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Post 140

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 2:52pmSanction this postReply
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Abolaji wrote, "but I think that any philosophy that postures as infallibly correct on a wide range of issues, especially those pertaining to moral and cultural standards, will be cultish."

You not only destroy the definition of cult you make everyone part of a cult.

Could you give the list of philosophers who wrote books about how they thought their ideas were wrong?


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Post 141

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 4:20pmSanction this postReply
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If all you know about someone is that their panties get all bunched up when you call them a dogmatist, then put your money on them being a dogmatist.

Jonís betting tip for this Monday.


Post 142

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 4:36pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn:
>Could you give the list of philosophers who wrote books about how they thought their ideas were wrong?

There are plenty of philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers who changed their minds on fundamental issues, and wrote books about it - Wittgenstein, for example.

It's not a case of playing with the word "cult". We're trying to find possible underlying explanations for some odd behaviour. Laj's point is that the classic themes are absolutism and infallibilism, and there's no denying that these are powerful incitements to a cult-like mentality. After all, fanatical Elvis fans don't call him "The King" for nothing...;-)

- Daniel




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Post 143

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 4:43pmSanction this postReply
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There are plenty of philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers who changed their minds on fundamental issues, and wrote books about it - Wittgenstein, for example.


I'm just shaking my head.  That's about all I can do.

Tom-
You and a couple of others are fighting a good fight here, but for the most part this thread deserves the title of "Biggest pomo-relativist circle-jerk on SOLO".


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Post 144

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 5:23pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel, the quote from Abolaji said "any philosophy that postures as infallibly correct." Wittgenstein did not write a book  about any idea while also saying the idea was wrong.  Wittgenstein changing his mind later proves my point. The "new" corrected idea is now "posturing as infallibly correct."

Post 145

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 5:49pmSanction this postReply
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There is no question Laj is a child of Dewey...

Post 146

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 6:03pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn:
>Wittgenstein changing his mind later proves my point. The "new" corrected idea is now "posturing as infallibly correct."

Oh, ok. I see what you mean. Well, we should recall that his original Tractatus
claimed to solve all major problems of philosophy, after which he quit philosophy to become a school teacher.

Then - whoops - turns out he hadn't solved them all after all, and went back to philosophy! Pretty hard to "posture as infallibly correct" after that!

If that's an attitude of absolutism and infallibility, then it seems a rather fallible one...;-)

-Daniel

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Post 147

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 6:58pmSanction this postReply
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Jon,

Is that all I said..that I was angry at being called a dogmatist?

Is that all you know about me?

And your 'proof' that I am a dogmatist is that I'm angry at being called a dogmatist?

Oh, I'm just supposed to shut up and take this crap.

Oh, it's not a proof, it's a betting tip.

So what are YOU doing here...other than trying to get a look at my panties.

Tom


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Post 148

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 7:26pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

What I am doing here is watching an interesting discussion where, oddly enough, itís the non-Objectivists offering the only sensible answers to the question of what it is, in/about Objectivism, that attracts so many fundis.

Jon


Post 149

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 8:03pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

One of the things one learns from Ayn Rand's theory of concepts is that a word is an audio-visual token that symbolizes the concept. It is not the concept.

You argue for the word Objectivism and not the concept - trying to confuse the word with the conceptual integration behind it.

Throughout history, the meaning of words has been determined by usage - unfortunately collective usage in the sense that a culture is made up of many individuals. You can argue until you are blue in the face that Rand should be the sole proprietor of the word, Objectivism, but we both know that this will not happen.

The more effective argument would be simply to maintain Rand's system separate from whatever else comes, regardless of what you call it. You can even mention that she called her system Objectivism when she started to set it up as part of the concept.

Now that the word is out in public the way it is (which as I mentioned before is how mankind always does this), it cannot be called back.

I personally think you weaken the legitimate part of the argument (the concept) with way too much emphasis on the word. It sounds a bit silly, to tell the truth, when examined in the light of the reality of the nature of human beings and the way they communicate.

Michael


Post 150

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 8:42pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, that's very interesting, given that Rand supposedly wanted to call her philosophy Existentialism originally...and that raises a question: Is Sarte's philosophy the same as it's name?

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Post 151

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 9:18pmSanction this postReply
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If all you know about someone is that he doesn't get upset at being called a dogmatist, you can bet that he's a jello-spined wimp.

Andrew's betting tip for Monday.

I echo Jody's sentiments about this thread. The pomo relativists have convicted Objectivism of cultism because it isn't pomo relativism. The thread itself has just been their kangaroo court and the witnesses for the defense talking past one another. The only proper response to a kangaroo court is to walk out.

(Edited by Andrew Bissell on 10/03, 9:22pm)


Post 152

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 9:34pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

I guess you couldn't keep your word and make your last post your last post.

I have learned in my few years on earth not to attempt to resolve by argument questions that cannot be resolved by argument.  Therefore, I will not waste my time addressing you at length.  I'm not here to act as that foil which you use to renew and reaffirm your Objectivist faith.


