Quick Roundup 397

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Admin Note: ISP Problems

Due to connectivity problems at home, posting and comment moderation may be erratic over the next couple of days.

Obama's Popularity

The Software Nerd takes a look at Barack Obama's popularity.

Today, I think the best objective measure of his more enduring (non-honeymoon) popularity is to look at people who actually voted for him. He got 53% of the popular vote. This is a good number, but nowhere near a "vast" majority.
Going back only as far as JFK, Obama is tied for fourth -- with George H. W. Bush!

WWJD?

I was thinking about focusing on a news story out of Texas I heard about yesterday, but I see that Doug Reich at The Rational Capitalist has already beaten me to the punch.

A Dallas-area basketball coach has been fired, basically for doing his job, after his team defeated another school 100-0. What explains this bizarre turn of events? The ethical ideals of his employer, of course.
I agree with the administration that this win was not "Christlike". In fact, I would argue the whole notion of competition is not Christlike. The purpose of religion is not to be great at something "earthly" - it is to live a life of asceticism in glorious sacrifice to the almighty God. Would Jesus have played basketball with his disciples much less run up the score on them? The fundamental problem is not that the coach ran up the score - it is the attempt by the school to act out a contradiction. The contradiction lies in reconciling the Christian moral code of altruism with an activity that requires selfishness. [bold added]
I would note further the complete lack of accountability awarded to the losing side. There was no "mercy rule" -- so, apparently, its coach was not expected to consider forfeiting or pulling his team off the court (if the experience was really so traumatic). And then, as if passivity, or blind obedience to authority, or the refusal to recognize a hopeless situation were virtues, the losing team, Dallas Academy, "has been recognized for refusing to give up during the lopsided contest."

How inspirational! Maybe it's not too late for me to pursue a career in the NBA!

And into Adulthood...

The above situation may seem bizarre to many, given the clear goal of team sports, but the underlying lesson -- that an incorrect morality can cause someone to ignore practical considerations -- applies even more so to the game of life.

Brian Phillips notes a huge pile of evidence damning land use regulation for making housing less affordable, and observes:
With so much economic evidence that land use regulations are destructive, why does a single city still have any regulations regarding land use?

The answer cannot be found in economics. It can be found in morality.

The premise underlying all land use regulations is that the individual must place the "public good" or the "general welfare" before his own interests. This premise holds that the individual is subservient to the community, and that the individual must sacrifice his values to others. This premise holds that service to others--altruism--is the standard of morality. According to altruism, land use regulations are moral. [bold added]
The list of the ways that altruism hinders one from fulfilling the basic need for shelter is overwhelming, and it reminds me of the following quote from Leonard Peikoff's memoir, "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand."
If you went up to an ordinary individual, itemized every object and person he cared for, then said to him seriously: "I intend to smash them all and leave you groveling in the muck," he would become indignant, even outraged. What set Ayn Rand apart from mankind is the fact that she heard the whole itemization and the intention to smash everything in the simple statement that "reality is unreal." Most people in our age of pragmatism and skepticism shrug off broad generalizations about reality as mere talk -- i.e., as floating abstractions -- and react only to relatively narrow utterances. Ayn Rand was the reverse. She reacted much more intensely to philosophical ideas than to narrow concretes. The more abstract an evil formulation, the more territory it covered, and the greater, therefore, the destructive potential she saw in it. (from The Voice of Reason, pp. 337-338)
The ethics of altruism does not cover as much territory as, say, a mystical epistemology, but it is quite destructive enough!

-- CAV

18 comments:

john said...

re: evil at high abstraction...

For an example of someone fighting to prove that reality is not real right at the root, I invite all Objectivists to view a major Kantian who is involved in the vandalism of the Ayn Rand article on Wikipedia. For the past 10 days he has been posting intensely against Objectivist metaphysics.

Link

I had been attacking back, but have now been banned from the site on the charge of "irrational dogmatism"!

Harry Binswanger has now turned up and is, in my opinion, being entirely too accommodating.

