About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page


Sanction: 1, No Sanction: 0
Post 0

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 5:33amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

 

 

First of all, Rand was a naturalist, but not a materialist. A materialist is only one form of naturalism Ė one that reduces human nature to mechanical determinism. Modern religious conservatives implicitly rule out Aristotle when they equate all secularism with materialism. It is on this basis that they create a huge gap between Objectivism and conservatism.

 

There are two main ways of finding Godís role in manís ethics. The first claims that God stipulates right and wrong. Without Godís stipulations there are no other grounds for ethical judgment whatsoever. If tomorrow, God decreed that killing your mother was right, it would become so, period. The existentialists (and most modern secular skeptics) agree with this viewpoint when they point out that they are anguished the God doesnít exist and tell us what to do.

 

The second viewpoint holds that God created our nature; human nature and our survival imply ethical principles. This can result in the same ethical basis as Objectivism except for the cosmological footnote: and God is the cause of it all. Thus, such a theologian can claim that on principle there is no breach between religion and reason. Reason just figures out the principles of nature Ė a nature that God created long ago. Most intellectual leaders among our founding fathers took this viewpoint or some similar variation. Objectivists have common ground with this religious camp especially if they hold that ethics (and consequently politics) is implicit in our nature and can be debated and established by reason. I believed Rand indicated that she accepted alliances with the religious if their public life adhered to reason and reality (I canít remember the reference right now, can anyone else?).

 

Neil, from your article you show that Chambers and Robins, like most conservative intellectuals, hold the first viewpoint. This makes them rather uninteresting. However, itís not clear when it comes to the other critics (i.e. Ryan and McGrath) whether they reject naturalism or see religion as a completion of naturalism. The latter would be a more interesting viewpoint. Can you say a little more about their ideas?

 

 

 

 




Post 1

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 5:46amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Neil,

I think that by omitting Greg Nyquist's "Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature", you're missing some very interesting stuff.  Nyquist goes as far as critiquing the common view the Dark Ages (also accepted by Objectivism) that Christianity caused the Dark Ages.  He also argues that the scientific and traditional religious conception are in some ways very similar, and Objectivism is a radical departure from them.

(Edited by Next Level on 12/25, 5:49am)




Post 2

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 5:47amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Jason,

Thanks for your comments, which I hope to discuss soon. 

I did notice a typo in my article: Scott Ryan describes himself as a "panentheist" on his site, not a "pantheist."




Post 3

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 5:53amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Next Level,

For reasons of space, I didn't mention Erickson's book or Nyquist's.  I didn't recall that particular point Nyquist made.  Thanks for the reminder.




Post 4

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 9:56amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Neil,

When I wrote "conception", I meant "conception of human nature".

I hope my meaning wasn't lost without that.




Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 5

Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 1:08pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Neil, an interesting read.  Speaking of JARS, we hope to run reviews of Nyquist, Robbins, Yang, and others in a forthcoming issue. 

Happy New Year!
Chris




Post 6

Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 2:45pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
An author who tried eagerly to link Ayn Rand to religion is Merrill Root, a poet I believe, in his essay in National Review back in the 60s, if I recall correctly. It may be worth digging up this piece to see why Root thought Rand had much in common with religious thinkers.



Post 7

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 10:35amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Neil,

A very informative article.

I have been reading and studying libertarianism for about 4 years now but came to libertarian thought via a non-Randian route. I had been hearing about Ayn Rand's works and influence and decided recently to check her writings and philosophy out for myself.

In addition, I am a Christian. Up till now, I've found nothing in libertarian thought incompatible with my faith. I do understand that Objectivism is, at its core, atheistic. So, it will make for interesting reading, I'm sure.

I appreciate your article on Rand among the religious. You've given me some sources to search out and investigate (and one or two I'll avoid). Thanks!

BKB




Post 8

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 12:17pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Brumley,

I'm not sure I agree with this, "... Objectivism is, at its core, atheistic."

As a student of Objectivism for thirty years now, I understand your perception.  Almost all Objectivists (maybe all) are atheist.  On closer examination I think you would find that there two types of atheists among Objectivists:  Believers and non-believers.  The believers deny all gods with the same faith that theists embrace their gods.  (I know that's contradictory to the primacy of reason, but I would be a fool to deny it happens among Objectivists.)  The non-believers merely recognize that the facts don't exist to support a belief in gods of any sort.

