Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Personal Miscellany

Monday, 23 May 2011

I was sufficiently perturbed by the typographical error in the version that I most recently submitted of my paper on indecision that I decided that, were it not bounced back to me before the first mensiversary of its submission, I would offer a correction. (My thought in waiting a month was that I should limit the frequency with which I pestered them.) I did so, and the journal accepted that with perfect helpfulness.


I am still wrestling with Sprint over charges to my account for mobile broadband service.


On 11 May, I opted to switch my principal operating system to Fedora. (I had been considering Scientific Linux as well.) I've since had some problems with installing fonts for all users, and the system has been a little bit flakier, but on the whole the new operating system has been a satisfying choice.


I am scheduled for some non-trivial dental work on the mornings of 26 and 27 May. Two fillings that I have had since childhood have eroded to the point that they should be replaced, and there is to be a deep cleaning below my gum-line.


The Woman of Interest and I will be visiting my parents for a few days at the end of the month. (I plan to stay-on for some time after she has flown away.)

Accidental Curve Ball

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Early on Saturday morning, I submitted my paper to yet another journal. Alas, on Sunday, I discovered a typographical error in one of the formulæ.

The formula should read R = {X_1,X_2,...}^2 \ {(X_1, X_2) s.t. [(X_1 WP X_2) v (X_2 WP X_1)]} But instead it read R = {X_1,X_2,...}^2 \ {(X_1, X_2) v. [(X_1 WP X_2) v (X_2 WP X_1)]} That's because I had been using a vertical bar for such that, intended to replace it with a backwards epsilon (to be consistent), but got lost or distracted and instead dropped-in a second disjunction sign.

Perhaps I should contact the editors, but this formula simply appears in an incidental remark. I can correct things if the paper is accepted, and I will just hope that no reviewer is so offended as to reject the paper based on the error.

[Up-Date (2011:05/23): I've been sufficiently perturbed about this matter that I decided that, were the paper not bounced-back to me before it had been in their hands for a month, I would send them a note, with a link to a correction. (The idea in waiting a month was to ration any pestering of the editors.) I did so a few minutes ago.]

Closure

Monday, 18 April 2011

My previously reported message to Springer, announcing that my paper was no longer on offer to them, was sent at 7:03 PM PDT on 28 March. (My last entry on the history of the submission was posted a couple of minutes later.) At 7:31 PM PDT, I received the fastest reply that I'd got from Springer:

We are extremely sorry for the delay.

I have not yet received any response from the editor in this regard.

However, I have taken your mail with high priority and will surely inform you about the outcome.

Many thanks for your patience.
As a general matter, it's an interesting tactic to act as if someone has not made a declaration that one doesn't want them to have made, in the hope that it will be rescinded de facto; sometimes that tactic works. But, while I would have been open to Springer's negotiating for the article, I continued to operate on the presumption that the paper would have to be submitted elsewhere.

I changed various things (largely as I'd indicated at the end of my previous entry on the paper), and began looking for-and-over a list of other journals to which I might submit it. (Unsurprisingly, I no longer considered any of those published by Springer to be candidates.)

Meanwhile, I noted that Springer's Editorial Manager continued to list my paper as Under review, and offered me no way of changing its status to indicate that it was not available for consideration. This creäted a potential problem. Typically, simultaneous submission of an article is not acceptable; and, while the article would not in fact have been simultaneously submitted, there was an all-too-plausible scenario under which it could appear to be.

Assuming that the handling editor at Springer has not been even more negligent than he appears to have been, there has been — and should be expected to continue to be — a very real problem finding reviewers for my paper. When the next journal begins looking for reviewers, they will be looking at largely the same pool. I could envision a reviewer saying Wait! I am already reviewing that paper for Theory and Decision! and an ugly mess ensuing.

To-day, at 12:39 PM, I sent the following to the Springer JEO Assistant, with a CC to the Editor-in-Chief,

On 28 March, I informed you that I was no longer offering this paper to you. However, I note that Editorial Manager continues to list it as "Under review", with seemingly no option for me as an author to stop that.

On 23 April, I will be submitting the latest version of the paper to another journal. If indeed this paper is somehow now in the hands of reviewers for Springer, then there is the unfortunate possibility that this other journal would call upon exactly the same reviewers. As I do not want the inappropriate conclusion to be drawn that the paper is being simultaneously submitted, you must contact any reviewers before 23 April, and inform them that the paper was withdrawn from your consideration on 28 March.

