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Saturday, November 20, 2010 - 6:59pmSanction this postReply
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This is my first post on the site, so let me introduce myself first.

I came to Ayn Rand about a year ago and changed my world-view a lot since. As I'm German, I haven't had much contact to Objectivists and never met any in person.

Although I share most of Rand's premises and conclusions, I disagree in some points. I'm still in the process of researching, but it seems to me that there is a tradition of vicious resentment of any disagreement with Rand among people who take on the label of Objectivism for themselves.

That's the primary reason why I still shy away from doing that myself - but no other.

The basic question is: Is Objectivism defined as "what Rand said" or is it "whatever pure reason is"?

As one example, the most important point regarding to help the "rebirth of reason", I challenge the premise that philosophical change is the only key to defeat evil at large.

Rand held that human actions are guided by philosophy and that all evil can only be remedied by action on the philosophical level. That is the source of her rejection of libertarians and her unwillingness to ally with them. It is also at the heart of her damnation of pragmatism.

This is plausible: If philosophy is the basis, politics being on a higher level, and philosophy is corrupted, people arguing for political action without the philosophical (moral) basis are of no help. If they even promote wrong philosophy in the course of defending capitalism, then they're even part of the problem.

I argue that this assumption (that, in the sense of cause-and-effect, philosophy is always the cause) is flawed.

In order to proof this, I point out two historical facts that took place after Rand's death (so obviously she had no chance to take them into account):

First, Communism has obviously been defeated without the underlying philosophical premises having being challenged in any way or form. That means, the most immediate danger of a world falling back into another Dark Ages has collapsed for some other reason.

Second, in Germany there is a political trend called "neoliberalism" which is in some way libertarian/conservative. The former leftist zeitgeist is challenged on the grounds of "personal responsibility" (among others). This is not intellectually grounded in liberty rights. It is a shift that could be summarised as "get a job and leave me alone", said by the tax payer. In a way, it resembles the spirit of the Tea Party, but without any Tea Party.

I'm fairly certain that little low-level philosophical change has been preceding those events. In both cases, only the highest-level premises change: In the case of Communism, people saw the rich West and concluded that their leaders were liars. That's not a low-level change of premises. Yet it was enough to bring down the Iron Curtain.

In the case of contemporary Germany, many different individualist forces are at work eroding many mystical premises (although religious influences also have a limited comeback). The most central point is that many people observe that leftist attitudes are generally held by people living on welfare or those otherwise dependent on the state. This observation is made by countless individuals independently. There is little preceding philosophical change that they had to make in advance. (To be fair, there is a philosopher called Sloterdijk who did have quite an impact in that direction, but he certainly doesn't account for all of the change as his influence is limited to certain milieus.)

In Germany, Ayn Rand is almost entirely unknown (as google trends shows). Minarchism/Libertarianism is also deemed to be an anachronistic idea by virtually everyone. In fact, the vast majority hasn't even heard of such things, let alone Objectivism. Yet, the support for freedom has grown immensely, even though not on a conceptual level and thus the word "freedom" isn't actually used. Still, when today a public figure is behaving arrogantly, more and more people take an "it's his show, mind your own business"-attitude towards the anti-hero-whining of the left.

That means: Individuals can correct flaws on a higher level without correcting or even detecting underlying errors in their conceptual knowledge. The philosophy gets changed by individuals who face concrete problems in their life, and thus only on the highest possible level. The wrong premises preceding them are left unchallenged.

On the scale of society, it means the zeitgeist is fixed from top to bottom.

The situations in which people are likely to change those high-level convictions is when they are forced to take personal responsibility. Which means: Capitalism is likely to be itself medicine.

Under than insight, it's wrong not to ally with anyone promoting capitalism (presuming the alliance is helpful in that cause), because even if the ally promotes the wrong premises, more economic freedom is likely to strengthen the right ideas.

I still maintain that having a flawless hierarchy of knowledge is the only way of certainty and to be recommended to any thinking individual, but for the vast majority of people, who don't have such a complete hierarchy (do I? have often thought so and have been mistaken), pragmatism usually saves the day. This is because the underlying philosophy is usually evil: most deviations from what follows from it is likely to be better.

