Posts Tagged philosophy

What’s with the social networking craze?

Okay, all right! This rant is a couple of years too late to even pretend to be a surprised reaction to Facebook, Twitter, etc., but though I get these tools, I don’t quite get why people would want to Share their every activity. Or Tweet them to the whole wide world, for that matter. Like, “I went to the market today”, or “I ate a 24″ pizza :D :D ”; for eloquence, you can’t beat a simple “WTF” [pardon the language (if you understand what the acronym stands for)]. Gone was the time when children used to be worried sick about being caught using swear-words or invectives. These words have now entered the popular teen- and pre-teen-culture, and seem to have become accepted as well, their meaning be damned.

For some time, I got caught up in this let-the-world-know-what-I’m-upto craze, and then the whole thing started sounding more and more crazy to me. Why would I want everyone to know what I was up to, every hour of my day? Why would any one, for that matter? Is this some (partly) grown-up version of “I’m better” or “I have a better toy” game that kids play regularly? “Is your social network better than mine?” What is it about humans that makes them want to, at the risk of losing whatever little privacy they have in these days of the omnipresent Google street-mapping cameras, reach out to everyone in their circle, however faintly they’re connected?

I don’t have any answer that fits all these questions, but I do have some guesses:

  1. Emotional deprivation: it’s a reflection of people’s innate need to be accepted as part of some group, some circle. A need to be accepted. Period.
  2. Utility: services like Google Places, Foursquare and Yelp are conceivably helpful to people in discovering new restaurants, places of retreat, places to party, etc.
  3. Ego: some people simply want to brag about being rich enough to be in a certain location; their geekiness; themselves.

Obviously, these questions and answers / guesses merely scratch the surface of a deep, but clearly real, need for people to share their thoughts, actions, whereabouts with others, sometimes even inadvertently. The big question, Why, is something that professional sociologists are better equipped to answer than I.

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Play for a win, or play for perfection? It’s all in the mind

I was playing tennis earlier today. We were just the three of us, so we played one man against a pair, and alternated every two games. Initially, the only thing I could do well was serve, but thanks to some hopeless hitting, I lost my service games rather quickly. Unable to win, and unable to hit a decent shot, I told myself that it was only a practice session, and that I could afford to concentrate on playing well, not necessarily on winning. Surprisingly, I started winning a few games, both while playing alone and playing with a partner. Three games in particular were really satisfying. In the first one, I was serving 0-40, and came back to win it with some good serving, setting up easy volleys for my partner to put away. In another (playing without a partner), I broke the serve of one of the best players here, and then held serve with a couple of aces and an equal number of service winners. Needless to say, I lost the next game ;-)

The insignificance of the morning session aside, the thing I want to talk about is the approach I had to the game today, and how it seemed to have made a difference. When I started off playing with an intention to win, I was losing miserably, and not getting any sort of timing or control on my strokes. But when I started playing with an intent to hit the ball well, my winning percentage improved. It reminded me of my college days when I would play to achieve perfection in stroke execution. (I had once mentioned to a friend of mine that I was trying to find self-expression on the sports field. That’s true of me even today.) Of course, winning mattered to me then even more than it matters to me now, but somewhere along the way, I had let the desire to win subjugate my desire to play a perfect game, and my game has suffered for it.

Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. In many cases, it corrupts our mind, making us forget our joys as children / young men when we toiled to develop certain skills, unmindful of the innumerable hours spent training our bodies and minds to obey our will. The joy of producing a well-timed shot – even if it is not an outright winner – is far greater than that of winning a point by waiting for your opponent to commit an error. Though all this may seem to apply mostly to amateurs, even professional sports-persons like the legendary tennis player Steffi Graf have been known to play with the hope of hitting “the zone” that some, or probably most, of us are familiar with.

