Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Can there be a system of morality without God?

Some months ago, in one of the Atlas Sunday Meets, we started discussing Atheism and the necessity of it to be an objectivist. There were a few present who didn't belong to that fold, so we all debated. We discussed for long. As usual, there was no conclusion to the discussion regarding ‘existence of God’. We left, with more thoughts to be sorted and more ideas to sort these thoughts.

To, take this discussion to the next level and to concretise the arguments, we invited Father Anthony to come and speak on the topic “Can there be a system of morality without God”. We thought, who better than a God’s man to come and present His case. From the objectivist perspective, we had our own Jerry Johnson to put his thoughts. Deepak was moderating the discussion.

All others who were present, were either atheists, agnostics or with a different belief system than the conservative religion.

The date was set as Sunday, the 20th of June 2010. With the rains pouring down on Mumbai with a vengeance, we all reached the venue slightly drenched and out of breath trying our best to remain dry. The discussion started with Father’s opening comments suggesting secular morality. Here is my account of what transpired.

He said that secular morality is a morality which has come of age through the generations and at present is something which can be defined and re-defined. He presented examples of such a morality for propagating love between people and to make relationships stronger. Morality according to him was, to accept values of other people. The art of doing things for others was to spread love in the world. When you do something unconditionally, you also motivate the same action from the ‘acceptor’. And so, this cycle continues to a stage where there is a world of peace and contentment.

Jerry answered saying that loving everybody is not possible. And that’s what religion demands. Religion demands one to love God , without any evidence or substantiation. Love is not an empty principle to base religious morality. One cannot love a person who is harming oneself. One cannot love an enemy. To expect such a love is itself immoral. When a person loves someone, it’s because of the values. So, if the other person doesn’t have any values, you cannot love him/her. With the same argument, it’s not possible to love God for which there is not verification of such a value-addition.

Father Anthony further responded to Jerry’s comments. There were others present who were passionately presenting responding to either of the takes.

As a conclusion, we had a discussion which perhaps opened our minds to either of the systems of morality due to the direct comparisons. However, those of us who already belong to the “selfish” morality find it difficult to digest the other kind. Same applies to the believers of God. Hence, as useful as it is to have these debates, they will hardly convince the one of the other. So, in the end, we all parted to “agree to disagree”.

*ps: This above is my account of the event. If anybody feels misrepresented, please feel free to comment on the same.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Randed for life

Nilanjana Roy has a wonderful review of Anne C Heller's "Ayn Rand And The World She Made: in Business Standard. Excerpts:

"It is impossible to explain to Ayn Rand believers why some readers outgrow The Fountainhead and why Atlas Shrugged and Anthem are not taught in universities; it is impossible to explain to Ayn Rand sceptics why millions of readers never outgrow the lure of Rand’s philosophy. G B Shaw at once skewered and (faintly) praised another seductive ideology in his famous aphorism: “A man who is not a communist at the age of twenty is a fool. A man who is still a communist at the age of thirty is an even bigger one.”"

"Rand’s childhood was marked by the persecution her Jewish family suffered in the Russia of the early 20th century, and by an early determination to make something of her life — in later years, she would reinvent herself as a writer. In the US, she met and married a young, charismatic actor, Frank O’Connor, but her life would always overshadow his. She struggled to make it in Hollywood as a script writer, but it would be her books and her unparalleled ability to command attention and attract a loyal, sometimes terrified, but always fascinated audience that would make her what she became.

It’s hard to explain what constitutes charisma, so much more powerful and inescapable than beauty, intellect or charm, but what Ayn Rand possessed and honed was in the nature of an undeniable, inscrutable inner force. She was a heavy Benzedrine user, and displayed some of the characteristics of the addict, from a restless, relentless mind to paranoia. In later years, she had an affair with Nathaniel Branden, a much younger acolyte who would become a kind of founder of the American self-help movement. It is characteristic of Rand that it was not enough to have the affair — she had to gain the consent of her husband and Branden’s wife, and when Branden fell in love, years later, with another, younger woman, Rand would deal with it by endless rounds of “therapies” with him before a final, irrevocable break."

"None of this explains the continued force of Rand’s ideas, or the continued power of The Fountainhead and Atlas ShruggedM, in particular, to sway the minds and hearts of readers. Heller’s biography will make Rand sceptics and the faithful uncomfortable in equal measure — but like its subject, this book is impossible to ignore. To steal a phrase from the Simon & Garfunkel song, once you’ve been Ayn Randed, the scar is permanent."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Atlas Sunday Meet, Mumbai

Here are the details of the next Atlas Meet in Mumbai.

Date: 20th June 2010
Time: 6:30pm
LJ Business & Training Centre
364, CD Parvati Gangadhar Building,
NC Kelkar Road,
Behind PNB Bank,
Dadar West,

Discussion on "Can there be a Moral System without God"
In one of the past meets, we had a discussion on Atheism and a view that one of the aspects of being an objectivist is to be an atheist. It was quite a discussion and we had many interesting points on the table. Hence, to take the discussion forward in a more organised manner, this time we have invited Father Anthony to join us in the discussion.

Also present during this meet will be members from the Time Out Magazine to cover the event.

