Archive for March, 2006

Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. ~ Ayn Rand

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If I cannot be loved for my mind and my ideas, then I will not be loved at all…

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Some things are worth dying for – because without them life would not be worth living.

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Good News

On Monday, Dr. Lisska was talking about Marx and asked the class “are there any Marxists in here” – now the class has about 30 people in it and to my sheer joy, no one raised their hand and everyone looked surprised that he would think that there might be.
Good times…

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A Letter

To All Denison Objectivist Club Members,

I write to inform you that the Denison Objectivist club is officially ending.

In the three years since the club’s inception, there has been many memorable times and many great members. But, being an organization devoted to the perpetuation of true ideas and having only one member who actually believes those ideas and is capable of communicating them to others with passion and the drive to keep the club alive, this organization cannot survive without a strong leader.

Given that I am about to graduate and as such cannot devote it enough of my time to do it justice and given that I have no successor, the club is now defunct.

The dream was great, the battles were fun, and the ideas are True; but in this contest apathy has taken the day. Truth can never be completely beaten by apathy and good ideas can never die, but they can withdraw and on this occasion the club is going to do just that.

I regret that I have no successor, that I was not more active this year in recruiting, and that the meetings weren’t as informative as they should have been. Although Scott has graciously tried to take control of the club and run it as President Pro-Tem, clearly the job is too much for him and it’s not fair of me to unduly burden him with the commitment.

At this point for the club to be revived, it would need a good and capable leader who was also an Objectivist. Since I seem to be the only one on campus, I shall consider the proviso moot.

Nevertheless, I want to thank Sam for being there from the beginning. Miriam for helping to keep the club together and always coming. Scott, for always coming and bringing food, as well as trying to act as president this year. M., for coming to the first meetings of the semester and changing my life. I don’t think I’ve missed anyone else, since I can count you all on one hand…but if I have, I thank you as far as you’ve helped the club grow and prosper.

There will never be another year like ’03-‘04 when the Objectivist Club changed the Denison’s campus and broke out onto the scene with shockwaves. Alex, Sam, and I were quite the team and the club suffered a great casualty with Alex’s loss that it never recovered from.

So, in closing, never forget that Philosophy is one of the greatest powers in the world and that there is a good philosophy for Man here on Earth – do not let your mind be clouded by the irrationality and evil that permeates our culture today. Remember always that Objectivism is viable and in the future, when it starts to change our world for the best, stand with it. Don’t let apathy rule you forever lest you come to realize that it has stolen your very life from you.

Sincerely,

Jason Stotts
“The Damned Rational Egoist”

Founder, The Denison Objectivists

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“V for Vendetta”

by Jason Stotts

I went to see this movie hoping that it would live up to the hype the commercials laid for it – I was hoping that when the commercials said “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people” that this movie would deal with political issues philosophically. I was not disappointed.

The movie is an amazing tale of one man who has had enough of his government controlling its citizens and he decides to right the injustice of government acting contrary to its proper purpose – a government should protect its citizen’s rights and create opportunities for them to flourish. A government that acts contrary to its proper purpose is a government that needs only one thing: overthrown.

The movie dealt with the issue beautifully and while I can’t give it an unconditional endorsement without seeing it again and knowing more about it and it’s purpose, but I can say that the movie has a lot of excellent points and it most definitely worth seeing.

The movie did forcefully remind me of one thing which I sometimes doubt, but which I always hope is true and that is this: the spark in humanity, that infinitesimal kernel of Integrity, of Justice, of Truth, and of Pride, cannot be destroyed no matter how bad the times nor how hard one tries. Even the spark within ourselves cannot be fully extinguished by our actions no matter how bad they are, the only act which can extinguish the spark is death and then the spark can become a conflagration that can consume an entire populace if done by the right person. While the clearest example of this is something fictional like the movie “Braveheart” or this movie “V for Vendetta” – there are historical examples as well.