If the institutional arrangement there is such that handling editors do not tell you who in particular is reviewing a paper, then you are going to need make a sort of general announcement, as you plainly cannot rely upon the handling editor to act.
At 1:00 PM (even faster!), the following arrived:
I have received the decision from the Editor on your manuscript, THEO789 "Indifference, Indecision, and Coin-Flipping"

With regret, I must inform you that the Editor has decided that your manuscript cannot be accepted for publication in Theory and Decision.

Below, please find the comments for your perusal.

I would like to thank you very much for forwarding your manuscript to us for consideration and wish you every success in finding an alternative place of publication.
There were, in fact, no comments what-so-ever below. We may reasonably infer that they were not so much omitted by the JEO Assistant as simply never made in the first place.

It's of course somewhat offensive that Springer has the felt need to suggest, even pro forma, that they rejected an article which was not theirs to reject. But, at least, I can move on to the next submission without the worry that I'll be accused of unethical behavior.

Anyway, as I indicated to them, the paper will be submitted to a different journal on Saturday.

Up-Date (2011:04/19): This morning, my e.mail included five more messages from the Springer JEO Assistant, all from within a span of two minutes. The first was a CC of a message to the Editor-in-Chief,

Please find the mail below from [confused rendering of my name] who is willing to withdraw the paper.

Kindly let me know if I can set the final disposition in EM as “Withdrawn”.

Thank you very much and looking forward to your response.
This was followed then by three messages directed at my e.mail system as such, attempting to un-deliver that first message (something that some systems permit), then a message
Thank you for your mail.

The editor has rendered the decision for your paper.

Curious, I have checked the Editorial Manager status for the paper, which remains that of alleged rejection, rather than of withdrawal.

I'd already suspected that the last message from yester-day had not actually come from the JEO Assistant, though the e.mail address was hers, and that it was likely to have been an automated result of someone else entering a rejection into Editorial Manager. Beyond that, I don't know what here is mindlessness and what here is editorial pique.

Theory Maybe, but No Decision

Monday, 28 March 2011

After 18 months, two weeks, and 6 days without any a decision on whether to accept Indifference, Indecision, and Coin-Flipping on the part of Theory and Decision (published by Springer-Verlag), and after the failure of the editor to tell me the actual status of the paper in the application process, I have ended the application.

As I have mentioned before, I submitted a version of this paper to them on 5 September 2009, alerting them that one of their editors was creditted in the acknowledgments. I was told that I needed to redact those acknowledgments; I submitted a version with that change on 8 September of 2009.

The paper was submitted by way of a website running software called Editorial Manager, which offers a report of the ostensible current status of each paper. Neither the publisher of this software nor Springer seem anywhere to define the respective stages, nor even to identify them, except in-so-far as, as one waits and watches, various statuses are reported.

It took a little while before the status was reported as Editor assigned, but I had been assured by a JEO Assistant on 9 September that an editor was assigned. The status was subsequently up-dated in early January of 2010, when it became Reviewers assigned. Needless to say that I was concerned that it should have taken four months just to get reviewers assigned. In any case, the status was not up-dated again until 23 March 2010, at which point it was, well, Reviewers assigned, but now with a time-stamp of 23 March, as if reviewers had withdrawn, and new reviewers had to be found.

Nothing in the report had changed as of 28 June, when I finally wrote.

Can you please provide some information on the status of "Indifference, Indecision, and Coin-Flipping" (THEO789), submitted to Theory and Decision?

The manuscript was submitted on 8 Sep 2009. Since early January, the status reported at Editorial Manager has been "Reviewers Assigned", although the time-stamp of the status was changed in late Narch [sic, *facepalm*].
I received a reply on 29 June from the JEO Assistant.
We apologize for the delay in the processing of your paper.

There seems to be some difficulties in finding potential reviewers. However, I have forwarded your mail to Editor.
I did not receive anything from the essentially unidentified Editor. In any case, it seemed that Reviewers assigned meant something other than that reviewers had been assigned; rather, it could mean something such as that reviewers were being sought. And, 9 months after my paper had been submitted, it still didn't have any.

