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date 2001-04-05:02:16
now in bloom on my patio
fallacies An odd piece of paper came into my mailbox yesterday. According to this piece of paper, the great power of Objectivism lies in enabling its advocate to embarrass and silence an opponent, the implication being that the silence was an indication that the opponent had conceded.

Interesting point of view. I wonder if example number one has reached the writer's eyes, or if he'd get it if it did.

Sometimes, people don't know how to respond to an assertion or argument, because they are flabbergasted by one's idiocy, not because they agree. I am frequently shocked into silence when people say things that I never expected any rational being to say. True, it is sometimes a function of my naivete and my projection of good will and good sense onto other people, that is the cause of my shock. But naivete does not equal concession to a more powerful opponent; sometimes it's just an indication that one hadn't thought the world could be quite that bad. For example, I was shocked into complete silence when a student objected in class that no one would ever have children, if sex didn't feel good, and her 40 classmates--all of them Catholic nurses and mothers--nodded in wise assent as I looked to them for help. I had to let the class go on break at that point because I just didn't know what to say. I was able to offer a rejoinder after the break, but for 15 minutes all I could think of were those poor kids! [Yep, kid! Hadja cuz it felt good. We knew we might get saddled with you, but man that was some hot lovin'! That's why your 8 brothers and sisters are here too, birth control (and all them deviant ways o' lovin') bein' against God's law and all.]

I usually take other people's silence to be an indication that I have not made myself clear. It's a good premise to double-check.
on being a woman More on Ross Jeffries's speed seduction techniques:

Opinion: This man is preying on helpless men desperate for company and in need of real information. Hopefully, he actually gives them some. Judging by his ads, web site, interviews with him, and articles about the technique, he doesn't give much.

Last entry, I noted that women have this tendency to talk, and to get frustrated when men don't. Why might this be?

Theory: Because females (in my society, anyway) are permitted to express their thoughts and provide explanations and reasons for them, whereas males are strongly discouraged from doing so. More: males are provided with other suggestions for how to make their way in the world, such as physical fighting, whereas females are strongly discouraged from using such methods.

The upshot: all their lives, females have more occasion to resort to reason, argument, persuasion; while males have more occasion to resort to nonverbal efforts at communication, to sullen silence in response to unexpected and unwelcome reasoning, or even to violence.

The horror: by the time they reach adulthood, men have had much less practice at communicating rationally than women have had.

Combine the following ingredients: rational women expressing their desires, arguing for their demands, expecting reason in return; and men failing to express their desires, unable even to argue against someone else's demands, and unable to return reason when it is expected.

This is why someone like Ross Jeffries is appealing. How in the world does a man deal with this thing that won't stop talking, keeps giving reasons, won't have sex until the man talks, keeps asking him questions, and gets upset when he doesn't respond with that dreaded vehicle of reason: words.

Further: These same males grow up with the very comfortable myth that females are irrational. Thus, it probably never occurs to them that they might bone up on their logical and conversational skills in order to appeal to women. If they had any idea how females actually spend their time, they wouldn't be going to Ross Jeffries to learn how to trick women into thinking that they are interested in them. They would enroll in every logic course, speech class, and psychology seminar they could find, so that they could rise to the level of the elusive female. So that they could actually be interested in this creature that they want to have sex with, instead of having to take a course in pretending how to be interested.

Hint: We talk. We spend all our time together, talking. We have hobbies that we share, some of them similar to hobbies that men share amongst themselves, but all the while we are engaged in them with our girlfriends we are talking. Know what we talk about? Everything. We just plain like to reeeeaaassonnnnnn about things. In much the same way that someone might bitterly complain that he really did throw a good pass but the other knucklehead screwed it up and missed, people who don't listen try to make it out that women's conversation is nothing but a babbling string of nonsense. A friend of mine even theorizes that women can't shut up because they have evolved as the language-teachers of infants.

