It's not enough to have good ideas

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You need good arguments. This is the domain of the (seemingly forgotten) science of persuasion, i.e. rhetoric.

Objectivism, is full of good ideas, but as we have seen (in todays' culture), they are largely ineffective, on their own, left to their own devices. Like a stillborn child who could not grow into a full and healthy adult.

Every (successful) company knows this. It's simply not enough to have a good idea for a business, you need a sales and marketing strategy and you need sales people. It's common sense. Even charities understand this basic tenet of human societies. Religions like Christianity have practically enshrined it in it's moral code. No small wonder why it is the worlds largest religion with over a billion followers.

Yet philosophies, including the proponents of Objectivism, think they are somehow exempt? I ask, by what premise? That ideas will somehow take upon a life of their own? Social osmosis?

Objectivism's rhetorical record has always been dismal. Objectivism today is negatively characterized as stale, dry, contemptuous, and overly intellectual. The (predictable) result is the increasing prominence of (often bad) ideas which have successfully outsold and outmanuevered Objectivist ones or at the very least reasonable, capitalist ideas. We have today a culture which still more or less accepts altruism as the default moral standard, engages in systematic and systemwide destruction of wealth and property, debases and mocks proper law and justice, and enshrines mediocrity.

Ancient Greece and it's culture was saved, sometimes singlehandedly (on many occasions), by successful, bold rhetoriticians. Arguably they will play the same, crucial role in the coming years in today's western culture. The question is, will Objectivism be up to the task of creating them?

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Hi Marcus,

Thanks for the thinking.

Some proponents of Objectivism, including Leonard Peikoff and David Kelley, have long understood the need for skilled advocates. They have tried to make themselves into such advocates, and Yaron Brook of ARI was trained in significant part by Peikoff for accessible advocacy of Objectivism. Another advocate, not at all dry, is Harry Binswanger, whose articles in Forbes you may have noticed.

Ayn Rand’s novels are not dry, as you know. I have known people with IQ in the average range who have understood much from Rand’s novels and have put a significant portion of its philosophical view into their own view.

Two points that Brook likes to emphasize to Objectivist audiences is that this philosophy is hard and this philosophy is radical. I do not think it is really that hard, but I agree that it is radical. It is partly because it is radically different, quite opposite really, from some of the important values and mental habits in our culture that it is so uphill to change those values and habits.

Two of the four regrettable social conditions you mentioned at work in our culture today are acceptance of altruism for morality and acceptance of a system destructive of wealth and property. More power to you if you should pursue becoming an advocate of the remedy to such thinking. Both are hard to uproot. Many people still think self-sacrifice is the very center of morality. Saintliness to them is not a person working at MacDonald’s to the end of preserving his or her own life. If only we could get more people to see the moral rightness, the moral glory of seeking education and working for one’s own benefit. That would be good for them and for their society, I’m pretty sure. The virtue of self-sacrifice is, however, probably not the most widespread aspect of altruism having a detrimental effect. The greater effect is simply from the positive aspect of altruism, which is improving the lot of the less fortunate. That has its genuinely positive character in that human escape from suffering and winning of wellbeing is good. That goodness should be explicitly endorsed, of course. Then come forth on the morality of deliberate force, including by government.

To the second point, the one about systematic destruction of wealth and property, I suggest that what is mostly needed is economic education. This has come a long way in the right direction during the last fifty years, but the prince is always able to find an economist whose theories fit fairly well with the moral values the prince would like to institutionalize. Economic education, too, remains a steep uphill climb. Economic education, it seems to me, must also be joined to the moral revolution. If many millions of people in the country are resentful of people who started out in life with more economic assets than their own labor, soaking the rich is a natural impetus. I am one who had no assets but my labor, including mind, as cultivated by me and my parents and teachers. I never had that resentment, and I think we have allies in religious moralities on this point. If many millions of people in the country think that less income disparity in the country is in itself a reflection of greater justice, then too, soak the rich is a natural impulse. That conception of justice needs to be uprooted, as well as the idea that our gargantuan generosity through government can really be paid for by greater taxes (and inflation) only on our wealthier neighbors.

Thanks again for the stimulating reflection.


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Ancient Greece and it's culture was saved, sometimes singlehandedly (on many occasions), by successful, bold rhetoriticians. Arguably they will play the same, crucial role in the coming years in today's western culture. The question is, will Objectivism be up to the task of creating them?

Athens was ruined as often as it was saved by champions of rhetoric. Consider that Bad Boy, Alcibiades. He seduced Athens and led it to ruination in the Polleponesian Wars.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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On the subject of promoting ideas instead of only proving them, maybe learn from a master of the art of con, Herbert W. Armstrong. He had a background in advertising and he started a religion that eventually became the Worldwide Church of God. At its full development, it probably qualified as a cult. It became popular because it promised good things -- financial success, health, happy marriage, etc. and in this life. It lost popularity when people learned that it didn't deliver on the promises.

