Ashton sets out to debunk what he calls the “creativity myth”—that creative brilliance is the domain of a very few gifted people. “There is really no such thing as a genius—or, to be very specific, there is absolutely no evidence to support the modern sense of the word, which originated in the late 19th century and literally means ‘exceptional hereditary general intelligence that can be measured and used to predict future greatness,’” he says. “That term, by the way, was intended only for white men of European descent.”
One of the most pernicious errors in Rand’s philosophic “thought” is the fact that she (at least implicitly) treated the “men of ability” as some kind of hereditary caste.
For all of her (admittedly vigorous) lip-service to man as a being of “volitional consciousness”, her writings — especially her novels — are utterly dripping with the view that the specific attribute(s) which separate her “heroes” — Roark, Galt, Dagny Taggart etc. — from the “human ballast” surrounding them — were both innate and immutable.
Or, as she would have put it: “metaphysical”.
I don’t buy that. Quite frankly, you can’t have it both ways (“excluded middle”, and such): either humans are capable of volition (within the relevant context), or they’re not. This is also not a matter of “degree”.
Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. It is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.
When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions. But in the sense of the word applicable to man—in the sense of a consciousness which is aware of reality and able to deal with it, a consciousness able to direct the actions and provide for the survival of a human being—an unfocused mind is not conscious.
Psychologically, the choice “to think or not” is the choice “to focus or not.” Existentially, the choice “to focus or not” is the choice “to be conscious or not.” Metaphysically, the choice “to be conscious or not” is the choice of life or death . . . .
A process of thought is not automatic nor “instinctive” nor involuntary—nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. He has to discover how to tell what is true or false and how to correct his own errors; he has to discover how to validate his concepts, his conclusions, his knowledge; he has to discover the rules of thought, the laws of logic, to direct his thinking. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort.
Nothing is given to man on earth except a potential and the material on which to actualize it. The potential is a superlative machine: his consciousness; but it is a machine without a spark plug, a machine of which his own will has to be the spark plug, the self-starter and the driver; he has to discover how to use it and he has to keep it in constant action. The material is the whole of the universe, with no limits set to the knowledge he can acquire and to the enjoyment of life he can achieve. But everything he needs or desires has to be learned, discovered and produced by him—by his own choice, by his own effort, by his own mind . . . .
That which [man’s] survival requires is set by his nature and is not open to his choice. What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, whether he will choose the right goals and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see. Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every “is” implies an “ought.” Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction. Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.
The above goes a long way toward explaining why individuals so often exhibit “brilliance” and rationality with regard to specific areas of concern (for instance, whatever they happen to designate as their “occupation”), while at the same time behaving as unfocused, whim-ridden evasive dolts.
Ayn Rand (for example) had managed to convince herself that she was the real-life embodiment of Dagny Taggart, and thus, that Nathaniel Branden (who was – as he puts it — the “closest real-world embodiment to John Galt”) simply couldn’t help but want to power-fuck her, given the slightest provocation. Moreover, she evaded the fact that he might have women “students” of his own “downstream”, just itching to be “conquered’ by the same guy.
(I always found it odd how none of the “Heroes” in Ayn Rand’s novels exhibited any sort of jealousy — especially in Atlas Shrugged, where the various male protagonists spend the whole novel passing Dagny around among themselves like a “joint” at Woodstock ).
I think this is also one of the primary reasons for this is their own utterly groundless delusions regarding their own innate superiority.
That explains at least part of why Karl is so irremediably fucked: he has “conditioned” himself to mis-read any and all criticism (or even a slight reduction in ass-patting), as “bullying’.
The piles of E-scrap have become his “safe space” — with all that such “safe spaces” necessarily entail: