Archive for June, 2006

Recently at Easton

by Jason Stotts

I was at Easton recently and while waiting in line at Starbucks, I overheard a conversation which disturbed me. There was a girl in front of me in a rather long line, due to some incompetent elderly folks and their inability to order, and she was talking on her cell phone. Now she seemed to be a rather intelligent looking girl who was fairly attractive as well; she seemed to be about 19, had pretty brunette hair, and appeared to be affluent given her dress.

What disturbed me was this: while in a conversation with a friend, about going abroad for the summer, I overheard her say the following “What’s in Europe? Wait, is Paris in Europe?” I could hardly believe my ears, to think that there could be a person alive who did not know on what continent to find Paris…was, to say the least, astounding.

I greatly enjoy bastions of economic prosperity such as Easton and I find them to be an uplifting view of human progress – yet I’m disconcerted by those I find there. To think that there could really be people so stupid enjoying the fruits of other men’s minds makes me physically ill.

Aristotle said that there are two kinds of people who don’t need cities: gods and brutes. Yet, I find that there are many who don’t deserve cities.

Holidays: Altruism’s Corruption of the Holy

by Jason Stotts

Last night I had my initial “screening” with some of M.’s friends – I had already met Elisa, so I was meeting both Connie and Laura for the first time. They seem like really nice people, albeit confused. This was particularly evident with Connie, who during the course of conversation mentioned that the upcoming holiday of the Fourth of July was her favorite.

This rather surprised me as I had never heard anyone identify the Fourth as their favorite holiday. It’s not that I’m surprised by the choice of days – the Fourth is a most deserving day for celebration: what could be better than a secular celebration of freedom, rationality, and the greatest country in the world? No, it’s not that I thought her choice unworthy; rather I was surprised that a religious person would identify this secular holiday as her favorite.

The surprise came for me because I knew that Connie is a mormon – further, it’s not as though she is just a mormon equivocally (in name only), but she even attends Brigham Young University (a highly religious mormon school). I would have thought that she would pick a favorite holiday that was more consistent with her religious (altruistic) convictions, like Christmas, Easter, or Good Friday. Realistically the only kind of people that I would have expected to declare the Fourth as their favorite holiday would be Objectivists – people who understand the value of our country and what it represents in the course of human development.

Prompted by my confusion about her choice, I decided to employ what is probably my favorite word in the English language: “why”. I questioned her about her choice and was relieved and gratified that when I asked her why she liked the Fourth of July so much, she actually paused and gave the question serious consideration. (I say gratified because it sickens me when people treat serious and important questions quickly and without thought – as if I should be satisfied by their regurgitated answer that they formed in haste and never questioned.) Connie’s pause, however, was more than I expected. While considering the question, I could see in her face that it was causing quite an internal conflict – her face was both enlightened and troubled by her thoughts. Her first response was a rather disappointed “I don’t know” – which is perhaps the worst answer possible to any question. If you don’t know the answer, then your response should be “I don’t know and I’m going to find out”. Thankfully Connie was not satisfied with her answer either and began to reflect again. This time she did discover the answer, although she still does not realize the magnitude of her answer.

Haltingly, and uncertainly, Connie began to explain that with holidays like Christmas, Easter, etc., you are obligated to get gifts for people you don’t really care about and you are forced to be around people you do not really want to be around. In effect she was telling me that she did not like duty and sacrifice, that these things pained her (although she did not then make the full identification). Suddenly her staccato answer stopped and her eyes lit up – she told me that the reason why she liked the Fourth so much was because you were not obligated to get gifts for people that you did not want to and you only had to spend time with the people you love and want to be with. In effect, she told me that self-interest was the proper modus operandum and that she was only happy when she was acting in her own rational self-interest – which was why she hated the other holidays.

Since I had only recently met the girl and knew that our lack of familiarity would only cause a direct (blunt) mode of questioning to appear accusatory – I instead took a tactful approach and tried to stimulate her mind to make the connections which I thought should be self-evident. I merely said something to the effect of “I agree, living your life for others is no way to live – to be happy you have to live for yourself”. She agreed and it was evident from her face that my answer had struck a chord with her – an ephemeral flash of comprehension lit her eyes.