In many cases, pragmatism (ie abandoning assumptions previously held as absolutes without challenging their base), is a force of good.

I argue that by researching the cause-and-effect relationships of ideas and human action in more detail, one can arrive at insights that can help bringing about a rebirth of reason much more quickly.

For example, what different flavors of mysticism are there and how to they influence each other (historical and contemporary)? How are ideas promoted? What influence does language have, ie do people actually understand each other?

I want to give some unorthodox (and so far unsupported) claims to arouse curiosity: I believe Germany to be a fertile ground for Objectivism, if marketed correctly - much more fertile than the US. I suspect China to be fertile, too, but not Japan. As for a strategy of change, I suspect it's wise to focus on specific groups (such as certain milieus in Germany) who are more likely to accept those new ideas, and to present them in a different form than Rand did. A plan shouldn't just be random activism, but based on an understanding of the mechanisms of global society. I strongly suspect that there is a way to bring about the "rebirth of reason" within a decade, once one has understood the clockwork.

I'd like to hear from people who do think that Rand was correct on most issues, but are still really open-minded and don't take offence at criticism. I'm always open for criticism myself, I just don't like general statements like "you don't understand Objectivism, go home" after little to no effort of understanding where the other party is coming from.

Cheers, Jens

PS: Sorry, this got more lengthy than I intended; should this have been an article?





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Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 8:30amSanction this postReply
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Jens,

I agree that Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, and less so The Ayn Rand Institute are strict, purist, inflexible, denounce, and disassociate from people who aren't pure like them.

Furthermore, I'd agree that pragmatism is good. You can befriend a group of people who are not exactly like what you would like them to be. You can gain from the friendship and association, it can still be worthwhile. You can still point out disagreements but state the reasoning behind the friendship.

Mysticism is where a person is not smart enough or doesn't care enough to deduce conclusions from evidence to create their own philosophy. So they just accept _something_ as true because for some reason they just accept _someone_ as being correct on a subject without evaluating the evidence themselves. In my opinion there is not much one can do to help these people beyond make a philosophy as simple as possible with lots of examples and quality art so that the most lay person can grasp it.

Overall, I disagree with Rand and many others saying that spreading philosophy through education is the solution. I think that it may sway some people if they realize that it will improve their lives. But I think the main battle is between the moochers/thieves and the producers/defenders:

Some people would rather take stuff from others than be productive themselves, and they don't really care that they could have a higher standard of living if they worked, because they'd much rather be lazy and live at the expense of others and that will be good enough.

Some people would rather be very productive themselves and defend their stuff.

If there is a ton of production with sufficient defense, we have capitalism and economic prosperity and technological revolutions.

If there is a ton of production going on without enough defense or with too much generosity, the thieves/moochers start to multiply. The population may still be very prosperous.

If there is too much mooching/thieving going on, productivity goes down to the point where the moochers/thieves no longer accept their crappy standard of living (since there is so little production and so much consumption, and lots of people are probably dying) and they finally start deciding to get off their asses and become more productive and defensive.

==============

I'd love to live in a society that was full of people who want to be productive, want to prevent others from gaining from thieving, and recognized fraud and generosity as an injustice.

Here's an attempt at a philosophy for the highly successful layman:
Reality: All that currently exists and of which we are interacting with (electromagnetic forces etc included). Reality is a set of stuff continually going through a causal process of change, and we are a part of it. Some things change with so many variables they are impossible to predict. On the other hand, a great deal of things change in a simple way, and we can successfully predict much of what will come to be.

Truth: That which is consistent with reality. Use evidence to best determine which ideas are most likely true. Faith is accepting an idea as true without evidence or despite contrary evidence. Faith can lead to working towards fanciful goals, which might end up being worthwhile, but who knows when there's no evidence? More likely, accepting ideas by faith will result in waste.

Productivity: Accomplishing your goals should be your greatest virtue. Generally this involves attaining resources and abilities to live a healthy life and be able to overcome mishaps.

Defense: Do not allow others to gain from using/destroying your property without your consent. Otherwise... people will recognize that its worthwhile to do such, then they will do such and become successful. Thieves make our lives worse, so lets make them unsuccessful.

