Tuesday, January 31, 2006

CEO's Making Too Much Money

There has been much hoopla made about large corporation CEO’s having multi-million dollar salaries and benefits packages. I don’t see why not. Before I begin to agree that CEO’s may be undeservedly making too much money, I need to be convinced of some good reasons why major sport athletes command multi-million dollar deals. Given the role of an athlete and a CEO of a corporation, given their function as such in society, given the kinds of risks and rewards they play with, I need to be convinced that an athlete deserves all that money but a CEO does not.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Culture of Truthiness

"Truthiness" is the word of the year, nominated by the American Dialect Society. Wikipedia defines "truthiness" as "the quality by which someone purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or to what the person might conclude from intellectual examination." Isn't there already a word for that - faith? "A firm belief in something for which there is no proof." And to that I would add, a belief in something for which there is no need or regard for proof. I think I see the reason behind the rapid and immediate acceptance of this new word 'truthiness'. People are too afraid to come out explicitly and say they hold whatever beliefs just on faith. Faith has come to have a rather religious connotation, and outside of the sphere of religious discourse, it is almost always perceived negatively or condescendingly. A journalist cannot put out an article based on faith - but now, he can argue for the 'truthiness' of the work. G.W. Bush might not be too successful in defending his reliance on faulty intelligence because he had faith in it, but he can probably be more convincing if he says he felt some truth in it - it had a quality of truth that he could feel instinctively and emotionally. Contemporary culture now have an expression to convey their desire to evade the hard demands of proof and reality, and express their opinions based on an instinctual, emotional, whimsical foundation. They have typically shyed away from using the word "faith" to justify their convictions, but the word 'truthiness' gives them a good recourse to atleast the semantic similarity with actual and real truth. It helps them control or ignore their cognitive dissonance when they spout something so utterly lacking of any evidence and yet pass it off as kind-of-sort-of-true by classifying it as "truthy", having "truthiness", not necessarily being "true". Is only "morality" meaningless today? "Truth" is also clearly getting to be meaningless. All this talk about "truth" reminds me of Rand's response to the philosopher John Hospers. Hospers challenged Rand's definition of truth as "the recognition of reality". Hospers argued that truth is not recognition because it is not contingent upon anyone to 'recognize' it. He argued that whatever is true, is true regardless of whether one recognizes it, accepts it, or not. Rand replied by clarifying the mistake Hospers was making. She pointed out that "truth" is an epistemic concept to refer to the activity of the mind in relation to reality, not to point at reality itself. The concept that points to reality itself is fact. The difference between fact and truth is that facts exists as they are, regardless of any recognition. Truth, however, needs to be identified, realized, and accepted. One can twist the truth (or call it "truthy") or even refuse to recognize a fact as true, but that does not render the fact as non-existent. Existence exists as is. For example, one can deny that a tree exists, or even evade the need to affirm or deny that a tree exists. This does not mean that the person has blasted the tree out of existence by evading it or denying it. The fact of the tree remains, though the truth of the tree has not been, known, recognized or accepted. The former is a metaphysical issue and the latter is an epistemological issue. So, our culture is ever so eager to deny or evade the truth of the facts, but need a face-saving contruct to hide behind. They are well aware that in matter of facts - metaphysically - there are no gray areas possible. Hence, they create the grayness of "truthiness" in the epistemic realm of what they accept or recognize as truth. Some of them are too secular to honestly concede that their convictions are merely matters of faith.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Democracy Wins In Palestine

I don’t understand why G.W. Bush says he will not deal with Hamas despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of Palestine have democratically elected Hamas leaders to power. Bush argues that unless Hamas gives up its agenda of destroying Israel, the United States will not engage in any dealings with the new government. But I see no reason why Bush holds this position! The people of Palestine have spoken their will through this election, in effect saying that “we the people of Palestine agree and support Hamas in their contention that Israel is an enemy and a threat that must be destroyed.” If morality is that which a majority or plurality of people say it is, then in a society of Islamic fundamentalists, being a freethinking, atheist individualist should be completely immoral. The Palestinian agenda to destroy Israel is perfectly moral because it is what its people want. Intellectuals who argue social and political theories based on “reasonable pluralism” within a society or what is practically expedient and acceptable to the majority of the people should be quite pleased with the election results in Palestine. The Utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number has borne fruition in the democratic voices of more than 75% of Palestinians who chose Hamas as their representatives. Some might argue that it is not utilitarian because Hamas, as an organization that undisputedly practices terror tactics, is not good for the greatest number – harmful for other countries and the whole world. But a quick response to that would be: well, it’s only a matter of time. If the standard of the “good” is merely a numbers game, then I suppose we could always wait for Hamas to increase its numbers of allegiance and gain support from other terror-supporting nations. Once we reach a majoritarian situation of more countries under dictatorships, tyrannies, and fundamentalists, then we can proudly sing the praises of Utilitarian morality. Or, let’s discard Utilitarianism and accept morality as derived from Divine Revelation, or some such thing. Well, again, it’s only a matter of time before the Muslims either convert all Christians to Islam or just blow up the one’s that don’t, and establish the authority of Islamic morality in the world. Or, even better, let’s discard all these collectivist moralities; let us be progressive in our thinking and allow for greater tolerance and acceptance of diverse, cultural moralities. There are different people from different cultures, from different backgrounds, from different mind-sets, and hence their concept of right and wrong is different from ours. Each individual has his own sense of right and wrong. Let’s be tolerant of them all and let morality be subjective - promiscuous. Well, then my original question arises again: Why doesn’t Bush accept the authority of Hamas and their subjectively moral agenda of destroying Israel? Also, why are we at war with terrorism? What we condemn as terrorism is infact benevolent martyrdom. It is the ultimate, supremely moral sacrifice of one’s life to one’s personal convictions. It is immoral to wage a war against those who sacrifice their lives for a cause that they so ardently believe and hold on to. Actually, here is the ultimate truth: There is no morality. It is a meaningless construct.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Is Poetry Only That Which Rhymes?

John has an essay that attempts to answer the question, "Is Poetry That Which Rhymes". It is an interesting read, and I was surprised to discover his more "serious" works of poetry besides the funny couplets he has on each and every one of his posts. Clearly, as evidenced from his blog, he has a bias towards rhyming verse. Hence, his essay invariably leads him to propose (though, he does it rather timidly) that writings that do not have a rhyming scheme is " for most part... either an inferior species of poetry, or not poetry at all." Ofcourse, if my creative-writing blog is any indication, my position is in stark opposition to John's. In his insistance that "poetry" should have rhyme that "stirs the soul", and that it is only or mostly accomplished by words that have a certain rhythmic "sound effect", John has, I believe, unnaturally twisted and obfuscated the purpose and nature of what poetry is and can be. Interestingly, Rand had once declared (in one of her serious lapses of good judgment) that free verse was on a level "lower than free lunches" (Ayn Rand Answers: Q&A) So, Rand would presumbly have agreed with John's requirement that poetry be necessarily constituted of rhyme and rhythm. However, I believe that John's argument that poetry as Art should have rhyme reduces the expansive breadth of poetry-writing into a ludicrous and juvenile caricature. I think John is committing the fallacy of reifying one isolated characteristic of poetry and holding it as its most essential constituent. In committing that fallacy, I think John opens the door to any self-professed "poet" to peddle any work of writing of substantial length with a catchy rhyme as poetry that is Art. However, to give John his proper credit, he does expressly state that not all rhyming constructions can be considered poetry. And similarly, I argue that not any random collection of metaphors and alliterations can be accepted as poetry either. Note that the fallacy in accepting indiscriminately any construction of rhyme or any collection of metaphors is the fallacy of isolating a constituent from the context and whole that gives it its proper meaning. What differentiates poetry from regular fiction is not only that poetry has a rhyme - though it is certainly one possible differentiating property - but also that poetry seeks to express values in a medium and method not typical in common parlance. Poetry deals heavily with metaphors, abstractions, and emotive tools. Other forms of writing - whether fiction or non-fiction - cannot so exclusively and heavily depend on metaphors and abstractions because by their very definition, they are seeking to convey reality as it is (in the case of non-fiction) or as imagined to be (as in fiction). Novels, as an example, cannot be drenched with metaphors and abstractions or esoteric references that steal the objective purpose, theme, plot, and motive out of the story, such that the reader is honestly lost and cannot decipher those elements of the story. On the other hand, poetry as Art combines and integrates convincingly elements like rhythm, sound effects, rhyme, metaphors, personifications, abstractions, etc. without giving any of these constituents undue emphasis or priority over the other. Poems have the liberty of being esoteric, while still maintaining their unique expression of values - those values have the freedom to be expressed in rhythmic metaphors, unsual placement of words, unique construction of lines, etc. The specific set of constituents that a poet chooses to use will dictate the kind of poetry that will be created. Poems that can be considered Art should be the ones in which it is unequivocally clear that the poet has skillfully, deliberately, and creatively used a group of, or a set of, poetic tools that convey the predominant ethos in the piece of writing. Rhyme, in of itself, cannot legitimize a piece of writing as poetry, just as a collection of metaphors can not. Similarly, requiring that every poem have rhyme is as vacant as requiring that every poem have metaphors. Reifying any one constituent exclusively or heavily while compromising others accomplishes only a feeble grasp of the vast landscape of expressiveness that the medium of poetry provides.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Invisible World

