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[P]
Who was Ayn Rand? A Short Summary & Critique

By randinah in Culture
Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:52:50 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Arguably one of the most notorious names in the philosophy community is that of Ayn Rand. Author of such well known books as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and the brains behind the Objectivist philosophy, Ayn Rand is an idol of individuality and freedom for the young and idealistic while being a scorned outcast of the philosophic community.

Who was Ayn Rand? What is objectivist philosophy? Does this philosophy hold water? In this article I will attempt to give an overview of the Objectivist philosophy and lay a starting ground with which one can base a balanced opinion on the thoughts of Ayn Rand.




Who was Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Zinovievna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersberg, Russia. In 1926 Rand immigrated to America where she made a career of writing and philosophy. With the release of her first best-seller, The Fountainhead, Rand's views gained immense popularity throughout America. Objectivism gained so much interest among young people that it was thought by some that Rand had organized a cult. Ayn Rand answered these claims on several occasions stating:

My philosophy advocates reason, not faith; it requires men to think -- to accept nothing without a full, rational, firsthand understanding and conviction -- to claim nothing without factual evidence and logical proof. A blind follower is precisely what my philosophy condemns and what I reject. Objectivism is not a mystic cult. - Ayn Rand, 1961

Rand married in 1929 to a man named Frank O'Conner. They remained married until his death in 1979. She never had children nor did she ever express the desire. Ayn Rand was also well known for her public affair with one of her fans, Nathaniel Branden. (Branden was also married, and both spouses had knowledge of, and consented to the affair.)

During her career Ayn Rand penned many books, essays, short stories, and screenplays. Some of her better known works include Anthem (1938), her first bestseller The Fountainhead (1943), her second and last bestseller, Atlas Shrugged (1957), and The Virtue of Selfishness (1964). After the wild success of Atlas Shrugged Rand went on to deliver speeches at universities and forums all across America as well as become an editor for a series of periodicals that discussed Objectivist ideas, for which she wrote numerous essays.

Ayn Rand died in 1982 of heart failure in New York City.

A Summary of the Objectivist Philosophy

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason his only absolute. - Ayn Rand

The objectivist philosophy can be summarized in four 'guidelines' given by Rand:

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-Interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
To begin to understand the objectivism philosophy one has to accept and agree with the statement 'existence exists.' Rand believed this phrase to be self evident in that if one were to argue this point they would be admitting that it must exist because it is being reacted to. Also, Rand believed that existence is the one thing that is absolute and static. Existence is existence. Or, as Rand put it, A is A.

2. Epistemology: Reason
To observe this existence one is given five senses. We rely on these five senses, and only these five senses to guide every decision we make, every action we take, and for survival. It is on this basis that Rand rejected such notions as God, the occult, and mysticism.

3. Ethics: Self-Interest
Rand believed that every man is an end to himself, not the means to the ends of others. This means that to live a fulfilling life, one's own survival and interests must always be first priority and the moral guideline with which one makes their decisions.

4. Politics: Capitalism
Lastly, Rand's ideal government is laissez faire capitilism. In this situation the governments place is only to police and protect the rights of the people. This would mean an entire separation of economics and state where the government would have no hand in policing the interest rates, helping corporations out, or providing welfare to the masses.

It is on these four principals that Ayn Rand layed the groundwork Objectivism. By following these examples, she believed that one could lead a happy and fulfilling life. There are many people who love Objectivism for its idealism, praise of individuality, and freedoms. But does Objectivism hold water as a philosophy?

Some Common Critiques of Objectivism

1. Perspective and logic: A Mismatched Pair
Let's say that fifty people witness a boat sink in the Atlantic Ocean. It is expected that if all fifty people were interviewed afterward and asked to give their opinion, fifty different opinions would come of it. Ayn Rand would say that this is ridiculous. If these people were to follow logic and reasoning by using the guidelines of Objectivism to come to a conclusion about what happened, all opinions should be exactly the same. What Rand neglects to take into account here is perspective. Because everybody would have a different vantage point, memory, and personal experience of the sunken ship, even if they do use logic and reasoning to opine, it is highly unlikely that fifty similiar opinions would be produced.

2. Inviduality and Logic: Another Mismatched Pair.
Ayn Rand was a large supporter of individuality and freedom to express oneself. To be an Objectivist she believed that one must come to their own conclusions about everything, never be a blind follower. But considering the fact that logic and reason are static, how can one who uses logic and reason as a guideline in every decision they make be an individual? This is a large contradiction in Objectivist philosophy.

What it Means to be Selfish
Ayn Rand believed that one should never sacrifice themselves to another, or ask them to do so for them. In other words, a persons' highest moral should be their own self-interest. This works pretty well for your average person. Most people live fairly selfish lives whether they know it or not, and it's perfectly healthy. But Rand seems to reject the idea that some people actually find fullfillment in sacrificing themselves to others. An example would be somebody who gives their life to a soup kitchen for a pittance. In Rand's eyes these people would be wasting their lives and ignoring their own self-interest. Rand seems to be blinding herself to the idea that the mere act of doing something that makes you happy purely for that sake is in fact leading a life in which your self-interest is your highest moral, even if it is indirectly.

Was Rand truly a Philosopher?
Ths philosophic community has no problem with Rand's notion that 'existence exists'. That is not a new thought, and she definitely won't be the last person to use it as a starting point in their philosophy. A problem arises though, because she never asks or tries to understand what this existence is. Is existence the dream of a God? What about an empty easel? Depending on what a person decides makes up this thing called 'existence' can have a lot to do with what they decide life is all about. She also never tackles the notion that our senses might not be worthy of our trust. Who's to say that I'm really typing right now? My senses are telling me so, but in reality I could just as easily be dreaming this up while asleep. Rand seemed to be much more interested in laying down moral guidelines than using a philosophical method understand if her assumptions could be considered correct. It is problems like these that has earned Rand the label of "Pseudo-philosopher."

Conclusion

Objectivism, like any other philosophy, can be interpreted hundreds of different ways. On it's own, it can be a decent way for one to choose to live their life. It celebrates rationality, individuality, and putting oneself first. There is a reason it is very popular with the young and idealistic crowd.

Objectivism's pitfall seems to be apparant when Rand takes it too far. She extends logic into individuality, selfishness into charity, and assumes it all fits together happily when sometimes it doesn't.

Hopefully this article has helped some of you discover what Ayn Rand and Objectivism is about and why she is such an incendiary name in the philosophy community.

Further reading:

The Objectivism Reference Center a place to go to find an array of critiques of Objectivism.

The Ayn Rand Institute run by leading Objectivist scholar, and close friend of Rand's, Leonard Peikoff.

A biographical website on Ayn Rand

A critique of Objectionist Epistemology by Robert Bass

A critique of Objectivism as a philosophy

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Who was Ayn Rand? A Short Summary & Critique | 221 comments (194 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
You should mention (4.56 / 16) (#1)
by Bob Dog on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:00:12 PM EST

That she was a snitch for McCarthy.

Good beginning (4.00 / 3) (#2)
by rayab on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:23:51 PM EST

But not enough. There is so much material you could write a series of articles about Ayn and her ideology. I really think you should do more research and touch everything with a greater depth.
I read The Fountainhead a few years a go and it had a big effect on me and how I live my life. I learned of Ayn Rand for the first time from a made-for-TV movie in Israel. When I asked my parents whether they knew who she was they said no. That was a little surprising to me given the fact that we're Russian. But now that I think about it why should have they known about her, since she's immigrated to the US such a long time a go. I'll bet her literature was outlawed in the Soviet Union.

Y popa bila sobaka on yeyo lyubil, ona syela kusok myasa on yeyo ubil, v zemlyu zakopal, i na mogile napisal...
Comments (4.77 / 9) (#3)
by qpt on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:28:52 PM EST

You term Rand's epistemology as "Reason," but then describe it as reliant solely on the senses, making Rand sound like a empiricist. I know little about Rand, but empiricisms has traditionally been considered the antithesis of rationalism, yet it was latter that might best be described as a reason-driven epistemology.

Second, your illustration of the sinking ship is suspicious. Did Rand really claim either that fifty rational observers would give the same account of an event or something equivalent? I ask because there are several interesting claims and observations in the vicinity of what you put forward, and some are interesting while others are quite absurd. A choice quotation or citation might help the readers decide for themselves what Rand's view was and clear you, the author, of setting up a straw man in what might otherwise be a somewhat suspect passage. It is certainly possible that Rand's view is exactly what you say; many philosophers have said many strange things, but many philosophers have been intentionally or accidentally misrepresented, likewise.

You ask how someone whose actions are entirely guided can be an individual. This is a legitimate question, but for it to be a problem for Rand's view, it would be necessary that she claimed that all values were rationally commensurable. If she made no such claim, your criticism does not stick. Again, I know little about Rand, so I am merely asking for a clearer explication of her view on the rational commensurability of different values.

Regarding your passage on selfishness, I think many of the comments that I made regarding the sinking ship section are relevant here, also. Perhaps Rand just had weird ideas, but whenever accusing someone of weirdness, a quote or a cite can help avoid accusations of misrepresentation.

Finally, I do not see why Rand would not be considered a genuine philosopher. Perhaps she was not a very interesting philosopher, or simply a wrong-headed one, but her failure to examine every question that others are interested in raising does not necessarily reflect badly on her own work. She simply might not have been interested in some of the really gritty metaphysical and epistemological quandaries, preferring instead to tease out the ethical implications of a particular metaphysic.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

empiricism versus rationalism (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by khallow on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:48:58 PM EST

You term Rand's epistemology as "Reason," but then describe it as reliant solely on the senses, making Rand sound like a empiricist. I know little about Rand, but empiricisms has traditionally been considered the antithesis of rationalism, yet it was latter that might best be described as a reason-driven epistemology.

It's not clear to me why you slid into rationalism. While some aspects of rationalism are rational (eg, mathematics, logic), some aspects (like the hobby of "proving" the existence of God) are pretty irrational. In practice, rationalism applied rationally to the real world is best described as empiricism.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Right. (none / 0) (#10)
by qpt on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:52:40 PM EST

It is not clear because you do not know what rationalism is. Your comment about applied rationalism does little but trumpet your own ignorance.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

no (none / 0) (#19)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:57:30 AM EST

If I understand the gist of your original comment, the original divide was over what is knowledge? Is it derived solely from reason completely independent of experience (rationalism) or completely derived from observation and experience.

Rationalism (as I see it) ignores the problem of how to increase the knowledge of a human or other information storage system. By adopting rational techniques of deduction, I (as such as system) don't automatically "know" everything. Instead (assuming the tenants of Rationalism), I increase my knowledge via incremental steps of reason. Further, I can communicate with other rational beings that may have knowledge that I lack. This process implicitly depends on experience and observation.

On the other hand, Empiricism states that observation and experience are the means of acquiring knowledge. But it implies a requirement of consistency and rationality. If one is to rationally construct a consistent model or interpretation of the observations and experiences (the modern method of Empiricism), then Rationalism and its tools comes to the rescue. Such models aren't knowledge in the sense of Rationalism since they fit no absolute definition of truth (and in fact are assumed to be false in that sense), but the models can be useful in finding counterexamples to yet unproven assertions of reason. Hence, Empiricism is an application of Rationalism and useful to boot to Rationalism.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

That is not rationalism. (none / 0) (#32)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:12:35 AM EST

Rationalism holds that all knowledge, or all high grade knowledge, is knowable only by deduction from first principles. These first principles are themselves known a priori. I am not sure what you are talking about, but it is not rationalism.

A rationalist would hold that beliefs derived from experience either did not count as knowledge or were knowledge of a lower grade than that deduced from first principles.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

In a limited sense (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by medham on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:54:43 AM EST

The sense of one who had only the Meno, or perhaps the madness of the Parmenides, to dip into, you're correct.

A lot happened in rationalism since then. The most important part is that the modern debate is about verification of knowledge, not its acquisition.

Do you have an innate carburetor concept? Your answer to that will determine your position within the post-Descartes rationalist/empiricist debate. And then there's the little king-mountaineer to think about.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

You will note (none / 0) (#43)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:38:39 AM EST

That the post I replied to was talking about knowledge acquisition.

Yes, I could have said something strange, profound, and oh-so-hip, but we cannot all be you, medham. So, I chose to address the issue in which he was interested, instead.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

The point (1.00 / 1) (#44)
by medham on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:45:22 AM EST

And one you shouldn't forget, is that acquisition hasn't been the focus of the debate since Plato, maybe before if you're Eleatically-oriented (and you seem like you are).

Don't make me bring John Searle into this. Or Cartesian Linguistics.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#45)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:54:09 AM EST

I think I will.

Bring John Searle into this -- the Cartesian Linguistics, too. I dare you.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

uh oh (none / 0) (#47)
by majik on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:07:15 AM EST

don't make him bring out the infamous triple dog dare.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]
Ha! (none / 0) (#48)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:11:12 AM EST

He will likely not even reply, and if he does, it will be with some incomprehensible, irrelevant blather.

medham, I have your number.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

He? (none / 0) (#110)
by medham on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:29:09 PM EST

Your philosopher-king facade sho'nuff is brittle.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Are you claiming not to be a he? (none / 0) (#147)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:08:13 PM EST

What else would you be?

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

I'd bet you (none / 0) (#153)
by medham on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:35:37 PM EST

Treat me differently if you knew. Look at that poor girl.

How much time did you spend on that website, btw?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

This website? (none / 0) (#156)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:47:09 PM EST

Too much time, I am sure. How about you?

If you are talking about some other website, you will have to be more clear.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

I'm talking about (none / 0) (#163)
by medham on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 11:27:25 PM EST

The one with the top hat and the eyeshadow.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I see. (none / 0) (#164)
by qpt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 11:50:39 PM EST

What, precisely, is your interest in that matter?

A flurry of vicious rumors have plagued me about that girl and I would be very disappointed to find that you have had a hand in spreading them.

I really do not think you want to disappoint me, medham.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Are you threatening me? (none / 0) (#165)
by medham on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:01:18 AM EST

Let's put our cards on the table: "She" was invented by you and perhaps a few others, web-site and all.

How do I know? --- contacts. And you know they're good.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Oh, bravo. (none / 0) (#166)
by qpt on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:13:05 AM EST

You know because I have freely admitted to it, several times.

I was briefly concerned that you would sink to repeating some of the more slanderous rumors.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

I came into this late (none / 0) (#203)
by adequate nathan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 03:38:27 PM EST

But I think it's required of me to say that this is a very important moment in the history of insanity.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

she's considered a weak philosopher (4.60 / 5) (#9)
by SocratesGhost on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:51:58 PM EST

her strongest positions are in the areas of ethics, but she's not covering any new ground. Her ethics are nothing more than Ethical Egoism. However, philosopher's don't ignore her. They refute her (this page is pretty straight forward). The problem is, no one makes novels out of refuting Ayn Rand.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Very well. (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by qpt on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:54:50 PM EST

Like I said, I know little about her. One can be both a bad philosopher and a real philosopher.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Contradictions (4.66 / 3) (#54)
by greenrd on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:45:36 AM EST

If ethical egoism is taken to mean "Everyone should do what is best for me, i.e. the person writing this sentence" then it is silly. But this is not of course what Ayn Rand espoused.

If on the other hand it is taken to mean "Everyone should do what is best for themselves", then it countenaces rape, murder, and genocide, if they benefit the criminal and if the criminal does not reasonably expect to be punished.

If, on the third hand (!), it is taken to mean "Everyone should do what is best for themselves subject to certain side-constraints of not violating the rights of others", then I think it is very misleading to call this egoism, for then it would (IMO) logically have to prescribe extremely high standards for those in positions of power, such as the executives of Enron - standards which, in actuality, large numbers of businesspeople do break in both large and small ways, acting out of individual or corporate self-interest.

I have not read Ayn Rand so I cannot say which is closest to her position (if indeed she had a coherent ethical position, which I doubt from what I have heard). But it seems to me that she is demonstrably ethically bankrupt, if what I have heard is true that she justified the genocide of the Native Americans because they were a "backwards" people. Such a position is self-evidently not compatible with position (3) above.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Ethical Egoism (4.40 / 5) (#64)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 10:45:54 AM EST

Egoism in the philosophical sense means that all moral agents should act only in their own interest. Obviously there's rooms of some disagreement as to just what that interest is. It is a hard position to support, precisely because it is quite easy to invent hypothetical situations in which rape, theft, murder, genocide, and so on, are in the actor's interest. Actually this is true of pretty much any consequentialist position.

An egoist can basically offer two responses: to say that such actions are indeed moral, in which case (since intuitively they clearly are not), they need to explain why the hypothetical situation does not arise, or to say that they are no, in which case they're obliged to offer some explanation as to why they are not really in the actor's self interest.

Rand, as far as I can decipher her crashing rhetoric, tended to opt for the second option, and then go all fluffy and mystical, with an explanation as to how goods obtained through theft or satisfaction obtained through murder are not *really* any good. Quite how such claptrap gets passed off as objective is anyone's guess. You might as well say it is not in your interest to kill because Dog will punish you in the afterlife.

More consistent egoists (meaning Stirner, and other individualist anarchists), would generally go for the first option (to accept that there might be circumstances under which murder would be moral), but argue that they rarely arise because people are dependent on one another for survival, and a murdered will generally become an outcast from his society.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

a *murdered* will generally become an outcast & (none / 0) (#79)
by Pop Top on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:36:47 PM EST

buried as well. . .