Glenn,

I know where you are headed with your criticism of the convenient excerpt you cited.  I'll wait for you to do your worst before making my comments about the mode of argument you are utilizing.

There are many philosophers who empathetically criticize positions with which they disagree in their works.  These philosophers spend a lot of time developing the position of their opponents in the interest of fairness.  Criticisms are launched only after a lengthy attempt to establish serious understanding has been made.  Philosophy written in this fashion is quite illuminating, even when harshly critical.

Many philosophers also write in a spirit that argues strongly for a position while eagerly inviting criticism.  In fact, a philosopher who publishes a paper these days is waiting to hear from his critics.  David Mamet Armstrong and Daniel Dennett tend to write in this fashion, and there are others.

Rand made a lot of pronouncements about how one should behave in a variety of situations/contexts.  This also supports cultish thinking - people who do not behave that way are not living properly, even though these people might be entirely reasonable in their choices.  This wasn't the usual domain of ethical and political philosophy, which often dealt with theories surrounding metaethics.  Rand was more practical (in the sense that she recommended actions for specific contexts, not in the sense that that these actions were always practicable or sensible) when writing moral philosophy - this, along with her stern moralizing, gives Objectivism a religious flavor.

Laj.


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Post 153

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 9:48pmSanction this postReply
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My opinion as to whether Objectivism is a cult is a resounding, "No!" You need a charismatic person (or persons) to create a cult. I don't see anything in the content of the philosophy itself that would necessarily lead to adopting cult-like attitudes.

However, there is a certain certainty in the way Rand presented her philosophy; a certainty that can be found in religious people. I know I felt I had the "world by the balls" and that I "knew all the answers to everything" during my honeymoon phase with Objectivism. It was a fun time. I constantly debated with all my intellectually-minded friends (at least I had enough social graces not to alienate them ;-). It seems to me that it's not a far step to move from absolute certainty about fundamentals (e.g., existence, law of non-contradiction) to absolute certainty about many other things, especially morality. I believe it's this step that can turn a rational Objectivist into a religious dogmatist.

For instance, what is "objective" and "rational" in complex moral situations in which there are many players and many possible consequences with no clear win-win outcomes? Not to say that we should not use rationality and objectivity in our moral decisions, but after reading Rand, one gets the sense (at least I did) that the "one, true rational" way is easy and straight-forward. As life teaches us, moral decisions are not that simple.

I believe a personal philosophy of healthy skepticism is more important than absolute certainty. It's when we stop questioning our conclusions that I think we stop growing intellectually. If Objectivism is a philosophy of reason, then a "good" Objectivist ought not to have difficulty challenging their own beliefs. I doubt, though, this is the case. Generally speaking, people have a hard time challenging their beliefs. In this regard, Objectivists seem to be no different than the average person .

-Walter


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Post 154

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 10:28pmSanction this postReply
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Andrew,

I agree that Objectivism as a philosophical movement is not a cult and silence as the best answer to the more wankish.

There are certain factions within Objectivism though that, well, you know...

We all need to be careful to not repeat history. Our real job is make this philosophy a sound recipe for sincere and happy living on earth - by example and by talk, but especially by example.

Michael


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Post 155

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 11:01pmSanction this postReply
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I absolutely agree, Michael. I've done my fair share of moaning and groaning over Randroidism, and like so many went through my own period of, shall we say, "enthusiasm."

But I think the problem of Randroidism is greatly overstated. My own encounters with Objectivists and others sympathetic to Ayn Rand have shown that far of them more tend to wind up on the side of indifference and cynicism -- they encounter the ideas and get a vague sensation that they like them, but never follow up or seek to understand them more deeply and put them into meaningful practice in their own lives. And ARI, often posited as prima facie evidence of Randroidism-run-rampant, actually produces a lot of sterling work from creative writers and scholars, and has improved much in recent years. Yes, they still have some room for improvement, but they're hardly the strict Objecti-convent that many ARI apostates portray them as.

I think the term Randroid, applied to the phase where one has first encountered Objectivism, is an overgeneralization. Simply being enthusiastic about a new idea, and proselytizing about it to one's friends and family, does not make one a cultist, nor in the thrall of dogma. Now, it is true that during such phases, most newcomers to Objectivism have a great deal of integrating and introspection left to do, and that should absolutely be encouraged. But most of them have already achieved a great deal and are light-years ahead of their peers in terms of their philosophical development, and to write them off and say, "Oh, you'll grow out of this," is a dubious and hazardous approach.

And we're also not going to do our philosophy any favors by granting quarter to the likes of Jordan, Barnes, and Laj, all of whom seem to wring their hands with eager anticipation any time they think they can punch some hole in Objectivism -- even by smearing the philosophy with a label like "cultist" that clearly runs counter to every principle upheld by the philosophy itself. This attempt to shift the blame for Randroidism from a few mistaken individuals to the very ideology itself is one that we grant credence at our peril.


Post 156

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 11:43pmSanction this postReply
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Walter writes
>My opinion as to whether Objectivism is a cult is a resounding, "No!"