I am not a “one world”-er. I despise the concept of drowning individuality into the masses of collectivism. I do not wish to see the countries of this world consolidating power and creating monolithic institutions of governance over all. And similarly, I do not wish to see countries that carve their boundaries in the hearts and minds of people. I do not want governments telling their people where to travel, who to live with, who to fall in love with, where to buy from, and who to sell to. I am shocked at how our governments even dare to prescribe the kinds of relationships individuals can have with one-another. I am appalled by the brazen interference of the government in my decision to have a family or a relationship across political boundaries. I believe that the only reason we have let governments become so viciously powerful and have anesthetized ourselves to their interference in our lives is because collectivism and the acceptance of the majoritarian opinion is considered valid, 'democratic', and even morally fair. Just as in our private lives, we have tended to accept the collectivist opinions of our culture, our tribe, our religion, our tradition, our race, our sexual orientation, our class, our nationality, our ethnicity, our status, our society – we accept and become obedient to these collectivist forces in our lives and so, extrapolating that to the geo-political scale, we find it only logical that we become obedient to what our government tells us to do – regardless of whether that is even the proper role of the government. We are so used to subsuming our individuality to larger collective voices that we now think it is only proper to be obedient to these masses, and we sometimes even actively seek to identify ourselves with it. In our lives, we listen to our parents about who to marry or what career to choose, we look to our race to decide who to select as a romantic partner, we look to our priests and religious leaders to tell us what to believe and what is moral, we observe the trends of our socio-economic class to decide which clubs to join and who to be affiliated with, we look to our traditions to decide how to act and what to celebrate – all these are instances of our collectivist desires to seek our personal identity in things above and beyond ourselves. It stands to reason then that these same collectivist tendencies allow us to stand by the roadside nonchalantly as the government (the collective replacement of the race, or the tribe, or the religious leaders) decides to pass law after law, dictating how we live our private lives. Ban smoking. Ban gambling. Ban drugs. Don't ban alcohol. Ban foie gras in restaurants. Ban mowing your lawns on Sunday. Ban personal travel to Cuba. Cannot bring your lover from Brazil to the US just because you love them, etc. etc. I want a world where the government is invisible. I want to live in a world where there are no nation-states interacting or trading with each other, but individuals – only individuals – from different countries freely trading and interacting with each other. A world of invisible boundaries and invisible governments. A world of individuals who seek no higher identity above their own selves. Wishful thinking? Yes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pictures From My Balcony

Pictures of the beautiful Chicago skyline as seen from my 3rd floor balcony. :) I am in love with the view I have.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm Trying to Understand Rawls

Dr. Dan Slater, from the debate of a few days ago, insisted on not basing his 'practical' policy suggestions on any philosophical principle, and yet with some insistence from the opposition side (myself included), Slater conceded that he had been influenced to some significant degree by John Rawls' fairness theory of justice and Utilitarian-Majoritarian moral principles. Now, I have had only a cursory knowledge of Rawls, mostly through secondary sources that have cited him or have critiqued his works, such as Rawls' colleague at Harvard, Robert Nozick and some liberatarian articles from the Mises Institute. I intended to read more of and about Rawls and the works of other authors in the relation to his ideas. I believe it is necessary to examine as much as is possible, differing viewpoints before I can settle with and accept honestly any particular intellectual framework. But from what I have been reading, it is amazing that the Rawlsian inconsistencies have not been cited as an effective reason to dismiss atleast a part, if not all, of his theories. And quite the contrary, he is regarded as one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century. Rawls argued against bringing metaphysics and epistemological studies into Political Philosophy because, based on his Kantian influence, he accepted that "reasonable pluralism" on what constitutes human nature and the pursuit of a good life is an "evil" that is best left avoided. Attempting to study the underlying motivations of human nature and pursuit is, on principle, defeatist because those aspects are, in typical Kantian fashion, unknowable. Thus, Rawls basis his theories of justice and moral policy not on any metaphysical or epistemic understanding of the human beings that constitute society, but on the majoritarian opinions of whatever is accepted as "reasonable" by the current society. This, ofcourse, then logically leads him to endorse different and even opposite policy behaviors based upon seemingly insubstantial factors like geographic boundaries. This means Rawlsian political theories would stand in starck opposition to mine in the specific issue of Immigration and human mobility. It seems contrary to common intuition that you can arbitrarily claim certain acts or modes of behavior as "good" without giving any reason why - or, like Rawls does, insisting that there need not be any reason why. Well, to be fair, Rawls does place the reason for accepting any given policy in the hands of the society in question. It is the only method consistent with democracy, he argues. On the surface, that argument seems fair enough - unless you unfortunately happen to fall in the minority category, in which case you will most likely be unhappy about the rules and policies you are expected to obey. I guess one could justify it as the collateral for having democracy. Aristotle, so many centuries ago, recognized this fact and called democracy an evil that must be tolerated. So, what is Objectivism and libertarianism advocating if they vehemently oppose Rawlsian theories?Are they railing against democracy? Do Objectivists inadvertently advocate a form of oligarchy veiled behind euphemisms like individual self-determinism? It seems to me that "democracy" has been so adulterated as a concept, that people no longer understand democracy as separate from majoritarianism. I wish to ponder why democracy cannot be compatable individual autonomy. Why does democratic policies almost always mean policies that are constructed by the majority group of people according to their consistencies. At this point, I understand Rand's position that government and legislative bodies should stay out of any area that does not directly relate to security, protection, and defense. Under an individualistic laissez-faire system, there would not arise a situation where the majority would be creating any social or economic policies. That would not be the role of the government or of the legislative bodies. It seems to me that democracy is popularly assumed to mean that the government is in charge of creating and enforcing policies that determine how individuals will act in a society by authority of the majority group that entrusted the government with such power. But democracy can clearly be separated from such an assumption. A democratic system could also mean that the citizens of a country elect their representatives and entrust them ONLY with the powers to enact security and defense-related policies - policies that would ensure the protection of fundamental, individual rights that is common to all human beings. It would also create judidicial bodies to arbitrate on matters that solely concern any alleged violation of such fundamental rights. Under such a democratic system then, there is no need for "reasonable pluralism" because there is no question of legitimizing or compromising anyone's personal understanding of what the "good" life is for themselves. The good life would be whatever you wish to define it as within the boundaries of your rights without the violation of someone else's right. There is no need to enforce the "majority" consesus of the "good" life on any member of the minority. Each individual would be and should be free to be autonomous and self-directed. I admit that political philosophy is an area that I have not given much attention to, and so my thoughts might be racked with problems and inconsistencies. I am open to any criticisms or insights to the matter.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Objectivist Discussions of Art