Really big hint: I've had many girlfriends. I attended a woman's high school and a woman's college. I have seen them in every condition and every kind of activity. Aside from talking, one very important thing that they are furiously engaged in is not making sexual puns and innuendoes. Ross Jeffries would have you believe that words like 'penetrate' and 'hole' and 'tunnel' and 'key' are going to slip into our minds like lubricating jelly and make us sink into bed with you more easily than you could ever manage it by spiking our drinks with Ecstacy. Sorry, it's not true. These words are supposed to make the target woman connect the idea of You with the idea of Sex, so that by the end of the conversation she can't think of anything but having sex with you. Ha. Because women spend so much of their time talking, and hence reasoning, and because women spend so little time devising ways of turning every common word into a sexual innuendo, particular words don't have this kind of deep, penetrating, sexual meaning for us. These are the kinds of jokes that boys make, often to the great humiliation of the very women that they'd like to go out with. These words do not affect women the way Jeffries suggests they might. (Ancillary hint: humiliation = turn-off)

Most women that I have known are very adept at picking up weirdness in language and gestures. That's because of that logico-linguistic activity that our brains are constantly engaged in and all that practice we get at interacting with people verbally and rationally. Someone who used a preponderance of words with this kind of imagery would eventually get noticed, all right, but not the kind of notice he wanted. If the woman didn't suspect that the guy was trying to make her think about sex (a very stupid woman indeed), still she would find it uncommonly odd to have such imagery repeatedly invoked during an alleged interview regarding her goals in life. I have stories to tell about this, later.

Speculation: If indeed Jeffries's students sometimes have success (remember that there's that wonderfully convenient excuse you can make for yourself, along the lines "I guess I was wrong about her")--IF they have success, it is highly unlikely that it is because they were using words which one of his male buddies might consider an opportunity for a stupid sex-pun. It is much more likely that either (1) that woman had gone to the bar with the intention of picking up some random man for sex; or (2) the poor woman thought that the man really liked her and that they had a lot in common, and those are the circumstances under which she'd be likely to have sex as a prelude to . In other words, she was tricked: the man was talking to her and seeming to follow the conversation and wanting to engage with her intellectually, the way she engages with people she is comfortable with, unlike other men she'd met, who were unable to hold up their end of the conversation because they'd never tried it before and didn't think women were capable of reason anyway.

Fact: In all my vast, lengthy, deep experience with women and girls, I have known exactly one who deliberately "played hard to get." I'm sure that there are others, but the phenomenon is not nearly so wide-spread as fiction and cultural myth make it out to be. Thus, it seems more efficient, if one wants to have casual sex with strangers, to simply ask one woman after another if she'd like to go home with you right now. Women like me will always say no; women who came to the bar for the same reason that you did will probably leave with you. By using this patented technique, you will assure yourself that she won't mistakenly become interested in you as a person and try to see you again or talk to you on the phone or something obnoxious like that.

Aside: Farsam told me about speed seduction parties, where a mass of people who just want to have sex get together and attempt to speed seduce each other. That sounds good to me! That way they're all in the same room together and the rest of us can get on with our boring, conversation-and-reason-filled friendships and romances without the bother of having irrational men come up to us and tell us that we have penetrating eyes and that they felt comfortable with us right away as they pondered how all their best ideas came from b'low them. As if.

Notice I'm not saying that the problem is that Jeffries is encouraging men to deceive innocent women (he is, but nevermind that right now). I think that the problem is that he is defrauding men with techniques that are just laughable from a woman's perspective, and the only thing he's really giving them is his permission to lie.
pornography More notes for developing essay.

Pro: Hooray for the internet! Pornography on the web allows for honesty and information that has never before been possible.

People who create porn sites are telling us exactly what they want. That's good information for the rest of us, if we dare to look at it. What we find is that there are a LOT more desires, and kinds of desires, than any one person could possibly have imagined. And these sites get traffic. What does that mean, and where will it lead?

It's a new outlet that just wasn't there before. However strange someone's desires may seem to others (or to that person), generally people like to share their values with other people. Since only the very narrowest form of activity is officially considered sex, just think how hard it must be for people with even slightly off-beat interests to share. You can't bring it up in polite company, and in impolite company you're only allowed to make rude jokes about it. How do you find reflections of yourself? And what do you do, if you can't?

