Greg Perkins

Jun 182011

Tammy was excited to discover that a local pack of ultra-endurance runners had set up a 12-hour event where participants try to complete as many laps as possible of a 6-mile trail right here in our foothills (Boise has a fantastic network of running/mountain-biking trails). This format lets ultrarunning crazies at different levels of development all play together: the newer crazies can do just a few laps, while more seasoned crazies can go for substantial distances, all in the same event.
As her “support crew,” I was thrilled that this would be happening just a couple of miles from our house (hey, it was a loooong drive to those the two 12-hour trail races in Moab she did, awesome as they were).
And Tammy was thrilled to report that they would have a mountain-biking division. Uh, oh.

But, dear, I’m the crucial support crew for you on your crazy ultra-endurance runs! See, I need to mix your custom goo for you and reload your water and… Well, yes, I suppose you could pre-mix it the night before and manage your own water… But you’re forgetting that I’ve only done maybe two quick rides this season. You know that with no conditioning my rear couldn’t handle any kind of time in the saddle, much less 12 freaking hours! Well, yeah, I suppose I could just do a few laps to participate a bit while I cheer you and the other crazies on…
So we took my bike.
6:00am Saturday morning. They all counted down and took off while I was messing with getting my front brakes to work right, and I was able to hit the trail 15 minutes later.
It turned out to be a moderate single-track mountain-bike loop, with about 800 feet of climbing and of course 800 of downhill. Soon I was back at the trailhead to record the lap, then I headed out again going the opposite direction.

My rear wasn’t complaining too badly after a few laps, so I thought I’d maybe try to work in a solid six laps over the course of the day. That seemed like a respectable amount of time/distance/elevation for the “support crew” to Represent. Besides, it was kind of fun checking in on all of the runners (especially my runner) with each pass of the course, going back and forth in alternating directions.
Soon I had been adopted as the runners’ Token Biker for the day. Many asked how many laps I was going for as I passed, and I would explain that I was just there with Tammy, having a little fun, and that I would stop when she did.
After five or six hours, though, I noticed that I still felt fine — and I wasn’t slowing down at all. So naturally I started flirting with the idea of just going for it and seeing if I could really keep riding like that for the entire 12 hours and complete 12 full laps, whether or not Tammy wanted to keep going! Since I had no ultra-endurance experience or preparation, this unusual effort would also be a great test of the “ready state” that CrossFit is supposed to be giving me.
Well, apparently Tammy knows me too well! She had mixed twice as much goo as she needed the night before, just so I could fuel a very long day right along with her.

In the end, we had a great time with a nice group of folks, and we enjoyed a clean sweep of both the running and the mountain-biking divisions that day. Woo! Team Perkins brings it! :^)
I was able to ride steadily through all 12 hours, from 6:00am to 6:00pm, covering 12 laps. That’s about 73 miles, and almost 20,000 vertical feet of elevation change.
More difficult in my opinion was Tammy running all 12 hours, covering 9 laps. That is just shy of 55 miles with almost 15,000 vertical feet of elevation change. On foot!
We were certainly depleted, but not disabled, and we recovered quickly. In fact, I didn’t suffer any soreness to speak of, despite becoming a spontaneous ultra-endurance athlete for a day. Heading as usual to the CrossFit gym early Monday morning, we turned in decent performances, smiling through the strain because we knew it was preparing us for the next fun challenge to come our way.
(Thanks to Longrun Picture Company for photographing everyone that day!)
Apr 212011

Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged saw a fitting spike in mindshare with the shift in our political landscape and the subsequent emergence of the Tea Party. Now with the release of the movie Atlas Shrugged: Part I, there is an even bigger spike in interest. So of course the knives are really coming out — not just from the Left, who see Rand’s rejection of collectivism as a signal she is on the Right, but from the Right who see Rand’s rejection of religion and altruism as odious as well.

The religious journal First Things just put out an article on Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand: “The Trouble with Ayn Rand“. Here’s a little taste of a big, wandering rant:

And, really, what can one say about Objectivism? It isn’t so much a philosophy as what someone who has never actually encountered philosophy imagines a philosophy might look like: good hard axiomatic absolutes, a bluff attitude of intellectual superiority, lots of simple atomic premises supposedly immune to doubt, immense and inflexible conclusions, and plenty of assertions about what is “rational” or “objective” or “real.” Oh, and of course an imposing brand name ending with an “-ism.” Rand was so eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic that she believed she could construct an irrefutable system around a collection of simple maxims like “existence is identity” and “consciousness is identification,” all gathered from the damp fenlands between vacuous tautology and catastrophic category error. She was simply unaware that there were any genuine philosophical problems that could not be summarily solved by flatly proclaiming that this is objectivity, this is rational, this is scientific, in the peremptory tones of an Obersturmführer drilling his commandoes.

Since there weren’t that many comments yet, I chimed in with what is becoming almost a stock analysis:

There is a clear pattern in criticism of Ayn Rand, her novel Atlas Shrugged, and the philosophy of Objectivism: (1) Most critics opt for the ad-hominem route, calling Rand nasty names while trying to attack her character and painting those who do find merit in her philosophy as simpletons and sociopaths. A little investigation into the matter reveals that (2) the overwhelming majority of Rand’s critics haven’t bothered to acquaint themselves with what she actually advocated, much less why — and their level of vitriol often betrays their degree of ignorance. Finally, and most unfortunate of all, (3) on those rare occasions that Rand’s critics appear to take up her ideas, closer inspection invariably reveals that they are only knocking around a strawman and not genuinely addressing anything from her philosophy.

The present article only confirms this pattern. The ad-hominem flows as if a dam burst. And dire charges arrive in a barrage of assertions so consistently groundless that it would make any decent editor blush to have allowed it. Assertions about Rand’s supposedly atrociously horrible writings (which somehow endure as blockbusting bestsellers); about Rand having “no concept of” the existence and powers we do not give ourselves (when in fact this distinction between what she would call “the metaphysically-given” and “the man-made” is so fundamental to her thought that it plays a critical role throughout her philosophical system); about what Rand supposedly thinks “virtue” consists primarily in (when in fact the author is not merely mistaken, but categorically wrong about what Rand understood virtue to be); about what the “only important question” was to Rand (which anyone with a passing knowledge of her ethics would recognize as so wrong as to constitute an outright reversal of a cardinal virtue in her morality); her being “eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems in ontology, epistemology, or logic” (when ever-growing serious academic attention to her work in such areas doubly belies the author’s belligerent ignorance). On and on, you get the idea.

Rebooting The Objectivism Seminar

 Posted by on 3 December 2010 at 8:00 am  Objectivism Seminar
Dec 032010

The Objectivism Seminar has been running strong since it started back in 2007, working (and yes, sometimes grinding) through several seminal Objectivist books over the course of more than 125 live sessions. Whew! That’s a lot.

But now we’re going to try something a little different: studying a wandering series of individual essays! How cool is that? Let me count the ways:

  1. It will be super-easy for folks to join the Seminar at any time — and to participate sporadically!
  2. If one week’s discussion doesn’t sound so interesting, maybe the next week’s will!
  3. Speaking of keeping it interesting: everyone gets to help choose what we’ll study! (Just visit our Google Moderate page to make suggestions and vote on them. Feel free to lobby for anything from Rand’s published anthologies, Robert Mayhew’s collections of essays on Rand’s novels, and articles published in The Objective Standard journal.)
  4. Different people will lead the sessions, depending on interest and expertise. So if one week’s leader doesn’t seem so interest.. nah, not an issue.
  5. Two words: Killer Podcasts. Yep, we’re here to make your commute a spiritual experience. :^)
Other things you’ll notice on our shiny new website are gems like an administrative email list you can join to stay in the loop — and for those times when an hour of realtime discussion just isn’t enough to get it all out, there is also a separate email list you can join for open discussion of anything and everything that’s come up in the Seminar. (See the site’s communication resources page for more on all that.)

Our live sessions resume on Monday (8:00pm Mountain) with a timely discussion of Rand’s essay “Egalitarianism and Inflation” from Philosophy: Who Needs It, lead by grizzled and witty Seminar veteran Kyle Haight.

I hope you can join us for it!

Do Corporations Have Rights?

 Posted by on 19 November 2010 at 8:00 am  Law, Objectivist Answers, Politics
Nov 192010

The new site Objectivist Answers has really taken off since its launch, now with over 190 questions, more than 400 answers, and countless comments and votes from a steady stream of visitors!

