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"Atlas Shrugged" is about to turn 50
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, September 15, 2007

Among a great number of faux intellectuals, it is fashionable to put down Ayn Rand and to characterize her works and philosophy as "something that's OK when you're a teenager". Or my favorite, "yeah I read her and then I grew up".

For those that believe that, I'd just say, if that's your take, then you never studied her works in any depth.

As if to lend credence to that we find that Atlas Shrugged, is about to turn 50 and remains one of the most consistently best selling and influential books out there:
One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (“Winning,” by John F. Welch Jr., at a breezy 384 pages, is No. 1,431.)
Now after saying all of that, I have to admit I never have read any of her fiction, to included "Atlas Shrugged". But I have read every word of her non-fiction, beginning with "The Virtue of Selfishness" which got me hooked. And after I read all the non-fiction, I felt no real need to read the fiction. Just a personal quirk I suppose.

Rand's work was panned by every side of the political and philosophical spectrum you can imagine. But it really didn't stop her work from being read. In fact, it sort of went underground and flourished. Funny how that works:
But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.
That is what I hear most often from those who have actually studied her work. Not read one of her novels casually, but actually looked into her work and did more than a once-through. It does give both form and substance to your thoughts.

But to the critics, titles like "The Virtue of Selfishness" were taken literally and dismissed as incompatible with the principles and culture of the day. And most critics never looked beyond the title as was evident by the shallowness of their criticism.

I'm mostly a person of moderation so I never got wrapped up in the cult that developed about and around her (and it had pretty much passed by the time I became interested anyway), but I did find her works invaluable in putting "form and substance" to my own "inchoate thoughts" somewhere in my very early 40s (and the very fact I waited so late to read her is one of the reasons I outright reject the critique of her work which claims her philosophy is fit only for shallow-minded teenagers, etc.).

That's not to say I agree with everything she says, all her conclusions or the end state she predicts. Nor do others. That's evident in Alan Greenspan's development over the years. He was a disciple of Rand's. It is evident that his philosophical foundation and principles were formed through his association with Rand and her work.

What her work does is provide a very good and solid foundation from which to begin your own philosophical journey, especially if you are at all interested in liberty. What she writes about is immediately applicable to the world we live in today. And that immediacy is part of its attractiveness.

At the time I became interested in her, I was admittedly flailing around philosophically. That was mostly driven by the fact that I felt like a political orphan. I identified with neither major dominant political party and while I found some kinship with libertarians as I understood them at the time (pre-internet days), found most of them too damn kooky to take seriously. Her thoughts on capitalism, collectivism, altruism, rational self-interest, rational and irrational actors, critical thinking and other concepts provided a strong frame-work for me to then explore and expand my own personal philosophy.

I spent a good number of years in very detailed and extended conversations with those who both agreed and disagreed with her philosophical take on things (mostly on a BBS in Atlanta called "Dialog!" - a "place" which provided some of most intellectually satisfying years of my life).

For the most part I found those in disagreement woefully uninformed about her true philosophical principles. As I said, tossing her off casually as a philosophical lightweight was the defacto and pro-forma duty of almost every real philosophical lightweight I ran into. Her philosophy was very inconvenient to the reigning pop philosophy of the day. And after a while it didn't take much time or effort to demonstrate the fact that those who denigrated her work, for the most part, hadn't even read it. And for those who had, their reading had been, at most, shallow and cursory. My conversations with them, however, helped me better understand her as well as I soon realized (so my criticisms of the critics isn't without foundation).

That isn't a challenge to anyone, it's simply a retelling of my experience. Interestingly though, given the consistent sales of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", it appears that enough people ignored the criticisms and found intrinsic value in what the book conveys that an obvious word of mouth campaign over 5 decades has kept the book's sales at a phenomenal level. And Atlas Shrugged is, apparently, still having an effect.
“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand’s ideas,” said John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the United States.

“It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and to life in general. I would call it complete,” he said.


[...]

Ms. Moore, a benefactor of the University of South Carolina, spoke of her debt to Rand in 1998, when the business school at the university was named in Ms. Moore’s honor. “As a woman and a Southerner,” she said, “I thrived on Rand’s message that only quality work counted, not who you are.”

Rand’s idea of “the virtue of selfishness,” Ms. Moore said, “is a harsh phrase for the Buddhist idea that you have to take care of yourself.”

Some business leaders might be unsettled by the idea that the only thing members of the leadership class have in common is their success. James M. Kilts, who led turnarounds at Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft, said he encountered “Atlas” at “a time in college life when everybody was a nihilist, anti-establishment, and a collectivist.” He found her writing reassuring because it made success seem rational.

“Rand believed that there is right and wrong,” he said, “that excellence should be your goal.”

[...]

Last year, bookstores sold 150,000 copies of the book. It continues to hold appeal, even to a younger generation. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who was born in 1958, and John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods, who was 3 when the book was published, have said they consider Rand crucial to their success.

The book’s hero, John Galt, also continues to live on. The subcontractor hired to demolish the former Deutsche Bank building, which was damaged when the World Trade Center towers fell, was the John Galt Corporation. It was removed from the job last month after a fire at the building killed two firefighters.

In Chicago, there is John Galt Solutions, a producer of software for supply chain companies like Tastykake. The founder and chief executive of the company, Annemarie Omrod, said she considered the character an inspiration.

“We were reading the book,” she said, when she and Kai Trepte were thinking of starting the company. “For us, the book symbolized the importance of growing yourself and bettering yourself without hindering other people. John Galt took all the great minds and started a new society.
All this to say I owe a debt to Ayn Rand and her work just as these folks claim. She helped me sort out a lot of things, both philosophical and political, in a way that eventually crystallized my own personal politics and philosophy. I no longer feel like an political orphan even though I still don't feel any real political kinship to either political party. But, thanks to Ayn Rand, and a whole bunch of others since then (Hayek, von Mises, Machan, LeFever, Rothbard, Ebeling, Bohm-Bawerk, Menger, Lachmann, Spooner, Nozick, Locke, Bastiat, Friedman, etc.) I'm comfortable with that.
 
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I first tried to read the book when I was 16 in 1964. Couldn’t get through it, but not for the usual reasons. I simply could not believe that my country could even develop the parasitic mindset which she described. 40 years later, I read and finished it. While a bit quaint in technology, the mindset she described is visible every evening on the news. Mostly from the Left, but some from the Right.
 
Written By: Tregonsee
URL: http://
I loved Atlas Shrugged when I read it as a teenager, and I still loved it when I read it in college. I think I like Fountainhead better, but among my favorites.

The books, along with the non-fiction did help me forumlate my personal philosophy.

But I decided long ago that it was fairly useless in developing a political philosophy.

An Ayn Rand Objectivist Party would be as oxymoronic as an anarchist party.

Let’s organize our indivuduality!!!

Ragnar Danneskjold is one of my favorite fictional characters.

They are developing the movie... but Angelina Jolie as Dagny???

By the way, Who is John Galt?
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I may differ from Rand ideologically, but her non-fiction is well-written and thought out. Her fiction, though is dreck. You haven’t read any, and I advise you not to start.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
By the way, Who is John Galt?
Alfred E. Newman
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Addressing strictly matters of style, I say that it is very difficult to grasp Rand’s fiction without understanding her as essentially Russian.

My first insight to this was reading Solzhenitsyn.

I maintain that very few Americans have what it takes to appreciate her fiction for what it is, which is why they say the things that they do about it.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Her fiction isn’t Russian; it’s bad melodrama. Well, so is much Russian lit, actually. You may have something there.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
Another famous Russian writer whose work is in the same general area (and who certainly had a profound influence on her) is Lev Tolstoy. While his work explored the psychological and emotional dimensions of characters in greater depth than I suppose she could be bothered (his influential writing predates the silver age by half a century) rather than the raw nature of ideas themselves, one certainly does see many similarities between War & Peace, Anna Karenina and Atlas Shrugged. I haven’t read The Fountainhead, but I wouldn’t doubt that it too draws heavily from Tolstoy’s work.
 
Written By: Brian N.
URL: http://
I read Atlas Shrugged on the suggestion of a neighbor when I was a teenager. I was just getting into philosophy then, starting with Plato and Schopenhauer (I liked his pessimism), so I read it more as literature than philosophy, and decided that at literature it, to put it mildy, stank. The characters were as cardboard as Tom Clancy but without the suspense, and terribly longwinded. (The Clancy comparism is an anachronism—he wasn’t published yet. But he’s a terrific example of a great read that has horrible characterization.) If I were her editor, John Galt wouldn’t have made a speech: the major points were sufficiently clear from the rest of the novel, and philosophical expositions of more than a page or so don’t belong in a novel.

Her non fiction is far superior, but suffers from a serious flaw—the tendency to substitute rhetoric for actual reasoned argument. (Although, since her rhetoric is masterful, one shouldn’t complain too much.) I came to that a few years ago, after encountering libertarianism and seeing the respect most libertarians had for her. I therefore read up on Objectivism, and read some of her writings (principally Virtue of Selfishness), and Peikoff’s exposition. I found them lacking. If you think the ego is an illusion, any philosophy founded on egoism will be rather unpersuasive. (Her view of mystical experience seems to be the product of total ignorance of the subject, and that ignorance produces some important errors at the very start of her metaphysics.) And organized Objectivism, as much as it can be call organized, reminds me too much of a religious cult or a small Communist party, complete with ideological schisms and excommunications, to be attractive. But her philosophical writings do have one outstanding virtue—they force one to think for oneself in a way that many other philosophers don’t achieve.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
"I read Atlas Shrugged on the suggestion of a neighbor when I was a teenager. I was just getting into philosophy then, starting with Plato and Schopenhauer (I liked his pessimism), so I read it more as literature than philosophy, and decided that at literature it, to put it mildy, stank. The characters were as cardboard..."
It really is remarkable to me how often I see people referring to reading her in their youth, and then later describing her characters with that very word, "cardboard".

It’s almost as if they were all uniformly qualified in literary critique at such an age.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, Let’s just say that besides Rand, my reading list back then included (thanks to my English teachers) Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Joyce, and Lawrence. And that’s not including the "100 greatest books" my mother made me plow through at an exceptionally young age, in the name of education. The contrast was, let us say, inevitable. Tolkien, too, and his characters can be wooden enough. Rand’s characters are like Bunyan’s in Pilgrim’s Progress: essentially stereotypes moved around according to plot needs: they serve the plot. Good writers make the plot serve the characters. And, to make things worse, Rand made her plot subservient to her philosophy. Tolstoy and Dostoyevski could indulge in some longwinded philosophizing in their novels (but nothing as long winded as Galt’s speech, not even the Grand Inquisitor story) but they let their philosophy inform their stories, not form them. Rand placed double binding chains on her characters; there was no chance for them to actually come alive.

And even Rand must have realized this. In a novel that had real living breathing characters living out the experiences that made up Rand’s plotline, there would be no need for Galt’s speech—or at least, there would need to be only one page devoted to it. She could have trusted for the characters themselves to make all the points she needed.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
I just read Atlas Shrugged for the first time a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it. I guess because I’m already familiar with the beneficial consequences of rational self-interest, the philosophy presented by the characters didn’t seem radical or shocking to me at all. I thought the most interesting parts of the story were the conflicts caused by Dagny’s various romantic relationships. It was dissappointing that Dagny ended up with Galt. Reardon was much more likeable and admirable. I don’t see how this book could possibly be translated into mainstream movie. It pretty much directly contradicts all of the insipid, "we are the world" themes that make up Hollywood’s bread an butter.
 
Written By: Fyro
URL: http://
"And, to make things worse, Rand made her plot subservient to her philosophy. Tolstoy and Dostoyevski could indulge in some longwinded philosophizing in their novels (but nothing as long winded as Galt’s speech, not even the Grand Inquisitor story) but they let their philosophy inform their stories, not form them. Rand placed double binding chains on her characters; there was no chance for them to actually come alive."
What... as if the characters of a novel are supposed to be some sort of humunculi to be winded from one breath of an author and then set upon their own to crash around at random? Is that what qualifies a novel, to you? If so, then I wonder how you might come to terms with something like Solzhenitsyn’s "Red Wheel" series, or even "Dr. Zhivago", which I found a lot more stilted in character development and plot, but which is often regarded as a twentieth century great. (And it is a great book, but since we’re taking up these questions, then I’m going to draw necessary comparisons.)

Look: the whole point of "Atlas" was its philosophical integration. That’s why she wrote it: it was intended as her comprehensive statement of her philosophy. That book is a great deal of why her non-fiction corpus is as disjoint as it is. It was her magnum opus, and there is a lot of that involved with the aftermath. It’s just about amazing that the conservative reaction to it didn’t drive her to suicide. She never saw that coming, and lived a right functional depression for years afterward.

The characters of "Atlas" and "The Fountainhead" are classical archetypes. These books do not exist in order to entertain, nor do their characters. They are superb distillations of a world-view incomparable in twentieth century literature for its precision and focus presented in the written word.

Reprise:
"Rand made her plot subservient to her philosophy."
That’s exactly right. You are indicting her for something that she did explicitly on purpose, and the very thing that dis-satisfies you about it is everything else written in the twentieth century.

Verily: I think you really do not understand what’s going on with these books.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, come on. Parts of the story were downright campy. Sonic death rays? Holographic cloaking devices? Perpetual energy engines? At points in the story I expected Robot to come out of the closet barking "Danger Will Robinson."

There’s no other word to describe Galt’s character but "cardboard". In fact, he could have been Robot.

Okay... it was a superb distillation of her philosophy and that made it important and unique, but it also made it bad storytelling. The two are not mutually exclusive.
 
Written By: Fyro
URL: http://
There’s no other word to describe Galt’s character but "cardboard". In fact, he could have been Robot.
It’s amazing that preceptions of the same text can be so wildly different.

I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged in 20 years or so, but the last time I read it, I read it very slowly, I already knew how it ended, so this time I wanted to really immerse myself in the story, and my recollection of John Galt’s character is passion. Perhaps it was the third person development of the character more than the character dialogue itself, but I could feel the passion behind the stolid veneer. There was no raving, but a calm directness of absolute certitude.


Perception is what it is, I’m not saying you’re wrong, it was what it was to you, but it’s interesting.
bad storytelling
I disagree.

It was good storytelling, just unabridged.

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Mr. Beck, your point only reinforces the contention made; the book is about advancing a philosophy, not succeeding as a novel in the conventional sense. I note, however, that Ulysses is considered by many literary critics to be the greatest novel ever written, but hardly anyone (including the critics) actually reads it. I have read it, and it’s a fine book, better than anything any Englishman (or woman) ever wrote, I just wish the damn critics would stop talking about it so everyone could start enjoying it. So, that Atlas Shrugged isn’t a success on a literary level in that fashion isn’t a strike against it, really. Consider every libertarian classic that the ’in’ crowd loves to hate. Then consider that the books go on to become classics in spite of their worthless opinions.
 
Written By: Brian N.
URL: http://
"Mr. Beck, your point only reinforces the contention made; the book is about advancing a philosophy, not succeeding as a novel in the conventional sense."
"Only"? {sigh} {laff} I swear to Christ: I do not understand this. Yes. Yes. Yes, Brian; a thousand times, yes. Did you see the part about "These books do not exist in order to entertain"?
"I note, however, that Ulysses is considered by many literary critics to be the greatest novel ever written,..."
Oh, for god’s sake. "Ulysses". And "literary critics," no less.

Even if Ayn Rand had never existed, Joyce would nonetheless be some of the worst drivel ever foisted on the so-called authority of literary critics.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy Beck says

Even if Ayn Rand had never existed, Joyce would nonetheless be some of the worst drivel ever foisted on the so-called authority of literary critics.

Not at all. Read Dubliners and specifically "The Dead".

As for Ulysses, I havn’t gotten around to that yet, but Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess say it’s good so that’s that. (VN and AB disagree on Finnegan’s Wake though.)
 
Written By: John Sabotta
URL: www.superbad.com
Did you see the part about "These books do not exist in order to entertain"?

Billy, that’s the point, and that’s the problem with Atlas Shrugged. I understand what’s going on with her books. It’s a philosophy treatise masquerading as a novel. Novels are supposed to entertain, and instruction is a fringe benefit. Characters in novels are meant to impress the reader as living people, independent of the author’s design and will: which is why so many novels end up being rewritten into totally different works by the time the authors were ready to publish them. War and Peace was meant to be simply a prologue to a novel about the Decembrists—but it took on a life of its own, and Tolstoy found at the end he didn’t need the Decembrists. It’s also a good example of how to successfully merge philosophy and fiction—and notice that the most extended piece of philosophizing is about two pages long (during the episode of Pierre as POW).
as if the characters of a novel are supposed to be some sort of humunculi to be winded from one breath of an author and then set upon their own to crash around at random
There are in fact plenty of good novels in which that happens: the characters take on a life of their own, and the author finds himself redoing his plot because he discovers as he writes that a certain character will act/react in a way he had not foreseen when he made his original plans for the book.

You are correct in what you said much earlier upthread: Rand wrote Russian novels. Problem is, she wrote bad Russian novels.

Which is why I think her non fiction is preferable to her fiction—not only merely because it presents her philosophy properly, but because she was a virtouso of rhetoric.

As for Joyce—yes, Finnegan’s Wake is hard work to read and in the end not really worth the effort, but Molly Bloom saying yes is worth the whole of John Galt’s speech. And as for worst drivel ever foisted on the so-called authority of literary critics—I’d put most of modern fiction under that category.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
"Novels are supposed to entertain, and instruction is a fringe benefit. Characters in novels are meant to impress the reader as living people, independent of the author’s design and will..."
Says who, exactly?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers — her arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact. But as a fiction writer she is inspirational, mixing a kind of confidence building pep talk with interesting stories and characters. The people who fall into the cultish type get so taken by the inspiration in the story that they become blind to the flaws in her philosophy. A few times over the years I’ve had to guide people away from being caught up in that way of thinking (it felt like I was de-programming at the time). But she is worth reading. I agree with a lot of her ideas. But some people treat her like the hard core Marxists treat Marx, and anyone who has a rigid ideological world view is almost certainly wrong in fundamental ways.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers — her arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact.
Given your unbroken string of weak arguments which no thinking person here takes seriously, it’s obvious why you’re trying so unsuccessfully to discredit her.

She champions the individual. That’s enough for pretenders like you to fear and hate her, intently.
A few times over the years I’ve had to guide people away from being caught up in that way of thinking (it felt like I was de-programming at the time).
That would be re-programming. Human beings are naturally inquisitive and self-interested. It takes years of assaulting their reason by religious fools, government teachers, and political propagandists to drive out rational self-interest. You’re just part of that machinery.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Elliot, you seem best at argumentum ad hominem. Calling an argument weak is easy, showing it to be weak is something I haven’t seen you do.

I champion the individual. I agree with a lot of what she says, and I certainly don’t hate her. Now your insults are predictable and meaningless. Your only argument concerns "reprogramming." I think it is possible to help people reach a state where they make their own choices and they have the tools to question everything, including priests, parents, teachers, and political propagandists. That is my approach to teaching, indeed, my approach to life. I also think that insults of the kind you are generating usually come from a position of insecurity, especially if they aren’t backed up by substance.