[ Parent ]
yes they do (4.33 / 3) (#69)
by speek on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 11:09:00 AM EST

"Beggars in Spain", by Nancy Kress.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

some comments on the critiques (4.33 / 3) (#4)
by khallow on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:28:59 PM EST

I find the first two critiques in particular to be weak. In the first one, each person's view and experiences of the sinking ship is different. However, there are two problems. First, it is erroneous in assuming from the outset that 50 rational people will give sufficiently different stories to invalidate Rand especially since the argument is weakened by stating that the people in question have different perspectives and hence different information. Here, it seems a bit sneaky to claim that Rand's argument is equivalent to assuming that rational people will reach the same conclusion given different sets of incomplete information.

Second, if the fifty people in question were to have access to the observations of everyone, then you would get fifty similar observations. Ie, with the same information, two rational people should derive similar conclusions.

In the argument concerning "individuality and logic", logic and reason are asserted to be static objects or ideas without proof. Even if so, it is unclear to me how this invalidates them as a tool for making decisions. It's like saying that a slotted screwdriver is too "static" to be used for all the slotted screws that it is meant to unscrew. The only way a screwdriver doesn't work is if it is misused (doesn't work on torc screws), defective (it breaks), or the screw environment is defective (screw is stripped, rusted in place or glued, too tight, etc).

To push the analogy, logic and reason can only fail if the tool is defective or misused (through hidden dogmatic assumptions, leaps of logic, etc) or through defects in the environment (eg, the problem is ill-defined). Individuality doesn't conflict with this.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Seconds ago in #kuro5hin (2.85 / 14) (#5)
by BinaryTree on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:38:06 PM EST

<toy> man.
<toy> naet. a worthless Ayn Rand semibiography in the queue.
<toy> fucking loser posting what i can find on the last five pages of "Atlas Shrugged"

What's your point? (2.81 / 11) (#8)
by randinah on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:51:55 PM EST

Not everybody will pick up Atlas Shrugged, much less stick with it until the end.

Also, people post things on kuro5hin all the time that one could easily find for themselves headlining the newspaper, or on the discovery channel.

by the way...discussing in real time what is happening on kuro5hin at #kuro5hin? Let's give who the "fucking loser" is some second thought.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
I agree. (1.25 / 4) (#53)
by m0rzo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:32:12 AM EST

'toy' lives on #kuro5hin. He really needs to get out of his house (preferably with a mask on).


My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

To the people who gave my comment a 0 rating (4.00 / 1) (#130)
by randinah on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:06:00 PM EST

From the K5 FAQ:

If you have been contributing nicely (like everyone should), your mojo-ness will increase. If it goes high enough (rumor has it that it is 3.5), you will be able to rate other comments below 1 to 0 (note: this rating to be used on spam only!).

Note the last sentence in parenthesis. My comment was not intended to be, nor is it spam. I don't appreciate "trusted users" abusing their power to give a zero rating just to protect their cronies.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Of course not everyone sticks to the end (none / 0) (#138)
by rodgerd on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:30:07 PM EST

That's because Rand was a greedy, self-serving hypocrite who was also a fourth-rate writer. Why not read Heinlein instead?



[ Parent ]
metaphysical problem (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by SocratesGhost on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:41:50 PM EST

Existence cannot automatically be predicated, even for itself. Even Rand would have to agree with that. Otherwise, things like the ontological argument should be able to stand on its own merit.

I'm going to quote my future self here (I'm writing a column here on K5 about philosophy, and this is from the soon to be submitted Part II--can any philosophers out there find fault with this presentation?):

"1. Define God as the supreme being, that is, you cannot conceive of anything greater than God.
2. Things that exist in reality are greater than things that exist in imagination alone.
3. We can imagine two Gods: one that exists in our thoughts alone, and one that really exists too.
4. Since God is that which nothing greater may be conceived, we must conceive God as existing as well. Otherwise, we are not conceiving of God properly.

The result: only a fool would not admit the existence of a God whose very definition implies existence. Clever, no?"

There are several problems with the Ontological Argument. The worst thing about it is that it takes an observational quality (confirmation that something "is") as the required quality. There is a very significant difference between the concept of existing and actual existence. Another bad thing about it is that it's not difficult to think of the the supreme unicorn, beyond which no greater unicorn may be conceived. Or the supreme supermodel in my bedroom.

I'm going to go home now, but even Rand would call me a fool for speeding home as fast as I am going to go.

-Soc
I drank what?


Re: metaphysical problem (none / 0) (#12)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:00:52 AM EST

The result: only a fool would not admit the existence of a God whose very definition implies existence. Clever, no?"

Several problems in addition to the ones you mention. First, a supremum of conceptions need not be conceivable. Second, you may later conceive of something greater than you can currently conceive of. Which is God? By definition of God above, one cannot conceive of two Gods so step 3) is moot. Step 4) is moot because there's no quality control on our ability to conceive properly.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

does that matter? (none / 0) (#14)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:27:30 AM EST

re: your second point. It's one that I've not encountered before. The definition "is that which nothing greater <emp>can</emp> be conceived." If you encounter new evidence of a greater God, then you can conceive of a greater God. In that case, the first God was not your conception of God, we were apparently defining the second. I don't think the definition excludes two Gods--one greater and one inferior, but it's focus is merely on the most supreme of all things.

Alternatively, if the second God had some qualities that were greater and some qualities that were inferior than the first, the definition implies a third God with the combined greater qualities of both, no? God is that which nothing greater may be conceived.

All this talk reminds me of another point: intension versus extension. even if we were to posit existence in the way that Rand does, all it does is attach itself to some class of objects that happen to have existence in them (which interestingly enough is everything-we can't think of something without also thinking of it as an existing thing: what does non-existing centaur look like? Nothing? Then, that's Nothing, not a centaur.). This is the class's intension(also called meaning, essence, or connotation). It's extension are the actual members of the class.

Alas, no supreme supermodels in my bedroom, so the intension may be very complete, but the extension of the class is zero.

At least for now.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Re: do it matter? (none / 0) (#21)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:22:51 AM EST

re: your second point. It's one that I've not encountered before. The definition "is that which nothing greater <emp>can</emp> be conceived." If you encounter new evidence of a greater God, then you can conceive of a greater God. In that case, the first God was not your conception of God, we were apparently defining the second. I don't think the definition excludes two Gods--one greater and one inferior, but it's focus is merely on the most supreme of all things.

Well, as originator of the argument, of course, it's important. :P However, the point to such an argument for the existence of God is that you should be able to determine the truth or falsity of the argument in a relatively short period of time. By implying that you currently are too limited to conceive of God (as your future increase in conception faculties prove), the argument defeats itself. In particular, it implies that a being of fixed conceptive ability can conceive of God while a rational being with a uniformly increasing conceptive ability never conceives of God though they may have a vastly superior ability overwise in this department.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

another avenue (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:57:10 AM EST

Well, as originator of the argument, of course, it's important. :P
touche

How about we modify the argument for a little bit to try to counter what you are saying. In doing so, I think we realize another weakness in this proof. I'm not disagreeing with you, incidentally, just expanding.

Suppose Anselm comes back and says, "well, humans are limited, but this proof applies universally to anything capable of conceiving. Take, for example, the supreme thing itself, which we all agree is omnipotent and omnipresent, and if we can conceive, then the supreme thing would at least be able to conceive if not apprehend with something better. According to its own conception, it would unfailingly conclude that it exists." Descartes wasn't around yet to say "Cogito!" so Anselm takes this long route. "It may be that humans will fail to conceive of it, but surely we can conceive of something capable of so conceiving it," Anselm concludes.

And here's the problem: we have no earthly idea what the hell any of this would be like. We recognize a binary of states: existing and non-existing. Suppose that there were a third option that we humans are incapable of knowing about but that the Big Guy Upstairs is capable of knowing. Suppose that state is superior. It's neither existing nor non-existing, but something exclusively different. The problem then is this: we are not well enough equipped to pose this question and figure it out sensibly.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Seems like question begging to me..... (none / 0) (#13)
by Bill Barth on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:20:06 AM EST

What is the question which the 4 pointed argument you make wants to answer? Perhaps its:

"Do supreme beings exist?"
If that's the question, then it certainly begs the question. I.e. (after much ado about nothing, I think) to talk about supreme beings as you've defined them we have to assume for the sake of argument that they do exist in order to talk about them. If they don't exist, no harm, no foul, we were just imagining.

In other words, I don't think that this line of argument traps anyone into "being a fool" or having to believe in the existence of supreme beings. I think that arguments examining the nature of such a being (uniqueness arguments, etc.) are predicated on assuming existence for argument's sake. And, I think arguments (metaphysical or epistemological) about existence of supreme beings, pink unicorns, and the like amount to a bunch of verbal masturbation.


Yes...I am a rocket scientist.
[ Parent ]

close (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:48:59 AM EST

I don't think it's assuming that any supreme beings exist. The actual Latin merely talks about the most supreme thing. So the question would be, "What qualities do I give to the most supreme thing?"

To say that a most supreme thing doesn't exist is to posit that there's still possibly something more supreme, namely a supreme thing that does. By definition of what it means to be supreme, thinking of a supreme thing that's inferior to something else is to describe something other than the supreme thing. The qualities of a supreme thing must include existence.

My ultimate theory is this that it's a linguistic trick. The trick it pulls is in saying "existing is superior to not existing." On the one hand, that's an awfully subjective opinion; a suicide sure doesn't think so. On the other hand, even if we accept that existing is better than not, we still have problems: I attach existence to everything I conceive. If I posit a non-existent centaur, what characteristics does it have from an existent centaur in my conception of either of them? None that I can discern. It may be a personal failing, certainly, but the mix up that is happening is whether meaning (or intension) can imply reference (or extension). My intensional understanding may include existence, but the extension could still be zero.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
I disagree! (Imagine your surprise.) (none / 0) (#66)
by Bill Barth on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 11:03:30 AM EST

I do not attach existence to every thing that I can imagine. Unless you meant that you attach existence to the concept, the thinking of, the thought process of imagining the centaur. I attach existence to those. To wit:
If I posit a non-existent centaur, what characteristics does it have from an existent centaur in my conception of either of them? None that I can discern.
And why can't you discern a difference? Maybe it's because you haven't tried to compare you mental conception of centaurs to extant centaurs. Having trouble finding centaurs to compare against? Oh, hmm, maybe that's the problem. :)

If you want to debate or examine the properties of things, you must first conceive of them as extant. It's an argumentative tool. We, IMNSHO, have the burden of proof when it comes to existence, and we usually convince ourselves and others of the existence of things by our interaction with the world. When it comes to centaurs, pink unicorns, supreme beings and the like I can't possibly say whether they exist or not (since I've never had interaction with one, nor do I tend to believe anyone who has), YMMV (e.g. my uncle used to swear that he had personal conversations with God on a daily basis).


Yes...I am a rocket scientist.
[ Parent ]

But.. (none / 0) (#88)
by Kwil on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:13:06 PM EST

To say that a most supreme thing doesn't exist is to posit that there's still possibly something more supreme, namely a supreme thing that does.

Actually, to say that a most supreme thing doesn't exist is to posit that there is not anything that is most supreme.  I see no difficulties with this, as there could be many things that are all of equal "superiority" (and really, it should be defined what makes something supreme to get into this discussion at all)

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
i agree (none / 0) (#109)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:24:41 PM EST

it should be defined what makes something supreme to get into this discussion at all

Many is greater than singular so the supreme thing must be plural, right? And pepperoni pizza is better than cheese pizza so God must be a pepperoni pizza...

Incidentally, I was trying to state Anselm's case here, which is something that I don't think is correct.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
pink unicorn? (none / 0) (#46)
by majik on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:55:27 AM EST

sounds like a euphemism for... oh well never mind. alas i can find nothing useful to say about this article or Ayn Rand... so i will say un-useful things! that damn wench. robbed me of a gf. after having read those books, the insignificant other decided to pull that selfish crap on me. suddenly our wonderful relationship of communication and compromise became ME ME ME. ladies and gentlemen, let me warn you, if you ever see your sig other reading ayn rand... rip that fscking book outta their hands and burn the thing. if they buy another, turn and run. just fscking run. this has been a public service announcement brought to you by the letter Q and the number 5.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]
the ontological argument (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:19:16 AM EST

There are several versions of the Ontological argument, all very similar, but differing in crucial details that make some refutations not work for some of them. The first is by St. Anselm, and runs somewhat similar to your summary, roughly as follows:
  1. We can all agree that God, properly so called, is that greater than which there is no other.
  2. We can all agree that God exists in the conception -- even one who claims not to believe in God has a concept of God, for one could not deny God's existence without even having a conception of God.
  3. It is obvious that, all other things being equal, something which exists in both the conception and reality is greater than something which exists merely in the conception.
  4. Therefore, since we have already agreed that God exists in the conception and that there can be nothing greater than God, God must also exist in reality (for God only existing in the conception and not in reality would be a contradiction).
A more recent version, and one taken more seriously by philosophers of the time, is that formulated by the famous mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes:
  1. I (Descartes) have in my mind the idea of a supremely perfect being.
  2. Necessary existence is a perfection.
  3. Therefore, a supremely perfect being necessarily exists.
Rephrasing this using the more modern "all possible worlds" conceptual device: when we first conceive of any object of whose existence we are not sure, we can conceive of some possible worlds in which this object exists, and some possible worlds in which it does not. Therefore, at first glance we can conceive of some worlds in which God exists and some in which God doesn't exist. However, the conceptual worlds in which God exists are logically inconsistent -- we have said that a supremely perfect being exists, but it exists only by chance (it could just as well have not existed if we happened to live in one of the other conceivable worlds), which is an imperfection, so we have a contradiction in terms. Therefore, if a supremely perfect being exists in any possible worlds (as we have established it does), then it must in fact exist in all possible worlds; that is, the possible existence of God implies the necessary existence of God.

There are of course many refutations of varying quality to these arguments, as they feel "wrong" to most people. However, it's rather hard to actually pin down what exactly is wrong with them in a rigorous sense. The most rigorous refutation is probably that of Immanuel Kant, which, as is typical of Kant, can't be accurately summarized. The rough gist of it that Kant attempts to show that a concept and an instantiation of a concept are two separate items; that is, existence cannot properly be considered a predicate. Thus the comparisons in both formulations of the argument above fail, as "God not existing", "God existing", and "God necessarily existing" are all the same concept, "God," differing only in whether the concept has been instantiated, which (as Kant goes to great lengths to show) is not part of the concept itself; thus none can be said to be "greater" or "lesser" than the others, as they are in fact identical, and God not necessarily existing cannot be said to be an imperfection, as necessary existence (like existence itself) is not a valid predicate at all.

[ Parent ]

it's bizarre (none / 0) (#71)
by speek on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 11:33:02 AM EST

Why anyone would think that the concrete rules of logic apply to words as ambiguous and ill-defined as these is beyond me. What, after all, is a "being"?

My own favorite interpretation of Descartes, rather than simply thinking he was a great fool, is that he was simply proving that mathematics exists, that the perfection and absolute nature of mathematics is the "supremely perfect being" he talks about. But, being in trouble with the church for a number of other things he'd said, he put it in these terms to save himself from further persecution.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

You make a good point. (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by Noam Chompsky on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:25:46 PM EST

It's consequences are lost on an Enlightenment crowd, but the only important philosophical question (IMO) is the question as to whether language is coherent. If it is not, our intuitions are correct: philosophy is a trick, metaphor is all. This is why we should sit around the fire and tell each other fabulous stories. Come to think of it, that is what we do.

I don't believe in philosophy. I believe in the monsters in my closet (and Saddam.) We all do. We must, you know. Our survival depends on it.

--
Faster, liberalists, kill kill kill!
[ Parent ]

Mind if I quote you? (none / 0) (#89)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:16:58 PM EST

I like your 4 point formulation better than my own so I would like to include that in my story.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
sure (none / 0) (#92)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:33:48 PM EST

Look forward to reading it.

[ Parent ]
a minor (but important) correction (none / 0) (#177)
by Delirium on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 03:08:56 AM EST

Step 1 in my above summary of St. Anselm's argument should read "greater than which there can be no other" (correction in italics). That is, God is the greatest conceivable being, and conceiving a greater being is not possible (which is the basis of the contradiction inherent in being able to conceive a greater being than God existing only in the conception; namely God existing in reality as well). The way I originally phrased of course doesn't work at all.

[ Parent ]
a few more comments (none / 0) (#41)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:28:26 AM EST

Your idea of a "supreme unicorn" was in fact the first attempt at a refutation to St. Anselm's original formulation of the ontological argument. The monk Gaunilo, a contemporary of Anselm's, wrote a treatise "In Defense of the Fool," in which he purports to show that using Anselm's line of reasoning would allow him to "prove" the existence of a supremely treasure-filled island. Since this is obviously absurd, by analogy Anselm's argument must also be absurd. This analogy (and thus the rebuttal along these lines, the "supreme unicorn" lines, or anything similar) has been shown to be inadequate several times; first by Anselm's own reply to Gaunilo's rebuttal, and later more rigorously by Bonaventura. It's a bit late so I'm not sufficiently motivated to look up why exactly this analogy doesn't work, but I had read the rebuttals to the rebuttal last year and it was fairly convincing; pretty much only Kant's (much later, and much more technical) refutation actually works well.

On a humorous note, the following excerpt from Anselm's argument (translated to English of course) is quite possibly some of the best philosophical writing I've had the pleasure of reading:

But you will say that although it is in the understanding, it does not follow that it is understood. But observe that the fact of its being understood does necessitate its being in the understanding. For as what is conceived, is conceived by conception, as it is conceived, so is in conception; so what is understood, is understood by understanding, and what is understood by understanding, as it is understood, so is in the understanding. What can be more clear than this?
What, indeed, could be more clear than that?