One of the questions is asked by “ryankrause“:

Do Corporations Have Rights?

There has been some controversy lately over the rights of corporations (freedom of speech, etc.). From an Objectivist perspective, what–if any–are the rights of corporations? Do they simply share the individual rights of their shareholders, or since they are technically legal creations, should they have fewer rights than human beings?

Objectivist Answers user JJMcVey offers the following answer:

Leaving aside the issue of their current legal status and dealing with principles, corporations are nothing more than means by which individuals get together and pool resources to make a single integrated system of resources to achieve one common objective. The rights of the corporation are whatever the rights possessed by the individual as they choose to delegate to it, and are of equal validity as any individual rights for that reason.

In regards to limited liability, the principle itself is sound but the law surrounding it today is wrong. The law today says corporations really are separate entities with legal personhood, which law is then used to pretend that incorporation is only a government privilege and that corporations are obliged to serve government ends. The law as it stands then leads to a variety of injustices, which have themselves lead to further bad adjustments to already bad law (another example of controls breeding controls).

If the law were written properly limited liability would be legally recognised for what it actually is: a derivative property right and which gives the superficial appearance of the corporation being a separate entity for the purposes of issuing stock, borrowing money, and similar financial activities. Everything valid about limited liability can be traced back to individuals’ rights to property and freedom of contract, including other derivatives such as the right to freedom of principal-and-agent agreements. Proper law relating to limited liability would just recognise that people would use these same types of contractual arrangements again and again, so would integrate the practice into a few concepts (the corporation and a few variants) and develop an integrated body of law to match. That law would also then not let bad people perpetrate the fraudulent behaviour that law imparting legal-personhood to corporations shields them to do.

If you liked that answer, please go vote for it to make it more visible to the world while sending JJMcVey some well-deserved OA “karma.” (And if you think he has missed something important, that’s fine too: you can add a comment to that effect, or contribute a whole new answer of your own!)

Objectivist Answers is an exciting new online resource where anybody can ask questions of Objectivists, and any Objectivist can answer! Please visit with your questions, answers, or both!

Objectivism, Not Social Darwinism

 Posted by on 4 November 2010 at 7:00 am  Objectivism, Objectivist Answers
Nov 042010

The new site Objectivist Answers has really taken off since its launch, now with over 150 questions, more than 300 answers, and countless comments and votes from a steady stream of visitors!

One of the questions is asked by “Bas“:

What is Social Darwinism?

What is Social Darwinism? And why do people mistake laissez-faire or Objectivism for Social Darwinism?

Objectivist Answers user Robert Garmong offers the following answer:

Social Darwinism is a 19th-Century philosophy which applied the concept of “survival of the fittest” to human society. Though there are other variants of social Darwinism (including Nazi-style eugenics), the idea is primarily associated with an argument for laissez-faire capitalism put forth most famously by Herbert Spencer.

The most basic form of social Darwinian “defense” of capitalism argues that mankind, like all other species, evolves by the process of competition for scarce resources. The most “fit” — i.e., the ones best able to gain and utilize natural resources — survive and reproduce, while those less capable eventually die off and are removed from the gene pool. Laissez-faire capitalism allows the fittest (the Rockefellers and Carnegies of the world) to gobble up all the resources and reproduce, while the unfit (such as the handicapped, the mentally retarded, or the lazy) die off and fail to reproduce. Any interference with laissez-faire capitalism (such as social welfare programs or regulations on business) weakens or destroys the gene pool.

This argument, as a form of pure biological determinism, utterly ignores the role of the human mind. While it recognizes the importance of “intelligence,” it holds intelligence as a purely biological, innate attribute. It doesn’t take too much of a sophisticate to see that, if you somehow killed off every lazy person in the current generation, next generation you’d have a whole new crop of them — because laziness is not a product of genetics.

A somewhat more sophisticated version, exemplified by the stories of Horatio Alger, gives notional credence to the mind. It holds that the survival and thriving of the fittest in any field serves as an example, while the failure or death of the unfit serves as a cautionary tale. While significantly better than crude form of social Darwinism, it is still premised on the idea that capitalism requires mass death, and it is still based on the altruistic premise that the purpose of ethics/politics is the betterment of society.

