Open Letter To Chuck Frey's Rebuttal

[NOTE: On June 11 (2011), I received an email from Chuck Frey with a "rebuttal" of my critique of the De Bono brothers. This "open letter" is my response to that "rebuttal." Here are links to my original article, and the PDF file sent to me by Chuck Frey:
Mind-benders—The De Bono Brothers
Chuck Frey's Rebuttal]

Dear Chuck Frey,

Thank you for forwarding your rebuttal of my De Bono article.

I suppose your characterization of me as "someone going under the name Reginald Firehammer," is acceptable if you would also refer to the author of "Tom Sawyer" as "someone going under the name of Mark Twain."

What is not acceptable, at least to those for whom honesty and accuracy are important, is your characterization of me as "a cult follower of Ayn Rand." I personally do not care how you, or anyone else, characterizes me. I've certainly been accused of much worse than being a "follower" of Ayn Rand. But if you wish for anyone to take you seriously, anyone who knows me will immediately ignore everything else you say when you start out being so completely wrong about me.

I am not an Objectivist, and have written many articles critical of Objectivist teachings, and especially of all that goes by the name "Objectivism" today [See articles listed under Problems of Objectivism] which I would prefer not to be associated with in any way.

In my article, "My Friend, Ayn Rand," I explain a little of what my true relationship with Rand is. I did not discover Ayn Rand until after my own philosophy was well developed. (That was the early 60s.) I did not learn my philosophy from her (or anyone else), I learned that we just happened to agree on many things, though not everything. It is true, I often quote Rand, which I also explained at the end of my article, "What Is an Individualist:"

"I frequently quote Ayn Rand. It is important to understand the nature and purpose of those quotes. I do not quote Rand, or any other author as an authority. I quote Rand because she so often expresses an idea I am trying to convey so well, it would be impossible for me to improve on it. There is one exception. When it is a question of what Rand actually said or what Objectivism actually teaches, I quote Rand as the only authority."

With that out of the way, I'd like to address just a few points in your long rebuttal. I do not intend to argue with your view, because I am satisfied my original article sufficiently accomplished that, and if you are not convinced by that, you certainly will not be convinced by additional arguments in the same vain, nor should you be if you are convinced of your own viewpoint. The points I will address are only those which I think are incorrect, factually, and which you can take or leave, but which I think need to be addressed for the sake of accuracy.

Comments On Your "Pre-amble"

[I'll keep your comments in red just as you had them.]

I am sure, that Dr. De Bono considers himself an "individualist," as you apparently do, but what I mean by an individualist is not what you apparently mean, nor is your view of what "collectivist" means the same as mine.

What I mean by an individualist is what Ayn Rand means; she describes them as, "creators."

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed ... truth was his only motive ... and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a building—that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, believed, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men." [For the New Intellectual,—The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

In my view, only an independent individualist is a true individualist, and only an independent individualist is truly moral. Again, my view on this is the same as Rand's:

"Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [For the New Intellectual,—The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

My view of collectivism is anything that is less than complete independence of every individual. To the extent that anything is promoted for the sake of "society," or some "group," or a "team," it is collectivist. I do not say that is the meaning anyone else might intend by the words "individualism" or "collectivism." But that is my meaning when I use them, and when I say that much of Dr. De Bono's language is collectivist in nature, it is my meaning I intend.

You do not need to have the same view of collectivism as I have, but I am not accusing Dr. De Bono of having your view of collectivism which you limit to "communist, Statist and/or altruistic" views, which to me are only the extremes of collectivism.

By the way, I never did this: "The author below curiously berates the creation of wealth."

I simply pointed out that De Bono's enterprise is very lucrative. I do not agree that just any method that accumulates wealth is "creation of wealth." Politicians accumulate a lot of wealth, none of which they have created.

And here I'll make one other correction. You wrote:

"Over the years it has been my experience that the overwhelming vast majority of people that go to seminars by the above are very satisfied, often for life by having attended one or more seminars by the above. This is in contrast to the author's subjective and incorrect feelings below."

Odd that you call my article, "subjective," but your, "experience," is presented as evidence, which I guess one just has to take your word for. Well my experience is just the opposite. As a manager in many fields of industry, (mostly IT and telecommunications), I have never seen an improvement of the life or work of any individual because of any "self-help," or "personal-development" program, but I have seen a great deal of damage done by them. Such programs were strenuously promoted by one of the companies at which I was a manager, and the results were disastrous. The company was called Northern Telecom, the second largest telephone equipment manufacturer in the world. I saw with my own eyes the consequences of pushing all these absurd development programs and the policies resulting from them. In fact the whole world saw them. Northern Telecom changed their name to Nortel—and went bankrupt.

Notes On Your Rebuttal

Here I'll quote you, then make my comment.

"It is their right to make money."

Oh, I agree, and the more the better. I do not agree that selling "intellectual snake-oil" is "making money."

"Since then, his work has both been tested and validated by Nobel Prize winners such as Murray Gell-Mann. Edward De Bono was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1995."

Al Gore won a Nobel Prize. Yasser Arafat won a Nobel Prize. Barack Hussein Obama II won a Nobel Prize. De Bono's in good company.