Letting go of the desire to win lifts a heavy weight off your mind and allows you to be free and unshackled. This in turn lets you concentrate on the immediate present: you no longer play with a view to winning the entire match right from the word go, playing instead to win the point. Of course, if you continue to play well, you may just win the last point, which, at least as far as tennis is concerned, is the same as winning the match :-)

The quest to attain perfection is not necessarily an abstract pursuit. It’s an attempt to be the best you can be; it’s an attempt to find the latent superhuman in you; it’s a technique to detach yourself from expectations; it is a test of, and a push to extend, your limits. It is also a way to focus your mind, emptying it of everything but the present moment; a way to stay at the cutting edge of awareness. In many ways, it’s like a quest to attain the state of Zen – ever mindful of the goal called perfection, never of what that success might bring.

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The hunger for "more"

It occurred to me recently, though it may have been true much earlier, that we have successfully manufactured for ourselves a situation that I think is unprecedented, particularly considering its scale. It is something that makes us forget the bird in hand for the two in the bush. It makes us run constantly. It gnaws away at us, and makes us wish we were somebody else, someone rich, someone affluent. In short, it never lets us be at peace with who we are, or what we have. The situation is this: we want “more” from life, even if we don’t need more. Corporates want more profits every quarter, ostensibly driven by shareholders’ restlessness; employees want more salary with each job that they move to, though their work be the same; we want to buy newer gadgets all the time though the older ones work just fine; we discard our mobile phones which are old but in perfect working condition in favour of new ones; we “move up” from a nice, comfortable two-wheeler to a four-wheeler; and so on and so forth. And the omnipresent advertising media is only too happy in letting us run after the mirage of a paper rose called materialistic fulfilment.

Though I was conscious of this phenomenon six years ago, it didn’t really grab my attention probably because I thought, at that time, that what I’d noticed was not widespread. I didn’t recognise it for what it was – the entrenchment of a new set of values that have been successfully eroding the credo that had contentment and thrift as its mainstay. Which brings to mind the question, What happened to this thing that was valued so high that it was one of the most sought-after mental states in this country: contentment? Along with that question come others. What’s the need to go hankering for more? Why do we feel compelled to add more to life (more in terms of money and material comforts)? Is it a need that we’re trying to satisfy, or a want that we want to convert to a need? Does having more necessarily lead to more happiness?

It is possible to trace this insatiable hunger, I feel, to that period in time when satellite television came to India in a big way. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those cultural, let’s-go-back-to-stone-age activists. I’m not a luddite either. On the contrary, I’m pro-technology, and all for progress. What I take issue with is the definition of progress itself.

Satellite television per se is not bad. Like most technologies, its becoming a boon or a bane depends on how we put it to use. Where I think we have not done well as a society is in these areas: i) Not understanding why we follow certain customs and traditions ii) Letting that misunderstanding turn to mistrust iii) As a consequence of the growing mistrust, believing that what / whatever comes from across the seas must necessarily be a good thing since so many people who live life in accordance with it are prosperous.

Scientific and technological advancements have long reached a stage where they can help us live a happy and comfortable life. We have upgraded our farming methods to ensure a plentiful supply of food all round the year, sometimes even when rains have failed; great improvements in scientific and medical knowledge have resulted in humanity conquering many diseases and ailments; we’re not too far away from terraforming other planets that we find capable of supporting life, and thus making science fiction become, yet again, reality. Yet, despite all these conquests of nature and natural phenomena that have satisfied our physical needs, we’ve failed to satisfy our innermost needs: the emotional, psychological, intellectual and spiritual ones.

So we have a truly unique situation: nations spend hundreds of billions, perhaps even trillions, of insert-your-favourite-currency-here on defending their territories in the name of national defence, but many don’t commit even a fraction of that money on making the lives of thousands of people in their own country, and around the globe, a bit easier to live; we think nothing of spending hundreds on buying the latest gadgets, but we ponder many times over donating even a hundred to, for example, the victims of the Haiti earthquake; if we do so at all, we feel we have done enough to expiate our greed and / or self-indulgence. The human condition has become so depraved that if we see a homeless person or a beggar, or even a decent-looking person asking for some change, we either turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or shrink away in doubt / fear, instead of wishing to help them. Of course, the increase in the number of psychopathic individuals, or perhaps our increased awareness to their presence among us (thanks to the various media), may be one reason for such an attitude, but even so, it’s remarkable how easy it is to shed our compassion than it is shed our fear of the unknown.

