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Post 160

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 4:40amSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Actually, I'm arguing for usage.  People can, of course, use a word anyway they want. They can use the word "Objectivism" any way they want.

I am simply arguing that we, the admirers of Ayn Rand, might, perhaps, maybe, think about using it in the way she requested in order to let her philosophy -- not the truth, the philosophy (as I believe I've pointed out, the set of true propositions is larger than the set of Objectivist propositions) -- rise and fall on the merit of what Ayn Rand said and wrote rather than on what LP or DK or JV or TR or MSK or BB or NB or anyone else write or say. I am simply arguing that if we do that, we can work out the truth of anything without trying to use the word "Objectivism" to validate it. The word "Objectivism" validates nothing. We, the admirers of Ayn Rand -- or indeed the detractors -- need to be clear about what we are defending and what we are against. Etc. Etc. Etc. Yada, Yada, Yada. 

My point seems not to have been understood. It has gotten lost in the babble of name-calling.

So be it. You can have your babble of contradictions, "sense of life Objectivism", pragmatist use the word "objectivism" any way you like to mean anything you like, LP's Objectivism, DK's Objectivism, NB's Objectivism, Fred Seddon's Objectivism, MSK's Objectivism and be "Independent Thinkers" whose independence consists of making sure every one knows that they are "open minded".

I prefer Ayn Rand's Objectivism. And, as far as I'm concerned, that set of propositions is a closed set.

Tom

Oh, and BTW, to quote one of my favorite tv characters, the closer, "thank you ssooo much" for pointing out the "silliness" of my posts. I spend a lot of my valuable time trying to achieve that kind of response.

(Edited by Tom Rowland on 10/04, 5:08am)

(Edited by Tom Rowland on 10/04, 5:18am)




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Post 161

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 4:42amSanction this postReply
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MSK writes:
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.
One of the things that on learns from Ayn Rand's theory of concepts is that some words are proper names referring to specific entities rather than concepts, which refer to a class of entities.

Objectivism is a proper name. It refers to a specific philosophy.



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Post 162

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 4:58amSanction this postReply
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Rick,

So clear, so right on. I'm in awe at the cut-to-the-chase. Amen.

Tom




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Post 163

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 5:27amSanction this postReply
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On this thread, once more, Objectivists are validating some of the comments I made earlier by showing their penchant for parochial logic rather than

Of course, in Objectivism, the answer is always "YES" or "NO", even when the realistic answer is probably a complex combination of factors which need either statistical/probabilistic analysis or for pragmatic reasons, some emphasis on key factors.  For advocating a position Tom, Andrew and others find antagonistic, I must be "Homo Kanterectus" or "a child of Dewey" (not that either of these men were bad philosophers, despite what Objectivists say about them). 

I have never said that Objectivism is a cult, and even if Objectivism was a cult, that doesn't imply that Objectivism is all of a sudden depraved just for that reason.

I said that the military uses cult-like techniques for training its recruits.  Moreover, showing moral indignation or moral approbation towards certain kinds of questions is a key part of human nature.  To some degree, the individualist/conformist or independent/reliant thinker dichotomy is overhyped.  We get most of our ideas from other people and we use the ones that we think benefit us and reject the ones that don't.  Very rarely do we come up with a radically original thought - most of our thoughts are similar to those of others.  In addition, for moral reasons, others may have to put us in line by punishing us for bad behavior/ideas and rewarding us for good behavior/ideas.

Again, the problem with Objectivism as I have described it is not just certainty.  It is Objectivism's parochial approach to answering questions where experimental science has or can hardly proclaim a definitive answer - it is Objectivism's inability to often see that one should not make mountains out of molehills when dealing with differences that hardly matter.  This is partly because Objectivism doesn't appreciate that differences in individual perspective may just boil down to congenital personality variations and that this or that difference should be analyzed for relevance to the purported problem before making a big deal out of it.  Even experimental science often allows for varied interpretations of the evidence, though scientists will often depend one interpretation over another for scientific or philosophical reasons.  But Objectivists are hung up on the need for a single answer even where none may currently or ever exist!

Of course, Rand's totalism explicitly attacks the idea that certain views/ideas are irrelevant.  So Objectivists often think that one can infer something from every small detail about one's personality.  Therefore, I can understand from this perspective how disagreement on some point here can imply other things about one's personality.  But do these inferences make sense as much sense as Objectivists proclaim?

