Thursday, August 25, 2016

Unity in Epistemology and Ethics by Leonard Peikoff

Unity in Epistemology and Ethics
Course by Leonard Peikoff 
ARI Campus

Unity in Epistemology and Ethics, a course which Leonard Peikoff originally gave in 1996, has both metaphysical and epistemological components.

The course discusses the significance and implications of the principle that all knowledge is interconnected. As this is one universe, metaphysically everything in interconnected. Epistemologically all knowledge is interconnected.

The 7-hour course is divided into four lessons:

Lesson 1: Knowledge as a Unity
Lesson 2: How to Unite History and Philosophy
Lesson 3: The Principle of Two Definitions
Lesson 4: Is Morality Difficult or Easy to Practice?

In Lesson 1, Peikoff points out that the concepts of “integration” and “unity” are unique features of Objectivism as a philosophy. He explores the idea of everything in the universe being interrelated and all knowledge being interconnected.

In Lesson 2, which in my view is the most interesting lesson in this course, the discussion is mainly on the relationship between philosophy, science, and history, and on the role that historical facts play in validating the principles of metaphysics or epistemology or ethics.

Peikoff says that history is the greatest laboratory in the study of man. A study of history gives you the chance to observe man in all kinds of conditions—in the states of knowledge and ignorance, freedom and slavery, prosperity and penury. So in a sense history is the inductive source for philosophic principles.

Knowledge is not a straight line, it is a spiral. Peikoff makes use of the “spiral” theory of knowledge and the specific philosophical achievements of the past to explain the relationship between history and philosophy.

Several interesting ideas get presented during this lesson. For instance, Peikoff points out that the Industrial Revolution was essential to the formulation of Objectivist ethics.

“Ayn Rand said to me several times that she could not have grasped the full role of reason in man’s life, nor thus her distinctive ethics, before the Industrial Revolution. Even though the basic information of the role of reason was available to mankind all the way back to the Greeks, they had no way to emphasize, centralize, or exploit it.”

On how Aristotle and Ayn Rand grasped the potency of reason, Piekoff says:

“Aristotle grasped the epistemological potency of reason: that it was valid, it was our means of knowledge. Ayn Rand grasped the metaphysical potency of reason—that that is the thing that enables man to achieve his values, and above all his survival here on earth. And she was the first one to apply this new knowledge to philosophy itself. And therefore, in her view, for the first time, philosophy become a literally life and death practical matter, which it had never been.”

In Lesson 3, Peikoff has explained why philosophical terms such as ‘value,’ ‘virtue,’ and ‘morality,’ require two definitions, both of which are necessary to maintain the unity of knowledge.

What is the definition of value? The standard answer is given in the Galt’s speech: “‘Value’ is that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” But what if someone has an irrational goal! Would it not be better if the definition of ‘value’ was as follows: “‘Value’ is that which one acts to gain and/or keep, if life were the actor’s standard.”

Peikoff points out that both definitions of value are necessary for the integration of knowledge. “The first definition which does not yet incorporate Objectivism or any philosophy, represents the tie to reality. It is the direct tie to observation.” If the first definition were rejected then we would be claiming that no one pursues values except the Objectivists. Such a view would be ridiculous because everyone does pursue values.

“There are things which unite Taggart and John Galt and a dog, as against a rock—they all need values. There are things which unite Taggart and Galt, as against a dog—they need self-esteem, they need a moral code, etc.”

The discussion on racism towards the end of this lesson is quite interesting. Peikoff posits that the modern definition of racism amounts to a total assault on values, life and reason.

In Lesson 4, Peikoff explains that the achievement of morality is not supposed to be a painful struggle for a rational man. He concludes this lesson with a detailed discussion of the moral conflict that Hank Rearden faces in Atlas Shrugged because he is sleeping with Dagny despite his marital commitment to Lillian.

“[Rearden] learns from Dagny, and even comes to grasp a whole new code of ethics, which finally frees him from the conflict and restores the unity to his consciousness. So you could say on one level, integration was impossible to Rearden, and therefore the unity of integrity couldn't be achieved by him. But on the deeper level, Rearden sleeping with Dagny always was an act of integrity, because it’s his deepest values responding to hers.”

Overall, this is an interesting course. It tells you about how to perform integrations, how to connect,  and why integration is key aspect of consciousness. 

Dogbert's Particle Accelerator

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Monster And His Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries
Ernesto Che Guevara 

The Motorcycle Diaries is not a “coming-of-age” story as it has been described by a number of commentators.

When Che Guevara took off on a motorcycle journey across South America he was not a teenager; he was 23-years-old and therefore already “of age.” In my view, this book has nothing to do with coming-of-age issues, rather it is a “hippie discovers communism” kind of story.

The Che Guevara that we meet in The Motorcycle Diaries is a hippie who drifts from place to place without any coherent plan. He is alienated from society. He sees the ill effects of materialism and repression in every direction. He thinks that it is the responsibility of other people to provide him with food, shelter, and even booze. He has no sense of hygiene—at times he does not wash for days and is inclined to live in most filthy and hopeless conditions. He is incapable of making any effort to improve the quality of his life.

In late 1951, Che Guevara and his friend, 29-year-old Alberto Granado, set off on the motorcycle they call La Poderosa (The Powerful One) with no aim but to wander aimlessly across South America. During their journey of more than 8000 kilometres lasting many months, they behave like a pair of filthy freeloaders and create chaos and nuisance for everyone who puts up with them. Quite often, they end up dirtying the living environment of their clueless hosts.

We were put up by some Germans who treated us very well. During the night I had a bad case of runs and, being ashamed to leave a souvenir in the pot under my bed, I climbed out on to the window ledge and gave up all of my pain to the night and blackness beyond. The next morning I looked out to see the effect and saw that two meters below lay a big sheet of tin where they were sun-drying their peaches; the added spectacle was impressive. We beat it fast.

In the book Guevara does not express the desire of becoming a tyrant or a mass murderer. He is too much of a shiftless hippie to be a mass murderer, but it is clear that he is a man in quest for a purpose in life. He needs a cause in the name of which he can declare a war on anyone and anything that antagonizes him.

Instead of being offended by poverty and pestilence, he seems to thrive in it. This is Guevara’s diary entry in Chile: “As if patiently dissecting, we pry into dirty stairways and dark recesses, talking to the swarms of beggars; we plumb the city’s depths, the miasmas draw us in. Our distended nostrils inhale the poverty with sadistic intensity.

He is a student of medicine but he has no interest in providing medication to the people; he has a dull feeling that he has to somehow bring about social change. But having no understanding of politics and economics, he is confused about the nature of the social change that he wants.

While reminiscing Pedro de Valdivia, the Spanish Conquistador, Guevara writes, “He belonged to that special class of men the species produces every so often, in whom a craving for limitless power is so extreme that any suffering to achieve it seems natural…” With these words Guevara could as well be describing his own lust for limitless power. He seems to suggest that he has the aspiration to be like Pedro de Valdivia.

A small book of 175 pages, The Motorcycle Diaries ends with Guevara telling himself that he must be willing to fight and die for the cause of the poor, and his dream of seeing a united Latin America.