[On Noodlefood, in a post titled "Chimp Art", Diana has some great links for those of you art buffs who would like to test yourself on true or fake modern art pieces. The following post is a slightly modified version of my earlier discussions about Art and its purpose in human life. I also highly recommend reading "What Art Is" by Torres & Marder Kamhi. Also check out their website at www.aristos.org for much more interesting discussions of Art from an Objectivist-oriented perspective.] The Objectivist philosophy correctly understands Art as spiritual nourishment for the human consciousness. And just as you would not feed your body foul and rotten food that is infested with worms, you should not feed your mind and your consciousness with foul creations of charlatans masquarading as Artists. You have the right to insist that Art be as nourishing to your mind as the food you eat is to your body. The works of Art created by the Greats like Da Vinci, Raphaelo, Giotto, Beethoven, Michaelangelo, all have one common theme running through them: they lead the human mind to visions of greatness, to the idealization of the human form and of the human condition -- while that greatness was perceived to belong to or come from Divine Beings, nonetheless, the invariable consequence of focusing on such greatness was to create a desire within feeble humans the urge to get as close as possible to that sense of the highest height. The notion that humans were frail and feeble and the Divine was the ideal of everything good and desirable, was accepted as self-evident in a culture that believed in God, heaven, hell, souls, spirits, and ghosts. So, how did we regress from that wonderful vision of high ideals being recorded in Art, to the rubbish being splattered across our faces today, to the trash being piled up in front of our yards as “Ready-made Art”, to the jibberish being recited in our schools, to the maniacal gyrations of modern hip-shakers? If history can give us any indication, the nature and sophistication of Art in a civlization gives great predictions to the future of that culture. European and western civilizations have flourished the most with its Art indicating idealistic representations of the Human individual form, of Human life and endeavors, of Human achievements, while African and South Asian civilizations in particular have grotesquely disfigured the Human form, idealizing, for example the cow or the snake over the human form. And we can see evidence of robust, thinking minds are primarily in cultures that have nourished their spirits with the visions of greatness in their own human images, what they perceive to be "God-like" images. Infact, the judeo-christian culture made God look like Man, in Man's image and in Man's creation, and thus elevated Man itself to the status of God.This must have obviously served as a great boost to the human ego, allowing Man to gain such tremendous self-confidence in his ability to know more and become more like the God he created. This self-identification with God Himself allowed Humans to perceive the Universe with the Intelligence that was only thought possibile to gods. Primitive man did not understand the Universe nor did they seek much to understand it. They merely bowed their heads and worshipped it. The consequence of the Christian movement was to elevate man's pride in being Human, and thus seek to perceive the world as God would. In what was truly man's greatest act of conceit, he captured all the greatest notions of his God and manifested that in the body of ONE HUMAN BEING - Jesus, which meant that the Human body was idealized and to withhold the essence of the fully Divine. The representations in the Art forms that resulted from such a boost of human ego caused by the Christian movement, I believe, captured that human-divine idealization, which also spurred the nourishment of the Human consciousness that was pulled to elevated levels of aspirations, which increased the level of our own assessment of worth and intelligence and esteem... finally, resulting in the amazing and enlightening evidences of human genius in other spheres of the physical sciences and technology. On the other hand, evidence of mal-nourished minds are also closely associated with mal-nourished cultures and societies. They have plenty of hissing snakes and meandering cows to worship, but very few thinking minds that have a vision to look up to. And so, I am afraid of what might happen to our culture now if we permit the unrestrained assault of all that rubbish being dished out as art to the sanctity of our minds. Are we deliberately permitting the poisoning of our spiritual food? Will we be witnesses to the fall of our own civilization, to the stagnation of mal-nourished minds, to the vile odor of decaying consciousness?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nature's Song

On ebbing crescents of silver waves, I see memories gathering percolating crashing It's mournful sighs whispered to pearly pebbles like faded stars twinkling slowly swaying Every blue memory reflected every stony silence rejected it's gushing sounds echoing through Van Gogh's clouds in muffled hearts weep a lover's Psalm Mine eyes add another drop to the torrent of his saline tears my hands reach out to grasp his soul sinking in dark nights of fear Under the grey moonlit mantle A sad river reveals my passion water-colored paintings of pearly smooth pebbles with every smile for your thoughts in me The river stops a moment to sigh with me

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Debate: Is America Obligated to Provide Foreign Aid

So I attended last night’s debate at the University of Chicago between Dr. Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute and Dr. Dan Slater, assistant professor at the Uni. Of Chicago. So let me first begin by saying, both debaters were HOT! :-) Dr. Slater is a surprisingly young, attractive, man with the most perfect set of white teeth I’ve ever seen. And then, Dr. Yaron Brook – despite him being older than Dr. Slater, was certainly a very attractive man himself! And coupled with his incredibly sharp intellect, a deep sexy voice, and a strangely funny accent made all the more so irresistible. :-) Anyway, getting down to the important matters. The topic of last nights debate was “America should NOT be obligated to provide foreign aid”. Of course, Dr. Yaron Brook was the proposition and Dr. Slater presented the opposition side. Due to a strange debate format, after the main speakers presented their sides, the debate floor was opened briefly to audience members who could present up to 3 minutes for or against each position. It was during this period that I witnessed a sadly disappointing and very embarrassing display of “pro-Objectivists” individuals who zealously took the stage to present their argument (if you can call it that). While the opposition speakers could be dismissed easily as being subjectivists, holding internally inconsistent positions, appealing to random whims and emotions, the pro-Objectivists were far worse, in that they spouted obediently memorized “Objectivist” phrases like “human dignity”, generated floating ideals that they clearly had no rational understanding of why they held them, and presented dogmatic, half-baked arguments that did nothing but harm Dr. Brook’s presentation. After that debacle of audience participation, Dr. Brook got up to the podium and seemed daunted by the task of not only having to respond to the opposition but also undo the damage done by the “Objectivist” audience speakers. I loved Dr. Brook’s clear and precise tone. There was no doubt that he had an incredible depth of understanding the issues being discussed. I was simply amazed at the breadth and expansiveness of Dr. Brook’s knowledge in global economic and political history. Throughout the debate, Dr. Dan Slater undertook great pains to remind the audience that his expertise was not in philosophy or even economics. He desperately wanted to place the debate on “practical” grounds and discuss “practical” solutions. I thought to myself, if Dr. Yaron Brook, who is a professor of Finance and has his expertise in economics, can still coherently, comprehensively, and persuasively give a strong philosophic foundation for holding his eco-political positions, then why can I not expect or demand the same from Dr. Slater? It is strange how Dr. Slater’s academic training has disposed his intellectual capabilities into such a narrow scope that his thinking skills are stunted in the areas he believes are not directly related to his chosen field. One must wonder how such isolated bits of knowledge and narrow expertise can ever be held validly and be accepted as enough criterion to be labeled an “intellectual”. Anyway, the debate got really exciting and tense as Dr. Brook spelled out exactly all the practical implications of an objectively ethical and moral foreign policy. I thought the best moment in the debate came when a student asked Dr. Brook if he would demand his $5 back that was taken by the government to cure the whooping cough of a little child in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Brook responded, in his typically consistent fashion, “Yes. I would”. His argument in effect was that how could anyone point a gun to his head and extort his money without his permission, regardless of the reason? He asked, what if he needed that $5 for his own son who had whooping cough? Today you demand $5, what would stop you from demanding $10 tomorrow? Why not demand half of the paycheck to cure the malaria of dying children in Africa? Where does it stop? Who stops it? Dr. Slater responded to this “slippery slope” argument by claiming that it is among his most hated arguments in a debate. Dr. Slater wanted to argue that in the real, practical world, there isn’t any “slippery slope”, that this concept is an invention of thinkers for argumentation and reflect nothing in reality. Dr. Yaron Brooks came back with a robust explication of real and concrete examples of where the “slippery slope” was clearly in effect. Another criticism Dr. Slater leveled against Dr. Brook was that he was being “utopian”, “idealistic”, “impractical”. Sadly, I felt that Dr. Brook never directly and explicitly responded to those charges, even though I must point out that the bulk of his arguments were concrete examples from a sound knowledge of geo-political history, littered with dates, statistics, and events, and concrete scenarios of eco-political consequences of ideologies. However, because Dr. Brook prefaced these concrete examples with a philosophical foundation, I think the audience and Dr. Slater were able to cunningly dismiss him as being “philosophical” and not “real”. I wished that Dr. Brook had stated explicitly that the practical certainly flows from the philosophical, and that a dichotomy between the two is false and dishonest. During the Q&A session, I decided that someone ought to challenge Dr. Slater’s insistence on practicality. I spoke up to point out the fact that despite Dr. Slater’s own admission that the current practicalities are inefficient, corrupt, and somewhat immoral, what makes him have so much faith in the status quo as an evil that is necessary nonetheless. I asked him, how did he decide what is practical from what is not practical as a solution? If he eschewed principles as too abstract for this discussion, I demanded to know on what authority was he basing his ‘practical’ approach? And who got to decide what is practical for everyone else? I alluded to the fact that his so-called non-philosophical stance was in fact certainly settled upon randomly held abstract principles. His responses were incoherent and generally dismissive, as if that were something remote from the topic at discussion, and he did not want to get into that. Another important realization I came upon during this debate was that there was a clear discord of accepted terminologies in the audience. I realized that Objectivism has a radically unique, and I believe accurate, understanding of certain terms that non-Objectivists are oblivious to. And so, at this debate forum with considerably more non-Objectivists, Dr. Brook may have lost his audience to naïve confusions about terms like ‘value-systems’, ‘rational’, and ‘self-interest’. Many of the opposition arguments ran with their misunderstood terminologies to attack the proposition’s arguments. I think they equaled ‘rational’ with ‘rationalization’, ‘self-interest’ with ‘hedonism’, and ‘value-system’ with subjective ‘whim-worship’. Of course, this is no fault of Dr. Brook. In the allotted time and strange debate format that he had to work with, Dr. Brook could not solidly explicate the meanings of his terms and concepts at the outset of the debate. In the end, it didn’t seem too clear which side won the debate. In my opinion, Dr. Brook’s argument was seriously undermined by the young, over-zealous, pro-Objectivist individuals who could not coherently present their case. Yet, regardless of who “won” the debate, I thought it was an exciting and incredibly stimulating event. I was surprised by the large crowd it drew (and I was especially pleased to notice many young and attractive men in the audience) :-) Tag:

