BillD: As I noted in Post #83, The American Heritage Dictionary defines "talent" as: "1. A mental or physical aptitude; natural or acquired ability." So, the term "talent" can be used to refer either to a natural endowment or to an acquired skill. I suspect that Rand is using it in the latter sense. I don't think she'd say that what separates Francisco D'Anconia from Eddie Willers is that D'Anconia was industrious and Willers, lazy. Willers is portrayed as a decent and conscientious man of somewhat limited natural endowments and potential; D'Anconia, as an supremely gifted man with enormous potential. The difference between them is not one of application, but of innate ability.
Not exactly. To enter the world "tabula rasa" simply means to enter it with no innate ideas. RCR:
A clear definition! ;-)
This is actually interesting. I don't think everyone participating in this thread would agree. Further, I'm not so sure Rand would agree, since Rand was quoted as broadly and bluntly saying:
"No one is born with any kind of 'talent' and, therefore, every skill has to be acquired."
Clearly there are "talents" and "skills" which do not require any particular ideas or concepts. Physical skills, such as strength and stamina, for example, are by-in-large products of one's specific overall biology, and not of one's ideas about stength or stamina. Obviously, thought [sic] the exercise of volition there is flexibility within the biologic framework, but there are also clear restrictions. And yet, Rand does not make any such distinction. She is quite clear with "any kind" and "every". This strongly suggests to me that Rand took the state of "tabula rasa" to be blank beyond just "ideas"
Further, we also know that there are human beings born with talents and skills that are not nourished and grown through the typical conceptual framework, but again, appear to be by-in-large a product of specific biological circumstances. People within the "autistic spectrum", such as those with Williams syndrome, as well as people like Kim Peek, and Daniel Tammet all display extraordinary talents and skills that appear to be enabled not by typical effort through conceptual integration or the like, but through specific in-born biological circumstances. I don't think Rand would disagree with you.
BillD: True, but according to Objectivism, a person's moral character is something that he has control over. To judge him as immoral for an action over which he had no control and which is due to the involuntary effects of brain chemicals is unwarranted. That's not to say that, assuming such effects to be present, it is always easy to discriminate conscious choices from involuntary reactions. But to the extent that one identifies an action as involuntary, it does not bear on the agent's moral character.
...one's "character" is not inherited, because the convictions and moral values that determine the choices on which one's character is based are not innate but acquired. They are not innate, because there are no innate ideas. I completely agree that there are no "innate ideas". However, it does seem to me that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that "character" is more complicated that one's consciously held beliefs and convictions.
We know, for example, that the levels of serotonin in an individual's brain significantly influence levels of "happiness", and consequently can have an influence on how we act in any given circumstance (demonstrating "character"). Again, there is flexibility, but biology does seem to provide a significant base.
We also know that even people with very strong moral values and convictions, take for example Ayn Rand, can fluctuate WILDLY in their "character". Rand wrote to Nathaniel Branden in 1950 about the non-virtue of anger: Same answer as the above. To the extent that we are talking about moral character, involuntary reactions are not at issue.
"The first step is to feel a conviction strongly enough to want to scream about it, but a still better step is to feel it so strongly that no screams are necessary. If you feel like Steven Mallory now, it's good, but a still better step is to feel like Roark. You understand very well why he would not scream at anybody. "
She also writes to Barbara Branden during the same time:
"I'm glad [...] I don't have to lecture you on why one should not scream in arguments, as I lectured Nathan."
And yet, we know Rand screamed at a lot of people... So, it would seem to me that there is at least a little bit more to this issue of "character" than ideas, convictions, and moral values.