Look at the ridiculous claim that I "call for solutions while denying their possibility".  The source of such hallucinations must partly be a mind that thinks that skepticism only takes one form: absolute skepticism.  And this is the typical Randian mindset that I said supports cultist behavior - the idea that there is only one correct answer or position even to questions where variations of one answer can all be equally effective, depending on the problem in question.

Let's look at a moral question: the question of homosexuality.  Now, a range of positions on this question are possible (hating and attacking homosexuals, hating homosexuals but ignoring them, tolerating homosexuals as long as they do not flaunt homosexuality, tolerating homosexuality and thinking that everyone should be free to express sexual preference etc.).  I think that there is no reason why this range of positions cannot be understood, with some being tolerated, given the ends that we consider important.  Even those in the range that we do not like or that we as individuals cannot tolerate do not necessarily end up being depraved.

However, the Objectivist mindset, partly propagated by Rand given here approach to certain issues, is usually to find some position and call it the correct one, thereby stifling one's ability to appreciate the nuanced differences that exist in different positions, or more dangerously, stifling a thinker's ability to appreciate a radical shift in paradigm.  For example, what are the differences between the advocate of tolerance who doesn't like public displays of homosexuality or one who doesn't like public displays of sexuality, and one who is tolerant and embraces public displays of sexuality?  For some Objectivists, even considering some of the premises that might underlie a rejection of homosexuality is a sign of depravity.

What Objectivists call "mixed premises" are the norm,. not the exception.  And mixed premises are necessary in a world where we begin where we are, and where deduction is often not as important as inspiration/induction. 

When Rich Engle speaks of an alternative understanding of mysticism, we find at least one Objectivist rising up in arms because despite the fact that Rich is generally reasonable,"mysticism" is evil and must be weeded out.

When psychologists talk about how background influences often influence what we perceive, psychologists get accused of the "primacy of consciousness".

When Daniel Barnes promotes dualism, or Abolaji Ogunshola promotes determinism, rather than seeing what drove Daniel or Abolaji to this or that position, the most important thing to many Objectivists is that neither Daniel nor Abolaji holds the Objectivist position on difficult questions that have perplexed philosophers far more informed about the complexities involved in these issues than Rand ever was!

That, my friends, whether you like it or not, is cultish behavior!  AIt doesn't make Objectivism a cult, but it is my primary explanation for Randroid behavior and I think Rand partially advocated it.  Yes, some behaviors are depraved and so are some intentions.  But take the time to be sure that the person you are attacking was actually driven to a depraved position by the intentions you claim, not the ones you project.

I don't know exactly what atmosphere prevailed in the 60s - Rand might have been justified in attacking some things in the cultural circles in which she moved - Communism especially.   However, from the incorrectness of Communism to the singular correctness of Objectivism is a huge gap.

Laj.





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Post 164

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 6:14amSanction this postReply
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Rick Pasotto wrote:
Objectivism is a proper name. It refers to a specific philosophy.
This is ambiguous. It could mean:
1. Ayn Rand's philosophy. Any other individual's philosophy is excluded. In other words, the contrasts are the philosophies of LP, DK, John Locke, or any other individual.
2. A philosophy which is highly similar to that of Ayn Rand. The contrasts are Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc.

I guess Rick meant the first, but obviously most people use it in the second way.




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Post 165

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 6:54amSanction this postReply
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Merlin-

Rick Pasotto wrote:

Objectivism is a proper name. It refers to a specific philosophy.
This is ambiguous. It could mean:
1. Ayn Rand's philosophy. Any other individual's philosophy is excluded. In other words, the contrasts are the philosophies of LP, DK, John Locke, or any other individual.
2. A philosophy which is highly similar to that of Ayn Rand. The contrasts are Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc.

I guess Rick meant the first, but obviously most people use it in the second way.

Rick's post was about as concise as it gets.  Let's rephrase what he said and see if we can make it even more clear than it already is.

"Ayn Rand is a proper name.  It refers to a specific person." 

If you can see why there is nothing ambiguous about this statement, then you can see why there is nothing ambiguous about Rick's statement.