Where is all this leading us to? Where are we going? Will we survive for long, or merely be blips on our planet’s collective memory?

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We’re humans, every one of us!

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings:
“At the end of it, all are humans! How we look at things, how we deal with them, how we deal with ourselves, how we try and get over [sad events], how we get on with life without degrading ourselves. All in our hands.

The ball’s in everybody’s court. Upto [us] to play it.”

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Fight we must!

Life’s never fair. You know that, and you’re probably wondering, like the inimitable Calvin in “Calvin and Hobbes” why it’s never unfair in your favour. Here’s one corny answer: because!

All of us start life in different ways. Some of us are born into so-called middle-class families, while yet others are born with silver spoons in their mouths; some are born normal and healthy, while others are born with physical or mental deficiencies; some are born with a superior mental apparatus (the world knows them as geniuses), while the rest of us just get by with average intelligence. And so on it goes. So, what are we to do? Resign ourselves to our fate,and go through life with a sense of defeat?

Never! Fight not the world, but that which you assume to be your limitation; not against what you assume to be life’s unkind blows, but for the ideals that you hold dear to you. If you want to be a topper in your class, and you know that some of your classmates are born cleverer than you, then make up for it by spending more time on your studies than they do. Sure, they may still outscore you, but you’ll be better off for the toil that you put in. If you’re a sportsperson and your hand-eye coordination is not in the league of an Agassi or a Federer, then what you must do is spend more hours on the sports field honing your abilities: movement, footwork, racquet / bat skills, speed, etc. Sure, you may never win over critics, but you’ll certainly win over the hearts of people who see you fight with every muscle and sinew.

If you are more emotional than the average person, and tend to decide more with your heart than your head, then try and learn to be aware of your feelings all the time. Remember, your tendencies and feelings are strengthened by yielding to them unthinkingly; it’s not for nothing that resisting temptation is said to build character. For while anyone can yield to temptation, it’s only those with a strong will who can overcome temptation and emerge stronger. If you look at it from that perspective, your being emotional is actually a blessing in disguise for it gives you a wonderful chance to become a stronger-willed person. In fact, that’s just what difficulties in life really are: a means to overcome your weaknesses and emerge stronger.

Remember, “there is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts,” and “You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” (Richard Bach, Illusions)

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Free Software

And I mean “free as in freedom, not price”. Yes, I’m talking about Richard M Stallman’s (abbreviated to RMS) Free Software Foundation and its philosophy. The guy’s ideology is far-reaching and inspiring. The following are excerpts from an interview.

JA: What if your job requires you to use non-free software?

Richard Stallman: I would quit that job. Would you participate in something anti-social just because somebody pays you to? What if the job involves hitting people on the head in the street and taking their wallets? What if it involves spreading the word that Democrats should vote on Wednesday instead of Tuesday? Some people seriously claim that you can’t criticize what someone does if it is part of their job. From my point of view, the fact that somebody is being paid to do something wrong is not an excuse.

JA: Do you consider it proper for people who are trying to only use free software to utilize…

Richard Stallman: To connect to a server that’s running non-free software?

I don’t feel I need to refuse to connect to a server that is running non-free software. For that matter, I won’t refuse to type on a computer that’s running non-free software. If I were visiting your house for a little and you had a Windows machine, I would use it if it were important for me to use it. I wouldn’t be willing to have Windows on my computer, and you shouldn’t have it on yours, but I can’t change that by refusing to touch the machine.

