For Ayn Rand, an argument was the distinctive human banner, the banner of reason and persuasion.  Where brutes force, human beings argue, a distinction embodied in her famous description of man’s mind, which “may be hampered by others, it may be silenced, proscribed, imprisoned, or destroyed; it cannot be forced; a gun is not an argument.” (“America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.) This article is not about guns versus arguments, it is about the respect that argumentation deserves and how increasingly rare that respect seems today, including on Facebook. My main purpose for spending time on Facebook is to engage people in the case for Objectivism. Politics--one of the five philosophical branches that Objectivism treats--would seem fertile ground for reasoned argument.  But since the election that ground has looked like Georgia after Sherman’s march to the sea. In the place of various forms of reasoned argument, fallacies have sprouted like weeds; among them four are especially invasive. But before I get to the fallacies, I must mention an extremely common response that does not even claim the dignity of a fallacy: The Pretend Reply: Characteristic of hundreds of responses I receive on Facebook is the one from a friend who commented: “Ugh! Puhleeese!” And later: “This is a word salad! We need some dressing!” Perhaps she considers me not worth debating? Fair enough, but why pretend to respond?  And her...
"I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are -- losers. They're losers, just remember that,” said President Trump today in response to this week’s  horrendous attacks in Manchester, United Kingdom. The usual critics have dismissed the “loser” comparison as trivializing and not to be taken seriously. Here’s why we should. President Trump was far more right in describing the true nature of terrorists than either of his two predecessors. President George W. Bush called terrorists “cowards” -- a strange descriptor for guerrillas who volunteered to die in plane crashes.  President Obama took heat for pandering to politically-correctness by refusing to state the obvious in describing terrorists as Islamist. Today in Jerusalem, President Trump refused to give terrorists the satisfaction of calling them “monsters,” because “they would think that was a great name.”  And he’s right. There’s a kind of efficacy in frightening, intimidating, and bullying -- as Trump knows all too well.  Come Halloween it is monster masks, not Droopy or Eeyore, that get the good candy. This isn’t the first time the president has compared terrorists to “losers.”  Back in November 2015, he tweeted, "The media must immediately stop calling ISIS leaders ‘MASTERMINDS.’ Call them instead thugs and losers. Young people must not go into ISIS!"   Unfortunately the novelty of Trump calling terrorists losers is somewhat diminished by the fact that he’s called so many people losers. Cher....
One of the more poetic events in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is when the protagonist, Howard Roark comes to watch Dominique posing naked for Mallory's marble sculpture. The sculpture is of the human spirit destined for the Stoddard Temple. The three of them experience a perfect synergy of admiration, creativity, and beauty. Further plot events see the destruction of the Stoddard Temple, one of the many painful obstacles Roark needs to overcome to continue his unique and innovative vision of architecture.    Stills from Song of Songs starring Marlene Dietrich and Brian Aherne In a way, we can look at art history and see some patterns similar to The Fountainhead that include the beautiful nude, innovations, and the power of the creative artist.  First Artists to Sign their Works Tydeus, 560 BC "Sophilos and Tydeus, were the first artists to sign their artworks." In the 6th Century, BC, Greek artisans such as Sophilos and Tydeus were the first artists to sign their artworks, taking pride in their originality and skill in depicting the human subject clothed and nude: In a sense copyrighting them. Paralleling the significance of the individual at this time Solon, the lawgiver, "is often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy." Larger than Life Nudes in Honor of the First Democracy Some 50 years later the heroic sculpture group Harmodius and Aristogeiton by Antenor was commissioned in honor of the creation of the...
The term “neoliberalism” is being flung around everywhere these days, usually with a haughty sense of “everyone knows what this is.” But do we really? You may think you know, but there’s very little agreement among everyone else. Looking up the term on Google Trends reveals some interesting clues about what’s going on. Searches for the term have soared since late last year, racking up more searches than “libertarianism.” The most common search phrases are these: “definition neoliberalism,” “what is neoliberalism,” and “define neoliberalism.” The confusion is understandable. Sometimes the term is used approvingly by the mainstream press, as with France’s election of Emmanuel Macron. He is said to be a solid “neoliberal” and therefore vastly better than his “rightest” opponent. More often the term is used as a pejorative by the far left and the alt-right. Here it is said with a sneer to be a synonym for capitalism, globalism, elite rule, ruling-class privilege, and the administrative state. Everyone in Latin America who has ever favored privatization, deregulation, or tax cuts, has faced the sharp accusation that he or she is a neoliberal, with overtones that the person is probably in the pay of the CIA or State Department. In this case, the word is used as a synonym for US economic colonialism. We need a firmer fix on what this term means. Is there a founding thinker,...
In The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature, published in 1971, Ayn Rand articulated a simple framework for classifying art. Using literature as the primary exposition tool, Rand constructed a dichotomy which addresses the making of art in a most fundamental way—which she designated as Romanticism vs Naturalism. It does not mean that every artistic work is completely one or the other; most, in fact, are mixed. There is a spectrum, not two boxes; nevertheless, it assists us to identify the two bookends of the spectrum. Rand redefined Romanticism, then a pre-existing literary movement, while also defining its opposite as Naturalism, thus: “Romanticism, which recognizes the existence of volition---and Naturalism, which denies it.” One could say that it is Romanticism if it showcases well the efficaciousness of purposeful action by which men and women try to shape the world around them as against being shaped by it. Of special interest to Rand was Romantic Realism, which showcased the real world as it could be, as opposed to a fantasy world from which we could derive allegorical lessons and a few thrills. The medium of film is tailor made for showcasing the effects of purposeful action, so let’s look at a few illustrations from the world of screen stories. Note that we are not primarily concerned with good beating evil here, but human efficaciousness. In other words, it’s better to showcase events constructed by human action, even if virtue doesn’t win in the end (e.g. We...

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