Note that social Darwinism in either form is not properly a defense of capitalism, but a critique of everything else. It doesn’t say that capitalism is moral, or just, or based on objective values, or rooted in unalienable rights. It carries only the grim message that “if you do anything else, the race will die in misery.” (In point of fact, most social Darwinians believe that extinction is inevitable anyway, as human beings will eventually use up all the resources in the environment. Thomas Malthus, though writing before Darwin, made the classic argument for this view which was later absorbed into social Darwinism.)

Although, like Ayn Rand’s ethics, this argument claims to be rooted in biology, it is rooted in precisely those elements of biology that are least-relevant to mankind. As Stellavision noted, human beings do not survive by cutthroat competition for scarce resources. Human beings thrive by productive creation and mutually-beneficial trade of increasingly-abundant values.

Imagine a young man trying to sort out his political opinions, as most people do in their teens and early twenties. On one hand, there is a stern-faced exponent of the view that mankind, while eventually doomed to miserable death, can stave it off for a time only by accepting mass death of the unfit while the fat-cats born with unfair advantages exploit us all and live in opulence. On the other hand, there is a Marxist/socialist who promises a future of solidarity and prosperity for all, if we only expropriate the wealth from the few and distribute it “fairly” to the masses. Is it any wonder that social Darwinism has far more people to reject capitalism than to accept it?

As for the question why people associate Objectivism with social Darwinism, the obvious answer is that those on the Left have taken social Darwinism as the straw man, the most obviously repulsive version of pro-capitalist argument, in order to smear the rest of us.

But what about those who aren’t virulent anti-capitalists, who nonetheless associate Ayn Rand’s ideas with social Darwinism? In most cases, I think it’s due to the surface-level association of the fact that Ayn Rand made heroes of businessmen, and so did social Darwinians. The fact that Ayn Rand’s businessman heroes produced and spread values, not sacrifice and death, is lost on the casual reader.

If you liked that answer, please go vote for it to make it more visible to the world while sending Robert some well-deserved OA “karma.” (And if you think he has missed something important, that’s fine too: you can add a comment to that effect, or contribute a whole new answer of your own!)

Objectivist Answers is an exciting new online resource where anybody can ask questions of Objectivists, and any Objectivist can answer! Please visit with your questions, answers, or both!

Tough Mudder: Dirty, Adventurous Fun!

 Posted by on 23 October 2010 at 7:00 am  Exercise, Fitness, Fun
Oct 232010

Tammy and I just did the Tough Mudder (NorCal ), and it was a blast! Tough Mudder bills themselves as

the TOUGHEST one day event on the planet. This is not your average mud run or boring, spirit-crushing road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man: our 7-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around toughness, strength, stamina, fitness, camaraderie, and mental grit. Forget about your finish time. … Simply completing the event is a badge of honor.

All the machismo and marketing hype aside, we love new adventures. Hearing that this one amounted to dashing all over a ski hill sprinkled with nineteen military-style obstacles that we would get to play on, we knew we had to go check it out! Factor in doing it at elevation, an air temperature of 60 degrees or so, with water and ice among those obstacles, and that’s pretty much irresistible for a pair of CrossFitters. ;^)

Costumes are strongly encouraged, though strangely there weren’t a lot in evidence when we got there. No matter — we were on a mission to maximize the fun! Rather than go with choices we could see in photos from past events, like some sort of Braveheart warrior thing, or natives from Avatar (or the sometimes super-risque ones that left a lot of skin exposed) we decided to hit it with an old-school prison-break theme! This earned us a lot of attention throughout the course: As we passed people or approached obstacle managers, they would often chuckle, making comments about Alcatraz, or how they could hear the dogs and that we should run faster. At one point, a couple of guys behind me were singing about workin’ on the chain gang. Lots of people called out Hey, Convict!, asking what we did (“nothing, we’re innocent!”) and why we were running (“we were framed!”). And whenever the helicopter was hovering overhead capturing images, people commented about the search closing in which only increased the feeling of our making an escape — like something out of a movie.

The course really did have a lot of fun twists! Here’s the blow-by-blow. (Sorry for the length of this post; feel free to just skim and look at pictures. :^)

1. The start was a mob-dash straight down a ski slope right, after we all recited a little Pledge acknowledging that this was a challenge and not a race; that mudders help each other out; and that mudders don’t whine (“kids whine!”). I think this last is clever of them, given how likely it is for hiccups to happen in a complicated event like this. They called this part the Braveheart Charge (“Charge into battle with 5000 fellow Tough Mudders. Battle cries essential.”)

