Monday, September 29, 2008

What's with Objectivism?

If there are two topics in the skeptical universe that I don't quite get, the second one is Objectivism.

Objectivism is a philosophy created by Ayn Rand (1905-1982) that encompasses politics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. It was outlined in several lengthy novels that I am unwilling to read, including Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Most of what I know about Objectivism is garnered from various internet sources, Michael Shermer, and BioShock. The first thing you should know is that Objectivists are libertarian atheist skeptics, though not all libertarian atheist skeptics are Objectivists.

From what I understand, Objectivists and Objectivist sympathizers constitute a small but significant minority of skeptics and atheists. See, there are liberal skeptics and libertarian skeptics. Libertarian skeptics tend to at least sympathize with Objectivists, to various degrees. For instance, Penn of Bullshit!, a libertarian skeptic if there ever was one, seems to like Objectivism. On the other hand, Michael Shermer, also libertarian, agrees with some of it, but thinks that as a whole it's a bit of a cult. Liberal skeptics tend to think Objectivists are as insufferable as hell. This blog is brought to you by a liberal-libertarian skeptic who really doesn't get Objectivism.

It's not the libertarian part that gets me. I get libertarians, at least as well as I get liberals or conservatives. I also get the bit about rational self-interest (aka greed) being a good thing. I disagree on these things somewhat, but I understand why people might see it that way. What I don't get is the Objectivist epistemology. They have this weird sort of deductivist rationalism, and I don't even see why it should be a viable option. Either I have an insufficient grasp of Objectivism, or Objectivism is complete nonsense; I'm beginning to suspect the latter.

The first time I ever encountered Objectivism, I was perusing a group's website, and they had the oddest statement among their fundamental tenets. The axiom of identity: "A is A". No, it's not wrong per se (except I would call it a tautology, not an axiom). No, of course, it's correct, it must be correct. But what of it? This is a tenet? Because the statement is by itself is useless, I had to read between the lines. I didn't like what I saw there. Basically, the axiom of identity is the first indication of Objectivists' overuse of deductivism. The law of identity is meant to assert that, yes, there are some truths that are absolute. We know they absolutely must be true, with absolute certainty, because they are derived through reason.

Objectivist epistemology seems to be entirely built around this idea. We start with a few axioms, and from there, everything else follows. Just as "A is A" is an absolute truth, so, too, is capitalism. Oh, look, I found an Ayn Rand quote to that effect:
I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.
The mistake that Objectivism makes is that they think every idea can be reduced down to something like "A is A". They think every idea can be derived from deductive reasoning, which is reasoning that leaves no doubt about its conclusions. But that's not the case. There is a major field that investigates what we can know through deductive reasoning; we call that field "mathematics". The vast majority of all other knowledge, most especially including politics, requires inductive reasoning, which is reasoning that leaves at least a little doubt about its conclusions. If Ayn Rand thought she could argue for capitalism through deductive reasoning, she was either delusional, or took a lot more axioms than she thought she did.

That's another thing--there aren't very many axioms in Objectivism. There's the axiom of identity ("A is A"), which I think should be a tautology, not an axiom. There's the axiom of existence ("Existence exists"), which sounds like some sort of pun. And then there's the axiom of consciousness ("Consciousness is an irreducible primary"), which I'm not sure I want to understand. I'm utterly confused as to how we get from these axioms to "... ergo capitalism".

According to Michael Shermer (in Why People Believe Weird Things), early Objectivism was a bit of a cult that surrounded Ayn Rand. Everything she said must have been correct, because she was the most perfect human being, and therefore her reasoning must have been perfectly undeniable. If there was any little disagreement that you had with Ayn Rand, you couldn't properly call yourself an Objectivist. I think this cultish behavior can be credited to the Objectivists' overuse of deductivism. If they had a less nonsensical epistemology, they would realize that reason rarely results in absolute certainty, and thus would be logically compelled to tolerate a bit more heresy.

But anyways, as I said from the beginning, I don't really get Objectivism. Any objectivist readers out there who want to set me straight? Or maybe you're an Objectivist-hater who wants to set me straight in some other manner?

71 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

I've been studying (or "studying") Objectivist philosophy seriously for about 10 years, and informally for about 30. Yes, I've read Atlas Shrugged and good god was that a slog. Rand is every bit as good a novelist as she is a philosopher.

You've pretty much nailed it: Randians are deductivists -- or at least they think they're deductivists. They're not even as honest as Christians are: Christians will at least make up axioms about God to support their deductivism; Randians just handwave over the dodgy bits and if you challenge them they accuse you of irrationality and stop talking to you.

I'm presently writing quite a bit about Rand and Objectivism. Having slogged through what my wife tires of hearing me call "that miserable book" (as well as a lot of her nonfiction "philosophy"), I might as well get some content out of it.

intrinsicallyknotted said...

Yeah, Objectivism is just crazy on several levels.

Part of the problem, I think, with the Objectivists' attempt to find basic axioms for their philosophy is that the axioms that are not tautologies are vague. The consciousness one relies on our prexisting intuitive idea of what "consciousness" is, but that in itself is a pretty vague idea!

The axioms we deal with in mathematics are different in that although the may talk about things we already understand intuitively (I know what "sets" and "numbers" are) the axioms are used to define them mathematically. This helps prevent us introducing other unproven assumptions into our arguments, because we should always be able to prove something directly from the axioms (although in practice that's a huge amount of work). The question of whether the things defined by the axioms actually match the intuition we're trying to capture, or whether they accurately model the real world, is a separate issue entirely.

miller said...

So you both agree with me. But what bothers me is how can people find Objectivism compelling? I mean, I sort of expect people in the skeptical community to at least have a mediocre understanding of epistemology. I'm wondering if maybe a lot of objectivist sympathizers simply agree with the conclusions, but are ignorant of Rand's deductivist methodology.

Oh, and Barefoot Bum, yes I've been reading your series. Cool stuff.

The Barefoot Bum said...

But what bothers me is how can people find Objectivism compelling?

The same reason, I suppose, that people find Christianity or any other religion compelling: It gives them a narrative to organize their life and values.

Plus, you know how stupid the average person is. By definition, half of them are even stupider.

(Yes, I know the difference between the mean and the median, but "median" just doesn't scan.)

intrinsicallyknotted said...

But what bothers me is how can people find Objectivism compelling?

I think a lot of people (maybe a large minority of the population) are enamored with the idea of being scientific or intellectual, but they don't go to the trouble of actually learning the science or logic. The result for some of them is that they are attracted to philosophies or claims that sound very intellectual while still making vague allusions to some great truth. For the people reading this stuff, they get to feel that, while they may not "get" the scientific details, at least they can sort of see how the main point works. So we have situations like the use of words like "vibrations", "resonance", and "quantum" in pseudoscience, and the use of "axioms" that build up to a logical argument of why it's okay to care only for yourself in Objectivism.

Rob said...

I consider myself an objectivist. I do agree there are some objectivists who practice a cultish worship around Rand. I am not one of them. The axioms are simply the foundation of the philosophy and a counter to the Platonic, which denies existence as a mere abstraction. The philosophy, in my opinion, tries to balance the human emotional being with the rational. I'd suggest actually reading about objectivism. The novels are tough to get through, but worth it. Rand was a romantic, in the sense of the ancient Greek tradition. I don't mind people taking pot shots at Rand. But using ad hominems to argue against a philosophy, is just dishonest.

miller said...

Did I use ad hominem in my main argument? I do not recall this. You may have read more into my writing than I ever said.

It is Michael Shermer, not I, who primarily criticizes Objectivism for its cult-like behavior. Michael Shermer, being a libertarian himself, probably disagrees with the cultish behavior more than he disagrees with the philosophy itself. I only suggested that if Michael Shermer is correct, then deductivism may have contributed to building that cult of personality.

john said...

Wrong.

Objectivist's breakthrough is in induction, not deduction. Rand does NOT deduce her non-primaries from her primary (her axioms.) The axiom at the root is "existence," not identity.

It's one thing for a new reader to make the mistake and certainly you have made an honest inquiry for clarification, but for Barefoot Bum to make it is shocking. He knows better.

When Objectivism holds that "Existence exists," it is simply affirming objective reality. It is saying that everything in existence in fact exists and don't deny it, and things that are imaginary or contradictory or 'supernatural' have no basis in fact to exist until the claimant proves them. Miss Rand is quite confident no one will prove the existence of something that does not exist.

[Note; if you claim that ideas such as "beauty" are not tangible 'things' yet they exist, that will trigger insistence that all such higher concepts must also be reducible back to facts of reality without contradiction. That is, if you want to avoid your higher concepts being irrational.]

So I would suggest as a thought experiment that you try on the Objectivist primary as simply being "The fact of existence." It is simple. It does not attempt to spawn, in and of itself, anything else. It accepts that existence is given and that it is real independent of any consciousness.

This primary axiom is not arrived at through induction or deduction. How could it be if it is a primary? Ask yourself what is primary in your own belief system.

Now concerning epistemology, in Objectivism you will find complete and absolute respect for deductive logic applied to facts about actual existents. Fine.

But you will find new ideas about induction. Rand declares that deduction cannot function without factual identification of all existents involved, and these existents can only be known (identified) through inductive reason. Obviously, in this she in not Platonic. She is certainly not of Hume, not of Kant and not of Popper either.

So, to correct Mr. Barefoot Bum: The power of Objectivism is in it's claim of certain objective truth -- in context -- through induction, resting on the assertion of the root: objective reality.

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

john said...

Rob I agree with what you said and also suggest that Mr. Barefoot Bum restrain himself; he has his own website on which he can act as he wishes. This is a call for a respectful discussion.

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

miller said...

John,
Barefoot Bum can say what he wants. It is my responsibility, and mine alone to moderate comments. Also, he probably will not see your comment, since this post is months old.

What you say about Objectivism does not exactly make me more sympathetic. You say that it's not the axiom of identity that is important, but the axiom of existence. But I have the same problem with the axiom of existence as I have with the axiom of identity.

The axiom of existence is trivial. What is it needed for? To take a stand against sollipsism? Against Platonism? I'm not any of those. But I'm still not an Objectivist. How do I get from here to there? What makes Objectivists think that mere acceptance of their three axioms will inexorably lead to the rest of Objectivism? How is this supposed to be compelling?

