Monday, October 04, 2010

Eli Shrugged

Evidently the plaint du jour out there in denial land is that there is a video showing kids being blown up for not believing in climate disruption (not recommended for winning hearts and kidneys). Eli will let Joe Romm, Tim Lambert and Michael Tobis handle the WTF. The cries of outrage though remind Eli of Lubos and the Lames favorite book, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, best described by John Scalzi,

it’s a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs. (This is, incidentally, where you can start your popcorn munching.) Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn — if you’re an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by “going Galt” has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. I’ll show you! the nerds imagine themselves crying. I’ll show you all! And then they disappear into a crevasse that Google Maps will not show because the Google people are our kind of people, and a year later they come out and everyone who was ever mean to them will have starved. Then these nerds can begin again, presumably with the help of robots, because any child in the post-Atlas Shrugged world who can’t figure out how to run a smelter within ten minutes of being pushed through the birth canal will be left out for the coyotes. Which if nothing else solves the problem of day care.
Remind you of anyone?? As Scalzi said, break out the popcorn for the inevitable mind losing that will fill the comments. Oh the 10:10 thing, Eli is with Throbgoblin


Timothy Chase said...

Still my favorite novel -- but then again I was the high school nerd that taught himself calculus so that he could step through a textbook on general relativity -- and then moved on to a textbook on quantum mechanics. Both of which are largely taboo in the Objectivist movement. Philosophically incorrect physics.

And I did have more and more of a problem with "going on strike" against a world you don't entirely agree with as time went on. Problems with the strong sense of alienation, the tendency to believe that there was nothing you could learn from those you disagree with and so on.

Setting that aside, the more authoritarian (in the sense of requiring greater ideological purity) Ayn Rand Institute/Center has definitely been trying to cash in on the Tea Party movement. Case in point from a year ago:

Atlas Shrugged and the Tea Party Revolts

... and there are plenty of other videos along these lines along the right-hand side in the "Suggestions" column for what else you might be "interested" in. Or not.

Timothy Chase said...

Eli wrote, "Remind you of anyone?? As Scalzi said, break out the popcorn for the inevitable mind losing that will fill the comments. Oh the 10:10 thing, Eli is with Throbgoblin."

Monty Python's How not to be seen had me busting out. Salad Days? Not so much. If you ask me No Pressure had too much of them "Salad Days."

Oh, and one last thing for tonight... Regarding Objectivism, say what you will, its a damn sight better than BPL's goose-stepping polyamory.

Magnus said...

One of Elis favourite chocolates in a slightly new packaged

waiting for some droppings...

Anonymous said...

"still my favorite novel"

What else do you like to read? It's not a crime to enjoy Rand, but it may be a sign that the wider world of letters has unexplored possibilities.

-- Robert

Timothy Chase said...

Response to Robert, Part I of II

I wrote, "still my favorite novel"

Robert responded, "What else do you like to read? It's not a crime to enjoy Rand, but it may be a sign that the wider world of letters has unexplored possibilities."

Unfortunately I don't read fiction that often anymore. And I don't remember the last time I played a game of any sort. Got too serious for a while. However,I remember my first introduction to the idea that a novel could be more than just a story, that it could convey a view of the world with "A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man." For that reason I will always have something of a soft spot for that book. But for the most part there was The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and then...

It took me until I was getting my master's degree before I started reading much in the way of fiction again. I fell in love with St. Augustine's Confessions -- the first psychological autobiography, Plato's The Republic (although this was largely thanks to a tutor I had a the time), The Odyssey but not so much The Illiad.

And in part, as a tribute to epic poetry, I have tried in the past to write my technical philosophy in a regular structured form. For example, my history and critique of early 20th century empiricism (A Question of Meaning)consists of 10 chapters divided into 5 sections each -- that I wrote as a term paper for a graduate level course in epistemology and the philosophy of science.

But in part this is also a reflection of an underlying dialectical pattern, often of the form thesis, critique of thesis, antithesis, critique of antithesis and synthesis -- where the synthesis combines the strengths but avoids the weaknesses of the thesis and antithesis. This became more deliberate on my part, however, as I expanded on the original 80 page paper to something 250 pages long -- a book on epistemology which was from the most charitable view I could manage only half done before I set it aside.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Those who can, do. Those who can't, become Objectivists.