A lot of what Rand believes and writes I agree with. It’s when she tries to turn it into a philosophy that it falls short. And it seems that most Rand followers (the culty types) end up falling into personal attacks or accusing the other of being like jello — unable to be pinned down — when they are really under pressure. That’s essentially the way all cultists act when their beliefs are challenged.

That said, I think Rand is a great writer and I recommend her books — as long as you realize she’s primarily a fiction writer and her philosophy is not considered top notch (in terms of argumentation and logic) or anything you should base your entire life upon!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"I champion the individual."
How on earth can you just type at him and lie like that?

That’s astounding.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Note to Kishnevi

This business about characters having a life of their own is nonsense. As always, let us turn to V. Nabokov for illumination and wisdom on this point,from his 1967 interview with the PARIS REVIEW

E. M. Forster speaks of his major characters sometimes taking over and dictating the course of his novels. Has this ever been a problem for you, or are you in complete command?


"My knowledge of Mr. Forster’s works is limited to one novel which I dislike; and anyway it was not he who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills, although of course one sympathizes with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip to India or whereever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves."

http://gatchina3000.ru/literatura/nabokov_v_v/misc/interview_1967_2.htm

There are interesting parallels between the two former residents of St. Petersburg and, indeed, also between Ayn Rand and Nadezdha Mandelshtam.
 
Written By: John Sabotta
URL: www.superbad.com
Billy, if ever you developed the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly rather than hiding behind bravado and insults which function to allow you to avoid having to have your assumptions challenged, you might just realize that I champion individual rights, and individuals taking responsibility for their lives. But you’ve got a comfortable little ideology-zone you’re enjoying, and if it gives your life meaning, that’s cool. Each person chooses his or her own way, and if this is how you’ve decided to craft your life, that’s fine.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Billy, if ever you developed the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly ..."
Beat it, Scotti, or I’ll start linking to years of that very thing in Usenet.

Again.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, Jesus H. Christ already; my goddamn point is that you do not disagree on the fundamental point! We all see the same thing there; the book was meant to push an argument, it wasn’t a conventional novel, and two different perspectives have emerged from that; that it doesn’t conform to basic literary conventions is seen either as unimportant or otherwise acceptable in light of the actual goal, or a serious handicap. As for my own opinion, with the way I read anything, and fiction in particular, it doesn’t phase me one way or the other. That her characters are closer to the late cinema of Akira Kurosawa (Ran and Kagemusha) than the characters in a John Cassavetes picture isn’t something I judge except in the light of the overall purpose that the work is intended to serve. To that point, using very simple, iconic characters was a very good idea; no mire to get caught in while the ideas were being put across. And if I’m going to express an opinion on the quality of the writing therein, you have to give me one free point you can’t give Whittaker Chambers; I read it.

That literary critics liked Joyce at all rendered the poor bastard almost instantaneously suspect in my mind. I like his writing in spite of their judgment, not because of it. I really should reserve judgment more often, I guess. They love Tolstoy and so do I. That aside; Joyce was saving the English language from the rotten likes of Lawrence and Woolf, just as his poor ancestors saved good things from their rotten ancestors centuries earlier. Likewise, Mises, Rand, Rothbard, LeFevre (even in libertarian circles in his case, sadly) and pretty much every name in the libertarian lexicon of great thinkers is despised by the establishment. So I go forth cautiously and read what I like. ’Cause I know what I like, and I like what I know.

*You may want to look into his writing for his influence on Gandhi as well. If I’m not mistaken, they corresponded at one point. The extent of it is unknown to me.
 
Written By: Brian N.
URL: http://
"...that it doesn’t conform to basic literary conventions is seen either as unimportant or otherwise acceptable in light of the actual goal, or a serious handicap."
My original point, Brian, is in dispute of the latter "perspective". See my question above, still on the table.

To me, it is a strictly pro forma objection advanced by crippled minds.
"And if I’m going to express an opinion on the quality of the writing therein, you have to give me one free point you can’t give Whittaker Chambers; I read it."
Well, that’s easy.

I despised that bastard for a long, long time, until I read his own book, which is indisputably great.

I have to keep them widely separated on my shelves.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"lung, your apocalyptic rhetoric only disguises your inability to openly and rationally discuss competing points of AAAAGGGGHHH NOOO GET IT OFF ME SHRIEK!" - S. Erb
 
Written By: John Sabotta
URL: http://www.superbad.com
Billy, you tried that already. You want to see if you can find any quotes from really old debates (in an era where my thinking was more to the left than it is now, as a matter of fact) that somehow can discredit me. But you weren’t able to do it. Perhaps you should simply try actually discussing something in public where people can judge the arguments for themselves? Or is that too risky to you?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Billy, you tried that already. You want to see if you can find any quotes from really old debates (in an era where my thinking was more to the left than it is now, as a matter of fact) that somehow can discredit me. But you weren’t able to do it. Perhaps you should simply try actually discussing something in public where people can judge the arguments for themselves? Or is that too risky to you?"
There. Not one word snipped. Now, pay attention, you skinky little bastard: The point of the citations would be to indisputably refute — again — your outright lying insinuation that I lack "the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly" with you or anyone else. It has nothing to do with your ridiculous efforts to dodge your past as a lefty (which is all about trying to hide what you still are). That is nothing but your desperate shadow-boxing. Again, and try to pay attention: I can point all week long to me "discuss[ing] issues clearly and openly" with you, just exactly the way that you say I haven’t. And it’s the fact of utter crap like this, Erb, that makes the least effort at serious discussion with you an obscene joke. You cannot keep your mind on point, and that’s just the least of your problems, you goddamned lying retard. You cannot hold a principle, cannot analyze or integrate a concept (you don’t even know what a concept is, and I know this because I’ve asked you to define it and you went out like a light or copied and pasted something from the first dictionary you could find, having no earthly idea of your own), or even remember how many times your bloody nonsense has been jammed down your own throat by almost countless individuals all over the ’net, not the least of whom — by a long shot — was me.

So, stop trying to sell this horsesh*t to newbies or I swear to Christ I’ll drop the whole 100% discount on your market even if the goddamned Google archive goes entirely tits-up and I have to dig out my own archive CD’s and do it from scratch.

F*ck you, right out loud.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, again heavy on the insults. I wouldn’t be where I am in life if I were unable to analyze. So heck, go ahead and spend time trying to dig stuff out of CD archives and the like. But that would be proving my point: the easy way to show that I can’t handle a conversation is to engage in one and show precisely how I fail. If you really believed I was so stupid, you’d have the confidence to do that and take care of me in probably less than a day or two. The fact you don’t do it, and hide behind insults, accusations, and claims about the past, betrays you. I’m staring you in the eyes and saying "bring it on." Your response, "uh, OK, I’ll go look through archives, try to pick out things that you said that might embarrass you (and of course in these conversations everyone slips up and says stupid things now and then)..." Anything to avoid honest discussion.

Here’s some free advice: There are people who I have decided are so malevolent, dishonest and lacking in intellect that I refuse to debate them. But I don’t even insult them. I simply ignore them. Completely. If you’re going to insult, you set yourself for a ’put up or shut up’ challenge. If you’re unwilling to put up, then you should simply shut up. Ignore me. Make your points on your terms and ignore the impulse to try to insult someone whose ideas you dislike. If I address you, show your disdain by not acknowledging my existence. I can respect that. But when you do nothing but insult, it makes you look insecure and frustrated.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Mr. Sabotta: Forster is a great novelist, Nabakov merely a famous novelist, and you’ve touched on one of the reasons.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
Ayn Rands philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers her
arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact.
… you seem best at argumentum ad hominem. Calling an argument weak is
easy, showing it to be weak is something I havent seen you do. ... your insults are predictable and meaningless. ... I also think that insults of the kind you are generating
usually come from a position of insecurity, especially if they arent backed
up by substance.
Absent context, who would know you weren’t castigating yourself there?
A lot of what Rand believes and writes I agree with. Its when she tries to
turn it into a philosophy that it falls short.
How do you distinguish between ideas about right and wrong, with which you agree sometimes, and "real philosophy"? Didn’t you know that philosophy is about our lives just as much as it is about the lives of ancient Greeks?


Incidentally, if this is what Billy wrote:
The point of the citations would be to indisputably refute — again — your outright lying insinuation that I lack "the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly" with you or anyone else.
... exactly how do you get from that to this?
OK, I’ll go look through archives, try to pick out things that you said that might embarrass you ...
Are you doing your best to look like you have no attention span, or do you really think you can get away with this blatant strawman nonsense?
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
I read this in college (late 80’s) and again in 2003. It struck me much harder the second time. So hard, in fact, I sent a ($1.00 used) copy to John ("F’ng") Kerry and urged him to read it.

Didn’t even get a thank you.
 
Written By: Stephen
URL: http://hdbizblog.com/blog
How do you distinguish between ideas about right and wrong, with which you agree sometimes, and "real philosophy"? Didn’t you know that philosophy is about our lives just as much as it is about the lives of ancient Greeks?
Yes, philosophy is about our lives. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by your first question.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Would you kindly play "Bioshock."


Kalroy
 
Written By: Kalroy
URL: http://kalroy.blogspot.com
Oh, Eliot — if Billy digs out a post where we was discussing something back ten years ago, that doesn’t disprove my point. I believe he became afraid to actually discuss with me in large part because I was very effective in countering his points. By not being afraid to consider and take his ideas seriously, I have rethought many of my positions and hold a number of different positions than I did in the mid-nineties. That’s the danger (to some) and benefit (to others) of taking another person seriously not not treating ones’ own beliefs as the "right" perspective to be defended. I choose to try to learn from others and enjoy it if I find cause to refine or even change my belief on something, that means I’ve grown and learned, and that’s what life’s about. Some people seem to think they have it all figured out and they’re just defending what they already know is right — and for them, effective counter arguments are threatening.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"I believe he became afraid to actually discuss with me in large part because I was very effective in countering his points."
Right. Like this one, for single instance, about your abysmal ignorance of military matters.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Well, a post of you bringing up aspects of military history doesn’t say anything at all about what I know or don’t know. Is that the best you can do?