2. After running back uphill for a while, we hit the Kiss of Mud (“Eat dirt as you crawl on your belly under wire set only 8 inches from the ground.”)  Yeah! A low-crawl through cold mud, under barbed wire — that’ll take the shine off your uniform!

3. After that came the Death March (“Feel the burn early on as you charge straight up this red graded ski run right to the top of the mountain.”) Burning legs and lungs, check. But their description forgot to mention the descent that precedes the ascent: steep, switchbacking, single-track, winding through a field of boulders. (You can see how the single-track aspect  bottled people up a bit in the picture on the right.)

4. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by Boa Constrictor (“Prove you can cope with cold dark confined spaces and a few nasty scratches with our specially designed Tough Mudder tire tunnels.”) This was basically some lengths of corrugated culvert pipes connected with a bend so you couldn’t see light until you were halfway through them. And they were tight enough that we had to basically drag ourselves through with our arms.

5. After some more running, we came up on Dragon Wheels (“Just when you thought it was all running and crawling, try your hand a climbing. Claw up and over these three giant spools lined end to end. Stop complaining.”) I got a little clumsy on these — couldn’t swing my legs to the side since the vertical parts made it too narrow, and there were Mudders doing their best to be helpful to other Mudders, which was cool, but basically put them in my way. So I flailed going over and landed in an undignified heap on the far side.

6. Next came The Gauntlet (“Prepare to feel like you’re at a South American political demonstration as you get high pressure hosed from both sides as you run though Bear Valley’s half pipe.”) This was awesome, just the kind of thing you’d expect out of Tough Mudder: running up a really muddy halfpipe, getting hit by snowmaking machines blasting water at you from both sides. Refreshing!

7. That was followed by Cliffhanger (“Grab onto anything you can as you scramble back to the top of the mountain up this nasty slippery and very steep black run.”) This was an even steeper ascent that was just loooong — I hit my threshold and was powerwalking a bunch of it, but Tammy just ran all the way up. Enduro-trail-running badass! (A Marine who had just limped to the top was giving her big props for making what’s on the right look easy. :^)

(Something about climbing up a glacier wall was supposed to happen about now, but we didn’t notice any 100-foot ice sheets that needed scaling… not that we were worried about this at the time, as the course was basically a blur of activity anyway.)

8. We came up on a crowd of people all bottled up, briefly wondering what we should do and why people weren’t moving. Turns out it was the Swamp Stomp (“Get stuck in with our knee-high energy-sapping trademark Tough Mudder thick mud.”) Seriously, you could lose a shoe running through this stuff! The wait wasn’t too long, and they kept us entertained by letting a handful of folks try to demonstrate their best bellyflops into it.

9. Next was the Kentucky Derby (“These eight foot jumps are too much for even the biggest of thoroughbreds, so you’ll need teamwork and camaraderie to get yourself and your fellow Mudders over these giant beams.”) No kidding — the top of that big, smooth beam was way up there!

10. After some more dashing, we all clambered over a schoolbus at the School of Tough Knocks (“Be the kelly Slater of bus surfing as you climb cargo nets to the top of this yellow beauty just to make the 12 foot jump back down again.”) Looks like they skipped the jump down in favor of cargo nets on both sides.

11. Then there was more mud, and we hit the Berlin Walls (“Show team spirit and camaraderie as you work with other Tough Mudders to scale our series of 12 foot high walls, tough enough when dry, but really fun when wet.”) Now it was Tammy’s turn to be a little clumsy — she hit that slick white board on the front side and went down hard, rocking and holding her leg like Peter in that recurring joke in Family Guy. Walk it off, Mudder!

We fled the scene and soon arrived at a manmade reservoir way up on top of the mountain. Approaching it from the far side in this photo, there were four ropes that people were using to climb down to the water for…

12. The Underwater Tunnels (“Bob underneath the obstacles on the surface of the water as your head shrinks to the size of a walnut.”) Yeeeeahh!! Swim across, going under the floating barrels. Okay, I’ll just say that swimming in a cotton jumpsuit isn’t the best idea, but the challenge was really the temperature: apparently it snowed the day before and the water was 40 degrees! We could seriously feel the clock ticking the entire time we were in it. When I first waded in up to my chest, my diaphragm stopped cooperating on that whole breathing thing, so I backed up to knee-depth to let the shock settle in a bit and hit it again. Unfortunately, Tammy (who was already working on enjoying the cold) thought something was going really wrong because I was suddenly coming back at her, and I wasn’t able to speak very well to explain what I was up to.