Trade: Transfers of property should be mutually beneficial. Fraud is where you do not trade what was agreed upon, which results in a nonconsensual transfer of wealth. Donations: "Do not feed the bears" and "Do not feed the birds"; Instead assist others by creating opportunities for them to receive benefits now if they pay/work/return the favor in the future.

Cheers,
Dean



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Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 8:38amSanction this postReply
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Jens,

Welcome.

Rather than discuss your entire thesis, I'll just make a couple of short points.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not the end of Communism. We still have some communist countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Laos, China, etc.) and here in the United States there are some very active communists - even tied to the current president. And, hopefully for a brief period, the communist organizations in the States are experiencing a bit of a resurgence.

I believe that a success on one level (i.e., political), that comes about without a defeat of the more fundamental level (i.e., moral) is a partial success. And the danger is that the success can be reversed. It is like a weed that was cut down, but whose roots were left in tact. Sometimes you need to cut the weeds, but you don't want to forget the roots.
-----------------

I agree that you can ally yourself with some people that have a different philosophy to do battle on a higher level, but there are caveats.... Just as an example, I would never ally myself with a theocrat (e..g., religious right), or an anarchist to make a more libertarian government then we currently have in the U.S. - but I would ally myself with a conservative, knowing that we still had fundamental differences and that in the end, I will be in opposition to the conservatives. To me that is fairly simple. To progress towards the end goals of the theocrat, anarchist, and conservative might be in the same direction that I want to go to start with - we would agree to begin making the government smaller, but the anarchist and the theocrat want an end point that is more harmful to individual rights than where we are now. Whereas the conservative simply stops too soon and doesn't understand the basis of individual rights or fully understand the nature of Capitalism. The anarchist wants to end government, and the theocrat wants to convert it the enforcement arm of his religion while the conservative at least sees government as government.
---------------

On your statement regarding pragmatism... I'd take another look at that. You don't ever want to opt out of reality which is what you do if you decide that morals or principles are relative or non-existent or unknowable, as opposed to an objective, knowable universe. Pragmatism may sound good, in the sense that 'if it works, it must be right' - that sounds almost scientific, but it is blind to what makes it work and leaves room for the belief that one can't know why things work, or that reality doesn't answer to fixed principles. If something really does work, it is because of the underlying principles and they can be known. And this hold true for epistemology and ethics.



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Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 11:44amSanction this postReply
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Two responses and neither offensive, I'm happy! :)

Dean, your philosophy is, in my book, not contradictory to Objectivism at all, but rather a subset of it - though I can see how purists might jump on your wording.

Steve, I agree entirely on the second part of your response, that's how I meant it myself.

As for the first part: My point is that although a partial victory can be reversed, it can also help to bring about total victory. It can be one necessary step towards victory - rather than an irrelevant sidetrack. Germany is now more rational than it used to be for the last 100 years, and that's not an achievement of philosophy, but of capitalism together with *some* low-level premises that Germans always held (that could be described as "you've got to do something!").

My statement on pragmatism is misleading, I would have to go into some lengths to clarify that and it's not that important right now. I agree with what you wrote about it, and I'm not practicing any pragmatism myself in that sense (not knowingly anyway).




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Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 4:19pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Jens,

Thanks for your interesting post, and welcome to the forum. It occurred to me in reading your remarks that we ought to define "pragmatism." The original, classical definition of "pragmatism" (from Peirce and James) pertains to a theory of truth and a theory of meaning. An idea is true, according to pragmatism, if believing it results in good consequences, and a statement is meaningful if believing it makes a difference in the practical effects of one's conduct. Of course, this view of truth and of meaning do not conform to Objectivism's, in which an idea "works" or is "practical" only if it is true, not the other way around. In the same way, a statement is meaningful, according to Objectivism, if it says something about reality, whether true or false; it's meaning does not depend on its having practical consequences.

For example, according to pragmatism, the Ptolemaic or geocentric view of the universe was true, because it "worked" for the people in the Middle Ages. The fact that the Copernican revolution showed that it doesn't correspond to reality does not, according to pragmatism, render the geocentric theory false, because truth, on that philosophical view, does not mean a correspondence with an objective reality. Truth, according to pragmatism, is subjective and relative. Whatever idea happens to "work" within a given period is true, regardless of whether or not the idea corresponds to reality.

