Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, February 16, 2018

Notable Commentary

"... I am ... deeply disturbed by any prospect of psychiatric diagnoses being used (or misused) for political purposes." -- Paul Hsieh, in "You Might Not Like the President, but That Doesn't Mean He's Crazy " at Forbes.

"If [Susan Stamper] Brown sincerely wants conditions in Haiti to improve she should speak against their government." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: Haiti, America Should Have More Respect for Rights" at The Aiken Standard.

"In the quest to protect misguided notions of freedom, ... it is freedom that will suffer." -- Tara Smith, in "The Free Speech Vernacular: Conceptual Confusions in the Way We Speak About Speech" at The Texas Review of Law and Politics, vol. 22, no.1, pp. 57-92. (2018, PDF, blogged here).

"The advocates of the restrictions frame every new way to speak about politics as a 'loophole' that must be sealed up." -- Talbot Manvel, in "We Don't Need More Campaign Finance Laws" at The Capitol Gazette.

"If one values romantic love, the idea of multiple sexual partners is repugnant, as it is and should be, for the civilized man -- the man who values himself as an individual." -- Charlotte Cushman, in "Monogamy is Moral, Promiscuity is Not" at The American Thinker.

From the Blogs

The latest post at You Can and Did Build It, about the beginning of the philosophical discussion of free will, closes with an interesting observation:

Image via Wikipedia,
Aristotle's view that man's character is shaped by the man himself, and therefore he is responsible for it (and its consequences), is the most important part of his discussion. If men learned nothing from Aristotle's view of free will but this conclusion, much of the current debate (certainly in ethics, politics and law) would end. No one who accepted Aristotle's view would argue that a criminal should be excused because he "felt," in the moment, that he wanted to slaughter a whole family, or because he was too drunk to know what he was doing when he tee-boned another car. Maybe all that is true -- maybe he didn't, in the moment, know what he was doing. But according to reason, and to Aristotle, that is beside the point. The criminal brought himself to this moment by his own choices, and could have done otherwise. That is why we do, and should continue to, "punish a man for his very ignorance, if he is ... responsible for the ignorance." [bold added]
Incidentally, you may be interested to learn of The Internet Classics Archive, which has brought "the wisdom of the classics to the Internet since 1994." I had either forgotten about or did not know of this resource until I followed a link from that post to the Nichomachean Ethics.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Gus, I love your blog and your thoughts on many things, but that Cushman article on monogamy is nothing but rationalizations and non-sequiturs. I am an Objectivist, but I have yet to see a valid argument basing monogamy or sexual exclusivity in Objectivist philosophy.

Cushman taints her article with a smuggled ethical evaluation from the beginning with her choice of the word "promiscuity." A word which denotes indiscriminate sexual activity. Obviously, indiscriminate behavior is immoral in objective ethics, but she utterly fails to argue why one is necessarily indiscriminate if one chooses multiple sexual partners. She then claims a confusing and non-sequitur causal link between promiscuity and polyamory. The rest of the article discusses how love leads to sex, but here she claims indiscriminate sex leads to multiple loves. Which is it?

In the third paragraph, she states, “With multiple partners your time and attention is spread around with different people. Intimacy is lessened because it isn’t possible to maintain that depth of a bond with several people at the same time.” – Well then, I suppose I should have had only one child, instead of four, since my time and attention for each is lessened by the birth of the others. Why did I have children at all? Clearly it diminishes the time and attention I can devote to my wife. This is just one of the many weak arguments she tosses about.

She says it takes "time and effort to establish the close relationship required for sex." Required by whom and by what standard? Yes, Ayn Rand wrote on multiple occasions about sex as an ultimate celebration of values. I wholly agree, but let's not forget that (1) Rand herself was not sexually exclusive, and (2) there is a difference between Rand's well-reasoned philosophical discoveries and her side comments regarding her own preferences in art, music, and personal relationships.