Over at the wonderful "Incinerating Presuppositionalism " blog we are discussing the situation from our easy chairs. My closure letter to the Kantian is there.

Link

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

Gus Van Horn said...

John,

I'm a bit swamped to delve into the give-and-take you point to, so I feel obligated to note that my decision to post your comment about HB in no way constitutes an endorsement.

That said, thank you for pointing out the blogs that you did.

Gus

john said...

No problem Gus, look forward to your comments, if you decide to make any, later.

I admire Harry enormously, and his contribution to Objectivism.

It just happens that I have been closely observing this blog and it is no friendly arena. They are only granting him pseudo-respect in order to (in their thinking) set him up for the kill.

I won't say anything more for now, except that I always believe in getting to the crux asap: challenging mystics to justify their a priori beliefs as anything but imagination, not letting them draw us into the "Kantian Apparatus."

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the clarification, John.

Harold said...

"A Dallas-area basketball coach has been fired, basically for doing his job, after his team defeated another school 100-0. What explains this bizarre turn of events? The ethical ideals of his employer, of course."

This has got to be one of the most disgusting things I've read recently, and that's saying a lot. The man refused to apologize and subsequently or prior to that was fired because his team won. They won. They didn't hurt anyone or steal anyone's property. They won. Self interest and personal excellence are fundamentally at odds with a religious worldview. A is A. This is just an unusually clear example of that. Yet they say that they're a source of morality. Well, I guess even a bad morality is still a morality. Unbelievable.

"Most people in our age of pragmatism and skepticism shrug off broad generalizations about reality as mere talk -- i.e., as floating abstractions -- and react only to relatively narrow utterances. Ayn Rand was the reverse. She reacted much more intensely to philosophical ideas than to narrow concretes. The more abstract an evil formulation, the more territory it covered, and the greater, therefore, the destructive potential she saw in it. (from The Voice of Reason, pp. 337-338)"

That's very true. I was involved in a discussion about capitalism & communism and it was very clear from the outset that the guy I was talking to had no idea about what he claimed to support. While not being an endorser of "pure" (lol) communism, he felt he had it's good points. Well, it was not difficult to expose the problems in his thinking. But more importantly, I found that this guy would not, or most likely could not (yet), think at a fundamental level. He could make some comments about oil and starving millions and "sustainability", but could not accept the implications of the mixed-premise system he advocated. I provided him with numerous links and hopefully he'll get it someday.

Gus Van Horn said...

"He could make some comments about oil and starving millions and "sustainability", but could not accept the implications of the mixed-premise system he advocated."

He couldn't accept the implications or THAT they were implications? I have a feeling that -- like many Obamatons out there -- it is the latter.

Mike N said...

I think the school's decision was a very immoral one. It punishes good for being the good.

It was reported in the news that the losing team had some handicapped players. My question is, why isn't that team in a handicapped league? Whose idea was it to pit them against a non-handicapped team? I looks to me like an intentional set up where the school officials expected the abler team to sacrifice itself to the less able. When they didn't so sacrifice, they were condemned as evil. I'm solidly behind the coach. I think the school did him a favor in that he'll be better off elsewhere.

Gus Van Horn said...

"[W]hy isn't that team in a handicapped league? "

For the same reason that the other team was expected not to beat them 100-0: Because we can't let the facts of reality get in the way of "self-esteem".

Burgess Laughlin said...

In the text referred to by the first link in the first comment in this thread, Dr. Binswanger is not being too accomodating. He is being an ideal spokesman for that platform. He is presenting a reasoned case in a deliberate, calm manner. By following etiquette, he provides no grounds for any reader to not focus on what he says.

The purpose of a debate--in the context of philosophical, intellectual, or political activism--is not to pound one's opponent into the ground. Instead the purpose should typically be to appeal to the largely silent--and silently large--audience to the debate.

Dr. Binswanger is presenting his case and then moving on. He has established his points for the (probably) few active minds in the audience. He has shown that Ayn Rand is not "just a novelist," but a serious philosopher who has serious defenders today.

Gus Van Horn said...

