Monday, November 23, 2009

On Motivations and Truth

In light of the two biographies recently published about her, many articles have been written about Ayn Rand recently.  I want to take up one notion today.  One fact people often cite as significant and formative about Rand was her strong reaction to the situation in Russia and that her parents had to send her away to protect her life.  They generally opine that that it twisted and distorted and made her anti-government.

I think that the conclusion you are meant to be drawn to is that Rand, herself, was "seething with resentment" and was biased against government as such along with altruism and any form of collectivism and that because of this bias all of her arguments should be dismissed.  By "biased" I mean that a person's position is impervious to any further evidence or data on the issue.  What I'd like to take up is the idea that intense motivation must necessarily result in an unavoidable bias which contaminates your work.

For comparison, I would like to also introduce a hypothetical scenario of intense motivation.  Consider a a research scientist who loses a child to some disease and devotes his life to the eradication of this disease. Is it right to feel upset over such a loss? Yes. Is it wrong to want to want to conquer this disease? No. So... one could say this person is highly motivated, possibily emotional, but not necessarily that he or his work will be fundamentally biased and flawed.  Why?  Because science and medicine do not abide bias.  And bias here is not inevitable, provided that the research scientist is fact-oriented and documents his work so that he, himself, and others may validate it.

We started with the question: "Does intense motivation and bias have to go hand in hand?" Which we know is a possibility and which has happened in history.  But the more important question, as in the situation with the research scientist, is whether there a means to validate whether a body of work is valid even when the creator of that body of work was deeply invested in a subject?  (And it is more important because the validity of a body of work stands on whether they got the facts right and nothing else.)

To this question, the answer is "yes".  The means is called reason, which is the only way that I have ever come to understand anything. In my life, there has been no mystic revelation and any attempt to rely on blind luck has been variable.  In matters where I can judge the premises and the data and the logic for myself, I am fully confident that I can judge for myself what is the truth of the matter and thus, how to act.  We all must be to make decisions in life, reason is the fundamental to not making them blindly.

Rand's intense motivation does not automatically make her philosophical theories invalid.  And I, for my part, prefer someone who is passionate about their work to someone who is in a line of work that their parents chose for them.  Passion and Reason do not have to be enemies, and in Rand's body of work you will find detailed definitions and argumentation for all of her positions in the field of philosophy and politics.  Hers is a reason-oriented philosphy argued in passionate detail.

You have the data and the means to validate her ideas for yourself.  So does it matter that other people consider her biased?  Not if you use the tools in your brain case.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

List: Reasons People Cite for Why Still Consider Themselves Religious

No specific order.  I may come back and update this as I collect more of them.
  • To maintain access to certain social circles or traditions and practices
  • To have a moral framework for their own lives or, more frequently, raising their children
  • They depend on prayer for some kind of relief from life's difficulties
  • Because you've got to have faith in something (sounds to me like more of an expansive belief system about the nature of existence rather than faith as such)
  • From Shana Worel: Pascal's Wager (i.e. "but what if you're wrong and have to spend eternity in hell?")

Monday, November 9, 2009

Democrats Abandon The Pretense of Defending Rights


Seems the democrats threw abortion over the side of the boat this weekend to get their bill, HR3962, passed.  I would like to observe that the topic of abortion is the only one where the democrats have been on the right side.  In just about every other circumstance, they have acted to destroy freedom and rights so that they could implement their entitlement schemes, which do nothing but increase costs and redistribute wealth but are justified by noble goals if you subscribe to the altruist/collectivist ethics.

Abortion, the marriage of convenience, is now being tossed aside.  And what rights to democrats claim they are defending?  They talk only about some small minority of Americans that do not have access to health care and how they have to do something, because compassion is at the core of American values.

Compassion is not what we founded this country on.  It was not what the revolutionary war was fought for.  We are not the country where you are your brother's keeper - the country of unchosen obligation.  To find that, you can look anywhere.  Soviet Russia.  Nazi Germany.  Red China.  Socialized Europe.

On the question of freedom, America has stood alone.  That question is simple.  Is man free?  Does his life belong to him?  Or does he exist in bondage to serve the needs and ends of others?  Until the 20th century, America alone answered that man is free.  America institutionalized rights defended by a limited government.  Since then, the answer has been diluted.  Well it just got positively muddy this weekend.

Why does the question of freedom matter?  Why is it the fundamental question in politics?  That is something I'm going to have to save for a later post, which I promise to write.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dear Attorney-General-Elect Cuccinelli

Dear Attorney-General-Elect Cuccinelli,

I am writing to congratulate you on your well-deserved victory and to let you know that I look forward to the years to come in your career.  Though I do not agree with everything that I saw presented on your issues, that I was particularly glad to see a person running for office who believes that the ideas of the Founding Fathers as captured in the constitution embodies a principle that places bounds on what the government is permitted to do.  You understand that individual rights matter to voters and that puts you leaps and bounds ahead of the likes of Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling. 

Where I disagree with you is the idea that an embryo has rights that supersedes the rights of the host of that embryo; that is, the woman.  The rights of fully living human beings to do with the cells of their body as they wish are inviolable.  And the idea that the state can step in and tell a woman what she may do with her body is in complete opposition to the idea that you have a right to your life.  A right to your life means a right to your body and all of the cells in it.  Either you believe in individual rights, or you believe the state has a right to tell you what to do with your life and body.

I believe that the Republican party is lost right now and the only way they can provide a clear opposition to altruistic Democratic Socialism is by championing individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.  Republicans are unable to provide clear differentiation from Democrats because they accept the same basic moral premises: that man doesn't exist for his own sake, but rather for the greater good of society or to carry out the will of god or other such nonsense.  Republicans can win by being the champions of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, but not so long as you remain in bed with the religious right.

At any rate, you are the candidate that I voted for most enthusiastically, so I hope that this message meets with a like mind. 

-Francis Luong