If you connect to a server that runs non-free software, you’re not the one whose freedom is harmed. It’s the server operator who has lost freedom to the restrictions on the software he runs. This is unfortunate, and I hope that he switches to free software; we’re working to bring that about. But I don’t feel you have to boycott his site until he switches. He isn’t making you use the non-free software.

Cogent and brilliant arguments. You can read the complete article in the link below.

Related article

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Questions, questions

What’s more important? To be right, or to be good? To be good, or to be great?

What are values? Are they an invention of the human mind? Or are they something that are part of the structure of the Universe? You know, some sort of cosmic order.

What is right, what is wrong? Are they entirely relative? Or, are there rights and wrongs that are absolute and unchangeable? If there are, how do we know them?

Do humans have inalienable rights? If they do, what about other species on this planet? Are animal rights “invented” by humans? If so, who gave us the right to presume that they didn’t have any rights to start with?

Is man the measure of everything that’s moral? What is morality? What is conscience? What is the difference between right and wrong? Is something that’s not wrong right? Who determines it? Where do morality and conscience come from?

What is knowledge? What is belief? Are the two interchangeable? When you say you know something, what exactly do you mean? Is rationality the knower? How do you validate it? Is everything not a matter of belief (though there may be laws that explain things 99.99% of the time)?

Does God exist (I certainly believe so)? If so, how do we prove Its existence? Can it even be proved, in a way that will satisfy science (if not scientists)?

The questions go on and on, and I have no thoroughly convincing answers.

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Technology in our lives

Technology makes our lives come a full circle, but not the way we might have expected.

We invented gadgets and devices to give us more time for leisure. Then we found more things to do in our leisure which, surprise, resulted in us having less leisure. And then the realisation hit us (thanks to TVs, endless ads and gossip columns about movie stars who have “six-pack” abs) that we are, horror of horrors, not healthy and fit. So what do we do? Go to gyms, and use the ultra-high-tech stuff to become “healthy” or lose weight. There are also people who have “discovered” that doing household chores helps in keeping the surging calory levels in check too; and they trumpet their discoveries to their social peers, thereby proving their humility and social liberal-mindedness. Of course, their parents and forefathers did not know better (and don’t you dare tell them otherwise unless you’re prepared for a prolonged argument) though they might have been telling us exactly the same thing – that being self-reliant (translate that into “do your work yourself”) also keeps you healthy, besides giving you a sense of satisfaction. There, I digress as usual.

This new-found health in turn makes us feel better, and so we feel we have earned the right to indulge a little. Just a little. In no time at all, the little turns into “a little more”, and then, before we know it, we’re back where we started – we have no time.

Technology makes our lives come a full circle, but not the way we might have expected.

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Don’t ridicule science

I’m angry; I’m furious! Why? Because of the shabby way in which some ISKCON propagandists treated certain scientific theories.

I attended a session at my office which promised to offer relief from work-induced stress, among other things. More out of curiosity than anything else, I had decided to attend these sessions, which were going to be conducted once a week for six weeks. The first of these sessions was good in that it raised a few points about how we busy ourselves with one major purpose – being happy – with its auxiliary , money-making. It was somewhat predictable, but it had its good points too. All in all, I was content, with the expectation that things would start moving further along in the coming weeks. I was in for a surprise.

Yesterday happened to be the second of these sessions. And it was conducted by a different person who, it seemed to me, not only seemed to have a poor command over English (the language in which he was speaking), but also had a distinct bias to listen only to those members in the audience who gave answers that supported his views. To be fair, he did let a few debates among the audience happen, but the overall impression was one of inadequate preparation, or more accurately, inadequate information on the topic that he was expounding.

One of the main things that were being discussed was how God’s creation is so perfect: how the planets are so perfectly arranged in our solar system; how very precisely positioned the earth was to support life as we know it; how beautifully the human body was created; yada, yada, yada. And then he went on to talk about why we shouldn’t always trust our senses (our senses are not perfect), or our own intelligence and / or theories put forth by other people. Therefore, he argued, we should resort to accepting truth from trustworthy sources, namely the religious scriptures. Of course, it left unanswered the very important question “But how do we know the scriptures are trustworthy?”

Ignoring, for the moment, the very obvious contradiction in his statements (perfect creation, but imperfect senses, etc.), let’s come to the heart of the matter that I want to highlight. Illustrating how human intelligence has “a tendency to be inaccurate” [his assertion, not mine], he pointed out certain contradictions in the theory of evolution as put forth by Darwin. He quoted a few sentences from his famous work, and also a few other statements allegedly made by him, and asked us to judge for ourselves whether such a weak theory was even plausible. A classic sign of weak logic is an appeal to one’s emotions, and he exhibited it in abundance. But more than what he said, it was the way he said it, and the irony of it all, that got me.

There he was, pointing out the flaws and contradictions in Darwin’s theory, when his own presentation was riddled with holes. He said that trustworthiness of a source (like some of the Indian holy books) could be determined by the number of citations that the source gets – a technique that Google’s founders would be well versed with – but refused to acknowledge that Darwin’s theory is widely cited. A very, very poor presentation, and one that doesn’t do any good to the image of ISKCON at all.

And now, it leaves me wondering whether I should be attending these sessions any more….

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I believe

A long time ago, I heard from somewhere that happiness and sadness are merely different perspectives inspired by our current understanding of who we are and what we think will make us happy. Thus it is that the toy that made us ecstatic when we were toddlers does not even interest us when we were teenagers. With every passing event that makes me unhappy, I realize that they may perhaps be lessons reinforcing that very thought: that the whole of this life as we perceive it may be nothing more than a veil pulled over our eyes to prevent us from seeing the obvious truth (that’s borrowed from The Matrix, but it’s relevant here); that only when we are truly aware of our own selves can lasting happiness be ours. This realization fades in and out of my consciousness according as whether I’m happy or sad – when I’m happy, I’m usually unaware of it, though that’s not always the case. When I am sad, however, such thoughts flit across my mind more often. Perhaps Kunti Devi was right – it’s only when we’re really despondent that we tend to think of God.

I deeply, strongly believe that the way our brains are wired, the families we are born into, the skills / abilities we are born with, and the friends we acquire over our lifetimes are all determined by the law of karma; that genetics and inheritance are but tools of this law which is universal in its application; that this law is inescapable whether or not you believe in it; that it’s possible to transcend it only by a total realization of our true nature which is pure awareness; that we are all progressing towards such a state in our own individual ways. That whatever we do with our minds, we’ll fall short of It.

Does that mean I’m a fatalist and an advocate of inaction? Hardly! You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, even when things seem so pointless. Inaction is for the weak-minded and impotent, or those who chronically and endlessly wallow in self-pity.

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What you sow is what you reap

You may not want to accept it, but what you are is of your own making. Not in the “you’re the master of your own destiny” sense, but in the sense that your past actions (perhaps not in this lifetime) have put you in the position that you currently are in, be it good or bad. To be sure, there are other forces that are at play too, but the strong believer in the law of Karma that I am, I can’t but think that the presence or absence of even those forces are influenced by your actions.

Say you’re going through a tough time in life. It may be someone who’s just making your life miserable at your workplace; or it may be a real big problem in your personal life. You can be sure that there’s something you have done in your past, perhaps not to the same people who are currently causing your problems, but some others. Contrary to popular belief, I feel that life is always fair, and we get what we deserve eventually, one way or the other.

That doesn’t mean that we need to be fatalists who will do nothing to improve their own state of affairs, and bemoan the fact that fate has chosen them for her victims. No, not at all. You ought to do what’s in your power – to the limits of your code of ethics – to pull yourself out of your current, undesirable state. Finding excuses for wallowing in self-pity is most certainly not what I’m advocating.

However, if you finally find yourself defeated in your pursuits, either by a human agent, or by an unkind Providence, the thought that what happened to you was nothing more and nothing less than what you rightfully deserved, may help in reconciling yourself to the defeat, and getting on with the rest of your life. In other words, it could serve as a resting point in the long and often tiresome journey of life; a theory that will kick in and explain events when other theories fail.