I think the original question is not well phrased. It leads to arguments over "what is a cult?" "what is Objectivism?" etc which are pointless verbal exercises. The issue is: why does an ostensibly individualist philosophy so famously produce people who don't think for themselves ie: Randroids? I believe you touch on some of important features of the process in your post eg: feeling like you have all the answers, a sense that there is "one true way" and that way is easy to find, a belief that moral decisions are always simple etc.These beliefs have powerful *emotional* appeals. As you say, life - or reality - teaches us that this is not the case.

Walter continues:
>I believe a personal philosophy of healthy skepticism is more important than absolute certainty. It's when we stop questioning our conclusions that I think we stop growing intellectually.

I agree with you entirely.

>Generally speaking, people have a hard time challenging their beliefs.

Also agreed. That's why it is a very healthy thing to debate people with views quite different to your own. If you take it seriously, it challenges *yourself* as well as your opponent. That's why forums like this exist - that is rationality in action.

Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting post, one of the best on the thread.

- Daniel

Post 157

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 12:21amSanction this postReply
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Joe M:

At the risk (?) of taking this thread from the pomos....

You write, "Rand supposedly wanted to call her philosophy Existentialism originally...and that raises a question: Is Sarte's philosophy the same as it's name?"

It actually raises an even more interesting question: How did two philosophical systems with nearly identical metaphysics yield such different ethics?

From my reading, I'd say that the only point of divergence between Rand's metaphysics and Sartre's is on whether the values of the corresponding attributes of different entities are or are not finitely commesurate. It is amazing how so slight a divergence in metaphysics can lead to such contrasts in epistemology and ethics.



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Post 158

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 1:40amSanction this postReply
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Laj: ďThat the cultish elements of Objectivism have survived Rand's death implies to me that the foundation of Objectivism's tendency towards dogmatism must have been at least as much a function of Rand's doctrine as of her personality.Ē

I agree. But Iíd say that for the majority of Objectivists, the novels are the single most powerful factor in their conversion, and itís in the novels where you meet Rand at her most charismatic.

But itís not a case of either/or. At the very least, a cult needs a charismatic leader, a body of doctrine and a following. Each aspect reinforces the others. I also think the cult phenomenon is much more complex than the popular stereotype of the mindless conformist.

So when you say that the cultist is driven by a ďdesire to maintain conformityĒ, I would say that conformity is a secondary Ė although very important -- factor. I think the primary drive is a desire for whatever the doctrine promises, whether itís personal salvation, self-realisation or a life more extraordinary.

These are reasonable goals, but where the cultist differs from the mainstream is that he believes his adopted doctrine is the only way to achieve his end, and that this applies not just to himself, but to everyone. Thatís where I think the conformity comes in Ė deviation by a fellow believer threatens oneís goal, so one must persuade or force the other to conform.

In a different way, outsiders also threaten the goal. Their unbelieving lives imply a corrosive skepticism about the doctrine, hence the desire to proselytise -- in converting others, the believer is helping to turn the tide against this implied skepticism.

But I donít think the conformity of the cultist is necessarily mindless. No cult could exist were all its members mindless robots. In fact, the members who are of most value to the cult are the ones who readily apply their minds to understand the doctrine, and are prepared to work willingly and tirelessly for the cause. And these are just the attributes that also make for success in the outside world.

But Iím sure you know all this. Whatever the case, I donít think weíre very far apart. Weíre just interpreting the same phenomenon from different perspectives.

Brendan


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Post 159

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 2:00amSanction this postReply
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Andrew writes:
>I absolutely agree, Michael. I've done my fair share of moaning and groaning over Randroidism, and like so many went through my own period of, shall we say, "enthusiasm."

So: you're saying that Randroidism exists, and was both undesirable enough and significant enough for you to do a fair bit of "moaning and groaning" about. You say you even went through a similar period yourself, which you euphemistically call a period of "enthusiasm". This is not unusual - lots of Objectivists report going through this phase.

Andrew writes:
>I think the term Randroid, applied to the phase where one has first encountered Objectivism, is an overgeneralization. Simply being enthusiastic about a new idea, and proselytizing about it to one's friends and family, does not make one a cultist, nor in the thrall of dogma.

One word, but two quite different senses are being used here. There's simple enthusiasm for new ideas. Then there's the '...shall we say,"enthusiasm"...' you describe from first hand experience. One is a common experience, the other is a euphemism for a seemingly less pleasant phase of philosophical development.

Andrew:
>This attempt to shift the blame for Randroidism from a few mistaken individuals to the very ideology itself is one that we grant credence at our peril.

Well, to judge from your account you yourself were one of the 'few mistaken individuals' at least to some degree, and at least for some period - so I don't think we should "blame" these people too harshly. Do you recall anything particular you did or learned that put your "enthusiastic" period behind you? Was there any particular parts of Rand's writing that influenced you *away* from Randroidism that you would recommend to others who might be going in the wrong direction? Did your original "shall we say, enthusiasm" become replaced with genuine enthusiasm simply through coming to understand more about Objectivism as a philosophy? Did discovering Solo and its culture, which is a challenge to much of Objectivism, help?

- Daniel




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