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Post 166

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 8:18amSanction this postReply
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Laj,

OK, I'm engaged, so let me give you an example of what some of us find so irritating in your approach to ideas.

Here's a quote from your last post.

"Let's look at a moral question: the question of homosexuality.  Now, a range of positions on this question are possible (hating and attacking homosexuals, hating homosexuals but ignoring them, tolerating homosexuals as long as they do not flaunt homosexuality, tolerating homosexuality and thinking that everyone should be free to express sexual preference etc.).  I think that there is no reason why this range of positions cannot be understood, with some being tolerated, given the ends that we consider important.  Even those in the range that we do not like or that we as individuals cannot tolerate do not necessarily end up being depraved."

I suggest that the list you have given (hating and attacking homosexuals...etc.) has to do with the morality of justice not the morality of homosexuality.

I believe based on my agreement with Objectivism, that the moral question regarding Homosexuality is: is homosexuality a moral choice for a rational human being? I happen to believe that it is. Then, and only then, can we discuss the range of treatment modes called for by the virtue of Justice.

But in your post you appear to assume that believing that Homosexuality is immoral is the only option and thus the range extends only to "free to express" with "tolerance". It does not include "believing that homosexuality is a valid moral choice and loving people who are gay." (PS. I have two daughters who are gay -- one biological, but raised by adoptive parents; the other a step-daughter)(BTW, if I had my drothers, I'd want gay men and women to argue that their choices are choices, but that's another discussion).

Do you see the problem? You come to this site, flaunting you disagreement with Objectivism, but when I argue from my understanding of it, rather than yours, you accuse me of "dogmatism" and argue, once again for YOUR understanding, thus displaying the very dogmatism that you denounce.

If you really want to engage in debate on this site, may I suggest that you stop just naming you're premises as though they were established facts. All that displays is that you are a dogmatist on the other side.

A good example is this paragraph:
"And mixed premises are necessary in a world where we begin where we are, and where deduction is often not as important as inspiration/induction." 

I suggest that this is irrelevant gobbeldy-guck. Here's why it's irrelevant:

Surely you know that most of us are not going to agree with you about this. Surely you know that Ayn Rand wrote on this subject. Even more, surely you know that we are not rationalists and that most of us are firm supporters of induction. Surely you know that many of us would deny the package deal you make of inspiration and induction. Surely you know that "mixed   premises" does not refer to "a mixture of deduction and induction" but a mixture of "true and false", "right and wrong", "valid and invalid." Yet you state it as though it's a self-evident primary, requiring no justification. For me, and most on this site, this makes your statement irrelevant.

But my guess is you don't really know any of this. Like many who call themselves Objectivists you've memorized a few catch phrases, done a superficial comparison with the position you agree with, maybe argued with a few people who you managed to flumex with your  word play, and consider that enough to come on here and bulldoze your  way to agreement. And when I refuse to be bulled, you reference my "faith" in Objectivism as your reason for not going further.

Here's why it's gobbeldy-guck. I see no effort to demonstrate either deductively or inductively that "beginning where we are" leads to "the necessity of mixed premises." I see no connection between "the importance of inspiration/induction" and "mixed premises." Do you believe that it is possible to come to solutions starting with mixed premises? If so, give an example. Do a demonstration of your thesis. The lack of any demonstration of any connection between your words and the real world renders them meaningless.

Are you familiar with the notions of "stolen concept" and "package deal" from your reading? Most of your post-modernist platitudes can be reduced to these two mistakes.  If you don't accept the possibility of being mistaken in your views -- or if you believe that there are nothing but mistakes -- then there are no grounds for continuing this discussion. We will simply take you at your word and leave you alone.

Tom

(Edited by Tom Rowland on 10/04, 8:32am)




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Post 167

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 8:28amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

I agree with Jody about the gratuitous "ambiguous" snipe. Rick was very clear and absolutely correct about the proper name thing. I agree with you about the following, though:
A philosophy which is highly similar to that of Ayn Rand. The contrasts are Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc.
The problem with giving a proper name to a body of thought within the context of humanity - and insisting on exclusive use of the word for true believers - is that mankind has never obeyed that kind of order, regardless of who dictated it.

Just as there is more than one Michael in the world, there is more than one Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc. And more than one Objectivism.

Ahem... I believe I know a few other Ricks also who are definitely not him, despite the unambiguous proper name. Tom is on his Don Quixote mission to change a culture - not in terms of ideas, but in terms of how it uses one word (ahem... I believe I know a few other Toms also who are definitely not him, either).

Maybe the next step, if this noble and glorious battle can be won, will be to make all the other Ricks and Toms change their names too.

//;-)

Michael


(Edit - Bonks for Rick - for clearness, not agreement with intent, and Jody - Second edit - And for Roger for the post following this one, for the bellylaugh.)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 10/04, 8:32am)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 10/04, 8:34am)




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Post 168

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 8:31amSanction this postReply
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Rick Pasotto wrote:
Objectivism is a proper name. It refers to a specific philosophy.
Merlin Jetton commented:
This is ambiguous. It could mean:
1. Ayn Rand's philosophy. Any other individual's philosophy is included. In other words, the contrasts are the philosophies of LP, DK, John Locke, or any other individual.
2. A philosophy which is highly similar to that of Ayn Rand. The contrasts are Platonism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc.

I guess Rick meant the first, but obviously most people use it in the second way.
Jody Allen Gomez took issue with Merlin and said:
Rick's post was about as concise as it gets.  Let's rephrase what he said and see if we can make it even more clear than it already is.

"Ayn Rand is a proper name.  It refers to a specific person." 

If you can see why there is nothing ambiguous about this statement, then you can see why there is nothing ambiguous about Rick's statement.
Unfortunately for the Purist Proper Name Theory (interpretation 1), Merlin is correct, there is an ambiguity in the name "Objectivism", and most people do use "Objectivism" the same way they use "Kleenex" or "Xerox." In fact, if we like, we can call interpretation 2 the Kleenex Proper Name Theory.

Some might even see more than a passing similarity between Kleenex and Objectivism. Consider the fact that all tissues are frequently referred to generically as "Kleenexes", and even though they are quite similar, still there are some noticeable differences between at least some of the different brands of tissue. Some tissues (LP tissues?) are more harsh than Kleenex, while others (DK tissues?) are more flimsy and less durable than authentic Kleenexes, though comforting to the skin. Yet, we call them all "Kleenexes" (unless we subscribe to the Purist Proper Name Theory).

Also, all said, I would rather have some kind of tissue (AR, LP, DK, SOLO, NB) for the purpose of blowing my nose than, say, a paper towel or a cloth towel or a piece of paper (John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Plato, Descartes, etc.). Yuk. Arrrgh.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a few Xerox copies of this and mail them to friends who don't have PCs.

Roger Bissell, Post-Randian musician/writer




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Post 169

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:04amSanction this postReply
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Laj,

I'm glad you have clear up your position with post 164. If someone disagrees with you and they make a good case and you can't answer them, they are a member of a cult. Very deep.


"the Objectivist mindset...is usually to find some position and call it the correct one."
But...
"What Objectivists call mixed premises" are the norm"
"When Rich Engle speaks of an alternative understanding of mysticism"
"When psychologists talk about how background influences often influence what we perceive"[MY PERSONAL FAVORITE]
"When Damiel Barnes promotes dualism"
"Abolaji Ogunshola promotes determinism" [Does this mean you were born to be wrong?]


How can anyone know the truth, all those -shifting paradigms, nuances, alternative understandings, statistical/probabilistic analysis, emphasis on key factors, experimental science's varied interpretations of the evidence, and congenital personality variations.


Laj, are you saying that EVEN YOU think your arguments are wrong. Remember, if you're correct, you're a member of a cult! 


 




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Post 170

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:27amSanction this postReply
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As said before, Ton - this thread or another - so many children of Dewey...


everything is 'faith' or 'belief'...[except their own, of course]

(Edited by robert malcom on 10/04, 9:28am)




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Post 171

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:29amSanction this postReply
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Russell,

Ah, yes, but most of the companies that you name are very jealous of their trademarks and have waged very Quixotic campaigns over the years to remind writers (in Writer's Digest, for example) that a writer should not use them generically. Granted, the war is useless in the general public. But I did think it might carry some weight with admirers and advocates of the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

But perhaps I wasn't taking into account those who believe that their tissue design, or copy machine design is superior to Kleenex or Xerox, but still want to use these names for their superior product. Cowardly, I call it. The essence of Randroidism, is what I call it. The making of a cult, is what I call it.

Can't imagine a competitive tissue manufacturer denying that they are different from Kleenex  and proudly proclaiming the difference. I guess I'm just bull-headed enough that I can't picture a competitor proclaiming that they are in "the Kleenexian Tradition"

But perhaps the denial comes at the point of considering oneself an "opponent" of Objectivism -- that philosophy that, who was it now, oh, yes, Ayn Rand (troubled soul), exemplified in those wonderful novels that I love so much. Can't I just hold on to that wonderful world and call myself a "Kleenexian" even though I really think she got a lot of stuff wrong and there's a superior truth out there.

Opps, I got off metaphor. Well, gotta get on my trusty steed and ride off to the next wind-mill.

Tom




Post 172

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:50amSanction this postReply
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"When Rich Engle speaks of an alternative understanding of mysticism"
 
I'm not speaking of an alternative understanding of mysticism. I'm talking about the fact that a lot of people have not made an organized, in-depth inquiry into the subject, which is understandable for a number of reasons, not the least of them being statistical density.

rde
I'm workin' on it...






Post 173

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 10:07amSanction this postReply
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Don Q. Tom,

I believe you were addressing Roger Bissell, not Russell. And the other non-argumentor making non-arguments about Dewey I believe was addressing YOU, and not "Ton."

So damn hard to keep these proper names straight, ain't it?

I wonder what Dewey would say about that? (If it works, use it, despite contempt for precision?)

How on earth do you guys propose to limit the use of the "proper name" Objectivism in the world when you can't even get each other's names right?

How about some edits at least?

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 10/04, 10:09am)




Post 174

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 10:41amSanction this postReply
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I believe based on my agreement with Objectivism, that the moral question regarding Homosexuality is: is homosexuality a moral choice for a rational human being? I happen to believe that it is. Then, and only then, can we discuss the range of treatment modes called for by the virtue of Justice.
 
I happen to heartily agree with you, Tom. But, I can see where part of the argument gets rolling. You say "you happen to believe that". Me too. I think what we're dealing with here is that, according to some, there shouldn't have to be any "happen"- O'ism should provide uniform proof  positive for all. Is that the case?
Does it? Can it do that? Does it require that? Is that really what it's about? That seems to be where things get to...

best,
rde








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Post 175

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 10:41amSanction this postReply
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"the Objectivist mindset...is usually to find some position and call it the correct one."

Hahahaha! Thanks for calling attention to this sentence, Glenn! I note that he used the half-cocked phrase "paradigm shift" later in that gem as well.

Laj, one of the reasons you get the treatment you do here is because you're on our turf. A lot of us come here for refuge from the intellectual hostility we encounter in our day-to-day lives. In my philosophy classes determinists, relativists, pragmatists, and skeptics are a dime-a-dozen, and I have to deal with them on their terms. I listen to and think about their ideas, and I've always found them wanting and tried to offer compelling, rational explanations for why that is so. But, with most issues, I find it extremely exhausting and boring to carry that same approach over to SOLO.

Besides all that, this is an Objectivist website, so the fact that you hang around here arguing against Objectivist ideas is a pretty good indicator that you have some very strong and deep-seated disagreement with them. (Think of it this way, who's more likely to wander into a local Communist meetup and start debating everyone in sight? A middle-of-the-road political moderate, or an arch-capitalist?) So, to me, making any actual headway with an online dissenter such as yourself seems even less likely than with, say, one of the stoned-out philosophy majors in my college courses. So I often say to myself, "Why waste time with the reasoned, didactic approach? May as well have a little fun with them," and that's the point where I start mocking dissenters. One nice thing about SOLO that this is where I can make fun of people like you and Barnes, and most of the people around me will actually understand why I'm making fun and join in the fray! This is the polar opposite of the situation I face every day on a college campus.

Of course, another form of intellectual hostility I deal with is the patently unjust way that Rand's ideas are dismissed by calling them "childish" or "seductive" or "cultish" or pointing out that Rand had an affair and smoked a lot. I don't just disagree with this approach ... I fucking despise it. It's an irrationalist, intellectually vapid way of ignoring what I have to say, so when I see some bits of it being spread around on the SOLO forums, my ideological hackles are raised, and my posts will show that.

What we call "mixed premises," Laj, are out-and-out contradictions in people's thinking. And because "where we are" is not a world where contradictions can exist, these errors represent a threat to one's rational faculty and ability to deal with the world. (And of course, some errors present much more serious threats than others.) There is simply no value, no utility, in holding two contradictory ideas at the same time and in the same respect.

The real cult we've seen rear its ugly head on this thread is that one that Ayn Rand aptly dubbed "The Cult of Moral Greyness." It's the idea -- pervasive and dogmatically insisted-upon in our culture -- that the only wrong idea is the one that is held with certainty and without reservation; and in ethics, that the only false argument is the one that describes a particular idea, individual, or act as either totally-good or totally-evil. I have a friend who insists on this approach, so I put the question to him this way, "If someone were to rape your girlfriend, would that act be totally evil, or would there be some small tinge of good in it? And when you and she make love, is it ever totally good?" Even with the controversy put in such stark, personal terms, he insisted that it's never black-and-white, just a muddled mixture of different shades of grey. Now that's an example of cultism.

Here's another: "I have never said that Objectivism is a cult, and even if Objectivism was a cult, that doesn't imply that Objectivism is all of a sudden depraved just for that reason." I've had family members who joined cults ... they destroy one's mental and psychological tools for living, and render one into a pliable, undifferentiable automaton, like an ant in a colony. If you'll permit a reference to Star Trek: TNG, it was literally like watching someone get assimilated by the Borg. It's hard to imagine anything more depraved.

Except, perhaps, the mind that ought to see and understand and condemn cults for the depraved soul traps that they are, but doesn't, because of a strange, immutable (dare I say "dogmatic?") insistence on never describing anything in terms of black and white.

(Edited by Andrew Bissell on 10/05, 1:48am)




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Post 176

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 11:29amSanction this postReply
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Andrew-

The real cult we've seen rear its ugly on this thread is that one that Ayn Rand aptly dubbed "The Cult of Moral Greyness."
I almost jumped up at my desk here at work and gave you a standing ovation for that comment.  That is exactly what is going on here, and I've seen too many people here accept their premises and try to debate them from that starting point.




Post 177

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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Rich,

This is very deep water indeed, and I'm going to give a short answer at this juncture.

In my understanding, Objectivist ethics (as a practical matter) provides a set of principles for making choices in the face of that fact that man has no automatic mechanism for making correct decisions that effect the viability of his survival and flourishing. What counts? Well, what I call "the 7 lively virtues" which Rand presents in Galt's speech. Notice that none of them deal with matters of taste. INDEED, no where is there a moral evaluation of taste in Rand's written work, to the best of my knowledge. (we can argue about that if you like)

I consider the choice of sexual partner a matter of personal taste (pardon), and only in part within the realm of ethics. O'ism says to act in one's own rational self-interest. That is a position it takes for all mankind. It says that such a practice requires the Virtues of Rationality, Integrity, Productiveness, Pride, Justice, Honesty, and Independence. It defines these virtues to apply to all mankind. Independence and Integrity demand that if you like something, you say so. Rationality demands that you give your reasons. Pride demands that you are willing to be judged as an Independent entity.

I see nothing in there about sexual morality at all. Nothing about affairs, beyond that one must be honest and have integrity. And nothing about sexual preference. Can one make a bad choice in partner -- need I point to Reardon's choice of Lillian? But even here, Reardon is not immoral in his choice -- he is a victim of fraud.

Perhaps not enough to convince, but enough for me right now.

Tom




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Post 178

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 12:18pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn writes:
>Laj, are you saying that EVEN YOU think your arguments are wrong.
Remember, if you're correct, you're a member of a cult!

Glenn, actually there is *nothing wrong* with putting forward arguments that you do not know are true - that you think might be wrong. In fact, this is common, and inevitable, part of the process of human knowledge!

When you put forward an argument you do not know the truth of, you call this a *theory*. Or alternately, a *hypothesis*. You may *hope* it is true, but you do not *know* it.

Here is an example of a hypothesis: "Background influences influence our perceptions".

Here is another example of a hypothesis:"Randroidism is overstated, it's just a few bad apples".

Both these theories are logically possible, and have evidential support. Thus they are valid theories. But we don't *know that they are true*.

