coined the term altruism and put humanity in the place of God.)

The 2 disputed books would be Kinsey and Friedan.  I don't know much about these works, but I assume Friedan's is a version of left-liberalism.

Concerning Darwin, let's not forget that Rand had her issues with evolution.  And Freud's determinism has been attacked by, among others, Peikoff in The Ominous Parallels.




Post 4

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 7:09amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"Concerning Darwin, let's not forget that Rand had her issues with evolution."

So much the worse for Ayn Rand then.




Post 5

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 8:43amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I agree with Scott that the most disturbing thing about the list is that it was even drawn up.  I mean you can go to any bookstore -- especialy any used bookstore -- and find 100 or 1000 books of stupid assertions and groundless philosophies. 

How could they have missed Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski or Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On the Road

None of the books on this list would be differentiable from those anonymous others except that a large number of people apparently made it so.  In other words, you can write anything, but if your work does not resonate with the reader, it carries no further.  Did Mein Kampf tell anyone anything that they did not already claim to know?  Even those who disagreed with it found it intelligible on its own terms.  Agatha Christie one-lined Hercule Poirot as having the clever mind typical of the Belgian race.  So, Mein Kampf would have been unread, except that it was understood quite well, even by those who claimed to disagree with it.  The point is that we bookish types tend to overestimate the power of books and so we miss the true origins of common, popular ideas.

Roll over, Beethoven, and give Tschaikovsky the news!  Consider this report in light of the "Dome Improvement" article showing that video games have intelligence-increasing potentials.  So, these conservatives fall farther and farther behind as the rest of us evolve.  Of course, since they do not value Darwin, they probably will not be able to frame the problem.  Millions of people get ideas from music.  The Marriage of Figaro was revolutionary in its time.  From the Beatles to whoever is on the popcharts at this moment, popular ideas circulate in media not perceived by the conservatives.  Consider all the discussions here about cinema

I agree with Barbara that Kinsey, Friedan, Darwin, and Freud all provided important new insights.  We have a more objective understanding of human nature as a result. 

Max wrote: "I would have voted the same top 3 books, but from then on it gets a bit difficult for me to comprehend the list and reconcile it with the prime ideas of conservativism."

Well, I have not read Mein Kampf, I confess, but I have read the Communist Manifesto several times and I have Red Books in several languages.  Mao ZeDong is not much different than Macchiavelli on politics or Sun Tzu on war.  In fact, being an assortment of aphorisms, Quotations from the Chairman can often be used to prove any point in a political argument. 

Max wrote: "The core negative ideas to their definition of being conservative are presented here: equal rights to women, atheism, communism, self-reliance and scepticism."

Well, not all of that would be endorsed by all of the participants here, but I do agree with the general sentiment.  If you consider Galt's Gulch from a leftwing perspective, it is just another trotskyite utopia where the workers enjoyed the full value of their labor.  Have you ever heard of Bob Black?  He claimed that capitalism and socialism share a basic premise that your work (usually for others) defines your life. "Skepticism" (so-called) is often misused and misapplied, but it is defining of them that conservatives fear questions

Neil Parille wrote: "The 2 disputed books would be Kinsey and Friedan.  I don't know much about these works, but I assume Friedan's is a version of left-liberalism."

You can attack Kinsey's statistics, but only on statistical grounds.  His reports simply stated the facts as gathered.  Walk down any crowded lunchtime business district and consider that one man in 40 is wearing women's underwear.  Is that a crisis in public education or national defense or what?  I think it is silly myself.  I mean you don't have to jump off a cliff to know that the clothing is not going to fit. But, hey, I'm a utilitarian -- and I noticed that John Stuart Mill's On Liberty is on the list of books to be burned.

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was highly recommended by Ayn Rand and was sold by the NBI book service.  I just read an old essay from Friedan, ("Are Women Wasting Their Time in College?") written a few years earlier and killed first by McCall's and then by Redbook. Friedan's concern was that in 1960 women at the Seven Sister Schools felt that education was useless to their future roles as wives and mothers.  Friedan's thesis was that being a wife and mother requires intelligence and once the kids are gone, then what? 

Neil Parille wrote: "And Freud's determinism has been attacked by, among others, Peikoff in The Ominous Parallels."

Yes, and Aristotle claimed that a heavy object falls faster than a light one, and he justified slavery as a natural condition -- but that did not make the final cut in Ominous Parallels for some reason.   What Freud did was take the lid off the neuroses, the compulsions, the evasions, and projections that drove certainly the western world of the later19th century if not most of human history.  Much has been done since, but it could not have been done without Freud -- or Wilhelm Wundt, for that matter.