One common woo-woo strategy is to alternate between claims that are so trivial, that you'd have to be foolish to reject them, and claims that are much more outrageous. I'm afraid that I'm seeing some element of this in Objectivism, and it is not the most endearing quality.

john said...

Fine.

I retract my too generous "you have made an honest inquiry for clarification" and change it to "there are no a priori truths, just a priori absolute opinions by radical skeptics."

The content of my post, and Objectivism, remains untouched by this thread.

John Donohue

Roderick Fitts said...

(If this is a double post, please delete it. I wasn't sure if my first attempt succeeded, as my internet connection was subpar that day.)

"The axiom of existence is trivial. What is it needed for?"

It's basically needed for epistemological guidance (just like the other axioms). We possess fallible, conceptual faculties and need to conceptually identify everything, including the fact that things exist. Solipsism and Platonism, in their own ways, don't recognize that axiom (among other things). So it may be trivial for you, but others don't share your metaphysical views.

The functions of axiomatic concepts (including formal axioms) is discussed here:

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/axiomaticconcepts.html

As far as deduction:

Objectivism is not a type of rationalism or deductivism. Rand explicitly criticizes rationalists in "For the New Intellectual" and in the edited Q & A of "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," 2nd edition.

That particular quote from her about advocating reason is often interpreted to mean that she's advocating deduction only, but that's because the term "follows" is typically used in a "deduction" kind of context in logic courses (and philosophy academia generally). An Objectivist who argued that one could deduce "volition" from the existence axiom, for example, would be someone who had a poor understanding of the epistemology (and of basic deductive logic).

In short, the philosophy advocates both induction and deduction. Though induction comes prior to deduction, since the former generates the premises needed by the latter. Here is Rand's take on this in regard to concepts generally:

"The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction. The process of subsuming new instances under a known concept is, in essence, a process of deduction."
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/inductionanddeduction.html

Cultish Accusations:

A group of people become really interested in discussing philosophy and other topics together, and create a discussion club ("The Collective"). Also, one of the members of the club creates an institute for learning more about the particular philosophy upheld by the members of the club ("Nathaniel Branden Institute"). Then disagreements and ended relationships emerge, and all of this is later referred to as "cultish behavior."

I don't know what to make of people allegedly believing that Rand was infallible in her beliefs. Her own literature quite explicitly states that the conceptual level of consciousness is a fallible one, it's identification of reality is not guaranteed, and that this applies to her own thinking as well. And to the extent that Michael Shermer relies on Nathaniel and Barbara Branden's accounts of their lives with Rand (for example, "The Passion of Ayn Rand") it has to noted that their biographies/memoirs have been criticized as outright lies from others who knew Rand or studied her journals (for example, "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics," by James Valliant).

"What makes Objectivists think that mere acceptance of their three axioms will inexorably lead to the rest of Objectivism?"

If you mean "how do Objectivists think that accepting their axioms will lead to the sound deduction of the rest of the philosophy," then my answer is: no Objectivist worth his/her salt believes that such a thing is possible.

The best (and only) way to understand Objectivism is through observing facts and seeking to find out if Objectivist principles correctly identify (or give normative guidance in relation to) the facts, which primarily involves induction; deduction is employed in some of the principles, but certainly not to the extent that you believe it is.

If you haven't already, I'd suggest reading the non-fiction, starting with "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," since a couple of your issues with Objectivism might be resolved after reading/studying it.

Best,

Roderick Fitts

miller said...

Roderick Fitts,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I am happy to hear that Objectivism is not purely deductivist. Talking to other Objectivists has corroborated this. On this point, I admit error in my original essay.

However, a few questions about the axioms remain.

First, why include a tautology among the axioms? If you're going to include the reflexivity of equality among your axioms, why not also include, say, the transitivity of equality ("If A is B and B is C, then A is C")? What is the point?

Second, why is there a need to include an axiom which asserts that Solipsism and Platonism are incorrect? It's not just me, I don't know of anyone who thinks those are worth seriously considering. Why not also include axioms which disagree with every other obscure philosophy? Is this some sort of historical remnant of the development of Objectivism?

Third, what is the relationship of these axioms to the greater philosophy of Objectivism? If I had chosen a slightly different set, how much would that affect the later conclusions?

Roderick Fitts said...

"First, why include a tautology among the axioms?"

While I suppose one could call Objectivism's law of identity ("A is A") a tautology, the point of the axiom is to emphasize to a conceptual, fallible consciousness that whatever exists, it is what it is. We're capable of holding contradictions, and acknowledging the axiom can remind a person that things are what they are. It has other, specific applications, such as to the law of causality, and the very need of logic in the first place, but emphasizing the identity of things to guide human thought is its main purpose.

"Second, why is there a need to include an axiom which asserts that Solipsism and Platonism are incorrect?"

The existence axiom doesn't assert anything about Platonism and Solipsism, except that they (as systems of philosophy) exist. That axiom applies to everything that exists, not just those systems. I just meant that the axiom is for epistemological guidance, and those two systems are examples of what can happen to a person's thinking without that guidance. The axioms aren't a list of rejected philosophical systems in their content.

"Third, what is the relationship of these axioms to the greater philosophy of Objectivism?"

An answer to this question would likely require an essay all by itself, so I won't attempt a very detailed answer here.

I'll simply note that the axioms, in addition to other recognized facts, lead to the inductions of the rest of the Objectivist metaphysics' principles. They are also necessary in understanding why the validity of perception and free will are self-evident, as opposed to being the result of a conceptual argument. And as I said, the axioms are instrumental in understanding why we need a discipline such as logic.

On these points, I would suggest Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," as its a systematic presentation of the philosophy.

"If I had chosen a slightly different set, how much would that affect the later conclusions?"

It would depend on what set you chose. But I don't think valid philosophical axioms can simply be changed.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Every now & again I stumble on old threads I've participated in.

I have to note that Rob, john and Roderick Fitts have not yet said anything particularly profound; their comments seem to reduce to, "Well, when you read the whole thing, it all makes sense."

This might or might not be the case (I've read a lot of Randian philosophy, although not everything, and it doesn't make sense to me) but this approach is typically unpersuasive to the skeptic. This is especially true when professional philosophers have themselves read quite a lot and have dismissed Randian philosophy as unserious. This opinion is especially glaring given the laxity of standards for "serious" philosophy.

Obviously each person must make up his or her mind, and it is entirely possible that the professional philosophical community is mistaken. On the other hand, we do have to manage our time, and the Randian evangelist's assertion, "Trust me, it all works out in the big picture," is not especially helpful.

My further investigation into Randian philosophy plunged me into a morass of vagueness, often reducing to, "You can't prove me wrong, therefore I must be right."

Rob: The axioms are simply the foundation of the philosophy and a counter to the Platonic, which denies existence as a mere abstraction.

I'm not proponent of Platonism, but to counter a philosophy by establishing a contrary axiom does not conform to the spirit of philosophical inquiry.

One might as well say that the theist's counter to the atheist is the bold axiom that God exists.

john: Objectivist's breakthrough is in induction...

Having investigated Randian philosophy in some depth, I'm unaware of any breakthrough in induction. Furthermore, scientists have all but abandoned Humean induction for evidentiary probabilism, asking instead, "If I were wrong that X is universal, what is the probability that I might have been fooled by chance into observing the evidence of individual instances of X." This approach precedes Rand by several decades.

When Objectivism holds that "Existence exists," it is simply affirming objective reality.

The construction "Existence exists" is awkward to the point of philosophical ineptitude. "Things exist," would be more direct and explicit; "existence" typically labels an abstraction.

More importantly, though, this axiom, interpreted as john suggests, establishes metaphysical realism, which is itself on very shaky philosophical ground. Scientific realism is much stronger, in that it relies on fewer, weaker axioms: We hypothesize an objective, mind-independent reality as the best explanation for our perceptual evidence.

Rand cannot of course legitimately claim credit for any sort of realism, and simply holding realism as an axiom hardly qualifies as a philosophical breakthrough.

Rand declares that deduction cannot function without factual identification of all existents involved, and these existents can only be known (identified) through inductive reason. Obviously, in this she in not Platonic. She is certainly not of Hume, not of Kant and not of Popper either.

You have not actually explained any of Rand's breakthroughs about induction; you've merely hinted that they exist... or so you believe. I'm always suspicious of those who describe their philosophy by telling me what it is not.

miller: The axiom of existence is trivial.

The axiom of existence is not really trivial: It's quite bold... and quite boldly wrong: it establishes metaphysical realism, a lousy philosophical line. Just because we take realism (or any other belief) for granted is not a sufficient basis for establishing that belief as a metaphysical principle.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Rob: Axiomatic Concepts: Axioms are usually considered to be propositions identifying a fundamental, self-evident truth. But explicit propositions as such are not primaries: they are made of concepts. The base of man’s knowledge—of all other concepts, all axioms, propositions and thought—consists of axiomatic concepts.

An axiomatic concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest.

The first and primary axiomatic concepts are “existence,” “identity” (which is a corollary of “existence”) and “consciousness.” One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of non-existence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.)


This is, of course, mostly gobbledy-gook, apparent profoundity through obscurity. It's only barely specific enough to be wrong.

An attempt to prove or investigate a statement by referencing its inverse is not generally self-contradictory; it's only self-contradictory when the statement is held as primary. The reasoning here is patently circular.

This kind of gobbledy-gook permeates Randian philosophy.

miller said...

Thanks for dropping by again Barefoot Bum,

The axiom of existence is not really trivial: It's quite bold... and quite boldly wrong: it establishes metaphysical realism, a lousy philosophical line.

I said the axiom was trivial because I thought it was merely positing scientific realism. I hardly understand the point of asserting metaphysical realism.

I think I can be forgiven for misunderstanding the axiom, since "existence exists" is quite vaguely worded. Vague wording like that makes me suspicious, because it looks like it may be used in an equivocation fallacy at some later point in the philosophy.

Roderick Fitts said...

[The Barefoot Bum's comments are in quotes.]

"I have to note that Rob, john and Roderick Fitts have not yet said anything particularly profound; their comments seem to reduce to, 'Well, when you read the whole thing, it all makes sense.'"