I see myself, immolated in the genuine revolution, the great equalizer of individual will, proclaiming the ultimate mea culpa. I feel my nostrils dilate, savouring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood, the enemy’s death; I steel my body, ready to do battle, and prepare myself to be a sacred space within which the bestial howl of the triumphant proletariat can resound with new energy and new hope.

It is certain that the long journey across South America has played a role in moulding Guevara’s view of his place in the world. This journey made him realize that he was a revolutionary who was yet to find his revolution.

Guevara found his political cause in 1955 when he met Fidel Castro and joined the band of revolutionaries who wish to unleash a bloody communist revolution in Cuba. In the armed struggle against the Batista regime that followed, Guevara’s predatory instinct revealed themselves and he proved to be a cold blooded killer. The hippie had now transformed into a communist.

When the Batista regime collapsed, Castro put Guevara in charge of the revolutionary tribunals, where Guevara oversaw executions of thousands.

George Reisman on Socialism

“Socialism is essentially a militaristic-aristocratic type society. It rests on a base of starving serfs, comprising the great majority of the population, who live at or below the level of minimum physical subsistence and whose only function in life is to toil for the values of the rulers. Workers with special skills of value to the rulers may be somewhat better off, if that is what is necessary to make them deliver their skills and if it is practicable to offer them such incentives. But they too are essentially just serfs—they too work under force, and what they receive is subsistence or sub-subsistence, plus a small bonus for their skill. Above the serfs come various grades of officials and favorites, who help the rulers to exploit the serfs or who provide the rulers with weapons of war, the means of gaining greater prestige, or simply amusement. In this category are all the production managers, all the lower and middle party and police officials, the propagandists, the intellectuals, the scientists, the artists, the athletes. These are the tools, the henchmen, the flunkies, and the simple court favorites of the socialist society. Finally, at the very top, come the supreme rulers themselves—the men who have out-maneuvered and outgunned all of their rivals. These are the Neanderthals whose powerlust and gluttony socialism elevates to the ultimate end of human existence.”

(Source: Capitalism by George Reisman; Chapter: Socialism, Economic Chaos, And Totalitarian Dictatorship)

Monday, August 22, 2016

"One does not revere with a giggle." ~ Ayn Rand

“The truly joyous man does not laugh too much, because there is little to laugh at in life as it is today. The truly joyous man takes himself very seriously, because there is no joy without self and pride in self. Those who preach and practice “not taking anything seriously” are not gay, light hearted ones. They are merely the empty-hearted. “Taking seriously” is the very essence of life. If one does not “take oneself seriously,” one can take nothing seriously. And—“the noble soul has reverence for itself.” One does not revere with a giggle.” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: The Journals of Ayn Rand; This quote is from the personal notes that Ayn Rand made while she was preparing to write The Fountainhead.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Review: Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson
Henry Hazlitt 

The whole argument of this book may be summed up in the statement that in studying the effects of any given economic proposal we must trace not merely the immediate results but the results in the long run, not merely the primary consequences but the secondary consequences, and not merely the effects on some special group but the effects on everyone.

Says Henry Hazlitt in the chapter, “How the Price System Works,” of his classic Economics in One Lesson.

Although it was published in 1946, the book is not out of date; in it you can find the answers to almost every economic issue that is making headlines in today’s newspapers. Even when Hazlitt is commenting on the ideas of the intellectuals and politicians of his times, he offers an explanation for the missteps that are wreaking havoc on today’s economy.

Most modern politicians believe that machinery causes loss of employment. But in the chapter, “The Curse of Machinery,” Hazlitt ridicules Eleanor Roosevelt for her view that labor-saving devices get the worker thrown out of his job.

If it were indeed true that the introduction of labor-saving machinery is a cause of constantly mounting unemployment and misery, the logical conclusions to be drawn would be revolutionary, not only in the technical field but for our whole concept of civilization. Not only should we have to regard all further technical progress as a calamity; we should have to regard all past technical progress with equal horror…The technophobes, if they were logical and consistent, would have to dismiss all this progress and ingenuity as not only useless but vicious. Why should freight be carried from New York to Chicago by railroads when we could employ enormously more men, for example, to carry it all on their backs?

Economics in One Lesson is a short book of just over 200 pages, covering all the essentials of economics in a highly condensed presentation. Hazlitt’s focus is on debunking the most common myths in economics. He addresses the economic fallacies in areas like public spending, taxes and their effect on production, tariffs, government bailouts of industry, price-fixing, minimum wage laws, and inflation.

On minimum wages, Hazlitt says that it is not possible for any government to make a man worth a given amount of money by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. “You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering. In brief, for a low wage you substitute unemployment. You do harm all around, with no comparable compensation.

The best way of ensuring that the workers get higher wages is to have economic freedom in the country, so that the businesses are free to invest in new inventions and improvements that will lead to rise in the productivity of labor.

In the chapter, “Disbanding Troops of Bureaucrats,” Hazlitt equates the idea of taxation with theft. “When your money is taken by a thief, you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists. We are lucky, indeed, if the needless bureaucrats are mere easygoing loafers. They are more likely today to be energetic reformers busily discouraging and disrupting production.

It is believed that when government makes cheaper credit available to certain businesses it fuels economic growth. But Hazlitt points out that government encouragement to business must be feared as much as government hostility, and that financial interventions from the government always unleash distortions in the economy.

Now all loans, in the eyes of honest borrowers, must eventually be repaid. All credit is debt. Proposals for an increased volume of credit, therefore, are merely another name for proposals for an increased burden of debt. They would seem considerably less inviting if they were habitually referred to by the second name instead of by the first.

In the final chapter, “The Lesson Restated,” Hazlitt has analyzed the cause of the myriad economic fallacies that are there in people’s minds. He notes that economics is the science of tracing the consequences of some proposed or existing policy. The failure to trace the consequences is the inevitable result of division of labor. In a primitive society, a man works solely for himself, and it is relatively easy for him to observe the connection between his output and consumption. But when the society develops, there is division of labor and the economic structure becomes too complicated, and most people get confused about how the economy works.

While Economics in One Lesson makes a persuasive case for free market ideas, it also entails a problem. Hazlitt has not articulated that the free market ideas must be pursued because people have the right to the products of their own labor. He does not inform the readers that only a free market system can guarantee the protection of man’s rights.

For instance, in the chapter, “The Curse of Machinery,” he points out that the Industrial Revolution has led to great benefits for mankind, but then he goes on to say that the economists should not forget the individuals who get thrown out of their job due to the incorporation of new machines by the businesses. He says that the “central lesson is that we should try to see all the main consequences of any economic policy or development—the immediate effects on special groups, and the long-run effects on all groups.” But why should there be a connection between the interests of special groups and the rights of the business owners to have the kind of machinery that is best suited for their needs?

Hazlitt’s basic claim in the book is that the free market ideas are good because such ideas lead to better economic outcomes—more employment opportunities, higher wages, cheaper goods and services, better infrastructure, and general prosperity.

It is baffling that in a book which is dedicated to explaining the benefits of the free market system, we don’t have a clear articulation of the fact that a free market system is critical for the protection of property rights in particular and man’s rights in general.

Despite these weaknesses Economics in One Lesson is a good primer for a reader who does not have any previous acquaintance with economics. The book’s title promises to teach economics in one lesson and this promise has largely been kept.

