Daniel Barnes

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  1. I've recently posted on Objectivist Fundamentalism at the ARCHNblog, linking to this excellent article by evolutionary scientist David Sloan Wilson. He analyses and compares the text of books like The Virtue of Selfishness with a Hutterite epistle of faith, and finds they are both as fundy as each other, in that they exclude complex trade-offs and only discuss simple win-win or lose-lose in their arguments. On that basis he calls fundamentalism "a system of beliefs that alleviates serious decision-making on the part of the believer", and looks at the pluses and minuses of such systems.
  2. Errr...Leonid, are you sure you've actually thought this one through?...;-)
  3. Well, yes. That is, as I understand it, the problem with what could be called an all-encompassing, or comprehensive rationality. It seems to me that Rand aimed at exactly that sort of comprehensive rationality, in which case such a justification could fairly be asked of her. But perhaps I have got it wrong. Agreed, this may well be one of them.
  4. Well I suppose it might be worth discussing this sometime, seeing this is what Rand thought she was all about. There is a lot to take in with this. However, first thing I note is that while she makes much of her commitment to logic, she does not provide 1) the logical basis for that commitment (she doesn't seem to be aware that this is a well-known problem) and 2) having made it, she gives herself license to evade that commitment by doing what we've just seen her do elsewhere - coming up with her own vague and obscure meaning for the term rather than committing to the usual standards. This practice (just like "sacrifice" and many others) no only confuses the situation yet again, but where standard logic happens to disagree Rand's assertions - quite often as it happens - this opens the door to an appeal to an equally obscure, alternative Objecto-logic, which overcomes these clashes in a way no-one sees fit to explain. Is it any wonder that non-Objectivists like myself view this sort of thing with deep suspicion?
  5. I agree with this too, and have frequently referred to the way Rand seems to confuse herself sometimes.
  6. Shorter Rand: "What you mean by up, I mean by down, and what you mean by down, I mean by up. Now, let's talk about elevators...." :-)
  7. Errr....they're all examples of self interest! First of all, the meanings of words are always rather vague, with lots of shades of meaning (this fact, incidentally, contradicts a standard Randian dogma about verbal precision). Hence if you want to push them, as you do with "sacrifice" here, you can. The danger is, however, that you end up with a verbalist argument (ie an argument over a word's "true" meaning), which sidetracks the discussion away from the problem at hand. It's better that everyone just agrees on what meaning we're using, and then discussion is possible. Secondly, I don't really know why Rand chose to define a word with the opposite of what it usually means. It could be she's trying to rig the argument - this seems to be the case for example, with her elided definition of "selfishness" in VOS. Perhaps it's because she had English as second language. Or it could be that as she was a very arrogant and un-selfcritical thinker (which is not to say she wasn't highly intelligent), surrounded by sycophants, she simply made some lazy assumptions that no-one corrected. Whatever the reason, the practice of rewriting the dictionary as you make your arguments can only lead to just the sort of confusions we see on this thread. But certainly it is a testimony to her charismatic power that people would presume that the accepted meanings of words, or even life itself, is "wrong" just because they clash with Rand's assertions! There's no doubt many versions of "loss" that capture this meaning. For example, what traders call a "haircut"...;-)
  8. From what I've seen he'd be the man for the job.
  9. To which I reply: go and read your: Then consider this: Isn't 2. what Rand is seeking to establish with her various ethical assertions, including the one under discussion? Hence you can't introduce another "rational value hierarchy" ad hoc as a assumption in order to save Rand from absurd consequences of those assertions. That seems to be the upshot of your "two perspectives" argument AFAICS. The situation is basically incoherent, which is unfortunately where you often get to with Rand when you drill down. (I think, for example, of her truly amazing garbling of Antisthenes' famous "horseness" remark in the ITOE, a passage that deserves a mini-essay in itself). I think a more detailed layout of the convolutions of this child-hat passage would be helpful, as there is plenty that people could get wrong, me included, and I will do that when I get a clear moment. Unless anyone else feels like doing it!
  10. Hi Merlin You tell me about these supposedly important omissions, of which I am perfectly aware, but it would be helpful if you explained how these impact on the problem. I am of the view that they do not, but you can always put me straight. In fact I get the sense that you agree with me that this example is basically flawed. However where we no doubt differ is that you will probably view this as simply an infelicitous example. Whereas I think it is symptomatic of a fundamental befuddlement.
  11. Hi Panoptic, The obvious rebuttal seems to be that this a petitio error? regards Daniel
  12. OK, guys, the commentary around this has become muddled, when the situation is clearcut. So let's break it down. Here's Rand: "The word that has destroyed you is 'sacrifice'...If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a 'sacrifice': that term brands you as immoral. If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty."- Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged" Now let's put what she's saying into a logical form: P1: A 'sacrifice' is (defined by Rand) the exchange of a greater value for a lesser value. P2: Sacrifices are immoral. P3: A mother sacrifices buying the hat for feeding the child. C: The mother is immoral to do so. There is no point trying to deny it: this is the clear logical implication of this passage as Rand wrote it. It's nothing to do with any supposed "interpretation" of it. AFAICS there are two main possibilities, as I wrote in my original post, if anyone cares to look: 1) Rand meant it - and she does go on about how much she "means it" when she says outrageous things. 2) Rand didn't meant it - she has got herself all befuddled, the passage is a blunder. I opt for 2). Rand is confused. This is also consistent with my primary premise in dealing with Rand: that she often writes in vague, inconsistent, and confused fashion, just like other philosophers.