In the pragmatist view of ethics, there are no fixed standards, no objective definition of what "works." What works is whatever any individual or group happens to value. Nor is there an acceptance of enduring values that transcend a particular time or culture.

However, the classical concept of "pragmatism" is evidently not what you mean by the term. What you evidently mean by it is the acceptance and support of a false underlying philosophy, if it facilitates the acceptance of true political principles. So, if believing in and supporting evangelical Christianity and Biblical literalism enabled the acceptance of libertarian political principles, we should, on "pragmatic" grounds, throw our support behind the evangelical movement. If lying to others about our values and philosophy enabled the election of pro-freedom candidates, we should spread lies about Objectivism and try our best to discredit it, because doing so would help us to achieve our political goals.

On this view, it doesn't matter why people accept the value of freedom; all that matters is that we get them to accept it, even if for the wrong reasons. Premises don't matter; all that matters are true conclusions, however they are arrived at, whether validly or fallaciously.

Qiuestion: Is this method of reaching our political goals sustainable, or will it be self-defeating in the long run? What will happen when people see through the false reasons? Will they continue to accept the true conclusions? Your argument seems to be that people rejected communism, because it didn't work. If by "work," you mean didn't achieve rational values -- didn't eventuate in freedom and prosperity -- then there is nothing wrong with this reason for rejecting communism. It is not an example of "pragmatism," as you've defined it. But if by "work," you mean something like "didn't allow them to practice their religion" -- which is not a good reason for rejecting it -- then what happens if these very same people decide to outlaw atheism, because it constitutes a threat to their religion? The wrong reasons for accepting a true conclusion can lead eventually to rejecting that conclusion based on the very reasons for initially accepting it. It can undermine and sabotage that conclusion.








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Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 6:20pmSanction this postReply
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Hello, Jens. :)

First, Communism has obviously been defeated without the underlying philosophical premises having being challenged in any way or form. That means, the most immediate danger of a world falling back into another Dark Ages has collapsed for some other reason.

The Kremlin surrendered, but Communism was in no way defeated, nor has laissez faire capitalism been embraced in the former Soviet Republic. This is because the fundamental principles of Communism have not been shrugged off, while more freedom confirming ones were adopted.  Collectivism still rules in Russia (unfortunately.)

Second, in Germany there is a political trend called "neoliberalism" which is in some way libertarian/conservative. The former leftist zeitgeist is challenged on the grounds of "personal responsibility" (among others). This is not intellectually grounded in liberty rights. It is a shift that could be summarised as "get a job and leave me alone", said by the tax payer. In a way, it resembles the spirit of the Tea Party, but without any Tea Party.
 
Why is the idea of being free to set your own course, without being dragged down by the demands of total strangers, not grounded in liberty?  Its pretty much the same thing, even if the concept has a different name in Europe. Don't you think?  I think "get a job and leave me alone" is a very strong message of individual liberty, and I like it! :)


I'm fairly certain that little low-level philosophical change has been preceding those events. In both cases, only the highest-level premises change: In the case of Communism, people saw the rich West and concluded that their leaders were liars. That's not a low-level change of premises. Yet it was enough to bring down the Iron Curtain.

Forgive me, but I'm not clear on what you mean by "low and high" level premises.  The Russian people didn't have the power to overthrow their totalitarian government. The government collapsed under its own weight. It could no longer support itself. This had nothing to do with citizens thinking the leaders were liars. The curtain fell because no one was left to hold it up!

But you're right to think there has to be something rational to fill the void when bad ideas are abandoned.




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 2:51amSanction this postReply
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Hi Teresa! :)

The Kremlin surrendered, but Communism was in no way defeated, nor has laissez faire capitalism been embraced in the former Soviet Republic. This is because the fundamental principles of Communism have not been shrugged off, while more freedom confirming ones were adopted.  Collectivism still rules in Russia (unfortunately.)

Collectivism still rules in Germany, as far as the ideology is concerned. For example, the statements "African nations don't fare well because the states are too weak." and "morality=sacrifice" would be supported by a vast majority. But: The "get a job and leave me alone" also holds. People just don't realise the connection.