[ Parent ]
Dammit, man. (1.00 / 1) (#63)
by graal on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 10:27:51 AM EST

Where's part II?!?

:)

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

Nope... (4.50 / 2) (#77)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:35:19 PM EST

Existence can be taken as axiomatic for the same reason you take your own existence as given: because it is ridiculous to talk about whether a necessary prerequisite for talking exists. The argument is not "I can think of this, so it is." The argument is, "the falsehood of this statement would make the entire context of this discussion impossible."

Rand was hardly the first(or the most influential) person to notice this. She was the first one of any popularity who pointed out that it is true even if what exists is not what you think exists. (IE, even if Descartes evil genius is real, something still exists.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
how confusing! (none / 0) (#121)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:37:34 PM EST

The argument is, "the falsehood of this statement would make the entire context of this discussion impossible."

Doesn't that mean that you're trying to deduce a truth claim from its own premises? In other words, "I am talking. I know I am talking because I am talking." While it makes for a persuasive argument - that experience must be real because we are having it - it says nothing about our ability to have meaningful insights into that reality, as the loathed and despised Kant pointed out. Those still have to be constructed inductively, a posteori, and it's not clear that even Aristotelian logic can be demonstrated to have a priori existence. It may well have it, but there's no way to verify that as a first principle.

Where am I going with this? Well, it's certainly true that existence has this trait of "thrownness," as the filthy Nazi Heidegger called it. We're confronted with the existence of the world and, motivated by our desires and armed with our reason, we do in fact try to explain it to ourselves. But that doesn't bestow some sort of grace on reason placing it apart from all means of knowing our environment. Reason gives us power and takes power away. It is a tool, not an end in itself. Rand painted herself into an exceedingly familiar corner when she tried to get an "ought" from an "is."

Maybe that's why everything sounds slightly silly in reduction. "Man's salient characteristic is reason. Man depends on his reason and is special because he alone possesses it. Therefore, people are morally impelled to act in what they construe as their self-interest, but are prohibited from using any tools other than reason for determining what constitutes their self-interest, because rebellion against the rational faculty is the definition of evil (destruction, the deliberate instigation of unhappiness.) As for money, any society must have a medium of exchange. If a man acts rationally he will produce things or ideas valuable to himself and others, he will thus have things to exchange for money, provided evil crazy people haven't messed the system up."

For what it's worth, i think Rand was a very intersting philosopher, in the continental sense. Yesterday I drove by a carpet shop and got to thinking about how I would hate to work there. Then I imagined Rand saying to me, "Don't take the job there unless you are willing to become really interested in it. If you study polymers and glue and fibers and weaving, out of love, body and soul, you will not only make yourself happy, you will create a treasure of knowledge for yourself..." It was a splendid vision. Then I came back down to reality, and asked myself why the salesman I knew there was shiftless, depressed, and a drunk. Was he evil? Or is it too much to ask of every person that he be a hero and a genius?

Most people are of indifferent abilities, and they work from necessity rather than pleasure. I don't think it's the fear of God or of the Evil State that does it. I think society limits peoples' oppotunities; I think that people get married early out of a thoughtless passion, or too late out of over-scrupulosity; save too little out of carelessness or too much out of fear; fail to go to college because, while they need the education, their sick mother's drawn face would have kept them awake at night otherwise; they make mistakes and do their best and try to create sometimes and other times are too muddled up by life.

I don't think Objectivism offers much hope for the average person. I think that's why average people have little use for Objectivism. When I was in high school, my mother couldn't understand how it could possibly appeal to me emotionally. To her, the grandiloquence and titanic strength of Rand had no relevance to her own pedestrian, working life. She made a good wage and worked hard, but I can't but feel Rand would have looked at her contemptuously. After a while that made me contemptous of Rand.

Thanks for reading this far, if you did. I wouldn't care to say that I hate Objectivism or its adherents. I do think that Rand had a very crude worldview; that she failed to account for the values of the other people among whom she lived, and that she became convinced of her own moral superiority after a while. This makes her less and less attractive a companion for me as she get older and older. After a while, she's no Athena. She's just a harpy.

Anyhow, the point is this in one simple sentence: taking the primacy of reason from the experience of consciousness assumes what you mean to prove: that reason and self-interest are the highest end of man.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#123)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:48:54 PM EST

I was merely talking about existence as such, and the fact that it obviously exists. I don't think you quite correctly identify Rand's arguments for reason and self interest, but in any case, those were not the point at hand.

Put as simply as I know how, even if we assume that both of us are simulated, that you are more real than me and I am simply your imagination, and that your simulator itself is simulated, it is still true that in order for this "conversation" to be taking place, absurd though it would then be, something exists. Sure, that doesn't mean we can make meaningful claims about what exists - Rand didn't really try to do so. She was content with "something exists, and it has a specific nature."

The one exception was that she insisted upon the existence of consciousness. Descartes provided a compelling argument here, which she more or less uses intact - I am self aware, and therefore, even though it says nothing about my nature, clearly being self aware requires the existence of some sort of self - the only compelling argument I'm aware of from him, in fact:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
don't you think (none / 0) (#128)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:59:09 PM EST

The specific nature is assuming a little much?

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#132)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:15:05 PM EST

First of all, every scrap of empirical evidence we have supports it; if you believe in induction, this is as solid as it gets. Second, you are faced with a decision: do you believe human beings are well adapted to their world, or not? If so, then since human beings reason, reason must have some use(remember that even before any formal education, we do actually reason about things.) If not, then why are we the dominant species on earth? And if reason does have some use, then basically that would be that properly reasoned arguments are truth indicative. If the last is true, then it is at least true that almost all of the time, Aristotle was right about his law of identity and that it applies to the world around us. If Aristotle is right about his law of identity and it applies to our world, then things have some specific nature - a tree cannot be not a tree, and the tree will have certain attributes and not others. (For instance, a gaseous tree is not a tree at all, so "gaseous tree" is nonsense.)

Granted, depending on the absurdity of the world you're willing to assume, this specific nature may be useless to us, even if we knew it, but that's not relevant to the argument at hand.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
a bit of a stretch? (none / 0) (#145)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:59:10 PM EST

basically that would be that properly reasoned arguments are truth indicative...

Now this is a clear-cut case of assuming what you are required to prove. People "reason" in all kinds of different ways, and the reasoning of a Polynesian ca 1300 might have been totally unlike that of a Westerner, ca 2002. You are claiming some sort of privileged access to the objective truths of what the universe is really like, on no stronger grounds than power.

Image a huge, technologically advanced Imperial China steamrollering the fractious, divided European statelets ca 1450. Chinese philosophy would be the dominant paradigm in the broken, cowering Western states. No doubt the collapse of the Western powers would be attributed to the inferior degree of harmoniousness and heavenly relationships possessed by the hairy barbarians.

Saying that "the weight of evidence shows" that A is A would have left Aristotle cold. It's clear that he felt the laws of logic were a glimpse of a priori knowledge in an a posteori world. I don't think that this claim can be justified other than mystically, which is to concede the point you hope to sustain. Evidence "shows" A is A in accordance with the evolution of power in human society; and, while I'm hardly arguing that trees can be gaseous, I would say that any attempt to distill Cosmic Truths from our lives must take into account the limitations on our experience. For instance, we cannot conceive of a world where 1 + 1 = 1, but the apparent speed at which two beams of light approach one another, from one anothers' perspectives, is held not to be 2c but 1c. The strange behaviour of elementary particles also shows that our experience is inadequate at this point to allow us to understand their natures completely.

Now, while that doesn't refute a=a, it does seem to show that going from a=a to "we essentially know everything knowable about the teleology of human existence and about morality" is a little extreme.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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[ Parent ]

Two things (none / 0) (#151)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:33:11 PM EST

First off, there is a formula that shows how the speed of light works out, and it does not say that 1+1 = 1. The appearance that it would say so is simply an indication that you don't understand the formula:) The point here is that while induction cannot prove a thing to be true, we have a lot of justification for believing not only that the law of identity is a good rule of logic(it is, by definition, but that's irrelevant,) but that the universe obeys it too. We could find we're wrong, but then, we could find that all our physics is wrong too - and yet we presume it is not.

Second, while the fruits of reason may be different in different cultures, and there may be wildly differing assumptions among them, it simply is not true that Chinese reasoning as a process is fundamentally different in nature than Western reasoning or any similar nonsense. This is some weird cultural racism, and I do not know why it is so popular among Asian-fetishists, but it shouldn't be. It appears that some form of reasoning faculty is more or less hardwired into human brains. We all can practice deduction from premises, for instance - even without any training. Toddlers do it, and they don't even speak yet in some cases!

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
rolleyes (none / 0) (#159)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 09:00:16 PM EST

Read before smugging. I said the speed at which one beam appears to approach the other, from the perspective of the rider on the first beam itself. This may be the classic gedanken-experiment of modern physics. I also know how to do Lorenz transformations, but I say that only because you called me pretentious (or stupid.)

I submit that while this is by now a familiar idea, it is a long way from being an easily understood idea. It knocks the props out from under the commonsense idea that there exists a valid state of rest. I think it will always be a little uncomfortable even to the most jaded physicists, because it does not connect with our daily subjective experiences. Based on daily experience it is reasonable to conclude that there exists such a thing as a state of rest (after all, that's the geocentric theory in a nutshell.)

I also find it disquieting that you have accused me in so many words of being a crypto-racist and an exoticist - without even knowing my own racial background! Setting that aside, I reiterate that while mundane reasoning appears universal to all people, the assumption that culture does not play a role in reasoning is totally spurious. Various cultures have various conceptions of causality, time, and teleology that are quite non-western.

I'm not claiming that Chinese philosophers argued that a != a. I'm claiming that such 'obvious' ideas as materialism, atheism, and mechanical causality are totally alien to most cultures and that, therefore, whatever reasoning such a culture might devise would be very different, in form and in purpose, from ours.

You must realise that your putatively objective reasoning is in fact culturally coloured and contains hidden assumptions subject to questioning. Why shouldn't it? You're a human being, from a culture, just like anyone else.

One last point. I don't like being called a windbag or a racist. If you have nothing better to do than to willfully misrepresent my opinions for crass rhetorical purposes, then I recommend that you FOAD. I don't mind a civil discussion, but your initial failure to see me as more than some stupid orientalist is your problem, not mine.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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[ Parent ]

You mistook me (none / 0) (#200)
by trhurler on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:42:35 PM EST

I also know how to do Lorenz transformations, but I say that only because you called me pretentious (or stupid.)
Actually, I assumed you did know this. I wasn't calling YOU stupid. I was saying that you know that 1+1=1 doesn't happen, and you agreed with me in your reply - appearances do not always translate directly into math.
It knocks the props out from under the commonsense idea that there exists a valid state of rest. I think it will always be a little uncomfortable even to the most jaded physicists, because it does not connect with our daily subjective experiences.
It doesn't seem uncomfortable to me. Then again, I was exposed to the notion that all motion is relative, and that all rest is also relative, at a very young age. It seemed weird then, but as I've grown up with the idea, it doesn't anymore. I think eventually that will be common.
I also find it disquieting that you have accused me in so many words of being a crypto-racist and an exoticist - without even knowing my own racial background!
Again, this is not what I meant. First of all, I do not know what you believe on this subject to any degree of precision. Second, I certainly do not think most people are either fetishists or racists. These facts notwithstanding, people who are in fact fetishists or racists(or just clueless idiots,) have popularized a lot of cultural relativist crap that has no basis in reality, and the fact that most of the adherents of those ideas are not racists and would deny such a label vehemently does not make the ideas themselves free of their necessary origins.
I'm claiming that such 'obvious' ideas as materialism, atheism, and mechanical causality are totally alien to most cultures
Yes, but that's not true. Atheism is a minority viewpoint in virtually every culture on earth, save the very primitive ones, and is not the majority anywhere, though it is gaining ground. Materialism depends on what you mean by it. Many cultures claim not to be materialistic, but does that make it true? Watch what they do, rather than what they say. As for mechanical causality, everyone accepts it every day, whether he realizes it or not. Some religions and so on have acausal elements to them, but nobody takes those so seriously that, for instance, he honestly believes he can throw himself off a cliff towards jagged rocks and suddenly end up back where he started safe and sound - because anyone who tries ends up dead!

The claimed differences between cultures are as much a legacy of past parochial viewpoints as anything else. People are essentially very similar everywhere. They may come to accept different ideas due to their culture, and they may behave differently as a result, but these differences are still minor compared to the similarities.
You must realise that your putatively objective reasoning is in fact culturally coloured and contains hidden assumptions subject to questioning. Why shouldn't it? You're a human being, from a culture, just like anyone else.
The claim that cultural relativism blinds us to our own assumptions is like the claim that introspection is impossible.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
black and white statements (none / 0) (#144)
by tunesmith on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:57:35 PM EST

Philosophical arguments annoy me sometimes because they try to boil down elements of concepts to binary values.

For instance: God must be allpowerful, for if he is not, there is another force more powerful than He, therefore he is not God. Ergo, if God exists, he is allpowerful. Conversely, if it is impossible for God to be allpowerful, then he must not exist.

Refuting this: The only thing more powerful than God is God's ability to delude Himself. However, since God's delusions only come from within him, this thing that is more powerful than God is not an external force greater than God.


Yes, I have a blog.
[ Parent ]

Egoist Ontological Argument (none / 0) (#176)
by rws1st on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 02:48:45 AM EST


You forgot line 5 of the proof...

5 who is god?

Egoist: would it be better for me to be all powerful and all knowing etc, or for someone else to be?

Egoist: clearly I can conceive of nothing better than for me to be God

Now if only I could remember how to use all those cool powers...

Rob Sperry

[ Parent ]

Why she irks me (2.50 / 4) (#20)
by zephc on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:06:02 AM EST

I have no problem with Capitalism and Reason, rather its her self-interest part that bugs me.  It's too bad she couldn't feel any good feelings about helping someone else.  Maybe if she had a child, she would have changed her tune.

as pointed out elsewhere (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:51:47 AM EST

Self-interest does not mean selfish. The problem I see is when people selfishly brainwash other people into ignoring their self-interest. Communism is a classic example. In theory, everyone is sacrificing to the state. In practice, most of the population ended up sacrificing for an elite.

There was a nice if somewhat contrived scene in "Atlas Shrugged" where a unemployed technician (or maybe engineer) describes the disaster that came to a manufacturing plant that by resolution of the new owners (the children inheriting from the original founder) follows the precepts of Communism, "from each according to their ability to each according to their need". The plant crumbles as each worker quickly learns not to exert themselves more than necessary - showing any initiative earns you much more work. Similarly, they quickly learn to "show" great need through lies. The kids have broken arms and legs (or at least the casts to show it), wives have terminal illnesses (or great acting ability), etc. Anyone who can't show need gets less. In the end, the plant collapses thrrough universal malingering. The owners retreat to some other project that they can loot (legalized looting being the chief enterprise of the many villians of "Atlas Shrugged"), and the workers are permanently unemployed.

From the Ayn Rand point of view, the workers would have remained employed (and presumably happy) if they had stuck to their self-interests. By not doing so, they hurt themselves, their families, and those that depended on their products and purchases.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

isn't fiction wonderful? (3.42 / 7) (#28)
by dr k on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:05:36 AM EST

I wrote a novel in which a Communist-run factory is taken over by Capitalists. First the workers lose their high quality health care, then their lives begin a downward spiral as their work days lengthen. &c, &c.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

it sure is (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:54:47 PM EST

I wonder sometimes if the excessive use of such tricks explains the cult (rather than the philosophy) of Objectivity or of Marxism for that matter. :-)

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Marxism and Objectivism are functionally identical (none / 0) (#137)
by rodgerd on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:28:04 PM EST

And share much the same flaws. The only difference is that Marx's observations on the problems of mid-19th Century capitalism are reasonably accurate and draw heavily from Adam Smith's intellectual framework for a capitalist society.



[ Parent ]
yeah, you can torment the characters (none / 0) (#91)
by avdi on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:30:22 PM EST

I take it in this story you also built an alligator-filled moat around the factory so the workers couldn't find more conducive employment?

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]
Moat? (none / 0) (#100)
by spring on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:48:17 PM EST

Unnecessary. You see, for your "convenience," the company doesn't pay you cash for your salary; it gives you credit at the company store. This store sells groceries, hardware, clothing, and furniture... and it's the only game in town. That's because the company drew on its deep pockets to kill off local competitors years ago. (And it can do so again should a competitor come back.) So you either buy from the company store or spend your off-day driving thirty miles to the next town for supplies.

You do have a car, right? You can't afford one? Pity, because the exorbitant prices at the company store are causing you to go deeper and deeper into debt. The high rent you're paying to the company for your lodging doesn't help either.

Pretty soon you will owe the company more than you will ever be able to repay. Guess what? You're an indentured servant with no end to your indenture.

Wish you could move out of this one-horse town, huh? Well, moving ain't free, chum. Where are you going to get the money to start over in a new place when you can't keep up with this one? Try moonlighting to earn some extra cash, the company will fire your butt, then foreclose on all the money you owe them. You'll be left with nothing.

Moats are icky; why bother? Just give the alligators hard-walled offices.

[ Parent ]

re: isn't fiction wonderful (none / 0) (#106)
by spidergirl on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:12:45 PM EST

Sounds like an interesting story; was it ever published?