Timothy Chase said...

Response to Robert, Part II of II

I have to agree with Aristotle that Sophocles' Oedipus the King is likely the greatest tragic play ever written. I have read pieces of The Cantebury Tales in the original Middle English, but while I enjoyed this I can't really say that I fell in love with it. Although there are a number of Shakespearian plays I love, perhaps my favorite is A Winter's Tale -- assuming it is done right. The perfect balance between tragedy and comedy.

I have read the three volumes of Lord of the Rings -- and certainly enjoyed them although I can't really say that they have influenced me that much. But give me a little more time studying the Koch brothers -- and who knows? I have enjoyed some science fiction. Dune -- but really only the first book. Wyrm -- mostly just for the enjoyment of it. My wife got me interested in Elizabeth Bear's trilogy Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired.

Obviously in one form or another I have been strongly influenced by "the hero's journey" as it is told and retold. And naturally enough I acknowledge some debt to Joseph Campbell. However, while he understood the monomyth in terms of Jungian psychology I am more cognitive school.

As such, what is most central to my view of the world is the individual as the individual stands in relation to the world. And what I regard as fundamental to the human condition is the ever-present possibility of failure and the need to act in the face of that possibility.

Moreover failure isn't to be understood in strictly existential terms but cognitive terms as well -- in terms of the ever-present possibility of being mistaken. And it is this view of the human condition which lies fairly close to the center of Religion and Science. Incidentally, I would also have to count The Truman Show, De Laurentis' Dune and the Wacowski brothers' The Matrix (the first movie, not the two that followed) as influences even though they are simply movies. And I would also most certainly include the television series Babylon 5.

Anyway, hopefully this throws a little light on where I am coming from.

Timothy Chase said...

Horatio Algeranon wrote, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, become Objectivists."

Can do, can't do... I tend not to think in such stark terms.

Being bipolar, I tend to be very good at coming up with grandiose plans and even getting them started... but not so good on the carry through.

Nevertheless, I have managed to write an eighty page history and critique of early 20th century empiricism and an eighty page critique of The Critique of Pure Reason. Probably my two greatest achievements -- for whatever they are worth -- and I doubt that I will ever do anything that will equal either of them again. At this point I take considerable pride in the fact that my highest ambition is to help -- where I can.

Anyway, I should be getting to bed.

J Bowers said...

Whatever you may think of the film the numbers signing up for 10:10 are still increasing by roughly a thousand a day. I don't see any point in worrying about what Watts, Nova, Heartland or even the Fox think, they'd find something to say regardless, even if it involved a declaration of undying love for carbon. One side effect was it brought out the wingnuts at the 10:10 website in their droves (white supremacy, "Where do they live?", fake signatories, you name it). A shame 10:10 took the comments away for all normal and rational people to see.

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

OT Alert: Cuccinelli fired another supersonic subpoena in Mann's direction today:

Anonymous said...

For bunnies with time constraints: The (very) Abridged Atlas Shrugged.

Anonymous said...

Tim, what is described magnificently in 'Atlas Shrugged' is the way certain people, let us call them 'denialists' for today only, think and operate. A stunning analysis.

The plot of the strike however should be viewed as a romantic, almost caricatural picture that might validly draw the kind of reaction as quoted by Eli, though that same quote might provide evidence to the correctness of Rand's analysis. The plot is totally unrealistic. The world does not work that way. A country may experience a phenomenon called 'braindrain' nevertheless, but even then often does not fall into total disarray. There are always corruptible but otherwise intelligent brains who will keep the place running, sort of.

Unfortunately corruptly thinking peoply habitually run away with their simplistic interpretation of Rand's novel (see the quote again: such 'nerds going Galt' do exist; quarter century ago when I was still a kid, highly highly highly impressed by the novel, I might have been one of them). I dare say men both like Al Gore and Dick Cheney thought such things while having their special mansions built.