Human beings have always tried to put themselves and each other into such a small number of strictly-defined boxes, that this must always have been the case.

Some of us didn't want to learn these truths about each other, so every non-male-female-missionary thought was forced underground. But like Catholicism, and Objectivism, if you force something underground, you can't see it, and if you can't see it you can't control it. And then when it explodes onto the surface it's bigger than anyone expected.

And suddenly, people can be more honest. Catholicism becomes a commonplace; you used to get killed for it, and now you can talk about it casually and no one even listens. Objectivism was forced out of more conventional venues...and onto the internet, of all the worst places you could possibly force something that you wished would go away. And so it is with pornography in all its (currently) amazing and horrifying and degrading forms.

In a way, this is an argument for the internet. But it is also an argument for pornography. Porn is a catch-all term for a seemingly endless variety of desires that individuals have. With the ability to self-publish for very little money, and to make money from the expression of desires that may have seemed one-of-a-kind before, people are free to be more honest. That has to be good for the people expressing themselves, and I think it's good for the people who never wanted to know it but stumbled on it anyway. These desires are real, they are out there. I've seen a few documentaries that recount the horror people experience when they find out after a year or two (or more) of marriage that their lovers would like to engage in behavior they find revolting. Given the kinds of stuff you can find on the internet, this must happen an awful lot, and there must be a huge potential for it to happen where it hasn't yet. It seems that this has got to become less and less common, as it becomes more and more common for people to openly express what they want.

One might object that nice, missionary-type people are more likely to do weird things if they see that other people are doing them, that it would have been better if they just thought they were all alone with their weird desires and they kept it to themselves. But why? Why isn't it better for people to find people to share with, instead of being alone, and dishonest? One might fear that the weirdoes would be more likely to force their interests on unsuspecting persons. But that's rape, of course, and doesn't really have anything to do with having desires. Desires are about what you would like to do, not about what you're going to force someone else to do.
reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's Dogs Never Lie About Love, and James Herriot's All Things Bright And Beautiful: light reading before sleep to clear my head of facts and propositions and entities and justice.

Herriot I discovered in high school, and I've read his books many times since. I'd forgotten how much I loved them and why. He has an eye for beauty and humor and an interest in everyday detail, and I find animals inherently interesting anyway. His love of nature and domestic animals is tangible; he bathes in the English countryside and has a gift for description. I'm toying with the idea of writing a review. Not this week.

Masson's book is a great contrast. While Herriot is a man who lived a great, full life and was a great story-teller who said, "You know what? I think I'll write all this down!" Masson seems to have had an assignment before him: write about dog love. One detail I find offensive from the outset is that he seems to have got his three dogs so that he would have a subject to study. He does seem to like the dogs, but I take this to be a happy accident.

He's done a lot of research into what other people have written about dog behavior, and the quotes are jammed into the pages--but it reads more like a list than a coherent document. Frequently he misinterprets authors whom he's quoted at length, or experiments he's cited, or he doesn't provide the part of the experiment that he intends to cite. For example, he says
A series of experiments conducted by A. J. Brodbeck in 1954 showed that feeding was not a necessary part of the development of the social bond. One group of puppies were automatically fed by a machine and the other group were fed by a person. The hand-fed puppies vocalized more at the sight of the experimenter, but this was the only important difference between the two groups of puppies. So love on the part of the dog does not seem conditioned merely by what we provide the dog, nor simply a recognition that we are a source of food. A dog does not love a robot that gives it food, but is capable of loving people who never feed it.
It's a book that delivers more "Hunh?"'s per page! I'm not even sure I could speculate as to what he thinks the connection between the description and his conclusion is. It's likely that he drew his conclusion from the study, but got mixed up when he described it. He was supposed to show us that the treatment of the puppies was the same aside from having either human or mechanical feeders, and that their behavior was radically different; instead, he showed us that their treatment was very different, but their behavior was pretty much the same regardless.