[ Parent ]
it was a work of fiction (5.00 / 1) (#170)
by dr k on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 01:22:22 AM EST

in more than one way.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Eh... (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by nustajeb on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:09:31 AM EST

They did stick to their own self-interests. They exploited the system to achieve the most return for the least amount of effort. Had they been self-sacrificing and abided by the stated intention of the owner's children, instead of supporting a ruling elite through monetary measures, they would have been subsidizing the "looting of the spirit" Ayn detested so much, from people that were not in search of "profits." I would say, if anything, Ayn demonstrated in Atlas Shrugged, that one cannot act outside of their own self-interest. The villians in the story were all acting out of a desire to be loved and admired without any sort of merit or capability (except for the Professor, who was a villian because he believed in pure science), and not out of any charity. They were simply trading in different goods. Ayn simply marks this sort of behavior as unethical looting. One should assume as evidence any of the examples portrayed in one of her novels, though, for determining the soundness of her beliefs.

[ Parent ]
I meant... (none / 0) (#30)
by nustajeb on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:10:55 AM EST

"One should not assume"

[ Parent ]
Not quite (none / 0) (#87)
by meman2000 on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:03:46 PM EST

They did stick to their own self-interests.

They didn't stick to their self-interests at all. Their self-interests would have involved working in their original conditions, and not being placed under new owners who, as revealed later in the story, honestly didn't have a fucking clue what they were doing, and were attempting to incorporate a system of morals they barely understood into an environment where it didn't work. Being placed under this communist tyranny forced the workers to resort to being looters because they were not free to do what they wanted. Discussions with these workers, however few remained, revealed an air of extreme discomfort and unhappiness with that ownership, which ultimately caused the company to collapse and take down the neighborhood with it.

[ Parent ]

No... (none / 0) (#98)
by nustajeb on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:22:39 PM EST

They did indeed stick to their own self-interest, just as they had prior to acceptance of the new system. Given imperfect knowledge of the outcome of their actions, they quite readily took advantage of their own self-interest by acquiring the most profit for the least effort. You cannot compare "Am I acting in my own self-interest?" and "Did I act in my own self-interest?" and expect the responses  to have a meaningful impact on each other. That the system collapsed due to exploitation only matters from a historical perspective.

Let us use a somewhat hackneyed example:
Persons Y in company X take advantage of the complexity of monitoring public companies and the ease of engaging in accounting fraud to acquire wealth and enjoyment. If you asked them if they were acting in their own self-interest, they would surely say yes.
Now let us assume they are caught and spend 10 years in prison, and are sued by X for $3 billion. Will they necessarilly give the same response?
Were they acting in their self-interest at the time? Yes. They had imperfect knowledge of the future. For all they knew, they would, as they had for years, go completely undetected and enjoy a rich life of essentially stealing from others.
You, with hindsight can say, "They did not act in their own self-interest. It would have been in their self-interest to be honest," but you cannot provide anything more than hypothesis, anecdote, and point at someone that is caught. How many people continue to prosper, unknown to others?

This is the problem with attempting to use Rand's writing to show the consistency of her philosophy. There were no guarantees that the company would not have faltered and left everyone imbittered. Perhaps then they didn't act in their own self-interest by having chosen that occupation in the first place? Clearly if they had been acting in their own self-interest, nothing ever would have gone wrong! Actions do not have consistent results. While a price of effficiency will be paid by any non-optimal strategy, it doesn't necessarily mean that I will be the one to pay it.

[ Parent ]

Not a valid comparison (none / 0) (#117)
by meman2000 on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:24:53 PM EST

Persons Y in company X take advantage of the complexity of monitoring public companies and the ease of engaging in accounting fraud to acquire wealth and enjoyment. If you asked them if they were acting in their own self- interest, they would surely say yes.

You're attempting to make a comparison using a group of persons who are obviously doing something to break the law. Not only break the law, but to break the law in a way that would satisfy their greed, at the expense of the time and products of others. These types of people are what Rand calls "looters", and she comes out very strongly against them. As you may have read in Francisco d'Anconia's speech regarding money, she views money as the representation of honest trade, and selfishness as a person's strife for self-improvement. Rand promotes the virtues followed by Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart. Coming down harshly on the "looter" mentality you are referring to, followed by those such as Jim Taggart and others, is precisely what Rand accomplished in Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps you should read the book again, as you don't seem to understand her ideas at all.

[ Parent ]

Then again... (none / 0) (#169)
by nustajeb on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:49:44 AM EST

You make the mistake of confusing parasitism with motifs egendered by Rand. Whether or not a behavior is illegal is irrelevant, both being lazy at work, and being a theif are viable ways of exploiting a situation to obtain maximum profit at minimal effort. This is exactly what the factory workers did. They _did_ act in their _self interest_ they simply neglected to maintain a situation _in their interest_. They did not at _all_ embody Rand's _moral ideal_. Do you see where I claimed such? Do you confuse self-interest with Randian babble all of the time?

I'm not demonizing them or the abstract example of corporate theivery. It has nothing to do with what Ayn believed, and everything to do with reality. Ayn Rand believed a lot of crazy things, like the wealth of a person being porportional to their objective value. Several times she demonstrates and explicitly says that it is impossible for a man to live outside of his intellectual means, and that any parasite will essentially kill itself off. Here in reality, that doesn't happen. She claims gold is an objective form of value, maybe you should champion that, next!

Next time you should simply eat your lesson and not resort to tangents and ad-hominems. It's really not becoming.

[ Parent ]

You're missing the point (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by carbon on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:53:40 AM EST

"Self-serving" is not the same thing as "stupid and shortsighted." For one thing, self-serving does not mean that you value only survival; part of the idea is that things you find fulfilling (for example, raising a child) are actually self-serving by nature, since you can only experience things through your own sense. Hence, there's no way for anything you want to do to not be self-serving anyways; you're doing it for the "warm fuzzies" so to speak.

So, to bring up the Communist example in the response below, it was in the workers best interests to use the system how it was meant to be used; the fact that they didn't (and were worse off because of it) was a facet of their not understanding how best to act in their own self-interest.



Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
You seem not to know what you speak of (3.00 / 2) (#78)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:35:40 PM EST

She had many good things to say about raising children and charity and so on. She had nothing good to say about taking money from people at gunpoint. The difference is hardly subtle.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Where do you live? (none / 0) (#85)
by the on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:31:37 PM EST

I usually just file my taxes electronically and so there are no guns involved.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
but... (none / 0) (#95)
by ctor on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:44:19 PM EST

try *not* filing your taxes...they usually hide the guns until then ;)

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#102)
by the on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:57:54 PM EST

But there is a world of difference between armed people knocking on your door after a long period of non-compliance and having people come round every year to collect money from you at gunpoint. trhurler thinks people are dumb for not being able to tell the difference between paying taxes and donating to a charity and yet he can't see the distinction I've just made. Fortunately 99% of other people can so if the government suddenly decided it wanted to collect taxes at gunpoint it would quickly be voted down.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#104)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:03:05 PM EST

Tell me something. Do you think taxation as a means of funding could continue without the use of and/or threat of physical violence and other coercive punishments? If not, then you must admit that there is a difference between taxation and charity.

Even if most people never see this directly, the reason taxation works is because of a lot of men with a lot of guns.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I'm not 100% sure it's true that taxation... (none / 0) (#125)
by the on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:53:14 PM EST

...works simply because of lots of people with big guns. If there were a country where nobody paid tax and I was a dictator who suddenly wanted people to pay then sure, I'd need big guns. But in countries where everyone is used to paying tax I suspect that the government could shrink to a very minimal state that couldn't possibly hope to fight off a mass uprising, and yet it still wouldn't be hard to collect taxes for the simple reason that not enough people would care enough to get together to fight against it considering the benefits they perceive they are getting from it. In fact, I suspect this is the situation in many countries in the world.

Nonetheless, even if taxation works because there are lots of men with big guns, they don't actually appear at your door to collect your tax. I readily admit there is a different between charity and tax - I'd be mad not to. But I also believe there is a difference between people handing over money at gunpoint (as you describe it) and the very civilized electronic filing system we have today.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]

Oh really? (5.00 / 2) (#139)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:32:34 PM EST

The US government prosecutes so many tax cheats that it is always 5-10 years behind. That's with an overwhelming federal government, huge state governments to bolster it, massive help from every company that could possibly employ you, and so on. If they quit enforcing taxation, I suspect that as soon as people realized that, tax payments would drop by a huge percentage, and most of those who paid wouldn't pay as much as they supposedly owed.

In any case, if what you are saying about the men with guns is that they're ok as long as you don't have to see them, then why shouldn't I hire men with guns, send you a bill, treat you courteously as long as you pay on time, and send thugs after you if not? A velvet glove over an iron fist does not change the nature of the beast to which the arm is attached.

As for civilized, you mean something different from what I mean by that word. To me, civilization is the progress of establishing rights and liberties and of protecting those things. Taxation is a holdover from the days of people as property, absolute monarchs, and the rule of men rather than laws. It is held over for lack of imagination and because it provides power to those who "serve" the people - and for no better reason. It is still a gross violation of rights, a gross imposition upon one's life, and a gross waste of resources.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Different definitions (none / 0) (#142)
by the on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:55:45 PM EST

In any case, if what you are saying about the men with guns is that they're ok as long as you don't have to see them, then why shouldn't I hire men with guns, send you a bill, treat you courteously as long as you pay on time, and send thugs after you if not?
Why don't you try it on someone and see what happens? The government of the US, for example, was formed by a very open process with a Constitutional ratification, regular elections and a system of checks and balances. If you were to set up such a system yourself, and occasionally used your hired men and guns to keep it running smoothly, I might consider coming to join you. In fact, I might consider joining even if it's tax free - but I'd rather you did it some place a long way off for a while so I can see how it works out.
As for civilized, you mean something different from what I mean by that word
Yup. To me a civilized place is somewhere where on entry you can hang up your weapons at the door because within its walls someone else takes care of using weapons so you can get on with your life without worrying about who's going to attack you next and so you can get on with things like raising kids, producing art and writing software. And to be truly civilized the door needs to be open for people who don't like it and want to leave. Example include places like much of the US, much of Europe, and to some extent ancient Rome or maybe even Mesopotamia but there have been improvements in how many people in a society benefit from civilization since then.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
In a democracy, taxation works... (none / 0) (#133)
by rodgerd on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:21:52 PM EST

Because people keep voting for it. If people really didn't want taxation, they'd get rid of it.

You may have heard of an insignificant nation created after a bunch of people rallied around the cry "No taxation without representation".



[ Parent ]
Hah (none / 0) (#141)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:51:48 PM EST

People vote for it because they think of it as something everyone else will do that will make their lives better. That they have to pay also is a nuisance, but one they put up with in order to benefit from other peoples' money. However, if it weren't enforced, then of course, they wouldn't pay! Only real idealists would, and of course, if real idealists were all that common, then the people who vote for these laws wouldn't feel such a need to provide for their enforcement at gunpoint:)

Democracy is not the panacea you imagine. People still have a very clearly defined notion of their own interests.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Your ideas are intriguing to me, (3.42 / 7) (#22)
by Lode Runner on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:33:42 AM EST

and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

A isn't A (1.25 / 4) (#23)
by Mr. Piccolo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:42:51 AM EST

but Ayn Rand was the Devil.

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


An important detail missing here. (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by Apuleius on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 02:03:19 AM EST

Nathaniel Branden is responsible for making the term "self-esteem" so damn popular in American pop-psychology. That and his having boinked Ayn Rand are of course a mere coincidnence.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Yes, but... (none / 0) (#81)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:37:48 PM EST

Have you actually read any of his stuff? He's no pop psych author. The fact that his work spawned a horde of wannabes and imitators who dumped all the substance and just went for style points means one of two things. Either he's onto a great scam, or else he's right. The question is, if he were onto a great scam, why wouldn't he have profitted from it, instead of letting others do so? He's not poor, but he's not on anyone's list of the world's richest human beings either, and at one time, he could have been the only game in town, had he chosen to pimp himself.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Buzzwords and the self-seller (none / 0) (#143)
by Perianwyr on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:56:02 PM EST

Seems to me that he just wasn't ready for how big it got. Most people don't have the relentless self-promoting instinct that makes ridiculous pop psych ideas into moneymakers. It is notable, however, how many self-promoters latched onto those ideas and drove them to the point they are at today.

[ Parent ]
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (none / 0) (#112)
by drivers on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:48:20 PM EST

I was reading this book and taking it to heart, but then he started talking about his relationship with Ayn Rand. Then I realized a lot of his self-esteem advice was Objectivist Selfishness in a new package. That kind of put me off although I think the book can be helpful. Most anti-self-esteem thoughts and behaviors are essentially equal to the thought "I don't have a right to exist." The antidotes to those thoughts are some version of the idea that "I have a right to exist." So... why do most of the world's philosophies, manners, ethics, morals and religions advocate only compassion for others? [rambling...]

[ Parent ]
The Affair (4.60 / 15) (#50)
by dasunt on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:25:02 AM EST

Lets examine one period of Ayn Rand's enlightened life - Her affair with Nathaniel Branden from 1955 to 1968.

Ayn Rand has taught that all behavior, including sexual behavior, is subject to objective moral standards. She is quoted in at least one interview speaking against sexual promiscuity. Basically, in being promiscuous, a person would be lowering their standards, and thus it was a sign of personal weakness. The strong person would seek out an equal for a partner, for they would not have to inflate their self esteem.

Both Ayn and Nathan were married, the affair was known about by both spouses. Ayn had justified the affair thusly : Since she and Branden were such enlightened beings that understood objective morality, and since they were both such intelligent members of their species, it was only natural to act on the sexual attraction they both felt.

In 1958 Nathan founded what would become the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to promote the Objectivism philosophy. This institute (still in existance today) is, along with the books, the major outlet of Rand's work.

By 1959, the affair had cooled off. Rand tried to resume it in 1964, but Nathan was already involved in a secret affair with another woman. He tried to sidetrack her, and succeeded for several years, until in 1968 the relationship with Ayn ended. Ayn accused Nathan of several ethical breeches of his own moral character and with his dealings in the Nathaniel Branden Institute. In short, Nathan, the heir apparent to Ayn's teachings, was expelled from the inner circle.

No children were involved in the affair. Nathan's wife did develope psychological problems, including at least one anxiety attack, while Ayn's husband seems to have quietly developed a drinking habit.

This is an ad hominem attack on Ayn, I will admit. The philosophy she promoted has nothing to do with her personal life. However, there are plenty of people who tend to put Ayn on a very high pedestal when in fact, in her own life, she rationalized having an affair, breaking the very belief system she believed in.

As for that belief system, she was not the first to come up with that idea, and she won't be the last to promote it. The 'rugged individualism' and the 'ideals of capitalism' that her belief system promotes has found rich support in the United States. Personally, I believe its flawed reasoning, and that the promotion of the self, above others, will doom a culture. Mathmatically, game theory shows that cooperation can be the best solution, and that self-promotion will have hazardous consequences. Biologically, there is some evidence that sacrificing yourself for the group is genetically advantageous. A full analysis of these ideas applied to Objectivism is unfortunately an entirely different post.

Just my $.02



Kind of like (2.00 / 1) (#73)
by roam on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:19:29 PM EST

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Right?

___
Are they like hamsters?
Specifically, can I tape up a chinchilla, slather him in axle grease, and shove him up my ass? - Patrick Bateman


[ Parent ]
Not really relevant (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:30:15 PM EST

Branden's ex-wife drags that affair up every time she gets a chance too, but the problem, plain and simple, is that the question is not "did Ayn Rand live by her own philosophy?" The truth is, she never came close, regardless of what she or any of her friends thought, and the result is a disaster today in the form of one Leonard "I am Objectivism" Peikoff.

But, the question is a different one: is her philosophy a good one, if correctly lived by? It is a hard question, because it is a hard philosophy to live by in our present world, and also because her philosophy as presented is incomplete.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
sacrificing for the group (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by khallow on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:17:13 PM EST

As for that belief system, she was not the first to come up with that idea, and she won't be the last to promote it. The 'rugged individualism' and the 'ideals of capitalism' that her belief system promotes has found rich support in the United States. Personally, I believe its flawed reasoning, and that the promotion of the self, above others, will doom a culture. Mathmatically, game theory shows that cooperation can be the best solution, and that self-promotion will have hazardous consequences. Biologically, there is some evidence that sacrificing yourself for the group is genetically advantageous. A full analysis of these ideas applied to Objectivism is unfortunately an entirely different post.

First, there's no rule that "rugged individuals" can't cooperate. Further, capitalism seems to be more of the most effective ways to cooperate in society since it is relatively harsh on free-loaders.

As far as sacrificing in biological terms goes, it is advantageous only if the group in question has some degree of kinship to you. Ie, sacrificing for a group of random strangers isn't likely to help you propagate your genes. Further, in biological terms there are some forms of sacrifice that are ethically reprehensible but make sense from a genetic point of view. For example, suicide bombings. You blow yourself up but take out members of a rival possibly more dominant genetic group.

In fact, from a biological point of view, "rugged individualism" makes sense in a environment where one moves a lot and often resides in groups that aren't related genetically.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

She was against the first use of violence (none / 0) (#55)
by 8ctavIan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:14:41 AM EST

being a scorned outcast of the philosophic community

... and she never stuck a poker in Karl Popper's face!! Sheesh!


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken

comment (4.50 / 2) (#56)
by tps12 on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:45:55 AM EST

I wanted to clarify the statement that Rand believed that "the government[']s place is only to police and protect the rights of the people." That's a really broad statement, and you can get anything to fall under protecting the rights of the people if you push hard enough. In particular, Objectivists tend to be right up there with Republicans in warmongering. Any nation that doesn't uphold Objectivist principles is fair game for conquest and destruction.

In this, as in all else,—
Y'r obd't s'v't.
tps12.—
Natural Rights (none / 0) (#131)
by cam on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:12:20 PM EST

"the government[']s place is only to police and protect the rights of the people."

Rights are intended as natural rights, Locke wrote them as,

    "a State of Perfect Freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions, and Persons as they think fit... without asking leave or depending upon the Will of any other Man .... A State of also of Equality wherein all the Power and Jurisdication is reciprocal, no one having more power than another.."

According to Locke, through reason we realize in social situations that,

    "And Reason, which is that Law, teaches all Mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independant, no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty or Possessions"

Locke also describes property as,

    " ..yet every man has a Property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The Labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.."

Those are Lockes definitions of Natural Rights and Property. Giving consent to Civil Power ( Government ) in Lockes world view protects the individual from unjust appropriation of their property and non-civil violation of the individuals life and harm to their natural right to life. Today just about everything from picking your nose in public to cutting your toenails in a cubicle are claimed as rights. Rights were never intended so broadly by the likes of Locke.

Lord Kames the Scottish enlightenment lawyer studied IIRC Edinburgh society and the Highlanders and tried to make sense of the differing political structures. He studied the property laws for insight and came to the conclusion that Civil Government came not from protection of rights buts from increasingly complex property laws and means of property trade.

Much of Ayn Rands basis for a philosophy comes from an amalgam of the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers. Adam Smith studied capitalism and created the social science economics in doing so. David Hume write of the passions as humanities motivation for action and societies goal was to ensure that the passions such as greed and lust, etc were put to social good. For instance in marriage, lust is put to a positive social purpose. Kames through a study of Scottish title, discovered that Civil Government came from the protection of property ( and the property of person).

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

right (none / 0) (#140)
by tps12 on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:34:49 PM EST

I understand all that. Much of Rand's ideas regarding domestic law have their origins in Enlightenment philosophy. Her foreign policy ideas are straight out of left field, though. According to Objectivists, all of Afghanistan's population is guilty of permitting an immoral government to exist. By that logic, anyone who lives in an immoral (that is, non-Objectivist) state is fair game. An Objectivist could wipe out the entire population of Earth without violating Rand's moral laws.

In this, as in all else,—
Y'r obd't s'v't.
tps12.—
[ Parent ]
My problem with Objectivism (3.33 / 3) (#60)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 10:23:43 AM EST

and with most philosophies and political systems, is that they assume human beings are rational. Most assume that this rationality can be leveraged to create altruism (i.e., "enlightened self interest") Unfortunately, history has continuously shown that people are not completely rational - they have emotional drives which are often not subject to rational influence, they have finite intelligence and they only have a finite time in which to think about most decisions. This prevents them from being able to truly analyze their lives and actions.


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RAM (2.50 / 2) (#157)
by tarpy on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:50:11 PM EST

No offense, you might want to check out some of our finer philosophy of this modern era...

The Rational Actor Model pretty much disproves your point.




Sir, this is old skool. Old skool. I salute you! - Knot In The Face
[ Parent ]

Your saying that modern philosophy proves (none / 0) (#191)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 10:43:22 AM EST

that Ayn Rand didn't assume a rational actor?

What?


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[ Parent ]

No (1.50 / 2) (#218)
by tarpy on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 12:24:53 PM EST

What I was saying was that we COULD assume people were rational actors, therefore Objectivisms base needs (rational decision makers acting in self-interest) could be shown to be present.


Sir, this is old skool. Old skool. I salute you! - Knot In The Face
[ Parent ]
In any case, your fabulous link (5.00 / 1) (#193)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 10:59:53 AM EST

to google shows that the current status of the "rational actor model" to be in disfavor. Current research indicates that RAM doesn't work in reality. For example, these are exerpts of the first four non-trivial hits from your search (i.e., that weren't 404s or links to information-free lesson plan outlines)

...Behavioral Law and Economics presents new findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, which show that people are frequently both unselfish and over-optimistic; that people have limited willpower and limited self-control; and that people are "boundedly" rational, in the sense that they have limited information-processing powers, and frequently rely on mental short-cuts and rules of thumb...

...But the "rational actor model" has been shown to be systematically violated by real human beings, and behavioral economics arose to ammend the "rational actor model" to fit the reality...

...In recent years, legal scholars dissatisfied with the behavioral assumptions of the rational actor model have increasingly turned to the findings of cognitive psychologists and decision theorists to enhance the accuracy of efficiency analysis....

The CBDM model assumes that people behave as described in the "reasonable person" model (Kaplan 1991) and not as rational actors. The rational actor model describes people as beings who will make decisions based on maximizing gain. According to this model motivations are extrinsic and decisions are based on probability. The reasonable person model describes people as entities that want to obtain information about their surrounding environment and process it successfully. The people involved in the Huron River Watershed Council Adopt-a-Stream Project are more likely behaving according to the reasonable person model than according to the rational actor model...

Exactly how does that contradict my complaint about objectivism?

Bonus question: How is a 40 year old model (RAM) a more "modern" philosophy?


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[ Parent ]

+1. Should generate some good arguments. (none / 0) (#62)
by graal on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 10:24:47 AM EST

I've read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I preferred Fountainhead - it just seemed like a better story. Atlas got a little too ponderous for me. I still have them, and might revisit one or both of them this winter...when it's cold and dreary outside...and the kids are all asleep...and the fireplace is going..mmmm....winter.....

But I digress.

Unfortunately, the only impression I have of Objectivists is the one I got when I first encountered them in college: disaffected white suburban college students with nothing else to do.

If nothing else, I'd like to see the discussions here do something to challenge that image.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)

Ayn Rand alive and well. (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by walwyn on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:39:07 PM EST

While reading the Unabomber Manifesto the other day, both the content and the style kept ringing a bell in the back of my mind, finally it hit, ATLAS SHRUGGED.
Courtesy Jack Rite
----
Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass
[ Parent ]
Comments (4.50 / 8) (#83)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 01:01:22 PM EST

First, Rand was well aware of the effects of perspective. She considered our imperfect memory, lack of complete knowledge of events we perceive, and so on to be the elements that contribute to fallibility, and never claimed we are infallible. That critique simply misses the mark.

The second critique also misses the mark, as logical statements and reasoned arguments are only as useful as the mind that comprehends them. Given human fallibility, it is possible that an undiscovered error may exist in any given argument, so the only sane policy is that everyone must decide for himself. This doesn't mean his neighbors can't laugh at him, but he still gets to make his own choices. That said, Rand herself and her so-called heir are dogmatists of the worst sort, and the critique, while not applicable to her ideas, certainly applied to her.

Rand never said you shouldn't work for a soup kitchen if you wanted to. What she said was, if that's what you want to do, then it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice means doing something you DON'T want to do, giving up something you'd rather have, and so on. Again, this is not a critique, but rather a misreading.

Rand's ideas were massively incomplete. Her more sane intellectual descendents(David Kelly, Nathaniel Branden, etc,) admit this. Incompleteness does not prevent her from being a "real" philosopher. One would think the tawdry academics who criticize her on that ground lacked a sense of irony; most of them these days specifically reject the idea of any kind of comprehensive philosophy whatsoever, so them calling someone else "incomplete" is just flat out hypocrisy.

The truth is, very, very few people who read about Objectivism understand it in any depth. Its primary current "leader" certainly doesn't, and he spent years with the woman who created it; if she saw him today, she'd be revolted, even though he's not so far from what she herself did(her actions and her ideas were not always in agreement; she had a huge blind spot there.) I don't call myself an Objectivist, because I don't want to be associated with the idiots who do, but if you're looking for any good information, Rand's own recommendation is still your only choice: read carefully, think even more carefully, and decide for yourself.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Soup Kitchens (3.00 / 2) (#94)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:41:16 PM EST

<P><I>Rand never said you shouldn't work for a soup kitchen if you wanted to. What she said was, if that's what you want to do, then it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice means doing something you DON'T want to do, giving up something you'd rather have, and so on. Again, this is not a critique, but rather a misreading. </I>

<P>She was strongly of the opinion, though, that most people who do work in soup kitchens (or whatever) don't do so simply because they want to, but because they believe it is a way of making other people beholden to them. In her view, and this is one of the things on which I think she was right, such "self sacrifice" is actually immoral.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

could you explain further (none / 0) (#120)
by mikpos on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:31:49 PM EST

If you can convince someone to be beholden to you, then your working in a soup kitchen is apparently in your own selfish best interest. Thus it would be ethical, wouldn't it?

[ Parent ]
Because ... (none / 0) (#184)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 06:00:32 AM EST

... there isn't an honest exchange. In Rand's view, people go and work in soup kitchens because they *believe* it makes others beholden to them, and most people share the belief that it should, but neither party really gets what they want. So, for instance, "I'm sorry I didn't fix the leaking roof love. I was so tired after working at the soup kitchen" is less likely to get you into a row with your spouse than "I'm sorry I didn't fix the roof. I was watching the game", even though your spouse is probably just as angry, assuming you agreed to fix the roof. To pick another example, "don't you remember all those years I fed you and clothed you ?"

In my view, this kind of this is wrong at a personal level: it tends to fuck up your relationships, and makes for unhappiness. The transactional analysis people (Eric Bern et al) talk about it as collecting virtuous "trading cards". From Rand's perspective, it is wrong because it is not really in your self-interest to do "good works" as a way of manipulating people: although they may feel obliged to give you what you want, they won't do so as well as they would have done had you struck an honest bargain, and you'll have damaged your relationship.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Sacrifice? (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by Argel on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:05:57 PM EST

Rand never said you shouldn't work for a soup kitchen if you wanted to. What she said was, if that's what you want to do, then it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice means doing something you DON'T want to do, giving up something you'd rather have, and so on. Again, this is not a critique, but rather a misreading.
What about when a mother sacrifices her own life to save the life of her child?

[ Parent ]
Not a sacrifice (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by marineflier on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:27:51 PM EST

I imagine a mother would do this because she wants to - making it not a sacrifice. The mother loses her own life, but she is unwilling to keep her life if her child dies, making her life of small value to her, and not a sacrifice to her. Ayn addresses this somewhere in Virtue of Selfishness, I think.


-- Man can be chained but he cannot be domesticated - RAH
[ Parent ]
Depends (3.00 / 2) (#105)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:12:41 PM EST

If the mother views this as her best option, then it is not a sacrifice in any meaningful sense, and if she does not, then she shouldn't do it. Essentially, the question is of value: which means more to her: her own continued existence from here forward(which is not quite the same as "her own life," since she's lived quite a lot of the latter already,) or the continued existence of the child? Not a choice anyone wants to make, but it is a value judgement like any other in terms of its characteristics, and it applies to any such situation, regardless of whether the relationship is mother/child, spouse/spouse, friends, random strangers, or whatever.

There is an argument to be made that ordinary people use the word sacrifice to refer to the situation of giving up life willingly for another, but there is an equal argument to be made that for terms of a philosophical discussion, we need to differentiate that from the sacrifice in which a person does something that goes against his best judgement, because of a sense of duty, guilt, or whatever else might motivate him. Regardless of how you want to use the terms, Rand's position is that the one kind of "sacrifice" is proper and the other is not.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I don't understand (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:11:14 PM EST

Sorry if I sound like I'm trolling but...

I guess I don't understand how one can act in a selfless manner based on the premise that you have put foward.  

Wouldn't terminating your life be the most selfless act possible?  

How could I as a rational actor let my self die a preventable death without appealing to something selfless?

[ Parent ]

Well, (1.00 / 1) (#116)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:22:23 PM EST

Let's say that I am a parent. There are other situations that could be developed similarly, but we'll use this one. For some reason, either I or my child must die. Maybe there's a risk that both of us will, but in any case, at least one of us must, and the other might live. This doesn't change the basic situation.

For me to say "I'd rather live than do this, but it is my duty to protect my child" would be selfless, and Rand claims it is wrong to do so.

For me to say "My child is so important to me that I'd rather die than live without him," on the other hand, is a value judgement. It is not selfless; I am acting on my own goals and desires. The fact that this particular act is going to result in my death is irrelevant. Similarly, "My child is so important to me that I am willing to give up what remains of my life in order to preserve his" and similar formulations. These are based on the importance of the child to you - a selfish value, to be certain!

People do not seem to think clearly about selfishness. It is so demonized by our culture that people assume that selfishness can mean nothing better than climbing to victory atop a pile of corpses... sad, really.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
are native charitable acts acceptable? (none / 0) (#126)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:53:33 PM EST

What were Rand's views on suicide?  Can someone act in a rational way projecting beyond the grave?  

Another thing that bothers me is I am not so sure that she would approve of the often used soup kitchen example.  Couldn't one argue that by giving away free soup (assuming that I really like to make soup and have no profit motive) contributes to a free lunch mentality, otherwise known as moral hazard?  

[ Parent ]

Certainly (none / 0) (#136)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:26:09 PM EST

Rand would have argued that soup kitchens should be limited to those truly deserving of help, and I would agree, because it would be kinder to let someone die than to turn him into an entitlement mentality in sneakers. If you genuinely enjoy turning people into helpless beggars, then you are a monster, regardless of your professed motives.

As for suicide, it would depend on the motive. She explicitly stated that giving one's life to save a loved one could make sense, but I don't think she was keen on just killing yourself because you don't like your life.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
like who? (none / 0) (#146)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:59:29 PM EST

Can you contrast the truly deserving, from the entitlement mentality?  

Why not let both die?

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#148)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:16:14 PM EST

That's a hard question(distinguishing the two,) and is essentially a judgement call. As for letting them both die, that is gross. Someone who simply fell on hard times through no fault of his own, who will build himself back up given a modicum of help and again have a real life - that person is worth saving, if you can do it. Your life will be better for his being. On the other hand, what will come of helping the entitlement mentality? Calls for destructive socialist policies, further drains on resources - but he'll never amount to anything. Nobody, including himself, will benefit in any noticable way. Have you ever noticed that there are no happy people on the dole?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
worth saving? (none / 0) (#152)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:33:33 PM EST

I'm not sure that I understand the "no fault of his own part of your statment".  Why is it not his fault?  If he was out fucking around and didn't properly forecast his need to procure soup, why should I be deprived of my soup (and labor for that matter)?  

Using this ethical framework, should I not at least demand soup in the future?  In fact, in order to not be exploited I should demand interest (perhaps payable in soup or currency).  

That is one of the aspects of this viewpoint that I have a hard time with.  Under the guise of not being exploited, I am in fact creating a system of usury that can be hard for the original purchaser to repay.

 

[ Parent ]

Eh? (none / 0) (#198)
by trhurler on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:19:45 PM EST

Who said anything about depriving you of soup? I'm not advocating a soup tax. I'm saying that someone who enjoys helping people and whose abilities are well suited to that sort of thing can reasonably do it as a job. There's no need to expect anyone to pay you back, although obviously you'll need to obtain funding somehow(probably donations, grants, trusts, and so on.) At the most, it might be reasonable to ask(not require,) that people who do well in life after you help them give a little something back when they can.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Preach on Brother! (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by jabber on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:23:53 PM EST

The truth is, very, very few people who read about Objectivism understand it in any depth. Its primary current "leader" certainly doesn't, and he spent years with the woman who created it; if she saw him today, she'd be revolted, even though he's not so far from what she herself did(her actions and her ideas were not always in agreement; she had a huge blind spot there.)

Damn man... If you know the truth of Objectivist philosophy well enough to shoot down it's globally recognized leader, why have you not published anything on the subject? There's like, money and shit to be made, and instead you're elucidating the subject for us, the unwashed and ignorant masses? Sir, I applaud your commitment to furthering the cause of human intellect.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#118)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:30:17 PM EST

Other people are already doing that, but they're not getting rich. Look up David Kelley. I will make more money in my lifetime than any Objectivist author save the Glorious Leader[tm](and probably even including him,) is likely to manage at present, and I enjoy my work.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
not quite so. (4.75 / 4) (#114)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:10:27 PM EST

Rand never said you shouldn't work for a soup kitchen if you wanted to. What she said was, if that's what you want to do, then it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice means doing something you DON'T want to do, giving up something you'd rather have, and so on...

Good heavens, man. That's hardly original to Ayn Rand. I came across a version of that attributed to Abraham Lincoln once, and it's probably a lot older than that.

The (gaping) flaw in that argument is that, if working in a soup kitchen is your idea of personal fulfillment, in Rand's scheme of values that points to a major problem with your own value system. This is easily shown. Either you have a reason for working in the soup kitchen or you don't. If you don't, or your reason is ambiguous or emotional, you are engaging in whim worship, the subordination of the rational faculty to the (purportedly arbitrary or untrustworthy) emotions.

If you actually find working in a soup kitchen to be fulfilling, then it must be one of the highest, most challenging, most productive things you can do with your life. In other words, if it would be more creative to paint pictures or build exotic metallurgy plants, you are morally obligated to fulfill your own nature by doing that. Compassion is only meaningful insofar as the person to whom you have (arbitrarily, emotionally) attached yourself is worthy of your compassion. In the uncommon latter case, of course, you are morally obligated to act compassionately toward him, out of respect for his creative capacities rather than because it cuts you to the quick to see another human being freezing or hungry or uneducated or without hope.

Anyhow, back to my point. Your decision to help someone is either emotional or rational. If it is rational, it must be either that that specific person deserves your help (as in, it would be irrational of you not to give it,) or else you believe that we have a common stake in mankind. That no man is an island. That the death of some disposable anonymous illiterate $SWARTHY_FOREIGNER is just as bad as the death of deserving widdums.

