Archive for December, 2007

Healthy Sexuality

by Jason Stotts

When I was younger, I would often hear the term “dirty mind” derisively used to describe someone who had erotic thoughts. Obviously, this is no more than a base attempt to denigrate sexuality and eroticism.

I, however, do not believe in disparaging natural aspects of humanity.

Proper sexuality is a sign of being a healthy human being. There are fundamentally two kinds of people in the world: the flourishing, whose lives are ascending to a zenith, and the decadent, whose lives are descending to a nadir. Sexuality can be indicative of a healthy life, flourishing, and a life well lived: a sign that one respects and loves oneself and has found another worthy of one’s love and devotion. Sexuality, on the contrary, can also be a way to attempt to deceive oneself and others: it can be a sign of decadence and a thinly veiled attempt to cover this fact by partaking in the sacred act. Sexuality, like all values, can be perverted and turned against life.

There are some goals, let us call them “apparent values”, that appear to be legitimate, but which are not. These are caused by the perversion or misidentification of a legitimate value. These supposed “values” are in fact detriments to their holder: while those who falsely value drugs destroy their minds and bodies, those who falsely value sex destroy their very humanity with its perversion. This punishment is not doled out by a fictitious celestial father-figure, but dealt by their very nature and reality itself. Life exacts a price for decadence. Those who falsely value that which harms their minds, lose their minds. Those who falsely value that which harms their bodies, lose their bodies. Those who falsely value that which is anti-life, get exactly what they asked for – death comes as a fulfillment of their wish for the anti-life.

Sexuality, in the true flourishing sense, is one of the most sacred of acts: it is an affirmation and celebration of oneself, one’s partner, and of existence. Sex, properly conceived, is an act of love. There is more to sex than just the physical act; it is fundamentally a spiritual act as well. Sex is more than just bestial copulating, more than just hedonic indulgence, more than a mere “wriggling of meat” – as it has so uncouthly been called. Sex is a celebration of the life that two people are sharing together and their mutual value to each other.

A healthy sex drive requires a true understanding of the nature of sexuality, self-esteem, pride, and the knowledge that your lover is a good person who will contribute to your flourishing. A “healthy sex drive” is precisely that – healthy. A healthy sexuality indicates that one is not only flourishing in life, but that one knows this and is purposely flourishing, rather than merely doing well in life by chance.

Let us conclude by asking: what kind of person could hate sex? To hate sex is to hate one’s humanity: sex is integral to being human. To hate sex is to be fundamentally mistaken about sex: one cannot hate the good. To hate sex is to hate life: it is unbridled decadence. Thus, the only kind of person who could hate sex is the kind of person who hates life.

On Natures

by Jason Stotts

The nature of any existent is that aspect or attribute which explains the greatest number of characteristics and/or actions of the existent. A “nature” is an epistemological device of identifying existents by their fundamental characteristics. It has no metaphysical existence aside from the facts of reality that allow it to be formed by a person. The rules for identifying natures are as follows:

  1. All inanimate existents that are non-artifactual must be explained in terms of physical constitution, which is ultimately explained in terms of chemical composition.
  2. All inanimate existents that are artifactual must be explained teleologically, since men created them to serve a particular purpose.
  3. All living existents must be explained in terms of survival: what they use to live and how they do it.

The characteristics used in the identification must be those that are fundamental to the existent. A diamond, for example, is certain type of gemstone. It is transparent, it is hard, it can scratch glass, it can have a prism effect on light depending on its cut, and is highly valued by humans for its beauty and as an enduring store of value. Which one of these characteristics is the diamond’s nature? None of these explains the others. This is because the nature of non-artifactual inanimate matter must be given in terms of its physical constitution, ultimately explained in terms of its chemical composition. In this case, it is the unique Carbon bonds that give a diamond all of its characteristics.

Also, we must be careful to determine whether an inanimate object is artifactual; i.e. man-made. A knife is a manmade object used to cut other objects. It can be made out of a wide range of materials and can come in a variety of shapes. A knife can never be explained in terms of its physical constitution because that is not what is fundamental about it. A knife must only be harder than that which it is designed to cut: a piece of string makes a perfect knife for clay. Also, note that a nature does not need to explain all attributes of the existent, but only the fundamental ones.

Furthermore, one can only speak of the nature of the entire existent and not of the nature of its parts. It is the nature of a panther to be a predator. One of the things a panther uses to kill its prey is its claws. What is the nature of its claws? They do not have one; they are a part of a larger entity. While we can talk about their harness or how they are retractable, they can only be understood as a part of a larger entity.

Thus the nature of an existent is the fundamental attribute or aspect by which we can identify an existent.

On The Role of Fiction

by Jason Stotts

Fiction serves a unique purpose in our lives: in it we see whole new worlds, new situations, and new people. We experience something that in the ordinary course of our days we do not get to experience in a pure form. We get to experience life in a microcosm, life under a slide, life without its usual subjective attendant complications.

We see in fiction a stage upon which the actors act out their lives and through this we see similarities to our own lives. We use fiction as a mirror into our own souls so that we can see what our lives would look like to us if we could step back from them and see them from the outside.

Through this we are better able to understand the turmoil around us, better able to understand our own situations, better able to understand our own lives. We use fiction to sort out what we really believe. When we see things in a work of fiction with which we agree, it resonates with us and this resonance causes us to look at our own lives with a different light, a light borne of encapsulated understanding from seeing a principle we agree with in action.