Rand's inheritance went the sorry way of that of her inspirator, Friedrich Nietzsche. I have the impression Ayn Rand later went a little or more on that way too.

RR Kampen, NL.


Is Blackadder’s author channeling what the Muppet Show did to earlier Mad Men in this spot on spot ad spoof?
Adult Muppet: "What do you think about Gonella Bread?"
Child Muppet:
 "I don't like it."

Big Muppet grabs giant cannon from offstage, blows little Muppet to smithereens &aims barrel at audience,
" Now what do YOU think about Gonella Bread? "

Stay tuned as Cuccinelli rounds up the usual muppets, and offers a 25 turnip reward for further evidence of kiddy genocide on PBS

Timothy Chase said...

Libertarian Denialists, Part I of II

"Tim, what is described magnificently in 'Atlas Shrugged' is the way certain people, let us call them 'denialists' for today only, think and operate. A stunning analysis."

Actually the phenomena of denialism is very well described in Objectivist literature and even in Atlas Shrugged in terms of the concept of evasion -- as the refusal to know. But this is something that is attributed to the villains -- who preach self-sacrifice as some sort of end-in-itself or for the sake of others whether or not they measure up to your standards.

And the ethics of Atlas Shrugged? Essentially they are the same as that of Aristotle -- in terms of his Eudaimonism. Selfishness -- yes -- in terms of self-actualization. Shaping yourself and your world in the image of your values. However, the ethics does not reduce to dog-eat-dog and every man for himself.

Among the heroes, people genuinely care for one another, even for those that while doing the best they can aren't at or even anywhere near the same level of achievement, Dagny Taggart for Eddie Willers and even for Cheryl Taggart. Hank Rearden for the Wet Nurse and even for the vast number of people who he believes and in fact do exist that are productive but who could be helped by his achievements.

But yes, Objectivism has been a strong ideological influence on Libertarianism in the United States -- although perhaps not quite as much as they would like to make it out to be. And yes, libertarians and the far rightwing economic conservativism ("market fundamentalism" as some like to call it) is rife with the phenomena of denialism. They have put political ideology before science, which means that at a more fundamental level they have placed evaluation/ethics before identification/epistemology.

In my view identification should always come first as one can only evaluate a thing -- how it stands in relation to life -- if one identifies it first. I would even go so far as to say that the normativity underlying epistemology is more fundamental than the normativity underlying ethics. But this is something that even most "Objectivists" don't seem to recognize.

Timothy Chase said...

Libertarian Denialists, Part II of II

As a consequence they have what may be rightly considered a concretebound understanding of Objectivism -- in which you might dress in black because after all, Rand dressed in black and therefore it is something that ethical people do. Or they see view Objectivism as implying that they have no obligation to others -- when their first obligation -- to reality -- would require them to acknowledge the virtues and value in others.

They refuse to acknowledge physics that comes into conflict with their concretebound understanding of their philosophy. This has gotten so bad that one major branch of the movement can justifiably be called authoritarian in the sense that they emphasis ideological purity. Individuals oftentimes act as if the whole of their philosophy could somehow be deduced from "philosophic axioms." They refuse to acknowledge the largely cumulative nature of justification.

And they refuse to acknowledge the power of statistical analysis if they find the conclusions from such analysis problematic given their political views. As such they and those like them make great pawns for those who would continue to pollute, whether this results in ozone depletion, cancer and birth defects due to cigarette smoking, dioxins or formaldehyde.

I would tell them to call these market externalities if they wish, and to feel free to argue that there is some sort of free market solution, but at the very least acknowledge the fact that these externalities exist. And that pollution itself is often a violation of property rights, even when the damage that is done cannot be directly linked so that one can clearly identify whose cancer was the result of whose emission of what chemical but instead can only be indirectly linked by statistical means.

Anyway, my political views aren't quite as rigid as they used to be -- to the extent that I still have political views. I tend to be more concerned with epistemology, science and the philosophy of science. But I place a rather high value on humanity. And as far as I am concerned some things transcend politics and ideology.

Timothy Chase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy Chase said...