That's my point: The philosophy hasn't changed (that much), but the actual freedom has increased immensly, and as a consequence now the ideology changes gradually. People in Germany are ready for Objectivism. :)

And: Rand thought this to be impossible: Communism can't be defeated without defeating Altruism first. Yet that's what happened.

Rand was wrong about this crucial issue, and that mistake is corrupting the Objectivist strategy of promoting reason.




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 3:06amSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

However, the classical concept of "pragmatism" is evidently not what you mean by the term.
 
that's true. There is a connection between the two meanings though, and it's worth spelling out the other meaning and that connection.

My meaning is basically "oh, gosh, I made a mistake - I don't know what it is, but I have to act now and don't have time for more than an educated guess". Extreme example: "Kant tells me dying is moral if I want to live, which I do. I don't know what to say to that, he sounds convincing, but I refrain from suicide anyway. I'd rather be immoral." That's not good, but it's better than to be dead. That attitude is what brought the Germans through Nazism. Had they all been principled, they'd all be dead. Because they knew only bad principles.

If lying to others about our values and philosophy enabled the election of pro-freedom candidates, we should spread lies about Objectivism and try our best to discredit it, because doing so would help us to achieve our political goals.

I can't see how a lie could possibly help.

What will happen when people see through the false reasons?
 
I don't advocate giving wrong reasons, but tolerating wrong reasons and curiously investigating into those reasons. The knowledge that can be obtained might prove useful. Of course oneself should maintain integrity and that out of self-interest.




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 3:37amSanction this postReply
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Hi Teresa,
 
Forgive me, but I'm not clear on what you mean by "low and high" level premises.

I ought to clarify this, too.

I'm merely referring to the hierarchical nature of knowledge. The "low" level is the one low in the hierarchy.

For example: low level premise: "Egoism/Altruism is good/bad", high level premise: "Capitalism/Communism is good/bad".

I've borrowed that terminology from IT, were "low-level" is the technology on which "higher-level" technology is built on.

In particular, it's not a value issue. In the contrary, the "low-level" premises are usually more important.





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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 9:01amSanction this postReply
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Jens,

You wrote:"Rand thought this to be impossible: Communism can't be defeated without defeating Altruism first. Yet that's what happened. Rand was wrong about this crucial issue, and that mistake is corrupting the Objectivist strategy of promoting reason."

You are wrong. Communism has NOT been defeated yet. Nor do I see a corruption of "the Objectivist strategy of promoting reason." You need to separate particular political states from the political philosophy they represent. The Soviet Union was a political state of a particular point in history while communism is political philosophy that continues on (see Laos, Peoples Republic of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Communist Party of the United States, Van Jones the communist President Obama appointed as an advisor, and the many Marxist professors in the universities.)

I might have disagreed with her on who to side with on a temporary basis during an election period, but her reasoning was solid on Altruism being the base from which different political evils will grow and until it is defeated, we will keep seeing examples of communism, fascism, and theocracies popping up.

There are altruists, usually Christians, that attempt to make Objectivism fit around their belief in God and sacrifice - it doesn't work.




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 12:04pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Steve,
 
Communism has NOT been defeated yet. [...] You need to separate particular political states from the political philosophy they represent.

Well, I do. I was specifically talking about the Communist threat of the Cold War. That's gone. We agree on that bit, right? (China is in no way a cold-war-villain any longer.)

What made that threat go away? That wasn't Objectivism, right? It wasn't nukes either. It crumbled away in a breach higher up in the knowledge hierarchy way above the fundamentals of philosophy. My understanding is that Rand claimed this to be impossible.

I completely agree that the principles underlying Communism, specifically collectivism and altruism, haven't been challenged. I wrote this in my initial post. However, I'd argue that Communism, as an ideology itself, is basically defeated too. Yes, you have some Marxists hanging around, and I can imaging how annoying they are, but which country are they going to turn over that actually counts? There is a battle left to fight, but the question is now only how long it takes, not if it will be won at all.

And if China is Communist, why does the Left hate them so much? :)

(Edited by Jens Theisen on 11/22, 12:07pm)




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 1:24pmSanction this postReply
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Jens,

We disagree that communism has been defeated. It can never be defeated in any serious, long term fashion, without addressing altruism and collectivism.

