Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

19 June 2010

David Kelley: Whose Environment?

David Kelley, founder of The Institute of Objectivist Studies and now Chairman of The Atlas Society, has written a very interesting, and for me enjoyable, essay in which he explores the concept of the environment.  He notes that environment is a highly abstract concept.  He continues:
It refers to the totality of external conditions that an organism of a particular type can interact with and that affect its survival, as opposed to its internal structure and processes.  For every species there is a different environment, set by its nature.
This sounds like what I learned in biology in the 10th grade, but that knowledge has been lost in our government-run, politically correct modern schools and in our media and political discussions.  Kelley goes on to ask:
What is the referent of "the environment"?  The answer is that the term doesn't have a referent, because it is not intended to do real cognitive work.  It is a political code-word, like "family values," that signals allegiance to a set of causes.  These causes relate in diverse ways to our physical environment.  Some of the particular causes are reasonable, some are not.  But my point is that they are not held together by a coherent ideology, even a false one.  They are held together by various unexamined assumptions (e.g., resources are limited, business is rapacious), feelings (fear of exhausting resources, guilt about prosperity), and images (dark satanic smokestacks, the beautiful blue-green planet from space).  In this respect, "the environment" is what Ayn Rand called a floating abstraction, which acquires its content through emotions and associations rather than by derivation from reality.
Kelley goes on to talk about the environment of human beings as a species.  I am sure you will find it a delight to read his essay.  Please take the time to do so, for as he says, we will never
succeed in creating a free, rational, and -- in the sense of the term -- a fully humane society until we establish the right conceptual framework in which to think about specific issues.

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