Private Discussion with Dr. Slater and Dr. Brook

I did get an opportunity to speak directly and privately with both, Dr. Slater and Dr. Yaron Brook at the end of the debate. Dr. Slater and I got into a brief discussion of logic and I was baffled by his blatant inconsistencies and lack of understanding logical concepts. When I pointed out that his so-called “practical” solutions were based on the philosophic principles of Utilitarianism – the greatest good for the greatest number, and Altruism – the sacrifice of the self for the benefit of the other, he responded by saying that those principles are grounded in the practicality of a democratic nation. I then asked him, would his concept of democracy then also allow for the tyranny of the majority? If the majority is your standard of practical morality, then what obligates you to respect the rights of minorities like gays and lesbians? Why extend civil rights to gays and lesbians and create a furor in the majority American society that is fully against it? Anyway, my private discussion with Dr. Brook yielded much more important intellectual ammunition for myself. All this time, I have been unsettled by the Objectivist position that not only should the initiation of force be retaliated against, but the also the initiation of a credible threat to use force must be responded to with force. In other words, the concept of pre-emption, I could not intellectually wrap my brain around it. So, I brought up this issue with Dr. Brook. I argued that if the opposition has not attacked yet, but merely made a threat to attack, why must one respond with preemptory retaliation? If someone draws a gun out at me, I could also draw a gun out at him simultaneously. Thus, I could create a level field, and then engage in every attempt at convincing the attacker to drop his gun before I shoot him. I argued that isn’t the right to life applicable to all human beings and not just to myself? Shouldn’t I be prudent in my response to this attacker in that, I give him a moment of pause to reconsider and respect my right to live just as I am respecting his right to live? Dr. Brook, however, insisted that I must shoot him without giving him any need or chance to pause, hesitate, or speak. That I am obligated to do so if I have any ounce of self-esteem and selfish desire to live. That anyone initiating force or a credible threat to my rights has already lost all of his own personal rights. There can be no rights in front of a gun. It’s either my life or his. If I had any true desire to live, I would not even allow for the remotest possibility for this attacker to kill me. Later on at night, as I was at home thinking about what Dr. Brook argued, I realized what my error was. I realized that I was reifying the concept of “human rights” without any regard to “human beings”. I realized that rights exist only in the context and existence of free individuals. I was wrong in ascribing a reified status to “rights” without understanding that there can be no rights without the context of free people interacting with each other voluntarily. Tag:

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dervishes In Words

Recently, I gathered some of my creative writing works and placed them all in a blog of their own. I titled it “Dervishes In Words”, cuz that’s kinda how I think about creative writing. So, this post serves as an official Introduction to my new creative-writing blog. :) Also, I was thinking of how my poems can be classified under different genres. For example, I have written “Feasting on Seconds” that can be understood as a dark poem in the genre of horror. I’ve written a few light and Romantic poems, like "Your Eyes" and "Silhouette Romance". "A Lover’s Death" could be classified under Melodrama or Tragedy – a “tear-jerker” of sorts. "Stolen Music" might be in a strangely unique category. I’m not sure where that would fit. Maybe a cross-blend of Romance and Suspense? I also have some Erotica, believe it or not! Certainly, "Living Like Gods" and "I Jumped" could be considered “R-rated” works. And then, I have a few others like "God was having Lunch at the Picasso" and "Mundane Morning Commute" that are just light, fun poems inspired by strangers that I’ve come across randomly only for a few moments that I decided to idolize them through my poetry. An homage of sorts – to man, beautiful men, in particular. :) I suppose they could be classified as “Religious/Spiritual”! There are many other works that I have not placed into Dervishes In Words. I have some reasons for doing that - mostly they have to do with my own disatisfaction with their artistic quality.

God's Original Plan for Humanity

Assume that the Genesis story in the Bible is true. Therefore, God exists. God created man in His image. Then he created woman out of man. Strangely, however, God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat the fruits of the tree of life and knowledge. In other words, God made man and woman in His image except for the knowledge and immortal life part. So, “His image” is quite questionable as to what it means. It is said in the book of Genesis that before eating of the forbidden fruit, man had no concept of sin or wrong or evil. It was after having eaten the fruit from the “Serpent” that sin entered into the world. Sin implies immorality – which also implies a possibility of morality. After they ate the fruit, Adam noticed Eve as a “woman” and apparently that reveals the human nature of sinful lust that became possible for Adam to experience. So, God originally then intended Adam and Eve to remain oblivious of good and bad, right or wrong, moral and evil. Which further implies that God did not want Adam and Eve to have knowledge of such things, and of many other things that arise from such knowledge – like love, values, virtues, hatred, benevolence, choice, freedom, nurture, etc. Thus, it seems like God created Adam and Eve just like He created all the other animals – like just another species – endowed with life, but a blank stare of ignorance in their eyes. God did not want Adam and Eve to have knowledge – to know what is admirable, what is deserving of praise, what is evil, etc. Knowledge was forbidden. In other words, God’s Divine plan for humanity was to keep us in a perpetual state of ignorant void – there can be no “happy” “innocent” state without the possibility of experiencing unhappiness or evil – an infant is not “happy” or “innocent” in the true meaning of the word, the infant is merely clueless, like any other animal would be, only sometimes responding pleasurably to pleasurable stimuli. But, humans foiled God’s Divine plan (clearly, foiling God’s plan is possible, according to the Bible) in cahoots with the Devil. The Devil liberated human beings from the state of ignorance and animal-like existence. The Devil gave us the glimpse of immense possibilities, of achievements, of the concept of happiness, joy, love, of the higher meanings of morality, choice, freedom, failure, etc. The Devil made the world we live in, possible. The Devil free-ed humans to build our own heaven, here in Earth. Of course, because of our freedom, we also screw up a lot. But hey, I still prefer living like this today than living like how God intended Humans to live – as ignorant animals with no knowledge, no concept of any values, no experience of love or sexual intimacy, no worth, no pride, no self-esteem.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Teaching Ethics - And The Dialectic

