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This desperately needs citation.
Nicely written though.
I do object a little to (or at least wonder about) what is said about Marxism in the article. It states that Objectivists are "not using the Marxist or anarchist meanings of the term 'capitalism',", but were "referring to 'free market economics' first and foremost". Marx, however, had always considered the problems that the capitalist society of his time suffered from (extreme poverty, curtailing of the worker's rights) as inherent to free market economics (the general idea: the worker has no money to found a company and therefore has to sell his labor; as the worker would starve if he had no work, he has to accept any offer; therefore, the capitalist grows richer; as corporations grow richer, they advance their technology, which in turn makes founding a company which is able to compete in the market even harder, so that the worker cannot get out of his situation and gets oppressed). The text, on the other hand, implies a difference between what Marx called "capitalism" and what Rand called "capitalism". My question is what this difference is supposed to be, or if there is none to be found, whether it would not be better to write that Marx and Rand talk about different aspects of capitalism, not about two different systems?
I've got a question:
How does a consciousness outside of reality creating reality constitute a logical fallacy in Objectivism? In fact, the concept of a 'soul' would necessitate that consciousness is outside of [tangible] reality, thus affirming Objectivism.
So why is Theism and/or Spirtualism not embraced by Objectivism is affirming the ideals of an objective reality from consciousness?
Objective reality means that no being is able to modify it on a whim and what Theism proposes it is just that - a thing able to modify reality according to it's will.
Such beings also create other problems: firstly, God, as usually defined, violates the law of identity - it's identity is negative, defined by what he is not rather than what he is (i.e. he has no limits to his power, knowledge, goodness, etc.)
Then also: if beings outside reality exist, where do they exist? In a higher-level reality? If so, it creates contradictions with axiom that you percieve physical reality.
Hm, I suppose I'm a little late in saying this now that you've left TV Tropes (what a pity ='( ! ), but...
You did a very, very good job explaining Objectivism. Having never read Ayn Rand, all I ever could grasp was that she held beliefs that she called "Objectivism", and that in turn led her to be a Classical Liberal and/or Libertarian politically. Every explanation seemed either too simplistic or way too complicated. Now, I finally feel like I have understood just what that concept really means, even if your article may not be not everything there is to it.
Oh hi there Studiode! Nice to see you're back!
Please could someone who understands give me a brief overview of objectivism? Is it pure egotism or are their specific tenants? I think I'd be able to understand it better if someone explained it to me.
Since Studiode isn't around anymore I'll do my best.
"Objectivism" is a worldview created by author/philosopher Ayn Rand though it has taken a large divergence from her original views since her death with many separate branches of people calling themselves "objectivists".
At the core of the idea is the belief that man(as in Mankind, idealized Humanity, yadda ya) is the final arbitrator of his own moral destiny and is perfectly capable of being heroic without a transcendent reason for doing so; i.e. "No gods or kings, only Man." from Bioshock. However, Ms Rand's definition of "heroism" is a tad different than what you would probably think. For Rand, a man is heroic when he acts purely in line with his own enlightened self-interest and in nothing else.
Now, this seems very much like the worldview of every Nietzsche Wannabe teenage tool taken to 11 and given public forum, and rightly so because Ms Rand also uses some different definitions of selfish. For example, if you found personal joy in volunteering at your church, under Ms Rand's definitions you would be acting selfishly, doing what you find joy in, though she would undoubtedly see you as being spurious with your time.
Objectivists also put a large focus on logical axioms, seeing them as the basis for all reality. The "A is A" lines that Galt is always preaching in Atlas Shrugged is a good example. This is where the name comes from, the idea that reality is "objective" and is not subjective to a human's experiences for its truthiness, the axioms existed before we got here and will do so afterwards, we only discover rather than create.
So in recap, "objectivism" is a large umbrella under which many different people and ideas stand, in general though if you
1)think mankind is capable of heroic action for the sheer value and joy of being heroic
2)personal joy is a corner of a meaningful life, but personal joy does not necessarily mean unbridled hedonism
and 3)logic is axiomatic and the world does not depend on any one observer for it to be real
then you can call yourself an objectivist, no matter how limited in scope. Even Ms Rand had failings in the application of her own ideas(come at me randroids). However there will always be someone who wants to argue with you about it, it's just that kind of field.
Hmmm, can there really be such a thing as a neutral description of a philosophy without at least a quick list of the most common arguments used by critics of that philosophy? For example, is it really neutral to describe the Objectivist critique of Altruism without mentioning at least one Altruist response?
Yes, a philosophy can be described neutrally without criticism of the philosophy itself, simply by listing the positive statements made by the philosophy (i.e. what the philosophy alleges to be correct).
The reason why the Objectivist critique of Altruism is included in this article is because it is the most well known, and most misunderstood, argument made by Objectivism. Additionally, the strength of the critique is quite unprecedented; of course Aristotle and Spinoza would have disagreed with Comte's altruism but I can't think of any philosopher apart from Rand who has so directly taken on Comte's moral philosophy.
As for a section of criticism, again we have Useful Notes pages on both Ethical Hedonism and The Golden Rule. None of these pages contain criticism of either proposition they attempt to describe.
I honestly would not object to inclusion of reasonable criticism. For instance, I even stated in the Ethics section of the main page that the "pre-moral choice to live" is an argument that many critics of Objectivism attack. But there are several practical problems to the inclusion of a criticism section. First, quite a few of Objectivism's critics are utterly misinformed (I'm being polite) about the philosophy. They seem to believe Objectivism is a "philosophy of rape" that "supports letting the poor starve and die" and "is against benevolence" and "makes emotions a crime" etc. etc. etc. Need I go on?
Because of the delicate balance required to avoid the page becoming absolute Flame Bait, I accept criticisms and discussions here, on the discussion page. And so far, this policy has worked perfectly well. Read above; there are plenty of discussions, including critical ones, which have been conducted in an intelligent and polite and non-Flame War manner. There have also been neutral discussions from several tropers who have applauded the purely positive (in the "factual" sense of the term) tone of the article, irrespective of whether or not they agree or disagree (in whole or part) with Objectivism.
If you wish to defend Comtean altruism, I'd be absolutely delighted to hear a criticism on the discussion page (and yes, I'd happily respond to it). Given that the main page includes an invitation to the discussion page, I don't think this counts as "obfuscating" criticism.
Also, I wish to take issues with your two alterations to the main page. First, the inclusion of "there is no critical thought on the main page" (or words to that effect) is redundant. Second, it is not a Strawman to describe either Fascism or State Socialism as turning the State into the primary organizer of human activity. Now, I'll accept that some theoretical forms of socialism and some mixed economies based on socialist philosophy/ideology are not the same thing as turning the State into the primary organizer of human activity. But Fascism and State Socialism are by definition Statist.
Regardless of this, please feel welcome to submit any criticism of the Objectivist critique of Comtean altruism here. I'd be happy to hear it.
I agree that a philosophy can be neutrally described without criticism simply by stating what it alleges to be correct. However, this article, as it stands, goes beyond that and covers the debate between two philosophies (Objectivism and Comtean Altruism). As long as this debate is covered, neutrality seems to require that we present both sides.
I understand that you want to clear up common misconceptions about Objectivism. But I am concerned that in doing so, you are introducing misconceptions about Altruism. Not to mention using language such as "Rand was not the only person to consider [Comtean Altruism] insane", which is not exactly a neutral way to phrase the matter. "Rand was not the only person to oppose it" would be much better.
An example of a misconception about Altruism is this: "one must sacrifice their values/life to others (which in turn makes their life impossible/unbearable)". Here is why it's a misconception. Altruism holds that you must live for others. In order to live for others, you must live. So Altruism recognizes the necessity of you working to secure your own life, because you can't help anyone if you're dead. After you have secured your own existence, however, all further effort must be directed towards promoting the happiness of others.
This is the sort of response to Objectivism that I think should be added to the article. I know there are really bad attacks on Objectivism out there - I have no intention of quoting them or adding them to the article. I'm not even sure if a criticism section is that necessary. I would like, however, to insert a few sentences to the effect that "other philosophies argue these other things" every now and then. It would even help to clarify exactly what Objectivism stands for by showing what it is not. It would be nice to contrast its ethical views with Utilitarianism or Kant's categorical imperative, for example. I'll come back with more concrete suggestions later.
Until then, however, I don't see how it's redundant to warn the reader that the main page contains no criticism of Objectivism. I don't see it being already mentioned somewhere else...
With regards to state socialism and fascism: The entire classification of political ideologies based on their opinions about the role of the state is in itself a strawman - or at least, it's looking at the world through liberal-tinted glasses - because most ideologies do not regard their view of the state as the main dividing line between themselves and other ideologies. A state socialist (or a fascist, for that matter) will never define himself primarily based on his opinion of the proper role of the state in society. I take issue with the entire paragraph that begins with the sentence "Politics is the field of philosophy that deals with the proper role of the State." In reality, politics is the field of philosophy that deals with the proper organization of society, and liberals (classical or otherwise) believe that the most important political question is the role of the state. Others believe that the most important political question is the degree of equality in society, or the role of tradition, or national identity, etc.
In other words, you are framing politics in liberal terms, and implying - incorrectly - that these terms are universally accepted by all sides. At minimum, the paragraph needs a disclaimer to explain that this is how liberals (and therefore Objectivists) view politics, not how everyone views politics. But I think we can do better than that and reword the paragraph in a neutral manner that is acceptable to everyone. I will think about how to do that and come up with a proposal.
First, I must compliment you for your intelligent and polite critique. It is rare (in my experience) for someone that strongly disagrees with Objectivism to be able to discuss the disagreement in such a polite manner that refrains from making personal attacks. So my sincere thanks. I only wish other people that disagreed with Objectivism were as polite and sensible as yourself.
Your first suggestion, about removing the term "insane" and replacing it with less emotional language (for example; "Rand was not the only person to oppose it"). I agree with you here. Whilst I believe both Rand and Mill did indeed find Comte's altruism to be deeply troubling to the point of being "insane" (figuratively speaking), I agree the term does not belong in this summary.
Your second suggestion is one I also agree with. The language you target is not language I added to the artice and I agree with you that Comtean altruism indeed accepts that the life of the self does have instrumental value. Comtean altruism is a deontological morality, and as such advancement of the self would be justified under pure Comteanism as a means to the ultimate end of the advancement of others. So yes, I agree that rewording that section is justified.
Your third suggestion, contrasting Objectivist morality with both Benthamite Utilitarianism and Kantianism, is indeed fruitful. I can't really object to it per se; the problem is that there have been forum threads in the past that have argued the main page is too long. Adding additional paragraphs about the difference between Benthamite Utilitarianism and Kantianism would lengthen the article futher, although in theory I support your idea.
There is one more practical consideration I must raise. I am an open-system (TOC/Atlas Society) Objectivist and I do not demonize Kant in the way that some of the more orthodox Objectivists do. I disagree with Kant and I agree Rand's critique of Kant makes relevant criticisms of Kant's intellectual progeny (Fichte and Hegel most obviously) but I wouldn't agree her criticism is accurate with respect to Kant himself. Kant's ideas were modified by many successor minds, each of which spun his ideas in many other directions. Kant, after all, was a classical liberal that believed individuals were not means to social ends. The danger (which I admit is reasonably small) from including a comparison of Rand's ethics with Kant's is that some of the more... ahem... orthodox Objectivists may object to the phrasing.
Your fourth suggestion, about the definition of politics. I agree that your wording is far more neutral. Given this is the Objectivism page and not the Political Ideologies page, I think it is fair to stick with the liberal conception of politics and define politics in the manner you propose ("proper organization of society") but state that Objectivists accept the liberal understanding that the essential issue of politics is the role that the State plays in society. So I agree with you that your proposal results in a more neutral framework.