He really could use a few lessons in objectivist method. He often comes close to an understanding of how such high-level notions as love occur, and how some things get included into categories and others excluded, but a few sentences later he gets it all wrong again. He scolds authors for personifying dogs, and then personifies them unselfconsciously. He's more inclined to keep repeating the word for a concept than to try to explain why he is attributing the property it signifies to an animal.

Here's a good discussion:
Disappointment is a word we use to indicate a feeling we all experience and exhibit in various ways to others. The same emotion we see in other humans is written in the faces of dogs, in their eyes, ears, deportment. It is not anthropomorphism to observe the same signs in them as we see in other people...
and a bad discussion:
When one of my three dogs strays too far from the others and I continue walking, oblivious, I will notice that the other two stop and wait for their companion to return. They look at me as if to let me know that this is the right thing to do, and that I should wait, too. They do not want to continue until the pack is complete. This act is surely indicative of compassion, just as in the case of the wolves. Of course, we could explain it in other ways; there is always another explanation, whether for human or animal compassion--it is really self-interest, for instance, or disguised selfishness, with hopes of a favor in return. But even if there is some truth in these explanations, they do not cancel out the element that derives from love and compassion because they cannot explain away the feelings that accompany those actions.
Here, it seems as if he was called out of the room and lost his train of thought in the middle of the paragraph, and then couldn't find it again. The very thing that he's supposed to be arguing for is that the act is indicative of the emotion of compassion; and he's begun to try to prove instead that we can't reduce the feeling of compassion to something else, because we'll still have compassion to explain. Moreover, his considered objections are straw men: another good explanation for the behavior is, for example, that dogs in a pack are in the habit of keeping the pack together, and if one dog falls away, the other ones need to go pick her up. This simple, low-level explanation is one that should occur to him, given how much attention he gives to pack psychology. The introduction of an even more complicated psychological phenomenon--disguised selfishness--as a possible alternative to his own theory, comes out of left field. A great deal of the book is like this. Love receives discussions similar to this throughout, but the chapter on love is particularly bad. While I can easily grant, for the sake of discussion, that dogs exhibit the same sorts of behavior that humans exhibit when they are sick-in-love, he just takes it as obvious that most of dog behavior can be accounted for in terms of their love for us. Not only has ne not show that their cooperative behavior is necessarily to be construed as loving, but there is also a lot of dog behavior that is positively the opposite of what we would include under the human category of loving behavior. The odd thing is that he actually recounts (in other chapters) much of this behavior: biting, fighting, failure to respond to commands, growling, running away, destructiveness--and killing babies! He notes that "The main victims of fatal dog bites are children, and most of these result from attacks on sleeping infants." Who would let a dog into the room with a sleeping baby? People who trusted the dog and thought it loved them and their baby, and who had presumably judged that it loved them on the basis of its outward love-like dog-behavior. What does he have to say about that?

He theorizes a lot, but it doesn't seem to bother him that the theories don't cohere with one another, or that the evidence he's presented doesn't support the theories. When he says of the relationship between terminally ill people and the dogs that visit them, "[Ill people] have every reason to be depressed, but seeing these healthy, happy animals lifts them, momentarily at least, from their sadness. I think it may make the dogs feel good, too, as if they know that they are bringing some pleasure to otherwise dreary lives," he is on better grounds for the former speculation than for the latter, since he gives evidence that the people are doing better but says nothing about the dogs.

I could excuse all this as an inductive, exploratory exercise, except that his general approach seems to be the false alternative. He just doesn't consider facts and explanations that are right before his eyes.

I adore animals and especially dogs. I love to think about their behavior and their minds in relation to mine. I love to anthropomorphize. So although I'm not a trained researcher, I have a lot of experience thinking about the subject, and it seems to me that he doesn't. He's not adding anything to my non-expert general conceptual framework. He's just chatting amicably and bit absent-mindedly.

On the bright side, there are lots of short anecdotes that are fun to consider, though he's not much of a story-teller. Again, too many of these are abbreviated and packed in, so that it reads more like an annotated bibliography than a discussion, and they frequently don't prove his point or he infers 'way too much from them. But dog stories are hard to ruin, and hard dog-facts are always handy to know, and there's plenty to be had of both. I just wonder if I can trust them all.

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