But – make no mistake about this – your pain will entirely be your cross to bear!

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Who is The Practical Idealist? Where did he come from?

I think I’ve wandered far enough in my blogging career to warrant a brief explanation about the choice of the name under which I publish this blog.

I call myself a practical idealist for two reasons:

  1. I’m an idealist at heart (often the cause of many an angry moment for me)
  2. I realise that I can’t go on forever trying to be true to my idealistic impulses in a less-than-ideal world, and so I compromise on those values at times.

Today, in my errant online wanderings, I came to know that the term “practical idealist” was originally used by Mahatma Gandhi. According to Wikipedia, it is “a philosophy which holds it to be an ethical imperative to implement ideals of virtue or good. It further holds it to be equally immoral to either refuse to make the compromises necessary to realise high ideals or to discard ideals in the name of expediency.” I wouldn’t have quite defined it in this manner, especially where it suggests discarding ideals in the name of expediency. You could say that not letting go of my ideals has often come in the way of my progress / success in life, but that’s the way I prefer it. I’d rather not be successful if success means compromising on your beliefs.

Of course, I’m not in the same league as the Mahatma, and have no illusions about it; I hold him in too high a pedestal to even compare him to me. It’s just that he interpreted Practical Idealism as something, and I interpret it as something else.

For the record, my first exposure to the term “practical idealist” was in a book by Linda Goodman many, many years ago :-)

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Maya and The Matrix

A long time ago, more than seven years ago in fact, I was in Coimbatore (a S. Indian city famous for its industries) visiting a friend of mine. There was this English movie that had just been released and which had a rather fascinating story. The Friday review on The Hindu was favourable, and so my friend and I decided to watch it. Later that evening, we went to this theatre called Central, waited in a queue for nearly ten minutes (there was quite a rush since the movie promised some amazing stunts), and finally got into the hall. What we saw, no, experienced, in the nearly two hours or so was absolutely mind-blowing; it came quite close to an ancient Indian concept called Maya. If you haven’t figured out what the movie was, well, it was The Matrix.

Since then, I have become a huge fan of that movie, and to a lesser extent, its sequels. How on earth, do you ask, can one become a fan of a movie? If you think that it’s not possible to watch the movie over and over again, let me assure you, that thought is quite incorrect. I have, as a matter of fact, watched the movie over a dozen times, and have not grown tired of it yet. In fact, one of the questions that one of my best friends – who is now in the UK – asks me is whether I’ve seen it recently. Needless to say, I usually answer him in the affirmative ;-)

Anyway, I am digressing. What I wanted to ask you was whether you had noticed how extraordinarily well thought out the whole story is. I mean, starting from the names of the characters, right up to the very end of the movie. The movie’s basic premise, or set of premises, to be more precise, is that we are not whom we think ourselves to be, or where we think ourselves to be; we have a veil that’s very cleverly drawn over our eyes, thus making it difficult to see the truth beyond it; that we have the power to be whatever we want to be, because there are no limits to what we can do; that the world we think is real may not really be so; that it may be a mere figment of our imagination.

Now, note the parallels with the Indian concept of Maya. We ordinarily identify ourselves with this body. Nothing wrong about that of course, except that it’s not terribly ingenious. To summarise a lengthy theory, what’s closer to the truth (as per my beliefs, at any rate) is that we are a body-mind-soul complex. Next, we have a veil that’s very cleverly drawn over our eyes, etc. If this isn’t readily apparent, think about some of the scariest or most vivid dreams that you’ve had. For the duration of those dreams, have you, even for a moment, ever doubted the veracity of the experience? During the dream period, was not your “reality” all too real and, in extreme cases, overwhelming to the point of making you cry / scream? Now, how do you know for sure that it’s your waking life that’s the dream? That the whole world as we know it would not vanish like a, well, dream the moment we wake up?