I'm simply here to explain whatever I can; whether it's "profound" or not is not my concern. And I would never say that "when you read the whole thing, it all makes sense"; maybe it will, maybe it won't, maybe the person needs to think some more about it or read other philosophies and compare, etc. It really depends on the person; personally, I had to read Rand's theory of concepts twice and talk to more knowledgeable Objectivists for about five months before understanding and accepting it, for instance.

"This is especially true when professional philosophers have themselves read quite a lot and have dismissed Randian philosophy as unserious."

And yet there are professional philosophers who do take it as serious and don't dismiss it. Here are five examples I can think of:
(1) The 2006 Conference on "Concepts and Objectivity".
(2) My personal discussions with phil. professor Peter Railton about Objectivism, who was interested enough in the philosophy to include it in his "Intro. to Ethics" course in early 2007 (which I attended).
(3)Allan Gotthelf, Aristotle scholar and Objectivist, wrote a paper (in 2007) that gives an overview of Rand's theory of concepts.
(4) A recent anthology on ethics has been published with three of the essays pertaining to the philosophy--those by Machan, Smith, and Wright.
(5) One of the contributors of that anthology, philosopher Michael Huemer, is having a debate with Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow and philosopher Onkar Ghate on the Objectivist ethics this Monday, March 2nd.

I agree that people should make up their own minds, and that we have to manage our time. My advice to anyone would be to read the philosophy, as I think it's right and thus is beneficial for people to learn about.

"Having investigated Randian philosophy in some depth, I'm unaware of any breakthrough in induction."

As a relatively advanced student of Objectivism's epistemology, I concur: Rand doesn't offer any breakthroughs in induction, nor does she offer a theory of induction (though she notes some elements of induction, such as connecting the induction to other relevant knowledge which can strengthen/weaken the induction's validity). I think her breakthroughs in epistemology are her theory of "measurement-omission" in concept-formation, and her concept of "objectivity" in how one thinks.

I don't have time to go into too much detail about my views on induction, but I don't think Hume's (and Karl Popper's) "enumerative/past experiences induction" exhausts the field of possible ways to make inductive generalizations. Francis Bacon's view that we determine the nature of events by actively altering the environment is one way to make potentially valid inductive generalizations. (At the very least, it opens the way to determine what causal factors, if any, may become the boundary conditions for the induction's valid application to phenomena.)

I'll respond to some more (hopefully) tomorrow.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I don't think you even need to be forgiven, miller, for seeing "existence exists" as trivial. Unless you've apprehended why Randians need to establish metaphysical realism, charitability demands your interpretation.

Rand wants to create an epistemology that seems unobjectionable to anyone committed to a scientific account of physical reality. However, her epistemic system needs to justify her ethical philosophy, which is... highly weird.

Fundamental to Randian ethics are that the rightness or wrongness of values are as amenable to rational investigation as is the physical state of the world and the universal physical laws.

If two people disagree about the status of a physical law, then at least one of them is mistaken or ignorant of some relevant fact, or at least one of them is irrational: not thinking correctly. Rand wants to say the same thing: if two people disagree about the value some action or state of affairs, at least one is mistaken or irrational. Rational people, according to Randian ethics, cannot have any ethical conflicts, in just the same sense that all equally well-informed rational people cannot have any disagreements about the laws of physics.

If we can be rationally convinced about realism itself a priori, then there has to be some direct connection between reality and thought. Since Rand is, to her credit, no mystic, aspects of reality therefore must be a matter of logical necessity (witness the bullshit in the conception of "axiomatic concepts" I quoted above).

And it is precisely the case in Rand's ethical system that ethical values, as they cannot be perceptually evaluated, must therefore be matters of logical necessity. Hence my charge that Randians are deductivists.

Roderick Fitts said...

"An attempt to prove or investigate a statement by referencing its inverse is not generally self-contradictory; it's only self-contradictory when the statement is held as primary. The reasoning here is patently circular."

This isn't circular, because she isn't arguing for the truth of the axioms/axiomatic concepts. She's merely pointing out that proofs can't assume what is being demonstrated, as applied to "existence" and "consciousness." To prove something, you have connect what you're proving with other knowledge and facts besides what's being proved, but this would be impossible for "existence" and "consciousness." A person can prove (or attempt to prove) a theory of natural selection by referencing various organisms and traits they possess; a person cannot prove "existence" without relying on precisely what is being proved--the existence of something. Implicitly, such an attempt would have to be self-contradictory; it doesn't matter what order someone holds a statement (primary, secondary, etc.), if the question under discussion is: do things exist at all?

john said...

Roderick when I said Rand's inovation was in induction I was intending her insights on concept formation. What else is concept formation besides induction, and induction but to identify the existents subsumed under the concept?

I agree with you about the bankruptcy of the Popperian 'alternative' of falsifiability compared to Rand's induction. In fact, her glory is that she has saved induction from the rubble heap of the entire Platonist tradition.

John Donohue

The Barefoot Bum said...

Keep in mind that the scientific materialist's charge (and I myself am most definitely a scientific materialist) against Rand is not that she's wrong about objective reality, but that she assents to objective reality for the wrong reasons. She's sloppy, takes too much for granted, and takes metaphor and allegory for rigorous logic. Her sloppiness almost seems intentional: without her sloppiness about science and material reality, her ethical philosophy would collapse.

Roderick Fitts: I think her breakthroughs in epistemology are her theory of "measurement-omission" in concept-formation, and her concept of "objectivity" in how one thinks.

Please explain these concepts in more detail.

A person can prove (or attempt to prove) a theory of natural selection by referencing various organisms and traits they possess; a person cannot prove "existence" without relying on precisely what is being proved--the existence of something.

On one level, this is, as miller originally suggests, trivial; in another sense, it is wild and assumes overmuch. Certainly, if I label my own consciousness with the property of existence, then the existence of my own consciousness is self-evident and undeniable. But so what? I've asserted only solipsism and defined consciousness and existence in terms of each other. Rand's self-evident propositions get us only as far as Descartes, and Descartes goes off the rails if not at square one then at square two. At best Rand makes it to square three before her own prejudices and biases push her into an eccentric and philosophically insupportible cul-de-sac.

john said...

If you are making the charge of 'sloppy' with such certainty -- like a slap -- despite no working accquaintance with Rand's breakthrough as a champion of induction within context and bounds via cognitive integration and measurement ommission, then your characterization is far worse than sloppy. I'll let you dream up your own word for it.

Read a book.

John Donohue

The Barefoot Bum said...

Are you objecting that I'm certain about what the charge is? Or are you objecting that I'm certain the charge is true? The former certainty is trivial, and, since I'm a scientific materialist, and I'm making the charge, supported.

The latter certainty is an uncharitable interpretation, especially since I explicitly describe it as a charge, not as a conclusion.

The charge of sloppiness can be easily refuted: simply present a rigorous and precise description of Rand's breakthroughs.

Really, I bring up the charge to indicate specifically that I'm not trying to reach different conclusions from Rand (at least not about the physical world), but trying to reach the same conclusions in a different way. I don't want to waste your time trying to criticize a Platonist or solipsist position I don't actually hold.

One traditional move of theists and other anti-skeptics is to take offense at criticism rather than directly rebut it. Charges of sloppiness hardly poison the well; it's not like I'm accusing Rand of eating babies.

Another traditional anti-skeptical move is the Courtier's Reply, i.e. "no working acquaintance with Rand's breakthrough as a champion of induction."

Of course, one cannot draw many conclusions about a proposition from the failure of any particular advocate. On the other hand, the prevalence of anti-skeptical behavior among Randian advocates does explain why so many non-Randians are hesitant to engage the topic at all.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Remember, John, you came here to tell us about the good word, when you already knew miller and many of his readers were skeptical of Randianism. It's childish to become irritated or annoyed because we don't immediately take your word for it that Rand is a genius.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Roderick Fitts: [I]t doesn't matter what order someone holds a statement (primary, secondary, etc.), if the question under discussion is: do things exist at all?

This is precisely what I mean by philosophical sloppiness. It is only the existence of one's own consciousness that is self-evident and contradictory (and silly) to deny. It is not logically contradictory to assert that no things outside the mind exist.

The question is not whether things exist at all; I'm a scientific materialist. The question is: on what epistemic basis does knowledge of objective reality rest?

john said...

I came here because the author said "I don't get it." I thought that was an honest inquiry for clarification and responded with information.

Miller slammed that in the mud, so I have withdrawn my polite attitude and will not be explaining; it was a dishonest request.

You have concluded with certainty that Ayn Rand is a deductivist, yet exhibit no apparent awareness of her actual championing of induction, as I have now indicated. So why should I bother if you have reached a conclusion while admitting not having the body of truth.

Meanwhile, what is a skeptic? I mean, that is a negative. Just like saying "I am an atheist" is simply descriptive of one's beliefs -- that they do not contain god -- and can never be the basis of a philosophy, 'I am a skeptic' does not tell me what you believe in.

Not only "what is a skeptic," but "what is an anti-skeptic?"

If ever there was a self-annihilating term it is accusing someone of being an "anti-skeptic."

I don't quite get it.

Please explain.

John Donohue

miller said...

John:"I came here because the author said "I don't get it." I thought that was an honest inquiry for clarification and responded with information."

If you did not detect my original skepticism, you were not reading very carefully.

In the original post: "Either I have an insufficient grasp of Objectivism, or Objectivism is complete nonsense; I'm beginning to suspect the latter."

My original point was that Objectivism seems at the surface, nonviable. So I asked if there was anything I got seriously wrong about it. That doesn't mean I'm going to be immediately convinced by the first Objectivist to walk in.

I did not find your first comment to be compelling, and said so. Your reaction was to give up and say I had an a priori bias. Well, forgive me for finding that uncompelling.

John: "You have concluded with certainty that Ayn Rand is a deductivist, yet exhibit no apparent awareness of her actual championing of induction"

You may have missed my earlier comment: "I am happy to hear that Objectivism is not purely deductivist. Talking to other Objectivists has corroborated this. On this point, I admit error in my original essay."

John: "Roderick when I said Rand's inovation was in induction I was intending her insights on concept formation. What else is concept formation besides induction, and induction but to identify the existents subsumed under the concept?"

Well, I am honestly, genuinely interested to know what this is going on about. It is not self-explanatory.

miller said...