Now, this is perhaps one of the most poignant cases of the dire necessity of philosophy in life and the consequences of its absence or perversion. Through something as simple as holidays, Connie was starting to recognize the evilness of Altruism and the goodness of Egoism. Her religion, accepted at an age before she had gained control of her rational and cognitive faculties, had crippled her mind, yet it could not prevent her body’s automated defense mechanism – her emotions – from acting to tell her that something was wrong. Connie’s emotive response to the threat to her life, as a human if not even literally to her physical existence, caused her to question – but having accepted the premises of Altruism she could not identify what was causing her to feel that way. Emotions are not enough for us to live by and they are not always to be trusted; they can be corrupted, so we need something that is more reliable and, if used correctly, infallible.

Yet, unfortunately for Connie, her religious convictions had crippled her Rationality by corrupting her most fundamental premises. Left in this position, where one knows that something is not as it should be because he feels that something is wrong which he thinks should be right, is a deadly position for many. Instead of questioning their basic premises causing the contradiction of something being both right and wrong at the same time and in the same respect, many people would instead began to question themselves – since they know that it is wrong to act in their own self-interest and yet they only feel happy when they do, they began to regard themselves as evil. However, the trap is easy to break out of once you realize that the only things binding you are your own mistaken beliefs. Instead of starting with the premise that acting self-sacrificially is right, ask yourself why it is right. If you can’t answer the question of why it is right, then you’re certainly not justified in believing that it is right. Floating abstractions are worse than ignorance because ignorance is at least honest.

It is in the realm of Ethics that Philosophy has most abdicated its role as the protector of humanity, so it is hard to condemn Connie for failing to question Altruism when Philosophy itself has historically failed to question this most controversial of premises. Through most of the history of the Philosophy it was taken as a given that man had to act self-sacrificially – it was only the beneficiary that was contested. The simple fact that man could live for himself seemed to escape the notice of these purveyors of death.

Holidays, however, are supposed to be celebrations – and celebrations are supposed to be life-affirming: no one would celebrate the fact that he had a debilitating disease, whereas we do celebrate the good things in life like graduations, weddings, new jobs, etc. How, then, can most of what we call holidays cause Connie and many others to feel a sense of bitterness and sadness? It’s through the perversion of morality via Altruism and the destruction of legitimate concepts such as “holiday”. By turning words that should be employed to praise the nobility of the human spirit into words that are reserved for otherworldly father figures, Altruism has taken reverence for life and tried to substitute its antithesis. Why do we hate buying gifts for people whom we don’t really like and don’t want to be around? Clearly this is against our self-interest – if I do not like someone, I am not going to want to give him a gift because I either don’t value him, or I value him less than the value of the gift – but our duty to sacrifice our self-interest (under Altruism) demands that we ignore this analysis and give the gift anyway. Yet this only causes ill feelings all around as everyone senses that acting contrary to their self-interest is wrong, while at the same time they feel that they are trapped and have no choice but to act self-sacrificially anyway.

In order to fix the seeming paradox of holidays we have to remind ourselves that if we want to be happy we must identify what this means and work to achieve it. We must question our premises and challenge our most basic assumptions – “why” must become our credo. We must reclaim the words that have been stolen and perverted. We have to overcome the privation left to us by the betrayal of our philosophic forefathers and seek guidance from ourselves.

Ethics should not be a set of negative commands – instead of telling you what not to do, Ethics should help you live your life. Ethics, proper Ethics, is a system of general principles that try to help you lead a good life. It is the role of Ethics to identify the Good life. It is the role of Ethics to identify the actions and lifestyle that will help you achieve a Good life. It is the role of Ethics to help us lead good Human lives. If living a good life is not your goal, if you instead stick to your mystical decadence, then death shall be your reward. If you truly believe that living a good human life is not the Good for humans, think about what this means for you – you are beyond hope and “beyond” human. It is by living a moral life that we become happy and it is by being virtuous that we live a moral life. Without Ethics, we are without guidance in the most important thing in the world: our very lives.

In order to live a moral life we must learn that egoism is the path to happiness: our lives are our responsibility and if we want to be happy we must concern ourselves with our own interests. What right could I possibly have to the life of another person? We must be self-reliant and never ask another to sacrifice for us and never sacrifice ourselves for another.

In order to live a moral life we must learn the true nature of happiness. Is happiness merely feeling joyful? If it were, then we could live our lives well by staying in a drug-induced delirium all day – yet clearly this would not be a good life. So happiness must be more than merely feelings of joy. Happiness comes from living a good human life – from pride in our accomplishments and from pride in living well. Pride was once called the crown of the virtues; happiness requires us to pick up this shattered crown and restore it to its glory.

