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Thursday, April 27, 2017

The March of Philosophy from Hobbes to Hume

Today I start reading the Volume III of A History of Western Philosophy by W. T. Jones, titled Hobbes to Hume. Volume I and Volume II were a great read and I anticipate a similar experience from Volume III.

This book has chapters on Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. But the analysis of the life and works of these philosophers starts from the chapter 4, which is on Hobbes.

The first three chapters are devoted to describing the intellectual and political background in these philosophers proposed their ideas. The first chapter is “Renaissance,” the second chapter is “Reformation,” and the third chapter is “Science and Scientific Method.”

Here’s an excerpt from the book’s Introduction:
Just as Greek philosophy, with its emphasis on independence, autonomy, and self-realization, seemed irrelevant to the survivors of the collapse of classical culture and the wreck of the Roman Empire, so medieval philosophy, with its emphasis on an infinitely good God and its assumption of man’s finitude and sin, could not satisfy the Renaissance man who emerged in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Shaped by capitalism and new money power, by the idea of sovereignty and ideals of Humanism, by the discovery of America and the Protestant reformation, this new man was an individualist increasingly concerned with this world and its values.  
Perhaps the most momentous element in the great change from medieval to modern times was the development of the scientific method. Indeed, if it can be said that classical philosophy was overthrown by the Christians’ discovery of God, then it can be said that the medieval philosophy was overthrown by the scientists’ discovery of nature. This discovery was not a merely revival of classical naturalism and secularism; it was the discovery of a world of facts that seemed indifferent to man and his affairs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Roger Bissell’s 40-Page Review of The DIM Hypothesis

In his Preface to The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, Leonard Peikoff guesses that there is an 80 to 85 percent chance that Ayn Rand "would agree with the book, extol its virtues, and regard it as of historic importance.”

However, after reading Roger Bissell’s broad 40-page review of The DIM Hypothesis ("Beneath The DIM Hypothesis: The Logical Structure of Leonard Peikoff’s Analysis of Cultural Evolution"; The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2013), I am constrained to say that there is negligible chance of Rand agreeing with the book—she would not find much virtue in it and it is certain that she would not regard it as of historic importance.

Peikoff posits in The DIM Hypothesis that the three great philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, offer the three “pure” (primary or fundamental) modes of integration. In addition to these three primary modes of integration, there are, he says, two “mixed” modes which are formed by joining the elements of the pure modes.

Thus, according to Peikoff, there are only five modes of integration: three “pure” and two “mixed.” But Bissell shows that there are problems in Peikoff’s DIM mixtures. Whereas Peikoff has asserted that there can be only two “mixed” modes, Bissell says that there can be six “mixed” modes in addition to the three “pure” modes.

Here’s the list of six “mixed” modes, according to Bissell:

1. Plato primary + Aristotle, Peikoff’s M1 

2. Kant primary + Aristotle, Peikoff’s D1 

3. Aristotle primary + Plato, rejected by Peikoff 

4. Aristotle primary + Kant, rejected by Peikoff 

5. Plato primary + Kant, not mentioned by Peikoff 

6. Kant primary + Plato, not mentioned by Peikoff 


Peikoff claims that Thomas Aquinas’s  thinking does not qualify as a DIM mixture for two reasons: firstly, Aquinas does not present an integrated view of fundamentals; secondly, he rejects Aristotle and Christianity as the basis or ground for the other.

But Bissell disagrees with Peikoff's view on Aquinas. Bissell says that “while it is true, as Peikoff says, that Aquinas “denies that the fundamentals of Christianity rest on the Aristotelian philosophy,” it is not true that “he denies the reverse.”” He also shows that Peikoff has misinterpreted the significance of the philosophy of Hegel and Spinoza.

According to Peikoff, Bentham and Mill are inspired by Kant. Here’s the relevant excerpt from The DIM Hypothesis: “In ethics, the most influential expressions of Knowing Skepticism are Comte's Religion of Humanity and the Utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill.... Being Kant-inspired, both regard elements within consciousness as the only basis for a distinction between good and evil.” But where is the evidence that Bentham and Mill were inspired by Kant? Bissell points out that the positions of Bentham and Mill are not Kantian—they are essentially Humean.

Bissell goes on to propose that rather than Immanuel Kant, David Hume “should be tagged as the arch-villain of modern philosophy, the paladin of the D2 Disintegrative position.” He devotes close to 50 percent of his review to exposing the weaknesses in the Objectivist position on Kant. “Hume seems much more Anti-Integration and nihilistic than Kant. At the very least, Kant seems more Pro-Integration and non-nihilistic than Rand, Peikoff, et al. give him credit for.”

Peikoff, it seems, has misinterpreted many of the statements that Kant makes in his works. For instance, from the famous Kantian statement—“I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith”—Peikoff deduces that in ethics, Kant denied happiness, in order to make room for duty. He cites this as an instance of Kant’s attack on reason, this world, and man’s happiness.

But Bissell is of the view that Kant was not interested in attacking happiness or knowledge. He says that Kant’s “thrust in epistemology was to limit knowledge to a basis in experience, and to insist that theoretical reason could not produce either a proof or a disproof of free will, the existence of God, and so on, which are not found in our experience. These latter things can only be believed in, not known. In other words, Kant was denying that knowledge could be had of trans-experiential things, in order to make it clear that they had to be taken on faith (or not)—and that theoretical reason and knowledge had nothing to do with them.”

Finally, Bissell says that “the decades-long Objectivist condemnation of Kant, the branding of him by the philosophy’s founder as “the most evil man in mankind’s history,” and Peikoff’s equating of Kant with the Anti-Integration/Nihilist pole and his indictment of Kant’s philosophy as a “systematic negation of philosophy” are overripe for a careful examination and discussion.”

Bissell’s review of The DIM Hypothesis is profoundly important because it identifies significant problems not only with the logical framework of Leonard Peikoff’s hypothesis but also with the Objectivist theory of history.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Immanuel Kant and The League of Nations

John David Lewis in Nothing Less Than Victory says that the ideas that Immanuel Kant has developed in his essay "Perpetual Peace" (1795) served the purpose of creating an intellectual climate to support the creation of the League of Nations in 1920.