Because this divide really doesn't cause much stir among Objectivists, I would argue, however, that atheism is peripheral, not central, to Objectivism.  In fact, the first time I think I have really seen this difference on atheism come out is right here in the Honnasian's thread on establishment vs. free exercise of religion in the public square.

I do agree with you that Christians can support libertarian politics without compromising their religious beliefs, to the extent I understand them.

R. Pukszta




Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 9

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 12:37pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
R. Pukszta wrote:


Almost all Objectivists (maybe all) are atheist.  On closer examination I think you would find that there two types of atheists among Objectivists:  Believers and non-believers.  The believers deny all gods with the same faith that theists embrace their gods.  (I know that's contradictory to the primacy of reason, but I would be a fool to deny it happens among Objectivists.)  The non-believers merely recognize that the facts don't exist to support a belief in gods of any sort.
I find this to be very interesting. In another thread, I revealed my Christianity and brought up the idea that atheism is a form of faith - i.e., faith in the non existence of God. Theism is faith in the existence of God. I was taken to task for this on the grounds that it is is illogical (cannot prove a negative).

Perhaps we are saying different things, though? Can you elaborate? And if this is incorrect forum for this discussion, forgive me.

BKB




Sanction: 2, No Sanction: 0
Post 10

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 2:30pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Rooster,

Based on your comments I am sure that you will find this article I wrote interesting. The link is below:

http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Cordero/Atheism_A_Question_of_Conscience.shtml

George




Post 11

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 2:48pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Brumley,

I don't consider atheism to be 'faith in the non-existence of God,' rather, I consider it 'faith' (if we are to use that word) in the evidence of the senses.  Reason and logic have led me to the conclusion that I should reject any human claims to knowledge of the supernatural and/or that which is beyond perception.

(Edited by Pete on 12/27, 2:56pm)




Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 12

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 7:04pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Brumley:

I was a very devout Christian and for a few years in the full time ministry as a Jehovah's Witness. I too first learned about Ayn Rand from my involvement with libertarianism.

My experience with believers is that they are mainly attracted to the philosophic parts of religion such as loving your neighbor as yourself, not lying, cheating, stealing or murdering and not so much the mystic parts of religion.

Many believers think any competing philosophy, Objectivism for example, will usher in an orgy of murder and mayhem because there is no threat of punishment after death.

In the sense of having a code of ethics and strong sense of morality in everyday life Objectivism is similar to religion.

I tried for five years to reconcile Rand with Religion. I finally came to the conclusion that the supernatural does not exist. Instead of feeling alone and lost in the universe I have never been happier.

Keep studying and keep thinking.




Post 13

Monday, December 27, 2004 - 10:16pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
B. Keith Brumley wrote:

In another thread, I revealed my Christianity and brought up the idea that atheism is a form of faith - i.e., faith in the non existence of God. Theism is faith in the existence of God. I was taken to task for this on the grounds that it is is illogical (cannot prove a negative).


George H. Smith, in his book Why Atheism?, called that position "positive atheism." It really is an illogical assertion, and Smith agreed.

You've got to start with something, if you're going to prove that it really isn't something. That's "negative atheism," the position that is stated most fundamentally as, "I don't believe in a god." That's what most Objectivists adhere to, but you can't say that Objectivists believe in it, simply because there hasn't been found something to believe in.

We know reality by taking in sensory data and abstracting from it. So the burden of the proof of the existence of God resides with the believer, who arrived at a theistic conclusion through this process. Objectivists reject these proofs because all of them, so far, are flawed. I know some of the arguments, along with their refutations. But I won't go into them here.

What absolutely nobody has done, though, is to offer any real proof that there is no supreme divine consciousness of any kind, based on what the evidence of the senses provides. Even if you tried, you couldn't even get past the observation stage. This universe is just too large. Positive atheists don't even bother to observe. They just blurt out, "Nothing! Nothing!"

Most atheists these days are of the "negative" variety. Among the atheists I know, the "positive" ones are the most rabid, and the least numerous.