All you have to do is go to Wikipedia and look up Communism - you will find an article that is careful not to mention the damage the philosophy has done. Try to edit that site to mention that each and every nation to embrace this philosophy has ended up murdering people in great numbers or, at the least, turning their national boundaries into prison walls.

Try to mention the millions murdered by Stalin, or Mao, or in Cambodia - you won't be able to because there are too many supporters of this system you see as dead.

Try to tell the poor souls living in North Korea that communism has been defeated... oh, that's right, you can't communicate with them because their communist government won't allow it. Try to find out how many people are political prisoners in Cuba. Look at the industries nationalized in Venezuela.

There is even a new form of communism recently invented - Libertarian Communism (clearly there are no limits to idiocy).

And we are seeing a stealth revolution in my country right now. America, which once was the home of Capitalism, is now in the grips of a president who holds Marxist principles, and has Marxists, Maoists, and Communists for advisors. They have passed legislation, that if not removed, will become universal healthcare. Whole industries are being nationalized and the labor unions are being funded with millions, maybe even billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Those who think the basic principles of communism (from those according to their ability, to those according to their need and the state owns the individual) should wake up and see what is happening right now - this is what Obama and the progressives mean when they talk about social justice and the ends justify the means.
----------------

Rand was talking about philosophy. She never said that the "cold war" would not end until altruism was dead. It would be far more productive if you would find a quote of Rand's and argue against that.

For example, "When men share the same basic premise, it is the most consistent ones who win. So long as men accept the altruist morality, they will not be able to stop the advance of communism. The altruist morality is Soviet Russia’s best and only weapon." That is from
“Conservatism: An Obituary,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, page 196 (taken from the on-line Ayn Rand Lexicon).

Note that she says "...will not be able to stop the advance of communism." She did not say, "...will not be able to stop the advance of the Soviet Union." Ideas fight ideas. Battles won on the battlefield with military weaponry won't stop ideas. Battles won in the economy can collapse a nation, but by itself it won't end an idea. Nations can rise and fall, but ideas may continue until completely discredited. What must be understood is that altruism is the seed from which endless variants of communism will continue to grow until altruism itself is discredited.
------------------

She wrote, "When, at the age of twelve, at the time of the Russian revolution, I first heard the Communist principle that Man must exist for the sake of the State, I perceived that this was the essential issue, that this principle was evil, and that it could lead to nothing but evil, regardless of any methods, details, decrees, policies, promises and pious platitudes. This was the reason for my opposition to Communism then—and it is my reason now. I am still a little astonished, at times, that too many adult Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against Communism as clearly as I understood it at the age of twelve: they continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble. All the victories of Communism since the year 1917 are due to that particular belief among the men who are still free." That's from “Foreword,” We the Living, vii. (taken from the online Ayn Rand Lexicon).

In any argument the power derives from the degree of fundamentality of the premise being argued. If one person argues the practical consequences of action A and his opponent argues the moral consequences of action A, all things remaining equal the one making the moral argument will roll over his opponent like a tank squishing an infantry man.




(Edited by Steve Wolfer on 11/22, 7:02pm)




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 2:36pmSanction this postReply
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All you have to do is go to Wikipedia and look up Communism [...] - you won't be able to because there are too many supporters of this system you see as dead.

It's not dead, and I see your points. The knowledge about the Communist catastrophes are, though relatively widely know in important areas of society, deliberately downplayed in the mass media. I also feel for the victims in Cuba, North Corea and whereever they are.

I did not mean to say that the battle's over and all those who still suffer are whiners.

I still hold that the "advance of Communism" has been stopped (sorry not to give you the quote myself, I'm too lazy, and thank you for doing it). I appreciate the peculiar American situation, but here in Germany it's the other way round. Those premises you want to fight, they are eroding fast. There's less and less government each year! People are less and less inclined to give a damn about all the whiners who lay claims on others. They become, in practice, more and more individualist and egoistical. They become proud again. There's less fear, less shame, less hopelessness every year. The less "answers intellectuals have to modern times", as it's been said, the more the glory of man begins to shine again (because they recover from those intellectuals). And I'm sure Asia has it similar, or else who's producing all those gadgets?

Yes, America is heading towards tyranny, but the world isn't!

And Communism is an all-or-nothing game.