All in all, though, the bottom line for me is that if you give Human Events credence, then you commit the same intellectual error.  It is amusing, but, really, who cares what they think?




Post 6

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 12:02pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Well, you can even read the books by Friedrich Nietzsche and see that he speaks some truth about Objectivism or society in general.

I have read Mein Kampf partly, but at some point, you just can't get it anymore. It has passages that clearly are three steps away from sanity. And yes, you can even turn Marx' writing in favor of Objectivism in some parts, but with Mao it is even harder.

I think that scepticism is essential for conservativs not to fall into the ideology of believing. I also think that scepticism is essential to do objective research, because as long as you remain vigiliant against errors or inducing belief into your research you are going to do good research. The best example for the use of scepticism is the idea of a French Nobelprize running-upper (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Benveniste) , who thought that his work on Homeopathy would qualify as good research. He thought he had made the observation that actual homeopathic portions have a curing function due to the "memory of water" . The result by an objective sceptic was however contradictionary to the findings of this French "Scientist":

Skeptic James Randi placed a $1Million challenge to the BBC Horizon team to prove the "water memory " theory. Experiments were conducted in a proper scientific manner involving statistics and the most sophisticated instrumentation available. The Vice-President of the Royal Society, Professor John Enderby oversaw the experiment. The challange finally ended in the Horizon team failing to prove the memory of water by scientific experimentation and hence saving James Randi of his one million dollars and his faith in science.




Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 7

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 8:16pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
It seems like the criteria that the panel used to pick the books for this list did not involve the content of the works themselves, but rather the effect they had on the world.  In other words, it isn't what the authors actually said, but the influence that their words exerted, that makes these such 'harmful' books. 

Marx's Das Kapital, for instance, wasn't an attempt to inspire revolution, but a rather misguided interpretation of classical economics intertwined with a deterministic Hegelian philosophy of history.  (Heck, for 'evil' books of the 19th century, where's Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit?)  The end result, however, was that it did help inspire revolution.

Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil is an outright rejection of Christian morality, and it did inspire the Existentialist strain of thought in the twentieth century, but it is not in itself an amoralistic work; it rather advocates the creation of a new morality, modeled on the pagan virtues of Homeric Greece.  Yet I doubt that the specific aim of the book is what makes it (allegedly) harmful, but rather its influence on the propaganda of the Nazi party and other fascist ideologies.  (Ironic, considering that Nietzsche was a vehement anti-anti-semite.)

A case could be made that John Dewey's work helped drive the education system in America into the mess it has become; one could argue that Friedan provided the impetus for the silliest strains of radical feminism (though her own feminist thought was restrained and, from an Objectivist point of view, perfectly commonsensical); it would be hard to deny that Keynes's theories bear a great weight of the responsibility for many ludicrous policies of the Federal Reserve.

But despite all of this, what is it about the books themselves that supposedly makes them so harmful?  In most of the cases (possibly excepting the direct calls to mindless action, like the Communist Manifesto or Mein Kampf), it simply seems that such a claim is unjustified, and only could be supported by those who either had not studied the works, or by those who hold that the beliefs formed by the masses on the basis of these books' influence determine the quality of the literature, rather than the ideas that are actually presented therein.  And that looks like the height of intellectual responsibility to me.

I notice that a friend and old professor of mine, Brad Birzer, is on the panel that chose this list.  Brad is a paleoconservative Catholic, but he's quite a smart guy, and he understands the Objectivist viewpoint.  I'll have to ask him about the decision procedure and criteria they used to pick these books.




Post 8

Thursday, June 2, 2005 - 8:33pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Okay, I meant to say "intellectual irresponsibility" there.  My bad.



Post 9

Friday, June 3, 2005 - 9:28amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Neil Parille writes, "Concerning Darwin, let's not forget that Rand had her issues with evolution."

Oh really? I do not know of any source for that plainly counterfactual assertion, other than Nathaniel Branden's smear job. In actual fact, Harry Binswanger, in working on a doctoral thesis that grounds teleological concepts in evolution, consulted frequently with Ayn Rand, who apparently never had any problem with it. I can't imagine someone who "had her issues with evolution" assenting to Binswanger's thesis.

Given all the mental pathologies exhibited by Nathaniel Branden, including the very public "Hellen" episode on Diana Hsieh's web site, we have no way of knowing which of his recollections are true, and which are just mnemomimetic manifestations of psychopathology. That specific smear of Ayn Rand is too easily disconfirmed to be taken seriously.



Post 10

Friday, June 3, 2005 - 11:17amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Kinsey's research, in relying on volunteers, was skewed; the "facts as gathered" are useless. His prominence also put him in position to be a vicarious accomplice in pedophilic rape that apparently led to murder.