If I was playing a game I’d leave it at that — Billy tries to claim I don’t know things by he himself listing things he knows. But I won’t play games. I’ll admit straight up that I don’t know a lot of the details of military history, my focus has always been more on the politics. I learn a lot about military issues reading these debates, and its also shown me areas I need to read more about to learn more. Everyone has things they know more about and less about, that’s what makes real discussion so great, you learn things!

In fact, here is my response to Joe K. on the issue in that very thread:
I suspect that we have different bodies of knowledge at our
disposal,and I could quiz you on things you don’t know, and you
could quiz me on things I don’t know. If you think one has to
actually have been in the military to understand and analyze
military options, then you automatically disqualify folk like
Dick Cheney whose view has been colored by ’politics’ and is
mostly learned from the outside. In fact, you’d have to
disqualify many past Presidents, Secretaries of State and I
suspect even Secretaries of Defense. What about National
Security advisor Condoleezza Rice?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"...that’s what makes real discussion so great, you learn things!"
Erb, if you were capable of learning things, one of the things that you could learn is that you are net-renowned for never having learned a thing out here.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
... if Billy digs out a post where we was discussing something back ten years ago, that doesn’t disprove my point.
Sure, it does. So would citing a few comment threads on this blog. What you wrote was a blatant lie and anyone paying attention can see it, plain as day.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Elliot, all you seem to have is lies and personal attacks. You and Billy show that you prefer to simply attack people who disagree with your perspective rather than actually discuss the issues. I’m convinced it’s fear and emotionalism that drive you, and it holds you back from learning more and engaging different perspectives. In that sense, I feel sorry for you. Life is far more enjoyable and rewarding when one truly investigates and learns, and becomes stagnant if one sets on a particular world view and is unwilling to engage honestly different perspectives. Oh well, your choice.

If you want to discuss an issue relating to individualism or the like, we can — perhaps on a newsgroup so as not to take space on Q&O. Or you can simply be content to hurl some insults. But I learned long ago that when someone insults but is un, willing to actually discuss, they are demonstrating moral weakness.

As for Billy:

Erb, if you were capable of learning things, one of the things that you could learn is that you are net-renowned for never having learned a thing out here.
And you’re net-renowned for hiding behind bravado and insults, but I see right through you. And you know it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
they are demonstrating moral weakness
But remember, Erb doesn’t insult anyone.

Classic Erb Logic.

BTW Erb, why do you never wonder why everyone you come into contact with ends up calling you a weasel? Do you really think it’s because all of us are intellectually and morally inferior and cannot handle your superior vision and debating skills? I guess it’s just a coincidence that your newest victims end up making the same criticisms about you that previous people made?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://

BTW Erb, why do you never wonder why everyone you come into contact with ends up calling you a weasel?
Only a small subset of people whose political views are different than mine and who have similar behaviors towards others act that way. I find it a bit intriguing and sometimes amusing. I suspect many of you mean it; there is a certain kind of personality on the net that I don’t seem to communicate well with. It certainly doesn’t bother me, since my real world experiences are very positive. This is a little niche world that I enter because I find it interesting and a bit fun. And despite all the noise, I get acquainted with very different, even fringe perspectives and learn something. I’d like real discussions, but if people choose not to, so be it. It’s still interesting.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Elliot, all you seem to have is lies and personal attacks.
About what have I lied? Nothing. Here are your very own words:
Billy, if ever you developed the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly rather than hiding behind bravado and insults which function to allow you to avoid having to have your assumptions challenged, you might just realize that I champion individual rights, and individuals taking responsibility for their lives.


That, right there, in bold italics, is a lying insinuation. Anyone who has read Billy Beck knows damned well it’s an outright lie.

I’ll withhold comment on the rest until you, right here, right now, admit that you lied and apologize for letting your emotions get the best of you.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
About what have I lied?
By calling me a liar.

Hint: Saying "this house is red" is not the same as saying "this house has never been anything but red."

I also note that you haven’t said anything of substance, you and Billy simply engage in personal attacks. I think that’s to distract away from substance because you are afraid to truly discuss issues honestly and openly.

The only way for you to disprove that is to actually discuss. Anything else is bravado and obfuscation, and personal attacks and accusations only go to prove my point.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Only a small subset of people whose political views are different than mine and who have similar behaviors towards others act that way.
*Erb Logic Alert*

It has nothing to do with differing political views. Everyone initially engages in a discussion with you.

Then you begin changing people’s arguments (like now). That’s when you become a weasel and everyone recognizes it and calls you on it.
my real world experiences are very positive
Gosh, when you’re in a position of authority people treat you differently. Go figure.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
About what have I lied?
By calling me a liar.
Once more, with feeling:
Billy, if ever you developed the courage to actually discuss issues clearly and openly rather than hiding behind bravado and insults which function to allow you to avoid having to have your assumptions challenged, you might just realize that I champion individual rights, and individuals taking responsibility for their lives.
That is, demonstrably, a lie. That makes you a liar.

End of story.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
No, Elliot, that does not make me a liar. I do not believe Billy has that courage to discuss this openly with me. That is my honest and sincere belief. I may be wrong — and I’d love him to prove me wrong — but I’m convinced that when I effectively argued against him in the mid-nineties he got scared into a mix of bravado and personal attacks rather than persuing real, honest debate.

I hope you have the moral character to apologize for calling me a liar when clearly what you claim proves it certainly does not. Or will you run away?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"I do not believe Billy has that courage to discuss this openly with me."
Then you are simply insane.

There is no other alternative.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Every time you call names and evade discussion, you prove my point Billy. I see right through your little bravado act.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
That’s pretty damned funny, Erb, because you can’t see the manifest evidence to the contrary that everyone else can.

And you cannot make it go away with rote repetition.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
but I’m convinced that when I effectively argued against him in the mid-nineties he got scared into a mix of bravado and personal attacks rather than persuing real, honest debate.
I was an observer to those discussions. I do not think one can call them debates, nor do I think that Erb argued effectively in any sense of that word.

 
Written By: newshutz
URL: http://
I do not believe Billy has that courage to discuss this openly with me. That is my honest and sincere belief.
I don’t believe you.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
You’re wrong, Billy. You have joined in a small community of like relatively minded people who will side with you, but your haven’t shown the ability to construct a coherent argument, or deal with real criticisms of your base assumptions and premises. Your biases are so deeply internalized that perhaps you really believe that people who come at these issues from different standpoints epistemologically and ontologically are somehow stupid or dishonest. You think everything is oh-so-clear. And anyone who can effectively show that not to be the case MUST be met with scorn and derision, CANNOT be reasoned with, MUST not be engaged in a debate, because that would open up your world-view to real criticism and show it not to be the clear, true, objective reality that you’ve convinced yourself it is. In you, I see nothing more than what I see in any true believer in a faith or ideology. You may not realize it’s fear that drives you to avoid debate, you may even convince yourself that your bravado is warranted, and that educated people are really just idiots who somehow have faked their way to degrees and honors. You may believe the whole world is crazy and you see things clearly. And, I guess if that gives you something to hang on to in the second half of your life, that’s fine. At this point I doubt you’re going to change and reflect critically on your perspective. And the only one you hurt is yourself.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"You have joined in a small community of like relatively minded people who will side with you..."
Rubbish. I don’t know anyone in this discussion except Sabotta. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and you are simply not facing facts.

Retard.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
You don’t know what you’re talking about, and you are simply not facing facts.

Retard.
Which facts are those? Can you back them up? In any event, it appears we have similar views about each other’s capacities. The difference is I’m willing to engage in real discussion without insults and bravado, letting the discourse speak for itself, and perhaps be proven wrong. You are unwilling to do that. That says it all.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’m willing to engage in real discussion without insults and bravado, letting the discourse speak for itself, and perhaps be proven wrong. You are unwilling to do that.
You just told two lies, right there.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Elliot? It has been for some while now that I have thought that it might very well be time to consider that this person really does have serious mental defects.

I’m not kidding.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I seriously believe that Erb has some sort of personality disorder. When I first began discussions with him I found myself wanting to write (and I did write occasionally) "Are you on crack?" as he twisted and distorted the arguments around and around. How could he do that while everyone’s words were right there on the page? With more experience reading his writing style I have come to suspect that he has some mental issues.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Elliot, Billy is accused on another thread of being afraid to discuss, and he similarly evades. This is a pattern with him. He is not engaging in real discussion. He appears afraid to do so.

When he gets to the pathetic state of accusing people whom he calls names but refuses to engage in substance of having a ’mental disorder’ he reminds me of the Soviets. If someone doesn’t "think right" you dismiss the person as insane. Time to re-educate. Sorry, Billy, my life proves I think just fine. These threads prove you may have some serious issues. But hey, if you can get JWG and Elliot to agree, you can pretend that’s enough.

I see through you. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced you see yourself as you really are.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
If someone doesn’t "think right" you dismiss the person as insane.
*ERB LOGIC ALERT*

Thank you for providing even more evidence.

As I already pointed out, no one cares that you have a different viewpoint. Yet you keep ALTERING the argument to try to make it so.

THAT is what makes you a weasel.