It is interesting that for all the naive accusations leveled against Objectivism as being dogmatic, absolutist, and "black-and-white", the official Ayn Rand Institute's position on teaching ethics in the classroom is that of broad alternatives. As referenced by this blog in "The Vice of Applied Ethics", the ARI promotes an approach of self-determined choice in the particular ethical principles that can be adopted by students after they have been educated on the broad range of ethical theories, their merits and their pitfalls. There is a certain tendency among many college students to go through a usual phase of philosophical thinking that start out with being "Absolutist" in their freshman-sophomore years, then after being introduced to the diverse theoretical arguments in various disciplines, they invariably tend to move towards a sense of "Relativism" in their view of the world, and finally, if all goes well, very few students who actually engage their minds in critical analysis of the information they learn through the years in college, come out with the ability to think in terms of "Dialectic Synthesis". Dialectic synthesis is a very powerful method of thinking because it can often lead the thinker to discover hidden nuances and diverse perspectives; it trains the thinker to think in terms of integration and synthesis, not in terms of isolated, disembodied units of knowledge. Some of the most well-known dialectic philosophers are Hegel and Marx. Infact, some scholars have referred to Marxism is the dialectic. Recent scholarly studies on Rand's philosophy has discovered a tremendous application of the dialectic in Objectivist philosophy. For example, Rand's obstinate refusal to grant any dichotomies in thought and reality, fact and value, moral and practical, mind and body reveals her commitment to the dialectic approach. Chris Sciabarra's The Russian Radical, in my opinion, presents a very convincing thesis to that effect. Tag:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Problem with Tabula Rasa

I recently finished reading Scott Ryan's Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality, and it has got me thinking and researching all the potential problems he raises in the book. Ryan is highly critical of Objectivism and presents numerous arguments that in the end, are quite unconvincing. His lack of persuasiveness comes not because he is not an astute thinker, but mostly because his theoretical framework from which he launches his attacks are itself too abstract and fundamentally depend on mystical faith. Rational Idealism, the philosophy of Brand Blanshard - that Ryan subscribes to - has a fundamental principle that I refuse to reconcile with, and that is it purports human rationality as omniscient, and posits that atleast in theory, knowledge of everything is possible through Reason. Furthermore, Idealism is opposed to realism and materialism, emphasizes the primacy of the Consciousness, and ulimately believes that all existence is essential Ideas. Ryan's Idealism is similar to Hegelian Idealism in that they believe in an theistic Absolute in which all ideas exist. Anyway, there is one point that Ryan makes that I have been grappling with for some time now. And it is one of the fundamental principles of Objectivism - the principle of the Tabula Rasa mind. Ryan argues that if the mind is tabula rasa, then it means that an infant is born with nothing in its consciousness. But, Ryan argues, that goes contrary to Rand's postulate that a consciousness being conscious of nothing is a contradiction of concepts. So, either the mind is tabula rasa, in which case the mind qua consciousness exists but is blank - or that consciousness does not exist at all because a blank consciousness is no consciousness at all. I think Ryan raises a good question there. If we begin with accepting that an infant has no consciousness, then how does it eventually bring consciousness into existence? Is it possible to bring consciousness into existence? Wouldn't it be logical to assume that a "blank slate" exists first inorder for something to be "written" on it? If there is no "slate" (whether blank or not), then nothing can be 'written' on that which does not exist. I have yet to find a satisfying response to Ryan's challenge. Something to think about...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Back to School

Great News! I will be going back to school (college) again! No, not as a student... atleast, not officially. I was able to secure permission from one of the professors teaching Philosophy at my alma mater to see if I could attend his Spring semester classes. He's fine with it... so that's what I'll be doing! :) And the best part is, I won't have any homeworks (it's my choice, really)... nor will I be graded... this is purely my voluntary interest I'm pursuing. So that's exciting! :) Oh, the name of the course if "History of Philosophy"

Evidence of the Senses

I just got my new (used) book in the mail yesterday, and began voraciously devouring it already! It's by David Kelley and it's called "The Evidence of the Senses". It is a powerful defense of realism and the primacy of existence. The book is slightly 'technical' in its philosophical exposition, but with my basic understanding of metaphysical and epistemological concepts, their meanings, and their traditional uses by different philosophers throughout time, I am able to grasp Kelley's arguments without much difficulty. Obviously, his philosophy is greatly influenced by Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology, yet he uses a somewhat traditional realist approach in its defense. From what I've read so far, Kelley is convincingly exposing the loopholes, insubstantiation, and circularities of Descarte's Representalism and Kant's Transcendentalism. Read a review of Kelley's book at this site. Interestingly, Rand had offered qualified and limited support to Lockean theories of Ideas, which in this book, Kelley categorically refutes. His argument is that Locke started out with the correct premises of the primacy of existence and the tabula rasa mind, but then ventured out into Empiricism and an implicit acceptance of Cartesian Representationalism. According to Kelley, Locke then has no business explicitly basing his epistemology on tabula rasa if his implicit inconsistencies lead him to accept Cartesian epistemology.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My Theoretical Expansion of the "Frontier" Model

We humans seem to have a predilection for beaches and large bodies of water. We seem fascinated by the blurry boundary between land and water, and gravitate towards the edge of that indeterminate ground. I suppose the idea of the solid earth disintegrating into a million little pieces of sand particles, dying and being dragged under the feeble waves of the sea seem like a rare and enchanting paradox of distorted demarcation and union – air, wind, water, and earth – the natural elements interacting and fusing together at the shore. However, having given this phenomenon some thought, I think there is probably another psychological effect at play. A concept of “Frontier mentality” has been studied by social scientists as a possible influencing factor in the exuberance of the American productive pursuit. In 1893, Frederick Turner first postulated his hypothesis of the physical vastness of the American landscape as having important ramifications on the people that inhabited it. According to that theory, the vastness of the American landscape may have generated an optimism of unending possibilities in the minds of early American immigrants who looked upon the unending lands of this continent as grounds for further exploration, production, trade, property, and experimentation. The theory purports the Frontier mentality as a possible cause for the concept of the “American dream” where everyone can have “more”, and the “more” would never run out. While this theory has been challenged vigorously over the years, scientists still admit that the American "frontier past, real or imagined, is indelibly imprinted upon our soul as a nation." So, strangely enough, while I was watching some rubbish on TV about “million-dollar” homes typically being erected along beachfronts and shorelines, I wondered – why? What is this penchant for a view of the water? Or is it that people do not seek the view of the “water” per se, as much as they seek to reach the edge of the land? In that train of thought, I came upon a possible theory in the same vein as the “Frontier” model. I think that while the vastness of the American continental land signified a sense of unending possibilities and opportunities for people, I posit that reaching the edge of the land – or reaching the edge of the “vastness” – and erecting a million-dollar home signifies a symbolic “end of the journey” of sorts – a pinnacle achieved such that there is no frontier ahead to conquer, no distance further to go – literally and symbolically. Hence, the almost synonymous juxtaposition of “million-dollar” homes with “beach-front” location – it serves to convey an achievement of the American dream, a successful culmination of the pursuit for happiness. Furthermore, I believe there is a similar psychological phenomenon occurring when people like us – the not-so-wealthily-endowed – display exhilaration, a thrill, or sometimes even a serene calmness when we go to the beaches. It is the same effect of experiencing for a few brief moments an illusion of having reached the end of our “journeys” with nowhere further to go – and hence the celebration of reaching that destiny – or that serene calmness that is similar in experience as when standing on top of a high mountain. Of course, the mundane and the obvious also play a role in our experience of the beach or the mountain-top trip – the family or friends one is surrounded with, the sun, the vacation, the break of “normal” life, etc. But I think there is a definite subconscious influence on our minds in the symbolic nature of standing at the edge of land or on the top of a mountain – and its corresponding images of end, success, achievement, rest, pinnacle, etc. that it elicits. There is definitely more that can be researched and developed around my theory, and therefore is open for further speculation.