Finally, your statement that it would not be redundant to warn readers that this page doesn't have a criticism section was redundant before the moderator removed the earlier statement that "this page doesn't aim to promote or detract from Objectivism, merely to say what it is. Given the moderator has removed this statement, it is not redundant to say that the page focuses on explaining the philosphy rather than critical analysis. However, again there is the problem of 1) the criticism section becoming absolute Edit War central and being filled with stupid and defamatory critiques (quite unlike those you've proposed), and 2) it might annoy the moderator.
Irrespective, I do think you have made some very sensible, fruitful and intelligent suggestions and I'm greatly thankful for your intelligent, insightful and polite commentary. My thanks. I'll try and incorporate your suggestions into the main article as soon as possible.
UPDATE: I can't make your edits because apparently I have been Edit Banned from this page (and this page only).
I'm considering leaving the site over this.
Why not have someone else make the edits, then?
For my own two cents: This Social Liberal Theist is driven to disagree with everything contested by Studiode Kandent in this disscussion, Useful Notes, and her (or his) review of Atlas Shrugged and following comments. However, he does not wish to argue, particularly since Veshy and others have done a better job. Not just that, but the posts here have helped me define what it is to be a Social Liberal, and why I hold this position.
Also, I'm far more comfortable with Pop Culture topics anyway. Sorry.
For the record, Fascism is not statist "by definition", though that is a popular misconception; at the very least, there are plenty of historians and political theorists who would argue otherwise. There are leftist Fascists and others who are not so wild about the state; in general, it was Mussolini and Hitler who, seperately, introduced the statist and other aspects of their ideology- in both cases, they added to and codified their ideology after taking power to justify political strategy (read: consolidating their own power). In fact, a lot of Fascist ideology was either appealing to whatever they thought their audience wanted to hear, or just the leadership trying to justify their policies to the disillusioned rank-and-file.
The core of Fascist ideology is a drive for moral and cultural revolution towards the creation of a new society founded on neo-classical values (or their version of them), such glorification of war and imperialism and an extreme anti-egalitarianism (that is, they opposed the idea that anyone is equal in any way). Aspects like statism and the cult of personality and such were basically strategy- how they took and enforced their power-, and totalitarianism was just a tool to impose their ideology, and not the be-all and end-all or even a core part of the philosophy.
There are lots of other nuances as well as the fact Fascism tends to invite a bunch of political opportunists and reprobates who will say or do anything to attain power; Mussolini himself was not a very good Fascist and didn't believe that Italy was capable of being turned into a Fascist state (so essentially, for at least half of his reign Italy was basically just the personal dictatorship of Mussolini). Fascism is not Statism; statism is Fascist strategy, and its not one they all agreed on either.
MIND SCREW: According to Objectivism, there is no Objectivism. You may now vanish in a Puff of Logic, if you so choose. But wait! Objectivism declares that nothing can vanish in a Puff of Logic, because it's already there, logic or otherwise... Oh dear, I've gone cross-eyed.
I'm not exactly sure I get what you're saying.
Unless you are making a joke.
I believe he is playing stupid.
He is winning.
My goal in any given conversation is to make my opponent wonder whether or not I am serious. In that regard, I have now won, and I bid you "good day".
This page is supposedly neutral... Yeah, okay.
You know, you can try and fix it (or, alternatively, point out where it's biased) instead of being passive aggressive about it.
It is neutral. It simply states what Objectivism argues.
How is that not neutral? Is it biased to state that (for instance) Rene Descartes was a Representational Realist, or Karl Marx believed in the Labour Theory of Economic Value, or Baruch Spinoza was a Monist?
Mr Death is quite correct; if you believe the summary is somehow biased, please point out an example and explain why it is biased.
I fail to see how the page isn't neutral. It's a nice level-headed, thorough introduction to the topic. It doesn't, like most of the rest of the wiki, take every opportunity to get a potshot in at Ayn Rand, but I would argue that's a feature, not a bug. It's not gushing either. Considering this is a sensitive topic for many tropers, I'm amazed that we have such a good page.
Speaking of which, thank you, Studiode Kadent, for taking the time to work on this page and answer questions in the discussion. I don't agree with everything in Objectivist philosophy, but I find the whole thing fascinating and this page was a big help.
Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm glad the page has proven interesting and helpful to you.
Thank you so much for this page. It explained objectivism in a wonderfully interesting manner. And brief, at least compared to the source material!
I have two questions: Is there a case for theism that is consistent with Objectivism? The case for atheism laid out on the page is brief, and I'm not entirely sold on it. I am a theist right now, but I also beleive Objectivism is true, so I need to deal with these contradicting beliefs, and one possible way of doing that is removing the contradiction.
What is current objectivist thought on free will and determinism? The objectivist group here at my college responded to this issue, but their response was wholly unsatisfactory. It seemed to me that it was a wholesale denial of determinism, which is troublesome for me, though it was likely only my interpretation of their response, or a case of the response not accurately reflecting the responder's intentions.
First, I am sorry for the slow reply.
Now, on to your points. You ask about the issue of theism and whether belief in a deity is possible to reconcile with Objectivism. I am personally an atheist, however I would argue that whether or not some form of belief in a god of some sorts can be reconciled with Objectivism is strongly dependent on what kind of "god" we are talking about.
If, by "theism" you mean Abrahamic-style Monotheism (belief in one god that created existence and is infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient) in the same way that Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe, then I don't see how theism can be reconciled with Objectivism. However, if you happen to believe in a god with a specific nature that is part of existence and hence subject to the laws of logic then I would not say such a belief is incompatible with Objectivism. So in short, it depends on the specifics about the kind of god-belief you hold.
As for free will and determinism, Objectivism is necessitarian with regards to physical reality but argues that humans have free will. The basic Objectivist argument is that free will is seated in human consciousness; you have control over your level of consciousness (i.e. your focus). This "cognitive free will" is in a certain respect irrefutable because to argue against it presupposes that you are involved in an argument where people can, if shown sufficient evidence, change their minds (and if all our ideas where determined, then debate becomes futile).
Philosophy of mind is not my specialty, I admit, so I apologize if this argument seems brief. However, I am delighted you found this page helpful!
What's some good "further reading" on the topic (besides Rand herself, of course)? That should probably be a section on the page.
The references cited in the article itself would be a good place to start. I'd also recommend "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical" by Chris Matthew Sciabarra (if you have a large tolerance for high level academic prose, otherwise stay away) and "The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth And Toleration In Objectivism" (actually its about an internal dispute amongst Objectivists, but Dr. David Kelley is a really good, clear writer who raises some excellent points about approaching moral problems), and "Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence" also by Dr. David Kelley. I'm sure there are other texts that would be useful, as well.
However, take note that many Objectivist works use a heterodox vocabulary ("Objectivese") rather than this article here, which uses conventional academic philosophy jargon.
I would submit that Rand herself is not really very useful as further reading. The summary here is far superior to the source material in my opinion.
Bravo on this page. Your explanation is mostly understandable and the effort to clarify this touchy (to put it mildly) topic neutrally is admirable. I feel I have a much better understanding of this philosophy now.
And, of course, I have questions. Lots of them in fact but what with the hierarchy of ideas I'll start at the top and add new questions along the way.
1. I am not sure if you treat the three axioms as provable without deduction (ie deduction is not necessary) or only provable through a combination of deduction and evidence (ie deduction is not sufficient) or not provable at all.
2. I do not follow the leap from the three axioms to reality must exist independently of consciousness, only to that reality exists. Either you missed a step or I'm missing something.
By the way, the sentence Objectivist metaphysics thus stiplulates three axioms, i.e. undeniable, irreducible facts, describe how reality works gives a very wrong idea of an axiom. Axioms are *assumed* and it is perfectly possible to assume incorrect axioms and make utterly wrong but logically consistent deductions. They do not have to be right at all and you can't say they are undeniable (unless by undeniable you mean that they cannot be argued against in a framework that assumes them, but that's not the meaning I get out of it).
Thank you for your time.
Sincere thanks for your comments and I'm glad you found the page intelligible and informative!
On to your questions.
Regarding "proving the axioms" I am using "proof" in the sense of "logical proof" (i.e. demonstrate that the-proposition-to-be-proven is a logical implication of facts known to be true). As stated in the article, the axioms of Objectivism cannot be deductively proven, because logic assumes the axioms. If the axioms are untrue then deductive logic simply does not work (because Aristotelian logic is an implication of the axiom of Identity).
You also ask how I get from "Existence exists" to "existence exists objectively" (independently of consciousness). For that, I'd ask you to check out one of the links in the main page, to Dr. Carolyn Ray's Identity and Universals; a Conceptualist Approach (you can find the link in the Epistemology section). She does a very eloquent summary of the axioms of Objectivism.
Regarding the definition of "Axiom" I have heard three different definitions, all in various contexts;
1) A statement unquestioned during analysis; an assumption. (This is the definition you are using, and one that is often used in the social sciences)
2) A proposition where the denial of it is self-refuting. (A common definition of axiom, and also provides a handy test (the self-refuting denial test)).
3) A concept which all other concepts ultimately logically depend on (this is Rand's definition but it has been used by others; overlaps with type 2 in that denial of a type 3 Axiom is indeed self-refuting, but not all self-refuting denials are indicative of being a type 3 Axiom).
1. I understand that the three axioms cannot be proven logically because logic requires them. What I'm asking then is what their status (and therefore the status of deductive logic) is in Objectivism. Are they known to be true without relying on deductive logic? Or are they taken, but not known, to be true? From the definition of axiom you use and from phrases like These facts are undeniable because to deny them requires them to be true. I assume it is the first.
If I'm not wrong in my assumption then I see the following problem: it seems the method of knowing them does rely on a certain type of deduction because it comes down to a syllogism "if I am asking a question then I must exist; I am asking a question; I exist". This can hardly work if deduction requires the 'A is A axiom' since that is one of the axioms we know to be true only through this method.
2. I'm still trying to get through the article you mentioned but it will take me quite some time (if I want to understand what I read at least!). I'll get back to this part later. In any case I think the page would benefit from a short explanation of how the conclusion "existence exists objectively" is reached.
I was only aware of "axiom" as it is used in math, which is the first definition. If the third one is common and used throughout the article then there isn't really a need to mention the others.
First, thanks for your reply. You are correct, Objectivism argues that the axioms of Existence, Identity and Consciousness are indeed known to be true without deductive logic.
You argue that there is a problem in that the axiom is validated by deductive logic using a syllogism "if I am asking a question then I must exist. I am asking a question; therefore I exist" (if P is true, then Q is true; P is true, therefore Q is true).
I believe this argument has two problems. The first is that the entire concept of "existence" is an assumption of the premises in the first place. The premise "if I am asking a question" relies on the following things existing; a consciousness (the "I"), the ability to perform actions (which assumes the existence of entities, i.e. things, which in turn ultimately assumes the existence of something)).
Ultimately, my issue is the use of "therefore" (or "this implies that").... you are obviously familiar with logic so you obviously know that "implies" and "assumes" are opposite "directions" logically-speaking.
You obviously know this, so I think your question boils down to methodology of validating the axioms (i.e. "can Objectivists validate it in a way that isn't the syllogism?"). Objectivism actually is empirical in terms of the axioms... look around you. Any act of extrospection validates the axioms (i.e. assumes you exist possessing consciousness, assumes there is something rather than nothing, and assumes that things are what they are). As Carolyn Ray puts it, "I need not show you existence, you already know it."
May I ask a question... are you a mathematician? You seem to be approaching Objectivism from a methodologically rationalist point of view (understandable given mathematics is by definition methodologically rationalistic). However, Objectivism is methodologically empiricist.
