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Friday, August 3, 2007 - 7:29amSanction this postReply
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In a YouTube video with the tag: WXkxZzOQ93g, the question that is the title of this thread was presented. Definitions, by there nature, state essentials (essentials without which and thing wouldn't be what it is 'supposed' to be). Here's my answer regarding what is absolutely essential for one to call herself an Objectivist (I'm fishing for comments on this!) Brackets are actually "add-ons" that didn't make it into my YouTube comment (due to a 500-character space limitation):

=========================
Who's an Objectivist?

To be an Objectivist requires 7 things. Knowing [not merely believing!] that ...

1) existence exists (independently of consciousness)

2) existence IS identity (anything is something, and not other things)

3) consciousness (by way of the absolutism of Reason), is the IDENTIFICATION of reality

4) every man is an end in himself (which entails rational self-interest)

5) happiness is our moral purpose [which entails Aristotle's notion of the 'Good Life' (eudaimonism)]

6) productive achievement is our noblest activity [through which we attain necessary human values]

7) [laissez-faire] capitalism is ideal for man on earth
=========================

Comments welcomed.

Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 8/03, 7:30am)




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Post 1

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 9:31amSanction this postReply
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I think 1-3 are an excellent set of ideas for a person to discover for themselves as consistent with reality. And 4-7 are key for a person to have a moral system that is consistent with Objectivism's moral system.

I wish everyone knew 1-3 and preferred 4-7.



Post 2

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 1:38pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

I noticed that a belief in free will isn't among them. So does that mean that I qualify as an Objectivist in good standing, since I agree with all seven? ;-)

- Bill



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Post 3

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 6:41pmSanction this postReply
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Hey, yeah, me, too! I'm an Objectivist. Woo-hoo!  :-)

Who needs free will, anyway? <g>

This must be bitterly disappointing to those who have tried to badger or shame me and Bill Dwyer to abandon Objectivism and start our own philosophy. <G>

Seriously, every statement I have ever read about the essentials of Objectivism, including by Rand and NBI, says something like what Ed posted, give or take a point or three, and no whiff of free will among them. Nathaniel Branden's 1960s course on Basic Principles of Objectivism did include free will, but it also included a lecture devoted to the Objectivist case for atheism, as well as for Romantic art, as well as a lecture on the value and purpose of government -- none of which is included in statements of "essentials" of Objectivism either.

See a common denominator here? If you're a theist, or a denier of free will, or a fan of Naturalistic art, or an anarcho-capitalist, you aren't an Objectivist -- even if you support all of the 7 tenets Ed listed!

By any rational epistemology, this would suggest that the supposed essentials of Objectivism are not distinguishing characteristics of Objectivism, since non-Objectivists can (and do!) endorse them, too.

Now, I know that some Objectivists claim that denying non-essential tenets of Objectivism implies denying the entire structure of Objectivism. In particular, I know that there are Objectivists who maintain that denying free will undercuts one's claim to accept Objectivism's avowedly essential tenets--as well as such important human values as knowledge, moral credit and blame, rights and punishment of crime, etc.

However, there are increasingly more Compatibilists (inside and outside of the Objectivist movement) who argue that these vital human needs are not logically dependent upon man's having free will. And there the matter stands, since we cannot get those Objectivist luminaries who disagree with us to engage in a fair debate on the matter.

I don't expect to see a resolution of the matter in my own lifetime, but I do expect that Compatibilism will win out, largely (I suspect) as a result of advances in neuroscience. Just as the discovery of DNA put paid to the mystical theories such as vitalism in biology, so, too, will neurology put the nails in the coffin of the Ghost in the Machine.

REB




Post 4

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 6:44pmSanction this postReply
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Damn that 500 character limit!

Boy, would that make a good video, or what? 




Post 5

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 7:01pmSanction this postReply
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Bill and Roger,

I won't fault you for your antics, as you were determined to say just what you did on the very day that you were each born.


Teresa, don't get me going like that!