At the first anniversary of the submission, the status still read Reviewers Assigned (with, however, no further changes in the time-stamp); so, on 9 September I wrote

Could you please provide some information on the status of "Indifference, Indecision, and Coin-Flipping" (THEO789), submitted to Theory and Decision?

The manuscript was official submitted on 8 September 2009.
The JEO Assistant promptly replied
We apologize for the delay in the processing of your paper. Your manuscript has been sent out for review and I have forwarded your mail to him.

You will be notified once the decision has been taken.
So, apparently, Reviewers assigned could mean that reviewers were sought, or that they'd indeed been appointed; and it seemed that now my paper actually had them, though it wasn't clear when it got them between 29 June and 9 September. I went back to waiting.

On 15 November, the status reported by Editorial Manager was changed to Under review. So it would seem that a paper could be sent out for review, yet it would take another month-and-some-days before it would actually be under review. Or something. Evidently, the status labels are names, not descriptions; without a special dictionary, they tell one nothing.

I discovered that John Turri, commenting at a 'blog of Brian Leiter, reconstructed the labels of the Editorial Manager statuses as

  1. New submission
  2. Editor assigned
  3. Reviewers assigned
  4. Under review
  5. Reviews complete
  6. Editor has a decision

Anyway, as of 21 March of this year, the status was still reported as Under review. So I wrote

This article has been in your hands for over 18 months. While that is not a record, it is none-the-less a rather dire length of time.

For more than four months, Editorial Manager has labelled the article as "Under review". Whatever one may say for or against this paper, it does not take such time to actively read, digest, and critique. I would like to know what "Under review" actually indicates and, more importantly, what the actual status of this paper is.

I fear that I have simply wasted considerable time having submitted this paper to Springer Verlag, and that I should look for a publisher who might actually want to publish it.
and I received a reply on 21 March.
We apologize for the delay caused.

I have forwarded your inquiry to the editor and will let you know once I hear from him.
Now, that word caused gives me pause. If there'd been some assertion about causation, the caused would be fairly natural. As it is, that's just a bald caused, as if there'd been some concern that the delay might be uncaused — ex nihilo, as it were; but I don't think that they're trying to preëmpt metaphysical concerns on my part. That use of caused may be an attempt to allude to the period of time, never exactly identified for me, when potential reviewers were fleeing into the wilderness, but it could be that I'm looking at wording that has been imperfectly recycled.

The Editor hadn't bothered to contact me as of 23 March (and the reported status was unchanged), so I wrote

Given the history here, I have little expectation of receiving an adequate response from the editor or from anyone else at Springer Verlag before I yank my article from submission.
The reply on 24 March was
We apologize for the delay caused.

I have forwarded your inquiry to the editor and will let you know once I hear from him.
and, yeah, that's verbatim what I was told on 21 March. Recycled.

I could speculate about what the Hell has been and is happening at Theory and Decision, but it would just be speculation. I don't know whether I've been confronted with incompetence, indifference, malevolence, or some combination of two or of three of these; or if everybody's grandparents and uncles keep dying. (I'm pretty sure that one person over at Springer is mostly just helpless in the face of what others are doing, or choosing not to do.) But it's toxically infra dignitatem to continue to endure this situation. If the Editor were to have contacted me, to identify bottle-necks and sticking points, and to offer some reason to expect that the end result wouldn't just be rejection based upon a sloppy, last-minute reading of my paper, then it would be a different story.

So I've written to them

The offer of this paper to Theory and Decision is ended, as more than eighteen and a half months have been allowed to lapse without a decision, and the reluctance to keep me informed has now descended to a refusal to answer queries at all.

Whatever your superiors might direct notwithstanding, please none-the-less spare me any boiler-plate or otherwise vaguely insulting expression of regret.

I'll need to find another journal to which to submit the paper; I fear that this will be difficult. When other journals rejected the paper and gave reason (as did all but one), it was always that the paper was not appropriate to a readership as general as theirs; so I'd need to find a journal that can tolerate what is, for economics, very formal mathematics, concerned with what many readers would mistake for impractical refinement.