"Import Workers or Export Jobs"

Robert Murphy, an economist from the Austrian tradition, has written a very good article in defense of free trade and open markets that very neatly exposes the underlying tribal and primitive mentality gaining popular support in today's global economic culture. Critics of free-trade, immigration, and profit-driven businesses use terms like "outsourcing", "predatory business tactics", etc. to make their case for more and more restrictive socio-economic policies. Murphy correctly points out that these socialist policies wrongly divide the human endeavor of production and trade in to a "us versus them" scenario. The intellectual and technological advancement of China and India are perceived as a threat to the American economy. Immigrant workers are perceived as threatening the jobs that American workers are "entitled" to. Murphy makes a very enlightening statement by pointing out that "Indeed, to ask whether it is fair to allow workers to seek a better life for themselves implies downright slavery—that they are "our" workers and can only be allowed to migrate with our permission." My own moral arguments for immigration rights rest upon Murphy's statement that I implicitly accepted as the premise. Freedom of mobility is an implied requirement to secure the right to gain ownership of property, which consequently rests upon every human's right to life and survival as they see fit. I cannot recommend Murphy's article highly enough.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Kierkegaard Said:

"Subjectivity is reality; subjectivity is truth" According to whom? This question necessarily arises from his statement. Subjectivity is reality. According to somebody, because reality is subjective, according to somebody, because truth is reality and reality is subjective, hence truth is subjective, though only for somebody, therefore truth could not be reality or subjective, subjectively for somebody. :-) Pearls of wisdom!

Is Wal-mart Good for America

I must admit I don't have all the details and knowledge of the relevant issues in this debate over Wal-mart and its economic impact on the lives of people across the world. Nevertheless, the more I learn about the issues and watch news reports like PBS - Frontline's "Is Wal-mart Good for America", I can't help but come to the conclusion that clearly Wal-mart has been tremendously beneficial to American and world economies. The Frontline report - despite its attempts to be objective - displayed a veiled but transparent bias against the Wal-mart position. And even through that, I could see the many admirable qualities of this retail giant. It seems to me that people isolate what the retail giant has become today from its historical contexts, and they simply attack it as if it were always this mega-monolith of a structure. One should remember that Wal-mart started out a small and innocuous little store on a street in Arkansas, and the man behind store simply dreamed big. In those days, there were other giants sleeping in their parking lots - giants like Sears and K-mart. Whatever the criticism - one must admit Mr. Walton's brilliant maneuvering of doing business in an efficient system that America had never seen before. In Frontline's report, all of Wal-mart's critics were ironically consistent in praising the efficiency of the new production and supply system that Wal-mart pioneered. Ofcourse, the rewards for such brilliant innovation, ruthless competition, and great value-exchange is that Wal-mart today is the most successful business in the world. The critics keep cribbing about the "ruthlessness" of the competition, the loss of entitlement wages and jobs, the reckless profit-motive that drives the Wal-mart business strategy, and I have to wonder - well, it's a business, for god's sake! If not the profit-motive, then what?! If not an open market of competition for goods and labor, then what?! Anyway, well, so far I have yet to come across some truly convincing argument that Wal-mart is bad for America and the world. Incidentally, Economics Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman considers Wal-mart a blessing to the American and world economies. Personally, I'd prefer to side with the creative/productive mind of Friedman - who speaks with considerable legitimacy in such matters - than take the word of neo-collective-socialist-communist hippies with hollow heads.

Pasha

When Pasha walked his innocent gait, the twinkling lights of the city danced down the streets with him; each the harbinger of a happy day, singing a glorious surrender to the youth of his gait, a joyful laughter at the inspiration in his eyes. Pasha smiled back. He smiled at the men who built this city. He smiled at their pride and their spirit - to the testament of their power. For this one moment, Pasha wished there were a God in heaven, for He would have lowered His head in quiet homage to Man.

Living Like Gods

Morning searing Of tea-table talk Eyes jabbing My delicate heart My soul itches In rapid flashes of motion A silent sip Of brewing emotion His naked thighs move Mountains of air The bath water yearning In steamy despair Seconds pass in moments Of time My quivering lips lusting Divine Tasting the pungent Warm vial of life Drinking like wine The dark opium of night My twisted tongue His succulent spine My burning palms Our legs entwined This morning waits Its jealous turn To see, to sin, To lust, to yearn His flesh-laden secret Between those thighs Drenched in decadent bath’s Violent cries The love is too large For the walls of this home He must ascend to the heavens And demand God’s throne

Friday, January 06, 2006

Party Party Party!

I've had a very fun day at work today! Unusally, fun. And then later this evening I'll be heading over to the office party at Le Passage! I'm excited! Dinner buffet and booze all free all evening! Yooo hooo! :)

An Extremely Brief Survey of Modern and Contemporary Philosophies

I’ll just post these brief quotes taken from Dr. Nicholas Horvath’s compilation of important modern and contemporary philosophers. I’ll ruminate about them later. Feel free to add your ruminations to the mix. Descartes – instrumental in developing subjectivism – though also known as the father of existentialism. He denied that objective reality was knowable. The rigid separation of the physical and the mental postulated by the Cartesian system still affects modern Psychology. Agnosticism and Skepticism were two schools of thought that developed out of Cartesian doctrines. Berkeley, Locke, Hume – developed empiricism and placed primacy on the physical aspects of reality. This school of thought was detrimental to metaphysical scholarship that was originally formulated in Aristotelian principles of being and logic, also heavily used in the rationalism of Thomas Aquinas. “Empiricism over-emphasized sense knowledge and eventually led to the denial of the human intellect, or at least of an intellect distinct from sense knowledge. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume accepted this theory.” Intrinsicism or “Rotten Dogmatism” of Leibniz appeared on the scene with proponents like Spinoza who rejected the subjectivism of Descartes and the Empiricism of Hume. Beings qua beings had dogmatic value. Immanuel Kant – attempted to reconcile rationalism with empiricism, but ended up with idealism or “transcendental” philosophy that rejected axiomatic metaphysics. Kant’s phenomenalism created in a Copernican revolution of sorts in philosophy – he argued that the mind did not conform to reality, but that reality conformed to man’s mind. Thus, he said that the object depended upon the mind, not vice versa. The Kantian system logically led to the Deontological principle of duty and categorical imperatives. Man’s morality was bound by a sense of duty. Thus, the “morality of an act is not determined by the object… but by the pure intention of the acting subject.” Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill – stressed that human knowledge is restricted to the facts of experience; it is impossible for human beings to know anything beyond this. Nature, causes, and ends of beings are unknowable; therefore metaphysics does not have an object. This gave rise to logical positivists and pragmatists schools of thought. John Dewey – Pragmatist who also rejected the claims made by metaphysics that objective reality was knowable. Hence, Dewey pursued the practical and social aspects of philosophical speculation. Dewey advocated, in typical pragamatist tradition that " concepts have no absolute value; their only value depends on their practical consequences, inasmuch as they are instruments for transforming as imperfect situation into a new and better one." Georg Hegel – logically arising from the Kantian system, Hegel developed Idealism that simply rejected all reality beyond the thinking subject. Hegel reduced reality to the Spirit. The Whole was the Absolute and contained all of reality. Existents in reality were “thoughts” in the Consciousness of the Spirit, or the Whole. Hegel’s Absolute Idealism and dialecticism gave rise to parallel schools of Idealist Rationalism, Kierkegaard’s Existentialism and Marxist dialectic materialism. Marx – rejected the Idealism of Hegel and grounded the Whole into the collective consciousness of society. For Marx, individual freedom was attained by becoming merged into and one with the Whole of the Collective, such that there would be no more conflicts between separate entities, and all of history’s struggle will cease because of the seamless unity of the Whole. Jean-Paul Sartre – based on the prevailing philosophical mind-set the rejected reality as knowable, Sartre claimed that reality cannot be met on intellectual grounds, “but only through the risk involved in some agonizing crisis in the life of the individual.” Sartre concept of freedom meant the incompleteness of man and the nothingness facing men. Freedom is not rooted in reason but in the forlorn despair of a god-less existence. Accepting Nietzsche’s “God is dead” doctrine, Sartre viewed man as having no essence for existing, but exists just as is. “If there is no God, there is no built-in essence, no objective system of values, especially no determinism. Man is free; man is freedom; man is condemned to be free.” The morality for men rests on individual choice. Hence, there is no “objective morality”. Man is responsible for all other men in intersubjectivity because he must choose morality in accordance to what he thinks others would also choose. Therefore, “the act of choice must be accomplished with a sense of anguish”. “Man is rotten; his death is as vain as was his entry into being.” Wittgenstein and other logical positivists/neo-positivists – consider metaphysics as nothing more than a game of linguistic semantics. The “problems of philosophy” offer no solution to real life because they are basically meaningless. Hence, there is no philosophy.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Some Pictures

I took the above picture from the balcony of my third floor apartment. I love being able to see the beautiful Chicago skyline from my balcony. This particular evening, however, was quite misty after a short period of rainfall. I still like it, though. The first picture of this series - with the NBC rainbow-colored peacock - is the building in which I work. The second picture is of Michigan Avenue. The third and fourth pictures are of the NBC building again, from different angles. I think you can click to enlarge the picture sizes.