13. After swimming across and climbing up the other side, we were sent right back in with Greased Lightening (“Have some fun sliding down the hill, real Tough Mudders go head first back into the pond.”) Woo!!  That really was fun! Well, at least until we hit the freezing water a second time and had to swim around a boat out there before climbing out again. Oh, and getting in the water wasn’t only unpleasant because of the cold: it absolutely REEKED. We’re pretty sure it was the smell of a thousand years of fermented goose poop.

14. Dashing away, I noticed that I couldn’t feel a few of my toes and fingers, and Tammy was saying that she couldn’t feel her feet, so at this point we were looking forward to anything that might warm us back up. That turned out to be Hold Your Wood (“Make like a lumberjack and drag a log up a ski slope and then try to keep your footing on the way back down.”). Grabbing a couple of good-sized ones (the longer, shared ones were all gone), we headed straight downhill. Eventually there was a turnaround, and we all headed right back up! Sure, sounds less than stimulating, but I’m pretty sure everyone was enjoying warming up at this point.

15. Next up was Devil’s Beard (“Try as you might you will get caught like a fly in a spider’s web time and time again in our annoyingly low cargo nets.”). This was just another quick low-crawl, but under a big cargo net. Meh.

16. Running along the ridge at this point, we arrived at a long snow/wind break co-opted for the next event: Fenced Off (“Show your mental toughness as you cross back and forth four times over this 8 foot fence.”). This actually felt a lot like part of a CrossFit workout: You go over on this segment, come back on the next, and continued doing that until you run out of fence. We crossed the fence sixteen times in total.

17. Continuing along the ridge as we headed down, it was starting to feel like it might be ending. Sure enough, that’s when the Mystery Obstacle showed up, which was supposed to be the last thing before the finish. It turned out to be a table filled with shots of the world’s nastiest, most badass hot sauce. Or so they said. As best we could tell it was only watered-down sriracha sauce, so maybe this was supposed to be more of a test of mental grit or whatever (willingness to just throw back the “fearsome” stuff and move on).

18. More winding downhill, then finally — a little more than two hours after starting — we hit the finish line of Fire Walker (“Plain and simple, run through our blazing kerosene soaked straw. Expect flames at least 4 foot high.”) Looks like the Forest Service nixed the flaming bales of straw, because it was a gauntlet of propane flames that marked the end. Woo! High fives!!

The event was of course followed by the all-important party, where everyone was drinking beer and listening to a decent band. The organizers noticed our costumes and pulled us up on stage to be interviewed for a while (and we’re pretty sure we would have won the Best Costume contest if we hadn’t missed it by being off at the porta-potties to relieve SOMEONE’s tiny chick-bladder ;^).

Unfortunately, we were driving home the next day and couldn’t take the organizers up on their challenge for everyone who did it on Saturday to return and do it again on Sunday. That would have been a hoot! Next time.

We are seriously impressed with a relatively new and inexperienced organization putting on so large and complicated (and well-designed) an event, and seeing it all go so smoothly! That’s not easy. The bottom line is that if you’re reasonably fit, you’ll have a great time doing Tough Mudder. (And if you’re a CrossFitter, you can probably show up with no event-specific preparation and turn in a strong performance. :^) Just be sure to wear a costume — the people in costumes have way more fun!

Oct 192010

The new site Objectivist Answers has really taken off since its launch: it now has over 120 questions, over 230 answers, and countless comments and votes from a steady stream of visitors!

One of the questions is asked by “seehafer“:

Did Ayn Rand have something against children?

They aren’t mentioned, except in passing, in Atlas Shrugged.

Objectivist Answers user “rationaljenn” offers the following answer:

Though children did not figure prominently in any of her novels, that does not imply that Ayn Rand was hostile toward children or family.