I use a very particular definition of "skepticism". It refers to the scientific method, and more generally the method of critical thinking. For a fuller definition, refer to the Skeptic Magazine. Saying that skepticism is solely negative is not only irrelevant but wrong. Of course, I can't blame anyone for not immediately knowing this. Well, now you know.

By "anti-skeptic", Barefoot Bum is merely appending the prefix "anti" to the word so that he can refer generally to the usual opponents of the skeptical "movement" (if we call it a movement). These opponents include Creationists, alt med proponents, antivaxxers, 9/11 troofers, UFOlogists, psychics, astrologists, and lots more.

john said...

miller, my response beginning with "You have concluded with certainty ..." was indended for the BB guy. We are crossing wires.

If my first response was not compelling, proceeding won't help; it will be more of the same.

If you actually interested, the book to read is "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," 2nd edition by Ayn Rand.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/searchresults/?cx=014967226872340436784%3Atgjzzcnz0mm&cof=FORID%3A11&q=concept+formation#919

might also help

John Donohue

The Barefoot Bum said...

I do believe Rand to be a deductivist, especially regarding her ethical philosophy; I further find her work on induction to be either trivial or wrong.

But I hardly have drawn this conclusion with certainty. I believe very little with certainty; I am always open to new evidence. Instead of taking offense, present the evidence, prove me wrong, and I will change my mind. Simply saying, however, that Rand is not a deductivist is not persuasive.

The "evidence" you presented is vague:

Rand declares that deduction cannot function without factual identification of all existents involved, and these existents can only be known (identified) through inductive reason.

How are existents known through inductive reason?

"The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction.

But if Rand is not a Humean, how does this "induction" work? Indeed how does one observe a fact of reality? An observation is a subjective experience, and is always colored by existing biases and theory. How do we get from observation to true statements about objective reality? Waving a magic wand and saying "induction" does not qualify as a breakthrough.

bjectivist principles correctly identify (or give normative guidance in relation to) the facts, which primarily involves induction.

Same questions.

I'll simply note that the axioms, in addition to other recognized facts, lead to the inductions of the rest of the Objectivist metaphysics' principles.

Now we're inducing metaphysical principles? On the basis of axioms? You're certainly not using these words in the ordinary philosophical manner; without further explanation, I'm unable to comprehend.

They are also necessary in understanding why the validity of perception and free will are self-evident, as opposed to being the result of a conceptual argument.

Self-evidence — in ordinary usage — does not require anything; any concept that requires other concepts to understand is ipso facto not self-evident.

And it goes on in the same vein. Pure sloppiness -- your own, of course, but I've never met a Randian who could coherently and precisely explain her concepts.

Roderick Fitts said...

Quotes are from The Barefoot Bum, unless stated otherwise.

"I do believe Rand to be a deductivist, especially regarding her ethical philosophy.[...]Simply saying, however, that Rand is not a deductivist is not persuasive."

That's fair. Here's some of my evidence:

(1) In "The Objectivist Ethics," Rand's essential essay on rational egoism and its foundations, she develops what she thinks is the proper way to understand the concepts "value" and "morality."

The first principle she draws is that "life makes value possible," that the existence of living organisms is a necessary condition for values to possibly exist (which excludes inanimate objects having values). I don't think she's saying here that we deduce our knowledge of values (and the concept itself) from our knowledge about life, but rather that a comparison of living things with inanimate objects shows an important fact about goals; and this knowledge about goals leads us to form a new concept establishing a certain relationship between a living thing and its goals: "values." This isn't just an application of prior knowledge, which I largely take deduction to be, but rather the formation of entirely new knowledge and understanding of new relations. In other words, I think she's expressing how to induce the concept "value" and why it is feasible to do so.

The existence of "values" isn't a premise in a deductive conclusion, but one conclusion among many in a multi-stage, largely inductive (and teleological) argument.
Since the focus in logic courses is heavily on deduction, I could see why a person would want to construct Rand's argument deductively, as Prof. Michael Huemer did in an online critique (which I'll link to in a sec). There currently aren't very helpful rules for making inductive arguments, so constructing Rand's argument in that fashion would be quite difficult; nevertheless, I think really understanding the argument, and reproducing it in a coherent way with her own words, requires the use of induction.

Here's Huemer's critique, by the way:
http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand5.htm

(Having listened to the debate between Prof. Ghate and Huemer I mentioned in an above comment, I'm not sure if this is still how Huemer views the Objectivist ethics. I think he knows more about it now than he did then.)

(2) Phil. prof. Tara Smith published a book on the Objectivist ethics entitled "Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality." On pages 101-103, she emphasizes that the normative elements of the ethics are inductive conclusions (in addition to the person's purpose of living). Pages 102-03 can be viewed freely on Google Books: http://tinyurl.com/aocx7d

"But if Rand is not a Humean, how does this 'induction' work?"

If you've already read "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," then you know how Rand thinks induction works, at least at the level of concept-formation. (You said you've studied the philosophy for about 10 years, so I'm guessing you have read it.)

You've repeatedly claimed that I, and Objectivists ("Randians") in general, are sloppy in accepting our ideas and expressing them (e.g. "Pure sloppiness -- your own, of course, but I've never met a Randian who could coherently and precisely explain her concepts.") Whether that's the case or not, maybe you should read Gotthelf's paper on concepts that I linked to earlier. It was written with academic philosophers in mind, compares Rand with other philosophers (such as Locke, Hume, the realists and nominalists), and goes into some detail about the elements of Rand's theory, which might be less "sloppy" than you're accustomed to when reading work by Objectivists. It also discusses "measurement-omission" and the Objectivist understanding of "objectivity," which you seemed interested in learning about. (Of course, I'd recommend any interested parties reading this to read the paper as well, miller emphatically included.)

Here's the link for the paper again: http://tinyurl.com/cz2rsb

miller: "Well, I am honestly, genuinely interested to know what this is going on about. It is not self-explanatory."

Well, in short, concept-formation and use is largely about generalization, of gaining and applying knowledge to a large (potentially unlimited) number of particular things or subjects. So it is one kind of induction. But I wouldn't say that concept-formation only involves induction, though, as concepts could be formed after utilizing both inductive and deductive thinking. I think Rand's theory of abstraction as measurement-omission justifies induction as far as forming individual concepts go, but there's still work to be done regarding "theory-formation," particularly in regard to science.

As that may not clarify what John and I were discussing, maybe a paper specifically about induction would be helpful. The paper's called "The Case for Inductive Theory Building" by psychologist Edwin Locke (who happens to be an Objectivist as well). Here's the abstract and link:

"This article argues that theory building in the social sciences, management and psychology included, should be inductive. It begins by critiquing contemporary philosophy of science, for example, Popper's falsifiability theory, his stress on deduction, and the hypothetico—deductive method. Next, the author presents some history on the concept of induction in philosophy and of inductive theory building in the hard sciences (e.g., Aristotle, Bacon, Newton). This is followed by three examples of successful theory building by induction in psychology and management (Beck's theory, Bandura's social—cognitive theory, goal setting theory). The article concludes with some suggested guidelines for successful theory building through induction and some new policies that journal editors might encourage."
http://tinyurl.com/b8nmlt

john said...

Roderick man that is a great link; I've been looking for a paper that confirms my current thinking about Popper but in more rigourous language. And I'd say to miller and bb, that you will not hear a more civil and open invitation to learn about Objectivism than the one in the above post. Salute R.

John Donohue

The Barefoot Bum said...

The first principle she draws is that "life makes value possible,"

This is a trivial and imprecise. Values are indeed properties of goal-seeking intelligences. At present, only living things have goal-seeking intelligence.

But so what? Even when stated precisely, this premise doesn't go very far at all.

The conclusion that Rand draws from this premise -- that one can evaluate values by their life-promotingness -- is a non sequitur.

Huemer's critique is pretty good.

Tara Smith does not go deeply into induction in the cited passage. She seems to simply take induction for granted without a rigorous formulation. Again, I have to emphasize that scientists -- with Popper's guidance regarding falsifiability -- have a much more rigorous and precise formulation of what scientific induction actually means and how to differentiate between good and bad uses of induction.

I'll read Ayn Rand on Concepts [Gotthelf] and The Case for Inductive Theory Building [Locke] tomorrow. The abstracts are not encouraging, though.

Keep in mind that although good scientists and philosophers of science credit Popper for falsificationism, we recognize that Popper was completely full of shit on a number of related topics.

Roderick Fitts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roderick Fitts said...

The Barefoot Bum:
"The conclusion that Rand draws from this premise -- that one can evaluate values by their life-promotingness -- is a non sequitur."

She doesn't draw that as a conclusion; it's a premise in connection with the previous premises that life makes value possible and necessary.

In short, the alternatives of life or death gives rise to goals; this makes values possible because goals require action on the living thing's part to be accomplished. This same alternative makes values necessary because living things can't continue to exist without need-satisfaction, without acting to gain and utilize values. (Obviously, much more could be said on these two points.) Understanding these two points gives us an insight into determining the standard of value: the form of living of the organism in question, what benefits its ability to live and what detracts from, or destroys, it.

"Huemer's critique is pretty good."

No: it's pretty flawed.

Objection 1 is a meta-criticism of Rand's argument, since it doesn't specifically address those with absolutist views on value. I don't see how this is a flaw in her argument, as I think the whole absolutist school of value is really agent-relativist and/or value-subjectivist, just in various disguises. The theories I'm aware of covertly use the proponent's own views of what's valuable and basically prop these up as "valuable-in-itself," or something along those lines. But to this day I've never understood the rationale for the absolutist view: outside of human concerns, or broadly the concerns of living things, whence is the value-significance of any event or property in reality?

Objection 2 equivocates on "value" and "valuable," which don't mean the same thing. The million dollars could be valuable, as in having positive characteristics to the person, and also be a value, as in something that is gained after action on the person's part has been initiated. Huemer's wrong to say that there's no way to avoid getting the million dollars, as there are many ways to act so as to not get the money--deliberate suicide being an obvious example to me. If the goal is to gain the million dollars coming to you tomorrow, there's certain life-sustaining actions that must be completed in order to stay alive.