Nazi Germany Was a Socialist Country

"Nazi Germany was a socialist country and that the Nazis were right to call themselves National Socialists. This is something everyone should know; yet it appears to have been overlooked or ignored by practically all writers but von Mises. In Nazi Germany, the government controlled all prices and wages and determined what each firm was to produce, in what quantity, by what methods, and to whom it was to turn over its products. There was no fundamental difference between the Nazis and the Communists. While the Communists in Russia wore red shirts and had five-year plans, the Nazis in Germany wore brown shirts and had four-year plans." ~ George Reisman

(Source: Capitalism by George Reisman; Chapter: Price Controls and Economic Chaos)

Friday, August 19, 2016

The False Propaganda Against Nuclear Radiation

After the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant around 300,000 people living within 25-miles of the reactor building were permanently evacuated because of the healthcare related concerns from nuclear radiation.

But the wild animals did not leave with the people, and they began to thrive like never before. Their population exploded. Chernobyl is now Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary, a home to large numbers of animals, birds, and plants. These creatures show no sign of mutations; they are normal and healthy.

Also, the Chernobyl accident has not led to the rise in instances of cancer or any other medical complication in the populations that were heavily affected.

Around 500 nuclear power plants have been operational in the world during the last 50 years, but there have been only two accidents—Chernobyl and Fukushima. There were no human causalities in the Fukushima disaster. In the Chernobyl accident there were 31 fatalities.

Coal mining kills more people in a month than all the nuclear power plant accidents in history. According to American Lung Association, in America 13,200 deaths a year are caused due to the release of particulates, heavy metals and radioactive elements from coal plants.

The idea that coal-based energy is more dangerous than nuclear energy flies in face of the central tenet of anti-nuclear activism that any amount of nuclear radiation must be lethal for mankind.

The radiation from nuclear power plants is a fraction of what was released into the environment in the Chernobyl accident. People receive much more radiation during medical procedures than what they can get in the vicinity of any nuclear power plant in the world. Yet the anti-nuclear activists are vehemently opposed to new nuclear power plant projects.

The irresponsible propaganda of the anti-nuclear activists has forced the governments to use the LNT model (linear no-threshold model) for evaluating the safety of nuclear sites. The LNT model is ideologically driven and deliberately and deceptively misleading. According to LNT even the tiniest amount of radiation can increase someone’s cancer risk, and that the danger keeps rising along with the dose. But this is not true.

Dr. Carol Marcus, professor of nuclear science at University of California, calls the LNT model a “baloney” of the same category as “the Earth is flat.” In a communication with U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Marcus said:
The LNT is based upon flawed claims, unrealistic models, and bad science. On the other hand, there is a huge body of valid scientific literature supporting thresholds and radiation hormesis. The ICRP assumes the correctness of the LNT. They are wrong.  
The NRC plan to make its radiation protection program closer to that of ICRP has no scientific basis. It is instead based upon the idea that uniformity is a good thing. Uniformity makes no sense if it makes everyone uniformly wrong. It is better to have an outlier that is correct. At least it sets a good example for the others. 
Dr. Marcus also points out that an exposure to a much higher level of radiation than what is mandated by the NRC is not necessarily a health hazard, and this is proved by the fact that people in many professions get routinely exposed to supposedly high radiation but they don’t suffer any ill effect:
Airlines pilots who fly polar routes may receive exposures approaching the present 5 rem limit, even though this is not a radiation regulated activity.  Suggesting that this is dangerous is untrue,because there are no valid data showing that this is the case. According to the radiation regulators of Colorado, the yearly background radiation dose in Copper City, CO is 890 mrem.
Even the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) doesn't believe that low-level radiation can cause cancer. The NRC website declares: “Although radiation may cause cancer at high doses and high dose rates, public health data do not absolutely establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Studies of occupational workers who are chronically exposed to low levels of radiation above normal background have shown no adverse biological effects.”

If the anti-nuclear activists were concerned about human life and the environment, they would be campaigning for the construction of more nuclear power plants which have a long track-record of providing electricity in a safe, clean, and reliable manner. But these activists are not concerned about human wellbeing; they oppose nuclear projects because they are ideologically anti-development.

Most anti-nuclear activists support other leftwing causes. They don’t like modernization and the idea of people having access to cheap and clean electricity through nuclear resources is an anathema to them. They are anti-coal, anti-gas, anti-dam, and anti-nuclear, and this means that they want to stop people from using electricity. 

Mises on Welfare State

"Every advocate of the welfare state and of planning is a potential dictator. What he plans is to deprive all other men of all their rights, and to establish his own and his friends' unrestricted omnipotence. He refuses to convince his fellow-citizens. He prefers to "liquidate" them. He scorns the "bourgeois" society that worships law and legal procedure. He himself worships violence and bloodshed."

Ludwig von Mises in Socialism

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Objectivism Through Induction by Leonard Peikoff

Objectivism Through Induction
Course by Leonard Peikoff
Ayn Rand Campus

If you are looking for a really effective source of knowledge on induction, then you can’t go past the course Objectivism Through Induction by Leonard Peikoff.

Available on the Ayn Rand Campus website, the course offers a comprehensive introduction to the basic principles of induction. It explains how to use induction for reaching and validating key ideas in egoism, justice, causality, the metaphysical meaning of sex, and the status of the arbitrary.

Originally given by Leonard Peikoff 1997, the course has a total length of around 18 hours and is divided into 12 lessons—each lesson comprising of around 8 to 15 audio recordings with a total length of around 1.5 hours. Here's the list of the 12 lessons:

Lesson 1: An Inductive Approach to Philosophy

Lesson 2: Reason as Man’s Basic Means of Survival

Lesson 3: Validating Egoism Inductively

Lesson 4: Egoism and Justice

Lesson 5: Justice and Objectivity

Lesson 6: Aristotle’s Induction of Objectivity

Lesson 7: Objectivity: From Aristotle to Ayn Rand

Lesson 8: The Evil of Initiating Physical Force

Lesson 9: Sex as Metaphysical

Lesson 10: Values as Objective

Lesson 11: The Arbitrary as Neither True Nor False

Lesson 12: Final Exam: Leonard Peikoff’s Answers

The course is also available in the form of a transcription, but in my view the audio recordings are much easier to access.

In the first lesson, Peikoff informs that Ayn Rand was of the view that induction is the only way by which we can reach new philosophical principles. He says that induction is generalisation from perception, and our primary method of deriving our knowledge of reality.

In his discussion of the basic principles of induction, Peikoff makes several interesting comments on logic, man’s rights, psychology, and the ideas of different philosophers. For instance, on the issue of child’s rights, Peikoff says (in Lesson 8):

“A child has to learn that parents can legitimately initiate physical force… and that force does not come under the principle that the initiation of physical force is evil. Remember philosophy applies to adults and there are separate rules for the transition from brith to adulthood. The parents… are morally obligated to carry out their responsibility of brining up the child in a certain way… They can punish him against his will when it’s necessary or appropriate.”

In Lesson 7, Peikoff gives an interesting and rather unexpected view of Hegel’s thoughts on the interconnectedness of all knowledge:

Now if we looked at the history of philosophy, the best actual predecessor of Ayn Rand on this would be someone you probably wouldn't have dreamed of and that would actually have been Hegel because that was his great virtue if you could find it in the chaos and mysticism of his writings. But Hegel actually believed that all knowledge is a sum, that every item implies every other, and that there is nothing by chance and no inexplicable element and that integration is the key to knowledge. That really was his whole idea of the coherence theory of truth.