I've made or will make a few changes as well. I've modified the formulæ so that braces are only used to bound the definitions of sets, and angle-brackets are only used to hold the elements of lotteries; I'm hoping that these two changes help the reader. I've abandoned the use of partial ordering and, where I quote Savage using it, explained that the term incomplete preordering would now be more typical. I've corrected a spelling error in the acknowledgments. I have gone back and forth on whether to use a which or a that for a particular clause in a foot-note. I may perhaps include a brief commentary, essentially reïterating points about it made in this 'blog, on a paper by Eliaz and Ok.

Up-Date (2011:04/18): I have posted a continuation (and presumed completion) of the tale of these communications with Springer concerning this paper.

Φ

Friday, 21 January 2011

At 08:48 on 8 September 2009, I had resubmitted my paper on indecision to a journal after replacing acknowledgements with place-holders. (The paper was originally submitted on 3 September, with the acknowledgements in-place and with a note from me that one of their editors was mentioned thereïn. The journal tossed it back to me to scrub the acknowledgments.)

To-day, then, at 08:48, we passed Day 500 since the (re)submission of the paper. Day 500, and the present status is Under review, which became its official status on 15 November of last year. (I earlier labored its previous status changes.) Doubtless that someone is thinking that they've only had the paper for 67 days, but the journal itself has had it for 500 days.

I am aware — Would that there were a G_d to help us all! — that 500 days is not a record for such delay. Still, economics journals which report their mean time-to-decision typically declare it to be something on the order of a month.

in the silence you don't know

Monday, 5 July 2010

Those of you who've followed this 'blog for a while might be wondering what happened to the paper that I started submitting to journals in mid-June of last year. Well, yeah; me too.

As previously reported here, it was rejected by three journals as unsuitable to a general audience of economists, after being rejected by one without any reason being given. As it was rejected for being too specialized by one journal, I would then submit it to a more specialized journal. I submitted it to a fifth journal in early September. That process had to be repeated as their representative wanted me to purge the acknowledgments before the paper were passed-on to an editor (I'm not sure why someone there didn't delete them from the LAΤΕΧ file that they'd had me submit, nor why their submission template provides for acknowledgments, with no guidelines on when not to include them), but the paper was then officially recorded as submitted on 8 September. And I've been waiting since for a yea or for a nay.

They have an on-line site at which I can check on the status of my paper. After a while, the site reported that an editor had been assigned; then, in early January that reviewers had been assigned. Anthony suggested that perhaps they had had trouble finding reviewers who would be sufficiently comfortable with the sort of mathematics used. In late March the status report was changed to say that reviewers were assigned at that time, as if perhaps one or more of the original reviewers had left without returning an evaluation.

This journal doesn't really provide any guideline about querying them concerning the status of a submission. A common guideline from economics journals (as some others) is to contact them if one hasn't received any word after six months. I couldn't really claim that I'd not got any word for six months, but what I'd got surely didn't seem informative. Towards the end of June, after getting an opinion from Anthony, who said that I should feel free to query them, I did. The person whom I contacted said that, much as Anthony had suggested, there seemed to have been a problem finding reviewers, and that my query had been forwarded to the editor.

I've received nothing further. So, I don't really know the status of my paper.

Ayn Rand and Me

Monday, 4 January 2010
art by Morton Meskin

I believe that my first encounter with the works of Ayn Rand was in seeing as a child some of The Fountainhead (1949) on television. All that I really remember seeing of it then were the final two scenes, which may indeed be all that I saw. I would have been unable to tell anyone very much about the movie (I didn't even know its name), and unaware of there being a book whose ideas were behind it.

Later, I read some distinctive stories by Steve Ditko in Charlton Comics. I was not a fan of Ditko's graphic work (which combines spareness of detail with an a propensity to put figures in ape-like positions and to present an abundance of wildly exaggerated facial expression), but the stories were written from an unflinching, and seemingly grim yet ultimately optimistic belief in straight-forward good and beauty. I wouldn't have been able to tell anyone whose prior work had informed his.

My next encounter was as a teenager, in a Midwestern drug store. Some of Rand's books were in a rack there; on the backs of the volumes were remarkable claims about Rand's popularity and about her significance to many people. I was skeptical, as I'd not otherwise heard of her. In any event, I didn't buy any of the books, but a mental note was made.

When I became more politically active over the next few years, I began to encounter frequent reference to Rand from people with whom I had some ideological allegiance. So I decided to read one of her books.