Self-esteem and Intelligence

A few blogs ago, while I was discussing the historical evolution of Art and its consequent influence on human civilzation, I came upon another interesting question in my head. I wondered whether "Self-esteem leads to improved intelligence?" Are people with high self-esteem mostly also very intelligent because they have high self-esteem? At that time, I had made an open plea for any social psychologist to test this hypothesis for me; see if it's true. And lo! Interestingly enough, I just found out that someone had already tested this phenomenon many years ago. It is called the "Pygmalion Effect" and it describes the phenomenon as "we will usually get what we expect". The application of this Pygmalion effect in my discussion of Art was that as a consequence of man's identification of the human condition with that of the Divine condition in works of Art, man began developing a better and more positive sense of himself - a self that was seen as efficacious, worthy, proud, benevolent, creative, etc. as opposed to the primitive sense of the human self as confused, helpless, at the mercy of nature, inefficacious, etc. I argued that this rise of human self-esteem caused by the idealized human representations in Art, reflected itself in other materialist areas of science and technology. Men saw themselves as worthy of better things, and so they produced better things to make their lives better (and I will reject any doubt that our lives today are better than those of only a 100 years ago).

My Philosophy Professor

I am very delighted to have discovered that my philosophy professor back in college, Dr. John Ahrens is philosophically with the school of Austrian economics, in the tradition of Mises - which was vigorously promoted by Ayn Rand in her non-fictional works, and also that Dr. Ahrens holds many similar Randian concepts in ethics like self-interest and individualism (read this article as an example). A quick google search reveals that Dr. Ahrens has written and published in arenas that put him in the philosophical company of other Randian/Objectivist/libertarian thinkers like Henry Hazlitt, John Hospers, Tibor Machan, and others. I had taken only one course with Dr. Ahrens - "Philosophy of Law". But he and I associated frequently outside of the classroom like at the "Atheists and Agnostics" club that I was instrumental in founding at my college, and during our lunch time discussions of ideas and exchange of campus gossip. The last I heard, the "Atheists and Agnostics" club changed their name because it was too controversial on a Presbyterian Christian campus in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana. I think they called it "The Free-thinkers Society" or something like that... and it is probably defunct now; but I don't know for sure.

Would I Commit Suicide?

I was once asked: Do I ever think of committing suicide? And I answered, yes, ofcourse! There are very many moments when I think of dying as a very real and plausible alternative – and then I choose life. That is what makes my life and my living virtuous. And that is why I experience so fully the visceral joy of living. The life-death alternative is very salient in my mind. And being an atheist, there is no fear of “death” as such – except a certain kind of revulsion at the idea of ending the very real joy of living. However, as an objectivist atheist, I also understand that the joy of living is derived from the pursuit of rational values and the sense of productive efficacy that I bring to my sense of being. If my values are unattainable (either due to a tyrannical government, or some other force) or if I am rendered irrevocably inefficacious (as a brain-dead vegetable, for example) then why continue living? Some time ago, I blogged about the necessity for a rational human to maintain this salience in living; here are some excerpts I felt are worthy of being highlighted and brought into focus: "The rational human chooses life with the clarity and salience of what it means to live. Therefore, the rational human pursues all possible avenues to make his/her choice of living, the best possible choice. Now, since the act of choosing to live is made so deliberately by a rational human, the act of living itself becomes an act of great virtue and moral worth for this rational human. Now, since living itself has become an act of virtue because it was deliberately chosen, and morality is only applicable to living beings, all acts committed by this rational human that remains in consistency with his/her fundamental moral choice to live is also fully and consistently moral. Self-sustenance, production, and creation are actions MOST DIRECTLY and POSITIVELY impacting upon the choice to live. Since these actions come at the most direct and immediate hierarchy of deliberate acts after having chosen to live, they hold such significant moral worth that is second only the act of living itself [there is a reciprocal exchange of moral worth between living and the actions taking to maintain life]. Since living is a deliberate and salient choice, the rational human is constantly aware of the alternative of life or death, and CONTINUES TO CHOOSE TO LIVE at every single moment. This act of choice being made at every living moment is what truly renders that choice and that life so significantly valuable and virtuous. His or her own life becomes the most precious possession for this human being because he/she chooses to have life at every single moment keeping in mind clearly that they can choose to die the very moment that they find this life not worth possessing."

Implied Understanding of Multiple-Person Relationships

Regarding my theory of human romantic relationships, I have pretty much said all I had to say about it in various posts (like here and here and here, which all began originally from here). However, there is one more brief but important point that is implied in all of the other posts, but not stated explicitly. Here, I am stating it so there can be no misunderstanding: My whole approach to and understanding of romantic relationships arises from within very specific contexts: I presume objective moral standards, and I presume all participants in any relationship recognize and understand the moral standards within their specific context. Expressing a contextual morality is not the same thing as advocating a relativistic morality (situation-based) or subjectivist morality (subject-based) or intrinsic morality (dogma-based). A contextually objective morality comprehensively integrates the dynamic interaction of the subject, the situation, and one’s current body of knowledge to reveal moral principles that can guide the subject’s actions. Thus, I reject monogamy as the dogmatic moral absolute in human relationships because such intrinsicism divorces the con-current influence of the subjects involved and the situation they exist in. However, that does not mean I reject monogamy as a contextual moral absolute if the subjects acting within a particular context agrees and recognizes that to be their moral standard. Similarly, I reject all relationship patterns borne out of “convenience” or expediency, such as open-relationships, because they also ignore objective moral standards and replace them with a dogmatic obedience to their subjective whim and fancy. Hence, the most crucial point to grasp here is – any certain relationship “design” is not intrinsically moral as such. Monogamy is not intrinsically moral as such. The morality of a relationship – regardless of their design – is an attribute of the integrity of the individuals involved in that relationship. Morality is applicable only to volitional beings that enter into relationships – not whimsically applicable to the relationship itself. Thus, two people involved in a monogamous relationship are not necessarily involved in a de facto “moral” relationship – nor would three people involved in a relationship be in a de facto “immoral” or lascivious relationship. Therefore, I reject the current institutional endorsement of monogamous relationships intrinsically accepted as the only moral design permitted to humans. It is unequivocally anti-real, anti-life and very immoral in its own fundamental sense.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"The Hours" - The Movie

I recently bought the collectors edition of "The Hours" - a movie adapted from Michael Cunningham's novel with the same name. It is a story of Virginia Woolf as the writer of "Mrs. Dalloway", a reader reading "Mrs. Dalloway", and a character who is throwing a party, much like "Mrs. Dalloway". Anyway, it's a great movie - one of my favorites. I've watched it atleast 5 times now. I so deeply identify with movie's sense of life on the whole, and I specifically identify with Virginia Woolf and the "reader's" (played by Julian Moore) sense of what life should be. I decided to pick out some favorite quotes from the movie to express the sentiments that I identify with: Virginia: "I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of these suburbs... but the violent jolt of the capital, that is my choice! The meanest patient, just even the very lowest, is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity." Julian Moore: "What does it mean to regret when you have no choice? It's what you can bear. There it is...no one is going to forgive me. It was death. I chose life." Virginia: "...to look life in the face, always... to look life in the face... and to know it... for what it is... at last to know it... to love it... for what it is..." And being consistent with the theme and the spirit of these quotes, I bring up my own thoughts on this issue from one of my earliest blogposts, "Life As it Ought to be": "Life should be enticing. Life must have some texture. You must... feel that you're living. You must be seduced and intoxicated by your life. It is only the irregularities of anguish and happiness, pain and joy, contentment and desire that creates the texture of life."