The truth beckons, and is out there, as they say, but are we prepared to accept it? What is the truth? Unfortunately, to paraphrase Morpheus, no one can be told what the truth is; you have to experience it for yourself.

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Ayn Rand and her philosophy – a different perspective

Ayn Rand came into my life – through her writings – about five years ago. I’ve read two of her most influential books – Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged more than once, and each time I’ve been left gasping at the tremendous concepts that she has brought almost single-handedly into this world. I’ve also started reading her essays on The Virtue of Selfishness. Somewhere along the line though, my love for her ideas started becoming less blind, as I began to recognise, through my own experiences and reflections, as well as articles like this, that her philosophy was not flawless; that there were certain realities that Objectivism did not, and still does not, explain satisfactorily.

Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I came to know that there was a guy called Nathaniel Branden; that he was a close personal and intellectual associate of Rand; that he was a clinical psychologist; that after many years of association with her, he broke up with her; and it came to be disclosed that they were having an affair all the while!

Branden, the young man who idolised Rand from a very young age, had a fall-out with her that was as painful as his association was rewarding. One of the consequences of their split was that Branden started looking at Rand and her work in a less forgiving, and more critical, light. More importantly, he began to understand, given his background in psychology, how some aspects of Rand’s philosophy could do more harm than good. Briefly, these are the things that he objected to:

  • Encouraging repression (“A clash between mind and emotions is a clash between two assessments, one of which is conscious, the other might not be. It is not invariably the case that the conscious assessment is superior to the subconscious one; that needs to be checked out.”)
  • Encouraging moralizing (“I don’t know of anyone other than the Church fathers in the Dark Ages who used the word “evil” quite so often as Ayn Rand.”)
  • Conflating sacrifice and benevolence (“I am referring to the principle of benevolence, mutual helpfulness and mutual aid between human beings. I believe it is a virtue to support life. I believe it is a virtue to assist those who are struggling for life. I believe it is a virtue to seek to alleviate suffering. None of this entails the notion of self-sacrifice.”)
  • Overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises (“Among the many unfortunate consequences of believing that we are the product only of our premises and that our premises are chiefly the product of the thinking we have done or failed to do is a powerful inclination, on the one hand, to regard as immoral anyone who arrives at conclusions different from our own, and, on the other hand, an inclination to believe that people who voice the same beliefs as we do are people with whom we naturally have a lot in common.”)

The complete article offers a detailed insight from a man who’s still an Objectivist at heart, though an enlightened one, and without many of the shortcomings that Rand had, but never admitted. An interesting read for anyone, I think.

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Nathaniel Branden interview – snippet

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Nathaniel Branden, long-time associate of Ayn Rand, the original Objectivist.

Personal Reflections

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in life?

Branden: I’d like to say, first of all, I hate being confined to the single most important thing. Can I mention two?

Q: Okay, what are the two most important things you’ve learned?

Branden: Let yourself know and fully experience how important love is and honor that importance in your actions. Don’t ever be careless with love. Be aware of the preciousness of each moment of your existence. Be aware that none of us is immortal — the clock is always ticking and none of us knows how long any of us has got. The time to let that other person experience how loved and valued he or she is by us, is right now. It’s one thing to love — and quite another to have the wisdom and courage to live that love fully, unreservedly, and to the hilt. Fully to surrender to love can be terrifying, but it’s the price life asks of us in exchange for the possibility of ecstasy.

Q: And your second message to the world?

Branden: Don’t deny or disown what you see or experience merely because you can’t explain it, justify it, or fit it into some familiar frame-of-reference. Allow a large space in your psyche to accommodate ambiguity and uncertainty. Don’t invent explanations prematurely just so you can tell yourself you have the universe all tied up in one neat package. Keep your eyes open, keep observing, and be confident that sooner or later the truth will appear to you, providing, of course, you live long enough. And if you don’t, well, hasn’t it been an interesting adventure anyway?

Complete interview

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