Now, as rational people, we can make a critical preference for a particular theory over another another. But usually we don't have 100% decisive evidence one way or the other, so the rational attitude is to *choose the best supported theory, but remain open-minded*. In summary, the rational attitude is to be "open to learning from argument and experience" - in other words, the attitude that despite your best efforts, your most fondly held belief might be wrong.

OK?

Now let us compare the rational attitude to the "cult" attitude. The cult attitude says: My belief is incontrovertibly true, and from such incontrovertibly true beliefs follow all the rest of my beliefs. Being open-minded is a waste of time. Arguing about it is a waste of time. No evidence you or anyone else could produce could defeat it. I do not listen to your criticisms, I have all the justification I need in my own system. I am totally committed to it - I will never give it up, no matter what! If I doubt it for a moment I am betraying the Ultimate Truth.

It does not matter a whit who takes this attitude - *it is an irrational attitude*. (It is not to be confused with firmly defending an idea, as if you hold an idea rationally, you must be able to finally give it up when met with a better counter argument)

So, whether you call yourself Objectivist or whatever, the more you take this attitude, the more susceptible you are to cult-thinking. And the less you take it, the more immune you are to it. (Though I doubt anyone is *totally* immune - as Walter says, there is a general human tendency to hold their beliefs too strongly).

My hypothesis is that there are a lot of incitements in Objectivism's Aristotelian style of argument in general, and Ayn Rand's rhetoric in particular, to take this irrationalist attitude. And I think many, tho far from all, do.

I could, however, be wrong.

- Daniel





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Post 179

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 12:19pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

I was giving an example of construing a political/ethical/cultural problem (or some similar problem where the range of solutions/approaches is wide) as something requiring some single correct solution.  It is quite possible to misread my example or reinterpret it in a way that is inconsistent with its primary purpose.  I'm not the most lucid writer either so it is quite possible that I simply wasn't clear.  However, your response to my post is so far afield of my intent for writing my post that I cannot deal with it substantially. 

Even your view that homosexuality is a rational choice is not inconsistent with the point of my post, which is that it is possible to accept the premises of others and entertain their ideas systematically without putting words into their mouth or arguing that they are necessarily wrong.  That I did not give a full or representative range of positions on homosexuality is tangential to the point of my post, but that was what struck you.

I understand your position.  I can do that and disagree with it.  I can see the merits in it, and I can argue that there are demerits to that position as well, and I can do all this without dehumanizing you for holding that position.  However, you find that close to impossible - after all, for arguing that elements of Objectivist philosophy inspired cultish behavior from its adherents, I was accused of all kinds of derogatory things.

I have *never* accused anyone of dogmatism for simply arguing from their perspective.  I have accused people of dogmatism for arguing for their perspective using evidence that is hardly testable and arguing that disagreement with them, especially on issues that hardly matter from a practical standpoint, is a sign of depravity.  This is what most of us mean by cultish behavior - the fact that Randroids are intolerant and require conformity in a variety of ways that seem to make lots of fairly trivial things moral issues.  For a Randroid, if the sense of life of a Spielberg movie is negative, the *right thing* (as opposed to a *recommended action*) to do is to not see it and condemn it all the time - the fact that others might find value in the movie is a sign of their immorality.  A benefits and costs analysis of the issue isn't important - the shades of grey must be resolved into black and white, even when there are no shades.

I don't think that anyone has seriously countered any of my premises with the exception of maybe Glenn. So I'm not sure what the proof of my dogmatism is.  And I admit without any reservation that some Objectivists practice Objectivism in a spirit that is not dogmatic or cultish, though whether other Objectivists would consider those individuals Objectivists is another story.  Cultish behavior is usually associated with intolerance and the source of intolerance is totalism in Objectivism, or thinking that even the little things are not that little.  Objectivists do not want their ideas to be modified in even the slightest detail for reasons both good and bad, and many Objectivists do not tolerate immorality. 

You will rarely catch me denouncing viewpoints for which testable evidence is little or on which multiple perspectives can give decent results.  That's why I'm not a dogmatist.  And if I accuse you of being a dogmatist, feel free to present the evidence that informs your view and excludes mine..  You just might get absolved.  I don't really want to deal with the rest of your post.  I'm not a fan or arguments which are really opportunities for exegesis.

Laj.




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