As for "existence exists objectively," Objectivism argues that strictly speaking, "existing objectively" is a tautology. "Objectively" means independent of consciousness, "subjectively" means dependent on consciousness (as you obviously are aware). But "existing subjectively" would have a problem; it would require consciousness to exist, and consciousness has a specific nature (otherwise it would not be consciousness), which in turn assumes that consciousness exists objectively.
The idea of "existing subjectively" is a self-refuting idea because it assumes consciousness, which it assumes has a specific nature. Strictly speaking, the idea is a Stolen Concept; it assumes that which it attempts to deny (the objectivity of existence).
I should clarify I am not a metaphysician; most of my work in philosophy is on epistemology and ethics, so I apologize if my argument sounds unclear or unfocussed. But I hope this helps.
So why is Rand's set of beliefs is so important? Why do we have this page, not short "philosophy for dummies" overview? It's a good article, but shouldn't basic principles go to more general article while all Rand stuff stay there?
Well, probably something to do with the fact that you can't really have a short "philosophy for dummies" page and expect to have anything more than a very brief summarization of each school of thought.
Also, you can't really have a short "philosophy for dummies" page.
In general, you can only condense things down so far before you start losing important information and obliterating critical distinctions.
Finally, when most people look into philosophy, they often search by specific philosophers; so there's a case for an article on the views of each philosopher.
You ask why "Rand's set of beliefs is so important," and that's a legitimate question; I think all philosophers that need a Useful Notes page should get one. But Rand is one of those philosophers who is very popularly connected with specific positions; in many ways she's important (as either heroine or villain) to several popularly-believed political narratives. Thus, many of Objectivism's enemies like to defame the philosophy and distort it beyond recognition (a similar thing happened with Nietzsche, although Nietzsche is being rescued from that). Given that misunderstandings of Objectivism are extremely common, I think it is good to have a quick summary (and lets be honest, the main article might be long, but its shorter than having to read tons of Objectivist literature on the subject) that doesn't distort the philosophy.
Studiode Kadent, you are right about "can't really have a short "philosophy for dummies" page". It's just strange to see just this objectivism and nothing more while inside an objectivism article you can get a brief idea of what philosophy as a whole deals with.
Maybe I was deluded cause not being an American (I'm from Belarus) I just missed Rand. Well, it seems that most of the globe did. Once I've tried to read that Atlante stuff but it bored be to death with seemingly oversimplified characters and strange propaganda concepts (socialists kill kittens. How can you sympathise to socialists?) so I've dropped it. Only later I've discovered that Rand was responsible for some new philosophical concepts but I've never realized (until now) that it was so popular in western world. I've enjoyed reading many western philosophers (from Plato to Sartre) but Rand seems both boring to scare away masses and simple to interest Cool Nerdy Guys.
I agree that quite a few characters in Atlas Shrugged are, to the modern perspective, unfair strawmen. However, the book was written in 1952 and aimed at a layperson audience with relatively little understanding of philosophy. Dealing with all the subtleties would have made the book much less accessible to the audience. Additionally, back during the 1950's, Rand's portrayals of socialists were much, much more accurate (indeed, up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were many socialist intellectuals that were indeed promoting the kind of positions that make Rand's villains Harsher in Hindsight).
Also, the reason I included the details about philosophy generally is because many people know about Rand mostly for her political positions. Many people, both pro and anti-Randian, are not strongly well versed in philosophy before they encounter Objectivist ideas (believe me, some of the philosophical idiocy I've seen in other Objectivists makes me want to scream Stop Helping Me!). Thus I decided to give the full context; the philosophical problem itself, the various answers, and then the Objectivist answer.
So while I was reading part of this, I was thinking, "tl;dr" the whole time. If anyone could make a Laconic page for this, that would be nice. Due to the nature of this website, I don't like to spend too long on one page...
And due to the nature of this being a Useful Notes page, the topic needs to be explained.
Some subjects can't be expressed laconically, and a summary of an entire philosophy is one of those things.
A laconic page would probably be next to impossible. If you look at the Laconic Wiki, it's all about humor and flippancy, which works well for tropes, but not so much for real life philosophies that people feel very strongly about (one way or the other). It would be an Edit War, and would make detractors look like the Hatedom and followers look like Randroids. I could suggest looking mostly at the ethics section, because that's really the only thing people discuss in depth about Objectivism. (At least, on the discussions I've read).
I'm sorry - I'm getting confused about the meaning of sacrifice in Objectivists philosophy - maybe because I have Austrian (like in Austrian School of Economics - not country in Europe) roots.
It was stated in this discussion that feeding baby is not a sacrifice as baby was wanted. However people act as they perceive it is best to achieve their goals (whether they are material, moral etc.). Putting aside third parties people would never sacrifice as their either want to do this and do it or not and they doesn't do it. So all I can get from it is "a person cannot be forced to do something" which can be derived from principle of self-ownership.
Also - I guess it might be good to add note that Libertarianism is separated concept form Objectivism (and that Ayn Rand argued for separation of those concepts). [I know - it is my agenda against portraying all extreme lessez-faire people as egoist "objectivist"... well jerks who believe in Social Darvinism and hate environment - and Objectivism does not have good PR].
First, thanks for your inquiry. Second, I too am an economist, and I am Austrian School/Evolutionary in my orientation.
Your confusion comes from the fact that you're confusing an economic concept (the axiom of human action) with an ethical concept (psychological egoism).
You start your case with the axiom of human action, i.e. people act in a teleological fashion, using means to attain ends. However, this does not mean that people will not be altruistic.
Teleological human action says nothing at all about what goals people will select. Additionally, just because a person selects a goal, does not mean that (for said person) pursuit of this goal is egoistic. The axiom of human action is not the same thing as Psychological Egoism (i.e. the belief that all human beings are inevitably and naturally self-interested).
If an individual human being chooses a morality that is altruistic, then said human being acting in an altruistic fashion is the logical consequence of the axiom of human action. On the other hand, if an individual human being chooses a morality that is egoistic, said human being acting in an egoistic fashion is a logical consequence of the axiom of human action.
I should add, you are completely correct. Whilst Objectivism supports Libertarianism or Classical Liberalism (they mean the same thing, after all), Objectivism supports a wider range of positions. Whilst all Objectivists are Libertarians, not all Libertarians are Objectivists. You are also correct that Objectivists do have bad public relations, but I believe the reasons that Objectivists are hated are misconceptions... Objectivism is not Social Darwinist (Social Darwinism presupposes biological determinism, which Objectivism rejects, and Objectivism also has a very broad view of what constitutes "good"... someone doesn't need to be a rich businessman to embody human greatness), and Objectivists do not hate the environment but rather envrionmentalism (and the creepy religious attitude some environmentalists take towards "untouched nature") - basically, Objectivists support an anthropocentric view of conservation (i.e. the environment should be preserved when it is in the rational interests of human beings to do so) rather than the "nature for its own sake" view (i.e. the environment is valuable in itself, irrespective of its consequences for human beings).
Again, thank you very much for your inquiry.
About your question about the word "sacrifice". An Objectivist would most often define sacrifice as an action along the lines of "giving something you value away in return for something you don't value." This is of course a very subjective thing for a philosophy called Objectivism. Pro exemplum: Ms Rand would see a person tithing money to their church as sacrificial because of her atheism, a person giving money (something of value) to an institution supporting God (something of no value to her) and that is a sacrifice. While that person may in fact value the tithe very, very much, Ms Rand made it very clear then that in her mind, her views were exclusive. But we have also spent much time before talking about how modern thought is very much away from Ms Rand's.
This was very much a product of her times, where politicians, especially the ones of her homeland, would say things to the effect of "we must all make sacrifices (implying the short term privations sense of the word) for the Greater Good." When of course they just meant "give me all your things and be happy about it."
I concern myself more with the epistemology of this worldview, so forgive me if this is basic history, but do we know why Ms Rand did not have children? Did she simply choose not to, did she consider it beneath her, was she barren, do we know at all? etc...
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for contributing to this thread, by the way. I greatly appreciate it.
To be honest, I don't remember why Rand decided not to have children. Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand makes it clear Rand herself loved children, and held them in very high regard (she saw them as uncorrupted by the irrationality of much of general society (and on an unrelated note, Rand's respect for the youth is one of my favorite things about Objectivism)). But in spite of this, she didn't seem to want children herself. If the book offered any explanation as to why, I don't remember it.
A Freudian Excuse may be that Rand did not get along very well with her own mother and this may lend credence to the theory that she didn't want to be her mother herself. This is a just a speculation, however.
Sorry I can't give any more information on the subject.
First, my obligatory thanks for this resource. Most Objectivists I've met (both IRL and online) seem to be the froth-at-the-mouth, "Logic is important and you have emotions so you are dumb and the poor should die in the streets," nominally Objectivist "Randroids," as someone here so amusingly put it. Which is sad, because I'm honestly trying to gain an understanding of the philosophy here, and all I'm getting are Internet trolls who act like I did at age 14. So, thanks!
And now my question - "sacrifice" seems to be defined in a way (by Rand) that makes it an impossible action for a person to undertake. I understand the context of her rage at those who demand sacrifice for king and country, and such, but I can't think of any instance where someone would trade something for something they consider to be of lesser value. If someone is willingly performing an action, they do so under the assumption (correct or not) that the action will change their situation to be more valuable to them. So even if someone is sacrificing a dollar for a penny, I'd argue that they'd never do it while thinking that the penny is less valuable. Maybe it's a commemorative coin. Maybe it has sentimental value. Perhaps the guy just needed to throw something and dollars are just too floaty.
My point is, the act of choosing to make anything that Rand would consider a sacrifice necessarily indicates the value of the "sacrificed" object (or goat or whatever) as being lesser than the value of what they are receiving - if only from the point of view of the sacrificer.
Now, if her argument against giving too much of yourself to someone or something who didn't deserve it were "Now please consider if the cause you're giving yourself to is really worth it!" then this would all make a lot more sense. Perhaps she was attempting to illustrate that people were giving themselves to a cause that didn't benefit them by defining "sacrifice" in such a way - but that doesn't remove the inherent contradiction in the definition.
I just noticed that there's no actual question in there. Um...I guess I wonder if the contradiction is actually acknowledged by modern Objectivists, and if not, am I just wrong?
(To be honest, the philosopher I'm actually reading and not just TV Tropesing about ATM is Kant, whose philosophy, as I understand it, Rand detested, so I might just be in a Rand-aversionary mood right now if she's correct about their differences. I'd make an a priori knowledge pun here, but that might be pushing it.)
First, I'm glad you found the page informative. I greatly appreciate it. Also, my condolences about how some other Objectivists have acted... when I was first starting to research Objectivism I had a similar problem.
Second, I'll address your point about Kant. Rand did indeed hate Kant but I believe she targetted him a bit unfairly. Rand's criticisms of Kant were more accurate when dealing with his intellectual successors like Fichte and Hegel.. I would not have applied them to Kant. Are Kant and Rand as different as Rand alleges? At one point Rand said Kant took the exact opposite position to her on every philosophical issue. This, I disagree with. Both of them were classical liberals in politics, for one. Additionally, Kant's morality was not Comtean altruism... he wasn't an egoist and it is arguable that by a broad definition ("living for something other than oneself") Kant's ethics were selfless (Kant can be read as arguing one should live for the sake of abstract moral principles). But this is not the exact opposite to Rand's ethics. Epistemology is where they show the most differences; Kant was an indirect realist (whereas Rand was a direct realist) and a rationalist-conceptualist (he believed our conceptual knowledge came from making deductions from our a priori knowledge) whereas Rand was an empiricist-conceptualst. Kant can also be read as a skeptic of sorts (some of Kant's intellectual successors pushed the skepticism side of things... I'd say Foucault counts as an example of this), although whether or not he is one is debatable. Needless to say I wouldn't consider Kant to be the "exact opposite" of Rand, philosophically speaking. They disagreed on quite a bit, but Rand's demonization of him is a touch excessive in my view.