Woodrow Wilson, the US President at that time, was a former president of Princeton University with a Ph.D in political science. When Wilson stressed that the creation of the League of Nations would facilitate the development of a relationship between equals within an international whole, he was articulating ideas that he had received from intellectual predecessors like Kant.

In "Perpetual Peace", Kant says that the sovereign republics exist in a lawless state of nature. This state of nature is a “state of war,” because there are no standards of justice and institutions to resolve the disputes between nations. When there is no single international authority, each nation is unrestrained and can prey upon other nations.

According to Kant, international peace can be achieved only when the nations subordinate their foreign policy to an international authority, which he calls “league of peace” (foedus pacific). Here’s an excerpt from "Perpetual Peace":

“For states in relation to each other, there cannot be any reasonable way out of the lawless condition which entails only war except that they, like individual men, should give up their lawless (savage) freedom, adjust themselves to the constraints of public law, and thus establish a continuously growing state consisting of various nations [civitas gentium], which will ultimately include all the nations of the world.”

In Nothing Less Than Victory, John David Lewis writes:

“The League of Nations put the Kantian ideal into practice, in a new world order that eschewed the competitive nationalism of the previous century. Wilson’s ideals—equality, national self-determinism, and collective security—were the League’s foundation, were derivable from Kant’s ideas, and were highly influential. These ideals promised an effect alternative to the unpredictable actions of unrestrained sovereign nations. They became the moral compass that shaped the decisions of British leaders.” 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Confessions Of An Orthodox Objectivist

The Signer
I have a confession to make. For two years I was an Orthodox Objectivist.

On any usual day, I used to make nice and reverent comments in the social media about some Objectivist God or demigod (I will reveal later in the article who the Gods and the demigods are). I was a member of the “Orthodox brigade” on FB—we used to “like” each other’s nice and reverent posts and leave complementary comments. Such activities made us feel that we are part of a large network of Objectivists and that we were taking concrete steps to make the movement grow.

But not every activity of the Orthodox community is saccharine coated. Along with liking each other’s posts and saying nice things about our Gods and demigods, we also needed to orchestrate vigorous campaigns to expose and denounce the heretics (where there are Gods and demigods, there will also be heretics). By the way, these campaigns were lots of fun because they allowed us to disgorge the accumulated bile in our minds, forget our personal problems, and feel relaxed.

I used to happily participate in the social media campaigns for exposing and excommunicating the anarchists, libertarians, moral agnostics, religious conservatives, and the supporters of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other intellectuals who have been morally condemned by the Gods of Objectivism. I also contributed by passing nasty comments on the journals, and the online forums where they have freewheeling discussions on Objectivist issues.

Being fully convinced that the Orthodox Objectivists are the true followers of Ayn Rand, I started a FB group to support their cause. In this group it was normal for at least five or six people to be identified as heretics every month—these heretics would be hauled before an inquisition committee composed of the Orthodox members (including me), they would be accused of various crimes of heresy, and if they did not come up with an explanation (in most cases they couldn’t) they would be severely castigated and trolled before being unfriended and excommunicated.

Eating the Forbidden Fruit and Loss of Orthodoxy

Alas! I lost my orthodoxy when I ate the forbidden “apple” from the tree of heretical knowledge—which means that I read a few books, essays, journals and websites which are not endorsed by the Objectivist Gods and demigods. The quantum of my sin was further magnified by the fact that I praised some of these sacrilegious books, journals and articles in my blog and social media timeline. But I also criticized some of them. Yet, this did not matter. For, now neither heaven nor hell could save me from the wrath of the Orthodox community.

One day the inevitable happened: The heavy boot of the Objectivist inquisition fell on my forehead. My inquisition was a rather messy affair. It went on for about 15-days and it had all my best friends in FB turning against me and questioning my character, my intellect, my knowledge and my moral values. Having observed the Orthodox community for two years, I knew very well that it was futile to try to defend myself—the inquisition, once it starts, will only end after it has utterly mowed down the victim under a gigantic roadroller of insults and accusations.

Now I am no longer Orthodox; I am just an ordinary Objectivist. I have been denounced, castigated and trolled. I have been unfriended by most members of the Orthodox clique. I have been booted out of the cult of passive minds. Yet I have not given up on Ayn Rand. I continue to be an admirer of her literature and philosophy—only now the veil of orthodoxy is gone and I can approach her ideas with an unprejudiced, open and irreverent mindset.

Please allow me to shed light on the theological structure and the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism.

The Theological Structure of Orthodox Objectivism

Having emerged from the cocoon of Orthodoxy, I now realize that no one has “sinned” more against the legacy of Ayn Rand than the Orthodox Objectivists, who are the dogmatic sticklers of her philosophical system. I use the word “sinned” deliberately because for the Orthodox Objectivists, Rand is equivalent to God and her writings have the status of a Holy Scripture.

A believer in Rand’s system is required to say “yes” to each and every letter, word and punctuation mark in her corpus; you have to believe that every decision that she ever made in her entire life was holy and perfect. If you harbor a single doubt over a single line that she has spoken or written, or if you think that she has made a single incorrect decision in her lifetime, then you face the risk of being denounced as a heretic and excommunicated. To be fair, the Orthodox Objectivists do believe Rand made some “errors of knowledge”, just no “errors of morality”; her biggest “error of knowledge” was trusting Nathaniel Branden for eighteen years, apparently. Hard to believe that such a wise God could have been so deceived for so long.

But the orthodoxy of the Orthodox Objectivists does not remain confined to Rand—in the Objectivist paradise there are other Gods and demigods who must be appeased. Dr. Leonard Peikoff is the number two God and the intellectuals endorsed by him are the myriad demigods. Like Rand, the number two God is infallible. As Dr. Peikoff is infallible, the demigods that he has endorsed are also infallible. Also, the only holy Objectivist institutions are the ones that are supported by him.

In his 1989 article, “Fact and Value,” Dr. Peikoff asserted that in his view Objectivism is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded.” And under his godhood, Objectivism has, indeed, transmogrified into a “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded” cult.

The Ten Commandments of Orthodox Objectivism 

Ayn Rand saw herself as the philosopher of reason, but the Gods and demigods who followed her have transformed her into the ultimate God of revelation and this has resulted in her philosophy of Objectivism deteriorating into some kind of a revealed religion or a cult.