The fact that you keep doing it is what proves your mental defect.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I seriously believe that Erb has some sort of personality disorder. When I first began discussions with him I found myself wanting to write (and I did write occasionally) "Are you on crack?" as he twisted and distorted the arguments around and around. How could he do that while everyone’s words were right there on the page? With more experience reading his writing style I have come to suspect that he has some mental issues.
He loves to whine about how no one will "debate" him, and claims that if his detractors would only have the ’courage’ to do so, well, all would come out in the wash.

But he has no idea what debate means. Never has. His version uses assertion, denial, equivocation, broad unsupportable claims, outright fabrication and mischaracterization as "facts". He combines that with personal attack and condescension when finally pushed into a corner (where he inevitably ends up) at which time he begins the sort of deflection you now see going on.

In a word he’s pathetic. But he’s also a "useful idiot" because he demonstrates, in spades, the basic dishonesty of many of the left’s arguments. What makes him authentic is he isn’t smart enough to figure that out and parrots them in the face of overwhelming evidence that he’s wrong.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Scott stands next to Billy, staring him coldly in the eyes.

"You’re an idiot," Billy says, "you’re stupid."

Scott cocks an eyebrow. "Really? In what way? Can you support your claim."

"You don’t know anything, you don’t know what you’re talking about," Billy mutters, "everyone sees that."

"I see," says Scott patiently. "Well, perhaps if we discuss whatever I said that bothers you, you can demonstrate where I’m wrong. I could be wrong, the only way to know is to discuss."

Billy steps back, "you’re insane" he says, "that’s the only explanation, you’re not only a stupid idiot who doesn’t know anything, but on top of that you’re insane, you have mental defects!" Billy is agitated and irate.

Scott calmly considers Billy’s accusations. "I see," he says, "well, I wish you well, and if you ever want to actually discuss something of substance, let me know. But if you just want to call names, that’s your choice."

Scott turns to walk away. Billy screams back "You’re crazy! Uh, this is not a disco! There are bad cops out there! Uh, ... Existence exists!" Scott looks back, smiles, shakes his head, and then continues on.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But he has no idea what debate means.
Actually, I still have a lot of debate trophies from high school. :-)

But McQ, if you read my posts and blog, you’ll see — anyone will see — that I take positions and am willing to engage politely and fairly. Numerous times when I’ve made an error I’ve admited it, and I’ve changed my position on major issues such as national health care. I’m clearly in this to learn and engage, not to ridicule or pontificate. And, to be blunt, I wouldn’t be where I am — getting an MA from Johns Hopkins, a PhD from one of the top ten schools in political science, teaching and earning honors — if I were as pathetic as you claim. I think you know that.

I think it’s my knowledge and ability to see the holes in your argument that causes you to hide behind insults while refusing to engage. After all, if I were really that pathetic, you wouldn’t feel a need to insult. I see the holes in your argument; in the past, I showed how your positions were often extremely weak, and you didn’t seem to take being contradicted and shown to be in error with much grace. That’s fine, it’s your loss if you refuse to be self-critical as well as other-critical. You and Billy seem afraid of really being confronted. You choose to stick with caricatures, simplistic visions of the opposition which you can ridicule and thus feel somehow smart and strong. Your blog posts tend to revel in ridiculing people you disagree with, you clearly enjoy insulting people like Murtha, Carter, Pelosi, bloggers on the left, and other people you can attack in order to feel superior; that shows a lot about your personality.

But when someone posts opinions and ideas, and a few others can’t respond expect by attack — often over the top attacks (’doesn’t know what debate means’ ’an idiot,’ ’insane’), then you’re actually demonstrating a real weakness on your part. You can avoid confronting it — this is your blog, you’re surrounded by people who like you and think like you — but that only hurts you.

And, if the above angers you, ,realize it’s far less severe than what you’ve said about me, and I am not angry and carry no grudge. At any point I’ll be happy to say "let’s stop junior high school playground taunts and really talk about substance." You’re the one who doesn’t want to do that.

Yikes, class starts in five minutes, gotta run!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Then why do you feel the need to change people’s arguments in your discussions? You can’t deny that you do it. It occurs constantly, even after your claim is put side-by-side with what someone actually wrote.

For some reason you don’t feel confident enough in your own abilities to deal with people’s actual arguments, so you change them into something completely different to make it easier for you to handle.

1) Either you do it on purpose and are knowingly using dishonest tactics, or
2) You don’t know that you are doing it until you are asked to provide a quote, which means you have a serious problem with your ability to relate to reality.

I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and going with #2. It’s not on purpose; it’s a personality disorder so you can’t help it.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
This is a pattern with him.
No, it isn’t.

The pattern is that you subvert rational discussion with others on here until they get fed up with you and stop bothering to be civil with you.

Seriously, do you think can bump the chess board every few moves, scrambling the pieces, and then claim that others are afraid to play you?

... he reminds me of the Soviets. If someone doesn’t "think right" you dismiss the person as insane.
The difference, obviously, is that the Soviets considered rational dissent to be "thinking wrong." Your denial of a multitude of plain facts is decidedly not rational.
... my life proves I think just fine.
Your life includes what you write here.

The last time I had a discussion with you (here), you were trying to convince me that it was reasonable to assume that that which science could not yet explain must be explained by spiritualism—ie magic. You tried to argue that faith was, in some cases, rational. You have problems differentiating logical, fact-based arguments from wish-thinking, so it’s no surprise to see you muddle it up again, here.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Inspector,

""Holy hell!

All I need to know about Scott Erb I saw in his first two posts.

And I quote:

"Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers — her arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact."

Followed almost immediately by:

"Elliot, you seem best at argumentum ad hominem. Calling an argument weak is easy, showing it to be weak is something I haven’t seen you do.""

Yep, classic Erbling.
 
Written By: E. Brown
URL: http://

The pattern is that you subvert rational discussion with others on here until they get fed up with you and stop bothering to be civil with you.
That is a lie. Show once where I "subverted rational discussion." I have a number of good conversations with people I disagree with; the ones who call names tend to be that way with others with whom they disagree politically. Billy routinely treats others the same way he treats me, and these are people who are intelligent and simply have a different perspective.

And you lie directly here:
The last time I had a discussion with you (here), you were trying to convince me that it was reasonable to assume that that which science could not yet explain must be explained by spiritualism—ie magic.
Your lie is subtle and telling. I argue that it is reasonable to have a spiritual perspective on issues that are outside science (non-falsifable hypotheses, issues like ethics and values). You claim that I’m arguing that it is reasonable that what is not yet explained by science MUST be explained by spiritualism. You then equate spiritual belief with a belief in magic.

The word MUST is a pernicious lie, I do not think it reasonable for someone to say spiritualism MUST be an explanation. Saying "everything not yet explained by science" adds to that lie, since I clearly never claimed that everything science cannot yet explained has a potential spiritual explanation. The notion of magic is an attempt to alter the definition of spiritual.

In short, your one sentence is a lie of the most vile sort, one where you post a link so people think you have back up, but when its read you are putting an argument in my mouth that I never made and then attack me for it.

You are arguing not by logic, you’re arguing emotion, and subverting rational discussion by altering my argument. You are guilty of exactly what you, without evidence, accuse me of doing.

Finally, to add to your illogic, you claim:

You tried to argue that faith was, in some cases, rational. You have problems differentiating logical, fact-based arguments from wish-thinking, so it’s no surprise to see you muddle it up again, here.
Of course faith is in some cases rational, I don’t think anyone would deny that. It depends on the kind of faith and what one has faith in. We don’t double check every aspect of what we do as we go through the day! But the second half seems to suggest that anyone who thinks that in the realm of unexplained and inexplicable phenomena a non-materialist explanation may be possible is unable to differentiate logical fact-based arguments from wish thinking. That does not follow, nor do you explain how it would follow.

In short, your argument is messy, weak, based on unsubstantiated assertions and built by on a lie. Thank you so much for providing such powerful evidence proving my case!


 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Pssst - inspector, labeling an argument is not ad hominem. Ad hominems are directed a person, not the argument a person makes.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And thus we see Erb condemn himself again:


"Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers — her arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact."



"Elliot, you seem best at argumentum ad hominem. Calling an argument weak is easy, showing it to be weak is something I haven’t seen you do.""

"Pssst - inspector, labeling an argument is not ad hominem. Ad hominems are directed a person, not the argument a person makes."
 
Written By: E. Brown
URL: http://
"Inspector" —
"I don’t think Billy was correct to say Atlas was intended as philosophy first and literature second. Give me a moment and I’ll find the quote where Ayn Rand pretty much said that if it ended up as that, then she had failed at what she was trying to do.

She was a novelist, first and foremost, and the book was literature, first and foremost. That it was literature about a philosophical theme just tends to confuse some folks."
I’d like to see you make that case. You know why. (Inlookers: we’ve been going over this in e-mail.) I still haven’t found anything dispositive in a whole shelf devoted to Rand, although I haven’t been all the way through it.

Question: are you one of those to whom a cite from Barbara Branden would prejudice the matter?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Yes, Ernest, I’m having a conversation with Elliot, and if I haven’t seen him present a good argument, I will tell him.

Now, in case you don’t understand what argumentum ad hominem is, it is arguing against a particular person’s argument by attacking the person. Being critical of a person’s style, or noting that in general one hasn’t seen a strong argument from someone is not argumentum ad hominem because it is not attempting to prove or disprove a point under contention.

Moreover, you claim I ’condemn’ myself? How do you get to that? I don’t even condemn Elliot. You are trying to play a gotcha game, but doing so poorly. Are you trying to distract attention away from Elliot’s huge blunder in his post?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And thus we see Erb condemn himself again:
Yep.

He once again ignored his own words and tried to shift the argument.