Third, your point about Rand's definition of "sacrifice". To be honest, I think when Rand talked about "sacrifice" in utilitarian terms, she created unnecessary confusion since Comtean altruism is a deontological morality. She obviously argued that if one thinks in an altruistic way (i.e. holds to Comtean altruism) one's actions will at least try to line up with this and as such the person is likely to perform consequentially-altruistic sacrifices for the sake of others. However, as to your point that sacrifice (in the consequential sense) is impossible for a person to undertake, you are assuming that Psychological Egoism (the proposition that everyone is inevitably self-interested) is correct. Most philosophers would probably disagree with Psychological Egoism, and I discussed it above in my reply to Uzytkownik.
Also, you bring up "value," but you are talking solely in terms of instrumental value for that agent's goals. That is a different kind of value to what Rand meant. Value, when she was talking about ethics rather than economics, means instrumental value for helping that agent live on a level proper to that agent's nature (Life as Human Qua Human). Agents could select goals other than this, thus meaning they aren't being rationally egoistic even if they act in a manner which helps them achieves the goal they select.
Also, as for your example of "trading a penny for a dollar," Rand was using that in the context of the climactic Character Filibuster in Atlas Shrugged. She couldn't put fine qualifications and contextual considerations into a speech which had to be written in dramatic and sweeping language. It is quite possible that someone could enjoy throwing pennies and making them skip across the water... this kind of hobby produces fun and humans need to feel pleasure in their lives to live a proper existence. Would I think in certain contexts there might be a rational basis for exchanging a dollar for a penny? Yes, I do.
Again, thanks for your compliments and I hope the above material proves useful to you.
What happens when two Objectivists have a baby? If they feed it, they are "rewarding" it for being weak, which is the ultimate evil to them.
If you honestly think this, I think you haven't even read the main page's section on Objectivist ethics.
First, if two Objectivists have a baby, said Objectivists obviously consider a baby to be a value to them. It is in their interests to preserve their values, i.e. feed their baby.
Second, charity is not "rewarding weakness." Please see Dr. David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism for more on the subject of how benevolence is actually a virtue to Objectivism.
Third, even Rand herself explicitly denies the example you propose. Quoting from Galt's speech,
"Sacrifice" is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.
If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is."
I have read the page, I'm just not very good at ethics. If an Objectivist can choose to value things besides wealth and power, what's stopping you from saying that the fact that no one in your country is starving to death, for the trivial personal cost of paying taxes, has value to you? I'm not a troll.
First, Objectivism doesn't say you should value things arbitrarily, i.e. just choose to value something for no reason at all. Objectivism argues you should value that which is in your rational interests. And yes, this generally includes (to a certain extent) the interests of others (see Dr. David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism). After all, Objectivism denies that the world is a zero-sum game; the benefit of one doesn't require any cost to anyone else.
Now, if an Objectivist comes to the conclusion that it is in their rational interests to live in a country where no one starves to death, would it be alright for them to be taxed?
Your question assumes that the only way that absolute poverty can be avoided is with government welfare programs. This is a false assumption. There is, for instance, voluntary charity, and many Objectivists choose to donate to voluntary charity. Also, before government welfare even existed, there were voluntary charitable groups like various church charity programs, friendly societies and benevolent societies. Worker's Unions once actually provided some level of welfare services to members that had fallen on hard times.
Unfortunately, when government welfare came into the equation, these voluntary institutions were "crowded out." This is why they don't exist any more.
Another thing that needs to be pointed out is that Objectivism doesn't oppose taxation because of it being spent on welfare. Objectivism opposes taxation because it is forced. You can't choose to not pay your taxes; the government will throw you in jail if you don't. Your example talks about an Objectivist that voluntarily has a willingness to pay to provide assistance for those in need; but if someone is willing to pay for this, no taxation is needed (voluntary donations would be made instead). Taxation is by definition coercive. Whether someone is willing or not willing to pay is irrelevant to the IRS.
Finally, and this is just a small issue, Objectivism does not value power (in the sense of coercion against others). Indeed, in The Fountainhead, Rand describes the person that lusts for power over others as the worst kind of psychological parasite.
The problem with that thinking that tax is bad is that there are certain actions for which collective action is neccesary, such as environmental regulations to keep individual decisions that have no significant influence on their own from piling up to form a problem (even market-friendly methods, like carbon trading, requires government regulation, and it is in everyone's individual interest to do environmentally unfriendly things- but also in everyone's interest for everyone else to be environmentally friendly), safety standards and truth-in-advertising laws to keep our purchases from killing us without our knowledge, and roads and other such infrastructure. If any of these were left to private interests, due to difficulty of recieving income from many of them privately, there would be no incentive to do it, and if it was possible to refuse taxes, since as a citizen you would still recieve the benefits like everybody else, there would be an incentive to be a free rider. Taxation may be less than ideal, but as long as the free market system exists, it is an absolute neccesity to preserve certain neccesary services that the system cannot otherwise provide. How does Objectivism respond to stuff like that, neccesary stuff for which taxation and government is neccesary, stuff that is in the interest of everyone on the whole in terms of safety and health that they couldn't obtain on their own, but not in the immediate personal interest in the short term?
Okay, I understand now. I had it confused with the "poverty is a choice, just work harder" attitude that some fiscal conservatives have. Thank you.
Glad I could clarify things for you. I should add, however, I have never seen any fiscal conservative argue that "all poverty is a choice which can be solved by hard work." Additionally, there is a difference between arguing "all poverty is a choice" and "some poor people make some choices that can contribute to their poverty." People aren't powerless, pathetic victims, after all.
First, I want to thank you for your politely worded and intelligent comment.
Lets be clear; the actual finer points of politics are debated even amongst Objectivists. Rand herself advocated an Ultraminimal State, being the same position advocated by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State and Utopia. This consists of a single State where citizens pay for government services. However, many Objectivists are actually standard-issue libertarian Minarchists that argue for slightly larger amounts of government than Rand herself did (for various reasons). On the other hand, there are some Objectivists that are full-blown free-market Anarchists that believe the State should not exist and be replaced with freely competing protection services.
Rand herself was indeed opposed to coercive taxation (this is the primary argument made by the Free-Market Anarchist Objectivists; opposition to coercive taxation inevitably leads to Free-Market Anarchy). But most Objectivists are of the Minarchist variety and thus believe some level of taxation is inevitable and necessary to secure a night-watchman State. So not all Objectivists are against all taxation. The majority accept taxation that is sufficient to guarantee national defense, police and law courts, and some accept slightly more depending on their own individual position as to how small the state can get.
Also, I'd like to clarify that Free Market Economics (and this is not merely the Objectivist position, but the position of every free-market advocate) doesn't mean "you can do anything" but rather "you can do anything that is not the initiation of violence, fraud or threats thereof." Truth In Advertising (as a general principle) is thus required by the ban on fraud (deception is a form of fraud). This would also include warning labels for potentially dangerous products. Additionally, there is a substantial economic case that even without regulation, a genuine free market for a specific good is the best way to make it safer.
You also raise the issue of externalities. However, many externalities can be dealt with via private property rights. For instance, party A owns a factory which is dumping pollution into a river owned by party B. This means party A is violating the private property rights of party B. For more on this (as well as free market solutions to externalities) please check out the Coase Theorem and The Tragedy of the Commons.
You also look at the issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming. This is one externality that admittedly cannot be dealt with via the Coase Theorem, assuming it is true. Many Objectivists, including myself, are skeptics about Anthropogenic Global Warming, and for every intellectually honesty AGW supporter like Judith Curry, there are plenty of AGW supporters that seem to have a philosophical commitment to environmentalism (and who lambast mankind's "Promethean Arrogance" and want to see us all humbled and brought down low). In all cases, I believe that if AGW is indeed empirically correct, then the most cost-effective solution is technological improvement and geo-engineering. There are substantial private businesses already working on low-cost geo-engineering solutions, see Freakonomics 2 for more on this (there's a chapter that deals with AGW).
I should add, not all Objectivists would agree with me on details of practical implementations of solutions to the problems you raise. Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to implement a principle. As I said there is debate amongst Objectivists as to the smallest proper scope of the State, as well as to whether or not there may be problems that cannot be fixed via voluntary methods. As for my own personal leanings, I actually believe that in the absense of a significant improvement in the general moral character (by Objectivist standards) of most human beings, the smallest government that could be practically achieved is a Hayek-style minarchy (Police, Military, Justice System, no central bank, denationalized money supply, an absolutely minimal safety net via a negative income tax, privatize as much infrastructure as possible and in cases where it is not possible it should be delegated to the lowest and most decentralized level of government possible, and no more tax than absolutely necessary to fund this).
However, not all Objectivists share my position on this issue. This is why on the main page I stuck with ideology and stated that there are differences amongst Objectivists as to the best way to implement it.
Ah, kay. I have some disagreements here on privatization of certain resources, but many of those disagreements are philosophical in nature, and as such irrelevant to bring up on a page dedicated to discussion of a specific philosophy, unless I feel like getting into a pointless shouting match in which we both repeat our stance but with added profanity, and I don't really feel like that today.
I'm sorry to hear about the global climate change thing- as a student of environmental policy, I've been taught by my university that there is little to no academic debate on the matter, and as such I tend to be wary and/or annoyed by people who persist in questioning it, but the scope of that debate is beyond the intended content of this discussion page, and as such think we should leave that there.
As for the leaving the free market to deal with all externalities... that only works in cases where the externalities have low jointness and low exclusion costs. Air pollution, for example, is really, really, really hard to privatize a solution for, since the damaged party is an entire population- and the only representative of an entire population, of course, is the government of that population. And since air currents and such cause certain types of pollution to have effects extremely far removed from the site of origin, it becomes on a distance scale such that larger branches of government acting are neccesary to avoid communication problems and red tape of multiple city and state governments trying to form a coherent response to a group of coal plants spewing mercury and sulfur. It is really hard to privatize air and make it voluntary-payment-only, on the grounds that getting people to only breathe when they pay the air bill is not yet feasible. Water rights are well and good- but rivers flow through multiple parties' properties, and so what may be acceptable to a party upstream might not be so acceptable to one downstream, creating a nightmare of negotiation. And then there's the issue of runoff, where hundreds of square miles drain into single bodies of water- can the owner of the body of water, or a stretch of river, sue the entire watershed?
In any case, the highest amount of free market concievable still requires government (and thus, taxation to fund it, since voluntary payment to the government causes a free rider problem) to distribute new property rights, settle border disputes and protect those property rights, but I think that falls under what you've said as acceptable.
I agree about leaving the debate about AGW off this page since it is beyond the scope of this topic. Interesting to hear that you're a student of environmental policy. I was educated as an economist (both on Undergrad and Postgrad levels). I will say though that I am a little disappointed you were taught that there is no academic debate on the subject; I've seen plenty in the realm of economics (although most of it wrangles over the best way to deal with the problem assuming it exists, and my position in that case is geo-engineering).
Regardless, you are correct that isn't the topic to be discussed here. Regarding air pollution, I will agree that it is very difficult to deal with and you make some good points about practical issues relating to water catchment areas and resultant negotiation. I never denied these subjects were complex; I merely said that private solutions were a possibility. Irrespective, you do raise important practical considerations.
Whilst I don't necessarily agree that the highest level of free market concievable requires government (I would, however, accept that the highest level of free market classical liberalism that is practical assuming the moral character of most human beings remains what it currently is would indeed require a government), you are correct that there is nothing un-free-market about government enforcing property rights. Property rights are an assumption of free market economics (a logical prerequisite; indeed there are three basic conditions for economic evolution and one of those is property rights (the other two are a stable currency or currencies, and the rule of law).
Of course problems can result if the government institutionalizes property rights in a bad manner, but practical details relating to the design of such systems are beyond the scope of this page.
Again, thank you for your polite questions and responses and measured criticisms. I wish you the best in your future studies!
What I largely object to in the philosophy of Objectivism is the seeming unackqwledged hypocrisy of how it's modern followers seem to engage in revising it's philosophy... when Ayn Rand herself objected to that. Studiode Kadent, you've acknowledged some of the flaws in Rand's logic on the discussion page here, and, to their credit, the Atlas Society does so as well, in articles like this one: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth-32-2298-DementiaQA.aspx. But, while others (yes, including subjective me) have described the flaws of Rand's philosophy using inflammatory language on the main wiki, until now, you've not simply removed inflammatory language, you've removed all mention of the flaw, and have continued to downplay them; it is nearly impossible to talk, or learn, about Objectivism itself without mentioning that Rand based it on her own admittedly flawed worldview. The problem is, Rand herself believed she had no flaws. This, admittedly, bothers many modern Objectivists, so they modify her theories, which may be all for the best, but people need to know about Objectvism as Rand first conceived it, warts and all, in order to understand how modern Objectvists have modified her theories, a la Martin Luther, to fit a more inclusive perception of the world. These post-modern modifications need to be acknowledged, detailed, and catalogued as well, otherwise it appears to the average subjective layman as though Objectivists are moving the goalposts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moving_the_goalposts in order to create a "Book of Brady", https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InheritTheWind as it were.
You are still not separating the philosophy from the philosopher.
Objectivist scholarship has made several advances since Rand's death and the simple fact of the matter is Ayn Rand does not "own" Objectivism.
It is important to represent Objectivism in an up to date fashion. After all, a Useful Notes article on biology that didn't deal with advances in the field would be useless.
Rand's positions on, say, gender roles (positions which most modern day Objectivists believe contradict Objectivist Epistemology and Metaphysics (see Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand published by Penn State Press)) or homosexuality (again, a position most Objectivists believe contradicts her underlying philosophy (see Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Ayn Rand, Homosexuality and Human Liberation)) are absolutely inessential to Objectivism. Apart from the fact they arguably are contradictions of the more fundamental philosophical tenets she espoused, they have no import whatsoever on her epistemology, politics, metaphysics or ethics. They are flawed and false applications of the underlying principles.
This page deals with the underlying principles. It deliberately avoids spelling out specific applications because reasonable people acting in accordance with the same principles can still disagree on the correct application. This fact is acknowledged by and built into Objectivist epistemology (empirical context, for instance). They can also be acting on different levels of knowledge about a specific subject, and an important part of Objectivist ethics is distinguishing between an error of knowledge and a deliberate refusal to be rational.
For all the accusations that members of Objectivism's Hatedom fling towards Objectivists for being "Rand worshippers," it is the Objectivists that want to move beyond Ayn Rand herself and actually work on advancing and evolving the philosophy. The Hatedom on the other hand is still utterly fixated on Rand herself to a point that would probably even embarrass the most fundamentalist Randroid out there.
I don't care if Ayn Rand said her philosophy shouldn't be revised and that to be an Objectivist one must accept everything she wrote. On that issue she was wrong. Nathaniel Branden and David Kelley (the latter being the head of The Atlas Society) both agree with me, as do several Rand-influenced academics such as Chris Matthew Sciabarra (who has been much more effective at purging the Objectivist movement of its residual anti-nonheterosexual sentiments and demonstrating the flaws in Rand's uninformed position than any number of Objectivism's Hatedom who screech "Ayn Rand was incorrect about the morality of homosexuality and therefore every single thing she said was false and anyone that shares her positions on anything else is a gay basher").
Shrieker was correct that ideally, Rand's personality would be a non-issue. Only the most insane Straw Feminist would argue that Aristotelian logic is sexist because Aristotle was a wife-beater. And yes, the cultlike devotion of some nominally-Objectivist people (who can be utter fundamentalists) has made Rand's personal virtues and vices a much more important issue than it should be. But Objectivism's Hatedom make it an issue just as much, because argumentum ad hominem is much easier than rational argument.
I should add, we actually have an author page for Ayn Rand and it does mention her Draco in Leather Pants-ing of Hickman, as well as the hypocrisy she at times succumbed to. I didn't delete those mentions either. I separated them into a different paragraph because her personality issues, quirks and such should be dealt with as a separate issue. And yes, I also specified that she's even been criticized by Objectivists for this, because it happens to be true. If you want to discuss her personality, the correct place to do it is on the Ayn Rand page, not the main page here.
The core tenent of Objectivism is that there is one true worldview. That worldview is implicity defined by Rand herself. Rand believed that her philosophy had no flaws, and that to question them was "Anti-Life." I am not trying to insult you or hurt you by saying this. I am telling you this in order to give you a context for what I am about to say next: The new generation of Objectivists has evolved Rand's theories. This places a great distance between modern Objectivists and the Objectivists of the past. Each hold different worldviews. By questioning, rewriting, and expanding upon her philosophies, you and most modern Objectivists have inadvertently founded a revisionist "New School" of Objectivist thinking. What I'm saying here is that we need to put Objectivism in a context, go into it's history, and it's innovations. We need more context, more history, and more on how traditionalist Objectivist views have given way to a more inclusive Objectivist worldview. You need to tell us these things in as neutral a way as possible in order to make the Useful Notes section more complete.
And, as you may recall by looking at the wiki's edit history, I added in the parts about Hickman and Rand's rather scathing biography, while you have been deleting all other mentions of Hickman, regardless of who put them there and however inflammatory they may have been, instead of toning some of them down. And yes, I take the blame for one of them, and apologize. These don't render my other critiques irrelevant. When it comes to philosophy, rejecting it's context comes across as a lie of omission. Look at communism. In itself, "Each according to his ability and need" is a philosophy that needs to be looked at in terms of how it impacted society and history. It's the same with Objectivism.
Let me go through the assertions you make.
The core tenent of Objectivism is that there is one true worldview
Incorrect. The basic axioms of the system are Existence, Identity and Consciousness. And whilst Objectivism does indeed argue that a worldview can indeed be correct or incorrect, the Objectivist understanding of certainty is contextual. Even Ayn Rand herself drew a sharp distinction between Objectivism and what she called intrinsicism, and it is intrinsicism to argue for a "static" kind of certainty which need not care about empirical evidence or advances in knowledge. And yes, some of Ayn Rand's own personal behavior did, at times, fall into intrinsicism. Indeed, some nominal Objectivists (the fundamentalist ones) do indeed practice a form of intrinsicism which they pretend is Objectivism.
That worldview is implicity defined by Rand herself.
Actually Rand defined her worldview on the basis of its core ideas. Not only that but the essential element of a philosophy is its content.
Rand believed that her philosophy had no flaws, and that to question them was "Anti-Life."
Technically speaking, this fluctuated depending on her mood. In a bad mood she had a persecution complex, believed the majority of the culture was corrupt and inevitably in decline (not a completely unreasonable position to take given the abuse she sufferred at the hands of the intellectual elite after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, but not a completely reasonable position either), and that any attempt to question was essentially betrayal. She had many personality traits common to those people that fight a long and lonely battle for ideas. So yes, in a bad mood, she was like this.
In a good mood, however, she was much less dogmatic and demanding. Whilst she did indeed believe her philosophy to be correct, she openly said (repeatedly) that the final arbiter of truth or falsehood of an idea is whether or not said idea corresponds to reality. This would imply that if she wasn't in a bad mood she'd modify her stances when confronted with evidence.
Additionally, Rand openly said if a theory didn't like being questioned, it needed to be questioned (or "a boat that can't be rocked should be rocked, and hard" or words to that effect). Just because she was, at times, a hypocrite, does not mean her hypocrisy is somehow encoded into the ideas themselves.
What I'm saying here is that we need to put Objectivism in a context, go into it's history, and it's innovations. We need more context, more history, and more on how traditionalist Objectivist views have given way to a more inclusive Objectivist worldview.
Now, that is a fruitful suggestion. The problem is that 1) the article is already extremely long and some forum threads already argue for shortening it, 2) there is still a strain of orthodox "Objectivists" that essentially argue for a fundamentalist adherence to "whatever Ayn Rand said is Objectivism, nothing else is, Rand is goddess" (and even most of them agree she was wrong about gender roles and homosexuality) who would object, and 3) it is superfluous. The purpose of this page is to summarize the essentials of Objectivism. The (admittedly brief) intellectual history of Objectivism is not required to understand the content of the philosophy itself.
The problem is that there is still a strain of orthodox "Objectivists" that essentially argue for a fundamentalist adherence to "whatever Ayn Rand said is Objectivism, nothing else is, Rand is goddesss.
Yes. I get this. I understand this more than you could possibly know. But even though most modern Objectivists disagree with that Old School, you need to acknowledge that it exists, and explain it's flaws on the Useful Notes page itself, mostly because it's gaining popularity in the modern media again. My own Uncle cited old-school Objectivism, Rand's original ideas, and the Ubermench while explaning to my family that people should start "getting rid of" those who were a drain on society: First, he said, they'd start with the elderly, then those with mental disabilities and Down Syndrome, and then, well, they'd work their way up. First, I think I should mention: I and my sister Aiguille have cerebral palsy. Our great aunt is suffering from Alzheimer's. Secondly, the poem "First they came..." doesn't mention the disabled, elderly, or for that matter, homosexuals, but, at the risk of Godwinning myself, that's how "they" began. Thirdly, when asked where he got these lovely ideas regarding Objectivism, my Uncle proudly proclaimed that he heard them from Rush Limbaugh. So yeah.
First, you have my sincerest condolences for the deeply offensive and irrational statements your Uncle made.
However, even the orthodox Objectivists would not support these statements and Ayn Rand herself certainly did not.
Lets look at what your Uncle said; first, that the disabled should be "gotten rid of" because they were "a drain on society." This is such an obvious contradiction to Objectivism (even orthodox Objectivism) it should not even need to be mentioned, but the rationale of "drain on society" is a collectivist rationale. It presupposes that individuals justify their existence by whether or not they are of service to society or not (thus those individuals that aren't can be 'gotten rid of'). Rand herself explicitly rejected this idea.
Additionally, if your Uncle believed Nietzsche supported his point, your Uncle clearly hasn't even the slightest understanding of what Nietzsche actually believed, and clearly has no grasp of the concept of Übermensch.
Finally, he claims he got these ideas from Rush Limbaugh. Rush is a conservative Christian, Rand was an atheist libertarian, and Rush has often criticized atheism as being Darwinist and libertarianism as being immoral. Perhaps Rush was deliberately distorting the ideas? Or more likely, perhaps Rush is dumb as a brick and doesn't understand Objectivism?
I don't want you to consider this an attack on you, but if your Uncle thinks Rush Limbaugh is a reliable source on political philosophy, that doesn't say particularly good things about your Uncle.
Regardless of this, the point remains that not even orthodox Objectivists, and not even Ayn Rand, accepted that "people with Cerebral Palsy or Alzheimer's Disease are less than human."
I should add, that even the orthodox Objectivists (basically the Ayn Rand Institute) have rejected Rand's positions on sexual preference and gender roles (these being the two positions she is on record having that seem rather outdated to someone with today's level of knowledge on the subject). So even if it is the orthodox Objectivists that are getting popular in the media, they are not advocating traditional gender roles, anti-nonheterosexualism, or social darwinism.