Unfortunately Hegel believed this in a completely mystical, rationalistic way. I don’t know whether Ayn Rand in her reading of history of philosophy got any leads from Hegel or threw all of him out. I incline to believe the latter judging by such comments as she made about Hegel in my presence. She never said: “he was a monster, but…” In any event, it seems to me that a great place for her to have got the data for the conclusion about integration would be her own mental processes. Specifically her own habit of integration which she practiced at least from the age of 12 as a definite conscious method because one of her most distinctive mental traits was her practice of always connecting what for other people are simply isolated elements. She was always seeing relations where no one, including me, suspected them.

Peikoff is a good raconteur. He explains the basic principles of induction in such a way that you get the feeling of hearing an interesting story. Overall, this is a good course—informative as well as entertaining.

Altruism: the Basis of Nazism

Monday, August 15, 2016

On Isabel Paterson’s Theory of Knowledge

Isabel Paterson’s The God of The Machine offers an insightful interpretation of history, one that outlines the vital role that philosophy plays in the affairs of mankind.

In almost every page of the book, you find striking ideas on defense of liberty, refutation of collectivist theories, and the connection that exists between philosophy, political movements, and technological innovations.

However, Paterson has scattered a multitude of ideas throughout the book, often as isolated strands of thought. Many of her ideas seem to be inadequately explored as she has not clarified the basic concepts and the evidence on the basis of which she developed her thoughts.

The lack of evidence and logic based argumentation is most pronounced in the assertions that Paterson makes in regard to theory of knowledge. For instance, in the final chapter, “The Dynamic Energy of The Future,” Paterson talks about the everlasting nature of knowledge:

“Because man is not deterministic, there can be no set order of his discoveries. Progress is always possible, but it depends upon the unpredictable use of intelligence. From the known record, it does not appear that men have ever wholly lost any important body of knowledge once attained; though it might lie unused for a time, until the moral principles were affirmed by which material science could be applied beneficially.”

Paterson is essentially saying that knowledge once discovered is never entirely forgotten by mankind. While this is a positive point of view, it is not a convincing one.  If mankind has lost some body of knowledge then we would not know anything about it because no reference of it would exist in people’s memories or in any historical text.

Unfortunately Paterson has not explained why she thinks that mankind has never forgotten any knowledge that it once discovered.

In the chapter, “The Power of Ideas,” Paterson posits the idea of knowledge being interconnected. “The Greeks had their premonitory fables of Prometheus and Icarus. Nevertheless, they perceived that all knowledge might be interconnected and capable of indefinite enlargement by rational inquiry.”

The idea that all knowledge is interconnected is of crucial importance in epistemology. But after proposing this crucial idea, Paterson doesn't explore it further; she doesn't offer any arguments to establish how human knowledge is interconnected.

In regard to the concept of definitions, Paterson has several interesting things to say. In the chapter, “Where Real Money is Insensible,” she asserts that one of the hallmarks of an advanced civilization is that the words that people use, in any given context, have an exact meaning:

“The verbal language of a high civilization is also a precision instrument. When words are used without exact definition, there can be no communication above the primitive level. If those who are supposed to express or influence "public opinion," the writers, economists, social theorists, and pedagogues, think in the concepts of savagery, what can be the outcome?”

In the chapter, “The Economics of The Free Society,” she accuses the Marxists of willfully obfuscating the definitions of words for confusing the people’s minds:

“Misuse of language is the means by which the Marxist cult of Communism has done the most serious injury to intelligence. There is a natural obstacle to progress in abstract thought which has often delayed rational inquiry; an erroneous concept or theory may be expressed in terms which embody the error, so that thinking is blocked until the misleading words are discarded from the given context.”

Further she uses her idea of the words having an exact meaning to show that the Marxist concepts like “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and “dialectical materialism,” are arbitrary assertions:

“…the Marxist terminology reduces verbal expression to literal nonsense on the basis of fact and usage; this is not obvious gibberish, nor the humorous nonsense which will sometimes elucidate an intrinsic difficulty of expression or indicate a gap in knowledge, but arrangements of words ac- cording to the rules of grammar, in which each word taken separately has a customary meaning, but which in the given sequence, the sentence, mean nothing at all. For example, let it be said that: "An isosceles triangle is green." The several words are in common use, and as parts of speech they are placed in proper order 5 but the whole statement is absurd. That is bad enough, but it would be rather worse if one spoke of the "roundness of a triangle." The phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is like the "roundness of a triangle," a contradiction in terms. It has no meaning. The theory of "dialectical materialism" is a misuse of terms of the same type as the statement that an isosceles triangle is green. It posits an inevitable succession of a thesis producing its opposite or antithesis and the fissiparous abstraction reuniting into a synthesis.”

This is an outstanding analysis by Paterson, but even the best ideas need to be objectively proved. Her theory of definitions is correct, but how does she know that it is correct—what is the evidence? Paterson has not made any attempt to use facts and logic to prove that in any given context a word must have an exact meaning. She has proposed the final law of definitions, but she has not made any attempt to develop a comprehensive theory of definitions.

Overall, Paterson must be lauded for the broad picture of the philosophy of liberty that she has presented in The God of the Machine. She lapses only on the area of providing a detailed description of the foundation on which she is originating her ideas. Most of the epistemological ideas that Paterson has broached in her book, such as “hierarchy of knowledge,” “definitions,” and “arbitrary assertions,” have been dealt with in detail by Ayn Rand in her articles.

John Locke on Education

"That great care is to be taken, that it be never made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task. We naturally, as I said, even from our cradles, love liberty, and have therefore an aversion to many things for no other reason but because they are enjoin’d us. I have always had a fancy that learning might be made a play and recreation to children: and that they might be brought to desire to be taught, if it were proposed to them as a thing of honour, credit, delight, and recreation, or as a reward for doing something else; and if they were never chid or corrected for the neglect of it. That which confirms me in this opinion is, that amongst the Portuguese, ’tis so much a fashion and emulation amongst their children, to learn to read and write, that they cannot hinder them from it: they will learn it one from another, and are as intent on it, as if it were forbidden them. I remember that being at a friend’s house, whose younger son, a child in coats, was not easily brought to his book (being taught to read at home by his mother) I advised to try another way, than requiring it of him as his duty; we therefore, in a discourse on purpose amongst our selves, in his hearing, but without taking any notice of him, declared, that it was the privilege and advantage of heirs and elder brothers, to be scholars; that this made them fine gentlemen, and beloved by every body: and that for younger brothers, ’twas a favour to admit them to breeding; to be taught to read and write, was more than came to their share; they might be ignorant bumpkins and clowns, if they pleased. This so wrought upon the child, that afterwards he desired to be taught; would come himself to his mother to learn, and would not let his maid be quiet till she heard him his lesson. I doubt not but some way like this might be taken with other children; and when their tempers are found, some thoughts be instill’d into them, that might set them upon desiring of learning, themselves, and make them seek it as another sort of play or recreation. But then, as I said before, it must never be imposed as a task, nor made a trouble to them. There may be dice and play-things, with the letters on them to teach children the alphabet by playing; and twenty other ways may be found, suitable to their particular tempers, to make this kind of learning a sport to them."