In any age, in any place, no matter how bad things have become, no matter to what depths humanity has sunk, the spark will be there within each and every person…waiting. It doesn’t take any special kind of person to ignite the spark, or rather it shouldn’t have to. The spark is ignited by the simplest act in the world – the simple act of standing up and saying “No!”. All it takes is Integrity, all it takes is Justice, all it takes is to recognize the proper nature of your own humanity and stand up and say “I will be human and there is nothing anyone can do to stop me!” To gain your humanity through your death is tragic, but to gain it instead of living as a sub-human is divine. To see the choice at hand and know that even though death awaits you – you will be human, truly human, if for just once in your life.

Go and see this movie.

Remember that spark, the spark which can ignite an unstoppable firestorm of righteous Justice, is within you.

No matter how dark the day may get, no matter how far we fall, as long as we are human nothing can stop us and nothing can take that which is most important from us – the divinity of the human spirit.

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Justify My Love?

by Jason Stotts

What would you do if you were asked by your beloved to prove your love to them?

What would you do if you professed your love to your beloved and they did not believe you?

The issue of the communication of feelings is an especially tricky one – even in a hypothetical analysis where the situation doesn’t have all of the complexity of a real life case. Yet, I think the issue is great for gaining insight into the phenomenon of love and it also pushes us to stretch our creative and explanatory faculties in order to tackle this difficult issue.

Let us dive in and assume for our hypothetical situation that we have a man and a woman who are a couple, but whose relationship is only newly formed and as such is not perhaps as stable as an older relationship nor has it yet stood up against many tests. Let us further assume that in this instance that it is the man who professes his love for the woman, who professes disbelief and asks her lover to prove himself.

The first issues that arise to me are:

1) Does the woman doubt that the man is sincere or does she doubt that he knows what love is?

2) Why does the woman express disbelief in the first place? Has her lover made a mistake? Has she had bad past experiences with love and so is “scarred” from that? Or perhaps she herself doesn’t know what love is so she doubts that he could either?

With respect to the first set of questions, the answer here will determine the type of justification necessary to engender her belief. If it is the sincerity that is doubted, the man must show his sincerity by habitual actions indicative of love – whereas if it is the knowledge of love that is doubted, the man must show that he knows what love truly is.

With respect to the second set of questions, the answer will determine the content of justification, if such should even be applied in the case.

If the man has made a mistake he must prove that the mistake was a) atypical of his character, b) the mistake is not prohibitive of a further relationship (or that the future benefits of the relationship outweigh the cost of the mistake), and c) a sincerity to correct the cause of the mistake.

If the woman has had bad past experiences with love and is left incredulous to anyone truly being able to love her, then it is only the passage of time that can cure this – the man (if he wants to take on this burden) must show his love through habitual action and the passage of time. If, however, the woman doesn’t know what love is and so doubts another could know either, then he must show her what love is – explain the nature of it and its causes. If she doesn’t understand or refuses to understand, then it’s probably best for the man to cut his losses and leave with his sanity and integrity intact.

However, as we have just seen, many of these cases involve an appeal to what love is – so perhaps we must look to that idea ourselves and see if we can’t discover its nature.

Now love seems to me to be an extension, or perhaps a special kind, of friendship – so it seems as if it would be beneficial to first examine that concept and then build off it in order to arrive at knowledge of love.

Friendship seems to be something like a relationship of mutual goodwill, based on mutual good characters. Friends are a great joy to each other and they enhance the lives of their friends through pushing them to do better, helping them through hard times, and celebrating together in good times.

An intimate relationship is similar to a good friendship since it too has mutual goodwill and mutual good characters as its basis – yet an intimate relationship has a much stronger and more acute bond of love than friendship does. While friends are great values, your true beloved should be one of your highest values in life.

Love then, seems to be this emotional response to the good character of your beloved, to their virtues and sense of life, and to the value that she brings to your life. Love is an emotion – but it is an emotion based on reasons. Your beloved must share a similar sense of life as you – imagine how ill matched two people would be if one of them had a very positive outlook on life and the other had a very negative outlook on life, they would be perpetually annoyed with each other.

Even if two people cannot explicitly identify the basis of their love, it still exists.

However, love is based on trust and open communication. These two things are necessary conditions for the love – if either of these conditions is not met, love will either not arise or will cease to exist.