I really liked the chess board metaphor from Elliot. It’s perfect. I hope it’s OK if I use it sometime in a future thread.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Your denial of a multitude of plain facts is decidedly not rational.
I caught you in a pretty bold and deceptive lie in your post Elliot, and almost missed this one. What "multitude of plain facts" do I deny. Be specific. What do you mean by a plain fact? You’re throwing out lots of accusations, and a couple people want to chime in with insults. Yet you have nothing — your one attempt to give evidence found you lying about it.

Yeah, in this kind of forum you can just insult and attack, you don’t have to account for your behavior. But deep down inside, you know what you’re doing is morally wrong. You have to. Do you have the conscience to answer to yourself?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I understand it, you don’t, Erb, since you brought it in as a smokescreen to avoid dealing with Eliot’s point.

Inspector’s objection was to your obvious hypocrisy...


"Calling an argument weak is easy, showing it to be weak is something I haven’t seen you do.""


...in demanding for yourself what you refused to extend to Rand...

"Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not taken too seriously by philosophers — her arguments are very weak, and her assumptions masquerade as certain fact."
 
Written By: Ernest Brown
URL: http://
Erb complains that someone misrepresents his point by writing:
Your lie is subtle and telling
Therefore, we now have PROOF that when Erb misrepresents an argument it should be considered a LIE.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I understand it, you don’t, Erb, since you brought it in as a smokescreen to avoid dealing with Eliot’s point.
What point is that?

And yeah, I haven’t demonstrated that Rand’s philosophy is weak, that’s a fair point. If Elliot had simply said "I have no reason to accept what you say about Rand because you cite unnamed ’philosophers’ and do not give any reason why you find her philosophy weak,’ and I’ve responded, ’true, I am not giving you support for my assertion so you have no reason to accept it on its face, it’s just my own opinion, without substantiation.’

At that point, I’d have had the option to make an argument, or simply admit that’s its just an opinion I haven’t provided support for.

But that’s not the approach he took.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But there’s more to the point than that: Erb was in complete contempt of Eliot for using the tactic of calling an argument "weak," apparently blind to the choking irony that he had done the exact same flipping thing in his previous post and Eliot was only using the term in obvious mockery of what he had said
Well, at least I did bald face lie like he did. But somehow, you don’t notice that. Look, I’m totally unimpressed with Rand’s philosophy, and happy that it is on the fringe — that’s where I think it deserves to be. I stated my opinion. Elliot came back with an insult and mischaracterization of my position. And the worst you can do is say I called an argument ’weak’? Well, golly, you seem to have selective indignation. Or is it called powerful doublethink?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Geez, inspector, you’re not making much sense. Perhaps you haven’t read the thread carefully (if you have, then I think you’re being dishonest here). Elliot claimed this:

Given your unbroken string of weak arguments which no thinking person here takes seriously, it’s obvious why you’re trying so unsuccessfully to discredit her.

She champions the individual. That’s enough for pretenders like you to fear and hate her, intently.
I can give Elliot a pass on this one because he was just wrong. I actually like Rand’s fiction, and as I noted, find much of it inspirational and agree with a lot of it. I just find (my opinion, though one based on reading her and critics of her) her philosophical system to be inherently flawed. I believe, though, in individualism and certainly do not hate her.

Elliot made false claims and assumptions, which I later corrected. But I won’t accuse him of lying there, since he might have believed what he wrote.

Here is his lie:
The last time I had a discussion with you (here), you were trying to convince me that it was reasonable to assume that that which science could not yet explain must be explained by spiritualism—ie magic. You tried to argue that faith was, in some cases, rational. You have problems differentiating logical, fact-based arguments from wish-thinking, so it’s no surprise to see you muddle it up again, here.

Note again his personal attacks and insults, none of them substantiated. You give him a pass on that, but seem to think my use of "weak" at some point is horrible. But beyond that, I did not make the claim he said I did, and his link to an earlier debate proves it. He gave a cite to support an accusation which is demonstrably false. Since apparently you missed it, here was my response:

Your lie is subtle and telling. I argue that it is reasonable to have a spiritual perspective on issues that are outside science (non-falsifable hypotheses, issues like ethics and values). You claim that I’m arguing that it is reasonable that what is not yet explained by science MUST be explained by spiritualism. You then equate spiritual belief with a belief in magic.

The word MUST is a pernicious lie, I do not think it reasonable for someone to say spiritualism MUST be an explanation. Saying "everything not yet explained by science" adds to that lie, since I clearly never claimed that everything science cannot yet explained has a potential spiritual explanation. The notion of magic is an attempt to alter the definition of spiritual.

In short, your one sentence is a lie of the most vile sort, one where you post a link so people think you have back up, but when its read you are putting an argument in my mouth that I never made and then attack me for it.

You are arguing not by logic, you’re arguing emotion, and subverting rational discussion by altering my argument. You are guilty of exactly what you, without evidence, accuse me of doing.

Finally, to add to your illogic, you claim:


You tried to argue that faith was, in some cases, rational. You have problems differentiating logical, fact-based arguments from wish-thinking, so it’s no surprise to see you muddle it up again, here.

Of course faith is in some cases rational, I don’t think anyone would deny that. It depends on the kind of faith and what one has faith in. We don’t double check every aspect of what we do as we go through the day! But the second half seems to suggest that anyone who thinks that in the realm of unexplained and inexplicable phenomena a non-materialist explanation may be possible is unable to differentiate logical fact-based arguments from wish thinking. That does not follow, nor do you explain how it would follow.

In short, your argument is messy, weak, based on unsubstantiated assertions and built by on a lie. Thank you so much for providing such powerful evidence proving my case!
What we said is indefensible. If he had come right back, apologized like a person of integrity and said he had remembered it differently, I’d have accepted that. We all make errors of memory, and in this kind of medium it’s easy to type too fast without really thinking things through. In fact, if he apologizes in that way even now I’ll accept it, and believe him. I carry no grudges (indeed, one life secret is never to carry personal grudges, they just weight you down). So the ball’s in his court.

And your silly game about the word ’weak’ is so confused and stretched I don’t think you’ll even try to explain what the heck you mean there.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Big transcriptions, Inspector. Thank you.

We’re having a lot of the same problem. I’ve been trying to locate a passage where she referred to Galt’s speech, in any case, as a prototypical (my word, but it serves) statement of her philosophy. (Aside: I’ve never read all of it. I’ve always skipped it. That’s mostly because I’d read all the non-fiction, first, and it’s redundant to me.) I understand that this probably would not qualify to most observers as validation of what I’ve been saying, but I also recall that that wasn’t all there was to it.

You know what? The point you’re after is easily discernible in these passages, in her own words. However — and this is only the simplest way to put this — unless we can dig up something quite a bit more clear-cut, I’m about ready to call this a draw, so far.

I read all that in the context of dispute here and I think of nothing quite so much as Sciabrra’s points about her almost uncanny ability to sew up a dichotomy. I’m not seeing anything that really overturns my contention. Consider:
"The whole point of Atlas was its philosophical integration. That’s why she wrote it: it was intended as her comprehensive statement of her philosophy."
I think you might take those two lines as the nut of this dispute, and a good deal of what you’ve posted runs against it. And, unless I could dig up something really authoritative, I can’t blame anyone for bridling at that "intended" bit. But look: isn’t that really what she’s talking about?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Inspector, you are willfully dishonest. You ignored my post and instead simply stated falsehoods to try to cover up your inability to respond. You lack moral integrity. That’s OK...I just hope you are not in a position of any responsibility. Because you show here WHAT you are. Thank you. Luckily I am in position to innoculate people to the kind of illogical and anti-rational poison you spread.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb: Well, at least I did bald face lie....
{chuckle}

What a wonderfully apt Freudian slip.
Erb: But somehow, you don’t notice that.
Trust me, lots of people notice when you lie.




Going back, let me first address this:

Erb: You then equate spiritual belief with a belief in magic.
A belief in deities, spiritual powers, or psychic abilities, is effectively no different than a belief in magic. Claiming (centuries later) that someone raised Lazarus from the dead, telling frantic parents their missing child is dead based upon a psychic feeling, claiming the ability to meditate until one levitates, urgently sending out chain letters to avoid bad luck, or pulling a bunny out of hat are only variations on a theme. I intentionally equate all of them, because they are all irrational evasions of reality, "wish-thinking" as Christopher Hitchens puts it in God is Not Great.

I wanted to address that first, to allow me a bit of shorthand to categorize all of these irrational forms of thought, though it was in the midst of this part of your comment:

Erb: And you lie directly here:
Elliot: The last time I had a discussion with you (here), you were trying to convince me that it was reasonable to assume that that which science could not yet explain must be explained by spiritualism—ie magic.
... You claim that I’m arguing that it is reasonable that what is not yet explained by science MUST be explained by spiritualism. ...

The word MUST is a pernicious lie, I do not think it reasonable for someone to say spiritualism MUST be an explanation.
I can understand you reading it that way, because that’s a more obvious interpretation than what I intended when I wrote that. I fired off that comment without reviewing my choice of words enough. What I meant was that when someone, such as Newton or the Dali Lami, assumes that a particular something for which there is no scientific explanation must be explained by magic, you defend that as reasonable, even as rational (if it "maximizes utility", as you put it).

The terrible habit of insisting on magical explanations (theism, spiritualism, psychics, chain letters) when something is a mystery is anything but reasonable or rational. If I saw a performer seemingly produce a bunny from thin air, I wouldn’t assume he had magic powers. I would assume that he played a trick on me which I couldn’t figure out.

Similarly, when I consider mysteries of life and the universe, I don’t assume that there must be a god or spirits, simply because I don’t know the answer to something. And I’ll be the first to admit that I catch myself engaging in wish-thinking now and then, like not saying anything to "jinx" a ballgame (which is dumb, but harmless, since I’m not a big gambler), or occasionally having a residual fear of divine punishment for dismissing the notion of a personal god (which is also dumb—the fear, that is—and not so harmless).

It’s one thing to argue that most people have an inclination to engage in wish-thinking, but quite another to argue that this can ever be rational, as you asserted in the particular cases of Newton and Galileo. I rather like Laplace’s response to Napoleon asking him why he never mentioned a creator: Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là. (I did not need to make such an assumption.) That was rational.

Erb: Saying "everything not yet explained by science" adds to that lie
Where did you see me write those words you just put in quotations? I didn’t. You shouldn’t do that, particularly not when you follow it up by claiming it’s a lie. I could put anything in quotations, attribute it to you, then claim you lied, but that’s dishonest.
Erb: since I clearly never claimed that everything science cannot yet explained has a potential spiritual explanation.
Nor did I claim you did. If my ham-handed choice of words seemed to suggest that, I apologize. I know what I meant to say.
The notion of magic is an attempt to alter the definition of spiritual.
No, it isn’t. See above.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
I just hope you are not in a position of any responsibility.
Inspector, when he pulls out this line you know you’ve hit a nerve. If you keep going he’s sure to bring up a quote from the band Rush.
You lack moral integrity
Erb, this is an insult. It’s not the first time you’ve done it in this thread. For someone who claims to be above that sort of thing, you sure seem to do it a lot.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
A belief in deities, spiritual powers, or psychic abilities, is effectively no different than a belief in magic.
I disagree.

Here’s the distinction. Magic would be some kind of supernatural interference in or suspension of natural causal mechanisms. By spiritual I’m talking about natural non-material causal mechanisms outside our ability to measure. The analogy I use to illustrate how this is possible is that of the ant. An ant has no clue about the greater world around him, and knows only his surroundings and existence. Politics, ethnic strife, weather patterns, etc., are outside his comprehension, yet they exist. We may well be like ants, with a limited perspective on the nature of reality, trying to make sense of it from our ability to perceive only a small band of electro-magnetic radiation. The material world of our experience may not only not be all that is, it may not be fundamentally causal (and scientifically there are interesting developments in modern physics which could support this possibility).

I can understand you reading it that way, because that’s a more obvious interpretation than what I intended when I wrote that. I fired off that comment without reviewing my choice of words enough. What I meant was that when someone, such as Newton or the Dali Lami, assumes that a particular something for which there is no scientific explanation must be explained by magic, you defend that as reasonable, even as rational (if it "maximizes utility", as you put it).
OK, I withdraw a charge that you lied, and move beyond any personal stuff. Being careless with words is a common mistake, I make it a lot on the internet.

Again, replace magic with "natural phenomena outside our ability to perceive," meaning outside our experience of a small band of electro-magnetic energy in a particular location in the time-space continuum.

Is it rational to believe that there are mechanisms outside our ability to measure and comprehend?

I’d say yes in two ways. First, if such a belief works in the world (ones experience) then it seems rational to continue that belief. Let’s say one believes that ’like attracts like’ and if you go through life you will draw to yourself people and experiences that fit who and what you are. If that seems to work, and the belief gives you a sense of calm and confidence even as things seem crazy, then it works. That does not mean it’s rational to claim it must be true, nor can you claim any knowledge that it is true. It simply a belief you hold because it works for you and there is no disadvantage in holding it. Perhaps it simply gives you confidence and serenity when you might otherwise be going crazy, and doesn’t really reflect reality. You can’t know, but if the belief works, why not hold it?

Second, I’d say it is almost irrational to state as a fact that all that makes the world operate are material mechanisms we can measure and understand. Just as the ant would be absolutely false in making such an assumption, we may be part of something far larger than ourselves, seeing only a tiny slice of reality. Therefore, it is rational to assume something else might be out there, affecting our reality, or that even our essence/existence is far deeper and greater than the material vessels we navigate in the world of experience.

But to end on a point I hope upon which we agree: it strikes me as irrational for anyone to insist that their spiritual religious beliefs are correct and that others should hold them. Dogmatism seems to me irrational. There are many interpretations of what the world means, what is ethical, how the world operates, and how we should behave. For anyone to insist their perspective is the one truth is an irrational denial of the diverse possibilities inherent in this existence given our limits on knowledge. Thus I would define most religious systems, ideologies, and spiritual dogmas as irrational once they move behind "this is what I believe" to "this is what everyone else should believe."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
By spiritual I’m talking about natural non-material causal mechanisms outside our ability to measure.
If you’re talking about "natural" things, then you don’t describe them as "spiritual." The root of the word, "spirit", should be a big clue that spiritualism properly refers to supernatural phenomena—it does in every context I’ve ever seen.
The analogy I use to illustrate how this is possible is that of the ant. An ant has no clue about the greater world around him, and knows only his surroundings and existence.
The world around the ant is a material world, whether the ant has the capacity to perceive it.

The whole concept of dark matter, as I understand it, is outside humans’ perceptual experiences. But, physicists don’t conclude that dark matter involves demonic creatures, like a sea monster on the edge of a map. They assume that it is natural and material. And, most importantly, they base their speculation on actual observation and logical application of mathematics.
The material world of our experience may not only not be all that is,
Sure. There may be a parallel universe filled with giant Captain Crunches with great invisible ropes they tie between planets and other large objects in our universe, which we perceive as gravity. I can come up with a million wild speculations, if I want to.

But until I can demonstrate that any ideas of mine are more than silly imaginary notions, you have no reason to give them any more credence than magic.
Again, replace magic with "natural phenomena outside our ability to perceive," ....
No, I will do no such thing. By "magic" I refer to anything supernatural, which excludes any "natural phenomena," by definition. You’re trying to rewrite my argument, substituting meanings which are profoundly different than what I wrote. By weaseling the argument, to replace what I wrote with the opposite, you get to this:
Is it rational to believe that there are mechanisms outside our ability to measure and comprehend?
That has nothing to do with what I wrote. I was discussing faith in the supernatural, and criticizing you for arguing that this could be rational.
... if such a belief works in the world (ones experience) then it seems rational to continue that belief. ... That does not mean it’s rational to claim it must be true, nor can you claim any knowledge that it is true.
The discussion was about "faith", which is a belief that something is actually true. Divinely revealed truth, the basis for most major religions, holds that what is written in holy books or spoken by holy men (eg - fatwas or ex cathedra declarations) amounts to knowledge that those statements are true. Since Newton supposedly was devout, he would have had faith in the divinely revealed truth of the New Testament. You claimed that was (or could be) rational.
... I’d say it is almost irrational to state as a fact that all that makes the world operate are material mechanisms we can measure and understand.
What does "almost irrational" mean?

Your statement is loaded with the assumption that materialism requires our ability to measure and understand all material mechanisms.

Maybe there are supernatural phenomena. But I’ve never seen any reason to believe that. Nor have I seen any reason to consider a belief in the Giant Captain Crunch gravitational model to be any more or less rational than any other belief in any other supernatural models.
There are many interpretations of what the world means, what is ethical, how the world operates, and how we should behave. For anyone to insist their perspective is the one truth is an irrational denial of the diverse possibilities inherent in this existence given our limits on knowledge. Thus I would define most religious systems, ideologies, and spiritual dogmas as irrational once they move behind "this is what I believe" to "this is what everyone else should believe."
Now you’re mixing reality with magic, trying to draw conclusions about rationally derived ideas (eg - the rights of individuals) based upon how silly it is to believe in fairy tales written in holy books. Your attempt at sleight of hand is utterly pathetic.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
As others have so aptly put it before, your agenda in insisting that others have doubts about their beliefs is made clear when you are unwilling to doubt that principle. You are certain that certainty is bad (most certainly when it involves certainty about ideas you oppose, like the individual right of property).

You have on other comment sections, argued against the rights of individuals to decide how they use their property, by arranging mutual, consensual exchanges of values, absent outside interference of others. You argued that due to an imbalance of power, the lesser party wasn’t actually free (you tossed about the frightening prospect of "sweat shops", for example). Well, were you certain that lesser parties don’t have freedom? Or, were you justifying interference by outside parties (with force) based upon something you admit may very well be wrong? This isn’t a moot debate over beers in a bar, it has real life consequences every day. So, if you’re not certain, that means you acknowledge that you could be advocating the trampling of rights, the wrongful harm to innocents, if you are, indeed, wrong.

While there are plenty of complex situations in which the answers are not cut and dry, your advocacy of the use of force to implement ideas you admit may be wrong, like the imbalance of power, means that reason has been abandoned by the wayside.
Richard Nikoley (here): There are different kinds of busybodys. There’s the kind that speaks with the "authority of the law," presuming that most people will be just stupid enough to take seriously such "reasons," and they’d be right. People always fail to draw the proper distinction between force and reason. Force is the circumvention of reason. Contre-reason is the raison d’être of force. Think about that. Long and hard. Where force exists, it is expressly because what is being forced is ultimately unjustifiable by reason. Oh, plenty of people try; but reasonable people differ. Did you get that: reasonable people differ. Therefore, they must be forced. They must be forced because they’re reasonable (and they differ, i.e., they are individuals).

The law is a convenient device when you have no good reason for demanding something of someone; it’s none of your business; you’re too lazy to argue good reasons that may exist; and/or you actually prefer playing the brute and escaping the consequences that ought to befall you when you stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.

You submit to force because it’s force, and you submit to reason, because...because it’s reasonable. Get it? Do you grasp the great gulf that exists between force and reason?
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
The world around the ant is a material world, whether the ant has the capacity to perceive it.
What we have are perceptions or senses of reality which we interpret as a material world. If you dream, you can often believe that the world in which you find yourself is a material world, but you wake up only to find it an illusion. Yet it seemed real while dreaming. You can even know you’re dreaming and do things to manipulate that environment.

For whatever reason, our psychological and physical nature is one that experiences reality as a material pheneomenon. But that doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t contain aspects which are not material, or does that tell us what this ’material’ is (see below on subatomic particles).
The whole concept of dark matter, as I understand it, is outside humans’ perceptual experiences. But, physicists don’t conclude that dark matter involves demonic creatures, like a sea monster on the edge of a map. They assume that it is natural and material. And, most importantly, they base their speculation on actual observation and logical application of mathematics.
Rather than dealing with the possibility of non-materialist mechanisms, you talk about sea monsters or demonic creatures. You’re the only one talking about such things, not me.
Sure. There may be a parallel universe filled with giant Captain Crunches with great invisible ropes they tie between planets and other large objects in our universe, which we perceive as gravity. I can come up with a million wild speculations, if I want to.

But until I can demonstrate that any ideas of mine are more than silly imaginary notions, you have no reason to give them any more credence than magic.
You use the wrong pronoun there. And again, nobody is talking about giant Captain Crunches. You are using a dishonest rhetoric technique of recasting an argument into something it is not by altering definitions and using false and belittling rhetoric. That tactic is usually used when someone is defending a weak argument.

Anyway, moving away from your fantasies about Captain Crunch and back to my actual position: I may have subjective reasons for various beliefs about non-material or spiritual aspects of reality — my intuition, the nature of my experience, what works in my life. I am the judge as to whether or not this gives me reason to hold such beliefs. You are not qualified to judge whether or not my subjective reasons are rational or valid, you do not know my subjective experience. However, if you say that nothing in your experience gives you any reason to accept any kind of non-material or spiritual belief, then I am not qualified to tell you that you should believe differently. I don’t know your subjective experience.

In short, you have no standing to tell me what I should believe, I have no standing to tell you what you should believe. We can state ideas, argue and debate, but ultimately just because you hold something true doesn’t mean I should.

Again, replace magic with "natural phenomena outside our ability to perceive," ....

No, I will do no such thing. By "magic" I refer to anything supernatural, which excludes any "natural phenomena," by definition. You’re trying to rewrite my argument, substituting meanings which are profoundly different than what I wrote. By weaseling the argument, to replace what I wrote with the opposite, you get to this:

Then you are not arguing against my position.
I am arguing that the spiritual, if it exists, is natural. If you want to argue against some non-material demons or gods, then go find someone who is positing that sort of thing. I am not. And if you argue against a position that is not mine, then you cannot counter my position.

Is it rational to believe that there are mechanisms outside our ability to measure and comprehend?

That has nothing to do with what I wrote. I was discussing faith in the supernatural, and criticizing you for arguing that this could be rational.
Then what you wrote has nothing to do with what I wrote. I consider the spiritual to be natural. It’s simply a part of nature we do not directly perceive. In fact, if you get right down to it, what is matter? Physicists talk about subatomic particles, but what they really are referring to are fields. The actual location of a particle is indeterminate unless observed (and this leads to some whacky things like non-locality). The existence of mass is likely due to the presence of a larger Higgs field. All this gets very strange, and leads to the sense that the material world, as we experience it, is much different in nature than our experience of it.

Finally:

There are many interpretations of what the world means, what is ethical, how the world operates, and how we should behave. For anyone to insist their perspective is the one truth is an irrational denial of the diverse possibilities inherent in this existence given our limits on knowledge. Thus I would define most religious systems, ideologies, and spiritual dogmas as irrational once they move behind "this is what I believe" to "this is what everyone else should believe."

Now you’re mixing reality with magic, trying to draw conclusions about rationally derived ideas (eg - the rights of individuals) based upon how silly it is to believe in fairy tales written in holy books. Your attempt at sleight of hand is utterly pathetic.
You are the one attempting slight of hand by turning my sentence into something else, and then labeling your revision of it. First, you offer no reason to disagree with my claim:

Dogmatism seems to me irrational. There are many interpretations of what the world means, what is ethical, how the world operates, and how we should behave. For anyone to insist their perspective is the one truth is an irrational denial of the diverse possibilities inherent in this existence given our limits on knowledge. Thus I would define most religious systems, ideologies, and spiritual dogmas as irrational once they move behind "this is what I believe" to "this is what everyone else should believe.


If you disagree with that, you should provide some rationale for disagreement. Otherwise, the point stands unrefuted.

Also, you falsely label my claims as being about "fairy tales" when I’m clearly rejecting dogmatic religious faith as well. In short, you have a concept of spiritualism that is different than mine, and unless you argue against how I define and present it, you are not arguing against me, your arguments cannot refute mine.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As others have so aptly put it before, your agenda in insisting that others have doubts about their beliefs is made clear when you are unwilling to doubt that principle.
That’s also false. I do doubt that and every principle. You cannot be a skeptic without being skeptical of skepticism. Certainty may be possible. But: a) even if it is possible, that does not mean that being certain of something makes it correct; and b) if I do not think it possible, I can argue strongly my belief without stating that I am certain of my belief. In fact it would be self-contradictory if I said that you had to accept that which I believe, or that my belief cannot be wrong.

On all political matters I maintain uncertainty, which is why I tend to strongly distrust governmental power or any use of force to shape outcomes — and force can come from any powerful actor, not just governments. In fact, I think it would be arrogant for anyone to think they’ve found the "right answer." I think we are not at all hindered from acting on our beliefs just because of uncertainty. Uncertainty seems to me to be the nature of this existence. Acknowledging it grants us the humility to be self-critical as well as other-critical, and to keep learning and growing. Uncertainty is, a believe, a fundamental and omnipresent aspect of our nature and our existence in this world, and that’s not a bad thing.

But, of course, I could be wrong.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I think we are not at all hindered from acting on our beliefs just because of uncertainty.
Elliot, I want to illustrate this point because it is fundamental. My experience teaches me reality works a particular way. If I do X, then Y will happen. Uncertainty about the nature of this reality or the necessity of a result following the action may be omnipresent, but if I, say, come to a cliff or am standing on a ledge, I can very easily act on a strong belief that I am in danger of falling, despite logical uncertainty. There may not be a cliff. I may be dreaming. Maybe some other phenomenon could protect me that I don’t see. But my beliefs based on practical experience and reflection about life will determine how I make my choices, and I am not slowed a wit by the existence of uncertainty.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
He’s dead stuck in a corner with me
Hardly, you’ve not made an argument. You made an non-argument of something like if I say Rand’s argument is weak without substantiating it then I made a weak argument. That’s meaningless.
I won’t be fooled by your tricks
I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re throwing around a lot of words, but not making any point. It appears you have nothing, but don’t want to admit it.

So please, succinctly and in a logical, coherent manner state precisely what your argument is that I’m supposedly not answering. If you give another post full of lots of meandering accusations with no real coherence, don’t be surprised if I roll my eyes and decide you’re not worth the time. If you make a cogent, clear point, with logic and a straight forward argument, then I’ll be happy to answer you.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
So, I said Elliot’s argument was weak when I had made a weak argument myself? And, supposedly, that shows contempt for Elliiot? Well, if that was the case, I apologize for showing any contempt and will endeavor not to make the same error again.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It’s about you.


Argumentum ad hominem is a logical fallacy. If it’s about me, it’s irrelevant. Moreover, you seem to want to take one statement (and your attack still seems murky to me) and turn it into a broad personal attack with volumes of writing, all while hiding behind your alias. That says more about you than it says about me. You seem very upset that I think Ayn Rand’s philosophy is misguided. Sorry that this bothers you. I’m not bothered if you choose to believe it. To each his own. If you want to discuss issues, we can (probably better in a newsgroup than here). If you want to hurl ad hominems, hey, go ahead — whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
He just keeps digging in deeper, folks.
You’re blustering a lot, but you have nothing but an ad hominem. Face it, you’re trying to play a ’gotcha game’ and you’ve failed. All you have is impotent rhetoric. You seem very upset that I criticized a fringe figure in philosophy. Too bad for you.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
BTW, to clarify my critique of Rand — her philosophy as a system is pretty weak, in my opinion. Her fiction and general ideas are inspirational. Irony of ironies, those who treat her as a cult like figure and adhere to a dogmatic philosophy based on her ideas are, in essence, giving up their individuality in order to go on autopilot to follow a creed. Rand is great as a literary figure, I think it’s a mistake to turn her ideas into some kind of secular religion (ideology = secular religion).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You have your faith, Inspector, and you act like a true believer, especially in the way you respond to supposed "blasphemers..."

There but for the sake of I go I. You are on autopilot, not living as a true individual. I pity you. You can have the last word, unless you want to have a discussion of substance somewhere, feel free to lash out at me with all the ridicule and insults you want. I’ll look at it with a deep sense of pity for how you have limited yourself. Goodbye.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But what isn’t a mistake is her already-existing, non-religious, secular philosophy, Objectivism.
No, it’s just a joke that unforunately has captured a few poor cultists. As a teacher I’ve encountered three or four students who had fallen into this trap, and worked with each one to show them how they were wrong. One (whose personality type apparently needed something to have faith in) simply ended up going the other way and becoming a socialist, but the others as far as I know remained clear headed after being rescued.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
bit of vicious dishonesty
The only one vicious and dishonest here is you. I simply changed my mind.

You seem very frustrated and angry that someone doesn’t go along with your faith. That’s fine. You’re a true believer, and clearly very emotional. I hope you enjoy life despite that — you’re harmless so this time I doubt I’ll change my mind and respond again (unless you move out of the world of emotional ad hominems and actually post something of substance — even then, this blog is probably not the right forum for discussion). But, assuming you don’t want to discuss anything real, have the last insult — I doubt I’ll change my mind again about posting — and live well and enjoy the beauty of this life to the fullest!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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