I tend to read authors' works in the order in which they were written, and the earliest of Rand's works that I found when I looked at a book-store was The Fountainhead (1943); and I had begun to think that I'd seen part of a movie based upon it; so that was the book that I first read. It was rather a while before I read any more.

Reading The Fountainhead was not the transformative experience for me that it has been for some people. There weren't any notions in it that were new to me (albeït perhaps in part due to my prior exposure to Ditko), and Rand seemed to confuse egoism with egotism. In a preface, she blamed a use of egotism for egoism on a poor dictionary (English was not her first language), but it seemed and seems that the confusion at the time that she wrote that novel was not merely one of words but of ideas.

I think that Rand suffered from a sort of mind-blindness, such that she could not use ordinary intuïtions as most people do to understand other people. That is not to say that she could not use some other means; and being compelled to use other means sometimes even caused her to have insights that other people would miss. But it was a struggle, her understanding could be imperfect, and it left her treating empathy as if it were an unfair demand. (It surely didn't help that she'd been forced to live under a regime that willfully confused coërcive redistribution with brotherhood in order to license a considerable amount of repression and brutality.)

One sees this lack and rejection of empathy somewhat reflected through-out her writing. Its expression diminished over time, but at its worst it embraced sociopathy. In some of her journal notes of 1928, a young Ayn Rand seriously planned to have a hero modelled on William Edward Hickman, who in late 1927 had kidnapped a 12-year-old girl, and then delivered her grotesquely mutilated corpse when her father paid for her return. Hickman, as Rand saw him, had acted without concern for others, with the supposed motto What is good for me is right. In The Night of January 16th (1934), the protagonist is a woman whose heroic love is for a man whom she knows to be a conscienceless swindler (inspired by Ivar Kreuger). In We the Living (1936), the heroine at one point thrills in response to a depiction of a man whipping serfs, and her truest love, Leo, lives only for himself. In The Fountainhead, that has largely been left behind, but it has a very ugly echo.[1]

In The Fountainhead, the hero rapes the heroine. I put rapes in quotation marks because, even though it is called as much in the book, it (as Susan Brownmiller noted in an moment of lucidity) isn't a genuine rape; rather, it is a confrontation, pretty literally by engraved invitation, between two individuals over whether they will have sex on her terms or on his, which he wins largely by physical force. It was enough like a real rape that I was deeply appalled. Bearing in mind the historical context, that this was written in a time when rape was still widely romanticized, did not help much.

Thereäfter, the relationship between the two remains perverse, with the heroine marrying a couple of other men, whom she certainly does not love, simply to hurt the hero, whom she does love — in her own, Randian way.

Additionally, this was a book without much salvation. In particular, no one saves Catherine, a woman crushed by abandonment, who is then drawn into a life of soul-less self-lessness, and Gail Wynand's redemption is in suïcide. If anyone is actually saved in the book, it is Mallory, who fell so far as to have made a private attempt at popular sculpture, before Roark summons him to reälize his true vision. I would note that salvation was something that I had seen in at least one of Ditko's stories, in which the hero and heroine reach out to pull a fellow doing an imitation of Ellsworth Toohey (Rand's principal villain in The Fountainhead) back into a world-view of truly humanistic possibility.[2]

I finished reading The Fountainhead with little desire to read anything more by Rand.

But she continued to be referenced, positively and negatively, by friends and by allies, and I was ultimately moved to read her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged (1957).

Atlas Shrugged was not so unpleasant as had been The Fountainhead. Rand again manages to toss her heroine into bed with two men other than the hero, the second much to the distress of the hero (and to that of some hapless other fellow), but this time she isn't out to cause anguish; she isn't even aware of him as a person. The descriptions of sex between the principal hero and heroine seem a little peculiar, but markèdly different from the confrontational initial sex of the previous book.

There's salvation of one sort in the book — the main hero is persuading the most genuinely productive members of society to withdraw, in order to bring an end to a social order of unreason that demands self-sacrifice and becomes ever-more totalitarian. But none of these people are in danger of being lost to the unreason itself. The two characters who are in such danger, Cherryl and Tony, are basically left by the heroes to sink or swim. Cherryl literally drowns, unable to cope (with no one helping her) when she begins to grasp the prevailing social order. Tony figures it out, with little help, and is shot dead for trying by himself to stop a group of thugs from the other side; by the time that a hero could be bothered to help him, Tony was really past help.