Cushman says "An individual develops himself alone," but later in the same paragraph says, " takes another individual to reflect him and to make him feel visible." I don't see myself as "reflected" in any person I have loved or currently love. I value myself for the choices I've made to make myself. I values others for the choices they've made and who they are. It has nothing to do with "reflection." I think this idea of reflection smells of the "one true soul-mate" myth.

Cuhsman claims, "You can only experience a romantic sexual act with one person at a time." I see what she did there. She inserted the word "romantic" to differentiate it from the bare physicality of sex. But that doesn't change the fact that it just isn't true. Without going explicit in your comments section, it is possible for two people to provide a romantic sexual experience to a single person at the same time. While I agree one cannot provide an ultimately romantic sexual experience to multiple people simultaneously, that is not what she is claiming.

Her article is extremely weak, with no philosophical value. I'm wary of psychologizing, but the combination of weak arguments and strong wording leads me to think much of the voracity for monogamy among some Objectivists is just a rationalization. A rationalization designed to protect them from the fear of loss: the idea that if their loved ones sought sexual pleasure from others, they may not come back, and that is not an Objectivist or individualist way of thinking.

I am happy for the time that anyone I love is willing to spend with me walking through life. I don't demand it of them, and I don't demand exclusivity for exclusivity's sake or to protect my ego.

I almost forgot to mention the ridiculousness of claiming poly-sexuality must be squashed in order to "save Western Civilization." Yes, let's Make Monogamy Great Again! Call me when someone like Tara Smith decides to write on the Objectivist basis for monogamy.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thank you for your kinds words and your thoughts.

First of all, I will reiterate my longstanding policy about links: I do not necessarily agree with everything I link to, even by fellow travelers. Regarding the Cushman piece, I have read her work in the past and often agreed with it. This piece, about a general area I have not thought about to a great degree, I regard as mixed, although it raises some interesting points. (I have not read the book she mentions, nor do I have any immediate plans to do so.) So, when I included this piece here, it was because I thought this was an interesting piece that my readership might find thought-provoking. Evidently, I was correct, as far as that goes.

That said, I see now that I might have done a better job with the teaser quote: it is ambiguous. Does she mean multiple sexual partners over a lifetime or all at once? The former, within reasonable limits, strikes me as being much more likely normal and healthy; the latter more than likely not. (For what it's worth, I am not sure I would agree with you that, "[I]t is possible for two people to provide a romantic sexual experience to a single person at the same time." Also: what about their experiences? What kind of exchange of values would that entail, given that the recipient "cannot provide an ultimately romantic sexual experience to multiple people simultaneously"?) I will leave it at that since, as I have noted, I have not spent a great deal of time thinking about the subject of sex and romantic love, and do not regard focusing one's activism on that issue as fundamental to effecting the kind of cultural change that we need to save Western civilization. (I don't think anyone is actually saying that, but it is something I might bring up occasionally if the topic were a major interest of mine.) Rational selfishness, if more widely accepted, would motivate and enable people to understand themselves more, think more carefully about what they want in a partner, and have a healthier emotional makeup to begin with than is generally the case now. Having said that, I am glad that there are people thinking about that issue in more depth than I.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the quick response. While I've thought long and hard about Objectivism and many aspects of its application, I've never put pencil to paper on a project. I've read and enjoyed Ron Pisaturo's articles on the philosophical basis of Mathematics. I just ordered the book Cushman cited, and may just undertake a review/survey of Rand's writings on the topic.


Gus Van Horn said...


I'll add one more thought, which occurred to me upon re-reading my earlier response.

Regarding "saving Western civilization," that is not an end in itself. One's life and happiness are the proper end. Aiding the cause of saving and improving Western civilization can be a part of that end (whether it is by improving one's circumstances in the short term, or the cause is of great personal interest, or it is something done out of gratitude or good will in the long term), but placing that goal ahead of improving one's own life is a grave mistake. It is hard enough to get one's only life right without assuming an extra burden of that magnitude.

"How is studying Objectivism helping me improve my life?" Should be the main question. Other things will fall into line, so long as you make that your main focus. Beyond that, I'll spare you any other unsolicited advice.

May your pursuits be happy and profitable!