Needless to say, Rand didn't believe that we do have a common stake in mankind. She loved reason, so she said, and she then wrote callously that the Native Americans really deserved to lose their continent. In fact, read Rand and reread her, and you'll find as chilling an apology for power and destructive selfishness as anyone ever wrote. For her, there was the triumphant genius class; justified humble worship of the triumphant genius class; and hysterical cowardly backstabbers who knew they couldn't live up to the standards of the Überclass. The hell with that.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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[ Parent ]

Not true... (none / 0) (#122)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:38:40 PM EST

That's hardly original to Ayn Rand.
Existential angst is hardly original to existentialists. So what?
The (gaping) flaw in that argument is that, if working in a soup kitchen is your idea of personal fulfillment, in Rand's scheme of values that points to a major problem with your own value system.
Maybe. Maybe not. Not everyone is capable of painting or constructing exotic metallurgy plants. Some people have limited abilities, and since most everyone enjoys helping others to some extent or other, if that life fits those people, why shouldn't they choose it? Rand's books may have been populated with geniuses, but that doesn't mean she thought the whole world worked that way - and she specifically said that she didn't.
Needless to say, Rand didn't believe that we do have a common stake in mankind.
Read her work on the ethics of emergencies. Depending on what you mean by "a common stake in mankind," maybe she did, and maybe not. In any case, if what you mean is, she wasn't an altruist, you're right. For that, I'm thankful; there are enough slobbering altruists out there ready to make unwilling sacrifices of anyone and everyone who is capable to anyone and everyone who is not - to destroy the best and brightest on some mad and hopeless quest to eliminate suffering, while in the process eliminating only two things: civilization, and progress.
For her, there was the triumphant genius class; justified humble worship of the triumphant genius class; and hysterical cowardly backstabbers who knew they couldn't live up to the standards of the Überclass. The hell with that.
You're confusing her personal dogma issues and tendency to glorify the US with her philosophy. Given that I'm perfectly willing to read the works of monsters such as Marx charitably, you could do the same for one of the lone bastions of real opposition:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
there's the rub (5.00 / 3) (#127)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:57:21 PM EST

Some people have limited abilities, and since most everyone enjoys helping others to some extent or other, if that life fits those people, why shouldn't they choose it?

But why exactly would one choose to devote one's life to helping others? I will be fair: in Rand's view, the simple are allowed to work in soup kitchens because, without higher aspirations, they can genuinely enjoy helping bums. No matter how you slice it, "because I enjoy it" is no justification for action in Rand's world, at least not without a very scrupulous examination of your reasons for enjoying it.

The only reason one could possibly be maximally or near-maximally fulfilled in a soup kitchen, and thus justified in working there, would be if one had nothing of greater consequence to do with one's self. Compassion for compassions's sake is exactly the sort of slobbery altruism you spurn later in your post.

I think Rand was pretty consistent in her adulation of power. Great creative capacities always lead to great power, and those without the capacities are morally obligated to acknowledge the sueriority of a great creative mind.

She and I agree on the necessity for the small to recognise the great as great. She and I diverge when she claims that great capacities can often be measured in money. Many people come into money dishonestly or by luck. I don't feel comfortable calling an arch-criminal like Ken Lay a great creative businessman. Yet his crimes were, if anything, mild as cottage cheese compared to those of some of the robber barons she was said to admire. I don't share her reductive view of the universal beneficience of markets. And I should hope that my other post in this article makes it clear that I have read Rand with rather more seriousness than most of her detractors.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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[ Parent ]

Heh (3.00 / 1) (#134)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:23:49 PM EST

You are confusing issues. First of all, Rand was well aware that your average individual is not going to do much explicit philosophizing about his life, and simply didn't care. She was convinced that philosophy should be available to those with a need, and that the world should be structured such that the rest would be able to find happy, productive lives in whatever capacity they were capable of. You have to dig pretty deep into her lectures, magazine articles, and so on to find this, but it was there.

Face it: many people can't find anything better to do with themselves than work in a soup kitchen. That's no slight on them; people come in all kinds, and that's fine. I have friends who are of much lesser capabilities than I am, and I see nothing wrong with that. I know people whose abilities frighten me sometimes - and what of it?

As for money, Rand had an obsession with capitalism(a good thing,) and made the mistake of assuming the US must be a capitalist nation, since its enemy was a communist nation. She grew up in conditions most of us never had to endure, and it is best simply to understand and try to account for her resulting personality quirks and defects when reading her works.

Rand admired some of the early industrial giants, but not all. She mocked the railroad tycoons, for instance, because she regarded using the government to get an edge as reprehensible. I think she was probably conflicted in the "gray areas" such as military procurement contracting and so on.

I'm not myself impressed by money, but I am impressed by someone who can earn it honestly.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
mm hmm (5.00 / 3) (#149)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:16:25 PM EST

Face it: many people can't find anything better to do with themselves than work in a soup kitchen.

Now we're getting somewhere. We agree: to Rand, one worked in a soup kitchen only because one had nothing better to do. If you had ability, you were morally obligated to quit and go fulfill your nature. Otherwise, it would just be wooly-minded slobbery altruistic whim-worshipping. In other words, I contend that Rand found it somewhat perverse when one person became interested in the well-being of another beyond what was justified by the first party's own self-interest. Even that would be fine except that the individual's self-interest, assumed to consist of maximizing his creative powers, was tied to achievement and attainment - things that you can measure externally, the clearest sign of which was money.

Obviously, I believe in the individual's duty to grow. I think, though, that Rand's assumption that human nature was essentially good, needing only to flower, was very dangerous. It set a man as the measure of all things. If he had scrupulously examined his motivations, his actions were probably right. (Rand herself, of course, would concoct a syllogism on the spot to "prove" from first principles that this or that was objectively right, end of discussion.)

To me, the fatal wound in Randism is the belief in 'good will.' If the individual wills himself to be good, and carefully examines his actions and motives, his actions are elevated above any ordinary reproach. You might gently correct him on a philosophical nuance - but he would be so far already above the ordinary run of men that it would be a matter of a god correcting a titan.

The problem is that, in this system, other people can only have instrumental value to you. Your concern is with perfecting your own self and seeking the company of those at your level. You wouldn't look at a failure and say to yourself, "there goes a person as fundamentally valuable as myself." To me, that's getting uncomfortably close to a egotistical hell in which, like it or not, the lesser will serve the greater.

I side with Kant. I think that each human being is of infinite value. And I don't think you can disprove that with 'A = A.'

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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[ Parent ]

Sorry (3.50 / 2) (#150)
by trhurler on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:26:52 PM EST

I'm an elitist, and I readily admit it. I have every bit as much respect for a competent soup kitchen employee or a competent janitor or whatever as a competent CEO, and every bit as much contempt for an incompetent or corrupt CEO as for any inept, lazy, or dishonest fast food employee.

You possess the worth you earn, regardless of your job or your abilities. I cannot say that someone who steals to feed a drug habit he formed so he could hang with "the cool kids" is worth as much to me(and remember, value implies that the thing valued is valued by someone, so there is no universal worth of a human being or anything else,) as someone who is a productive member of society, regardless of the latter's intelligence, job title, wages, or anything else.

I have great respect for those who have not yet made it - but none for those who aren't even trying.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I have to disagree (4.40 / 5) (#155)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:42:53 PM EST

remember, value implies that the thing valued is valued by someone, so there is no universal worth of a human being or anything else...

That chills my blood. At what point does a person become so valueless that he can legitimately be used as food, fertiliser, or an organ bank?

I claim that some things compel particular value judgments from us. If we fail to respond appropriately, we are in the wrong. If you don't appreciate beauty, it is held against you; and I would say that human life compels respect, even if it's the life of someone for whom you believe you have the right to feel contempt.

It's that last bit, where you assumed that I meant professional failure, that gives the game away. To me, it's clear that a man can die full of regrets no matter how great the world thought he was. While I must judge among people in order to be able to live in the world, I wouldn't claim that my judgments are the sum of justice. But Rand would.

People have many more values than Ayn Rand ever admitted. A human being needs to do more than to work and succeed. Sometimes work kills your soul instead of making it grow.

I've known people who succeeded in ways other than those of the world. But Rand would call them dreamers and mystics, and she would disdain them. And she'd be right in her conceit, because the world disdains them too. But a man without cruelty, who hates no-one and wants only to help people to be happy, can be a success even if he's a poor simple man with no pretensions. I guess that's what I'm getting at. I don't like her values, I don't buy them, and I think she had to distort herself more and more to fit the image she erected for herself.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

I have you to thank... (4.00 / 2) (#190)
by derek3000 on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 09:53:00 AM EST

for pointing this out to me when you did. We have a duty--it might not be glamorous, it might make you look like a simpleton, and it very well might stand in the way of 'progress'--but it is a duty nonetheless.

Thank you.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Hmm (3.00 / 2) (#199)
by trhurler on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:30:58 PM EST

At what point does a person become so valueless that he can legitimately be used as food, fertiliser, or an organ bank?
That he is of no value to me does not mean I can violate a man's rights.
I claim that some things compel particular value judgments from us. If we fail to respond appropriately, we are in the wrong. If you don't appreciate beauty, it is held against you; and I would say that human life compels respect, even if it's the life of someone for whom you believe you have the right to feel contempt.
Beauty is subjective. So is the worth of people. Human life compels a certain basic level of respect, provided you are a human being, and we can describe that precisely using a certain concept of individual rights. Beyond that, people are what they do, whether at a job or elsewhere.
While I must judge among people in order to be able to live in the world, I wouldn't claim that my judgments are the sum of justice.
What justice? It depends on the context. Remember, I don't claim that my judgements are universal truths. They're my assessments, for my purposes. You have yours, and everyone has his own.
But a man without cruelty, who hates no-one and wants only to help people to be happy, can be a success even if he's a poor simple man with no pretensions.
Such men do not exist without a certain secret aspiration. Human beings need a game - something that has a progress scale of some kind, something they can work towards. It's a part of us; people who don't have anything else to do take up a hobby that's difficult, or a sport, or whatever. Deprived of any such thing, we become depressed and give up hope. What is the game being played by these humble, kind men? They seek to impose, explicitly or otherwise, upon those they would "help." Look at the history of religion, western and otherwise. Look at the actual history - not the rose tinted lenses version you get from apologists. Tell me there isn't a game being played there - a game in which people are used as a means to power over people.

I won't have it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Not sure that I agree ... (none / 0) (#207)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 05:10:32 PM EST

What is the game being played by these humble, kind men? They seek to impose, explicitly or otherwise, upon those they would "help."

I do agree that in general those appear humble and kind have some angle, but I know at least one person who I consider an exception. The person concerned runs a school for the very poorest children in a large third world city, having started off as such a child himself, and having won a scholarship to an elite school. As far as I can tell the school is very good. A certain amount is expected of the children, and their parents: they have to pay fees if they can, and the parents need to agree to participate in the school. I don't believe - from what I know of the person concerned - that he wants anything other than to see the children better themselves.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Ok, but... (4.00 / 1) (#208)
by trhurler on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 05:57:42 PM EST

It sounds like he has his game. Namely, running that school. There's a BIG difference between being a preacher(basically, all the "difficulty" is brought on oneself in order to inspire unearned respect, and the hardest part about it is just being consistent so that you're believable,) and being the headmaster of a school full of kids who very obviously are going to have case by case problems and so on. In addition, as you say, he's not just giving; he expects people who can pay to do so, and the parents have to be involved. He may not be looking to get rich, but I bet he wouldn't describe himself as "selfless."

In other words, it sounds like your friend is a good person doing a good thing(though obviously I don't know any details, so I can't really make any bold claims there.) I never meant to say that everyone with a charitable impulse is a bad person, or that everyone who helps others is a bad person - what I said is that someone who actually disregards his own life in order to "help others" while making a big deal out of his humility and lack of aspirations probably does in fact have aspirations of a rather nasty sort.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
each human being is of infinite value????? (none / 0) (#174)
by rws1st on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 02:40:28 AM EST

"I side with Kant. I think that each human being is of infinite value. And I don't think you can disprove that with 'A = A.'" Explain to a set of parents that you're replacing their children with several chronically ill elderly people. Explain to them that the elderly are just as valuable as their children; to them the parents and that they should therefore not fell bad about loosing their children, because clearly all humans are of equal infinite value. Imagine telling them that you have killed several of their children and explaining how 1 times infinity is the same as 3 times infinity and so you have not taken anything of value from them. I think i will stop before I go on to explore the implications that some infinities are bigger than others...In any case A=A or not the idea that humans are of infinite value seems to have some problems. Rob Sperry

[ Parent ]
Look at it this way. (none / 0) (#211)
by codeslut on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 11:53:31 PM EST

Human beings have intrinsic infinite value in an objective way, but there is subjective value. My own lazy, disobedient child would mean immeasurably more to me than an elderly, chronically ill Mother Teresa.

And yet, both of them are human and full of the potential to add to the richness of the world.
-----
"`The Kerastion is a musical instrument that cannot be heard`.
Now there's a Borges story in ten words!"
- Ursula K. Le Guin
[ Parent ]

I still dont see infinity (none / 0) (#212)
by rws1st on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 12:37:52 AM EST


Let me start off by saying that I think people are the highest value to other people.  The most essential aspects of both survival and happiness come through our relationships.

Now turning to Rand for a basic definition of value "a value is that which one acts to gain and or keep."  How do you act based on the idea that every human is of infinite value?  The basic problem I have with the theory of infinite value is that it neither helps us make decisions in our life, nor does it illuminate how people actually act.  Let alone the difficulty of empirically determining that there is an "intrinsic" infinite worth.  The silly stories I told in the previous response were meant to illustrate that, it is at the very least non-obvious how you make decisions based on the theory of infinite value.  

Then you say there is a "subjective" value that people have to their own children.  So should they act on that or the "intrinsic" infinite value?  In my terms (and I think Rand's) one of the key ideas of a value is that only living creatures hold values.  For every value one should be able to sensibly ask "of value to whom and for what?"  In this formulation there is no intrinsic values, because this would imply a value without a person doing the valuing.  How do you judge how much a person values something, watch how they act, what are they willing to do for it, to trade for it?

Rob Sperry


[ Parent ]

Of course people act out of faith (2.66 / 3) (#90)
by Ruidh on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:29:32 PM EST

Otherwise you would never ride an elevator you hadn't inspected yourself. You would never let a mechanic work on your car without watching him to make sure he didn't make a mistake. We make little acts of faith every day of our lives.

Face it. We live in a world where you have to trust other people. That means that you put some faith in their integrity. If you are incapable of trusting other people you might as well go out and live as a subsistance farmer in the backwoods somewhere.

In the Objectivist reality, everyone would agree on the appropriate political response to every situation. It would be the kind of political argumentation we see around here where

The fact is that people come to their opinions first and then find evidence to support them rather than the other way around. People also have different values and to the extent that Objectivism eschews these value structures, it is a pointless exercise.

In short, Objectivism has no heart. It is Nietzche's nihilism papered over. No thanks, I choose to live in a better world than that.
 
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."

Sounds like you read the Cliff Notes (none / 0) (#103)
by mingofmongo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:58:29 PM EST

Comparing Objectivism and Nihilism makes no sense whatsoever. If you get your feet wet a little you will see this. The only thing they have in common is the lack of manufactured warm fuzziness. Beyond that they are entirely different. One leads to a nearly insane heroic optimism, and the other leading to the opposite extream of apathy.

Objectivism is more a structured Hedonism than any kind of Nihilism.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

Not even that. (none / 0) (#113)
by Ruidh on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:59:30 PM EST

I've spoken to Objectivists. I guess I've heard what they said, because you recognized it.

The experience has given me no interest in reading further.

From the point of view of a person of faith, like myself. The lack of faith evidenced by nihilism and Objectivism is quite similar. Objectivism seems to paper this over, but I'm not convinced that any attempt at avoiding the ultimate meaninglessness inherent in these faith-less philosophies is viable over the long term. As I said, I choose to live in a different universe. Call it manufactured warm fuzziness if you will, it's still quite comfortable here.
 
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
[ Parent ]

Very few philosophers are as useless as thier (none / 0) (#202)
by mingofmongo on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 03:12:13 PM EST

followers. A lot of General Semanticists will make you want to buy a gun... Aristotle wrote a book of oratorial tricks, and people have been holding it up as the highest form of logic for two thousand years. Even Derrida isn't as dorky as his minions make him look.

Instinctively, you want to be able to judge a philosophy by its minions, but you can't. You can't trust the minions to get it. That's why I like the old mystery religions. Nobody can call himself a Mithraist unless they have been symbolicaly killed and ressurected by a priest who makes sure he gets it... And people think no good ideas come from Iraq.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

Speak for yourself (none / 0) (#161)
by duncan bayne on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 09:02:34 PM EST

The fact is that people come to their opinions first and then find evidence to support them rather than the other way around.

Speak for yourself, thanks. I personally strive to think rather than rationalise, as do many others.



[ Parent ]
Yet, by definition you will fail (none / 0) (#196)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 11:22:02 AM EST

since (a) your intelligence is finite, (b) not all problems are computible, (c) there are many, many problems were the benefit of a proper analysis is far outweighed by the costs of making that analysis.

Therefore, I assert that there are many things you "rationalize" and other things and behaviors which you allow to go unexamined, whether you realize it or not.


--
Greetings, new user. Please replace this text with a witty or insightful saying before using this software.


[ Parent ]

As much as I love to bate the Randroids, (4.80 / 5) (#96)
by mingofmongo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:03:49 PM EST

I have a deep interest in what Objectivism might have been. I have read nearly all Rand's books, and find them fascinating. While the books could have been better written, and the philosophy could have been better thought out, together, they held my interest, and still do.

I'd have to say that I am in full aggreement with most of the main points of objectivism, though I don't follow some of the logic that leads to them. I think that Rand got the right idea, and then neglected to follow through. The whole 'A is A' thing is ridiculous. It says nothing.