Here are the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism which I had been assiduously following in the recent past:

1. Ayn Rand is the first God, her intellectual heir (Dr. Peikoff) is the second God, and those endorsed by the intellectual heir are the myriad demigods.

2. You shall not take the name of the Gods or the demigods in vain.

3. You shall regard every word written or spoken by the Gods and demigods as a holy writ that must be blindly accepted as the holy truth.

4.You shall regard the Gods and demigods as the most intelligent, knowledgable and effective philosophers in the entire history of human civilization.

5. You shall unleash all your firepower against anyone who finds himself in agreement with the viewpoints of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other heretical intellectuals.

6. You shall keep away from the enemies of Objectivism: the libertarians, moral agnostics, anarchists, and all those whom the Gods and demigods have condemned morally.

7. You shall believe that Nathaniel Branden was the one to blame for all that went wrong in his relationship with Ayn Rand, who, being a Godly figure, can never commit any mistake of morality.

8. You shall believe that The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden is“non-cognitive”. You must never read it and you must do all you can to dissuade the newbies from reading it.

9. The enemies of the cult are everywhere. You must be on lookout for not only the heretics outside the cult but also for the enemy within. If an Orthodox Objectivist develops heretical thoughts, you must not show him mercy—boot him out of the cult.

10. You shall share the quotes and articles of the Gods and the demigods in your social media timeline, and treat with suspicion all those who fail to like or retweet your posts.

I owe an apology to those who were target of the castigation, trolling and excommunications campaigns in which I participated during the days when I was part of the Orthodox Objectivist cult. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Orthodox Objectivism is dead, long live Objectivism! 

Related:

My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

The Boy Scout Objectivists Must Check Their Premises

Marxism Explained in 2 Minutes, with Deirdre McCloskey

Saturday, April 15, 2017

104 Years of the Income Tax

Plato and Aristotle: Augustine and Aquinas

Painting of Thomas Aquinas
by Carlo Crivelli (1476)
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are separated by almost eight centuries but both are Christian thinkers. Is it possible that there is a continuity of thought and feeling between the two? Historian W. T. Jones has explored this question in The Medieval Mind.

Here’s an excerpt:

"Plato and Aristotle, the two dominant philosophers of the classical period, were teacher and pupil. They lived in essentially the same world, understood its problems in much the same way, and sought a common solution for them. Between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the correspondingly dominant figures of the medieval period, there was a similar continuity of thought and feeling, for they were both Christian thinkers and thus had a common core of doctrine and faith. Yet these two figures were separated by no less than eight centuries. This is a long time by almost any standard—longer than the whole of the classical period. And though the rate of cultural change was much slower in the Middle Ages than it is today, a great many new values and attitudes developed, new institutions were fashioned, and new values were experienced during the long period between Augustine’s death and Thomas’ birth. All these changes were naturally reflected in the Thomistic synthesis of the thirteenth century. Thus, though Thomism shared many of the basic insights of Augustinianism, it faced new problems and dealt with old ones in new ways."

(Source: The Medieval Mind (A History of Western Philosophy, Volume II) by W. T. Jones; Chapter: “The Medieval Interval”) 

400 Bites podcast interviews arranged by theme

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Philosophical Zombie


But if a being without consciousness is a "philosophical zombie", what is a consciousness without being?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From The Fountainhead To The Future

From The Fountainhead To The Future and Other Essays on Art and Excellence
Alexandra York

Alexandra York’s essays in From The Fountainhead To The Future thoroughly explore the idea that good art can inspire better society.

She analyzes the repercussions of the artistic trends in different epochs of history—ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the Renaissance—and develops a convincing view on what the postmodernist art of today portends for the future of the Western civilization.

In her Preface, York says: “The Time is ripe for philosophically inspired art to emerge from our midst like “homing” search lights beamed onto viable paths that might lead us out of our present morass into the natural sunlight of a tomorrow where people will have learned again to cherish beauty and rational values.”

In the chapter, “The State of Culture,” York says: “Art is a shortcut to philosophy. This is why the art that predominates in any given culture can be read as a barometer of that culture’s basic philosophical content. All artists are not always conscious of the values they express in their work but conscious or not, we can be very sure that their deepest, most personally held values are revealed in their art, for good or ill.”

York posits that when the present nihilism of postmodern art fades away, Western civilization will see a new renaissance of much greater philosophical and political significance than the Italian Renaissance.

In the chapter, “Romantic Realism: Visions of Values,” she points out that a “renaissance” must not be regarded as a mere “revival,” because the word means a “rebirth.” “We cannot and should not seek to repeat the past. No matter how ground-breaking was ancient Greece or how brilliant the Italian Renaissance or how progressive the Enlightenment, we must begin here and now.”

She warns that “If we fail to generate a Renaissance of the twenty-first century, then surely we shall suffer a Dark Age.”

The idea of a Twenty-first century Renaissance is further explained in the chapter, “The Legacy Lives: Embracing The Year Three thousand in Philosophy and Art.” York says that the “art produced during any epoch—from Paleolithic cave drawings to the Parthenon—is always an accurate philosophical and spiritual testament to the degree of progress or primitivism of its own time and the ideas that informed it.”

Taking this idea in mind she draws her inference about our artistic testament today and in the future. She accepts that nihilism is the dominant trend in modern art, but she feels that this artistic nihilism can pave way for a better tomorrow. “But strange as it may seem, this chaos can actually serve us, because it leaves the way out of the ruins open and obstacle-free of ossified preconceptions that might otherwise hinder our judgement.”

The analysis of Michelangelo’s David, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker and EvAngelos Frudakis’s The Signer in the chapter, “Art As Interactive Experience,” is very interesting. York’s analysis of these timeless masterpieces reminds us of the vital role that art plays in inspiring us to develop ideas for improving the world that we inhabit.

The book ends with the chapter, “Sharing The Miracle” in which York points out that art is the most beautiful, noble and life-enriching of all human creations.

The eleven essays in York’s book are compatible with Ayn Rand's theory of romantic art, and although the use of The Fountainhead signifies the base from which her study of art on the world flows as the fountainhead of Western civilization--Ancient Greece—many readers may connect with Rand’s novel of the same name.