You do, however, raise an important concern; these misconceptions about what Objectivism promotes could be dealt with more directly on the main page itself. The problem is that if I did a "common misconceptions about Objectivism" section, it would become flame bait in a second. Every Objectivism-hater on this site would probably descend in and make copious amounts of edits with the intent of presenting Objectivism as a "philosophy of rape" that "supports social darwinism" and "thinks the poor should die" and "wants to herd any gay or bisexual person into a death camp" (all of which are false, including even the last one (because Ayn Rand argued homosexuality should not be illegal, even if she once stated she thought it was immoral (and I should add, she actually changed that opinion when she was in a good mood))).
My main concern with making an edit about misconceptions and bad-apples of Objectivism getting their own section is that most other Useful Notes do not have those sections either.
The page on Christianity does not discuss Fred Phelps or any number of other modern heretics. The page on Islam spends more time talking about Muhammed and al-Ghazali than bin Laden; and it seems a tad intellectually dishonest to demand that this page deal with those who give us bad names while that is not the point of synopsis material, especially on a "synopsis" page that far outstrips the Wikipedia page of the same topic in length.
Perhaps Rush was deliberately distorting the ideas? Or more likely, perhaps Rush is dumb as a brick and doesn't understand Objectivism?.... I don't want you to consider this an attack on you, but if your Uncle thinks Rush Limbaugh is a reliable source on political philosophy, that doesn't say particularly good things about your Uncle.
Ah, see, now we agree.
The problem is that if I did a "common misconceptions about Objectivism" section, it would become flame bait in a second. Every Objectivism-hater on this site would probably descend in and make copious amounts of edits with the intent of presenting Objectivism as a "philosophy of rape" that "supports social darwinism" and "thinks the poor should die" and "wants to herd any gay or bisexual person into a death camp"
Foryn10:02:06 PM Jun 21st 2010 My main concern with making an edit about misconceptions and bad-apples of Objectivism getting their own section is that most other Useful Notes do not have those sections either.
But if you both are worried about an Edit War and length, you could search for and provide a blue link to a non-wiki page which goes into more detail about the evolution from old to new objectivism, and the common misconceptions that come with the new school. It would be relatively easy to restore if someone deleted it. Do some of the Atlas Society pages mention either of those things?
I'm glad we agree, but at what time have even orthodox Objectivists, or even Ayn Rand herself, ever given the impression of even the slightest level of similarity to the Christian Conservatives? Indeed, Ayn Rand was deliberately made a pariah in the conservative movement by Conservative Christian William F. Buckley Jr (because after finding out he was a Catholic, Ayn told him "you're too smart to believe in God"... Buckley retaliated by having Caustic Critic and former commie spy Whittaker Chambers write a "review" of Atlas Shrugged that clearly Did Not Do The Research).
Even an orthodox, non-revisionist, "Ayn Rand Is Goddess" Randroid (which, may I add, doesn't describe all the members of the Ayn Rand Institute or all of their donors and supporters either) has not even the slightest intellectual similarity to people like Rush Limbaugh. Whilst both claim to support free market economics, only the Objectivist has any level of logical consistency about the issue (Rush and his ilk would tax, regulate and ban anything they consider immoral). And I can promise you Ayn Rand, if she were alive today, would consider Limbaugh a thick-skulled theocratic moron and a mystic that lusts to drag humanity back into the dark ages.
And yes, the Atlas Society has pages on the current position of Objectivism on issues such as homosexuality, social darwinism etc. I think ARI also has a page on homosexuality (and yes, it too disagrees with Ayn Rand's initial position). I still, however, don't see need for stating these. A Useful Notes page on Kantianism wouldn't have to include Kant's position on masturbation (that it is a perfect duty to never ever jack off because doing so is using oneself as a means to an end and thus violating the Categorical Imperative) in order to be complete. A Useful Notes page on Aristotelianism wouldn't have to include Aristotle's belief that women were an incomplete, "botched" male in order to be complete. A Useful Notes page on Isaac Newton wouldn't have to cover Newton's work in the field of Alchemy in order to be complete.
Useful Notes is meant to be a summary. We have a Useful Notes page on black holes and it by no means goes into all the complex mathematical equations or the like. It also doesn't cover the (admittedly few) theories that argue black holes do not exist.
I simply don't see how Ayn Rand's mistakes are essential to the underlying principles of Objectivism. Plus, as you already know from this discussion page, if anyone has any questions as to the philosophy that aren't answered on the main page, I am more than happy to answer them.
Studiode Kadent, to nitpick here, (Quote)A Useful Notes page on Isaac Newton wouldn't have to cover Newton's work in the field of Alchemy in order to be complete.(End Quote)A Wseful Notes page ignoring a significant portion of the life it was describing would, in fact, be incomplete.
However, this is not a page describing Ayn Rand, it is a page describing Objectivism. Thus, a better analogy would be how a page about Newton's Laws of Motion could be complete without discussing his work in alchemy. The point is valid even if that specific analogy was flawed.
You are correct. My analogy was false; I should've said "a page on Newtonian Physics" rather than "a page on Isaac Newton." Thank you for pointing out the problem.
Thank you for correcting the analogy. You are correct, it was not the best way to describe the point I was making.
Not a problem. Just wanted to make sure everything was running smoothly.
All I've been reading on the Objectivism pages is that when Ayn Rand said and did certain things, what she said and did isn't really what she meant. It says homosexuality is not condemned under Objectivism when Ayn Rand condemned it herself It says she objected to Comte's form of altruism alone, when she is quoted as lauding praise on a serial killer, as "a truly beautiful soul." http://www.michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm It sounds to me as though this pages editors are consistently using the "No True Scotsman" ad hoc argument http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman to justify their own subjective interpretation of Objectivism.
The troper who wrote the page is an Objectivist. One who consistently gotten rid of any and all criticism of Ayn Rand he has come across, with either a very long explanation of how according to Objectivist theories the criticism is inaccurate/unimportant, or a claim that TV Tropes has no business judging anything she does and therefore it doesn't belong here. Is you seriously want to change the page, you are going to have to fight a long battle for it, methinks.
I'd been thinking about this too. Because while a phiosophy can be correct even if its creator was a horrible person, Objectivism is very closely tied to what Ayn Rand herself wrote, so I don't know how you can brush aside things she said if you are an Objectivist.
I'd like to know Studiode Kadent's thoughts on the whole "idolizing a serial killer thing".
Also, as for the definition of altruism, that smacks of Personal Dictionary. Rand might have meant it only in regard to Comte, but that's not how 99.99% of people interpret the word.
Attempt to be unbiased:
About the altruism thing, Ms Rand was very much an adherent to the idea that words mean what they mean regardless of what the common conception of them is. It goes back to some of her epistemological fundamentals, A is A, all that is is all that is and such... e.g You can't just change word meanings all willy-nilly, no matter if everyone agrees they suddenly mean something differently. She also goes into that in her essays on selfishness where she claims that the conceived notions of words twist the actual meanings of the words until they're no longer viable for discussion.
Objectivism is one of those ideas/movements that is very hard to separate from its creator simply because of Rand's style, she was very blunt and made it clear that, to her, it was an "all or nothing" idea. You bought accepted the whole package or none of it and so now we (Objectivists) have things that we realize, that maybe that wasn't such a smart thing to say, but for the sake of intellectual honesty, they have to be accepted or we aren't being "true" to the roots. I don't think that at all, but I'm not the page's janitorial staff.
Yes, Ayn Rand condemned homosexuality. But "what Ayn Rand said" and "what is logically consistent with the principles of Objectivism" aren't necessarily the same thing. Yes, for all the criticism Shrieker levels at me for being unwilling to tolerate criticism of Ayn Rand, I do believe on several occasions, Rand made mistakes. I also believe these mistakes are contrary to the philosophy of Objectivism, even if these mistakes were committed by Ayn Rand.
I am not the only Objectivist that believes Ayn Rand made mistakes. Even the most 'conservative' Objectivists out there generally agree that sexual orientation is not a matter open to moral judgment. There are non-heterosexual Objectivists, as well. Objectivism is an empiricist philosophy and thus as knowledge expands, points can be revised to incorporate the new knowledge.
There is nothing logically fallacious about separating the set of ideas (the philosophy) from the person that first codified them (the philosopher). Aristotle was a wife-beating sexist, but we don't accuse everyone that agrees with Aristotle's metaphysics of being a sexist wife-beater.
As for the point about Comtean altruism, this article contains a link to a peer-reviewed journal article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies which validates my statement. Yes, it is the settled opinion of every single Randian out there that Rand was attacking Comtean altruism. Her definition of altruism was the definition used by Auguste Comte. I have absolutely not the slightest idea how Hickman has any relevance whatsoever to this subject.
Shrieker accuses me of removing any criticisms of Ayn Rand I find. This isn't entirely true, but yes I do remove criticisms that are inaccurate. I don't see what is wrong with accuracy. The whole point of Useful Notes is to correct frequently made mistakes.
So, one may ask why I didn't include, for instance, statements on Rand's position on sexual orientation, gender roles or Hickman (three areas I think Rand was indeed mistaken). There are two reasons for this. The first is that these positions are utterly inessential to Objectivism as a philosophy. Immanuel Kant argued that masturbation was a violation of the categorical imperative, but no one is going to argue that this is an essential part of his philosophy. The second reason is simple; Rand's Hatedom will attempt to argue that these inessential points somehow 'disprove' Rand's fundamental ideas, or (even worse) use the inessential points to obfuscate the actual fundamental tenets of Objectivism.
I would not edit away an informed, intelligent criticism of Ayn Rand's ideas. But when she is completely distorted and straw manned, I don't see how it is wrong for me to edit it. The is probably no other philosopher apart from Nietzsche for whom deliberately distorting their fundamental arguments is considered an acceptable practice. At least Nietzsche is being rehabilitated in that regard, but it is still considered a veritable duty to never look at Objectivism in an impartial, honest fashion.
This is a useful notes page. It is meant to be up to date and deal with the subjects it covers in an accurate, impartial fashion. That is what this page does. It outlines the essential points of Objectivism, leaves out the inessentials, and is based upon the latest scholarship on the subject.
In short, there is more to "Objectivism" (the philosophy) than Ayn Rand (the philosopher). There are plenty of Rand-influenced thinkers that have taken her ideas in many new directions and spelled out the implications.
Finally, for those that want to see more criticism on Rand the person, this is a page on the philosophy she established. Her personal life is absolutely irrelevant to the subject (in the same way that Aristotle's wife-beating doesn't disprove his work). Yes, she practiced consensual polyamory. How shocking and appalling! Obviously this means the woman was an evil bitch!
I think Rand made a mistake in her temporary infatuation with Hickman.
As for how Objectivists can disagree with Ayn Rand, just remember that not all Catholics agree with the Pope. Not all Kantians agree with everything written by Immanuel Kant.
Objectivism is a body of ideas. It is not undying devotion to a person. Rand made some mistakes. I, and most Objectivists, dealt with that a while ago.
As for Rand's definitions of selfishness and altruism, she makes them very clear in her introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness (as Foryn stated).
There is a somewhat interesting article I found while wandering the web. I do believe Ayn Rand went beyond just 'making mistakes on several occasions'.
And Studiode Kadent,
Your objection would be a lot better if you hadn't rewritten Ayn Rand's page and those of her books to remove nearly everything that might portray her in an unflattering light beyond 'some people disagree with her or find her ideas controversial'. And your claim that you are only removing things that are 'inaccurate' would be more believable if it weren't for the fact that some criticism that gets added is completely accurate, and you try to delete it or downplay it anyway.
Yes, I have read that article. Yes, the Nathaniel Branden Institute of the 1960's and 1970's did have a significant level of cult-like tendencies. Sometimes, some Objectivists haven't been the best adherents of their own nominal philosophy. And yes, sometimes even Ayn Rand was a hypocrite on some issues. This says absolutely nothing at all about Objectivism.
There is a signficant difference between the early Objectivist movement and the modern Objectivist movement. There is also a significant difference between the Objectivist movement and Objectivist ideas.
Indeed, it is Objectivists that have often been the greatest critics of cultism within the Objectivist movement. I'd suggest you read Dr. David Kelley's The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand for more on this subject. Its avaliable for free from The Atlas Society's website.
As for "removing accurate criticism," attacking Rand for her personal eccentricities, problems and issues and somehow using this as an attempt to attack her ideas is argumentum ad hominem. I don't think our page on CS Lewis goes into detail about how Lewis had a huge fetish for spanking and corporal punishment, let alone attempts to argue that his fetish was rooted in some sick psychosexual desires relating to the crucifixion. And yet frequently, Ayn Rand's thing for The Red Sonja is considered "proof" that every single thing she said was wrong.
I tend to feel that Ayn Rand's personal beliefs/actions does way on her philosophy. Because the stereotype of Objectivism is that the philosophy celebrates acting like a selfish jerkass, rather than it being a life-affirming philosophy as is claimed. I think it's problematic when the founder was a less than pleasant individual.
You can't write about Objectivism being life affirming and not note that its founder thought a serial killer was an exemplary person. What I mean, is it certainly sounds like she was describing him as living according to her philosophy.
To expand on my comment on altruism. My issue is that Comte's definition/and what Rand is criticizing is the idea of placing someone else's life/interests above your own. Since from what I can tell, no actual person who calls themselves altruistic actually does this, in theory, that would mean you were fine in Rand's book, but this isn't the case in practice.
Stereotypes aren't always correct. I've dealt with some Objectivists that are indeed assholes, but I also know many Objectivists that are exemplary embodiments of Objectivist values.
As for Hickman, Rand was infatuated with him during the time she was still writing The Fountainhead. Her own philosophical views hadn't yet fully codified in the first place. It is arguable that after she finished Atlas Shrugged and was working on expanding Objectivism, she would have revised her earlier judgment of Hickman. This is mere speculation that cannot be confirmed, but the point is Objectivism didn't spring forth fully formed from her head. She developed her ideas over time. Additionally, even intelligent people can make stupid mistakes.
Finally, "Hickman was a good man" is not even remotely essential to Objectivism. I have never met an Objectivist that agrees with the proposition that "Hickman was a good man."
Rand had a silly infatuation based on over-romanticizing an individual whom she only knew through his appearances in the press. This is how many people act towards specific celebrities. Just because Ayn Rand did this too, and attempted to rationalize it (in a few entries in her journals, not in any of her novels), proves absolutely nothing.
And yes, you are right that most people do not use the term "altruism" in the way that Rand and Comte did. That doesn't mean that Comtean altruism isn't an idea that has currency or influence. People are just less consistent than Comte. Additionally, Rand used the label to refer to any creed that demanding individuals live for something allegedly 'greater than themselves' (Comte restricted it to "living for other people"), she simply saw Comte's variant as the latest version of the same thing.
"Rand has a heterodox vocabulary" is acknowledged in the article and scarcely a genuine criticism. That's why I wrote the article in standard academic-ese rather than objectiv-ese.
I understand that there is a difference between Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and that the faults of one person or a group of people cannot be used to declare their philosophy to be wrong. Indeed, none of my posts have criticized the ideas of Objectivism at all, and focused only Ayn Rand and her followers, which was my intention. I suppose that was somewhat childish, so I apologize.
I personally do not think Objectivism is a bad philosophy. From what little I have read about it, I agree with many of the things it talks about, and I think it has a lot of good ideas. So I hope you believe me when I say that it was not my intention to criticize Objectivism with my comments about Ayn Rand, but rather my intention was to criticize Ayn Rand herself and the people who feel they must protect her, because of her relation to Objectivism.
I believe that some of your deletions were a good thing. Deleting comments that attacked Objectivism through Ayn Rand and her books were most likely a good thing. Sometimes, however, it went beyond that and it seems like anything critical of her or her works was deleted, whether or not it was attacking Objectivism as well. That is what I do not agree with. There are many problems with her and her books, which people should be able to point out without someone deciding that what they're saying is automatically flame bait.
The original point I was trying to make with my first comment is that many TV Trope articles, including this one, have been written in such a way as to keep any page involving Rand free from criticism, out of a misguided attempt to keep Objectivist ideas from coming under fire because of things Rand has done. I do not see much point of including Rand in this page, so if it were up to me, I would rewrite the page so that she isn't mentioned at all beyond a brief line at the beginning saying it was her philosophy.
Thank you very much for your clarification. I apologize if my earlier replies sounded overly accusatory towards you.
There are many valid reasons to criticize Ayn Rand personally, as well as the character of the early Objectivist movement. On that issue, you would actually have the support of many modern-day Objectivists, including myself and (arguably) Nathaniel Branden.
You are correct, there are still cultish orthodox Objectivists (who I consider to be at best pseudo-Objectivists, and completely worthy of the insult "Randroid"), and they do interpret any personal attack against Ayn Rand as an attack on Objectivism (using Rand's own terms, they are an intellectual tribe devoted to a person rather than an intellectual movement devoted to ideas... they see the ideas "embodied" in their originator). However this does go both ways; many anti-Objectivists do believe that if they discredit Rand's character, they've disproven (or don't even need to do any research on) the content of her ideas.
Your point about some of my edits is noted. Although I generally prefer to rephrase something; i.e. if someone says "Ayn Rand was being fucked by Nathaniel Branden repeatedly while she was writing Atlas Shrugged" (which is true), I'd rather rephrase it as "during the writing of Atlas Shrugged, Rand practiced consensual polyamory" (which is equally true, and conveys basically the same stuff (minus the identity of the other man involved) in a manner that doesn't seem to pander to the Unfortunate Implications of "how dare a woman engage in an unorthodox consensual sexual arrangement!"). In the future I'll try to be more mindful of anything that resembles excessively defensive editing.
You make a point about removing as many references to Rand from this article. However some have to be kept (references to her books in the Epistemology section). So removing them entirely is impossible (and I'd also rather not say Objectivism is "Rand's philosophy" because that might convey an improper level of propriety to Rand, and ignore the substantial evolutions in the understanding of Objectivism since Rand's death). But it certainly is something I will consider in depth.
I do agree that some of your deletions were alright- there's no real reason to through in gratuitous insults.
With the Branden thing, I don't think it should read "being fucked by him", which is gratuitously insulting, but I personally find it a bit unpleasant that Dagny's husband is a bad guy, and Dagny kind of mirrors Rand. You probably know more about the background than I do, but I wonder if Rand's husband had some (understandable) objections to polyamory, and this was a Take That!.
One other thing, with the "not allowing any criticism" idea, I do object to the phrasing of Harsher in Hindsight. It's still phrased as to imply "Objectivists predicted the Recession"/policies Objectivists oppose were responsible for the Recession.
Dagny didn't have a husband in Atlas Shrugged. You are probably thinking of Lillian Rearden, Hank's looter wife that believes Sex Is Evil and uses guilt to control Hank.
The phrasing of the point of "Harsher In Hindsight" was agreed to on the Atlas Shrugged discussion page. Additionally, I am an economist by education and can point directly to libertarians and Objectivists that did predict the recession. If you want to bring up a criticism of the wording, please do so on the discussion page for Atlas Shrugged. There was a long discussion on how to make the wording neutral and I stand behind the current wording.
Sorry about that mistake. I think I had a confusion of Dagny's brother, a bad guy with Lilly.
Let me think if there's a way to express a more neutral wording.
Tl;dr this page is a description of objectivism minus any critical thought whatsoever. Anything not actively promoting objectivism will be deleted, resulting in very little overlap between the article and actual ideas/actions embraced by actual objectivists.
To simply say "tl;dr" and greatly distort the above discussion is intellectually lazy.
First, there are Useful Notes pages on both TheGoldenRule and EthicalHedonism. Both of these pages describe philosophical positions. Now, on both of these pages you will notice that there is no space given to critique of these doctrines. Are these pages somehow 'biased' as a result? Or is there a double standard in play here?
Second, it is not true that "anything not actively promoting Objectivism will be deleted." Rather, anything not actively describing Objectivism will be deleted. And yes, there is a difference between describing Objectivism and going on and on about the personality deficiencies, errors and petty squabbles engaged in by some Objectivists. As stated before, one does not need to describe Aristotle's habit of beating his wife in order to describe Aristotle's philosophical positions. One does not need to discuss Kant's moral condemnation of masturbation in order to describe Kantian principles (Kant's condemnation of masturbation is one application of Kantian ideas; an application many Kantians would disagree with). One does not need to describe Rousseau's taste for sadomasochism in order to give an overview of his philosophical positions. It follows, therefore, we don't need to have a long and detailed discussion of Ayn Rand's fetishes for bodice-ripper style ravishment sex or The Red Sonja or (arguably) Rape Is Love in order to actually describe Objectivism's arguments. Especially since we already have an Ayn Rand page, where details discussing the author herself are properly placed.
Third, to say this page has 'very little overlap between the article and actual ideas/actions embraced by actual objectivists' is a complete and utter lie. I am an Objectivist and the text of this article was approved by YKTTW and it was reviewed by several tropers including former and current Objectivists. The text also contains references to the academic publications of some Objectivists. If there were massive deficiencies between the text of this article and what Objectivism actually argues, they would have been fixed by now.
It sounds to me like you want to accuse some Objectivists of being hypocrites. Of course, some Objectivists are indeed hypocrites! As are some Christians, some Marxists, some Keynesians, some Jews, some Muslims, some Kantians, some Libertarians, some Progressives, the list goes on. You can find hypocritical advocates of any philosophy, ideology or belief system. In and of itself this proves absolutely nothing at all against the belief systems themselves; this is why we have a trope called Straw Hypocrite.
Indeed, if I were to interpret your argument uncharitably, it sounds like you wish to accuse all Objectivists of being Straw Hypocrites. If this is indeed the point you are arguing, then I hope you are aware of just how utterly offensive this argument is.
Returning to being charitable, it sounds like you have had some encounters with some very unpleasant people calling themselves Objectivists. Now, I don't want this discussion page to turn into a festival of Argumentum Ad Hominem (as if it hasn't already), but I've dealt with some very unpleasant self-proclaimed Objectivists as well. But then again I'm sure we've all dealt with very nasty Christians as well; that doesn't instantly 'prove' that all Christians are psychotic fundamentalist douchebags.
This page is about Objectivism. Not Objectivists. If you want to go and say nasty things about the personal mannerisms of Terry Goodkind (whom I have not read and hence will not attempt to defend) or Ayn Rand, Take It To The Forums. The wiki itself is not the place to complain about authors and philosophies you don't like.
I just wanted to thank those who've contributed to this page. It was helpful when I needed to point my dad to an accessible source on Objectivism.
Thank you very much. I'm glad the page was helpful and accessible and educative!
I would like to know how Objectivism views what may be considered actions that are not chosen by will alone. Essentially, hormonal responses and drives that people possess that drive them to a certain action that does not necessarily get dictated by rational thought.
Sorry if this was answered in the page itself. I read the whole thing and still feel like I understand about half of it. Well maybe more, but that's not the saying.
The topic you raise is not discussed in the main page, so thanks for raising it.
The question you raise is important. Objectivism does not come pre-packaged with a highly detailed understanding of human psychology. Rand was more or less a cognitivist (i.e. she believed emotional states are the product of automatized value-responses towards thoughts), but she spent little time on the subject and applied cognitivist ideas in a very deterministic fashion... she had the tendency to argue that someone's entire personality was a product of their philosophical ideas.