John Locke in Some Thoughts concerning Education (1693)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Amazing Absurdities in Al Gore’s Nobel Lecture

Al Gore Displaying his Nobel Peace Prize
“Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.”

“Seven years from now.”

Al Gore spoke these words on 10 December 2007 in his lecture at the Nobel Prize ceremony at Oslo. Going by his theory, the North Pole ought to have been ice-free by 2014.

Apparently Al Gore’s hot air does not have any impact on the North Pole ice. The data from NASA shows that the polar ice began to rebound from 2012, and has now surpassed the average level of ice that has been there since 1979 when the trend of using satellite instruments for measuring ice-caps started.

In his Nobel Lecture, Al Gore goes on to enumerate a long list of cataclysms that he thinks climate change would unleash on mankind. With the aplomb of a doomsday prophet, he rants about a world that is spinning out of kilter:

“Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.”

But all these catastrophes are a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. The earth is not facing a biblical cocktail of hurricanes, floods, famines, wars—there is no large-scale migration of people happening due to climate related reasons.

He seems to be exhibiting megalomania when he says:

“We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge…. When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us.”

What is manifestly good and true about sacrificing development in the name of a problem that doesn't exist! What does Al Gore mean by spiritual energy? He sounds ridiculous and confused when he talks about a moral purpose unleashing spiritual energy that would transform him and his ilk.

In the name of a solution to the mythical global warming problem, Al Gore proposes several statist ideas such as curbs on generation of electricity through coal and higher taxes to tackle what he sees as the climate crisis:

“We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.”

“And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon – with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.”

A vast majority of people in the poor and developing countries live without electricity and yet Al Gore proudly calls for a moratorium on coal based electricity generation! Also, how will higher taxes help in stopping climate change?

In 2007, when Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize, climate change was a hot topic—it had frightened many intellectuals, journalists and politicians who tend to have apathetic notions about data and evidence. Since then lot more evidence has emerged to show that the idea that mankind is causing climate change is based on false theories and flawed models.

Climate alarmism has nothing to do with scientific evidence; it is all about promoting an anti-development leftist political agenda.

As none of the climate related catastrophes that Al Gore had predicted in his Nobel Lecture have come to pass, he should, for decency sake, accept that his theory of climate change is a drivel of the worst kind, and he should return his Nobel Peace Prize.

Thomas Paine in Rights of Man

"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, — and all it wants, — is the liberty of appearing."

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretences for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without a tribute."

Friday, August 12, 2016

Execution By Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust

Execution By Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust
Miron Dolot
W W Norton & Company

Holodomor literally means “execution by hunger.” It is the name given to the devastating famine that Josef Stalin’s communist regime unleashed on Ukraine in 1932 and 1933. The Holodomor is perhaps the only instance in history of a purely man-made famine being carried out in such a cold-blooded manner that seven million lives (about 20% of Ukraine’s population) were wiped out.

Miron Dolot’s Execution by Hunger provides an authentic and rather graphic account of the devastation caused by the Holodomor. The book has grisly stories of people eating dogs, dead human bodies, and horrifyingly, their own children. Dolot was a survivor of the great famine.

The book begins with a short description of life in the village where Dolot was born in 1916. “My village stood on the North bank of the Tiasmyn River, one of the many tributaries of the Dnipro (Dnieper) River, and it was beautiful. Green hills rose in the South behind the river, and the rich tar-black soil of the plains stretched to the North. The plains were divided into strips of fields.”

The village consisted of some eight hundred households comprising a population of nearly four thousand people. Most of them were farmers and they were able to produce enough food for meeting their needs. The villagers enjoyed the freedom of movement—they often took pleasure trips and traveled freely looking for jobs. “We were free individuals,” Dolot declares.

But things start changing from 1928, when Josef Stalin began his campaign for cultural repression and collectivization. City dwelling communists with virtually no knowledge of agriculture and filled with contempt for the farmers were sent to all the villages in Ukraine to enforce collectivization. The result was a massive decline in Ukraine’s agricultural output.

Instead of blaming their flawed policy of collectivization for the fall in agriculture output, Stalin and his communist henchmen blamed the Ukrainian peasants for deliberately sabotaging the agriculture. In 1930, Stalin stepped up the collectivization programs, and he also ordered the liquidation of the “kulaks,” the so-called rich farmers.

Several prominent villagers were arrested and taken to unknown locations, from where they never returned. The remaining villagers were evicted from their farms and forced to become laborers at the state-run collective farms. Severe restrictions were placed on their movement. No one could go out of the village without permission from the communist overseers.

The communists went to the extent of breaking up the family system by instigating the children against their parents. “The Party encouraged the children to spy on their parents and to denounce them, and anybody else, for that matter, who defied the Party. Such denunciation was considered a heroic deed, the best expression of Soviet patriotism.”

The village environment was filled with fear and suspicion. Miron’s three uncles, notwithstanding the evidence of their poverty, were declared Kulaks and arrested. Thereafter, his brother Serhiy was arrested on the charge of misbehaving with a communist official and sent to an unknown location. Two years later Miron and his mother received an anonymous letter saying that Serhiy had died from torture and exhaustion.

By the beginning of 1931, the village was completely collectivized and the stage was now set for the massive famine. “Our village was half ruined; more than one-third of our entire population was physically exterminated or banished from the village. Any food we had was confiscated. By the end of 1931 we faced mass starvation. There was no way to survive but to stay in the collective farm where we had been promised some food for our daily work.”

The book has many stories of people who suffered and perished under the nightmarish tyranny of the communists.

Here’s an account of one unfortunate family:
Dmytro had never returned home after he had been taken to the county center. His young wife Solomia was left alone with their daughter. She had gone to work in the collective farm, taking her little child with her. As the wife of a banished man, she too was considered an “enemy of the people,” and her child was refused admission to the nursery. Later, Solomia was expelled from the collective farm, and thus forced to seek a job in the city. That was impossible, however, because she could not show a certificate of release from the collective farm. She found herself trapped in the circle of the Communist death ring. She had to return to her village.  
When winter came, Solomia went from house to house, willing to work for just a piece of bread. She was too proud to beg. People were sympathetic and helped her as much as they could. However, as the famine worsened, and the villagers were no longer able to help her, she was not seen on her rounds any more.  
We found the front door of Solomia’s house open, but the entrance was blocked with snowdrifts, and it was hard to get inside. When we finally reached the living room, we saw a pitiful sight: Solomia was hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. She was dressed in her Ukrainian national costume, and at her breast hung a large cross. It was obvious that she had made preparations before committing suicide. Her hair was combed neatly in two braids hanging over her shoulders.  
Frightened, we ran to fetch Mother. We helped her take down Solomia’s frozen body, and laid it on a bench, and covered it with a handmade blanket. It was only after we finished doing this that we noticed the dead body of her little daughter. The child was lying in a wooden tub in the corner under the icons, clean and dressed in her best clothes. Her little hands were folded across her chest.  
On the table was a note:  
Dear Neighbors:  
Please bury our bodies properly. I have to leave you, dear neighbors. I can bear this life no longer. There is no food in the house, and there is no sense in living without my little daughter who starved to death, or my husband. If you ever see Dmytro, tell him about us. He will understand our plight, and he will forgive me. Please tell him that I died peacefully, thinking about him and our dear daughter.  
I love you, my dear neighbors, and I wish with all my heart that you somehow recover from this disaster. Forgive me for troubling you. Thank you for everything you have done for me.   
Miron says that people were so driven by hunger that they ate everything and anything: even food that had already rotted—potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables that pigs normally refused to eat. They even ate weeds, the leaves and bark of trees, insects, frogs and snails. Nor did they shy away from eating the meat of diseased horses and cattle. Often that meat was already decaying and those who ate it died of food poisoning.