Trust is based on a person’s experience of another, it is based on your knowing that they will do the right things in the right situations – trust is based on your knowing a person’s character and their essential defining features. For example, if I were to say that I trust some girl M, what I would be saying is that based on my past experience of M, I have no reason to doubt that she will do the right thing because she has exhibited the right kinds of habits and a good character – since I know that one essential fact about her is that she highly values her mind, she will not take actions to destroy it.

Open communication is the basis of any kind of relationship, whether friendly or intimate. Open communication just means that you feel comfortable talking to the other person in your relationship, that you feel like you can tell them anything, and that they feel the same.

So, now that we have come to a fairly good definition of love, it is time to answer our original question: “How would I justify my love?”

Let us continue our original hypothetical situation where we have a man and a woman who are a couple, but whose relationship is only newly formed and as such is not perhaps as stable as an older relationship nor has it yet stood up against many tests. Let us further assume that in this instance that it is the man who professes his love for the woman, who professes disbelief and asks her lover to prove himself. Also, the woman’s reason for doing this are that she doubts that he is sincere based on something he did which deeply troubled her.

If this is the case and we were to counsel our gentlemen friend how to quell his lady’s ire and reestablish the relationship, it seems we should counsel him to first analyze what he has done and see if he truly regrets it. If he does then we should continue to try and help him, if he does not regret it then he should talk with her and see why she is offended. If no consensus can be reached about whether the action was wrong or not then the relationship should be dissolved. However, if he does truly regret it and they talk about it and they come to a consensus (let us assume the consensus is that the action in question was in fact wrong), then the next steps for our young friend are to make amends as best he can, talk with his beloved and show that his intentions were not malicious, and to make sure not to repeat the offending behavior.

If his beloved still has doubts, then he must show her that she can trust him again and explain to her that he does understand what love is and remind her why they were in love in the first place.

If he works at reminding her why they originally fell in love, the values they share, the good times they have, and the joy they have in each other’s company – then hopefully she will return to him.

If, however, all of this fails then the best counsel we can offer is for him to give his beloved space and see if the passage of time will melt the objections in her heart and whether she will return to him. In this case it would be best for our young friend to remove himself from her life, since she already finds him objectionable and he wouldn’t want to exacerbate this by continually being present and being a constant reminder of the offense.

Luckily though, the case is only hypothetical, but if it were real then it would be hard to imagine a more dreadful position to be in than to realize that you had destroyed true love by a mistake and that there was nothing you could do to convince your former love of your love.

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Random Thoughts 3/12/06

by Jason Stotts

1. Hands-free ear-sets for cell phones (the Bluetooth kind) make you look like a pretentious prick that talks to yourself.

2. Pretty people make things more pleasant in life, perhaps we should all thank them for making the world a better place.

3. Ugly people still make me sad and they’re still just as prevalent in airports.

4. It is hard to think ill of the truly beautiful, yet easy to think so of the ugly.

5. Flying is amazing – to think of the ingenuity and the copious amounts of physics underlying something that looks so simple makes me proud to be human.

6. One can often do as much damage intending to do good as intending to do bad, perhaps more.

7. Should one consider poise, grace, and good smells to be the essence of femininity?

8. “Random Thoughts” that go over 6 points become tedious to read…

9. If a fat person is twice the size of a normal person, does that mean that they should pay twice the taxes?

10. Alcohol is too expensive for weekly consumption; it must either be a passing fancy or a full time commitment.

11. People who make the floor shake when they walk need to learn how to walk properly or diet, perhaps both.

12. If you have to complain that a seat is too small, what is actually wrong is that you’re too fat.

13. Drinking to quell irrational fears is naught but double foolishness.

14. People who are currently drinking do not recognize their own odiferousness.

15. Why are people confused by the phrase “a matter of principle”?

16. Do gross people not realize who they are?

17. Drinking as a goal in life is ironic.

18. Irrationality is like a self-perpetuating disease, it never ceases to spread itself and seems to take joy in that fact.

19. Stupid people rarely recognize themselves as such.

20. If good people are as rare as they seem, we’re boned.

21. The bad seem to think themselves worthy of more than they deserve and the good seem to think themselves worthy of less – the result of christian charity.

22. Some voices you can’t keep out of your head, no matter how hard you try.

23. These “Random Thoughts” were written mostly on an airplane, this makes them high thoughts!

24. Being smart and sounding smart are distinctly different.

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