Objection 3 has 5 interpretations, which I'll respond to:
(1) By saying the existence of inanimate matter is "unconditional," Rand means that no conditions have to be met by the inanimate object for it to remain in existence. To continue existing, the absence of external forces is all that is needed. Rand would agree with Huemer here that inanimate objects can be destroyed.
(2) Huemer misrepresents Rand, as she never claims that living things' material composition can be destroyed; rather she says that the living thing's capacity to self-generate and self-sustain certain actions can be destroyed--living things can die.
(3)Rand isn't saying that the current form of a given inanimate object is indestructible, but that matter itself is indestructible, regardless of what form it's in now. What she is saying (by implication) is that it has no significance to the computer whether Huemer destroys it or not, as it has no goal or capacity to preserve itself.
(4) Rand here would question what Huemer means by "positive." As I said, she's referring to the indestructibility of inanimate matter as such, not any particular structure or form one could think of. I don't think Rand would have a problem conceding that certain conditions must be met for inanimate objects to retain their current forms (e.g. flames must be kept away from houses, wine glasses must not be exposed to certain high pitch sounds).
(5) When Rand claims that all living things face a fundamental "alternative" of life or death, she means that life requires certain conditions being met, and failing to meet these conditions can (and, when severe enough, must) lead to the other "alternative": the cessation of life which we call death. "Life" and "death" are two possible results of living things existing and acting (or failing to act). No free will is being implied here by Rand.

Objection 4 shows that Huemer isn't even trying to keep Rand's general meaning of "value" which is pivotal to her argument.

I could say more, but I have to sleep at some point tonight.

"She seems to simply take induction for granted without a rigorous formulation."

To be sure, Smith isn't defending induction, nor is her purpose to flesh out what induction is. She's pointing out that the majority of the Objectivist ethics, including (and especially) its normative guidance, is formed from inductive inferences/conclusions based on observations. They aren't formed deductively, as I think you would maintain.

"I have to emphasize that scientists -- with Popper's guidance regarding falsifiability -- have a much more rigorous and precise formulation of what scientific induction actually means and how to differentiate between good and bad uses of induction."

I don't think what Smith discussed, nor the induction required in the Objectivist ethical argument, is comparable to the much more detailed account of induction required in science. For instance, I think observation is instrumental in developing the inductions in the ethics, but I don't believe experiments are necessary (nor recommended) for corroborating the Objectivist theory of ethics; whereas I think observations and experiments are critical for testing and developing (or disposing of) scientific theories.

Happy reading.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I have to sleep too. Which do you want to focus on first? The deep flaws in Gotthelf's account of Objectivist epistemology, or the hash Rand makes of ethics, as exposed by Huemer?

Roderick Fitts said...

Gotthelf: I'm more interested in epistemology than ethics, personally.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Wow... there's so much wrong with Gotthelf's essay. I've finished the first reading; I'll have to go back and read it again to tease out all the problems.

Just to start off with, Gotthelf's treatment of perception (page 6) is internally contradictory:

Perception is for Rand a distinct form of awareness, different from both sensation and conceptual awareness. It is a direct awareness of persisting things, of entities, discriminated from each other and from their backgrounds. The integration of sensory data into perceptual awareness, Rand holds, is done automatically by the brain and nervous system. Concepts are not required for perceptual awareness as such (though once acquired on the basis of prior perception, they may of course facilitate perceptual recognition).

There are various features of Rand’s account of perception that may need more explanation and defense than can be given here. First, perceptual awareness is a form of awareness. Perception is the product of a causal interaction between perceiver and independent entity (with its attributes), but this product is irreducibly a state of awareness of the independent entity (not to be analyzed, for example, functionally or information theoretically) and as such is a form of knowledge, a form of cognitive contact with the world.


The first contradiction is between:

a) [Perception] is a direct awareness of persisting things, of entities, discriminated from each other and from their backgrounds.

b) The integration of sensory data into perceptual awareness, Rand holds, is done automatically by the brain and nervous system.

One wonders if Gotthelf is aware of the ordinary dictionary meaning of "direct". The alternative is that he's intentionally trying to bullshit us. A mental process (perception) that is the product of the brain and nervous system is not "direct" in the ordinary sense of the word; it is mediated indirectly by the brain and nervous system.

Next contradiction:

a) Perception is the product of a causal interaction between perceiver and independent entity (with its attributes)...

b) but this product is irreducibly a state of awareness... not to be analyzed, for example, functionally or information theoretically

Characterizing perception as "the product of a causal interaction" is analyzing the process and reducing the state of awareness to the causal interaction between parts.

This kind of obvious contradiction on a fundamental point is sufficient evidence to consider the author incompetent at basic reasoning; his only excuse is that he's a philosopher, and standards of logical thought are very low for the profession.

More later...

Roderick Fitts said...

The Barefoot Bum: "One wonders if Gotthelf is aware of the ordinary dictionary meaning of "direct". The alternative is that he's intentionally trying to bullshit us."

I don't see any problems with Gotthelf's usage of "direct": I think it fits very well with these definitions:

[From The Free Dictionary]
"adj. [meaning #3] Having no intervening persons, conditions, or agencies; immediate: [examples] direct contact; direct sunlight."

and WordNet's definition: "adj. (being an immediate result or consequence)"

I think Gotthelf's saying that perception, as a form of awareness, is an immediate result of the interaction between "perceiver and an independent entity (with its attributes)."

If what you say is true, namely: "A mental process (perception) that is the product of the brain and nervous system is not "direct" in the ordinary sense of the word; it is mediated indirectly by the brain and nervous system," then there's no such thing as a "direct mediation of awareness." Any kind of perception would involve some type of mediating factor(s), which you would then claim to be "indirect," as you have here with Gotthelf's view.

How then would "memories" or "concepts" square with your view of "indirect mediation," as I think they aren't as "direct" as sense-perception: would they be "very indirect awareness" or something like that?

In my view, perception is direct awareness, for the reason I gave above, and memories, concepts, and so on are "indirect awareness" since they depend on the past occurrence of the perceptual awareness and other mediating factors (e.g. abstraction for concepts, subconscious formation of the memory of what was perceived or conceptually thought about earlier).

"Characterizing perception as 'the product of a causal interaction' is analyzing the process and reducing the state of awareness to the causal interaction between parts."

I don't get this. Characterizing perception as "the product of a causal interaction" is analyzing the end-result of that process, not analyzing the process itself (at least not the process as considered from its consequences on one's consciousness). Gotthelf seems to be flat out denying your interpretation: perception is a product of the process, not being in some way identical (reducible) to the causal process (assuming by "reducing," "reducible" and similar words both Gotthelf and yourself are referring to "ontological reductionism").

I'll try to respond to your next criticisms as soon as I can, but it likely won't be for a few days.

Roderick Fitts said...

Hi miller.

I'm working on understanding induction better, and to that end I've already written two (facebook) blogposts: one on Aristotle's view of induction, and the other on the bad reputation of enumerative induction.

Did you want to take a look?

miller said...

Your best option may be to e-mail me at skepticsplay AT gmail DOT com.

Andrew Clunn said...

I know I'm coming late to this, but it always seemed to me that the statement that "A is A" was meant to refute the notion of presented in things like the "Allegory of the Cave." One must remember that Plato advocated a Utopian society built on what he called a "noble lie." When one considers the context of the time in which Rand lived (with mounting propaganda, a surge in post-modernist views and of course mystical religious belief still hanging around as it always is) the need to state that reality is in fact real doesn't seem so unnecessary.

As to the deduction vs. induction debate. Rand believed very much in scientific investigation to establish (through induction) premises from which to deduce other things. She believed that our senses were flawed, however she also believed that we should trust our own ability to reason in forming our conclusions. This may seem complicated at first but it sets up a sort of hierarchy for evidence:
1) Scientifically derived induction
2) Logical deduction
3) Personal life experience
4) Authority figures

Keep in mind that this is not explicitly stated by Rand, and is a summarization as best as I am able to provide. But believe me, Objectivism is not a cult. It was only called such as it was blatantly anti-religious decades before that became socially acceptable.

miller said...

It is not self-evident how the tautology "A is A" refutes the "Allegory of the Cave". Stating that reality is real only begs the question (is the object in question in fact part of reality?). Nor is it clear why we should call it an axiom rather than a tautology. Furthermore, the very idea of positing an axiom in order to refute an opposing philosophy is absurd. The opponent could simply say, "I don't accept that axiom." Of course, you couldn't say so in this particular case, because it's a tautology, not an axiom.

I don't know anything about Platonic philosophy, and don't care about it, but what I can see of this "refutation" is just plain sloppy.

The cult allegation is mostly Michael Shermer's argument, not mine. Shermer's point of view is clearly not a religious one; he is an atheist/agnostic libertarian.

Andrew Clunn said...

Wow. Calm down. You don't even seem to want to understand Objectivism. You seem to have concluded that it's crap and be arguing that as a position. A is A does not refute the Allegory of the Cave on it's own. It is however required to discredit postmodernism where A is only A for me and not others. Objectivism then establishes standards by which one determines what is reality.

miller said...

Perhaps you should read the entire above comment thread. I was unsympathetic with Objectivism to begin with, and it's unreasonable to expect that I should be convinced by the first Objectivist who walks in.

I didn't conclude that all Objectivism is crap, I only concluded that the particular argument you presented is highly unsatisfying. It may be because it is incomplete (as you say), but the flaws seem fundamental to me.

I am calm. Don't read anything else into my tone. I have no reason to be angry with you.

Andrew Clunn said...

My apologies. I was reading a tone into your post. Let me attempt again to point out the reason for "A is A."

"A is A" is in fact a tautology. This may seem pointless as a tenant of any philosophy, until we realize that some may not recognize this as a tautology. The idea being that if one has a worldview in which "A is A" is not an obviously true statement, there is something inherently wrong with their logic and their perception of reality.

Now this is a reactionary axiom to notions that reality is only an illusion and relative to one's perception. And Rand does agree that people's senses are imperfect and their perspectives relative. However, she dismisses the notion that these varied views have the power to influence reality itself. As an example: if I believe I saw a dark blue car, and another person (seeing the same car) recalls seeing a dark green car, we have varied opinions, but our opinions have no influence as to what the actual color of that car really was. This is the importance of "A is A."

miller said...

Okay. You are now echoing previous commenters, who have stated that "A is A" is simply an idea to guide human thought.

It's not a very good guide IMO. For one thing, as you said yourself, it's based on Ayn Rand's own context. Ayn Rand's context is not my context. For another, when we invoke "A is A", it's almost as if we think we're making a deductive argument. Clearly, the idea that reality is uninfluenced by our perceptions is an a posteriori truth, not an a priori one.