My One-Line Commentary On The Sancho Panza Mindset in Objectivism

Don Quixote Charging the Windmill
Like Sancho Panza they blindly follow the arrogant knight errant Don Quixote who wages philosophical battles against the windmills.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Platonic State and George Orwell’s 1984

The Classical Mind 
W. T. Jones
Harcourt, Brace & Word, Inc.

In The Classical Mind, W. T. Jones analyzes the implications of Platonic political theory and reaches the conclusion that while Plato was himself not a totalitarian, a state founded on Platonic principles will be close to the totalitarian state that George Orwell describes in 1984.

Here’s the excerpt from the chapter, “Plato: The Special Sciences”:
"Plato was not a totalitarian in intent, even if, as we may suspect, this is where a state founded on Platonic principles would end in fact. It is true that in its externals the Platonic state is close to that of George Orwell’s 1984. There is a Ministry of Propaganda, indoctrinating the public with useful fictions; a Ministry of Censorship, rigidly suppressing dangerous thoughts; the same military flavor; the same powerful police, the same discipline, the same denial of a domain of private rights; the same omnipresent state; the same ruling and self-perpetuating clique. The only difference—but a basic one—is in the character of the ruling elite. The rulers of Plato’s state know the truth and act in accordance with it for the good of all. The rulers of Orwell’s state are Thrasymacheans*, not Platonists; they have taken over Thrasymachus’ nihilism, cynicism and egoism and applied modern techniques of advertising and political control to accomplish results that Thrasymacus did not dream of, but that he certainly would have applauded. In Plato’s state, the rulers lie to the people for the good of the people; in the Orwellian state, the rulers lie to the people for the good of the rulers. In Plato’s state there is a tension of opposing economic, social, and political forces in the producing class, but this is held in check and in balance by the rulers, whose passionless knowledge has put them outside the struggle for power; in the Orwellian state the struggle for power infects the whole state and becomes more bitter, cruel, and savage in the more intelligent classes, for reason is not regarded as an instrument of self-discipline but as a tool for satisfying the passions. It is true that we have grounds for fearing that even Plato’s rulers might be corrupted by power, but it would be unfair to assume, because of this doubt, that Plato was advocating a totalitarian state. At a theoretical level, at the level of what has been called intent, Plato was poles apart from the totalitarians."
Thrasymachus is a character in Plato's Republic.

The Academics And The Peripatetics

After the demise of Plato and Aristotle what methods did their followers in Ancient Greece use to safeguard the integrity of the philosophical systems developed by the two philosophers? In The Classical Mind, W. T. Jones offers a few insights into the damage that was caused by the doctrinal orthodoxy of the followers of Plato and Aristotle.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter, “The Late Classical Period”:

“The Academics were centered in the Academy that Plato had founded. For years after the founder’s death—such was the impress of his personality—his views were handed down dogmatically by a succession of hero worshipers. Like the Academics, the Peripatetics (as the members of Aristotle’s rival Lyceum came to be known, because of their master’s practice of walking about while lecturing) showed little originality. For the most part they were content to expound the encyclopaedic learning of Aristotle.”

W. T. Jones suggests that the growth of both Platonism and Aristotelianism was strangulated as the dogmatic followers of Plato and Aristotle focused solely on preserving the purity of the texts that the two philosophers had left behind. A few years after Plato and Aristotle there was sharp decline in the popularity of their ideas as people in Ancient Greece started looking at other schools of thought for solution to their social problems.

When the Greek civilization faded, there was rise of the Roman Empire where certain aspects of Platonism and Aristotelianism appeared in the form of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism.

In the final chapter, “The Late Classical Period,” W. T. Jones points out that the popularity of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism in the Roman Empire indicated that “this was a tired and discouraged society in which peace of mind, relief from the struggle, had replaced such positive goods as social progress and self-improvement. Now, peace of mind can conceivably be won by the natural means—by science or, alternatively, by suspension of judgment. But this natural peace could not hope to compete with the appeal of that deeper peace—the peace that passeth understanding—that was assured by a transcendent and otherworldly religion.”

The Classical Mind has an interesting description of how the ideas of Plato and Aristotle were used by philosophers like Epicurus and Lucretius in Epicureanism; by Cicero, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius in Stoicism; and by Sextus Empiricus and others in Scepticism. The book makes the case that the popularity of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism contributed to the moral and political decline of the Roman Empire and made it possible for the Dark Ages to takeover Europe.

The point is that the doctrinaire orthodoxy of the followers of Plato and Aristotle could not safeguard the integrity of the ideas of the two philosophers. The efforts of the orthodox followers resulted in the dissociation of Platonism and Aristotelianism from mainstream culture and this paved way for the rise of irrational philosophical systems like Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Medieval Mind by W. T. Jones

Today I received from Amazon a copy of The Medieval Mind by W. T. Jones (this is the Volume II of his  5-volume A History of Western Philosophy). I ordered this book because I found the Volume I of the series, The Classical Mind, quite informative and entertaining.

The Medieval Mind describes the history of philosophy from the early days of Christianity to the end of the middle ages. From the table of contents, I can see that the major philosophers covered in the volume are St. Augustine, John Scotus Erigena, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam.

But the focus is on St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas—both have two complete chapters (out of a total of eight chapters in the book) devoted to their works and the implications of their ideas.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:
“Philosophical speculation during the later part of the Middle Ages was chiefly concentrated on ascertaining the status of universals (a problem that had theological as well as epistemological implications) and on defining and delimiting the respective spheres of faith and reason. In the course of these investigations, the instruments of logical analysis were greatly refined and the Scholastic method was devised. All this prepared the way for Aquinas’ synthesis of classical learning with Christian insights. Aquinas reinterpreted the traditional Christian view of the divine nature in terms of the basic Aristotelian concepts of form and matter, actuality and potentiality. This synthesis was a much more consistent and formally complete metaphysics than Augustine had been able to work out. Furthermore, Aquinas’ theories of psychology, ethics, and politics reflected both his own interest in his world and its affairs and the changed position and functions of the Roman Church.” 
I will have more to say about the book once I finish reading it. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The April Fools' Day Surprise

In a comment on my FB post someone shared an “Official Membership Card” of Anoopism. It is not clear who has created this card, which has my image along with the images of Nathaniel Branden, Dr. David Kelley, Barbara Braden and Chris Matthew Sciabarra.