"I have never to date seen anyone (except those to do with mysticism) promise "magical" results. You provide NO evidence. You are wrong."

I think you have misunderstood my metaphors and hyperbole.

[NOTE: What Frey is referring to here is my characterization of the whole, "self-improvement, personal development, and leadership training," business as "thaumaturgy for success, wealth, and happiness." I wrote:

Thaumaturgy means "the working of miracles or magic feats," and the huge multi-million dollar business of self-improvement, personal development, and leadership training, promises truly "magical" results. In "courses" ranging from a half-day to a week, these magicians promise to turn mediocre individuals into innovative powerhouses, totally confused individuals into dynamic organizers, and complete failures into phenomenal successes.

Apparently the satirical and metaphorical are beyond those in the serious business of improving people.]

"I doubt they promise the above (consistently "make the right call")." You frequently make statements like this. You apparently did not bother to check any of the links I provided. Every quote is linked. This one happens to be one of the promises for DATT trained employees. The link: what is promised, from which I quote:

"DATT trained employees will outperform others - they will learn 'How To':

  • be a strong and confident decision maker
  • quickly and accurately weigh risks against rewards
  • consistently 'make the right call'

"In other words, de Bono has been professionally vetted ..."

You know this means absolutely nothing. It's how things like global warming are put over. Bernie Madoff was professionally vetted.

"Incorrect. You have not really read his work. This is inexactitude ..."

You said this about my comment: "Though he never says how he knows things like, 'skills of action,' are not taught, he just asserts it. Even if this were a true omission in education, his reason for decrying it is because without it students, "have little to contribute to society."

It's a direct quote from De Bono's article "Away With the Gang of Three." Here's the whole quote:

"In education we are concerned with literacy and numeracy. That leaves out the most important aspect of all, which I call "operacy". The skills of action are every bit as important as the skills of knowing. We neglect them completely and turn out students who have little to contribute to society."

Perhaps Most Important

I wrote, "For De Bono the 'brain' is the mind," to which you wrote:

"CORRECT — 'Objectivism' is the same too with Ayn Rand (there is not mind/brain duality nor is it monism). Harvard's Professor Steven Pinker states it well:

"'The mind is what the brain does!'"

You've said essentially the same thing in several places. I have no intention of arguing with your viewpoint, and if you choose to believe that consciousness is some kind of "emergent" quality or attribute produced by the physical (material) brain, that's your prerogative.

But that is definitely not Ayn Rand's view, and definitely not my view. The brain is physical (material), the mind (consciousness) is not physical (not material).

It is interesting to me that most of those who believe they are students of Ayn Rand reveal how little they really understand Rand when it comes to the nature of the mind. I'm sorry to have to do this, but there is no way to demonstrate this without quoting Rand at length.

"Please bear in mind the full statement: 'Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.'" [Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, "Foreword to the First Edition"]

[NOTE: That which exists and the consciousness that perceives it are distinct and different things.]

"And above all, above absolutely all, he must not lose the commitment to reason—because if he does, everything crashes. ... His essence, as a being, is his consciousness—not his body, because the body without consciousness is just inanimate matter. Whether he has a soul or is a material being with the attribute of consciousness, in either case his distinctive, essential attribute is consciousness, not matter. And his consciousness is his reason. When he renounces that, he has renounced himself, his essence, his nature...." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13 - Notes While Writing: 1947-1952"]

"Man's consciousness is not material—but neither is it an element opposed to matter. It is the element by which man controls matter—but the two are part of one entity and one universe—man cannot change matter, he can control it only by understanding it and shaping it to his purpose. (The distinction between "entity" and "action"—between noun and verb. The essence of being.)

"Man's soul or spirit is his consciousness—here, now, on earth. The ruling element, the control, the free-will element of his consciousness is his reason. The rest—his emotions, his memory, his desires, his instincts—all are determined by his thinking, by the kind of conclusions he has made and the kind of premises he has accepted." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13 - Notes While Writing: 1947-1952"]

"Man is an entity of mind and body, an indivisible union of two elements: of consciousness and matter. Matter is that which one perceives, consciousness is that which perceives it; your fundamental act of perception is an indivisible whole consisting of both; to deny, to [separate] or to equate them is to contradict the nature of your perception, to contradict the axiom of existence, to contradict your basic definitions and to invalidate whatever concepts you might attempt to hold thereafter.

Your consciousness is that which you know—and are alone to know—by direct perception. It is that indivisible unit where knowledge and being are one, it is your "I," it is the self which distinguishes you from all else in the universe. No consciousness can perceive another consciousness, only the results of its actions in material form, since only matter is an object of perception, and consciousness is the subject, perceivable by its nature only to itself. To perceive the consciousness, the "I," of another would mean to become that other "I"—a contradiction in terms; to speak of souls perceiving one another is a denial of your "I," of perception, of consciousness, of matter. The 'I' is the irreducible unit of life.

Just as life is the integrating element which organizes matter into a living cell, the element which distinguishes an organism from the unstructured mass of inorganic matter—so consciousness, an attribute of life, directs the actions of the organism to use, to shape, to realign matter for the purpose of maintaining its existence.