Our lives are led by principles, implicitly, explicitly, sometimes confusedly and contradictorily, yet we are led by principles nonetheless. Often our principles are held as vague abstractions, such as cheating is wrong. Fiction then becomes for us the genesis of the principle from the abstract to the concrete: we see in fiction principles born into a world of their own which allows us to take an objective stance on them and judge them in a way we are often unable to do with our own principles we hold in our real lives. We are better able to judge those things extrinsic to us, better able to see fault in others than ourselves, and better able to judge our own principles when we see them played upon a stage by actors who embody them. When we read in a novel, or see in a play or movie, the characters living their lives through their own principles this gives us the chance to judge our principles against theirs and to see whether our principles hold up to this analysis.

Fiction is a necessary part of our lives because we need this check on our principles, we need to see whether what we believe in still moves us with moral passion when we see others do them on a stage, we need to make sure that we do not live our lives by false principles and false ideas. Fiction becomes the light that casts away the shadows of uncertainty and allows us to look at the unbridled essence of the world and say: “This is what I want my life to be like; it is time to take my destiny into my own hands and make it so!”

The World of Our Dreams

by Jason Stotts

Our world today is permeated by nihilism. It is a black cloak of faith, irrationality and death that is encompassing our world and slowly extinguishing the noble spark of the human spirit. Unfortunately, it cannot be destroyed: there is no way to destroy a nothing. But just as light drives away the shadows, so too can reason rid of us this mindlessness by replacing its vacuousness with true human values.

Consequently, I think that it is time for Objectivists to mobilize, I think we are seeing the final twilight before the coming darkness and soon it will be too late to bring about a change. There is a point, which I think is rapidly approaching, where the tide will be overwhelming and we’ll have to go to ground; where stagnation will overcome achievement and retrogression will begin.

Our economy is already bad and getting worse with every new law. Our schools are teaching religion covertly, our universities are being overrun with an unprecedented resurgence of religion. The intelligent man has always been a minority, but now we seem to be a hunted minority.

I am less concerned with the world’s end – than I am with its beginning. When will it begin? When will we have the world we desire? A world of freedom, of the light of reason, of the glory of man?

We need to mobilize and recreate the world in our ideal, we need to wipe away the scourge of mysticism and erect temples of reason. I think we’re in a great position now with Objectivist organizations like the ARI and various groups around the country. But we need to make ourselves known, even in everyday situations. We need, as a movement, media attention, something high-profile, like suing the government for unconstitutional practices, or something else sensational: perhaps refusing to pay taxes and accept jail time all over the country in protest. Look at the civil rights movement: they risked their life and got the change they needed rolling. Are we too afraid to risk even our comfort?

I’m tired of waiting to live in the world I want, I’m tired of having to suffer through an irrational world. The rage builds inside me for its destruction, the passion mounts for the world of my dreams: the world I can live in, the world I can love in, the world that celebrates life. It’d be so easy to incite the right kind of person into action, why don’t we? Why don’t we mobilize them? There is no one else to do it.

Even if we only pass the flame on to one more person, think of how quickly the conflagration will spread!

Talk to people who respect you, they’ll listen to you. It wouldn’t take much effort to pass the flame to them, to harden them to what needs to be done, not for “society”, but for each of our individual lives.

Imagine living the rest of your life knowing that the radiant world around you is the one you helped to create, that it was by your deed and will that the history of the world changed. The time will never be right – we must make it right. It’s not like the southerners wanted to give rights to blacks; the blacks demanded them. The world will not change for us; we must change it. The change has to take place like this; there is no other way for it to happen.

The worst thing we have to lose is our lives and to live knowing that you upheld your ideals in a valiant struggle to reclaim, that yours was the courage it took to change the world, that yours was the integrity of a total dedication, that it was your will alone that was what was needed to create your dream – how can we not fight for this? Are our lives worth as much if we don’t, even if we lose them?

The author Terry Goodkind said that “Your life is yours, rise up and live it!” Isn’t it high time we did so? The philosopher Ayn Rand said: “Those who fight for the future live in it today”. Wouldn’t you rather live in the world of your dreams than the world that stifles them?

I’d rather fall in a radiant descent into the daybreak of man than live to witness its final sunset.

Don’t waver on your moral ideals, saying it’s a pleasant dream, but this is the real world. It is precisely because this is the real world that we need our dreams. Ours is the way of life and of right, let us never take up the cause of our enemies against ourselves.

Something inside me has broken today and I know that I will never be the same. The issue is too poignant now. I can see my life in the harsh glare of truth and I cannot allow the shadows of doubt and fear to once again touch my soul. I must either turn my back on my ideals or wallow in hypocrisy. Yet, I cannot permit myself the latter, as long as I wish to live.

Do you feel it in your own soul? The fire? The fear? The burgeoning sense of expectation, the distant vision of the world as it should be and will be? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to usher it in? Why shouldn’t we take the world upon our shoulders and hold it aloft, letting the warm glow of the sun of reason burn away the shadows of humanity’s dark past? The golden rays of truth will dissolve the black quagmire of faith.

You know the issue as clearly as I do; you understand what our continued inaction entails: the slow death of our souls, spark by irreplaceable spark. Now is the time for us to rise to our feet and proclaim our pride in being men!

My soul burns with the passion of a thousand suns, my soul aches with the pain of a rational mind living in an irrational world, my soul shrinks from the compromise of a world created on half-truths and fear. It is fear that has created our world, the fear of independent thought, the fear of independent judgment, the fear of standing on your own judgment and the fear of falling should you make a mistake. Should we trade the ability to stand as men for the safety of crawling on our bellies? Should I flee instead of fight? Should I let my values wither in the face of no more than my fear of my own independence? Should I shackle myself to my weakness?

Every day that passes is one more day we lose of our precious lives. But every person we convince is one step closer to the world of our dreams. It’s that easy, one person at a time.

We can achieve the world of our dreams.