Consider this passage from Atlas Shrugged, referring to two children being raised in the Gulch, by a woman who has chosen to move her family to a place so that she can raise her children as she wants to:

The recaptured sense of her [Dagny's] own childhood kept coming back to her whenever she met the two sons of the young woman who owned the bakery shop. . . . They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world–a look of fear, half- secretive, half-sneering, the look of a child’s defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred. The two boys had the open, joyous, friendly confidence of kittens who do not expect to get hurt, they had an innocently natural, non-boastful sense of their own value and as innocent a trust in any stranger’s ability to recognize it, they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery, and they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence.

When I think of how I want to raise my own children, I always think of creating an environment and parenting them in a way so that they can recognize their own value, and have the “open, joyous and friendly confidence of kittens” that these two fictional children described above possess. I think this passage shows Ayn Rand’s benevolence toward children and family. Though she did not choose to have children of her own (lots of people don’t!) and didn’t choose to write books about or for children (lots of authors don’t!), I have never viewed her as hostile to children and family.

For more on this subject, see my posts Mythbusting: Ayn Rand, Mommies and Children and More from Ayn Rand about Childhood.

If you liked that answer, please go vote for it to make it more visible to the world while sending rationaljenn some well-deserved OA “karma.” (And if you think she has missed something important, that’s fine too: you can add a comment to that effect, or contribute a whole new answer of your own!)

Objectivist Answers is an exciting new online resource where anybody can ask questions of Objectivists, and any Objectivist can answer! Please visit with your questions, answers, or both!

Oct 042010

Objectivist Answers has really taken off since its launch: it now has about one hundred questions, about 150 answers, and countless comments and votes from a steady stream of visitors!

One of the questions is:

Why not lie to gain a huge reward?

Why, according to Objectivism, shouldn’t I be dishonest in order to gain a large reward? Obviously there are cases where dishonesty would clearly not be to my interests, but aren’t there cases where the lie is small, unlikely to be detected, and the reward could allow me to achieve all sorts of values I care about?

Maybe pause for a moment to consider what would constitute a great answer. What is the essential principle, and what potential distractions should be avoided? What sort of concretes, shared in what way, would help people most easily understand the point? What would help you better understand the issue?

Objectivist Answers user “Publius” offers the following answer:

I think the basic issue is that this kind of question treats “reward” as a stolen concept. To call something a reward is to say that it represents a net gain to the actor. But how do you establish that something is a net gain? You can’t look at it in isolation. Is eating a slice of cake a net gain to someone? It depends: Is he on a diet? Is he diabetic? Is it his birthday? Did he steal it? Etc.

To establish something as a reward requires seeing it in its full context, and its full context is your entire life. And that has a specific meaning. Rand’s morality is not about collecting a bunch of goodies. It’s about living a certain kind of life–a life that is all integrated around a certain conception of what your life is about. Think of Dagny. Her life is about running a railroad, loving Galt, being enthralled by Richard Halley’s music–and these major values are also integrated. It would never even occur to her that something could be a value that didn’t contribute to that sum. Money? It has value to her only insofar as it comes from and contributes to those central values.

To put it a bit differently, Objectivism’s entire view of the nature of evil is that it is about inconsistency–the evil person is the one who does not pursue an integrated spectrum of values. He seeks “values” out of context, but that’s like seeking knowledge out of context. What you gain is not knowledge, even if it looks like knowledge on the surface. Same with values. A person who “gains” ten or a million dollars at the price of inconsistency loses, because he gives up that which gives money (and any other value) its meaning.

Another way to put this point is: values are objective. Part of what that means is that for something to be a genuine value, it has to flow from a rational mental process. The person who discards virtue to gain an alleged value is saying, “To hell with that process.” That is destructive. As Dr. Peikoff explains in OPAR, virtue is one. And by the same token, value is one. To make your values one requires integration. The “if I can get away with it” mentality throws all that out. That’s why in reality “successful” criminals are miserable people who waste away their “winnings” within a very short period. The loot they get has no value to them because nothing has any value to them because they’ve rejected the precondition of valuing: rationality.

If you liked that answer, you can go vote for it to make it more visible to the world while sending Publius some well-deserved OA “karma.” (And if you think he has missed something important, that’s fine too: please go add a comment to that effect, or contribute a whole new answer of your own!)