The book has heart-rending accounts of numerous instances of cannibalism. “Another woman was found dead, her neck contorted in a crudely made noose. The neighbors who discovered the tragedy also found the reason for it. The flesh of the woman’s three-year-old daughter was found in the oven.”

Overall, Execution By Hunger is an important book for offering a glimpse of the horrible crimes committed by Stalin’s communist regime. People who are confused about the real nature of communism should read this book to find out how the actual implementation of the communist ideology created such extreme scarcity of food that millions of people in the Soviet Union were forced to become scavengers and cannibals.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

‘Brexit Was Nothing Compared to What’s Coming’ ~ Jim Rogers

In a new column, "What’s Coming Is Going to Be a Mess," Jim Rogers paints a rather scary picture of the current state of the world. But he says that all this is “nothing compared to what’s coming.”

On learning from history, Rogers says:

"The biggest lesson of history is people don’t learn from history. And history shows us that even the people that know history, don’t learn from history."

My Letters Are So Great

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Saul Alinsky And Labor Unions—A Love-Hate Relationship

In “Saul Alinsky Hated Capitalism, But He Also Hated The Liberals,” I point out that Alinsky had a relentlessly pessimistic view of capitalism. He was contemptuous of the liberals because he believed that they were too moderate, and they lacked the will to use coercive and violent methods for fundamentally transforming the capitalist system.

But he had similar contempt for the leaders of the labor unions. He believed that the labor unions were not doing enough to damage the system. They were too democratic, and often unwilling to promote socialist causes and political movements. In their negotiations with private enterprises and government bodies, they were too soft and flexible.

He believed that instead of being foes of capitalism, the labor unions were its supporters: “It is clear that the organized labor movement supports a cap­italistic form of society. It is also obvious that the labor movement as now constituted must continue to be as much a guardian of the castle of capitalism as is capital.”

The above quote is from Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals which he published in 1946. A significant number of the book’s pages are devoted to excoriating the labor unions for their soft tactics. He was of the view that as the unions have come into their own in the monopolistic capitalist economy, they are comfortable with being in bed with the capitalists.

He accused the labor unions of becoming “strong, wealthy, fat, and respectable,” like the capitalists:

“As labor unions have become strong, wealthy, fat, and respectable, they have behaved more and more like organized business. In many cases their courses have run so parallel that in a basic sense organized labor has become a partner of organized business. The illustrations of this fact are legion, and are found in practically all of the great variety of labor unions.”

In Reveille for Radicals, Alinsky has analyzed the statements of the union bosses representing various industrial sectors. He reaches the conclusion that the unions don’t want to see any decline in the profits of the industries and the government bodies. He accuses them of being more concerned about the profits of the capitalists than with the wages of the workers.

He regarded the labor unions as the citadels of conservative reaction. According to him, the unions are mired in racism and they don’t give enough representation to the black population. He wanted the country to move towards socialism, but he felt that the labor unions didn't want socialism as their structure was such that they could only survive in a capitalist system.

“They must be opposed to Socialism, Com­munism or any other philosophy which would destroy private ownership of industry or private employment. From their point of view, the introduction of a Socialistic society would mean the death knell of the present organized labor movement.”

In Rules for Radicals (1971), Alinsky has listed his ideas for radically transforming the labor unions. He proposes that as the labor unions were failing to do their job, it was necessary for the ever fighting radicals to take control of all agitations for securing the rights of the workers. He wanted the radicalized unions to swamp the capitalist system with never-ending agitations and ever-changing list of extreme demands. Here’s an excerpt:

“Labor union organizers turned out to be poor community organizers. Their experience was tied to a pattern of fixed points, whether it was definite demands on wages, pensions, vacation periods, or other working conditions, and all of this was anchored into particular contract dates. Once the issues were settled and a contract signed, the years before the next contract negotiation held only grievance meetings about charges on contract violations by either side. Mass organization is a different animal, it is not housebroken. There are no fixed chronological points or definite issues. The demands are always changing; the situation is fluid and ever-shifting; and many of the goals are not in concrete terms of dollars and hours but are psychological and constantly changing, like ‘such stuff as dreams are made on.’”

He exhorts his radicals to instigate the workers by making them aware of their bad condition. He says that the radicals must dramatize the “injustices by describing conditions at other industrial plants engaged in the same kind of work where the workers are far better off economically and have better working conditions, job security, health benefits, and pensions as well as other advantages that had not even been thought of by the workers he is trying to organize.”

He points out that no one can negotiate a good deal without being in a position of power, and that the power of the labor unions comes from their ability to go on a strike or indulge in violence if all their demands are not met.

It is worth noting that while Alinsky has advocated for a radical transformation of the labor unions, he has not expressed any concern for the economic well-being of the working class. He does not claim that his ideas will lead to improvement in people’s quality of life.

From Alinsky’s writings you can draw the inference that he wanted to replace capitalism with a totalitarian socialist system. But he has not said that explicitly in his books, and it seems as if he is not concerned about what comes after the capitalist system has been ruined. As I have pointed in my earlier articles, Saul Alinsky was a nihilist; he had no higher goals and he wanted destruction for the sake of destruction.


Saul Alinsky Hated Capitalism, But He Also Hated The Liberals

The Infernal World of Saul Alinsky: Reveille for Radicals

The Nihilism of Saul Alinsky: Rules for Radicals

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Right to medical care is right to enslave - Reisman

"Today there is a great deal of justified outrage over the enormous and ever increasing cost of medical care, and, in response, people assert a right to medical care. But their idea of a right to medical care is a right consistent with the anarchic concept of freedom, that is, an alleged right which is to be implemented without regard to the willingness of others to cooperate. The government is to take money from the taxpayers, at the point of a gun, to implement this alleged right to medical care and it is to hold a gun to the heads of physicians and hospitals to make them supply medical care on the terms and by the methods it imposes. This is a total corruption of the concept of rights. It is, as Ayn Rand would describe it, the assertion of an alleged right to enslave."

~ George Reisman in Capitalism (Chapter: Monopoly vs. Freedom of Competition)

Monday, August 8, 2016

On John Donne's "For whom the bell tolls"

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem. The passage, taken from the Meditation 17 of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions which was published in 1624, is a prose. Here are the words of the original passage:

"No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Book Review: Objective Communication by Leonard Peikoff

Objective Communication: Writing, Speaking And Arguing
Created from a course by Dr. Leonard Peikoff 
Edited by Barry Wood 

Why is Objectivism called Objectivism?

According to Leonard Peikoff, “The reason Objectivism is called “Objectivism” is that that concept—objectivity—is central to every branch of philosophy.”