;-)

Ed



Post 6

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 11:05pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, you're not a bad guitarist and singer; I'll give you that. But your views on metaphysics definitely need some work! ;-)

- Bill



Post 7

Friday, August 3, 2007 - 11:41pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,


Ed:
==================
...you were determined to say just what you did on the very day that you were each born.
==================

Bill:
==================
But your views on metaphysics definitely need some work! ;-)
==================


Bill,

If you are going to take the position that everything is determined (read: pre-determined), then I have no recourse other than to blame your very birth and rearing on the antics you've engaged in, today. It was (ultimately) because you were born and raised, that inexorably led you to engage in today's antics.

That seems to be the only reason for your antics which is coherent with determinism (that you were born and raised -- at a certain time, and in a certain way).

Ed



Post 8

Saturday, August 4, 2007 - 1:05amSanction this postReply
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Actually, I prefer Peikoff's statement that Objectivism is essentially the "Primacy of Existence" and the "Objectivity of Concepts."

You could also refer to Rand's four sentences on one foot.

And of course, one could simply make Objectivism a proper noun and call it "The Philosophy of Ayn Rand." This is not acceptable to me, but it seems popular with those who would like to assert proprietary control over her teachings.

If you accept Rand's theory of concept formation, her axiomatic method, and her notion of the fallacy of the "Stolen Concept," then you have her method and can potentially reconstruct her system. That reconstruction may or may not include the theory that no psychologically healthy woman would want to be president.

Ted



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Post 9

Saturday, August 4, 2007 - 10:59amSanction this postReply
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     I really do not understand why some forget, ignore, or try to re-interpret...

"The day whe he [infant/kid] grasps that matter has no volition is the day when he grasps that he has--and this is his birth as a human being." 

"The day when he grasps that his senses cannot deceive him...that his organs of perception are physical and have no volition...but his mind must discover the nature, the causes, the full context of his sensory material, his mind must identify the things that he perceives--that is the day of his birth as a thinker and scientist."

[*my* underlines]

LLAP
J:D

(Edited by John Dailey on 8/04, 11:00am)




Post 10

Saturday, August 4, 2007 - 2:54pmSanction this postReply
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Ted, I liked this:

=================
Actually, I prefer Peikoff's statement that Objectivism is essentially the "Primacy of Existence" and the "Objectivity of Concepts."
=================

But thorough integration of my 'Seven Tenets of Objectivism' (my 'STO' theory, for short) reveals that Peikoff's 2 points are already either embedded in STO (the POE), or self-evidently follow from STO (the OC). Heck, even the objective superiority of the class of art known as Romantic Realism -- is entailed by STO!

;-)

Ed

p.s. Would others be highly-interested in me writing an article about how practically every Objectivist principle which Rand ever wrote about -- can be traced back to my STO theory?
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 8/04, 2:58pm)




Post 11

Saturday, August 4, 2007 - 3:25pmSanction this postReply
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The Truth Coheres

I think Peikoff's "Objectivism is the Primacy of Existence and the Objectivity of Concepts" formulation was from his DIM lectures, but I may have read it elsewhere. Maybe it was on his home page?

The two most profound things I learned from college logic were: that all true statements are implied; and that any contradiction implies every contradiction.

Rand's philosophy coheres, and where she errs it is self-correcting. Peikoff's definition is elegant, but one has to study Objectivism in order to know what he meant by it.

To tell the truth Ed, I'd prefer people pick one small but interesting topic and expand on it rather than trying to encompass everything in an essay - but write as you see fit.

Ted Keer



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Post 12

Sunday, August 5, 2007 - 6:17amSanction this postReply
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Rand wrote that her morality is a morality of reason and that it "is contained in a single axiom: existence exists---and in a single choice: to live." The virtues and values of her morality then follow from the nature of human life.

The element of choice is essential to Rand's view of man. He is not just a rational animal. Rather, by choice, he is either a rational animal or a suicidal animal. Moreover, in her distinctive view, it is because man's mind and life require freedom to discover, grow, and survive that individual rights are a requirement of social morality and the sole justification for the legal use of force. A full complement of individual rights, including property rights, yields pure capitalism.

Whether fundamental choice is taken in the traditional way that Tibor and Irfan take it or whether it is taken in the compatibility way of George Lyons, Roger, and Bill, it needs to be part of a summary that captures Rand's ethical outlook.

The choice to live, seen as fundamental to Rand's rational morality, indicates her distinctive view of the nature of distinctively human values. It also begins to indicate Rand's distinctive view of the relation of value to life at all levels of value and life.

In 1976 at The Philosophy of Objectivism lectures, Rand was asked what she regarded as her most important philosophical discoveries. She said her ethics, her theory of concepts, and her identification of the non-initiation of force principle as the objective mark by which individual rights can be determined. (She made some sort of caveat about realizing that some might wonder whether she was the first on that last one, but anyway, it was one of her most important finds.) My memory of this needs to be verified by a transcript of the tapes.

It is a further question, of course, whether all of those need to appear in a list to your purpose. To speak of Rand's philosophy is surely to include her theory of concepts, which contains something distinctive and important in the area. On the other hand, it is an addition to her general view of the nature of the rational mind, an excellent graft on the tree. I am an enthusiast of the graft and the resulting tree she got. But I think (grudgingly) that it can be removed from Rand's philosophy and still have a full philosophy that is uniquely Rand's.

Rand would fight such a paring down of what is essential to her philosophy, I'm pretty sure. The reason is in metaphysics. Rand held not only that existence is identity (I), but that all concretes have measurable relations to other concretes (Im). What kind of addition is the latter to the former? The extensive references substantiating that Rand did hold the latter view are given in the fourth paragraph of my "Universals and Measurement" (JARS V5N2). The answer to the question is given within endnote 3, as follows:

Rand took (Im) to be axiomatic in that she took it to be entailed by her axiom (I). A thing not measurable in any way “would bear no relationship of any kind to the rest of the universe, it would not affect nor be affected by anything else in any manner whatever, . . . in short, it would not exist” (1966, 39). Rand is supposing that anything bearing some relationship to the rest of the universe bears some measurable relationship to the rest of the universe. I think that this supposition, which is tantamount to (Im) (all concretes have measurable relations to other concretes), is a postulate additional to the axiomatic postulate (I) (existence is identity). I do not regard the postulate (Im) to be axiomatic; unlike the axiom (I), the postulate (Im) can be denied without self-contradiction and is therefore open to possible restriction by counterexamples. Like Rand I take (Im) to be an unrestrictedly true postulate.








(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 8/06, 5:03am)




Post 13

Sunday, August 5, 2007 - 2:42pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen, thank you for that revealing elaboration.

Ed



Post 14

Sunday, August 5, 2007 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Regarding your Post #7, it wasn't my intent to hijack this thread. I was just poking fun. I probably shouldn't have made that remark, since it was somewhat provocative, but if you want to continue our discussion, let's do it on the original thread. I do have a reply, but I don't want to make it here, as I think it would be inappropriate.

- Bill



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Post 15

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 1:16pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen Boydstun wrote,
In 1976 at The Philosophy of Objectivism lectures, Rand was asked what she regarded as her most important philosophical discoveries. She said her ethics, her theory of concepts, and her identification of the non-initiation of force principle as the objective mark by which individual rights can be determined. (She made some sort of caveat about realizing that some might wonder whether she was the first on that last one, but anyway, it was one of her most important finds.) My memory of this needs to be verified by a transcript of the tapes.
I believe the following are exact quotes as provided by Roger Bissell in a post to the Atlantis forum on February 28th of 2001: "In Leonard Peikoff's 1975-76 lectures on Objectivism, Ayn Rand took part in some of the question-answer sessions, and in Lecture 8, she corrected a questioner about what were the 'important' concepts of her philosophy, and she said:

"'I would say the most important parts of my philosophy are my definition of concepts, of concept-formation, my ethics, and MY DISCOVERY OR DEFINITION IN POLITICS THAT THE VIOLATION OF RIGHTS CONSISTS OF THE INITIATION OF FORCE.'" [My emphasis]

Roger continued: "Peikoff underscores this point in lecture 9, where he says:

'Now, how can rights, speaking of proper, individual, political rights, be violated? In essence, by one method only, by compulsion, by the involuntary -- in other words, by physical force, directly or indirectly. THIS IS ONE OF AYN RAND'S MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES IN THE FIELD OF POLITICS. THE ISSUE OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS WAS GRASPED IN THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES, BUT EARLIER THINKERS LEFT OPEN THE ISSUE: HOW DO YOU KNOW OBJECTIVELY WHEN A RIGHT HAS BEEN VIOLATED?'

However, it should be recognized that although Rand claimed to have “discovered” the principle that the violation of rights consists of the initiation of force, that principle was not in fact original with her. The 19th Century individualists were already aware of it. For example, in 1897, Auburon Herbert wrote:

"[S]o long as [the individual] lives within the sphere of his own RIGHTS, so long as he respects these RIGHTS in others, NOT AGGRESSING BY FORCE OR FRAUD upon the person or property of his neighbors, he cannot be made subject, apart from his own consent, to the control and direction of others, and he cannot be rightfully compelled under any public pretext, by the force of others, to perform any services, to pay any contributions, or to act in any manner contrary to his own desires or to his own sense of right....[My emphasis]

"The moral RIGHTS of a delegated body, such as a government, can never be greater than the moral RIGHTS of the individuals who delegated to it its power. FORCE can only be used (whether by an individual or by a government makes no difference) for DEFENSIVE purposes -- never for AGGRESSIVE purposes...." [My emphasis]

In a footnote, Herbert added: "The ordinary coarse forms of fraud are the moral equivalents of force...."

He continued: "...Against whom, then, you will ask, may force be used? Simply against users of force (and fraud) as the murderer, the thief, the common swindler, and the aggressive foreign enemy."

[From The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State and Other Essays by Auberon Herbert (Liberty Classics, Indianapolis, 1978), pp. 370-373.]

It is clear from these passages that the non-aggression principle is not one that Rand originated. Indeed, her formulation of it so closely matches Herbert's even down to his explicit identification of fraud as a form of force that it is difficult to believe she didn't read him or someone very close to his views.

Accepting Rand's word on the subject, Objectivists (at ARI) claim that the non-aggression principle was discovered by her, and even go so far as to accuse the libertarians of "plagiarizing" it. In fact, it appears that Rand herself plagiarized it -- if not from Herbert then from some other 19th Century individualist or libertarian. Since Rand made such a point of condemning second-handers, it is ironic to see her claiming "discovery" of a principle that she had evidently learned from her predecessors.

- Bill




Post 16

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 5:57pmSanction this postReply
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Bill:
   
     In terms of a 'Political principle', yes, both Rand and Aubron clearly spoke of such; indeed, as you quote, for all the 'reading' some argue she didn't do much of (!?), others argue she had plagiarized several tenet-assertions of varied others in different philosophical areas.

     B-u-t, 'discovery' of a principle isn't quite the same as an 'assertion' of one, however on-its-own sensible-sounding...in an out-of-(philosophical)-context...such a 'principle' may be.

2Bcont
LLAP
J:D 

(Edited by John Dailey on 8/06, 6:15pm)




Post 17

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 6:00pmSanction this postReply
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Bill:

     Methinks, though I haven't read Aubron, that this 'principle' he advocated for a sensible political base, isn't a 'discovered' one in the sense of philosophically justifiable.

     So far as you quote, I see it as one that any 'libertarian' (or non-philosophical) group (as in the TV-series LOST) can agree on as pragmatically practical; ie, not clearly (as Rand shows) 'ethically' justifiable (aka necessary for the ethical 'rights' of the individuals involved.) --- btw, does Aubron 'define' what he refers to as 'rights'? Is his akin to Rand's metaphysical def?

2Bcont
LLAP
J:D 




Post 18

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 6:06pmSanction this postReply
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~ As with most charges of tenet-plag. against Rand, few seem to contextually remember that her whole philosophy was systemic-oriented. -> Her aesthetics principles are based on (answers to questions within) her metaphysics-of-man principles; her political ones are based on her ethical ones; her ethical ones are based on her metaphysical ones; and her metaphysical ones are based on her epistemological ones; and THEY are based on certain axioms of mind-use.
~ Mesuspects that what Aubron's P-principle is justified upon is radically different from Rand's just as Herbert Spencer's et al 'historical-tenet-originators' are.
~ Let's not confuse a tree with the forest.

LLAP
J:D 




Post 19

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 9:37pmSanction this postReply
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John,

I like what you are saying.

Ed



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