Anyway, here are two pieces that I have written. One was for atheistic libertarians, the other essentially for Christian Evangelicals.

Timothy Chase Responds (at The Free Radical, a glossy libertarian semimonthly out of New Zealand)

... and:

Religion and Science (at The British Centre for Science Education)

If you look closely you will see that the views that I am advocating are much the same. Nearly identical, in fact.

I am a tribalist -- and my tribe is humanity. And I believe -- as I explained to creationists years ago -- that even in the face of great disagreement there is value to be had in dialogue.

Please see:

A Conspiracy of Silence

In fact I believe that there are insights to be had from those who think they have nothing to learn from you and clearly know less than you. And the ability to see and acknowledge those insights is a sign of an active mind.

Anonymous said...

"I am a tribalist -- and my tribe is humanity." Fellow tribesman!

I will study your literature and come back to it later, it being close to bedtime in this country.

RR Kampen, NL.

Thomas Palm said...

Here is the really short sequel to Atlas shrugged:

guthrie said...

During my early time on bulletin boards and suchlike, being a latecomer to internet debating, I identified 3 types of people who liked Rand:
1) The randroid, who parroted stock phrases with no clear idea of how they did or did not relate to reality, and although I dislike Rand and her cod philosophy, agree that this type made a mockery of it.
2) The romantic, who liked rand because they were inspired in some romantic way by what she wrote, but being so romantically minded kind of avoided the actual stuff that Rand was advocating and wanted, so reflexively defended rand despite not actually understanding what she wrote.
3) THe actual real intelligent person who read what she wrote. These were very few and far between, and due to their frequently being more intelligent than I, rather hard to engage with.

Timothy Chase said...

For those who might be interested in issues of deep time, the Timothy Chase Responds essay that was in "The Free Radical" was in the June/July 1999 issue and was part of a debate/dialogue/discussion described and linked to from here:

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Religion and Science was perhaps 2006, which would make it about seven years later.

But for me at least it is for the most part deep time inasmuch as nowadays I am far more focused on issues related to climatology and fascinated by issues related to evolution and the role of retroelements in the evolution of life. And nowadays in all likelihood I wouldn't be that popular with many of my former associates given the positions I have taken on global warming.

More importantly, what I think really matters isn't one's ideology or adherence to a particular philosophy but how one stands in relation to reality.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, I've read your literature.
We _are_ fellow tribesmen :)

I very much like your introduction of the concept of combinatorial complexity, thus evolution of mind, into your grand dialogue theses.
Also I entirely agree with your views on what Objectivism means and 'should be' like. Therefore, we can talk :)

I disagree with the idea that religion is off limits for science. This might be because I regard logic and mathematics as sciences with an empirical base. 1 + 1 = 2 means that you can divide two cherries equally over two (clamouring) kids without cutting them, but not over three. Mathematics derive directly from this kind of thing called reality. Logic is a science of the brain at least.

I disagree strongly with the idea that religion would be the realm of morals, because morals are universal among humanity and a number of quite tangibly important morals are virtually universal over the animal kingdom. Don't kill your girl before she gave birth, don't bury your guy before he could trigger the child. A moral rule for our tribe is the Golen Rule, e.g.: 'One should not treat others in ways one would not like to be treated'. It interestingly fails before missionary religion, which in extremis could break any moral rule in order to 'do unto the other what one what like to be done unto himself', i.e. conversion.

But these we should discuss these things somewhere else, methinks - we are bunnies :)

In my previous post the 'denialists' I meant were the people who nolens volens spread misinformation about climate and climate change. They gain huge following, some of whom have become professional trolls without even knowing it. So actually I did mean the villains, a fairly rare species. Like Wesley Mouch, or this scientist whose name I forgot.

RR Kampen, NL.

Timothy Chase said...

RR Kampen,

Regarding the claim that all knowledge is empirical, I have actually taken up that issue previously here:

Something Revolutionary, Part IX and X

But you are right: this probably isn't the place for that sort of discussion. If you are interested at some point, my email address is timothy chase [at] gmail [dot] com, no spaces.