And all it takes to safe America is ideas. What would the left say if European/Indian/Chinese entrepreneurs are promoting Egoism on youtube and laughing at the liberals? Would that do the trick? That's the kind of weapon I'm counting on. And I see it coming.

I don't say it's over, I say it's possible, not even overly difficult, and I see ways to have it quickly.




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Monday, November 22, 2010 - 4:50pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

In the pragmatist view of ethics, there are no fixed standards, no objective definition of what "works." What works is whatever any individual or group happens to value. Nor is there an acceptance of enduring values that transcend a particular time or culture.

I was listening to Colin Powell getting interviewed and he said something that bugged me. It was something like: "Government can be a good thing if it gives the people what they want." Your quote helps me identify why I disliked Powell's statement about government.

The idea that it is important or moral to use government to get what you want is pragmatic -- government being, on that view, merely the strong-arm, orchestrator/conductor of "whatever any individual or group happens to value." It is a notion of government devoid of objective, enduring value.

Ed




Post 14

Monday, November 22, 2010 - 5:27pmSanction this postReply
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Jens,

I appreciate the peculiar American situation, but here in Germany it's the other way round. Those premises you want to fight, they are eroding fast. There's less and less government each year! People are less and less inclined to give a damn about all the whiners who lay claims on others. They become, in practice, more and more individualist and egoistical. They become proud again. There's less fear, less shame, less hopelessness every year. 



I think what you mean to say is that Germany is improving without overt and explicit rejection of bad philosophical premises -- even though there is a covert and implicit rejection of those premises going on right now as we speak. When people are less inclined to help whiners -- that is a rejection of altruism. When people become more individualist, egoistical, and proud -- that is a rejection of altruism. When people have less fear, shame, and hopelessness -- that is a rejection of what Rand called: the Morality of Death.

But all these things are happening before the people have read Ayn Rand, Thomas Jefferson, or Thomas Paine.

You are saying that a philosophy does not need to be overtly specified and explicated -- in order to start working to improve the lives of millions. That it can just be "felt" or something, without having to have already been formally justified via philosophical argument.

Am I right about that? Also,

The less "answers intellectuals have to modern times", as it's been said, the more the glory of man begins to shine again (because they recover from those intellectuals). 



There is an elite minority of statist-collectivist thinkers who are very vocal about their "answers" to "modern times", and I could understand your frustration with "answers" (i.e., how it is that pragmatism appeals to you) -- if all you've seen is the negative effect of these vocal, power-lusting, utilitarian existentialists.

But it's not 'having answers' (moral rectitude) which is what is wrong with these tyrannical thinkers -- it's the simultaneous forcing of others to accept them alongside the unwillingness to fully debate the answers that is what's wrong.

Whenever a statist politician taxes you for something you don't believe in, what is wrong is not that the politician has strong beliefs (moral rectitude) about what to do with your money -- it's that he uses the force of government, instead of the force of argument.

This politician's "answers" involve a basic disrespect/intellectual evasion of the human condition (man uses a free mind to find answers; force prevents this). Ayn Rand referred to this kind of an initiation of force as anti-man and anti-mind because it contradicts our thinking nature as human beings.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/22, 5:32pm)




Post 15

Monday, November 22, 2010 - 11:20pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

I guess I'd just like to say once more that I don't think altruism is the problem we should focus on. Altruism is a way that people who would like to take your stuff claim they are morally superior. Its definitely and issue, but I don't think its the major issue, or the problem we need to focus on to solve.

The fundamental conflict is: Some people produce stuff and want to keep the stuff they make. Other people want to take that stuff from them even if its against the producer's consent. Its a conflict between what selfish producers want and what leeches want. The more power the selfish producers have, the more they are able to keep. The more power the leeches have, the more they are able to leech.

The fundamental problem to us selfish producers is that the leaches have more power than we'd like. Its not a problem that the leeches accept altruism as their philosophy, they are going to want to leech whatever their philosophy.

