June 29, 2007
But you may have noticed how rarely I actually quote Ayn Rand. I do have almost all of her books on my bookshelf and I am familiar with how to use an index. But I rarely quote her for a reason.
I think people quote her for a reason.
There's nothing wrong with providing a quotation or reference. I mean, Ayn Rand did say things better, like, all the time.
I think lots of people parrot what she said, though. They say it, but they don't really understand it.
However, Paul's comment did have a more serious point, namely that Dr. Peikoff's fine example has become something of an Objectivist bromide, overused (and misused) by other Objectivists, such that the principle might seem to rest largely on that single example. The same thing happens with Ayn Rand's various furniture concepts (e.g. coffee table, desk, table, bookcase, furniture) as examples of a low-level hierarchy of concepts. Those examples have been so overused that sometimes it seems like the Objectivist theory of concepts is good for nothing but forming concepts of furniture! (One side-effect is ignorance of the difficulties of forming some low-level concepts, e.g. those those of species of living organisms.)
As I tell my students, if you can't construct your own examples, then you really don't understand the abstract principle in question. Using Ayn Rand's own examples might be legitimate in some contexts, e.g. when introducing Rand's own views to those unfamiliar with her work. However, the re-use of standard Objectivist examples often seems to stem from haste (i.e. inadequate time to think of a new example), laziness (i.e. unwillingness to exert the effort to develop a new example), or timidity (i.e. fear of using a misbegotten, half-baked, or problematic example).
Speaking for myself alone, I'd rather say it my own way and get it wrong than quote her and still get it wrong. And, really, I'd rather get it right with my own, too.
June 27, 2007
Most people don't think that you can tell the future by them, but many people seem to think that when you're born affects your character and personality. The whole notion is insane. But people still love it.
Of course, when I object and point out all the reasons why it's idiotic, they just smile like they think they're my grandmother and say, "You're such a virgo."
Married or single, it's fairly simple to spot the Virgo in public. For one thing, he won't be making much noise. He's not exactly garrulous, and he'll stand out as a loner. See that gentle, attractive man over there in the comer, with the thesaurus under his arm? The one with the tick-tock mind, clicking away the hours neatly and methodically noticing the smallest details? If you look closely, you can almost see him measuring each minute for what it's worth. He's a Virgo. See that quiet girl with the beautiful, soft eyes, waiting for the bus? Notice her spick-and-span white gloves, her cool manner. She'll have the exact coins for the fare ready in her hand. She wouldn't dream of asking the bus driver to change a five dollar bill. She's a Virgo.
The description of a Virgo is so wide-ranging that it would almost be impossible for any person to not be a Virgo. I'm sure the same is true of other signs.
It probably wouldn't bother me so much if people just regarded it as an odd, antiquated system of ideas, but they don't. People think it's real.
June 21, 2007
Ayn Rand Institute Offers Educational Program for the Study of Rand's Philosophy
Irvine, California (June 14, 2007)--Fifty years after the publication of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, interest in Ayn Rand has never been greater. For those who want to study her ideas in depth, the Ayn Rand Institute's educational program, the Objectivist Academic Center, offers systematic instruction in Rand's philosophy, Objectivism.
More than one hundred students currently participate in the OAC's graduate and undergraduate programs, which for years have been offered as a supplement to a standard college education. The undergraduate program helps students develop a basic understanding of philosophy, of Objectivism as a philosophical system, and of the art of clear, objective thinking and writing. The focus of the graduate program is on mastering Objectivism, with special attention paid to proper philosophical methodology.
Students from all over the world attend classes online and via teleconference. Local students also have the option of attending classes at ARI's headquarters in Irvine, California. Select courses are open to auditors.
As a benefit to students who would like to receive college credit for their OAC coursework, ARI has partnered with Chapman University to offer two OAC courses, "Introduction to Philosophy" and "Introduction to Writing," through Chapman's distance learning program. Students are able to take the classes for credit, transfer the credits to their own university, and apply them toward their college degree.
Most full-time students receive tuition waivers, as well as other generous scholarships to help defray the costs of participating in the OAC. Additionally, ARI offers a wide array of support for OAC students, including grants, scholarships, and mentoring.
The application deadline for the 2007-08 academic year is July 30.
For more information on this program, please visit the Objectivist Academic Center website at http://www.objectivistacademiccenter.org/ or contact:
Vice President, Academic Programs
Ayn Rand Institute
I'd love to attend the OAC, but I just don't see it happening. The expense of it aside, it's also a bit more of a time commitment than I'm willing to make right now.
I suppose that one might constantly continue to make such excuses, but a commitment one isn't committed to really isn't quite a commitment at all, is it?
Anyway, I've heard nothing but great things about the OAC, so if you're at all interested in the program, I am comfortable recommending it in spite of having never participated myself.
June 20, 2007
I don't understand this.
It's easier for me to express myself in writing than it is in speech because my writing isn't interrupted with pauses for me to think or say "um" or "like" or "you know."
I usually think that when people make this excuse that they don't really know what it is they think on a topic. It's OK to not know about something, but I don't like that some blame the medium for their inability to communicate what it is they think.
June 04, 2007
I was talking with my roommate and a friend of ours last night and they were arguing that one can't ever be certain of anything.
I provided an example for them saying, "I am certain the sun will rise tomorrow."
They argued that I can't possibly be certain of that because something might happen to stop that. When I asked them what sort of event they have in mind that might prevent our portion of the earth coming to face the sun today, they had no firm examples beyond some giant asteroid that I told them does not exist.
Trying to trick me, they asked if my position is that the sun will ALWAYS rise tomorrow and I said that I did not believe it would if only because our sun will die in several billion years or so and asteroids or comets might strike the earth at some distant time. But I proposed that they bet me some money about the sun rising tomorrow and they refused.
Certainty is a classification for knowledge that all available evidence supports.
When I defined this for them, they realized that they demand omniscience for certainty and therefore place certainty beyond the realm of human capacity. I asked them why they use the word at all, then, and they said that they don't.
The best thing I can say about this approach is that it is useless, but I wouldn't stop myself there. It's absurd to even have a word to describe knowledge that is inherently beyond the grasp of human beings or any other reality-based consciousness. (I just want to be clear that omniscience is not possible to ANY sort of consciousness that we may yet discover.)
Furthermore, they ridiculously argued that one could not be certain with regard to predicting one's own future values -- a topic about which one presumably has every possible amount of information. This came up because I pointed out that at no point in the future will I subscribe to the idea of the existence of God or any other magical things like that.
Again, I asked for a case that they could imagine where I might change my mind.
They proposed a situation where God appears before my eyes and I pointed out that although such a situation would require that I believe in whatever entity has suddenly appears, such a scenario is not only outside the realm of possibility but would require that God be strangely not-omnipresent for a bit while we have our discussion.
They proposed a near-death experience and I merely pointed out that simply because some people "come to Jesus" after those situations, not all of them do and I'm a sensible enough person to know better than to let some temporary neurological phenomenon convince me to change my entire view of the universe.
Again, they doubt the possibility of my certainty for no reason other than some ridiculous objection against certainty itself. Instead, they seem to prefer to live their lives assigning probabilities to knowledge. How they know what data they're lacking when all available data indicate that the set is complete is beyond me.
The only thing that really confuses me is why people make their lives so difficult.
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