The card's motto is: "Stand with Us and We Will Stand With You. Together, We are One."

I can bear the use of my own image (such antics can be tolerated on the April Fools' day), but I think it is quite unethical to use the image of the eminent writers and philosophers, especially that of Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Braden who are now six feet under.


I think it is likely that the card is a handiwork of someone who dislikes my perspective on the state of the Objectivist movement that I have presented in my recent posts. Chris Matthew Sciabarra has written a blog on the “Official Membership Card” that he too received from someone.

Here's the link to Sciabarra's interesting post: The April Fools Run Amuck, Anoop!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Boy Scout Objectivists Must Check Their Premises

Here’s an excerpt from a 457-word message that I received from an Objectivist ex-friend:

“I never expected that you will turn against Rand… If you had doubts you ought to have kept it to yourself, instead of going public with that [unprintable expletive] article. Only a [unprintable expletive] like you will have thoughts like this.”

A day later, another Objectivist, who has never been in my FB-friend-list but is known to me as we are part of same Objectivist groups and have been liking and commenting on each other’s posts for 3-years, tried to post a tirade against me in a FB group that I admin. I didn’t approve the post, but I have saved its screenshot.

Here’s an excerpt form this post:

“I will be leaving the group shortly but wanted to make sure you are aware of the change in the group. In my opinion this group should have been dismantled last week since "We are NOT all 'Open Objectivists' now"! but looks like Anoop Verma intends to keep it going.”

The post is tagged to 50-people and writer gloats that more people have not been tagged because a FB post “can only have a maximum of 50 tags.” This person is aggrieved because recently I came out in the support of an Open System for Objectivism. Instead of arguing with me with evidence and logic, this person is encouraging a 50-strong mob to lynch me.

Such behavior, I now realize, is symptomatic of the boy scout mentality that inflicts many followers of Ayn Rand. I blame Dr. Leonard Peikoff for the boy scout mentality of his followers. Well, if he calls himself the greatest authority figure in Objectivism, then he ought to take blame for the low intellectual standards of the movement.

Here is a list of Dr. Peikoff's mistakes:

1. He termed Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand as “non-cognitive” while in the same breath confessing that he had not read the book.

2. The treatment of Nathaniel Branden by the Objectivists raises many questions. I have no problem if Nathaniel is denounced for his mistakes but was he the only one to make the mistakes? Was Ayn Rand completely blameless in this sad affair?

3. To counter Dr. David Kelley's view of Objectivism, Dr. Peikoff wrote the article, “Fact and Value,” in which he solicits support for his position by questioning Dr. Kelley’s moral character, and by reminding the readers of the moral obligation that they owe to Ayn Rand and to him (because he is Rand’s heir).

4. By insisting that Objectivism is a Closed System, and is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded,” Dr. Peikoff has turned Rand's philosophy into a dogma.

5. Dr. Peikoff’s letter to the board of directors of the ARI for demanding the excommunication of Mr. John McCaskey is something that is not expected from an exponent of Objectivism. In fact, Dr. Peikoff has evicted several other high-level intellectuals from the inner sanctum of Objectivism over petty differences. On these issues, Mr. Robert Tracinski's articles are worth reading.

6. Dr. Peikoff calls himself the “intellectual heir” to Ayn Rand. But I am unable to find the evidence of Rand appointing him as her intellectual heir.

7. I have listened to 90% of Dr. Peikoff’s podcasts. While many of the podcasts are good, in a few of them his voice does not sound like the voice of reason—he sounds authoritarian and makes disparaging comments about people with whose ideas he disagrees.

I fear that Dr. Peikoff is running a boy scout Objectivist camp. He has encouraged the development of a cult like environment in Objectivism. His Objectivist followers take cue from him, and they too demand an unquestioning conformity from everyone. Their method is to insult and troll anyone who asks difficult questions.

Related:

My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

Thursday, March 30, 2017

An Objectivist Adventure With The Red Pill

Question: Why did you suddenly loose faith in the Objectivist movement’s intellectual viability?

Answer: I was reading a philosophy book, when Morpheus leapt out of a page.

“Red pill or blue pill?” he asked.

I took the red pill and woke up in the real world where there is no authority figure to delude the flock of faithful believers with the empty promise of an Objectivist utopia where there is liberty, individualism and knowledge. In the real world, you stand on your own feet—here you acquire knowledge by applying your own mind.

My question to you is: What pill will you take? 

Related:


My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

God And Philosophy

God and Philosophy
Antony Flew

The British philosopher Professor Antony Flew, who was an exponent of atheism for six-decades, created a controversy in 2004 by declaring that he has discovered God. The subtitle of his 2007 book, “There is God,” in which he presents the reasons for changing his views on God, claims that he is the “world’s most notorious atheist.”

The atheistic ideas in Flew’s God and Philosophy, which was published in the 1961 when he was a vocal champion of atheism, is not of the “notorious” variety. He displays love-hate relationship with the theists. He rejects the religious doctrines, but he can’t keep away from the Christian religion. He is of the view that the Christian God merits a rigorous philosophical analysis.

Prof. Douglas B. Rasmussen says, "Flew's achievement in God and Philosophy must be appreciated. He carefully dismantles the arguments for the existence of God, and in many cases he does so not from a Humean perspective, which is skeptical about causality, but from an Aristotelian one that endorses causality.  His argumentative strategy at the start is not to prove that God does not exist, but to show that since all the arguments for God's existence fail, one ought not believe that God exists. The claim that one does not believe that God exists does not require proof, but only the realization that the evidence adduced for affirming that God exists is inadequate.  After doing that, then one can go on to consider whether one can show that "God does not exist" is true.  You do this by showing, for instance, that the divine attributes of all goodness and all power are contradictory.  Or you show that the notion of a divine Mind is senseless, etc."

The strategy that Flew adopts in God and Philosophy consists of ruling out natural theology by establishing that the religious doctrines are a philosophy. Then he proves that the philosophical system of the religions is not based on reality but on revelation. After establishing that revelation is the only possible foundation of a religious system, he refutes that foundation.