The big problem with Objectivism, is that the Objectivists lack objectivity. They have no concept of their own shortcomings. Casting off mysticism and religion makes one better able to deal with reality, but it does not automaticly make one a superman. Devoting yourself to using reason to improve your daily life doesn't automaticly solve all your psychological ills and cut out all emotional response. Yet Rand's fictional heros were just such perfect people, and that was evidently how she saw herself and those in her good graces.

Any system for improving life that requires the cooperation of others is doomed to failure. And any such system that requires each individual to be rational all the time is likewise doomed. Rand's 'Gault's Gultch' wouldn't fair any better than Huxley's alpha island experiment. Put all the Objectivists together in one community, and I expect to see as much or more irrational behaviour than in the general population - just because they will refuse to consider the problem.

Some people have called me an objectivist with a little 'o'. But I don't think so. I think you lose a lot of the benefits of reason, self-interest and capitalism if you put them on a pedistal and worship them. They work because they are how things would operate naturally if people could get their neuroses out of the way for a while.

My brand of objectivism would not be as big a crowd pleaser. Rather than 'A is A', I subsititute Occam's Razor. I deem the events I witess to be real because any other solution is much more complex, by orders of magnitude. Short of illness and other impairments, what I sense has never led me astray, so I see an objective reality as being the best of all explainations by far.

While this might be correctly termed a leap of faith, it is a much more reasonable leap than chanting the mantra 'existance exists'. It leads to the same place by a more reasonable path, and it allows for that tiny bit of uncertainty that would be of tremendous benefit to Objectivism, if only to eliminate that annoying smuggness. (I find my own kind of smuggness much less annoying.)

I think that millions of people acting on their own self-interest are better than a small group at the top dictating (even with public consent) what is in their interests. There is just more brain power on the job.

I think that the smallest government that can maintain the physical security of its citizens is the best. If the people running the government have no say in finance, there would be no incentive for corruption.

I think that rational self-interest can work to the benefit of society because I have received benefit from it. I received most of my education because Andrew Carnegie (the "Robber Barron") thought the country needed more libraries. Nobody made him build them. He just thought it was a good idea. Having some educated people around is good for business.

I think if Rand had just said, "I am a writer with philosophic leanings, and I have created the beginnings of a good idea," there would have been better books, and maybe some better philosophy too, as others pick it up. By delusions of grandure don't add credibility to a philosophy. Sold a lot of books though.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion

I don't get it (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by epepke on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 04:54:43 PM EST

The whole 'A is A' thing is ridiculous. It says nothing.

Agreed. Also, inasmuch as it purports to say something, it's wrong. Aristotelian, two-valued logic is a fine analytical tool, in its place. But at the very least you need second-order predicate logic even to have a chance at describing the universe.

Yet Rand's fictional heros were just such perfect people, and that was evidently how she saw herself and those in her good graces.

I don't know. It seems to me that Rand's fictional heroes thought with their dicks a lot, and one of the things that makes Atlas Shrugged hard to read is that the pages all seem glued together with Rand's Bartholin secretions.

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, in general. I think that sex has consistently been underrated as a force for good. But it's about as far away from reason as you can get.

I think that millions of people acting on their own self-interest are better than a small group at the top dictating (even with public consent) what is in their interests. There is just more brain power on the job.

Amongst the many problems with this are what happens at the last stage. You're going to have all sorts of people with different agenda, all pulling in different directions. What emerges is a vague comprimise. You can prove mathematically that as few as three people voting on three separate outsomes can individually operate perfectly rationally but can produce an outcome that is irrational and satisfies nobody.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I know what you mean. (4.50 / 2) (#108)
by mingofmongo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:24:20 PM EST

It's not so much thinking with dicks, as it is a total disregard for the process of building a relationship. It is supposed to show the freedom from superstitious societal norms, but it doesn't reconcile with Rand's mania for the value of building. I think it is her personal screwieness getting in the way of good reasoning. It is really a page out of her life.

As far as people looking out for themselves goes, you would be amazed at what people are capable of when they lack overseers. When I see how abominaly people drive their cars in good conditions, I am amazed at how well they adapt to broken traffic lights. If you give people the illusion that they are being taken care of, they will screw it all up. If you make them think, they do a pretty good job. Not perfect, but who needs that? Obviously, things work much cleaner with one person incharge of everything - for about two months. Then the shooting starts.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

The second part (4.00 / 2) (#119)
by epepke on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:30:24 PM EST

As far as people looking out for themselves goes, you would be amazed at what people are capable of when they lack overseers. When I see how abominaly people drive their cars in good conditions, I am amazed at how well they adapt to broken traffic lights. If you give people the illusion that they are being taken care of, they will screw it all up.

There are fine-grained and coarse-grained problems. Driving your own car is a fine-grained problem, and leaving people alone to do it works just fine. Building a bridge, say, isn't a coarse-grained problem. When you let individuals do it on their own without oversight, what you get is a bunch of boats and rafts with people crapping over the sides all the time.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
There's no rule in Objectivism against cooperation (none / 0) (#162)
by mingofmongo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 09:20:20 PM EST

It just isn't a great virtue. People can cooperate to do things that individuals can't do on their own. That's what "big business" means when you remove all the lobbying and golf.

In Italy the roads used to suck so bad it hurt car sales. Fiat built roads. And this is Italy who hasn't been a major economic power since the Renaisance.

We don't need government of any stripe for this. If you take out the Big Brother option, people get stuff done. Sometimes they form companies to do it.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

Sounds like an anarchist. (none / 0) (#210)
by RofGilead on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 10:41:32 PM EST

So, would you be in support of the anarchist philosophies on society?  Ie, that large government isn't needed to maintain a peaceful society, small village states could work as efficiently, or more?

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]
as far as i know: (none / 0) (#220)
by metagone on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 03:03:33 PM EST

if we analyze the functions of a government each on of those tasks can be given to a 3rd party or distributed among a group of people. even the job of enforcement can be distributed. but i believe it will have to be distributed among mostly suppliers and maybe a few consumers.

it is in the suppliers interest to make a profit. so the supplier will have first say in how their supplies are distributed by setting rates and all that. everyone else will have to play along if they want to get their share of the resources. now if the supplier abuses their ability to supply the resources to any paying customer unless those customers have broken the law of the land, then the people can openly revolt and take out the supplier. then enforcement will by a new person to head that supply chain and we are back on track.
.
[ Parent ]

About corruption (none / 0) (#221)
by tetsuwan on Fri Oct 25, 2002 at 12:18:18 PM EST

I think that the smallest government that can maintain the physical security of its citizens is the best. If the people running the government have no say in finance, there would be no incentive for corruption. Well, put simply, you are correct. (Exept, perhaps, when they are bribed to change the laws.) However, corruption would thrive even more in corporations. Corruption is human, it can only be held back by power balance and an informed public. Also, the international corporate elite, a quite distinct class, would have the real power. They already span a network over the developed contries. Why are CEO salaries in comparably small and poor Sweden as high as those in the US? - Because the elites identify with one another. Do you think these people are interested in properly working markets and sound competition?

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Thank You (plus comments) (3.66 / 3) (#111)
by threed on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 05:32:36 PM EST

I've heard a lot about Rand and the "A is A" thing, but never got it till now. I tried reading some of her works, but simply could not bring myself to continue turning pages. It's all dense and wordy and doesn't get to the point very quickly. Perhaps a lack of patience on my part is responsible, but the book still sits on the shelf, mostly unread.

So now I know what "A is A" means, and what the so called "randriods" are all on about, and for that I thank you.

I like the philosophy. It jives with my own fairly well. I especially like the not-even-enlightened self-interest. The "affair" she had - with all partners fully informed - is compatible with my worldview. No harm, no foul.

As for "am I dreaming?"; a really twisted drug addict once said "reality is the resolution of your perceptions". Dreaming is like an old CGA monitor. What they call "Concensus Reality" is 32 bit color at 5 megapixels. Get drunk or stoned, and watch the resolution drop. You only know your current resolution for sure if you have a frame of reference. If someone changed the resolution on you (wake / sober up), your immediate memory would be your reference and you would definately be able to tell whether you're in Concesus or not.


--Threed - Looking out for Numero Uno since 1976!

Helping out AIDS patients (4.20 / 5) (#124)
by revscat on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 06:51:14 PM EST

Every other weekend I go over to the apartment of a gentleman who has AIDS. He isn't expected to live more than a year, and has no family. His parents died in the 1980's, and he has never been married. He has a distant cousin who lives in New Mexico, but they aren't close. I go over there to give him company, watch a movie, bring him some cookies, and generally make his life a little more tolerable.

Why do I do this? The Randian position seems to be that I do it out of self-interest, to make myself happy. And I completely reject this. I do this because I believe it is the right thing to do. It costs me money and time to do this, and I would much rather be at home playing Day of Defeat. In my opinion, the abject rejection of and hostility towards selflessness (or altruism, as she calls it) that Rand proposes does not reflect reality. People *do* do things out of a selfless desire to do good, to do the right thing.

I am a Unitarian. One of the things our church advocates is to do good simply for the sake of doing good. Not to proselytize, not to profit, not to look good in front of other church members, not to enhance our political position. Just do good to do good. Objectivism disdainfully rejects all such behavior as foolish. She, after all, was imminently (and seemingly exclusively) reasonable. The problem is there are other reasonable people who have come up with reasonable philosophies that in part or in whole disagree with Rand.

As a side note, Rand was a terrible writer. I go back and look at the tomes that I used to cherish such as "The Fountainhead" and just grimace at the self-importance of it all. If brevity is the source of wit then Rand is the most witless person I have ever read. Tooey's rant at the end of Fountainhead goes on for almost 50 pages, fer cryin' out loud.



- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
You totally missed her point (none / 0) (#154)
by tarpy on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:37:08 PM EST

Rand's belief is that what works for you shouldn't necessarily be forced onto others. Just because you like to volunteer your time to do an immense and honourable good, doesn't mean that society should force me to do the same.

Objectivism doesn't reject a life of service if freely chosen, objectivism rejects a life of FORCED service. To me, living a life of service (such as running a clinic in Appalachia) that one freely embraces is a wonderous and beautiful gift to ones fellow man...but holding a gun to a doctor's head and making him do that to serve your own sense of morals is evil...and what objectivism would object to (pun somewhat intended)

People when left to do the right thing in an environment that celebrates and rewards moral behaviour overwhelmingly do the "right thing". It's when compulsion comes into the picture that people start to act like crooks, cheats, and thugs...that more than anything else is what I take to be the essence of Objectivism. YMMV.


Sir, this is old skool. Old skool. I salute you! - Knot In The Face
[ Parent ]

I do not get it. Is it really that silly? (5.00 / 2) (#167)
by Noam Chompsky on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:19:27 AM EST

Objectivism doesn't reject a life of service if freely chosen, objectivism rejects a life of FORCED service.

Yeah—who or what philosophy does not? Your comment strongly resembles what every other unflinching Aynist acolyte has written so far. Let's think about what it all means.

  • Anyone who forces them self to do something is obviously deliberately if subconsciously lying about something they want to do anyway. Revscat, for example, "forces" himself to "sacrifice" his putative "pleasures" because it gives him pleasure—genuine selfish pleasure—to be held in great esteem by the herd and to feel morally superior to libertines and assorted vulgar egoists.

    Check.

  • Anyone who forces someone else to do something obviously enjoys ordering people around.

    Check.

  • Anyone who follows someone else's unpalatable orders has an objectivist conscience. After all, since they are not his orders, they are not kindly endorsed and guided by his autonomous judgment, and he does not want to follow them according to the definition of unpalatable.

    Check.

  • The condition of anyone who avoids following disagreeable orders escalates until they are dead. This follows from the definition of "order," which differs from "suggestion" by the element of someone else's force. Consequently, the rational objectivist quickly learns to follow disagreeable orders, and like it. If he does not learn, he is an irrational objectivist according to the usual association of irrational and "wants to resist an order to the death." An irrational objectivist is a paradox. Since logic cannot tolerate a paradox, he must get his wish and die. Thus, the paradox of the irrational objectivist is resolved.

    Check.

    Consequently, Aynism can be summarized as "it's all good."

    WTF?!

     

    † Ayn cannot expect everyone to be an objectivist. If Ayn expects such a preposterous thing, her philosophy is a series of religious commandments. Since religion is by definition irrational, Ayn cannot expect everyone to be an objectivist. Therefore, Ayn did the eminently logical thing and drafted a philosophy that applies under a variety of circumstances such as those found in reality.

    --
    Faster, liberalists, kill kill kill!
    [ Parent ]

  • You said it... (none / 0) (#173)
    by dementis on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 02:30:03 AM EST

    You are a Unitarian. There is your motivation. It is in your self-interest to do these things, because if you didn't, you wouldn't feel as though you were being a true Unitarian, would you?
    Regardless of your motivation to be Unitarian in the first place, I would argue that the fact that you now state proudly that you are a Unitarian shows quite clearly that there is a self interest involved in this work.
    Sure, perhaps you started doing good for the sake of doing good then discovered that that was what Unitarians do, but I would wager that you discovered Unitarianism, found that the philosophy was something that made you feel good, and then began doing good to do good (be honest).


    [ Parent ]
    Thats the problem, isn't it? (4.50 / 2) (#179)
    by kholmes on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 03:48:42 AM EST

    If communicating that you are doing good just for doing good is evidence to the contrary, then there is no evidence available that people do good for the sake of doing good.

    Hence this is a limitation of reason alone and, by definition, Objectivity as well.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    That's not quite it... (none / 0) (#183)
    by dementis on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:47:26 AM EST

    Simply communicating that you are doing good for the sake of doing good would have been quite appropriate in this instance if, in fact, that was the case.
    My point, however, is that the motivation in this example is the fact that a religious belief exists. The assertation of this belief revealed the true motivation behind the act, that being the requirement to demonstrate dedication to the faith. This requirement may be a directive from the church hierarchy, or (as is the case in Unitarianism as I understand) the requirement is entirely personal, but a requirement nonetheless due to the self assigned status of Unitarian.


    [ Parent ]
    Ummm, no. (none / 0) (#201)
    by revscat on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 01:25:52 PM EST

    The assertation of this belief revealed the true motivation behind the act, that being the requirement to demonstrate dedication to the faith.

    Unitarians are about as faithless as they come. Besides, one of the reasons that I decided to become a Unitarian was because the values advocated by the church mirrored almost exactly those that I had already come to believe. There is no dogmatic requirement coming from on high that I do anything for anyone. I do what I do because it is noble and good, the church be damned.

    To reiterate: The only reason that I do volunteer work is because I believe it is the right thing to do. Rand and her pseudo-psycholgical bullshit can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned.



    - Rev.
    Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
    [ Parent ]
    Rand not a psychological egoist (none / 0) (#178)
    by rws1st on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 03:29:52 AM EST

    "Why do I do this? The Randian position seems to be that I do it out of self-interest, to make myself happy. "

    Rand was a philosophical egoist, not advocate of psychological  egoism. ( see Nathaniel Brandens essay in the Virtue of Selfishness)

    Rand agrees with you that you can have non-selfish motives. Where you disagree is that Rand holds you should not have non-selfish motives.  She might also disagree with your characterization that in this case your motives are unselfish, though the argument i think would be about degree.

    In any case if this was something you were choosing to do, because you thought it was the right thing to do, I think she would applaud you on this count.  Where she would get prissy with you would be *if* you went around preaching about this trying to guilt trip others into following your example.  She would get down right get violent (metaphorically) if you insisted that the law should compel folks to act just like you.

    "I am a Unitarian. One of the things our church advocates is to do good simply for the sake of doing good. Not to proselytize, not to profit, not to look good in front of other church members, not to enhance our political position."

    Sounds pretty objectivist to me, particularly if you interpret profit in a narrow monetary sense.

     "Just do good to do good. Objectivism disdainfully rejects all such behavior as foolish."

    err I am not aware of any major philosophy that advocates not doing the good... the question is what is the good?

    Rob Sperry

    [ Parent ]

    I think you misunderstand ... (none / 0) (#187)
    by Simon Kinahan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 07:28:14 AM EST

    Rand's position is that you *should* only do what is in your self-interest, not that you *do* only what is in your self-interest. That is, she is an ethical egoist, not a psychological egoist. The former is an easier position to support, although still very hard.

    She would say that either you go and look after AIDS patients because that is actually what you consider to be the best use of your time: that it fulfills some creative urge you have, and helps to sustain you, in which case it is moral, or you do it out of some sense of duty, guilt, fear or whatever, in which case it is immoral. Given that you're a unitarian, it seems likely the former is the case.

    Objectivism does not reject altruism as foolish. If it is part of what you really want from your life, it commends it. Its just doesn't give it any higher status than, say, building railroads. I think you've misunderstood the meaning of self-interest as something close to short-term selfishness. The Randian notion of self-interest says you should do the most you can with your life, not that you should spend it seeking brief periods of transitory emjoyment.

    Yes, Rand is a terrible writer and a sloppy philosopher, but not everything she said was entirely silly or without value.

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]

    so then (none / 0) (#189)
    by infinitera on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 09:52:57 AM EST

    If we're all out fulfilling out creative urges, I expect wage slavery (& private property) to become a thing of the past. Why are randroids so opposed to that form of 'creativity'?

    [ Parent ]
    Well, ... (none / 0) (#192)
    by Simon Kinahan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 10:51:13 AM EST

    You and they have different perspectives, which give rise to different expectations. It is not helped by the fact that Rand is not consistent, and there are holes in her "reasoning" that you could drive a bus through.