He says this in his commentary to a mock debate which is included in the chapter, “Analysis of Student Arguments,” in Objective Communication. He further explains:
In metaphysics, it [objectivity] stands for the idea that here is a reality that exists independent of us. In epistemology, it stands for the fact that we can acquire knowledge of things as they are, not influenced by our arbitrary feelings. And in ethics, it stands for the idea that objective value judgments are possible. Since the concept has roots in all these areas of philosophy, as soon as you defend the objectivity of knowledge, you open up everything—the means of knowledge (which are the senses, and logic, and reason, and concepts), the object of knowledge (which is reality), and the various applications of knowledge (including value judgments and political and even gastronomic examples).” 
The topic of the mock debate is: “Is objective knowledge possible or not?” It has Peikoff taking the position of the Devil’s Advocate, arguing against the objectivity of knowledge. An unnamed volunteer takes the pro-objectivity side.

The arguments from Peikoff’s side, in this debate, are the key arguments that you can expect from those who like to deny objectivity. The volunteer who argues in favor of objectivity of knowledge does a fine job of defending her position in the beginning, but thereafter she is unable to control the course of the debate and it is Peikoff who drives the discussion forward.

In the commentary that follows, Peikoff provides his views on the line of argumentation that he and the volunteer have taken. He points out that for defending such a thing like objectivity of knowledge one must be able to cover the essentials of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. He explains:
God is much easier to argue, because that is one specific thing; even capitalism is much easier. But here you are in a highly proliferating question that pervades everything. You therefore have to be up on everything, because the subject will change at any moment—and they are essentials; they are not just arbitrary.” 
In another mock debate, Harry Binswanger and Peikoff argue on the subject of free will and determinism. Binswanger plays the Devil’s Advocate, arguing in favor of determinism, while Peikoff argues for free will.

The twelve chapters in Objective Communication provide lots of ideas for presenting arguments. It covers topics such as, the philosophic bases of communication; keeping the audience motivated; organizing the presentation logically; dealing with rationalist arguments; the principles of speaking; the principles of arguing; and much else.

The material in the book comes from the series of lectures on “Objective Communication” that Leonard Peikoff gave during the early 1980. The audio version of the lectures are available on the Ayn Rand Campus website.

In the Chapter, “About This Course,” Barry Wood, the book's editor, points out that the title of the course is Objective—not Objectivist—Communication. He explains:
“Philosophy is the base of art and science, but there is no Objectivist or Platonist physics, only physics, and the same is true of any art or science. Where then does Objectivism come in? All science and all art, including the art of communication, rests on a philosophic base. And the base of this course—not the content per se, but the base—is Objectivism.
In the chapter, “Rationalism,” Peikoff talks about the eloquent example of rationalists that Ayn Rand had invented:
Ayn Rand once invented this eloquent example: A rationalist would come out with some argument such as, “Man has only two eyes; therefore, he should be able to see only two things, one with each eye.” The rationalist does not ask why; it sounds neat and symmetrical—two things, two eyes, it all fits. At this point, two schools of philosophy would arise. One would say, “We have to accept the conclusion. Men do see only two things; everything else, they do not actually see—it is all an illusion.” To that, the opposing school would reply, “Men do see countless things, not just two, but that is because of all the hidden eyes that they have.” If you then say to such a rationalist, “Look, it is not true; if you look at reality, you see that men do, in fact, have only two eyes, and they do see many things,” he will find that irrelevant. Reality does not have any status in his thinking. He has decided that his conclusions about eyes is good, and his idea supersedes all facts.
Peikoff is at his best, when he is explaining the principles of communication that Ayn Rand has used in her talks. The analysis of Rand’s speech for undergraduates at West Point, “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” is of great interest because it serves as a clear example of how one should structure and deliver a philosophical talk to an audience that is not expected to be inclined towards philosophy. Peikoff explains every aspect of the speech, from the title to the structure and the arguments. Here’s an excerpt:
Notice, too, that Rand uses “you” throughout this piece. That is by no means mandatory. But in a speech of this kind, where her particular stress is, “This applies to you,” it is more effective and more motivating to say “It applies to you” than “It applies to man” or “It applies to all rational beings,” because in such cases the audience would have to go one step further—“I am a rational being, and therefore it applies to me.” Rand wants to hammer home the idea, “Philosophy—who needs it? You do.” Therefore, she uses the second person very frequently. This also is a motivating element.” 
Objective Communication is profoundly important for understanding how to communicate philosophical arguments in an objective, logical and convincing manner. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Autodidact: Sartre’s Caricature of a Modern Intellectual

In my earlier article on Sartre’s Nausea, I discuss the novel’s protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, and I draw a comparison between him and the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Howard Roark. Roquentin and Roark are poles apart philosophically—the former is an exponent of existentialism and is filled with doubts about the nature of reality, while the latter upholds Ayn Rand’s ideas of primacy of existence and is an individualist.

But in my view, Roquentin is not the most important character in Nausea. That distinction goes to the character called, the Autodidact. In the novel we are not told much about the Autodidact’s personal life; he is present in very few scenes. We come to know about his obsession for reading every book in the library, his humanism, and his plan for venturing to the Middle East on an educational trip, from the few brief exchanges that he and Roquentin have.

As to why I consider the Autodidact to be the most important character in the novel, consider the fact that he is an accurate caricature of an intellectual. In the novel, the Autodidact is not blamed for spreading bad ideas, but he definitely has the ability to inspire ideas that will worsen the confusion and disorientation in the mind of someone like Roquentin .

Let’s examine the Autodidact’s character.

For the last seven years, the Autodidact has been studying in the library. The noteworthy thing is that he reads books in an alphabetical order. He doesn't pick up books on the basis of their subject, their content, or any other objective criteria—he is intent on reading every book in the library in an alphabetical order. Here’s an excerpt:
Today he had reached ‘L.’ ‘K’ after ‘J’, ‘L’ after ‘K’. He had passed abruptly from the study of coleoptrae to that of the quantum theory, from a work on Tamerlane to a Catholic pamphlet against Darwinism: not for a moment has he been put off his stride. He has read everything; he has stored away in his head half of what is known about parthenogenesis, half the arguments against vivisection. Behind him, before him, there is a universe. And the day approaches when, closing the last book on the last shelf on the far left, he will say to himself: ‘And now what?’"
There is no system in the Autodidact’s reading. He is not reading for gaining wisdom; he is reading for the sake of reading. Indeed, he is memorizing information from a whole lot of books but this information is not helping his mind grow; it is not enabling him to develop ideas for creating any value. He doesn't care to think about why he is reading books in alphabetical order and he has no plans for what he is going to do after he has finished reading all the books in the library.

The Autodidact may seem like an eccentric character but, as I have pointed out earlier in this article, he is also a caricature of the modern intellectuals who are well read and full of information on just about everything, and yet they lack the wisdom to understand the reality of the world.

In his time Sartre was regarded as the intellectual pope of Europe; he was a celebrated philosopher and the author of several bestselling books. He was obviously well read, but he lacked wisdom. If Sartre had wisdom he would not have been the eager supporter of mass murdering regimes like Stalin’s Russia, Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

The Autodidact is so cutoff from reality that he has a bizarre sense of adventure. Here’s how he explains his theory of adventure to Roquentin:
Getting on the wrong train. Stopping in an unknown town. Losing your wallet, being arrested by mistake, spending the night in prison. Monsieur, it seems to me that you could define adventure as an event which is out of the ordinary without being necessarily extraordinary.” 
Seriously, is getting on a wrong train, stopping at an unknown town, losing your wallet, an adventure! Who in his right mind will consider being arrested by mistake and spending the night in a prison an adventure! But such events are an adventure to the intellectual class who are out of touch with reality, because they live in a cloistered academic or bureaucratic environment and have negligible experience of life.