Please do let us know how many of you are coming, so that we can make the necessary arrangements.

See ya!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Atlas Meet in Delhi - Watch "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" on DVD

After a break, we're back!

The next monthly Atlas Meet in Delhi will take place on Friday, 18 June, 2010. We have an unfinished agenda from the meeting in March - viewing the second half of a DVD of Michael Paxton's Oscar-nominated documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life" (courtesy of Rajendra Lakhotia). As usual, our members are bubbling with other topics to discuss, so, of course, discussions will follow on the terrace over snacks and tea.

18th June 2010

5.30 pm - 7.45 pm

The Agenda

Session I (Savor and Study)
5.30 pm - 6.30 pm: Watch a DVD of Michael Paxton's Oscar-nominated documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life" (2nd Half)

6.30 pm - 6.45 pm: Tea and snacks break. 
[Those interested in coming in only for one session, could arrive or depart during this time.]

Session II (Spread and Sustain)
6.45 pm - 7.45 pm: Discussions on a broad range of topics, including ways to spread Ayn Rand's ideas 

 Not in Delhi? No worries, you can also participate in the discussions live over the internet via audio/video conferencing. If  interested, send an email to vbajaj@aynrand.in at least one day in advance.

The Venue
inlingua International School of Languages,
N-12, first floor,
South Extension - Part I

It is an open meeting - anyone interested in Ayn Rand's ideas is welcome. You may call Vikram on 9810028900 for directions. If you're planning to attend, it would be helpful if you let us know by leaving a comment below or by sending an email to vbajaj@aynrand.in .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Force And Mind

Recently, the department of science and technology (DST), government of India decided to sanction grants to science departments of different colleges and universities in Bihar for strengthening their infrastructure, including laboratories. The Indian government is actively encouraging universities to make use of government support, on the guarantee that there is no dearth of funds. The government is trying to bring together two opposites-mind and force, not giving a moments reflection to the fact that both are incompatible.

Government funding of science is an outright infringement of individual rights. It attracts all kinds of rogues to science, who wouldn’t have otherwise in the field, and are more interested in the politicization of science than in the pursuit of knowledge. It would be irrational to expect the government to accept ideas which threaten its existence, or prevent the expansion of its power. Government funding of global warming alarmism and the green movement is a case in point. So, is the fact that the leading universities breed all variants of collectivism.

Take the case of embryonic stem cell research. If the government is to fund it, it should collect the funds from people who may or may not approve of it. Once this is recognized, its inherent immorality becomes visible irrespective of whether the reasons people hold for opposing it are rational or not.

It should be obvious that there can be no moral or economic justification for taxing individual for the alleged benefits in the future. Taken to its extremes, The results would obviously be the slaughterhouse of Soviet Russia. If there is any difference, it would be a matter of degree. People will have to wait and wait while giving up all their pleasures and important needs. As Ayn Rand wrote on the Soviet Union, “Soviet Russia is still unable to feed her people— while the rulers scramble to copy, borrow, or steal the technological achievements of the West. Industrialization is not a static goal; it is a dynamic process with a rapid rate of obsolescence. So the wretched serfs of a planned tribal economy, who starved while waiting for electric generators and tractors, are now starving while waiting for atomic power and interplanetary travel. Thus, in a "people's state," the progress of science is a threat to the people, and every advance is taken out of the people's shrinking hides.”

It is of course true that the pursuit of science is important for human beings. However, to say so is far from proving that the Government should fund it. The Government shouldn’t fund it, precisely because it is important and can’t be left to the arbitrary whims of the state and its parasites. As Ayn Rand noted, when people ask whether science is necessary, it is an out of context goal. “Is science desirable? To whom? Not to the Soviet serfs who die of epidemics, filth, starvation, terror and firing squads—while some bright young men wave to them from space capsules circling over their human pigsties. And not to the American father who died of heart failure brought on by overwork, struggling to send his son through college—or to the boy who could not afford college—or to the couple killed in an automobile wreck, because they could not afford a new car—or to the mother who lost her child because she could not afford to send him to the best hospital—not to any of those people whose taxes pay for the support of our subsidized science and public research projects.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Objectivist Conference 2010

The Objectivist Conference 2010 will be held in Las vegas, Nevada from July 2-10. There will be presentations by Objectivist scholars, and Leonard Peikoff will present “The DIM Hypothesis”, .It is a six-part sequel to the lectures Leonard Peikoff delivered in 2007.DIM hypothesis deals with three approaches to integration in human thought—disintegration, integration, and misintegration. There will be eleven general session lectures, sixteen optional courses and other activities and events. There will be courses in Politics(Yaron Brook's “Defending Capitalism”), Writing (“Writing Objectively” by Keith Lockitch), History (“Reformation and Religious Wars” by Andrew Lewis) and Poetry(“Making Poetry Part of Your Life” by Lisa VanDamme). The general sessions also include "The Inductive Method" by David Harriman, "The Hoover Dam" by Talbot Manvel and "Intellectual Property Rights" by Adam Mossoff. Robert Mayhew and Brian P Simpson are among the scholars holding optional sessions. There will also be a question and answer session to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ayn Rand Institute by Michael S Berliner and Yaron Brook.