Nathaniel Branden, Rand's associate who eventually was kicked out of the movement, is a psychologist and still applies Objectivist ideas to psychology. However he (and most Objectivists) are aware that Rand's theories about human psychology are not the whole story. I for one accept that philosophical ideas are extremely important but I do not believe they are the only things that matter.
As for actions that aren't chosen by will alone, you seem to be talking about "drives" (which are most likely the remnants of evolutionart processes). Note that Objectivism uses "instinct" to refer to a different thing, but yes, the actual extent and strength of drives is something that many Objectivists are still debating.
So I can't claim to give you "the" Objectivist position. I can give you my personal position which I believe is consistent with Objectivism, however. Basically, drives do exist, and many of them have some evolutionary basis relating to survival (which means some of them may still be productive in some situations). However, I do think they can be overridden by free will. That isn't to say they're meaningless... for instance, a crime of passion is considered less evil than murder. Using legal terms I would say strong passions can be said to at least somewhat diminish responsibility but I would not say they eliminate it.
I'm sorry if you found the main page confusing. I tried to keep it as non-academic as I could. Is there anything in particular you'd like explained?
As a mathematician, I have a bit of a problem with this statement:
Additionally an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God conflicts with the law of identity (i.e. if a thing is what it is, it is only what it is and not anything else, and thus must be specific and finite).
Axiomatically, A is A. Okay, understandable. But perhaps you should be more specific about what it means to be 'finite' in the sense of these axioms? After all, there are an infinite number of positive integers. Likewise, there are infinitely many real numbers. Yet, there are countably many positive integers, and but the number of real numbers are uncountable (you have different 'magnitudes' of infinity, so to speak).
To be a bit more formal, are you referring to a somewhat famous incident in set theory regarding that there is no set that contains all sets? Let this 'universal' set be S; it's power set (the set of all subsets of S) is P(S). It is well known that for any set U, |P(U)|>|U| (in other words, there are always more elements in P(U) than in U). Yet the set of all sets should contain everything, so it follows that |P(S)| is less than or equal to |S|.
So we have |P(S)| being both greater than and simultaneously less than or equal to |S|, which is impossible.
Clarification what you mean by 'finite' would be appreciated.
First, thanks for your reply. I should specify that I am not a mathematician and nor have I spent much time looking that the philosophy of mathematics (it does not help that I suck at math). So I apologize if my answer seems unclear.
You ask what I mean by "finite" in the sense of these axioms. You argue that the fact that something must be finite contradicts the fact that there are an infinite number of integers.
There is a problem here; you are confusing metaphysics and epistemology. According to Objectivism, integers are concepts or universals. Thus they are at least in part mind-dependent. They do not exist in a purely mind-independent fashion. The axioms of Objectivism are derived from observations of empirical reality, i.e. that which does exist in a mind-independent fashion.
Objectivism's axioms thus only apply to concrete reality. They don't apply to concepts; concepts do not exist in a mind-external fashion. Objectivism does argue that concepts need to be based on concrete evidence, and concepts relating to quantity (i.e. integers) are; we frequently encounter different items which we classify as the same type of thing. It is from this empirical fact that the concept of quantity emerges. Our minds do have the ability to extrapolate previously-existing concepts, which is how we arrive at the infinite amount of integers you refer to.
I should add, you are also approaching Objectivism from a methodologically rationalist/Cartesian point of view. As a mathematician, this is completely understandable (and I do not mean this to offend) because your field of expertise is methodologically rationalist. The problem is that Objectivism is more methodologically empiricist than rationalist.
Your argument would only disprove the axioms of Objectivism if some form of Platonic Realism were true; i.e. that integers existed mind-independently and in a manner that transcended "numbers of things" (i.e. if we had a bunch of eight oranges, the "eightness" of said bunch would not exist within the bunch itself). I find some mathematicians (note that I am not accusing you of this!) tend to be biased towards Platonic Realism; they seem to implicitly believe that if they can conceive of it (for instance, an infinite quantity), it must exist. If this were true, than Unicorns would exist.
In brief, I believe you are committing the fallacy of reification. In this case, you are reifying integers.
No worries, not offended at all.
That's understandable. Thanks for the prompt clarification.
Just to round things out, I find the other part of the statement Ultra Sonic 007 quoted to be logically problematic. I find the notion that God (or anything transcendent for that matter, to be more general), conflicting with the law of identity, is something that exists as a natural corollary of any/all of the three essential axioms you listed untenable. The three axioms, together or apart, nowhere necessitate that a thing that is definite cannot have multiple attributes and/or shared attributes. The logic inherent in A = A (A, for example, being a banana) is not violated by being recast as Ag = Ag (both distinct, physical banana and willed creation of God), or as Au = Au (both distinct, physical banana and thing consisting of some shared fabric/structure/essence of the universe), or anything of the kind.
By extension, I find it odd that the rationality of Objectivism could be said to embrace atheism. It really doesn't seem to make a theological suggestion one way or the other, based on the primary tenets presented. (Perhaps the school of thought has more involved foundations than you were able to present in this wiki. I admit to being rather poorly informed on the subject myself.) Even the assertion that the three axioms (or some sequence of corollaries thereof) exclude the possibility of reality's dependence and/or interrelation with "any consciousness" seems flawed. I agree that the axioms, along with a fair bit of empirical evidence, strongly support the conclusion that reality is independent from my own consciousness (beyond my own physical agency), but they don't seem to preclude the possibility that reality could be encompassed by some transcendent consciousness. They also don't seem to preclude the possibility that reality (even being distinct/discrete in its present state) could be descended from such a consciousness. (To give a crude analogy for the last point, the saliva in my mouth was produced by my body and is arguably part of my body while there. Should I spit it out onto the ground, however, it very arguably would become something distinct and separate from my body; it would inherit a state of separateness that would nevertheless have no bearing on my existence as its progenitor or on its own origin.)
Anyway, my own stumbling about the matter aside, I just wanted to make the probing observation that several Non Sequitur fallacies seem to be afoot in some of the corollaries and ascriptions that you have presented under the Objectivism mantle.
The Spongebob example is more than a little pointed and also laughably flawed. Sponges also can't walk, talk, or think and lack much of the biology that Spongebob has. Spongebob has many human characteristics assigned to him that a normal sponge lacks so when a paranoid conservative media watchdog says Spongebob is gay, You Fail Biology Forever is not a valid rebuttal. Thus, this is not a good example of the point you're trying to illustrate. Take your Author Tract elsewhere.
It helps my case that Word of God used the same rebuttal. The character's creator stated that he always thought of Spongebob as asexual owing to the fact he's a sponge.
There are tons of ways that "Spongebob is Gay" can be refuted, but the point of the example was to demonstrate what Context-Dropping actually is, as opposed to creating a watertight case against the Moral Guardians. The point I am trying to illustrate is not "Spongebob is not gay" but rather "to apply a concept to an entity manifestly outside said concept's boundaries is fallacious." Another reason for using this particular example is that I am trying to sustain reader interest here; this is TV Tropes and as such articles should at least be somewhat entertaining to read. I could have written this entire article in dense academic prose, but no, I would rather it be easily understood by a relatively casual audience.
Additionally, I have used the "Spongebob Controversy" as an example in several different papers, including assignment submissions for postgraduate subjects at my University, and not a single other person has objected to it.
In any case, you are at best rebutting an example. And finally, this is a Useful Notes page on Objectivism, of course there is going to be some element of Author Tract involved. Even providing a clear and precise explanation of what Objectivism actually states can be accused of being an Author Tract considering how the content of the philosophy is systematically distorted by its frequently-deceptive detractors.
I know this topic isn't really all that relevant to Objectivism, but I just thought I'd point out that Spongebob is shown to reproduce by budding.
Thanks for the information. I do not watch Spongebob, so that knowledge is indeed new to me. This confirms Word of God; Spongebob is asexual. Thank you.
Speaking of homosexuality, what's your opinion on Ayn Rand's homophobia?
Ayn Rand's own distaste for homosexual acts was a personal opinion of hers. She also wavered back and forth a bit on it. In a good mood, she was likely to state she could not really come to a conclusion about whether or not homosexuality was a bad thing or not. In a bad mood, she was likely to argue that homosexuality was the result of psychological flaws. However, she always argued that it should not be illegal; she considered sexual activity a private matter between individuals and if two individuals consent to gay sex, the government had no place in the matter.
So whilst she obviously had a bit of "squick" over the subject (which, in a bad mood, she attempted to philosophically rationalize), she was no social conservative. She would not support making homosexuality illegal.
Rand's distaste for gay sex isn't, however, part of her actual philosophy. Even the most orthodox Objectivists around have argued sexual preference is essentially an amoral matter; the majority of people experience their sexual preference as unchangable (or, if it is more plastic, said changes aren't "self-directed"), and as such it is not a matter of choice. Therefore, it is amoral. It is a fact about the nature of human entities, not something open to moral judgment.
I think Rand's judgments weren't intrinsically homophobic per se; one does not have to like gay sex to not be a homophobe. Of course there are lots of issues here, many people falsely equate gay sex with anal sex (and I know many people that are either homosexual or bisexual and dislike anal sex). Rand also had some relatively traditional positions on gender roles, positions which many Objectivists (including myself) strongly disagree with and believe contradict her underlying philosophy. I would chalk her unfortunate positions up to mostly ignorance and the cultural mileu she grew up in. She was not omniscient.
Needless to say, I do believe Rand's bad-mood-condemnation of homosexuality was exceedingly unfortunate. Not only do I consider her judgment to be incorrect (and ultimately inconsistent with her philosophy), it was another factor in driving many members of the non-heterosexual community away from classical individualism and towards the collectivist-anticapitalist-new left axis.
Of course, there are gay and lesbian Objectivists. The Rattigan Society is an example. Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of "Ayn Rand, Homosexuality and Human Liberation" is gay and argues Rand's philosophy (if not Rand the person) is inherently tolerant of different sexual orientations. So, in spite of Rand's unfortunate bad-mood-prejudices, the philosophy has evolved beyond most of the flaws of the philosopher. Thankfully.
This is the first time I've come back to this thread since I started it. First, I know its only an example, I know that the example illustrates the principles you're talking about. Its still a bad example.
Second, being a post grad student and having this statement accepted in your papers is irrelevant. That's argument from authority, and I expect better from a post grad student (or worse, an actual Ph D) writing an article about philosophy.
Third, Spongebob's creator's statement about Spongebob's asexual sponge-like nature is the only thing that refutes the argument. Spongebob again has many characteristics a normal sponge does not have including walking, talking, thinking (he may not be bright but he is far ahead of a normal sponge in this department.) He possesses a number of anthropomorphic traits. He's even nominally male. He has a male name (the bob part of his name, I'm not trying to argue that "Spongebob" in full is a common male name), and you and I both refer to him with the male pronouns.
So the author has departed from the reality of sponges, which means he has to define the characteristics of Spongebob or they are open to interpretation. Until he states that Spongebob possesses the ability to bud or that he's asexual, his sexuality is open to interpretation.
Now I don't know what the arguments were for Spongebob being gay. I'm sure they were ridiculous. It doesn't matter. The entry you've presented here does not clearly illustrate the problem with the reasoning because, based on the information you've presented in the article, its just as reasonable to assume Spongebob is gay as is it is to assume that Spongebob is straight or asexual. I think the illustration would be a lot simpler if you chose something that exists and is not purely a fictional concept. Spongebob is too amorphous being a silly cartoon character with characteristics of a sponge and a human being that runs on rule of funny.
Its also intellectually dissatisfying because the argument is "Spongebob is gay" and the refutation is "No he isn't, because I'm the creator of Spongebob and I say he isn't gay." One side wins because they get to define the terms of the argument.
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How well does it match the trope?