Burgess,

Thank you for weighing in. I'd noticed you had commented on one of the blogs in question as well.

Harold,

I appreciate your comment, which I partially reproduce below.

However, given the context in which you linked directly to Nathaniel Branden's website within the omitted part of your comment, I will not post it.

Although he was once an Objectivist and has said some useful things in the past, Nathaniel Branden betrayed Ayn Rand and Objectivism long ago. I will not aid him by posting anything here that might be misconstrued as endorsing the fiction that his current views are compatible with Objectivism, as superficially similar in some respects they might remain.

Gus

== Start Comment =====

"He couldn't accept the implications or THAT they were implications?"

The first one, but really both are true.

...

== End Comment =====

Harold said...

Oh hey, sorry about that. I don't really know about what happened, but I'll keep that in mind.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. Regarding Branden's relationship with Objectivism, I recommend the following pair of essays by Diana Hsieh, who was once a professional associate of his: "Nathaniel Branden Versus Objectivism" and "Nathaniel Branden's Campaign Against Objective Moral Judgment".

john said...

I retract my support for Binswanger.

When I made my posts above, I had not read Harry Binswanger's comments on another page of the Kantians blog. I gave him the benefit of the doubt his "As an actual Objectivist philosopher, l..." was not directed at me. Thus I posted my clarification here that I am fully a fan of Binswanger.

I now retract that. Going back to the other page,here, I see not only is Binswanger far, far more accommodating than I thought, he actually takes sides with the rabid Theist Kantians who have had no reluctance to slur, insult and spit on Objectivism in the other posts, saying "BTW, my impression is that John Donohue is not equipped to be representing the Objectivist side of the discussion."

I won't say more, this is not my blog, except to note this is not about my personal feelings, it is about the dissemination of Objectivism. I hope Mr. Van Horm will print this withdrawal of support for Binswanger.

I also reject without comment the assessment of Burgess Laughlin above.

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

Gus Van Horn said...

"I hope Mr. Van Horm will print this withdrawal of support for Binswanger."

I have not read the lengthy exchanges you mention, Mr. Donohue, nor have I the time or desire to do so.

That said, based on my own knowledge of both Harry Binswanger and Burgess Laughlin, I regard both men as able proponents of Objectivism and intellectual allies.

john said...

"That said, based on my own knowledge of both Harry Binswanger and Burgess Laughlin, I regard both men as able proponents of Objectivism and intellectual allies."

I normally do and would also. Not this one time, however.

Thank you for printing my retraction.

John Donohue

Gus Van Horn said...

"I normally do and would also. Not this one time, however."

This makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Withdrawal of moral sanction is not something one takes lightly or does on a case-by-case basis, and mere disagreement with whether one sees you as an able proponent of Objectivism in one conversation is not a basis for making such a pronouncement.

john said...

Unfortunately you misunderstood me.

I guess my part in the miscommunication is the phrase "I retract my support for Binswanger." in the above post. While the context of the remainder of that post makes it abundantly clear I actually meant "I retract my support for Binswanger's behavior in this incident," I should have included that intention in the first line. It could be taken that I am retracting overall support of Binswanger, period.

Moreover, in my next post, I was making it clear by the phrase "this one time" that -- as stated twice now -- while I have been fully behind Mr. Binswanger for decades, I do not support his position on how to argue with Kantians as demonstrated on this one blog, nor his behavior towards a fellow Objectivist in this instance.

My retraction is of support on this one incident. I do not retract my decades-long support for him.

Now that having been clarified, hopefully, I have been refraining from extending the discussion, which I am actually writing about elsewhere, since it is off-topic for this thread and it is on your blog: should Objectivists contend with hostile, slurring, hateful Kantians (or other creatures) by politely arguing in their language (even though not conceding their points) or should we go right to the root of their major error, in this case the massive presumption of the validity of a priori truths and orthodox epistemological schisms?

Burgess Laughlin has already cast his vote in a clear way, above. I disagree. I don't think we should debate, I think we should "pound one's opponent into the ground." (droll hyperbolic humor intended.)

John Donohue

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for the clarification.