Through a series of systematic arguments he shows that the design, cosmological, and moral arguments for God’s existence are invalid. But he insists that the concept of God must be properly defined before the existence of God can be analyzed. He begins the second chapter, “Beginning From The Beginning,” with these lines:

“The problem therefore arises: ‘What is this God?’ It is as important as it is unusual that this should be put, as here, from right outside the system. Unless it is put in this external way some fundamental questions will go unasked, and some of the logical consequences derived from utterances about God are likely to be entirely misconstrued.”

In the Chapter 6, “The Credential of Revelations,” he proposes that revelation is the only possible source of knowledge of God. But revelation is an experience, which he says, contains a crucial ambiguity. “This ambiguity, which the generic term experience shares with many of its species labels, is that between, first, the sense in which it refers only to what the subject is undergoing and, second, a sense in which it implies that there must be an actual object as well.”

He deduces that to make the existence of God dependent upon human beliefs is to turn him into a sort of Tinker-bell—someone entirely a function of these beliefs. It is facts we require, he says, not beliefs. He asks: “How and when would we be justified in making inferences from the facts of the occurrence of religious experience, considered as a purely psychological phenomenon, to conclusions about the supposed objective religious truths?”

The problem, he points out, is logical. A belief in something does not necessarily mean that that thing actually exists or is true. A subjective experience may or may not correspond to an objective fact. Therefore a revelation, being a subjective experience, cannot be relied upon.

Flew argues against the key tenets of traditional religious beliefs. On the idea of eternal damnation, he says that the punishment is disproportional because no human crime can ever legitimize an everlasting punishment. He also points out that if the God gets pleasure from the pain and despair of the sinners then he is not benevolent, and that the concept of Hell cannot be reconciled with the concept of a loving divinity.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dr. David Kelley On The Tribal Element in Objectivism

Ayn Rand is regarded as the philosopher of reason and individualism but her Objectivist followers display a tribalistic behavior. In his book The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Dr. David Kelley talks about the tribal element within the Objectivist community. Here's an excerpt:
Within the Objectivist movement, a tribal element has long been at war with a rational one. The rational element is a real and important side of the movement. Objectivism has been a positive and liberating influence for many people. It has set them free to develop their talents, realize their dreams, achieve their happiness. But I think it’s clear to any objective observer that there is a tribal element as well.  
Objectivism is a philosophy of benevolence. It sees the world as an open sunlit field, where success is the norm, where we can approach others with the expectation that they will be rational. And many Objectivists have this attitude. But there’s also a darker streak in the movement. Many Objectivists seem shut off from the world, profoundly alienated, seeking friends only among other Objectivists, regarding outsiders with suspicion. They speak freely of the enemies of Objectivism, often with a paranoid sense that the world is scheming to destroy us. They suspect that anyone who succeeds outside the movement must have sold his soul, as in Peikoff’s dark allusion to those who “have one foot . . . in the Objectivist world and the rest of themselves planted firmly in the conventional world.” Objectivist publications have been largely negative in content, filled with horror-file items rather than positive contributions to knowledge. Objectivists sometimes seem to take perverse pleasure in contemplating the awfulness of their enemies. And some have acquired a zest for moral condemnation, an act that benevolent people experience as the occasion for sadness and disappointment.  
Again, Objectivism is a philosophy of independence, but within the movement there has always been a certain pressure for conformity in thought and action. When people join an ideological group out of an antecedent and independent belief in its ideas, one expects to find agreement in basic outlook. One does not expect the degree of uniformity—down to matters of personal dress and style, aesthetic preferences, beliefs about political strategy or sexual psychology—that characterized the Objectivist movement, especially in its earlier days. Such conformity was produced in part by a fear of moral condemnation for deviant attitudes or values, a fear that was not without foundation. And in part it was produced by a willingness to substitute authority for independent judgment. In my experience it was not uncommon, especially during the various purges and schisms, to hear explicit appeals to authority: “If Ayn Rand says that so-and-so is a rotter, then he must be; could the author of Atlas Shrugged be wrong about it?”
Most Objectivists that you encounter will tell you that they hate David Kelley for writing The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand. But they are also frank enough to confess that they haven't read it and that they don't plan to read it. But if they haven't read it, then how can they be sure that it is bad? 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Letter to Members of "For The New Intellectuals" Group

Dear Group Members,

As advised by many members, I have decided to continue the For The New Intellectuals (FNI) group. Thank you for your support.

When I posted the blog, “My Farewell To Organized Objectivism,” I was under the impression that the group will splinter immediately. I thought that more than 70% of the members may decide to leave. I also believed that my Facebook friend-list will go down by 50%. Despite the risks, I posted the blog because the truth needs to be told as many times as possible.

There is nothing new in what I have said in my blog. Since the 1980s, the Objectivist community has been squandering its intellectual resources in discussing these concerns. Yet there is no solution in sight. The philosophers who project themselves as the sole-custodians of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and literature have been unable to resolve these long festering problems.

However, I am surprised to see that only 27 members have left the FNI group since the posting of my blog. And I have lost only 23 Facebook friends. The 23 who have deleted me from their friend-list are nice and knowledgeable people, but they take an extremely dogmatic approach to Objectivism. But I respect their decision to get rid of my company.

The loss of members in the FNI group and the number of Facebook friends in my list is much less than what I had been anticipating. Also, while many of the comments, messages and emails that I have received are against what I say in my blog—a few make use of colorful expletives—but “surprisingly,” there are comments that are supportive.

Ten Commandments of Logic


Friday, March 24, 2017

My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

I am inspired by Ayn Rand’s philosophy and literature, but I am now compelled to dissociate myself from the Objectivist movement. I was an enthusiastic supporter of organized Objectivism in the last five years, but now I feel disenchanted and disgusted by the shenanigans of the movement’s top philosophers and acolytes.

The Objectivist movement is in a state of disrepair and it is being led by men of low caliber and integrity. The Objectivist philosophers are insular and authoritarian. They prefer to waste time in petty squabbles instead of creating new articles, books and lectures for expanding the scope of Rand’s philosophy.

Here are the reasons for which I have decided to excommunicate myself from the Objectivist movement:

Open System—Closed System
I find the issue of whether Objectivism is a open system or a closed system, which is dogging the Objectivist movement for almost three decades, quite baffling. In his 1989 article, “Fact and Value,” Dr. Leonard Peikoff claims that Objectivism is a closed system. But his arguments are not convincing.