As well as the lack of empathy expressed in the treatment of such characters, there's something else that I take to be a manifestation of Rand's mind-blindness. Some of the villains demand to be understood; the heroes reject the idea that they must understand such people. And understand is the recurring word, without the heroes asserting that there is a difference between understanding and acceptance. Personally, I very much want to understand my opponents, without any expectation that this will cause me to think much better of them. In fact, having a working model of what makes them tick often intensifies my rejection, but it allows me to anticipate their behavior. However, Rand seems truly to object to a demand of understanding. I think that it was because understanding did not come intuïtively to her.

Atlas Shrugged is often criticized for the fact that its characters are archetypal, and apt to present long philosophical monologues in the context of extemporaneous discourse. I think that such criticism is actively ridiculous (especially when it comes from people who haven't directed the same criticism at the works of Shakespeare, or at various ostensibly classic works by Russian novelists,[3] whose characters are like-wise archetypal and like-wise given to unlikely speeches). Atlas Shrugged is a novel of archetypes and of monologues because it seeks to present a fairly comprehensive philosophical statement. Even with the device of archetypes and monologues, it is a very long book, and without those devices it would be less clear and probably much longer. It is also, somewhat more reasonably, criticized as belaboring ideas, but Rand was plainly concerned not to allow a point to be treated as obvious when presented and then repeatedly ignored in application; I think that such concern is quite well-founded.

As with The Fountainhead, reading Atlas Shrugged was not a transformative experience for me. There were only three philosophical novelties for me. The first was simply interesting; the second and third were not clear to me.

It used the word justice in reference to something inexorable. I'm not sure that I would use that term in that way, though it does seem useful to me to recognize that a natural law that says that one should or shouldn't do X is founded on one that says what obtains from doing X.

What I didn't understand, but wanted to pursue, were her claims about causality being necessitated by logic and that Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

I came away from Atlas Shrugged more willing to read other things by Rand, especially to understand what was meant by those last two assertions. The book in which the last was answered (she was cryptic on the other, and I had to figure that one out largely on my own) is also the book by Rand that most affected me philosophically, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1979). I didn't agree with everything in it, and have since come to reject more in it than I did at first. I also came to recognize that a considerable amount of it is unacknowledgedly borrowed from Locke and from others. But I believe that there is a core to it that is an original synthesis and a genuine advancement in epistemology, more properly conceptualizing logic in terms of a Lockean notion of concepts.

As well as Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, I got and read We the Living, Anthem (1938), various anthologies derived from The Objectivist Newsletter and from its successor, The Objectivist, and a few interviews. I also found and watched a movie whose screen-play she wrote, Love Letters (1945). (And, somewhere along the line, I watched the movie The Fountainhead from start to finish.)

In the fictional work, I perceived a recurring theme. As Rand herself essentially says in a later introduction, The Night of January 16th is about how Rand felt people ought to have reäcted to Ivar Kreuger's selfishness. Anthem is an unacknowledged re-write of We (1921), by Yevgeny Zamyatin; it is the novella that she thought that he ought to have written. I think that The Fountainhead is about the sort of man whom she felt Frank Lloyd Wright ought to have been. Love Letters is supposedly based on a book, Pity My Simplicity, by Christopher Massie, but when I skimmed through that I book, I found it hard to recognize the one in the other; meanwhile the screen-play bears a significant resemblance to Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac, except that it ends with the true author of the love letters getting the girl; it is Rand again setting things as she feels that they ought to be. And Atlas Shrugged is, of course, about the strike that really ought to be held (and, on the side, with the sort of pirate who ought to be out there plundering and sinking the ships that ought to be sunk). As to We the Living, well, I think that it's about the man whom Rand felt ought to have loved her.[4]

The non-fiction was often insightful or amusing; and, my objections to aspects of the sexuality in her novels not-withstanding, I also thought that some of the claims concerned love and sexuality were important insights. But, at some point, I just didn't think that I was likely to get much more value out of her work. Before Rand had died, I had stopped reading her work, except occasionally to read an excerpt here-or-there.