Andrew Clunn said...

This is very true. And if it were ever empirically shown that desire or perspective alone were capable of influencing reality independent of action, then Objectivism would be discredited as a philosophy. I do not mean this in the sense that, "To observe is to disturb," but that (to give two examples:)

- If prayer were to be empirically shown to influence individuals who were unaware that they were being prayed for.

- Research into the origins of the universe were to prove that the laws of physics that currently govern our universe are subject to change based on influences we cannot hope to conceive of or understand.

If either of these were to be shown to be true empirically, then Objectivism as a philosophy would fall apart. The first would make it apparently untrue, while the second would not disprove it, but simply make it untenable, as we would have no faculty by which to attempt comprehension of reality.

aspetta17 said...

The idea being that if one has a worldview in which "A is A" is not an obviously true statement, there is something inherently wrong with their logic and their perception of reality.
****************************
Thank you for bringing this up! What objectivists fail to see is that, in fact, people who don't agree with A=A may have a BETTER INTERPRETATION of reality. Case in Point: Albert Einstein and Relativity.

E=E
mC^2=mC^2

E=mc^2. Hmmm... So contrary to our physiologial perception of reality, matter is not different from light/energy, it is in fact, a condensed form of light/energy. And what happens now? Our sense of reality suffers as the realization dawns on us that things are not always what they seem. Objectivists hate to be told that things may not be what they seem - they believe things ARE as they "are", or A=A.

I already know what they're going to say: E=mC^2 is THE SAME as saying A=A. It is, sure - but only because Hindsight is 20/20. I mean, do they REALIZE this AT ALL?? They OWE "being right" to HINDSIGHT. Isn't that sad? A philosophy that leans on OTHER PEOPLE'S quantum leaps of thought (TRULY revolutionary breakthroughs in human perception) and relies on Hindsight to "prove" itself?? In this way, Objectivism is sort of a self-correcting type of philosophy - anything new that is discovered will just be incorporated as being "obvious" and their JOB basically is to sit there and say "I told you so". That's great... thank you Ayn Rand for your contribution to the human experience.

Deductive reasoning is a way to prove a theory wrong (E=mC^2 has been revised), that's why need it. But it's not a way to COME UP with theories about anything. I heard an interview with Ayn Rand speaking with so much conviction about mankind's achievements - but an objectivist would NEVER have made Einstein's breakthrough, because, after all, A=A and energy is energy and matter is matter... How much can you REALLY achieve when you refuse to look at the world any other way than how it presents itself to your naked eye???

The problem with objectivist thinkers is that they equate deductive reasoning with CRITICAL THINKING. Big mistake. HUGE mistake.

Deductive reasoning is a component of critical thinking. It is not THE WAY of thinking critically.

Why is objectivism compelling to some people and not to others? Because objectivism VALIDATES some people and not others. It gives selfish people a reason to feel "right" about being selfish.

As far as everything I've been able to read on the subject, Objectivism is little more than Self-Esteemism packaged as "Rationality". To me, Ayn Rand was not a Philosopher, she was a Sohpist - she was a master of rhetoric and made a business of being "Wise".

I think mankind as a whole should be guided by critical thinking and practical application - that's it. Individuals should guide themselves by the golden rule - it is "the most ancient ethic of reciprocity, and perhaps the most succint and clearly operationalized moral philosophy ever conceived"(Dr. Martha Stout)

The best way to EXERCISE your reasoning skills is to give yourself something to reason through - starting with Objectivism! LOL:) I dunno Maybe one day they'll get bored with "identifying" everything in "existence" and actually start questioning themselves again like all the REAL geniuses of our species...

And as far as "philosophy", your philosophy should be philosophy itself. After all, Philo-Sophia means "Love of Wisdom" - Wisdom is knowledge that has proven helpful to mankind, so why not love ALL types of wisdom? Philosophy is more of an appreciation for applicable knowledge than it is a TOOL for discerning truths. We CAN'T RELY on philosophy to tell us everything about reality. That's just not what it's meant for.

Natalia

Andrew Clunn said...

Are you really implying that Objectivism is incompatible with inquiry? Or worse yet, that Objectivists will never admit to being uncertain about something? What an outlandish straw-man argument. Objectivists simply reject the idea of post-modernism, or the assertion that we can never really know anything. But saying that we can know some things is very different form saying that we know all things.

miller said...

Natalia/aspetta17,

As someone who studies physics, I am against using Relativity to "refute" Objectivism. If Relativity (or Quantum Mechanics for that matter) were our only objection, then we would be forced to admit that Objectivism is a very good approximation of reality under everyday conditions (ie politics).

aspetta17 said...

Are you really implying that Objectivism is incompatible with inquiry? Or worse yet, that Objectivists will never admit to being uncertain about something?
*******************************
I'm not saying that it is incompatible with inquiry - I'm saying that it upholds Reason as an absolute without *emphasizing* INQUIRY as a way to exercise your reasoning skills. That's a very counter-intuitive way of advocating ANYTHING that you hold as a value. Reason is a way to find out what is "true" or "best". But Objectivism doesn't STRESS for people to question themselves, question society, and use Reason to find out what is "true" and "best. And it's no wonder that Objectivism doesn't press the point of asking questions about things. You see, Miss Rand ALREADY DID THAT FOR YOU. Yay:) She worked really hard to figure out what's wrong with everybody and the world, and she packaged it as a philosophy called "Objectivism" - and made a nice living off her books.


What an outlandish straw-man argument.
**************
LOL cut-downs won't win you respect from anyone who has a healthy amount of it for themselves :)


Objectivists simply reject the idea.... that we can never really know anything. But saying that we can know some things is very different from saying that we know all things.
************************
I'm not trying to say that we can never really know anything. I'm saying that we ought to know better by now than to accept "knowledge" at face-value (ahem A=A), whether we're reading a history book, watching the news, or studying Objectivism. We're not always RIGHT about what we believe, and INQUIRY into the things we "know" just as well as the things we don't know, is crucial to staying objective. FLEXIBILITY is the key. Doggedly defending someone else's set of principles is not my idea of flexibility and critical thinking...

As someone who studies physics, I am against using Relativity to "refute" Objectivism.
**********************
Fair. BUT you can't refute that revolutionary thinkers, whatever field they're in, are usually NOT "objectivists", they're usually very open minded people. And there is a difference. I want to post something I came across from a very thoughtful blogger Peter Saint-Andre:


Something that Howard Roark says in The Fountainhead fascinates me because I think it's autobiographical on Rand's part. In his exchange with the Dean, Roark says:

"I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one."

Why would Roark want to stand at the beginning of a tradition if he is truly an individualist? Why would Rand want to stand at the beginning of a tradition? I'm not sure, but I think she did want to start a tradition. And she has. But to want to start a tradition, you must want others to follow your line of thinking, not to start their own lines of thinking. So conservatism is built in from the start. And I think that is the first cause of all conservatism in Objectivism.

*******************
Well said, and I know alot of people feel that way. It just SMACKS of conservatism, and your best self understands, without having to be told, that "progressive" is an adjective that cannot be bestowed on someone who did not possess that qualitiy in the first place.

Peace Out
Nat.

Andrew Clunn said...

Selective quotes taken out of context, the use of ambiguous terms like 'conservatism,' obvious double speak and special pleading... I can't be an individualist because other people are individualists and that makes us a cult? If you have something negative to say about Objectivism, then say it. Those ad hominems aren't going to fool anybody.

aspetta17 said...

Selective quotes taken out of context,
***********************
Which quotes were taken out of context? And more importantly, what IS the proper context for those quotes?


the use of ambiguous terms like 'conservatism,'
***************************
Ambiguous? I'm pretty sure Conservatism has a definition. Here it is from wiki:

Conservatism is a political and SOCIAL term meaning to save or preserve. As the name suggests, it usually indicates SUPPORT FOR TRADITION AND TRADITIONAL VALUES.

The use of this term in my argument was to explain that people who support tradition are not usually forward thinking people. FORWARD THINKING people are the ones who move CIVILIZATION FORWARD. Tradition is useful in maintaining stability, but conservative MINDEDNESS should not be sticking its nose into forums (like philosophy) that NEED a continuous influx of new ideas in order to flourish. The more you rail against outside ideas, the more you have to defend your own – it’s MY opinion that this fosters fundamentalism. From wiki: Fundamentalism refers to a belief in, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles, sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life.

“Secular-Man Blog” said it better than I can:

“In the book Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey... by Michio Kaku, he gives the analogy of goldfish in a pond, they would 'think' that pond is the only universe and would have no way of seeing beyond that limited World-view. Geniuses like Copernicus and Galileo, confronting the populace with the heliocentric World-view, would be analogous, to a man taking the goldfish out the pond, suddenly it would be 'thinking' beyond its earlier narrow boundaries. Such identifications break fundamentalist World-views and sometimes at the detriment of parasites, that live of the masses of non-thinking dupes and thus, need to keep it going.”

I don’t like Ayn Rand because I see her as one of these “parasites” who made a living off selling her "philosophy" to the masses of intelligent, but non-critical thinkers.

aspetta17 said...

obvious double speak
************************
If it's so obvious, cite it.

and special pleading...
************************
Can you give me any examples of the special pleading you’re referring to??

I can't be an individualist because other people are individualists and that makes us a cult?
****************************
"Cult"?? I don't think I ever used that word LOL.

Here it is from wiki:
"Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses independence and self-reliance. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires, while opposing most external interference upon one's choices, whether by society, or any other group or institution."

Now, let me define "society" from wiki: “Like other groups, a society allows its individual members to achieve individual needs or wishes THAT THEY COULD NOT FULFILL SEPARATELY BY THEMSELVES, WITHOUT THE EXISTENCE OF THE GROUP. Society, however, may be unique in that it is ontologically independent of, and utterly irreducible to, THE QUALITIES OF ITS CONSTITUENT INDIVIDUALS”

My reasoning is this: If individualists cannot fulfill their needs or wishes separately by themselves, without BELONGING TO A GROUP – because apparently they need to band together as a group to oppose external interference of OTHER groups, societies, and institutions upon their choices – what kind of individualists are they???? LOL

Furthermore, what are the QUALITIES of the constituent individuals that “Individualism” or “Objectivism” are irreducible to? I don’t mean the principles that bind them as a group, I mean the QUALITIES of those individuals? One of those qualities, as far as Objectivism goes, is that they are usually the kind of people who believe Ayn Rand was RIGHT, they are RIGHT, and others are WRONG - and there you have the seeds of fundamentalism.