In order to live a moral life, we must throw off the chains of Altruism. We must either act to further our life or act to diminish it – there are no other choices. If we want to live and be happy, we must recognize Altruism as the virulent form of decadence it is. Self-sacrifice is clearly decadent; it asks us to renounce our judgment and our life. Duty demands that we purposefully act decadently; it asks us to willing and jovially give up our lives. Do you now see the monstrosity of Altruism, lauded as the supposed salvation of man? Sure, it can save us – from life.

There are so many ways in which we can take our lives back from the black pit of death; the most important is to merely recognize the nature of the struggle and what’s at stake. After this all we need to do is recognize changes we can make in our lives – such as with holidays.

Reclaiming holiday would require no more than for all of us to sever them from their religious basis and celebrate them for their value to our lives – there is a great benefit in proper celebration. Instead of sacrificing ourselves at the holidays, let us instead celebrate them with the people we really do love and really do want to see. Instead of getting gifts for everyone, let us just get them for those closest to us who hold the most value for us. Let us turn holidays back into celebrations of life.

As is universally true, even the hardest issue can be made easy by breaking it down into its fundamental components and analyzing these for what they really are – our minds are capable of coming to the truth of any issue with time and knowledge. The issue of holidays has led us to understand the conflict of Altruism and Egoism – we have come to universal truth from a particular situation. This is yet another example of the dire necessity of philosophy and its usefulness in life. Let us hope that Connie, and everyone else like her, can figure out these complicated issues for themselves and they can start to be truly happy in life. Reclaimed, holidays will no longer be a source of suffering – they will be a source of joy and an affirmation of life: a celebration of ourselves.


by Jason Stotts

A tribute to one of the best professors at Denison – Dr. Anthony J. Lisska.


“Geography test even? We’re a full service operation…but not that full.”

“Execution’s not a nice thing, is it folks?”

“You’re all starting to write good arguments…it warms an old philosopher’s soul – not that that’s why you need to exist, in order to warm Lisska’s soul.”

“Without individual rights…well…we’d have big bad problems!”

“The world’s bigger than Easton! Joke, Joke, Joke.”

“You haven’t lived if you’ve never been to an Appalachian fair.”

“Now this isn’t in the essay, this is Lisska’s take on it.”

[Randomly stops in the middle of class and laughs] “…Dworkin’s funny…”

“On a cloudy day like this I’m glad everyone is up…had their coffee and eggs Benedict…”

“Dworkin loves an argument…not in a bad way like weird uncle Harold.”

“Lisska’s thinking of England and wishing he was there…[sighs]”

“Right away they’re going to be in each other’s meta-ethical face!”

“It’s like a little kid had a bucket of blocks and poured them out all over the place – that’s Hume’s theory of reality!”

[very quickly] “How’d we get created? I don’t know…maybe God lost a poker game! I don’t know…”

“The story is that Granville would always remain dry as long as the citizens could stagger to the polls.”

“Scrooge could be a guy who’s just evil…too big a dose of original sin or something!”

“The old Testament had a number of writers…it wasn’t as if it was one old dude with an earphone to God!”

“That’s what studying higher mathematics can do…WoooWoooWooo!” [Referring to Plato]

“That’s what heaven’s like – blackboards all around…[sighs]”

“If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam…don’t take a deep breath…Wooo!”


by Jason Stotts

True Love is spoken of by many, tasted by few, and known to almost none. True Love is one of the most profound expressions of Nobility open to Man – it is perhaps the highest state of existence. True Love surpasses Virtue; Virtue is a stepping stone on its path. True Love surpasses Justice; Justice is its motive force. True Love is the expression of the divinity of the lovers, of their faultless Virtue, of their unbridled Justice, of their great Magnanimity.

Is not Love open to all? In the same way as Excellence – to those worthy of it.

True Love requires two individuals – a man and a woman – the masculine and the feminine – each of whom are complete and Good. These lovers must each be worthy of their role, they must be independent and self-sufficient: only people who do not need Love to be happy are worthy of Love. Those who claim that they need love in order to be happy do not understand happiness or Love. What is happiness if it cannot be found in yourself? To deserve Love requires knowing human Excellence – to deserve Love one must deserve Eudaimonia.

You say that you can know Love and not be Eudaimon? Revel in your shadows.

To be Eudaimon requires growth, development, striving, Excellence, Nobility – to be Eudaimon means to be living a proper human life and living that life excellently. To be Eudaimon requires understanding what it means to be human and knowing how to achieve the best kind of human life possible: to be Eudaimon requires being ruthlessly Ethical. It means the immolation of all internal decadence and despise for all external decadence. It means becoming a champion of Justice and a paladin of Reason; Rationality is the path to greatness and a criterion for Eudaimonia. If one is to know True Love then one must become Proud.

But is not Pride the most deadly of sins? Indeed, if that which you seek is decadence.

Long ago the greatest scholar to have ever lived, the only person who has ever or will ever deserve the appellation The Philosopher, said that Pride is the crown of the Virtues. Indeed, the Proud man is Noble and understands his own Nobility – the Proud man is Good and understands his Goodness. Pride is earned through self-actualization, virtue, and becoming Eudaimon.

Do you still not see? To be Proud is to deserve Love.

Love is reverence for Life: for your own, for your lovers. To exclaim your joy in existence, to proclaim your Eudaimonia, to assert your Pride, to exert your right to the most sacred and most divine thing open to Man – that is to Love.

Just a Thing

by Jason Stotts

Look at the ass on that one!”
I got some pussy last night!”
Hey tits!”
I need some dick…”

At this point, you are probably wondering if I’ve finally divorced myself from reason and descended into the pits of vulgarity – and indeed it is an understandable wonder. However, do you not notice a trend among these statements? Look again and see if a pattern emerges to you.

The connection between the above expressions is that they are objectifying or dehumanizing – they are statements which are intended to take the human person which is their subject and dehumanize them: i.e. make them into an object or something less than human.

The cause of this phenomenon is either ignorance or evasion – with the ultimate effect being the evasion of the nature of the action. By this I mean that some people don’t ever realize that by thinking of others in terms of objects, they are effectively denying their humanity – through ignorance of their own cognitive processes or ignorance of the result of the process they fail to recognize what they have done. This leads them to distortions in their thinking. For example, a woman who thinks “I need some dick” is thinking merely in terms of a physical act and she recognizes that she needs a penis in order to perform this act – yet she misses the fact that penises do not just grow on trees or sprout from the ground, as with any part of anatomy they are necessarily tied to a living human body. To think “I need some dick” is a way to avoid the question “Whose?” and its attendant moral questions. The person with this thought process is trying to evade (implicitly or explicitly) the implications of their actions and their true significance.

This process of evasion has become rampant in our society and is part of the myriad rationalizations which are used to “justify” the current deluge of decadence.

What leads people to this clearly fallacious pattern of thinking? It seems to me that it’s a combination of evasion and a desire for hedonistic indulgence divorced from consequences. If, to continue our example, our woman greatly desires sex and does not want to think of herself as a woman who would just sleep with any man – then by thinking of going out in search of penises instead of men allows her to “fool herself”. By thinking of the action in terms of the mere physical process while evading the knowledge of the person with whom it is done, she can satisfy her hedonistic desires while evading the knowledge that her action is immoral.

All of this leads us to question why some people seem to be unable to control their desires. This question, however, warrants its own essay.

Lovely Stupidity?

by Jason Stotts

For a long time I’ve been noticing this disturbing pattern among people. The pattern seems to have no causal connection – all of the evidence could easily be coincidental. Yet, it certainly appears to me that in general the better one’s body, the emptier one’s mind.

Why do I say this, you ask? Well, to begin with most of the very attractive people that I know are shallow and unintelligent. They concern themselves with small and petty things like brand-names, cars, make-up, their appearance – and never consider that there may be more to the world. Although it’s not as if I’m claiming the converse, that the uglier one’s body, the fuller one’s mind. Certainly being ugly does not mean that one will be intelligent.

As I began examining this issue, I actually began to think of some legitimate reasons why there could be a connection between aesthetics and intelligence. I present here some possible explanations to explain this apparent phenomenon:

1. Perhaps the phenomenon can be explained in terms of “social conditioning”, whereby beautiful people are told to concern themselves with their appearance while those who are not beautiful are told to concern themselves with their intelligence.

2. Perhaps beautiful people have an easier time in life and so they are not forced to develop and rely on their cognitive skills as someone who can’t get by merely on their looks alone would have to do.

3. Perhaps stupid people just breed more easily so there are more of them across the whole aesthetics spectrum.

I’m really not sure of the cause of the phenomenon, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Next time you meet a very beautiful, but very empty person, be sure to walk up to them and inquire what caused their condition.