Smith rejects some aspects of Objectivist epistemology, but his book is still a good read.
(Edited by David Ostroske on 12/27, 11:56pm)




Post 14

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 6:11amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
My thoughts:

1) In Mathematics, negative assertions are proven all the time.  Even in everyday speech, we assert things that are impossible all the time.

2) The idea that you can't prove a negative has always struck me as another misconception of proof and evidence (difficult topics in philosophy, as is everything that depends on the mind).  I'm pretty sure that it started with some guy who was asked to prove that "God didn't exist", couldn't do so, and then started complaining about negative statements.  He probably didn't realize that his problem had more to do with the standard of proof and the cognitive content of the concept of God than anything else.

3) I have never heard anyone give the claim that "one can't prove a negative" a coherent statement.  You only believe that one cannot prove negative statements if you think that he cannot prove a universal statement, and the standard of proof in those situations is so high that it makes even practical knowledge impossible. Negative statements can usually be reformulated to positive forms which may be more complex to spell out, but usually catch the meaning of the negative statement.  It is because the negative forms subsume infinite positive forms ("This is not a car" could  imply that it is one of an infinite number of things), but in some situations, this poses no difficulty (if you could point to the bike that is not a car).

4) Proof is a concept of intelligence - unless there is some agreed upon standard of proof, there is no way you can prove something to someone else.



Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 15

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 6:26amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Brumley,

I'd be glad to expand upon what I said, but I think Cordero (through his link) and Ostroske have done a good job of it already.  Let me add this.  The term "atheist" covers a lot of ground.  As you have noticed, some atheists really do hold their denial of god in faith.  Other atheist simply lack any belief on the matter.  Maybe we should coin a new word for these non-believers, like "non-theist".

All that said, Brumley, I think you will find much of Objectivism compatible with your Christianity.  It may even help you better understand what sacrifice really means in Christian thought.  Sacrifice is a big bugaboo with Objectivists, because altruism (as Rand defined) is to be despised as anti-life.  The fact is that a lot of Christians do reduce sacrifice to altruism, when in fact sacrifice means trading up one value for a higher one.  Therefore, Objectivists rightly criticize Christians for this mistake.

Food for thought.

Pukszta




Post 16

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 6:43amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Cordero,

Thanks for the link and my compliments.  You have eloquently articulated the jumble of thoughts I have had on this subject for awhile.  Maybe it's because I've only begun to think about it, but it does seem that more people have found their way to Objectivism to rationalize atheism than when I first studied Rand three decades ago.

I was attracted to Objectivism because it provided a coherent philosophical foundation for a libertarian society and capitalist democracy.  That to me was important when Communism was reigning supreme over a third of the globe and socialism was threatening the remainder.  Atheism, for me, was always incidental.  In fact, I never gave it much thought until I began encountering some of the more militant strains of atheism in Objectivism about ten years ago.

Until now I wouldn't have put it as boldly as you did in your article, but I must wonder how many people calling themselves Objectivist are first and foremost atheists because they reject all norms of decency in personal conduct.  In other words, their Objectivism is a rationalization for their atheism, which is nothing more than a revolt against conventional religion.  If so, that may explain why it feels like to me more people are using Objectivism as a religion substitute than for what it is, a philosophy.

Thanks for turning on light for me, so I do less stumbling around this subject.  Very provocative, your article.

Pukszta




Post 17

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 6:56amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Rooster,

One more 'Cordero', and I will reach through the screen of of your computer and pluck a feather!

'George' will do just fine.

Sincerely,

Cordero

: )




Post 18

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 7:03amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
An old habit, George. ;)

Pukszta




Post 19

Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 7:14amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
The fact is that a lot of Christians do reduce sacrifice to altruism, when in fact sacrifice means trading up one value for a higher one.  Therefore, Objectivists rightly criticize Christians for this mistake.
Rooster,

I know what you mean, and I agree with you, but putting it this way to a Christian can be pretty insulting. 

Christian theology has a different hierarchy of values from Objectivism.  Christian eschatology makes that inevitable, because there is a moral devaluation of the self in the bigger scheme of things.  Given relative values of reality and the supernatural world of Christian eschatology, it is hard to be defend self-interested acts in this world logically.

Therefore, the Christian is sacrificing properly.  The true disagreement between an Objectivist and a Christian is the hierarchy of values in this context.




Post to this threadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.