That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, the life-keeper of your body. Your body is a machine, your consciousness—your mind—is its driver; and that which you call your emotions is the union of the two, the product of the integrating mechanism by which your mind controls your body. [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "14 - Notes While Writing Galt's Speech"]

"Man is a being endowed with consciousness —an attribute which matter does not possess. His consciousness is the free, nonmaterial element in him." [The Letters of Ayn Rand, "The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged Years" (1945-1959), To Nathan Blumenthal, January 13, 1950]

This may be the central issue. The brain is purely physical, an organ of the physical body. The mind is consciousness which is not physical and cannot be produced by any action of the physical, such as the actions of physical neurons.

The physical is deterministic. Whatever the physical does is determined by the laws of physics. If consciousness was produced by the brain, it would not be human consciousness which is volitional, not determined.

The view Rand held, and the view I hold is neither mystical nor dualistic. We both regard consciousness as a perfectly natural attribute, just not a physical one, and not one any physical action can produce. The physical is what consciousness is conscious of, and what one cannot be conscious of in any way, directly or indirectly, is not physical. You cannot be conscious of consciousness, certainly not of anyone else's (or any other creature's), not even of your own. Just as you cannot see your "seeing," but know you see because you do it, you cannot be conscious of your consciousness itself, but know you are conscious because you are.

Whether you understand this view or not, please do not attribute your physicalist view of conscious, being what the brain does, to Ayn Rand.

A Few More

To my contention that De Bono, "knows nothing about data processing or 'information theory,'" you retorted:

"You are incorrect. He is often cherished as a champion for his theories to do with information processing by Nobel Prize winners, amongst others. These are all documented."

Well I've studied information theory for years and know the names Claude E. Shannon, Harry Nyquist, and Richard Hamming but there is not one theory in the field attributed to Dr. De Bono. His assertion that he could produce 50 billion, "thoughts," with just five neurons, is pure bunk. The absolute mathematic maximum number of combination possible with just 5 of anything is 32—a bit shy of 50 billion.

To my statement, "... and information itself, doesn't do anything, much less organize itself," you responded:

"Incorrect. Modernly it has been unequivocally proven that the brain takes part in whole-scale self organization. This means that there are changes in-between neurons (as was previously thought to be the only way) but also it means that there is neural reconnecting going on, and further there is even neuro-genesis. ...."

I do not want to accuse you of anything, but did you really understand what I said? I did not say anything about what the physiological neurological system does, or what the brain does, I specifically said information does not organize itself. The brain and neurological system are living organs, and all living organs function in certain ways necessary to their growth and maintenance. You can call that "self organization" if you like, but there is nothing particularly peculiar about it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with information organizing itself, which it absolutely cannot do.

"I do not recall de Bono stating that ALL patterning systems are asymmetric (and if he does state that then I can guarantee that you are dropping the context: because he was no doubt referring to brain patterns)."

Here's the direct quote from his article, "..logical in hindsight...:"

"The second reason arises from the nature of asymmetric patterning systems.

"Those of you who have been aware of my work will know that there are three princioples:

"1. Self-organising information systems like the human brain are pattern making systems.

"2. All patterning systems are asymmetric.

"3. What is obvious in hindsight may be invisible in foresight."

He does not mention "brain patterns" and specifically says he is referring to asymmetric patterning systems, of which the brain, if it were one, would only be one. If you have a problem with that, you'll have to take it up with De Bono.

To my comment, "As for the word, 'concept,' De Bono never explains what he means by it," you wrote:

"Incorrect. He does explain what this means by way of a metaphor: 'concepts are the lens through which we perceive reality.'"

That's your idea of an explanation? I guess that explains a lot.

I quote the following exactly as it appears in your rebuttal:

"Children grow up with the idea of right and wrong, true and false, things you can do and things you cannot do. There is no opportunity for them to develop the concept of 'possible'. Maybe their young brains could not hold such a concept. Education reinforces the basic true/false dichotomy. This is a huge handicap to a thinker. 'Possible' is a much more importent part of thinking than we have ever acknowledged. This goes beyond hypothesis which is just one form of the possible." ??? Confused, is this your writing or another's? As I am confused: no comment.

It is a direct quote from De Bono's article, 'possible'. No wonder you're confused.

"If Rand's philosophy were 'logically correct' then all Professors, by all logicians, would universally accept it certainly by all reputable universities. But that has not occurred 'at all'!"

I don't mean to insult you, but if you really believe the above, you are extremely gullible and naive. Virtually all colleges and universities are infested with leftists, collectivists, and various forms of post-modernist moral relativists. They universally despise the truth and will sacrifice anything to their agenda. Academia has become a universal cesspool of anti-intellectualism.

I know you have a personal stake in this issue, and I think you are sincere in the defense of your views and of your profession. I do not agree with you, and I think to some extent what you and others in your profession do is dangerous, and that individuals need to know what the danger is. You obviously believe you are offering a product with some value and are arguing for that position. Good for you. I'm not interested in convincing anyone. I present what I believe is the truth and my attitude is: take or leave it.

Sincerely yours,