    That disclaimer out of the way: I don't think there's any particular Randian position on working for wages, as opposed to working for any other form of compensation. I imagine their view would be that it suits the self-interest of some individuals at some times not to take the risks inherent in self-employment, especially if they determine (rationally, of course) that they lack the required abilities, but I don't imagine they'd have any great problem with waged labour disappearing.

    The issue of private property (and capitalism more generally) is more fundamental. Rand believed that capitalism is the right form of social organisation, because private property allows creative people freedom of action, providing they can obtain the necessary resources. The struggle potentially required to obtain those resources is seen a consequence of the obligation not to coerce anyone else, rather than an objection to capitalism per se. Rand wasn't entirely unaware of the problems posed by capitalism: in her fiction at least she acknowledges that the people who rise to power in large capitalist enterprises are often not creative or even moral.  

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]

    how to accomplish good (none / 0) (#213)
    by kubalaa on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 04:21:51 AM EST

    Our concept of good is fundamentally wired into us as humans. What Rand
    disagrees with is how we go about achieving that good. She rejects the concept
    of "societal good" -- society is not a conscious creature, and doing good for
    it is meaningless. Society is composed of individuals -- if good for some has
    to come at a cost to others, then it's no good at all.

    There are three kinds of interactions, or trades. One where both parties gain.
    One where one party gains more than the other loses -- this is a loan, and may
    be converted to the first by the gainer sharing with the loser, so both gain.
    Or finally, one where one party gains less than the other loses. This is a
    total loss and wrong no matter how you look at it.

    So everyone can always gain -- isn't that great?

    If you devote your life to charity, but don't personally gain more than you
    give, you've wasted yourself, you've done nothing but decrease entropy in the
    universe. Helping people who can't help anyone else in return is not doing
    good, it's draining energy into a bottomless pit.

    Give to those that deserve it, and not to those that don't. Who deserves?
    Anyone who is producing, creating, increasing the amount of goodness in the
    world.


    [ Parent ]

    hold water (2.33 / 3) (#129)
    by turmeric on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:02:48 PM EST

    if rich and powerful and elite suppport an idea, then magically they figure out ways to explain why it 'holds water'. Ayn Rand idea was that the rich and the powerful and elite are more important than the rest of the people. It is no wonder she has so many followers, she is appealing to the very people who are in control of whether or not ideas get popularized, expounded upon, supported with museums and biographies and published books and articles and whatnot.

    Read the books (none / 0) (#160)
    by duncan bayne on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 09:00:25 PM EST

    Ayn Rand idea was that the rich and the powerful and elite are more important than the rest of the people.

    Have you actually read any of her books? I think you'll find that wealth and power were in no way considered important - consider the status of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, penniless but in no way prepared to compromise his values to make money.



    [ Parent ]
    Don't read the books (5.00 / 1) (#172)
    by kholmes on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 01:28:09 AM EST

    Well, you can if you want to. I am still trying to plow my way through Atlas Shrugged. I haven't been able to read more than a couple of pages in a month. She's very wordy and seems very interested in sex.

    I'm about a third of the way through. I suppose my sensibilies are opposed to hers. After reading on how popular this book seems to be, I believe most people who intend on reading the book already agree with her.

    But here's how I see it. She seems to be obsessed with material things. The heroic characters see each other as material things as well. The antagonists are seen as sheep who comply more to fashion than even their own self-interests. What the grandparent poster said seems to be true. The heros in this book are the rich and powerful. The thing that interests me the most is that <i>they all inherit their wealth</i>. There's no rags to riches story. There's nothing to say that you don't have to live the life you're born with. Sure, the business men seem to complain about their being a lack of good men but none of them seem to consider how to create good men. They seem to think people are born with the abilities they need.

    Also the antagonists don't seem to argue about anything. They are just simply insane. Philosophers in the book who seem to argue that nothing means anything anyway. And the law against dog-eats-dog competition is just stupid.

    In all, her writing is very wordy and she uses needless description. I keep hoping she'd continue along with the story instead of being so descriptive.

    But, again I haven't finished the book. I'm not sure I'm going to.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    don't do it. (none / 0) (#181)
    by livus on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:05:15 AM EST

     After all according to 'Southpark' it is enough to put you off reading for life.

    ---
    HIREZ substitute.
    be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
    I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
    I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
    I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

    [ Parent ]
    I hate Rand.. (none / 0) (#197)
    by ignatiusst on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 11:39:48 AM EST

    I am about half-way through Atlas Shrugged.. I can read 3-4 pages in one setting. It is the worst book I have read in a long, long time.

    What I really hate is how she takes a situation, twists it to fit her needs, and holds it up as proof of her philosophical position.

    Having a grandfather who fought for the Coal Mine Unions in West Virginia (and I mean fought), I really take offense at how she portrays the Union as nothing but a pack of lazy n'er-do-wells living off the sweat of the industrialist that she seems to hold in such high regard. Where is her description of how the industrialist would hire men and then proceed to charge them so much for rent, equipment, and food that the man was forever in debt to the company and arrested/shot if he tried to quit w/o paying off what he owed? Of course, he couldn't save up to pay the company off.. The company only paid in script (good only at company-owned stores), not cash.

    My grandfather once told me how the company thugs rummaged through his trash, found empty corn cans from the local town-store, and threatened to beat him and then have him fired if they ever found another. Horray for the noble industrialist, I suppose..

    When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift
    [ Parent ]

    Read further (none / 0) (#216)
    by Irobot on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 08:59:07 AM EST

    After reading on how popular this book seems to be, I believe most people who intend on reading the book already agree with her.
    Maybe most, although I think that's going way overboard. Personally, I can say it changed my life. Not that I find Objectivism compelling at this point, nor that I've become a "Randroid," but reading Atlas Shrugged was enough to shatter the hippy-dippy pablum I'd been fed all through my childhood. In fact, everyone I know who has read it - except one person - has had their views seriously altered.
    She seems to be obsessed with material things. The heroic characters see each other as material things as well. The antagonists are seen as sheep who comply more to fashion than even their own self-interests....The heros in this book are the rich and powerful. The thing that interests me the most is that they all inherit their wealth. There's no rags to riches story. There's nothing to say that you don't have to live the life you're born with.
    As you'll find out if you read further, this is far from the truth. Instead, she sees material things as the rewards for ability, not the other way around. None of her characters retain their riches without earning them. And yes, most of the antagonists are sheep; this naturally falls out of the fact that they are not capable. You'll find that not all are this way; the ones that aren't are evil. Further, the "rags to riches" falls into the same category, as does the "not having to live the life you're born with," as you'll see if you continue to read. Especially that last; the point is that each person is in control of their destiny - but only those with ability are capable of making a choice. As far as "making good men" goes, the same thing applies - people with ability are able to choose and those that do not put their self-interests first (in other words, sell their "souls" for whatever reason) end up being "not good."
    Also the antagonists don't seem to argue about anything. They are just simply insane. Philosophers in the book who seem to argue that nothing means anything anyway. And the law against dog-eats-dog competition is just stupid.
    It seems that, all in all, you're actually getting what she wants you to; you just don't see it yet. I'll not argue that the book isn't long-winded - it is, and terribly so. 1/3 of the way in, she is still setting up the dominoes. I'd say that you should finish reading it - if you can - before making up your mind. Skim the pages long diatribes; they're pretty painful for anyone but the "true-believers."

    To sum it up, there are valid criticisms against Objectivism and Rand's views. But the ones you cite are not them, as you'll find out if you continue reading.

    Irobot

    The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
    [ Parent ]

    a career of philosophy? (none / 0) (#135)
    by drek on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:24:17 PM EST

    Does it come with a coat rack to hang up your hat at then end of a hard day?

    Sense of Life Objectivism (5.00 / 1) (#158)
    by duncan bayne on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:53:20 PM EST

    In addition to the links in the story, I suggest visiting Sense of Life Objectivism, an excellent source of articles and discussion (there's a message forum) regarding Objectivism.



    It's Rational! (none / 0) (#168)
    by rigorist on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:32:32 AM EST

    I can't believe no one else has posted the link to the Floating Head of Ayn Rand!

    Kiki Shrugged! (none / 0) (#175)
    by batlock on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 02:44:32 AM EST

    Here.

    Multi Perspective Dynamic Logic (5.00 / 1) (#180)
    by rws1st on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:03:51 AM EST

    1. Perspective and logic: A Mismatched Pair

    I don't think Rand holds the position you ascribe to her.  What you describe is a one time event, where people needed to agree based on their memory.  Nothing in Rand's philosophy requires folks to have perfect and reconcilable memories.  Now I think she would claim that fifty rational people should be able to come to consensus on a repeatable phenomenon and its cause, if the matter was within the scope of current science.

    2. Inviduality and Logic: Another Mismatched Pair.
    "But considering the fact that logic and reason are static"

    I am not sure what is meant by the idea that logic and reason are static.  Certainly we keep discovering new statistical and scientific methods.  Also the contents that we reason on, our experiences are constantly changing and unique to every individual.

    Rob Sperry

    Why do I get the feeling... (none / 0) (#182)
    by livus on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:12:20 AM EST

    ...that Ayn Rand would have benefitted a great deal from the kind of media coverage of the rest of the world that we have today? I mean, it seems like she's making something that would distort horribly if transposed.

    She might have done well to go on holiday to Calcutta, also.

    ---
    HIREZ substitute.
    be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
    I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
    I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
    I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

    Darwinism? (none / 0) (#185)
    by Alik on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 06:42:22 AM EST

    One of the things that's always bothered me about Objectivism is its insistence on one's own personal interests/survival as the only variable suitable for maximization. Your generally-accepted principle of biological fitness is that what matters is how many times you get your genome replicated before you kick off. (For humans, that probably extends to some weighted sum of genome and memome replication, but that's not so generally accepted.) Therefore, you should not be doing that which will ensure your own survival; you should be doing that which will ensure the propagation of your ideas and the survival of your descendants and others to whom you are genetically related. (Of course, all humans are genetically related to some small extent, so you're going to have to decide where the threshold is.) This presents a strong argument in favor of things like environmentalism (since one wants one's grandkids to not die horribly from toxic air/water), even though such things are decried by your garden-variety Objectivist as Nasty Evil Bad Altruism.

    There's also the teeny little "humans aren't rational" problem (I build the damn things for a living, and they're buggier than your average piece of Microsoft), but I think that's been covered below.

    If you're truly an objectivist (none / 0) (#195)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 11:07:49 AM EST

    What do you care about propagating your genes? You won't profit from it, so what do you care?

    Seriously - DNA cares about propagating itself and drives the organism to behave in appropriate ways, but it's a big assumption that the organism derives a benefit thereby.


    --
    Greetings, new user. Please replace this text with a witty or insightful saying before using this software.


    [ Parent ]

    If you're truly an objectivist (none / 0) (#204)
    by nowan on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:09:29 PM EST

    What do you care about propagating your desires? You won't profit from it, so why do you care?

    Seriously, people care about fulfilling their desires and that drives them to behave in various ways, but it's a huge assumption to think that they derive a benefit thereby.

    [ Parent ]

    No assumption needed. (none / 0) (#205)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:52:00 PM EST

    The pleasure is the profit. Ultimately, it's the only profit a person can measure.


    --
    Greetings, new user. Please replace this text with a witty or insightful saying before using this software.


    [ Parent ]

    Pleasure is profit? (none / 0) (#219)
    by nowan on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 12:51:46 PM EST

    That's fine, if you mean that as an article of faith. But it's perfectly reasonable & rational to disagree, and many people do.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: If you're truly an objectivist (none / 0) (#214)
    by Alik on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 07:56:59 AM EST

    Yep. That's my point. Objectivism has this kinda big problem that if we all followed it, we would tend to wipe ourselves out. It's highly suboptimal for a species to adopt a behavior that leads to its own demise.


    [ Parent ]
    Fountainhead Earth (3.00 / 1) (#186)
    by David Gerard on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 06:51:25 AM EST

    Posted to alt.atheism by Dr. Sinister:

    Egregiously unpleasant would be a cinematographic amalgam of
    Hubbard's massive "Battlefield/Mission Earth" series combined
    with Rand's Atlas and Fountainhead. Evil aliens from planet
    Toohey invade earth, enslave all the architects, and force
    them to build Doric facades infront of every McDonalds. Along
    comes a savage primitive egoist, Jonnie Galtboy Tyler, who
    develops Project X with the help of some spear-throwing
    capitalistic cavemen, and saves the universe after delivering
    a 40,000-page speech that bores the aliens stiff.
    Cult classic in a literal sense.


    'Objectivism' (none / 0) (#188)
    by fhotg on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 09:13:16 AM EST

    Is the 'philosophical' paint for people who want to stay egomanical materialistic greedy style-less assholes whose pathetic idea of reality is limited to the smallest common denominator, and nevertheless like to explain to other people and themselves that they act according to 'higher principles'. Bah, zombies.

    Now, now. It's not good to repress. (none / 0) (#194)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 11:03:36 AM EST

    Please, tell us how you really feel.


    --
    Greetings, new user. Please replace this text with a witty or insightful saying before using this software.


    [ Parent ]

    Interesting timing. (4.00 / 1) (#206)
    by bored on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 04:53:55 PM EST

    I read Anthem last night. I bought it in paperback and a copy of Atlas Shrugged on tape last sunday.

    So, what did I think? First it was short, I finished it in about an hour. Secondly, as a story it was slightly interesting but not particularly notable. Its similar to A Brave New World, where the setting of the story is the story rather than simply being the setting. By this I mean it has a logical progression but much of the book was taken up explaining the setting rather than telling the story. Thirdly, the 'grammar' is obnoxious, its told in first person without the use of "I", "me" or "myself" for 80% of the book. An example might be "We is breaking the law by being alone in the dark." This was cute for a while but soon threatened to became annoying. In all not a bad read simply because it was so short and painless.

    When it comes to objectivism, that book doesn't really hit you over the head. Its similar in that regard to The Fountainhead (which I read about 5 years ago). I don't buy into it as a hard rule, rather I find some of it useful and the some of it trash. For example I believe in 'Capitalism' but a type of capitalism where things like environmental damage has a cost. For instance industries that create air pollution are taxed and the proceeds are given directly to an environmental agency to plant trees, research cleaner energy sources or anything else that directly combats the air pollution. In the end I don't mind Ayn Rand, or her philosophy, I choose to ignore the parts that i've thought about and don't agree with. This is the same way I put up with the bible thumpers. I think about it, acknowledge the parts that make sense, and ignore the rest.

    In the end i can recommend both of the Ayn Rand books i've read. The The Fountainhead because I liked it and it made me think. Anthem because its different from most other books and short enough not to drag on for to long.



    Uhhh...about Anthem (none / 0) (#215)
    by Irobot on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 08:29:14 AM EST

    Thirdly, the 'grammar' is obnoxious, its told in first person without the use of "I", "me" or "myself" for 80% of the book. An example might be "We is breaking the law by being alone in the dark." This was cute for a while but soon threatened to became annoying.
    If I recall correctly, that's the point of the book. There is no concept of "I," only "we." It's an early expression of her belief in the evils of group-think (or the hero-making characteristic of egoism, if that suits you better).

    Irobot

    The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
    [ Parent ]

    Yes (none / 0) (#217)
    by bored on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 10:54:23 AM EST

    I understood that. Even so, by the time the protagonist learns the word "I" the "we/us" syntax is tiresome. The fact that the author is trying to make a point doesn't make it any less annoying.

    [ Parent ]
    Ideas Do Not A Philosophy Make (5.00 / 1) (#209)
    by EXTomar on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 06:20:02 PM EST

    The reason why many don't consider Rand's thoughts as Philosophy is that they are not designed to be rigiously tested as a philosophy. Things mentioned in her writings make her ideas no more a philosophy than Lucas' ideas on Jedi as a way of theology. Rand may strongly believe in Objectivism and writes about it but that does not make what she writes Philosophy.

    Beyond that I reject Objectivism because the foundations are philosophically weak.

    • Objective Reality

      A purely objective reality implies that there is only one *right* way to comprehend it. Any other interptations of reality are wrong. Unfortunately it appears that no group of humans yet can observe any aspect of reality the same way to begin with. This doesn't mean an objective reality doesn't exist but the value, not to mention the difficulity, of finding it seems dubious.

    • Reason As Basis Of Knowledge

      Simply put: not all things are reasonable. Why does one person like the color blue while another likes red? There is no reason behind it. Okay so that example has no moral or ethical value. When presented with the classic "lifeboat dilemma' why does one person favor one solution or another? There are many aspects of reality that have no right or wrong answers to the quests they propose. There is no amount of reason that could quanitify a correct answer for these.

    • Self Interest

      Self interest is in itself the basis of many philosophical ideas. However I generally reject aspects of self interest because the interest of the self aren't always the best. Take for instance rampant hard core drug use. It makes one feel good but is certainly not in the best self interest.

    • Capitalism

      This seems like more like a socio-political thing than a moral-ethical thing. Since a tenant of Capitalism self interest in the pursuit of profit it is clear that left unchecked it will not serve society's needs. A company happily following pure capitalism would be more than willing to sell out parts of society for the sake of profit. Things like polution are examples of this: a company will happily pump out toxic poultion if it is profitable although it may not be exactly healthy. Consider also a little company called Enron. Certain decisions and actions to lie and cheat were purely profit modivated and did nothing for the US economy.

    Objectivism appeals to be about as much as Realtivism(ie. "subject-ivism"). Neither seem to fit well into reality presented to humans. Somewhere in the middle seem to lies the truth.



    Who was Ayn Rand? A Short Summary & Critique | 221 comments (194 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
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