The podcasts by Dr. Peikoff on the issue of “Open-Closed System” are even worse. In one of the podcasts, he sounds complacent, authoritarian and instead of presenting logical arguments, he is insulting the other side. From the tone in which he speaks, I can only deduce that he is hoping to win support for his position purely by the virtue of “who he is” and “what his association with Rand is.”

Dr. Peikoff wrote "Fact and Value" in response to Dr. David Kelley's proposition that Objectivism is an Open System. Both Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Kelley believe that they are the true followers of Rand's philosophy. I find Dr. Kelley's arguments on the issue, which are contained in the chapter 5 of his book “The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand,”  quite convincing.

As an advocate of Open System, Dr. Kelley is not saying that anyone can be allowed to change the identity of Objectivism. He says that in an Open System there are limits "set by fundamental principles: the system is defined by the essential tenets that distinguish it from other viewpoints."

Dr. Peikoff holds that Objectivism is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded.”

But Dr. Kelley points out that "if Objectivism is to survive and flourish as a system of thought, it must attract philosophers who will build on Ayn Rand’s discoveries, using them as a base for an assault on specific problems in philosophy and drawing out their implications for other disciplines such as economics, psychology, and literary theory."

I think Dr. Kelley's view of Objectivism makes more sense.

The Authority Figure
In the Objectivist circles Dr. Peikoff is regarded as the supreme authority in Objectivism. I accept that Dr. Peikoff is a writer of important books and articles on Objectivist thought but why is he an authority figure? Why does Objectivism need an authority figure? This is the philosophy of reason and everyone is expected to follow the rule of reason and not of any human being.

The Intellectual Heir
On his website, Dr. Peikoff declares that he is Rand’s legal and intellectual heir. I understand the logic of having a legal heir, but why does Objectivism have a so-called intellectual heir? Why? It is ludicrous to think that anyone can inherit philosophical ideas. Also, I am unable to find any communique from Rand stating that she has conferred the title of “intellectual heir” on him.

Where is the evidence that Ayn Rand made Dr. Peikoff an intellectual heir? I think by claiming to be the intellectual heir to Rand, Dr. Peikoff is trying to walk in the footsteps of Nathaniel Branden.

Ayn Rand did a great disservice to Objectivism when she proclaimed in the 1950s that Nathaniel Branden was her intellectual heir. She wrote in the end of Atlas Shrugged: “When I wrote The Fountainhead I was addressing myself to an ideal reader – to as rational and independent a mind as I could conceive of. I found such a reader – through a fan letter he wrote me about The Fountainhead when he was nineteen years old. He is my intellectual heir. His name is Nathaniel Branden.” Branden’s “intellectual heir” status was revoked by Rand after his split in 1968.

Barbara Branden has claimed that Rand told her that she had learned from her bad experience with Nathaniel that it is not a good idea to have an intellectual heir. Rand had learned the right lesson. Objectivism is not a cult—it is not a religion—therefore it can’t have an intellectual heir. It is not as if Rand was akin to the Messiah who re-named Simon, “Peter”, the rock on which the church of Objectivism will be built. It is certain that Dr. Peikoff is not Saint Peter.

A Movement Mired in Schisms
What is the reason for which Rand evicted Nathaniel Branden from the Objectivist movement? I can infer from the articles and books that I have read on this subject that the breakup between Rand and Nathaniel was for personal issues and not on account of philosophical differences. Rand was entitled to remove him from her life but did she have to excommunicate him from Objectivism of which he was a good advocate, despite any personal flaws that he may have had?

After Rand’s demise, Dr. Peikoff became the supreme leader of Objectivism and he started the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). But under his leadership many wonderful thinkers have been shunted out of the Objectivist movement. Dr. David Kelley, George Reisman, Robert Tracinski and John McCaskey are apparently no longer fit to be called Objectivists, even though they are writing articles and books as good as the intellectuals in the ARI.

What is going on at the ARI? Why are good intellectuals being forced to leave the institution? From the books and articles that I have read on these schisms, I can infer that these intellectuals have departed from the ARI for reasons that have very little to do with philosophy.

Objectivism is bleeding talent because the top-level Objectivists have accepted the idea that Dr. Peikoff is the supreme authority and intellectual heir. This has led to a situation where anyone who disagrees with Dr. Peikoff is forced to sever all connection with the ARI. As long as the Objectivist movement remains subservient to one individual and one institute there is no possibility for Objectivist ideas to take root in our culture. Objectivism needs more voices.

The Demonization of the Brandens
In his 1987 talk at the Ford Hall Forum, Dr. Peikoff was asked if he had read Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand. Here’s an excerpt from what he said: “I didn’t, because I discount — you know, the technical term is not lie, which I would regard as inaccurate—I regard her book as non-cognitive. Uh… By this I mean, I do not think that it has reached the realm of cognition to be evaluated as true or as false.”

I have read Barbara’s book. It is certainly not a “non-cognitive” work as Dr. Peikoff claims. I won’t say that everything she has said is the truth. But she has an interesting story to tell and she has made a number of valid points. The book is quite popular. In fact, I fear that Dr. Peikoff's judgement of Barbara’s book has a non-cognitive bias. He has said that he will not read the book. But if he does not read the book, then how does he develop an opinion on its content? Heresy! Premonition!

In the case of Nathaniel Branden’s book My Years with Ayn Rand, we find a similar campaign of disinformation and vilification being launched to persuade the Objectivists that they should not read it. Well, I did read it. I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Barbara's book, but this does not mean that I should start claiming that Nathaniel has written a non-cognitive book. This business of branding books as non-cognitive is extremely ridiculous.

There are many faults in Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, but this does not give anyone a right to demonize them. They have said a lot of wrong things about Rand in their books, but they have also said many right things. Their books are not arbitrary or non-cognitive. They merit scholarly evaluation.

Support for Left-leaning Political Groups
In the time of the 2008 elections, Dr. Peikoff issued his Objectivist fatwa: "In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

Apparently, Dr. Peikoff was of the view that the Republicans were overrun by the Evangelical Christians and that voting for them was the same as voting for a theocratic autocracy. Irrespective of the reasons on basis of which Dr. Peikoff reached his political judgment, he had no right to dictate to others who they should vote for and to threaten them, even implicitly, with excommunication for having a different opinion. I think his claim that anyone who votes for Republican or abstains from voting is not fit to be an Objectivist is most amazing.

Then in the 2016 elections many Objectivist thinkers “ordered” the Objectivists to vote for Hillary Clinton. They happily joined hands with the liberal shills in the mainstream media and proclaimed that Donald Trump was a racist, fascist and barbarian warmonger. The worse thing is that they didn't consider it necessary to explain the logic and evidence on basis of which they had reached their political judgement.

The reason for which Dr. Peikoff prefers progressive political groups is, I think, stated in his book The Ominous Parallels. Dr. Peikoff has said in The Ominous Parallels that in a few years the political power in the USA will get usurped by a conservative fascist force. How can his prediction be wrong—after all, he is the intellectual heir to Rand! Since Dr. Peikoff has not predicted the rise of a progressive fascist group in the USA, the Objectivists are not expected to feel threatened by the rise of the welfare state under progressive regimes. Well, such is the post-Rand logic.

Lack of Research on Rand’s Soviet Background
I became aware of the influence that Rand’s education in Soviet Russia had on her after reading Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra. It is surprising that we don’t have any other detailed scholarly study of Rand’s Soviet background. Sciabarra’s work remains the only source on Rand’s education.

The authorized biographies of Rand written by scholars affiliated to the ARI seem to take a minimum cognizance of the fact that she lived in Russia till the age of 21. These biographies do not offer any insight into the teachers and philosophers by whom Rand may have been influenced while she was in Russia. It seems as if Dr. Peikoff, for some reason which is known only to him and his closest associates, is interested in re-writing the history of Rand’s life, and projecting her as a completely American writer.

Well, I will end the article at this point. I think I have covered the key reasons for which I am forced to withdraw from the Objectivist movement. Hasta la vista, dear Objectivists.

*******

I have read a number of books, articles and blogs to develop my view of the current sad state of the Objectivist movement. Here I mention a few of these works:

The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand by Dr. David Kelley
The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
My Years With Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics by James S. Valliant
The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: A Symposium on Nathaniel Branden
Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Resignation from the Boards of ARI and the Anthem Foundation” by John P. McCaskey (Article)
Anthemgate” by Robert Tracinski (Article)
The 1980s Called, and They Want Their Objectivism Back” by Robert Tracinski (Article)
"Intellectual Inheritance?" by Per-Olof Samuelsson (Article)
Beneath The DIM Hypothesis: The Logical Structure of Leonard Peikoff's Analysis of Cultural Evolution” by Roger Bissell (Article)
Open Letter to Objectivists” by Lindsay Perigo (Article)
The Vision of Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
“In the Ayn Rand Archive” by Jennifer Burns (Article)
The Rewriting of Ayn Rand's Spoken Answers” by Robert L. Campbell (Article)
Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden

Websites:
http://www.aynrandstudies.com
http://ariwatch.com/index.htm
http://objectivish.blogspot.com/  
http://www.solopassion.com/frontpage
http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com
https://perolofsamuelsson1.wordpress.com/

Thursday, March 23, 2017

For Brutus is an honourable man ~ William Shakespeare



Here's the speech by Marc Antony in Shakespeare's play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Typewriter

In 1881, Friedrich Nietzsche’s eyesight started failing, so he decided to buy a typewriter (then it was called a “writing ball”) to enable him to continue his writing.

Remington typewriters were available but Nietzsche wanted a simple to use and portable typewriter which would allow him to travel, when necessary, to more salubrious climates. The Malling-Hansen Writing Ball seemed to fit the bill.

In 1882, Nietzsche received his Malling-Hansen Writing Ball directly from the inventor. Unfortunately he was not satisfied with his purchase because he could not master the use of the instrument.

A number of theories have been proposed to explain why Nietzsche was unable to take advantage of his Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. According to some accounts, the instrument was damaged during a trip to Genoa. The inept mechanic who tried to repair it may have inflicted further damage.

Nietzsche immortalised his struggle with the writing ball with this verse:

“The writing ball is a thing like me: 
Made of iron yet easily twisted on journeys. 
Patience and tact are required in abundance 
As well as fine fingers to use us.”

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Graduate Student Who Inspired Ayn Rand To Publish A Book

Ayn Rand begins the Foreword to The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution with a letter form a reader. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
Dear Miss Rand: 
I am a graduate student in sociology in Northern Illinois University and a student of Objectivism… 
Actually, what I want to discuss with you is your writings on the New Left. I have read them all and, in my opinion, they offer the best critical analysis that has ever been written on this movement. Your recent articles: “The Left: Old and New”; “Apollo and Dionysus”; and your recent article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, “The New Left Represents an Intellectual Vacuum,” were superb. I recently reread your article, “The Cashing-In: The Student ‘Rebellion,’” published in 1965, and I was struck by how accurate ad prophetic your analysis was at that time. 
After reading these articles it occurred to me that, if they were all collected together and published (i.e., mass-distributed in paperback by Signet), they could have a tremendous impact on the culture and especially on the college campuses…
The letter is signed by just an initial: G. M. B.

Mr. G. M. B. did manage to convince Rand. A bit later on she says in the Foreword: “As a rule, I do not like practical suggestions from readers. But this was such a good idea so convincingly presented that I showed the letter to my publishers, who agreed with its writer wholeheartedly. Such was the origin of this book—with my thanks to Mr. G. M. B.”

When I read the book, I think 13 or 14 years ago, I remember wondering who this G. M. B. was. Well, then I had no way of finding out, but in the social media, you sometimes find people who can answer such questions. Mr. G. M. B. has been in my Facebook friend-list and I didn't know that he was the writer of this letter until he revealed it to me by himself a few days ago while we were discussing something else.

The initials stand for Gerald M. Biggers. On the social media he is Mr. Jerry Biggers. He says, “Of course, I am astounded that Miss Rand had followed-up on my suggestion for a book of her articles on the New Left, and was immensely grateful and honored that my letter was included.”

In 1999, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution was reissued under a new title: Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Along with the complete original text, the new edition contains two additional essays by Ayn Rand, "Racism" and "Global Balkanization," and three essays by the editor, Peter Schwartz.