My Conversion to Catholicism Again

Uh huh. Yeap. It's true. I think I wish to become a Catholic again!! (Oh, I bet Sasca's probably going wild and crazy in confused speculation right now! haha!) But yes. After watching the Chicago PBS station last night, I have decided that it's time for me to be a Catholic again. If you're wondering why? Well, here's the thing. A few blogs ago, tucked away in the midst of a discussion I was having about Art, I randomly mentioned that I had attended a mass at the nearby Catholic church because of this HOT priest I saw. Anyway, that blog explains briefly what happened. Well, then. So last night as I stayed up till the wee-hours of the morning watching "Chicago Tonight - Money Talks" on PBS, I saw that same HOT priest I had come across at the church! Apparently, they were doing a segment on "poverty" and he was the story. So, I was like, OMIGOD! This is one of those Oprah's "full circle moment!" (all trademarks of "full circle moment" registered to Oprah; please don't sue me). So, this HOT priest - his name is Jim Collins, btw - is a Jesuit. He used to work for GE, considered himself a "yuppie", and drove a nice Saab 900 Turbo (I assume that's a good thing). Well, then something happened in his life -- like a death in the family -- and things led up one after another, till he decided to join the Jesuit Catholic priesthood. And now, I have decided to become his favorite parishner! :) The news reporter said Father Jim (oh my, I'm having massive cognitive dissonance calling this hot priest "Father") has Wednesday's off. Hmmm... today is Wednesday. Maybe I could get off work early to attend Mass this evening... oh my, I've neglected my poor soul all this while! Aack! So, I need to go for confession... "Bless me Father Jim, for I wish to sin......with you!" heehehehee..... Oh my! Can't wait to be Catholic again. Such a thrill in seducing a HOT priest! Oh, Innommable, you should know all about that! ;-)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Freedom is NOT a Burden

I knew, through some subconscious integration of my premises, that Sartre was deeply wrong in saying that "Freedom is a burden" that people love to flee from. At the New Year's party that I was at, I happened to glance upon a beginner's introduction to Sartre, and happened to read his view on freedom. Ofcourse, instantaneously, I rejected that view of freedom as a contradiction of concepts. Innommable seemed to agree with Sartre that freedom is infact something people wish to flee from because it is a burden, a responsibility of thought and action. My incoherent arguments at that time did not seem convincing even to myself, yet subconsciously, I knew Sartre (and Innommable) had to be wrong. If I believe that all ideas prove their validity in the actions they generate in reality, then Sartre's idea of freedom would prove to be disastrous if practiced in reality - and that would go against my entire body of knowledge and system of morals. I have come to realize how profoundly evil that thought can be, and all of its implications. I have come to realize that people who accept Sartre's immoral and evil notion can permit themselves some incredibly destructive actions, against themselves and against others -- and all of this, under the philosophical shroud woven by so-called "intellectuals" who purport such ideas. The idea that freedom is something people love to flee from, sanctions the evils of dictatorship and collectivism and tyranny that in comparison to freedom, according to Sartre's idea, would be NOT a burden, and that which the people would desire and wish to embrace! There can be only one alternative - either that you accept the state of freedom as the natural state of being, as reality is, as an ontological priority to reason, as a state of being that we must not violate, or that you consider freedom a yoke, a burden thrown upon us by bourgoise prejudices, a state of painful existence that requires responsibility, a state of being that is best left in the ash heap of tyranny. Rand developed Objectivism as bastion of freedom because she understood its inseperable necessity and context for Reason. Rand argued that "Reason is a free and conscious activity. Freedom is a condition for rational cognition. When men are rational, freedom wins. When men are free, reason wins." Reason presupposes freedom. Portraying freedom as a kind of bondage or burden that people wish shrug off, implies that people are inherently irrational, de facto mystical, and prefer irrational faith or force acting upon them rather than their own independent consciousness. That is a statement about the nature of humanity -- in very clear words, Sartre in effect is saying, "man is an irrational animal" -- because to intrinsically not desire freedom, Satre is implying that men intrinsically do not desire to be rational.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Thinking About Thoughts

My best moments are when I am enjoying my own company. Like at this moment, alone in the midst of dischordant noise, chatter, muffled humms, and just my thoughts. Nothing gives me more pleasure that to grasp my mind thinking of things... the act of thinking is the most redeeming characteristic of humanity. That is what we should be - thinking beings. I ask myself, what do I think of? I'm almost always thinking of what I am at this stage in my life. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What does it mean to me that I am doing this? These are typically the thoughts that crowd my mind in my moments of solitude. It seems that I can never stop thinking.. I don't know if people/anyone could really stop thinking.. or not think, for a moment. If they can, I don't know how they do that. sere Why is a thinking life - or as Socrates said - an examined life important? Why must one think? Why should I expend effort in abstract thoughts rather than enjoy the freedom of carelessness? Am I condemned to thoughts? Freedom of carelessness -- in what areas of life would one permit that carelessness to extend? Carelessness extended in one's productive life makes one a lazy parasite - sucking on the mental and/or physical efforts of others - it makes life stagnant. Carelessness extended in romantic life divorces values from love - you do not value the person you purport to care about. Carelessness in convictions makes you a weed willing to bend in the sway of any wind blowing your way - makes you a trash can open and accepting of any filth being thrown down into you - makes you a sorry excuse for a living being because your life is thrown away at the mercy of some whim, fancy, or fantasy. Carelessness in one's social interactions makes one irreverent to those whom honor is deserved, and unduly generous to those who should be despised. Carelessness cannot and must not extend to any part of one's life. One must always remember, that morality functions because of and based upon reality - and hence, the moral is always also the practical. Deciphering the moral - and therfore, the practical, is a matter that one must be very careful about. Hence, thinking... thinking is important. An examined life is a life well lived. It is a life as should be lived by a being whose essential attribute is that of a thinking being. Hence, a thinking being should live a life that proceeds from careful thinking.

2006: A New Year

I'm here at a "party"... that for all purposes is dead right now. I'm alone, at someone's home... and the new year has begun. It's been aboout an hour and a half since the new year began. It's funny, the thing I noticed at this "party" of sorts... about people... I observed plenty of obligatory "I care for your well-beings".. I noticed tons of "I'm drunk, I don't care what you think of me... of the way I act".... I love the music playing in the background... it's soft jazz.. the words say "could make me feel true... thinking of you...." Anyway, I want to focus on what a wonderful day I had. I woke up this morning dreaming of Agatha Christie... not sure why.... or what about her was I dreaming.... but I know I dreamed of her. ( I don't even know how she looks like!) THen, I had this urge to drink for a second time, the last few climactic pages of "We The Living". I did that. Then I cried... very peacefully... for a minute or so. Cried at the beauty of the story.. of the amazing strength and sadness of the story. Cried because that is how I would describe love.... true love... love as pure and fierce as white heat... like that described in the book. I cried joyfully. It was amazing to be engulfed for a few moments in the world of this story... the sad story of a life that could live grandly, but didn't. Then, I was remined of my life in India. Of the kind of life I hated. I don't think people here understand what it means to live in the freeness of freedom that they live in. They cannot possibly deserve that which they don't even realize they have. I thought about how life was back there... how my dad stood in lines for 3 hours to get his ration card stamped for a small sack of rice that he got from the co-op store. I thought of the way people walked around, with a suspicious eye for everyone... holding tightly onto their belongings... their possessions... their property... while organizations like the Church and government demanded their charity. I thought of the grocery stores... of how we always had to stand behind the counter, and ask the store clerk to get the items we wanted. We had to point out to the things we wanted to buy... they would not trust their customers to walk into the stores and pick their own goods... no... everyone was a criminal... until proven innocent... which never really happened. Here in America, it was so amazing to be surrounded by aisles and aisles of stuff... things I could touch... play with.... look at... think about... before I bought it. I walk down Michigan Ave... or really, any other street in this city... and I am confounded by the glass stores.... the window displays... the shops that so blatantly, proudly, display their wares on the store front! It's shocking to me... because in India these glass stores would not last one night without being broken in.... without some rogue brute throwing a stone through the (my funny valentine plays in the background... it moves my soul this very moment...).......... glass store.. breaking it. Why would you not break into a store of glass that simply invites you to??? That's what an Indian would think!? ANyway... gotta go. I miss everything that I am forbidden to have. Don't change a hair for me... not if you care for me..... plays on.