If you have something negative to say about Objectivism, then say it. Those ad hominems aren't going to fool anybody.
**********************
Fine. I’ll just say it: Self-Esteem Sophistry + Fundamentalist Undertones= Objectivism LOL :)

If you think my last entry was full of ad hominems, how about your reply? It was an argument of pure rhetoric - you provided no logical evidence to support it.

My questions for you are: which quotes were taken out of context? More importantly, what IS the proper context for those quotes? And can you give me any examples of the “obvious double speak” and “special pleading” you’re referring to?? Please, help me out if you think I am exercising bad reasoning when I come to the conclusion that Objectivism has too much Fundamentalist Ideology behind it to qualify as a true Philosophy.

~Natalia.

Andrew Clunn said...

There's a lot there to respond to, but the main thing is your statement that, "Fine. I’ll just say it: Self-Esteem Sophistry + Fundamentalist Undertones= Objectivism LOL :)" This indicates to me that the source of our disagreement is that one of us is misunderstanding Objectivism.

I often see people judging Objectivism by its political philosophy, assuming that this is the foundation of Objectivism. It is not. Ideas like being pro-capitalism are simply conclusions one reaches based on the Axioms of Objectivism. The simplest way to understand Objectivism is that it postulates that enlightened self-interest is the foundation of all morality.

This may seem at first like simply an excuse to do whatever one wants, but I encourage you to watch this video by Richard Dawkins: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3494530275568693212

It shows very clearly how enlightened self-interest can lead to activities that (at first glance) appear selfless or altruistic. Indeed some people have gone so far as to create moral systems around the idea of altruism as the ideal.

Rand thought this was foolish, as separating out the primary driver of self-interest could lead people to being manipulated into acting against their own self-interest in the name a "greater good" that would really just be a propaganda point used by those in charge (aka Communism.)

So it is the natural conclusion of Objectivists that a prosperous society should not and must not force altruism on its citizens and that personal freedom and liberty must remain a higher ideal than even cooperation, or the loss of one's rights would become inevitable.

aspetta17 said...

Well, Andrew, I wanted to reply by email because of the length of this, but I can't find a link! (?) I apologize for hogging the next 5 comment spots LOL Here goes:

There's a lot there to respond to, but the main thing is your statement that, "Fine. I’ll just say it: Self-Esteem Sophistry + Fundamentalist Undertones= Objectivism LOL :)" This indicates to me that the source of our disagreement is that one of us is misunderstanding Objectivism.
*****************************
No that is NOT “the main thing” I was saying, that was a QUIP. You asked me to sum it up, so I did, but my POINT throughout was this: Objectivism touts reason and rationality, which attracts intellectuals, then asks us (in the name of Logic, Reason, and all that is good!) to adhere to ITS OWN set of PRINCIPLES. This is easy for an intellectual if they are a conservative type of person – a person who believes that PRINCIPLES can guide us to a better life. I contrast these “conservative intellectuals” with the “progressive intellectuals” who believe that CRITICAL THINKING (the EXERCISING of Reason and not necessarily a strict adherence to PRINCIPLES) can guide us to a better life.

My problem with Objectivism is that, WITHOUT OFFERING SATISFACTORY EXPLANATIONS FOR ITS OWN INCONSISTENCIES AND CONTRADICTIONS, it promotes itself as a comprehensive system of thought based on Logic and Reason. Objectivism EFFECTIVELY TAKES THE POWER of reasoning out of the hands of its followers by proclaiming to BE the voice of reason. It was created as a self-proving argument, which is, by definition, circular logic - supporting a premise with the premise rather than a conclusion. In this fallacy, the reason given is nothing more than a restatement of the conclusion that poses as the reason for the conclusion (“Objectivism is logical and reasonable because it’s based on logic and reason.”)

I don’t have a misunderstanding of Objectivism; I have an understanding of its inherent flaws. And I OWE THAT to having an understanding of the same things Ayn Rand used to come up with Objectivism in the first place (namely Trivium: Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric). Smart people buy her books and they can pick out all the linear consistent logic within (and they end up “buying” the philosophy, too). But critical thinking demands that you subject this philosophy to your own reasoning first – to see if Ayn Rand’s logic CHECKS with your own. Unfortunately, having a great love of learning doesn’t make you immune to bad-reasoning. I see a weakness in being a conservative, self-interested intellectual – it’s just ridiculously easy to massage that kind of ego. People love to see themselves as Heroes (everybody wants to be special LoL :) and Ayn Rand LETS them be Heroes (vicariously, through her novels, and then literally, through her philosophy). Objectivism appeals, not to people who possess above-average intelligence, but to people who DEFINE themselves by their intelligence. It’s a sexy concept to people who already have that sort of superiority complex.

I often see people judging Objectivism by its political philosophy, assuming that this is the foundation of Objectivism. It is not.
*******************************

aspetta17 said...

I know what the foundations of Objectivism are. They are the same foundations of any other philosophy – it’s a set of ideas about the world that come from someone else’s mind, and have been filtered through their unique psychology and personal history. It is DANGEROUS to lose sight of this fact and to try to defend a philosophy on the basis that the person who came up with it was somehow “SPECIAL”. It is to argue that this person’s ideas are somehow more PURE than anyone else’s. Personally, I guard against ANY ALLOWANCES that try to place specific people above normal human psychological functioning. To do this is to hold an unfounded belief that said person would never let their experiences taint their perspective. It’s a ridiculous notion and I choose to defend my psyche on this one.
Ayn Rand is the FOUNDER of Objectivism, and the FOUNDATION of Objectivism, therefore, is the sum total of her unique psychology and personal experiences/life history. Objectivism was SHAPED, in part, by her experiences growing up in Communist Russia. So yes, POLITICS played a HUGE role in the formulation of Objectivism – it was, in part, a VALID and very human REACTION to being forced to live under a communist dictatorship. But this does not automatically make the philosophy a LOGICALLY valid one.


The simplest way to understand Objectivism is that it postulates that enlightened self-interest is the foundation of all morality. It shows very clearly how enlightened self-interest can lead to activities that (at first glance) appear selfless or altruistic.
***************************************************
WRONG. Objectivism postulates that SELFISHNESS is the foundation of all morality. It states that SELFISHNESS is behind activities that, at first glance, appear selfless or altruistic. You know what I find funny? The only people I’ve ever talked to who think that “Selfish” and “Self-Interest” mean the same thing – are Objectivists. And even funnier is how they react to people’s puzzled faces when they bring up “the virtue of selfishness”. Objectivists act as though Ayn Rand discovered some sort of long lost truth about the word “selfish”. They treat the ACTUAL DEFINITION of the word like a bad reputation that was arbitrarily applied to it by pop culture. And they treat people who see it as a pejorative term as though they are ignorant of the English language. They explain that “selfishness” ACTUALLY means “self-interest”, as though they are enlightening others of this secret truth that has been obscured by the ages.

aspetta17 said...

Then they wonder why people take offense LOL. They wonder why Academia doesn't take Objectivism seriously as a philosophy(at least on the whole). And then they postulate that it’s everyone else’s problem that they can’t understand the concept, and that Academia is just too full of itself to acknowledge The Genius that Ayn Rand was. What they don’t GET, is that this is NOT a case of “dumb” people not understanding what she MEANT. We understand PERFECTLY what she MEANT – we also understand PERFECTLY the DEFINITIONS of the words “selfish” and “selfishness”. Selfishness means “stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare AND A DISREGARD FOR OTHERS” or “Having regard for oneself ABOVE OTHERS’ WELL BEING.”
The word “Selfish” is a pejorative term. IT IS WHAT IT IS. Can I ask you something? Whatever happened to A=A???? Because if Selfish IS a pejorative term that describes the exclusive preoccupation with oneself, to the exclusion of the well-being of others, how can any true Objectivist allow Ayn Rand to make A= something else altogether??
To quote John from a waaay earlier post “When Objectivism holds that "Existence exists," it is simply affirming objective reality. It is saying that everything in existence in fact exists and don't deny it,”
Don’t deny it??? Ayn Rand denied that “selfishness” meant “selfishness”. I guess that axiom does not cover Terminology, right??? Or maybe it just makes a special exception for a very SPECIAL person – ALLOWING her to deviate from WHAT IS (like the definition for a given word in any Standard English Dictionary…)
I just find it very ironic that you accused me earlier of using “ambiguous terms”. Ambiguous is when something (like a word) can be interpreted in more than one way. “Selfish” had ONE UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED MEANING in the English language. There was NOTHING AMBIGUOUS about it… That is, until Ayn Rand came along and added a SECONDARY UNDERSTANDING to the word Selfishness. So just keep in mind, the next time you want to accuse someone of using an AMBIGUOUS TERM you can accuse Ayn Rand of CREATING ONE too. She needlessly made “SELFISHNESS’ have a double-meaning by ASSIGNING an UNPEJORATIVE definition to A PEJORATIVE TERM when there were plenty of other fitting words to be used. The PROPER TERM for what she MEANT was NOT “selfishness” but instead “self-interest”. I can’t wait to hear you try to defend Ayn Rand’s choice of words (you realize you are going to be defending a marketing ploy, don’t you? LOL :)

Rand thought this was foolish, as separating out the primary driver of self-interest could lead people to being manipulated into acting against their own self-interest in the name a "greater good" that would really just be a propaganda point used by those in charge (aka Communism.)
******************
OMG LOL :) This DOES NOT JUST HAPPEN to “dumb people”. When people are misled and manipulated (in the marketplace or in any other situation), IT BEGINS by relinquishing their own powers of reason, rationale, and judgment to someone who presents themselves as an authority on any given subject (be it God, or Government, or Business, etc.) Presenting yourself as an authority is not hard to do. It usually involves RELATIVELY sound logic behind your ideas, although the trick is a solid display of confidence in those ideas (that’s the hook), and then Rhetoric (using language as a means to persuade) will do the rest. How do you keep people convinced? You play to their deepest sense of doubt and insecurity by proclaiming that your highest priority is their well-being and, INDEED, the well-being of ALL individuals.
ONLY AFTER people have STOPPED using their own reasonable judgement IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE to undermine the primary driver of self-interest (again by convincing those people that you HAVE their interests in mind – at that point they will entrust themselves to you.)

aspetta17 said...