  13. Really? The conclusion appears to be correct, based on what Rand wrote. If it isn't, demonstrate this, don't just assert randomly.
  14. I think Rand's confusion on this topic is almost unlimited. This becomes apparent when one considers her child vs hat example more closely. No time to discuss in more detail currently. But in a nutshell, if you use words to mean the converse of what most people mean, likely you will confuse not only others but yourself as well.
  15. On another thread, Guard, who I'm assuming is an Objectivist, wrote: "As I see it, our senses give us absolute, immutable truth. Everything else is conclusion drawn from that. If those conclusions are drawn logically, they are true. When we perceive things that "contradict" those conclusions, we alter our conclusions accordingly. But does it mean that the conclusions we drew earlier from what we had perceived were wrong? I don't think so." This to me usefully summarises what many Objectivists think Rand's theory is. Do other people think it is a) a reasonably accurate summary of Rand? B) a reasonably accurate summary of what people think Rand said? Ba'al also points out another a common meme that I often find accompanies the above, despite obviously contradicting it.
  16. GHS (I presume) wrote: >There have been various conceptions of ethics throughout the history of philosophy, and there is certainly nothing original or idiosyncratic about Rand's view, which is very much in the Aristotelian tradition. My question is then: How come Rand's ethics are presented by Objectivists as being so unique and revolutionary? Some possibilities: 1) Objectivists don't understand Rand's ethics 2) Objectivists don't know much about the history of philosophy 3) It's false advertising in an attempt to differentiate the Objectivist brand 4) Some combination of the above 5) GHS is wrong.
  17. Social-psychobabble. And irrelevant with it. Why don't you just admit you were wrong? But of course this is the internet. That never happens...;-) Argument having utterly failed, out come the programmatic Objectivist denunciations. What are you going to call me next? A jabbernowl? A mooncalf?..;-)
  18. Now I don't know what you're talking about. Perhaps we'd best leave it. The point was that you seemed to be, like our Scouse lads, rather quick to take offense. Clearly that fell flat. Never mind.
  19. Sheesh, but you've got a hair trigger. You're not are you?....;-)No-one said you're the Emperor. The Emperor could have been Rand, or philosophy itself, I had nothing particular in mind other than the thrust of the fable.
  20. Well let's not argue over any supposed implications then. It's a somewhat surprising question, as an obvious answer is this this well-known fable.
  21. Let me preface my comment here by saying I'm rather enjoying my exchanges with GHS, and his posts in general. He's at least as snotty as I can be, which is refreshing, and at least 100 times more erudite, so there is no doubt that I will learn quite bit from him over our exchanges. Having him here is a credit to OL. However all these things don't stop him from being wrong now and again, as I'm sure he'd be the first to acknowledge. And I think GHS is clearly wrong here: this does read like an appeal to authority. His final question makes this obvious, which is in effect: are you calling these authorities wrong? Or worse, fools? Actually, I think it's perfectly possible for the above authorities to be quite wrong. This is because Rand's key errors seem to me, following Popper, to be errors that have been around for a long time in philosophy - she's just another in a long line. So it's not a question of them being "all dupes and/or fools" so much as simply not being aware of some very subtle but important problems that underly their whole discipline. And of course let's not forget that Rand basically regarded 99.99% of all philosophers as dupes and fools - at best! - and claimed that all their fundamental assumptions were wrong. So if you're going to argue on Rand's behalf, it pays not to be too sensitive about the same type of criticisms played back at you.
  22. Well I quite disagree. It's a perfectly defensible interpretation. It is very unfortunate that my copy of VOS has been destroyed, and I have not got around to buying another. And I am a bit short of time to mount a full defense. However I will fire a quick arrow or two, rather from the hip. For example, if "A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value" (ie survival as man qua man), would Rand say that there are other ethical systems apart from Objectivism that might have the same goal, and be just as good a guide to achieving it? If so, what were they?
  23. Oh, my mistake, I should have been clearer. I co-run a site, the ARCHNblog, that extensively criticises Objectivism. We do quote Rand directly, a lot. For example, here's the beginning of a series examining Rand's essay "The Ethics of Emergencies" line-by-line. (I admit I need to get on to the next para soon..;-)) So most of the time I do quote Rand in some depth, as does Greg.
  24. Usually I do. In fact I intend to reply to your earlier criticism of a post of mine shortly. However, like most philosophers, Rand is an often vague and contradictory writer and unclear in her formulations. In such situations, we must take a punt on what she means. "Man qua man" is such a formulation. I tend to agree with Bob Mac that "man qua man" probably does amount to simply being an Objectivist. Let me put it like this: If we were to ask the old girl if being an Objectivist did not represent "man qua man", what do you think she would say?