Apparently Sartre thought that the massive numbers of people being slaughtered by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro was nothing more than an adventure! He had no qualms about tolerating mass murderers. He was comfortable being in bed with tyrants.

Like most modern intellectuals, the Autodidact is also a humanist and a member of a left-wing organization.
Since September 1921 I have been a member of the SFIO Socialist Party. That is what I wanted to tell you,” he says to Roquentin when they meet at the coffee house.
In the same meeting he provides a glimpse of his humanist ideas:
The Autodidact: “We must love them, we must love them…
Roquentin: “Whom must we love? The people here?
The Autodidact: “Them too. One and all.
Sartre was a leftist. He used to project himself as a humanist and a human rights activist. But he always closed his eyes to the human rights violations being committed by the communist regimes. Towards the end of the novel it is revealed that the Autodidact is a pedophile; he used to target the young boys who visited the library. Sartre too has been accused of several sexual misdemeanours; however, his stature as intellectual meant that his crimes could never be properly investigated.

Taking the context of the entire story into account, we can see in the Autodidact a rather disgusting and horrifying caricature of a modern intellectual. While we might like to believe that every intellectual has the potential to develop ideas for making the world a better place, and while it’s true in few instances, it’s not true in most cases. Most intellectuals are like the Autodidact—they propose ideas that have nothing to do with reality.


The Ascent of Howard Roark and the Decline of Antoine Roquentin

Jean-Paul Sartre: The Intellectual Henchman of Tyrants

On Postmodernist Bullying: If You Don’t Like Kafka, You Are a Philistine

Friday, August 5, 2016

Harry Binswanger on The Metaphysics of Consciousness

"What does it mean to say that consciousness is irreducible?

"We need a contrast, so let's contrast it with reducible.

"What are some things we can reduce? What is a reduction in the sense we are talking about?

"Well, we can reduce a whole to it's parts. Say, a box can be reduced to its top, bottom, front, back, sides. The reduction is possible because the whole is the sum of its parts. Or, we can reduce the box to the material of which its made, wood. The box is wood. An object is the material of which it's made.

"Now, can we do that with consciousness? Well, consciousness doesn't have parts, and it isn't made of stuff. Now, you might say, yeah, that's because consciousness is an action. Okay? So let's look specifically at what it is to reduce an action. Take a wave. Now fortunately we have a perceptual level wave in our culture, the wave that people do in sports stadiums. I could ask each row to stand up and do the wave by having you...I'm not going to, but you got the picture in your mind of what I mean by the wave? You foreigners know this phenomenon, people standing up in sequence? Okay.

"We could reduce that. We could say the resulting wave motion comes from the individual people standing up, going like this, and sitting down. Plus the order, the sequence in time. Now, this is a kind of reduction, reducing the overall wave to the individual people. It's a reduction of an action, because we've analyzed the overall wave into stages that are not themselves waves. Standing up, going like this, and sitting down, is not itself a wave. The wave is nothing more than these non-wave actions over time. So, in general, to reduce an action is to identify its constituents, and the constituents of an action are the entities that are acting and the stages of their individual changes. In the wave, the entities, the constituents, are the people, and the subprocesses or the sub-events are their individual standing up, raising their arms, and sitting down.

"Now, can we reduce the action of consciousness in that way? Consider a conscious action more closely now. Do we find that it's composed of nothing but non-conscious constituents in the way that the wave is composed of non-wave constituents?

"No. We don't.

"You're hearing my words right now. Now, let's analyze that to try and find something like we did for the wave. You hear word by word, maybe even sy-la-ble by sy-la-ble. There are smaller scale actions that make up the hearing over time, but you can't reduce it to non-conscious sub-events. You can reduce it to smaller bits of hearing, but you can't reduce the hearing to non-hearing in the way that you could reduce the wave to smaller scaled non-wave events.

"Now, I admit there are indeed unconscious sub-events going on, notably the brain events underlying hearing. But what do these brain events add up to? Remember that people standing up in the right sequence are the wave. It's just an issue of scale, right? So what do the brain events add up to? Small little brain events add up to: a big brain event. It doesn't add up to consciousness. Nor are there sub-entities for consciousness like the individual people who compose the wave."

Click here to download complete lecture by Harry Binswanger.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ban on Child Labor Is Disastrous For Street Children

According to some reports, there are more than 400,000 street children in India. An analysis of the crime records from 2011 reveals that, in India, 1,408 street children were killed and 1,408 others were raped in 2010. In that year, in the capital city alone 29 children were murdered and 304 were raped.

But these figures represent only a small fraction of the crimes committed against street children. Vast majority of the crimes against street children never get reported.

The world over, as per the estimates of the United Nations, there are up to 150 million street children. Almost every city in the world, even the biggest and most developed ones, have street children. These children are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse.

The condition of many of the orphanages is so bad that the street children often abscond from these homes. Instead of doing the job of protecting and educating the children, some orphanages turn into exploitation centers.

With such a shocking state of affairs you may ask why are the intellectuals and politicians in most countries enacting and enforcing laws to ban child labor?

With the steady income from a job the street children can have the means for making their lives more tolerable—they can leave the street and move into a safe accommodation. Even if their job pays them less than what an adult may earn, it is a better option than living on the street.

A life on the street is almost certain to push the children into the less protected areas like drugs, begging, and crime. The fate of girl children is most grim; they are often picked up by sex trade brokers and forced into prostitution.

Most of the street children are not orphans; many are in touch with their families who live in villages or smaller towns, or even in slums in the same city. These children are expected to earn something and augment their family income.

When child labor is banned, the avenue for getting a proper job in any legitimate company is closed, and they are forced to take all kinds of odd jobs which are often exploitative, demeaning and even dangerous.

If these boys and girls are working in factory premises, they can avoid many of the dangers that they face on the street. A proper job will also provide them with some work experience so that they can prepare themselves for a fulfilling adult life.

A system can be developed where the employer takes all the necessary steps to make the children’s working life bearable. There can be a provision for on-site schooling. The employer can also provide accommodation at a subsidized rate to the homeless kids.

But the intellectuals and politicians are totally out of touch with reality—they insist on a total ban on child labor. They believe that just by banning child labor they will create a utopia in which there is no need for any child to work—even the most impoverished children will be free to spend their time in playing, learning, relaxing and enjoying life.  

Unfortunately, the ban on child labor has unintended consequences—it is leading to an even worse situation for the street children.

Several multinational companies are now committed to eradicating any form of child labor from their supply chains. These companies have no option except to stop using child labor because most governments have outlawed child labor. In some large markets there are restrictions on sale of goods made through the use of child labor.

It is noteworthy that the ban on child labor can be enforced only on law-abiding businesses—it can’t be enforced in underground jobs like begging, prostitution and all kinds of crime. By banning child labor, we are essentially forcing the street children to opt for underground jobs which will devastate their lives.