While she was alive, I didn't encounter many people who could both admit that Rand was right in some of her unpopular assertions and wrong in others. Instead, the vast majority of people who recognized her name either denounced her as having had nothing to say that were both unusual and correct, or endorsed her every claim without exception, and each group was condescending and curtly dismissive of anyone who would say otherwise. (The preëmption, whatever its motive, insulated them from potential correction.) But, over time, I have increasingly noted people who self-identify with her philosophy, but not without their own criticism, and not without a willingness to entertain the thought that further criticism might be neither knavish nor foolish.

My own philosophical position is removed from Rand's in some very important ways, and I would simply not count myself as a subscriber.

For example, Rand treated existence as a property of things; I would join with various philosophers who would assert that existence is not a property of the thing considered, but of the consideration. When one says something such as that unicorns do not exist, one is really saying something about the idea of unicorns. (And to say that the idea of unicorns does exist is really to say something about the idea of the idea of unicorns, &c.) The reason that existence seems to be a property of things is that our natural discourse isn't clearly distinguishing between things and ideas of those things. If unicorns do not exist, then it is absurd to talk about the unicorn itself as having a property of non-existence, because there is nothing to have the property. Rand objected to Reification of the Zero, but if we treat existence as a property of elephants themselves, then its contradiction, non-existence, becomes a property, which can only be held by, um, nothing; the Zero would then be reïfied. Rand's formula existence exists isn't particularly helpful, and its invocation seems to be nothing more than an artefact of confusing a crudity of grammar with a metaphysical insight.

By the way, I want to mention a book by another author, The Watcher (1981) by Kay Nolte Smith. Smith was at one time amongst those personally associated with Rand, but (like many) eventually left. The Watcher is a novel that successfully fused much of what virtue is to be found in Randian fiction with a deep sense of empathy. And its heroes don't simply march relentlessly towards triumph, but reach back to save people who ought not to be lost.


[1] I wasn't at all positioned to write that paragraph until years after I read The Fountainhead.

[2] However, Ditko certainly does not present all of his characters as saveable; and, in particular, those characters of his who step across the line between Good and Evil with the thought that they will later redeem themselves are inevitably morally destroyed.

As to such crossings, Ditko's villains are more likely than those of Rand to be conscious of when they are crossing the line or that they have crossed the line. While both Rand and Ditko would declare wickedness to be founded in a choice not to think; Ditko's villains are more likely to be in fact thinking.

[3] It is certainly worth noting that Rand was a novelist from Russia.

[4] And thence I would explain much of the sexual dynamic across her fiction.

Fifth Toss

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Last night, I finished the clean-up of a LAΤΕΧ version of my paper on incomplete preferences. From remarks by a person more knowledgeable about ΤΕΧ than I, it seemed that my best option in dealing with the under-sized angle brackets was to just fall back to using only parentheses, square brackets, and braces for taller delimiters. And most width problems were resolved by expressing formulæ over more lines. Unfortunately, these changes leave the formulæ harder to read than in the original.

This after-noon, I completed the submission process to one of the two specialized journals recommended by the advising editor who rejected it at the previous journal to which I submitted it. The submission process for this latest journal required that I name the other journals to which I'd submitted the paper. As simultaneous submissions are disallowed, basically they were asking for a list of which journals has rejected the paper. I gave it. (I didn't tell them that the third had been suggested by the second, nor that theirs had been suggested by the fourth.)

Anyway, I'm back to waiting for a response.

Urkh! does not fit the general readership

Sunday, 30 August 2009

My latest submission of my paper, to a yet more specialized journal, has met with a fate similar to that of my previous submissions:

The advisory editor suggests that the paper does not fit the general readership of [this journal] (see his short report below).
That advisory editor writes
I suggest to the author to submit his paper, which certainly deserves an outlet, to more specialistic journals
and then recommends two in particular. So I will review the guidelines for each, and try to decide to which of them I will make my next submission. I take some solace in the fact that, while my paper is indeed being rejected, editors are suggesting that it truly ought to be published in a respected academic journal.

Fourth Toss

Saturday, 25 July 2009

After some vacillation over the question of to which of two journals next to submit my paper, I have submitted it to a game theory journal which has published at least one other article attempting to operationalize incomplete preferences. (I think that attempt rather less satisfactory than mine.)

I have, alternately, been considering submitting to an older journal, based in Europe, which focusses primarily on mathematical microëconomic theory, but I decided both that they would be more likely to reject the paper as too specialized, and that my paper would be less widely read if published there.