Mill belongs on the list, for having subverted utilitarianism into a collectivist form. I don't recall if On Liberty was the venue.




Post 11

Friday, June 3, 2005 - 6:56pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
What is appalling about this list is that it exists at all. The idea of "harmful books" makes my blood run cold-- whatever those books may be. Is the next step to advise that we not read such books, that they be removed from our libraries, that they be kept from our children. . . that they be burned?

Barbara



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 12

Saturday, June 4, 2005 - 12:39amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Quoth Barbara Branden:

"What is appalling about this list is that it exists at all. The idea of 'harmful books' makes my blood run cold -- whatever those books may be."

I disagree with the editors on a number of the choices they made as to which books to include on their list, but I also have to disagree with your statement above.

Books, are material storage devices for ideas, and there are, in fact, harmful ideas. I can't imagine you disagreeing with that notion.

The way to deal with harmful ideas is to expose them as harmful -- and, of course, to dissect them and demonstrate why they are harmful.

Attempting to censor or suppress harmful ideas is, first of all, profoundly antithetical to morality. Since morality must, by its nature, be discovered and chosen through unforced judgment, censorship and suppression is an attempt to preclude such discovery and to constrain choice and judgment.

Secondly, attempting to censor or suppress harmful ideas is counter-productive: Most harmful ideas are just variations on a previously played fallacious theme, and there are too many such variations for any censorship to keep up with. An "armed" audience -- an audience which has been exposed to previous iterations of the fallacy and which has learned to dispose of it and its variants -- is a better defense against harmful ideas than a "standing army" of censors attempting to spare them the effort.

So far as I can tell, the Human Events panel is engaged in an attempt to identify harmful ideas. I don't necessarily agree with their evaluations, but I don't see them calling for the books they deem harmful to be censored or suppressed.

Regards,
Tom Knapp



Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 13

Saturday, June 4, 2005 - 7:52amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
The panel is presumptuous and in the end, ludicrous. Yes we can categorise ideas and books, speeches, and articles that present them. But I would rather do that myself than be told what some "panel" thinks.

John



Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 14

Saturday, June 4, 2005 - 7:15pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ralph Luker, over at Cliopatria, posted a similar list and added Ayn Rand's novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  Luker's list is here. My reply to him is here.  Luker's response to that is here.  And my rejoinder to Luker is here.

Oy.

:)

Cheers,
Chris




Post 15

Sunday, June 5, 2005 - 10:28pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Thomas, in answer to your objection, I can do no better than to quote Chris on the subject of "harmful books."

"I have to admit that I've got a real problem with the whole category of "harmful books," not because I believe that no book can do harm, but more because I think "harmful" comes with a stigma attached to it ... that perhaps such books should not be read. But it is the books that are most "harmful" that often require the most study."

Barbara



Post 16

Monday, June 6, 2005 - 5:57amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Chris,

That was some exchange with Luker :-)

And I agree - the most harmful books require the most study!

I remember an exchange with one of my tutors some years ago (during a history course on the collapse of the Weimar government and the beginnings of the Third Reich) where I defended the publication of Mein Kapf in the present day on the grounds of academic interest. I do not remember the precise resolution though I seem to recall that my tutor balked at the suggestion. It always seemed to me though that even purely in practical terms, forcing such material underground actually makes them even more dangerous because the "disenfranchised" (for want of a better term) may still be able to obtain illegal copies, but will not also have access to critical responses.

I think then that this is the first time that I have ever agreed with Tom Knapp on certain points (i.e. that bad ideas ought to be exposed and combated).

MH

(Edited by Matthew Humphreys on 6/06, 6:01am)




Post 17

Monday, June 6, 2005 - 7:41amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Barbara,

I certainly agree with you (and with Dr. Sciabarra) to a degree -- the only way to tell if a book is "harmful" is to read it and judge its content. The most, er, harmful idea in the world is the idea that one can allow others to judge ideas on one's behalf, because in doing so, one delivers one's self into the power of those judges.

The real question for me is whether the Human Events panel, in compiling their list, are saying "don't read these books, and don't talk about them," or "look at the ideas in these books -- we judge them harmful and believe you should as well." My presumption is that the latter, rather than the former, was their intent (unlike, say, the Vatican's, with its one-time "Index of Forbidden Books").

Regards,
Tom Knapp



Post 18

Monday, June 6, 2005 - 7:50amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Matthew,

"I think then that this is the first time that I have ever agreed with Tom Knapp on certain points"

Perhaps you should consult your internist ;-)

Regards,
Tom



Post 19

Thursday, July 14, 2005 - 6:39pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"How could they have missed Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski or Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On the Road?"

Never heard of those two. What are they about?



Post to this thread
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


User ID Password or create a free account.