So it is the natural conclusion of Objectivists that a prosperous society should not and must not force altruism on its citizens and that personal freedom and liberty must remain a higher ideal than even cooperation, or the loss of one's rights would become inevitable.
**********************************************
Okay this makes sense in one respect but not in another:

If a society is “a body of humans… delineated by the bounds of … FUNCTIONAL INTERDEPENDENCE”, then liberty MUST be protected in order to allow for this interdependence to be FUNCTIONAL. But do you see where I’m going with this?? Functionality may be the KEY to a successful society, but the GOAL of a society IS INTERDEPENDENCE. Otherwise how does it STAY a society? A group of happiness-chasing individualists DO NOT a society make.

Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent REALITY. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players. They're not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in… ORGANIZATIONAL REALITY.
Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,

You can make a point that altruism shouldn’t be held as a cultural ideal, but nobody is actually FORCING it on you, either. I sympathize with Objectivists saying that they don’t want to have to support people who refuse or don’t have the skillset to support themselves, I FEEL YOUR PAIN, okay, but do you think that all those underachievers just go away if you stop thinking about them???? Where exactly do these people GO if there is no help or hope, private or public, to help them rise up from their circumstances when they’re ready to “grow up”? Do you think maybe they turn into criminals? Because in reality – a lot of them DO become criminals. So you can pay for police and security, or you could engage these people to keep them from going over to the “dark-side” in the first place… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right??? Isn’t it worth the effort if you can avoid violence by reaching out to them first?

I always hear things (especially from Objectivist Libertarians) like “Well, there’s Philanthropy”, but the people saying philanthropists will take care of it are NEVER philanthropists themselves. So where are all of these philanthropists that are just going to swoop in and take the lame/lazy people off the hands of government and individuals??? Or better yet, WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN this whole time??? Our government wouldn’t be so bloated if there HAD BEEN somewhere else for the welfare class to turn to.

Andrew Clunn said...

“My problem with Objectivism is that, WITHOUT OFFERING SATISFACTORY EXPLANATIONS FOR ITS OWN INCONSISTENCIES AND CONTRADICTIONS, it promotes itself as a comprehensive system of thought based on Logic and Reason”
Share these inconsistencies that you’ve found please.
“It is DANGEROUS to lose sight of this fact and to try to defend a philosophy on the basis that the person who came up with it was somehow ‘SPECIAL’”
You seem to be under the false impression that Objectivists don’t disagree with one another over things, or that we never question what Ayn Rand said. We agree with her on the basis and axioms of her philosophy, not because of her, but because of the merits of the philosophy. One of the big discussions among Objectivists right now is that of environmentalism, and the value of natural refuges for sustaining the planet as a viable habitat. It’s just that we recognize that our differences of opinion stem from varied exposier to recent scientific data and life experience, not differing philosophical standpoints.
“You know what I find funny? The only people I’ve ever talked to who think that “Selfish” and “Self-Interest” mean the same thing – are Objectivists.”
Objectivsts and the thesaurus http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/self-interest
There’s so much more to respond to here, but it’s not really consequential because your understanding of Objectivism is flawed (It’s like you’ve met some crazy idiot spewing bullshit and calling it Objectivism, and that’s tainted your point of view.) As a consequence rather than argue against Objectivism, you seem to desire to create your own interpretation of what Objectivism is, and then argue against that. This is the very definition of a straw-man argument.
“I see a weakness in being a conservative, self-interested intellectual – it’s just ridiculously easy to massage that kind of ego. People love to see themselves as Heroes (everybody wants to be special LoL :) and Ayn Rand LETS them be Heroes (vicariously, through her novels, and then literally, through her philosophy). Objectivism appeals, not to people who possess above-average intelligence, but to people who DEFINE themselves by their intelligence. It’s a sexy concept to people who already have that sort of superiority complex.”
Well thank you for the stereotyping. That’s not me, but glad to see you have such a low opinion of me already :-)
“Where exactly do these people GO if there is no help or hope, private or public, to help them rise up from their circumstances when they’re ready to “grow up”? Do you think maybe they turn into criminals? Because in reality – a lot of them DO become criminals. So you can pay for police and security, or you could engage these people to keep them from going over to the “dark-side” in the first place… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right??? Isn’t it worth the effort if you can avoid violence by reaching out to them first?”
That’s the very definition of appeasement. If somebody says, “Give me $5 or I’ll punch you.” I’m not giving him that $5. If he wants to earn it, let him earn it. But giving to the poor for the sake of keeping them from rebelling? That only leads to massive population growth and larger number of poor, who now feel that they are entitled to steal from the rich and middle class using the government. The human population is already exploding. Look at the data for the continent of Africa. See what is happening to the natural wildlife there as we artificially inflate the population with all of our humanitarian aid. We are creating cultures of dependence, and the wars over scarce resources have already begun (That’s what Darfur was all about.)

Andrew Clunn said...

Here's a better formatted version of my above comment (should have previewed it)

“My problem with Objectivism is that, WITHOUT OFFERING SATISFACTORY EXPLANATIONS FOR ITS OWN INCONSISTENCIES AND CONTRADICTIONS, it promotes itself as a comprehensive system of thought based on Logic and Reason”

- Share these inconsistencies that you’ve found please.

“It is DANGEROUS to lose sight of this fact and to try to defend a philosophy on the basis that the person who came up with it was somehow ‘SPECIAL’”

- You seem to be under the false impression that Objectivists don’t disagree with one another over things, or that we never question what Ayn Rand said. We agree with her on the basis and axioms of her philosophy, not because of her, but because of the merits of the philosophy. One of the big discussions among Objectivists right now is that of environmentalism, and the value of natural refuges for sustaining the planet as a viable habitat. It’s just that we recognize that our differences of opinion stem from varied exposier to recent scientific data and life experience, not differing philosophical standpoints.

“You know what I find funny? The only people I’ve ever talked to who think that “Selfish” and “Self-Interest” mean the same thing – are Objectivists.”

- Objectivsts and the thesaurus http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/self-interest

There’s so much more to respond to here, but it’s not really consequential because your understanding of Objectivism is flawed (It’s like you’ve met some crazy idiot spewing bullshit and calling it Objectivism, and that’s tainted your point of view.) As a consequence rather than argue against Objectivism, you seem to desire to create your own interpretation of what Objectivism is, and then argue against that. This is the very definition of a straw-man argument.

“I see a weakness in being a conservative, self-interested intellectual – it’s just ridiculously easy to massage that kind of ego. People love to see themselves as Heroes (everybody wants to be special LoL :) and Ayn Rand LETS them be Heroes (vicariously, through her novels, and then literally, through her philosophy). Objectivism appeals, not to people who possess above-average intelligence, but to people who DEFINE themselves by their intelligence. It’s a sexy concept to people who already have that sort of superiority complex.”

- Well thank you for the stereotyping. That’s not me, but glad to see you have such a low opinion of me already :-)

“Where exactly do these people GO if there is no help or hope, private or public, to help them rise up from their circumstances when they’re ready to “grow up”? Do you think maybe they turn into criminals? Because in reality – a lot of them DO become criminals. So you can pay for police and security, or you could engage these people to keep them from going over to the “dark-side” in the first place… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right??? Isn’t it worth the effort if you can avoid violence by reaching out to them first?”

- That’s the very definition of appeasement. If somebody says, “Give me $5 or I’ll punch you.” I’m not giving him that $5. If he wants to earn it, let him earn it. But giving to the poor for the sake of keeping them from rebelling? That only leads to massive population growth and larger number of poor, who now feel that they are entitled to steal from the rich and middle class using the government. The human population is already exploding. Look at the data for the continent of Africa. See what is happening to the natural wildlife there as we artificially inflate the population with all of our humanitarian aid. We are creating cultures of dependence, and the wars over scarce resources have already begun (That’s what Darfur was all about.)

Andrew Clunn said...

If you want to understand the selfishness aspect of Objectivism, here's a pretty good book to read:

http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Out-Robert-J-Ringer/dp/0449210103

Andrew Clunn said...

And here's a good video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qx-mVy9OCw

Andrew Clunn said...

And if you want to know why we care about free markets then here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFC5OYU4Lyo&feature=related

And with that, I'll stop posting links to things.

Economics 2000 said...

It is not as much that A is A; as that :A is not (non) A

If one thing is true the opposite is not true.

One thing cannot be another.

Before the German philosopher Hegel (1770 - 1831) truth was conceived on the basis of antithesis, not on any adequate reason but because man romantically acted upon it.

Truth, in the sense of antitheses, is related to the idea of cause and effect. Cause and effect produces a chain reaction which goes straight on in a horizontal line. with the coming of Hegel this changed.

Hegel has removed the straight line of thought he has substituted a triangle. Instead of antithesis we have, as modern man's approach to truth, synthesis. Hegel did not put it simply. His thinking and writing are complicated, but the conclusion is that all possible positions are relativized, and leads to the concept that truth is to be sought in synthesis rather than antithesis

You cannot know A to be A and at the same time know A to be not-A. Two mutually exclusive assertions cannot both be known to be true at the same time.

Antithetical thought was not begun by Aristotle - it ultimately rests on the reality that God Exists in contrast to him not existing, and on the reality of His creating what Exists in contrast to what does not exist - and then to His creating people to live, observe and think in reality.

In a similar way, metaphysics functioned as the basis of Rand’s axiology, her system of values. Just as being is the foundation of knowing, so it is the foundation of duty. What is prescribes what ought to be. As she said in “The Objectivist Ethics,” “The validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is determines what it ought to do.” This premise must be grasped to understand Rand’s ethical system.

This part of philosophy that Rand looted from Christianity is partially true.

john said...

What part of Christianity did Jesus loot from Plato.

Froilan Vincent said...

I'd like to call your attention that someone has just plagiarized your work... Check my blog...
http://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/the-highly-appalling-plagiarism-of-the-filipino-free-farters/

miller said...

The plagiarism is rather bizarre, since I don't consider myself to be an appropriate source. I will complain to the author.

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