The moral claim that altruism is good is a powerful mind controlling tool used by the leeches: they convince selfish producers to feel guilty about being selfish, and through this guilt trip they pacify the selfish producer. Its hard to fight the leeches when lots of producers are funding the leeches. So we'd like to help selfish producers realize they are funding leeches; help them realize that they don't want to fund leeches; and then finally help them realize that they've been duped by the altruist guilt trip. If a selfish producer deep down doesn't like the idea of his stuff being forcefully redistributed by leaches, then I don't think fighting the altruist guilt trip is hard.

Objectivists claim that there are tons of selfish producers who are being duped by the altruist guilt trip. I question whether there really are that many people who are duped. Can you provide some examples, or some numbers, to give me an estimate as to how many duped selfish producers there are?

Maybe I should look into creating an organization who's mission is to enable producers to be capable of defending themselves.

Hm. Being a leech or producer isn't all or nothing. An entity can be both to different degrees and in different respects.

Cheers,
Dean



Post 16

Monday, November 22, 2010 - 11:58pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,

The fundamental problem to us selfish producers is that the leaches have more power than we'd like. Its not a problem that the leeches accept altruism as their philosophy, they are going to want to leech whatever their philosophy.
I understand that you are warning that one's psychology can trump one's philosophy but you are using the term "philosophy" too lightly. Think of philosophy as your "worldview." Think of it as an answer to the 4 fundamental questions of human existence:

1) What kind of thing am I?
2) What kind of thing is the universe I live in?
3) How can I know (1) and (2)?
4) Given 1-3, what kind of actions should I take?

On this more fundamental and more essential way of thinking about philosophy -- what you said above is not literally true, for if one's answers to these questions change, one's behavior changes.

Ed




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Post 17

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 12:16amSanction this postReply
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Dean,

Very few people feel that their life, their money, their property, their time is really all theirs, by right - and feels that with moral certainty. Most people feel a sense of duty, as well as moral obligation to help others. Moral certainty is real power.

What you are calling 'power' is an effect, not a cause. The power of legislation flows back and forth. The power of guns shifts back and forth. But ideas (which are the foundation of moral certainty) will win over time - they drive, they're the cause.
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When you think about the fact the only a very small percentage or our population are far left (somewhere like 10% to 20%) yet they dominate the universities, predominate in main-stream media, run Hollywood, and until this election they held the house, senate, and presidency. The conservatives and the progressives hold one thing in common - altruism. But the progressives are more consistent - that's why they win.
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Just try to rule a population by brute force alone. If you can't claim divine right, moral right, or some other premise that convinces the people to go along with you, something that takes away their moral certainty, something much more potent than laws on the books, and police with guns you will find that you need a very, very high ratio of guards to inmates in your country and it will be very inefficient and probably very temporary.
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If you create an organization that enables producers to defend themselves, it would need to start by giving them the moral certainty to buck the current culture's bias.

You wrote about "...selfish producers who are being duped by the altruist guilt trip..." but if they really were selfish they wouldn't be duped by altruism, and they wouldn't feel guilty. There are zero selfish producers that are duped. Hank Rearden was not selfish in the start... he let him them take from him. He was being duped by altruism. When he learned explicitly that his life and all that he produced was his by right, he became 'selfish.'



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Post 18

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 3:27amSanction this postReply
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Dean,

I disagree entirely. :)

I'm not a producer (well, it's a grey area). I did work as a professional, but I didn't think I really deserved the money I earned. I couldn't really do what I think I can do well and it often seemed senseless. I had a low self-esteem as a result and resigned from safe and rewarding occupations a couple of times.

Since I came across Rand I know what my problem is about, and now I have a plan.

I'm not a producer who wants to keep his value from the parasites. I wouldn't mind if it was only that. I want to become a producer (much more of one anyway); and that would be a piece of cake if it wasn't for the irrational. Don't take this as whining, I merely state what I believe to be the greater problem - as Rand said: "It's not your money they're after".

No, it's really not the money they want, that's just one of their means. Money has a lot to do with it, but it's nowhere near the most important point.

The most important point is sex. Islam and Feminism both make a good job at crippling working sexual relationships and that's what they want - and there's no money involved.

Just look at how they hate male arrogance and female beauty, the two respective primary sexual attractors. Wanting money can't explain this, can it?




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Post 19

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 10:00amSanction this postReply
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More to Steve:

I've looked again at the wikipedia articles in both English and German, and I have to admit that I wasn't aware of how biased they are.




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