Objectivist Answers is an exciting new online resource where anybody can ask questions of Objectivists, and any Objectivist can answer! Please visit with your questions, answers, or both!

Sep 222010

I’m thrilled to announce Objectivist Answers, a new question-and-answer site dedicated to Objectivism!

Objectivist Answers is already turning into a great resource for people wanting to better understand Ayn Rand’s work and its application in living on earth. In just its pre-announcement activity, OA has brought almost one hundred Objectivists to bear on dozens of questions! Here are a few that they’ve already addressed:

Anybody can ask questions on Objectivist Answers, so please jump in and add yours! People who know little or nothing about Rand and Objectivism are especially welcomed.

Participation Earns You Karma! (And More Power on OA)

  • Anybody can ask a question!
  • Any Objectivist can post answers. (Are you an Objectivist? Check out the OA FAQ to find out how to join the answering fray!)
  • Anybody can give feedback with comments and up/down votes!
  • Earn credibility with good questions, answers, comments, and voting feedback — you’ll automatically get more visibility and moderation power in the system

WANTED: Objectivists willing to tell the world what they think!

Are you an Objectivist living on earth? Great! You’re officially invited to give the world a piece of your mind! You might even earn some fame and glory on the way to nudging the culture in a healthy direction. Please keep in mind that there’s no need to post long, carefully polished questions or answers on OA: that’s why we have edit buttons and commenting. On OA, you’re officially encouraged to edit your content! Just go create an account on OA and check out the site FAQ to find out how you can be assigned the power to answer questions.

Why do we need Yet Another online community thingie?

Sure, there are already plenty of fine online forums out there. But while the discussions they host can have brilliant content, that brilliance is usually buried in long threads of back-and-forth debate. It just isn’t that usable for someone who wants to find a solid answer now. OA is built to highlight great answers and the Objectivists who deliver them — not the conversation. The system manages this by way of voting, which lets it identify and automatically highlight popular content while drawing attention to its creators (who, besides earning some fame and glory, also earn increased moderation powers). And if someone really knocks it out of the park, their answer could also be featured here on NoodleFood!

Whether you’ve got questions or answers we look forward to seeing you at Objectivist Answers!


Recall that the goal with CrossFit training is not to be elite at anything in particular, but rather to perform well at everything in general — to “specialize in not specializing” athletically. CrossFit’s founder thinks this is possible, and that their methodology is the best way to pull it off. Of course this just begs to be put to the test, as I explained last time with the story of Tammy taking on her first ultra run.

We had a lot of fun with that test, but wouldn’t it have been even more interesting to use someone who didn’t start out as a trained runner? Sure!

That would require finding the right lab rat. Maybe someone who wasn’t athletic and sporty growing up… think “classic band-geek who’s into computers.” Like me. :^) Even as an adult who became active, I simply didn’t enjoy running. “Sorry dear, I know you looooove running, but it’s mountain biking for me — your ‘fun’ hurts too much!” So of course I’ve never trained to run any of the races I would never have thought to enter in the first place. Like Robie. (Cue the ominous music.) Growing up in Boise, I was well aware of this annual rite that draws thousands of masochistic runners from all over: The Race to Robie Creek, billed as “the toughest half-marathon in the Northwest.” No kidding.

It’s so easy to be all macho about stuff in the future, isn’t it? “Alright, T — if you actually run that Moab ultra, I’ll run Robie!”

Then, wouldn’t you know it, the future arrived. It was test time. Would my unspecialized training let me “perform well” at this fabled exercise in running brutality? Or, failing that, could I at least finish the horrid thing and not be prevented from using stairs for a week? Here’s how it all went down:

As for the stairs question: happily, no problem! While I could certainly feel tightness in my legs for a couple of days, I wasn’t hampered. Case in point: the Monday morning following the race I turned in a strong performance on our regularly-scheduled random CrossFit beatdown, which happened to be dominated by lunge-walking and squats.

(P.S.: Did you notice who was already there, waiting for me at the finish line? Yeah, the little sandbagger. Even that morning, Tammy was saying she didn’t expect to be able to do more than jog/walk Robie in a social way because of training for, running, and having only three weeks to recover from a very different kind of race. Yet she ended up being the 25th female over the line and outright won her age division! Needless to say, she’s thrilled with having gained the capacity to so casually demolish the best results she ever saw with her previous training methods.)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha