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syrakusos

Abandoning Objectivism

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I believe that it was in an essay on aesthetics that Ayn Rand said that there is no such thing as "Objectivist art" but only art. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn pointed out that today we still have Aristotlean philosophers adding to the body of Aristotleanism, but no physicists or chemists expanding on and continuing the tradition of phlogiston theory.

Schools of knowledge center on theories. In sociology, we have macro, midrange, and micro theories; and we have metatheory. Many sociologists give voice to their work with one or another theories with easy labels such as "conflict" or "structural functionalism." Sociology suffers from deep conceptual problems and those labels reflect that.

On the other hand, physicists argue string theory, which may be a micro-theory (does not change structural engineering) with macro-level implications. In other words, unlike Existentialists and Rationalists, physicists do not identify themselves as "Action-at-a-Distancists" or "Fieldists." The concepts are known, and may remain useful in work but they do not encapsulate an entire school of physics.

Ayn Rand's claim about "Objectivist art" raises a profound question. Rather than identifying this as a school of philosophy which is then co-equal with any other school, it makes perfect sense to call this "philosophy". Then, other paradigms such as logical positivism and existentialism can be placed in historical context, as would be geocentric astronomy, and shamanistic medicine.

(Just to note: geocentric astronomy still has its uses. When planning a long drive, I map my course on the surface of the Earth, mindful perhaps of the available "daylight" and the directions of sun "rise" and sun "set" and I might even check my direction at night by find the North Star and when I see Venus at sun "set" I might say, "Hmmm... Venus is the Evening Star tonight...")

To the extent that any specific claim of any philosophical theorist may have interest, it would be a micro-theory. For instance, the utilitarian claim that the greatest good benefits the greatest number would be a micro-theory. It cannot contradict the known facts about morality, but it can suggest an interesting application to be tested across certain cases. And, so, if in a business meeting someone proposes a course of action that brings a lot of misery to many people, I might point out that this lacks a certain utility as a common way to say that this person is a context-dropping range-of-the-moment muscle-mystic who falsely dichotomized fact and value.

Consider that I might propose a "rationalist" argument based on logical deduction from known truths, but have no empirical evidence for it. My research is incomplete. I would identify it for what it is: a rationalist assertion. I would not intend that Rationalism (so-called) explains "everything." Similarly, you might perceive some specific cases which appear to have certain commonalities, but for which you have no explanatory theory of cause and effect. Your "empiricist" observation would not be intended as so-called "Empiricism." In this context, then, the word "objectivist" would mean an assertion for which both rational and empirical evidence exist in support of each other. The shorter word is "truth."

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A restatement (or reapplication, if you will) of the following:

Indeed, for many years it was my practice to designate my system as "Objectivist Psychology." I knew, however, that this was only a temporary designation - a working title - and that it is not appropriate to name a system of psychology, or any science, after a philosophy. One would not, for instance, speak of "Objectivist Physics," even if a phisyicist were to make use of tenents of Objectivist epistemology or metaphysics....

It is of course, an indication that a science is at an early stage of development when that science is still divided into schools, each with its own name. In that sense, I regret that it is necessary to designate my work by any name at all.

And, in truth, in my own mind I do not call what I am doing "Biocentric Psychology." I call it psychology.

from the Introduction to The Psychology of Self-Esteem , by Nathaniel Branden

(1969, Los Angeles, Nash Publishing; 1971, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass)..

Which is what Tibor Machan has been doing for the last 40-some years, with his philosophy texts.

But, such a course of action will draw fire from other philosophers, who will claim that you are attempting to "put something over" by "disguising" what they will clearly point out, is really just Randian philosophy, incognito.

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