George H. Smith

Reason, Superstition, and Enthusiasm

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False premises. Now we have Rand as Moloch.

Where have you been? Read Rand's remarks in TOF. She identifies Objectivism as her own mind.

Shayne

Gee, she was right about everything then, and then what are you complaining about? People who agreed with her and slunk off?

--Brant

You're getting less and less coherent over time. Wishing that Objectivism is a philosophy of reason doesn't make it so Brant. It's a philosophy of Ayn Rand, nothing more, nothing less.

According to Rand's own words in TOF, Objectivism is Rand, Rand is Objectivism.

Shayne

Shayne,

This does not show the anti-authoritarian I've seen you otherwise to be. At bottom, how significant is it what Ayn Rand said about her philosophy? In her life time she had the right to demand (as 'copyright' owner, perhaps) what she wanted. What survives are her real words, and what you or I do with them.

Brant has got it right, I believe. There is plenty hard-won independence of mind I sense in him.

Big ideas are like a river in torrent and can wash you away, if you're not careful. (I know a certain amount about that.)

Tony

Edited by whYNOT

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I love watching you guys go at it. It is a Neurotypical pissing contest. Go NT, go!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"...one of the revivalists was Jonathan Edwards, one of most brilliant minds in 18th century America. Moreover, then as now, some freethinkers were dumb as rocks. Supposed differences in intelligence explain nothing.

Ghs

George:

Phenomenal rhetorician. His sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that he preached on July 8th 1741 in Connecticut was an exposition and insight into the Great Awakening. As we analyzed the sermon in grad school, it would send chills up my spine....

The amount of philosophical thought that Edwards put into his his rhetorical style is quite astonishing. The classic essay on this topic is by Perry Miller, "The Rhetoric of Sensation" (in Errand Into the Wilderness). Here is a brief summary:

Edwards read John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding when he was fourteen, and he was profoundly influenced by Locke's theory of words. According to Locke, words per se, considered as mere "noises," have no inherent relationship to reality. Rather, words are conventional symbols that we attach to ideas (or what Rand would call "concepts'), and words have significance only insofar as they convey ideas.

Locke distinguished between "simple" and "complex" ideas. Simple ideas signify sensations (or what Rand called "percepts"), so they can be understood only by those who have experienced the sensation in question, either through external sensations or "reflection" (i.e., introspection). Complex ideas are constructed from simple ideas, and they become more complex as we abstract from previously formed abstractions. Nevertheless, according to Locke, a given word has meaning only if the complex idea which it signifies can be resolved, or broken down, into its constituent ideas and ultimately traced to simple ideas grounded in experience.

Locke specifically used this theory of words to criticize religious "enthusiasts." He argued that enthusiasts frequently use words that cannot be traced to sense experience and so convey no definite meaning.

Edwards used Locke's theory to criticize the method used by some Christians to teach Indian children to read. He argued that words were being presented to these children merely as sensations, which they were required to memorize, rather than as signs of ideas. As Edwards put it, Indian children were taught to read words "without any kind of knowledge of the meaning of what they read." They had become "habituated to making sounds without connecting any ideas with them....The child should be taught to understand things, as well as words."

As Edwards saw the matter, Locke's theory of words presented a problem. We can use a word without thinking explicitly of the idea it signifies. This is a tremendous convenience, because it enables us to take in a vast number of concepts in a short period of time, e.g., while reading quickly. To quote Edwards: "If we must have the actual ideas of everything that comes in our way in the course of our thoughts, this would render our thoughts so slow as to render our power of thinking in great measure useless."

There is a catch, however. With our ability to absorb words quickly without connecting them to their respective ideas (and thereby to reality), we can easily miss the living reality that words signify, as we lose ourselves in a world of sounds with no definite meaning. Edwards seems to have regarded this as the original sin of language, and his concern in this regard is why some historians see him as a precursor to Emerson, Thoreau, and other transcendentalists. As Edwards put it:

To have an actual idea of a thought, is to have that thought we have an idea of then in our minds. To have an actual idea of any pleasure or delight, there must be excited a degree of that delight. So to have an actual idea of any trouble or kind of pain, there must be excited a degree of that pain or trouble. And to have an idea of any affection of the mind, there must be, then present, a degree of that affection. (Quoted by Miller, p. 178)

Edwards' great insight was his realization that many words have an affective aspect to them. Many simple ideas refer specifically to feelings and emotions that must be experienced to be understood. This insight was the key to Edwards' rhetorical style.

It should be noted that Edwards did not wish to substitute feeling for reason when preaching the gospel. Rather, be believed that the meanings of some ideas are so intertwined with feelings that it is impossible fully to understand those ideas without being able to experience the relevant feelings. Hence, Edwards employed what he called "naked" ideas while preaching. When preaching about hell, for example, Edwards wished his audience not only to understand its terrors on an abstract level, but to experience them, if only in a limited way, as well.

This is what Edwards meant when he expressed his determination "to extricate all questions from the least confusion of the ambiguity of words, so that the ideas shall be left naked."

Despite the perverse use to which Edwards put his theory of rhetoric, I cannot help but admire the careful thought that went into it.

Ghs

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George:

Excellent post.

His ability to impart the sensate "reality" through the "strings of words" is powerful. I was not aware of Locke's theory of words. It makes sense.

I have to look at this. I see comparisons to Korzybski's "the map is not the territory" concepts in general semantics.

Additionally, Ann Sullivan's purported approach to teaching Keller was the connection of the word to the concrete.

Interesting insight. Thanks.

Adam

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George:

Excellent post.

His ability to impart the sensate "reality" through the "strings of words" is powerful. I was not aware of Locke's theory of words. It makes sense.

I have to look at this. I see comparisons to Korzybski's "the map is not the territory" concepts in general semantics.

Additionally, Ann Sullivan's purported approach to teaching Keller was the connection of the word to the concrete.

Interesting insight. Thanks.

Adam

Some historians claim that Edwards was also influenced by Berkeley, but Perry expresses some doubts about this. He thinks it is likely that both Edwards and Berkeley drew similar conclusions independently from their readings of Locke.

It is interesting that you mention the Sullivan/Keller parallel. While I was writing the bit about how Edwards criticized the teaching of Indian children, the similarities to Rand's essay "Kant Versus Sullivan" immediately came to mind.

Although I had read a few things by Edwards, I had not read much about Edwards, other than the usual discussions in standard histories. Your remarks yesterday about his rhetorical style prompted me to dust off my copy of Perry Miller's Errand Into the Wilderness and read the article that I summarized earlier.

Perry Miller's anthology contains two other articles on Edwards specifically: "Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening" and "From Edwards to Emerson."

Years ago I read both volumes of Perry Miller's celebrated history of early American Puritanism, The New England Mind. I regard these volumes as among the best intellectual histories of early American thought ever written.

Ghs

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Far be it from me Brant to insist that you not indulge in the fantasy that the philosophy you adhere to is Ayn Rand's. I do find it curious why you're so insistent. Why does it matter if you should call yourself "Objectivist" or not?

Shayne

He's Objectivish, not Objectivist.

I am am Objectivist. Objectivism has four basic principles and I agree with each. For me, all else is up in the air, not for she.

--Brant

So I guess there are a lot of Objectivists who don't know they are Objectivists?

Shayne

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Shayne,

This does not show the anti-authoritarian I've seen you otherwise to be. At bottom, how significant is it what Ayn Rand said about her philosophy? In her life time she had the right to demand (as 'copyright' owner, perhaps) what she wanted. What survives are her real words, and what you or I do with them.

Brant has got it right, I believe. There is plenty hard-won independence of mind I sense in him.

Big ideas are like a river in torrent and can wash you away, if you're not careful. (I know a certain amount about that.)

Tony

Objectivist seems the most handy word to refer to those who actually adhere to what Ayn Rand said Objectivism was. I'm not going to distill Mormonism down to "four basic principles" and then go ahead and start calling everyone who agrees with four sentences a Mormon. Nor am I inclined to call every reasonable person an Objectivist.

If I want to compliment someone on their basic philosophical orientation, I call them a "rational individualist." For Brant, the term Objectivism functions in something of the same way. But the problem with his view is that there is then no way for him to refer to an actual Objectivist. The term "rational individualist" does not refer to a philosophy per se, it does not imply an integrated system where taking any one part of it out causes the whole thing to fall; it refers to a general tradition that many in history could have been categorized as belonging to.

Shayne

Maybe I should call Brant an Objectivist after all?

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Far be it from me Brant to insist that you not indulge in the fantasy that the philosophy you adhere to is Ayn Rand's. I do find it curious why you're so insistent. Why does it matter if you should call yourself "Objectivist" or not?

Shayne

He's Objectivish, not Objectivist.

I am am Objectivist. Objectivism has four basic principles and I agree with each. For me, all else is up in the air, not for she.

--Brant

So I guess there are a lot of Objectivists who don't know they are Objectivists?

Shayne

At a minimum they'd have to agree with the philosophy's four basic principles and use and apply them rationally and understand how one leads to another. So, no.

--Brant

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Shayne

Maybe I should call Brant an Objectivist after all?

It's not what you call me, it's what I call me.

--Brant

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Shayne

Maybe I should call Brant an Objectivist after all?

It's not what you call me, it's what I call me.

--Brant

Rand coined the term, it seems sensible to grant her the right to define what it means, as opposed to defining it as you think she should have.

I will agree however that she should have defined it more or less as you do.

Shayne

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Shayne

Maybe I should call Brant an Objectivist after all?

It's not what you call me, it's what I call me.

--Brant

Rand coined the term, it seems sensible to grant her the right to define what it means, as opposed to defining it as you think she should have.

I will agree however that she should have defined it more or less as you do.

Shayne

Sure, that's Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I don't go around saying Objectivism, the philosophy of Brant Gaede. I merely say I'm an Objectivist respecting X,Y and Z.

Right now I've not the time and energy to think my way into a better philosophical label for myself. I make short posts. I don't start topics.

--Brant

edit: actually for a short while I did make reference to OPBG--it's a good thing I wasn't named Igore: OPIG

Edited by Brant Gaede

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At bottom, how significant is it what Ayn Rand said about her philosophy? In her life time she had the right to demand (as 'copyright' owner, perhaps) what she wanted.

I'm not sure about her having copyright of the term Objectivism. Maybe George H. Smith could be of help here?

Smith did mention on another thread that he and the others in Randian college groups were not allowed to call themselves Objectivists (only "Students of Objectivism"):

From the thread:

By "Objectivist philosopher" Rand meant someone who agreed with her and someone she had sanctioned. Anyone who was involved in Randian college groups during the 1960s, as I was, knows first-hand how sensitive Rand was on this subject. We were warned not to call ourselves Objectivists, under the threat of a possible lawsuit. (If memory serves, Holzer actually initiated some lawsuits.)

If the term "Objectivist" was never a registered trademark: how on earth can one initiate a lawsuit over this issue???

For example, suppose I called myself an "Objectivist" because I happen like the term (I actually do - imo it is an excellent name for a philosophy which focuses on facts and reason - which doesn't mean I agree with Rand's premises on many things, like e. g. capitalism being a moral ideal) - so while calling myself an Objectivist here would no doubt produce 'communicative confusion', I suppose legally I would be allowed to use the term for my own philosophy.

We had to settle for "Students of Objectivism." Rand obviously considered "Objectivism" to be a trade label for her ideas.

And you all complied to this demand?

Who was allowed then (aside from Ayn Rand) to call themselves an Objectivist?

I ask myself where lies the individualism in telling people what they are to call themselves.

View PostGeorge H. Smith, on 30 May 2011 - 09:50 PM, said:

If Rand were still alive, do you think she would approve of anyone who posts regularly on OL calling himself or herself an "Objectivist"? No, of course she wouldn't. She would be outraged.

See above. :)

Of course she would be outraged, but I suppose she would have no legal right to prevent anyone from using the term.

The term "rational individualist" does not refer to a philosophy per se, it does not imply an integrated system where taking any one part of it out causes the whole thing to fall; it refers to a general tradition that many in history could have been categorized as belonging to.

"Rational individualist" - that's a very good term!

And indeed, its flexibility does not imply any closed system; on the contrary, its dynamic allows to integrate new knowlege, even to the point of correcting possible false premises without rational indvidualism itself going down because of that.

Edited by Xray

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Angela:

You make some good points.

Out of curiosity, how do you define capitalism?

Adam

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Angela:

You make some good points.

Out of curiosity, how do you define capitalism?

Adam

Adam,

My knowledge in economics being very limited; I'll use the short Wikipedia definition:

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

This is a matter-of-fact description. I don't see this from a moral view.

Edited by Xray

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Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

This is a matter-of-fact description. I don't see this from a moral view.

Thanks. Now, a question.

Is it moral to make a profit?

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Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

This is a matter-of-fact description. I don't see this from a moral view.

Thanks. Now, a question.

Is it moral to make a profit?

I think it is natural impulse in us humans to want to profit from our acts, and this includes monetary profit as well.

Digging a little deeper, one could argue that to "have" something, to "possess" it ensures our survival, whether is the ape grabbing a banana or our stone ancestor possessing clothing and stone weapons. Or us being proud of the nice new car we just bought.

The little ones I work with also give me a daily spectacle of the phenomenon. "That's my shovel!" they protest in the sandbox against attempts by others to grab it from them. Actually it's not their property (it's the kindergarten's) but we have established the rule that no kid is allowed to grab away playthings from another kid's hands.

While it is a natural drive to want to possess and own something, as with all human drives, things can get out of hand too: a wish for profit can turn into greed, with people wanting more and more.

It is then where ethical problems arise. How much profit and at what price?

Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

Edited by Xray

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Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

This is a matter-of-fact description. I don't see this from a moral view.

Thanks. Now, a question.

Is it moral to make a profit?

I think it is natural impulse in us humans to want to profit from our acts, and this includes monetary profit as well.

Digging a little deeper, one could argue that to "have" something, to "possess" it ensures our survival, whether is the ape grabbing a banana or our stone ancestor possessing clothing and stone weapons. Or us being proud of the nice new car we just bought.

The little ones I work with also give me a daily spectacle of the phenomenon. "That's my shovel!" they protest in the sandbox against attempts by others to grab it from them. Actually it's not their property (it's the kindergarten's) but we have established the rule that no kid is allowed to grab away playthings from another kid's hands.

While it is a natural drive to want to possess and own something, as with all human drives, things can get out of hand too: a wish for profit can turn into greed, with people wanting more and more.

It is then where ethical problems arise. How much profit and at what price?

Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

I don't think much of that description. It's too incomplete. Not a word about individual rights. That's where the locus on morality belongs. To argue for rights from a capaitalist base is a contradiction because individual rights is the only way to actually get to capitalism--that's the base. Objectivism goes for an even deeper base in its ethics and in turn that's upon the reason-reality base. But Objectivism does not provide a strong moral center in its ethics, just a controversial and I think incomplete one. For most intellectual-type people the matter of reason and reality is implicit in all they try to propound so there isn't an important reason to go there while arguing for ethics, rights and capitalism. Let's put up that construct: ethics, rights, capitalism. Go right to rights, use this as the primary base of operations (ratiocination). Here we are in rights' land. We explain what rights are in their negative essentialness. And how morality and rights are so intertwined in the NIOF principle. Then we say on our right hand is rational self interest and on our left hand is capitalism and that our rational self interest can result in the bounties of capitalism, moral and utilitarian if we respect and honor the center--the center of individual rights' protection by delimited government.

edit: The libertarian anarchist can do precisely the same thing if he or she wants to, save the part about the nature of governance.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit.

This is a matter-of-fact description. I don't see this from a moral view.

Thanks. Now, a question.

Is it moral to make a profit?

I think it is natural impulse in us humans to want to profit from our acts, and this includes monetary profit as well.

Digging a little deeper, one could argue that to "have" something, to "possess" it ensures our survival, whether is the ape grabbing a banana or our stone ancestor possessing clothing and stone weapons. Or us being proud of the nice new car we just bought.

The little ones I work with also give me a daily spectacle of the phenomenon. "That's my shovel!" they protest in the sandbox against attempts by others to grab it from them. Actually it's not their property but the kindergarten's but we have established the rule that no one is allowed to grab away playthings from another kid's hands.

So while it is a natural drive to want to possess and own something, as with all human drives, things can get out of hand: a wish for profit can turn into greed, with people wanting more and more. It is then where ethical problems arise. How much profit and at what price? Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have, etc.

Angela:

Wow. I guess my expectation of a yes or no answer was idealistic.

You state that:

"...a wish[sic] for profit can turn into greed, with people wanting more and more. It is then where ethical problems arise.

How much profit and at what price? Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have, etc.

Rand stated that:

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics,

in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. [Ayn Rand]

I would argue that "greed" has no causal link to profit. Greed exists in human nature. Socialism has greed as well as Communism and Capitalism does.

Profit is a neutral concept. Evil can profit from the inactions of the good. You seem to be implying that there can be "too much" profit...yes?

As Ayn points out:

The only actual factor required for the existence of free competition is: the unhampered, unobstructed operation of the mechanism of a free market. The only action which a government can take to protect free competition is:
Laissez-faire
!—which, in free translation, means:
Hands off
! But the antitrust laws established exactly opposite conditions—and achieved the exact opposite of the results they had been intended to achieve.

There is no way to legislate competition; there are no standards by which one could define who should compete with whom, how many competitors should exist in any given field, what should be their relative strength or their so-called “relevant markets,” what prices they should charge, what methods of competition are “fair” or “unfair.” None of these can be answered, because
these
precisely are the questions that can be answered only by the mechanism of a free market.

Your statement of "How much profit and at what price? Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have, etc.,"implies a human overseer to the free market...yes?

Adam

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I would argue that "greed" has no causal link to profit. Greed exists in human nature. Socialism has greed as well as Communism and Capitalism does.

Profit is a neutral concept. Evil can profit from the inactions of the good. You seem to be implying that there can be "too much" profit...yes?

Adam

Adam, nice point.

It is well-entrenched in the lib-prog mindset that wealth can only come about by removal of someone else's money. So it must be 'redistributed', forcibly.

Citizens must be bailed out, companies must be bailed out, and so do entire countries.

How many economists have to demonstrate "the fallacy of the wealth pie" before liberals learn this? It can't be ignorance any longer, it is not wanting to know.

The belief in zero-sum is the basis of their disdain for greed.

Tony

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Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

Since all resources are limited, there can be no such thing as "unlimited" growth," insofar as the growth in question depends on those resources. The proper term is "indefinite growth." This simply means that we don't know what the limits might be.

It is one thing if available resources or the ingenuity of humans place limitations on economic development (which is what I assume you by "growth"). It is quite another thing if some people with guns (i.e., government) order other people to stop attempting to improve their standards of living. You can bet that it won't be poor people giving these orders.

Ghs

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Ghs on the tounge-speekin' 'n fish-floppin':

It also seems that these revival meetings might have functioned as modern therapy groups do now. The tremendous release of pent-up emotions and energy in a controlled environment probably made them very appealing during an era when emotional outbursts were frowned upon in respectable society.

Perhaps some OLers have other explanations, or at least partial explanations, for such revivals, especially during an age when reason was generally held in high esteem.

Ghs

I have no doubt that you have this point-on, it makes perfect sense. And it made for really good church business, on a number of levels. We still have a good deal of this going on in Florida, and when you hear the (totally straight-laced generic 'Merikun) people talk about it, oh, you can just see it all. Miss Grundy flopping on the floor, wailing away and hiking up her skirt. I guess they have to do something to get those sticks out of their asses.

rde

And what's up with another sjw slappy fight? C'mon, not HERE.

Edited by Rich Engle

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Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

Since all resources are limited, there can be no such thing as "unlimited" growth," insofar as the growth in question depends on those resources. The proper term is "indefinite growth." This simply means that we don't know what the limits might be.

The universe is a pretty big place...

Shayne

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Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

Since all resources are limited, there can be no such thing as "unlimited" growth," insofar as the growth in question depends on those resources. The proper term is "indefinite growth." This simply means that we don't know what the limits might be.

The universe is a pretty big place...

Shayne

Wow...that kind of profundity calls for a drink...

wine4.gif

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Isn't the idea of unlimited growth based on a false premise given the limited resources we have? (This is an epistemological question actually).

Since all resources are limited, there can be no such thing as "unlimited" growth," insofar as the growth in question depends on those resources. The proper term is "indefinite growth." This simply means that we don't know what the limits might be.

The universe is a pretty big place...

Shayne

Wow...that kind of profundity calls for a drink...

wine4.gif

I know. I almost cried when I read that.

rde

But Maybe For Different Reasons

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You guys lack vision. Resources are, practically speaking, unlimited. It's just a matter of us engineers figuring out how to tap them. But don't worry your precious little minds trying to figure it out, we'll do the work for you, as we always have.

Shayne

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