In Herbert W. Armstrong's religion, which he invented, Jesus Christ was directly under God, and Herbert W. Armstrong was directly under Jesus Christ. The church members were required to pay a tithe, one tenth of their income to the church. If they did not, then they faced hell fire. If they did, then the windows of heaven were opened to them and God gave them more than they gave and all good things happened. Then there was a second tithe for some people and even a third tithe. Some church members gave half of their income to the church. There was supposed to be no such thing as you get in financial difficulty by giving money to the WCOG.

The deal was they had a duty to God to give this money, and Herbert W. and the other top brass had a duty to God to use this money responsibly.

The Worldwide Church of God became very wealthy, with fine buildings and campuses and lifestyles. After a while a few of the top brass started hinting that some of the money was being used for purposes other than to serve God. There were ugly stories about Herbert W. and Garner Ted. Long story short, the WCOG more or less folded. A few insignificant offshoots and splinters remain. The windows of heaven did not open. People did get into financial ruin. At the end it was a cult-like thing that couldn't deliver on its promises. It rose to popularity based on promises; it fell because it couldn't deliver.

On the outside (to outsiders) it appeared all rationality and positiveness. Faith had to be based on reason. You had to prove God's existence. You had to prove the Bible. You had to prove that the WCOG is the only correct church. It all seemed very rational, perhaps in this way not totally unlike Objectivism. And it was full of positiveness. Radiant health, financial wealth, a wonderful life. On the inside it was something resembling a cult.

By the way, they had a thing about the number 7. Seven Laws of Radiant Health. Seven Proofs of the Existence of God. Seven Proofs of the Bible. Seven Laws of Success.

Everything about the WCOG was quality. The free monthly magazines were made out of quality glazed glossy paper. The campuses were quality. Herbert W. had an expensive car shipped across the ocean so he could impress a head of state by being driven in it. Church members were expected to live quality lives and to have quality expensive tastes. Anything less than quality was almost an insult to God.

Church members took their religion seriously. They had church services on Saturday, not Sunday. To them, the sabbath was the 7th day, not the 1st day. Everyone in church had a Bible and a notebook to take notes. The sermons were in the style of a lecture, with references to the Bible. The people in church took notes. And they had assignments, things to do between sabbaths. They had to practise what the minister preached. They were well versed on the Bible.

The minister was looked upon as a person of very high moral character, put there by a hierarchy of authority with God on top. Herbert W. was almost a deity. Whatever they told you to do, you did it, because it was like the authority of God.

Now there is little left of what used to be the WCOG. You can do a search on Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong and find dirt on those guys.

Herbert W. put out a magazine The Plain Truth. A former minister of the church wrote a book title The Plain Truth about Herbert W. Armstrong.

What the h... does all this have to do with Objectivism? I figure if bullshit can be promoted so well, how much easier to promote good stuff. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned somewhere from Herbert W. Armstrong.

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The same "good ideas" are not enough in business either. You must pull the trigger and make it happen.

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Public Passion

Rethinking the Grounds for Political Justice

Rebecca Kingston (McGill-Queens 2011)

From the publisher:

Whether in the reception of rousing political oratory like that of de Gaulle or Martin Luther King or in the motivations of demonstrators in popular uprisings like those in Tunisia and Egypt, there is no denying that emotion and politics are connected. Nonetheless, criticism of political debate and discourse as emotionally (rather than rationally) based is ubiquitous and emotion is often presented as a negative factor in politics. Public Passion shows that reason and emotion are not mutually exclusive and restores the legitimacy of shared emotion in political life.

Taking a broad historical perspective, Public Passion traces the role of emotion in political thought from its prominence in classical sources, through its resuscitation by Montesquieu, to the present moment. Combining intellectual history, philosophy, and political theory, Rebecca Kingston develops a sophisticated account of collective emotion that demonstrates how popular sentiment is compatible with debate, pluralism, and individual agency and shows how emotion shapes the tone of interactions among citizens. She also analyzes the ways in which emotions are shared and transmitted among citizens of a particular regime, paying particular attention to the connection between political institutions and the psychological dispositions that they foster.

Public Passion presents illuminating new ways to appreciate the forms of popular will and reveals that emotional understanding by citizens may in fact be the very basis through which a commitment to principles of justice can be sustained.

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Re the collapse of Herbert W. Armstrong's empire. A somewhat similar thing has happened to the TV and publishing empire of Robert H. Schuller and his "Crystal Cathedral." Schuller was remarkably persuasive and got huge donations from his TV viewers and from some very wealthy and/or politically powerful people, with his "Possibility Thinking" messages.

It all started to unravel when Schuller's son, Robert Anthony Schuller, who was the heir-apparent, broke with his father over "doctrinal issues" and left the church to form his own, much smaller, congregation. Then the rest of the family (several daughters and other family relations) started squabbling over control of The Crystal Cathedral. The father resigned, partly due to advancing age (in the 90's) and the daughters wrested for control. However, without their father's oratorical gifts and charisma (which were essential to persuading his vast viewership to fork over the money) , they started losing contributors, which proved lethal because the congregation of the ostentatious church (literally, all glass!) in Garden Grove, California could not even begin to cover the costs of the ministry .

The Crystal Cathedral declared bankruptcy and the church building and campus was sold to the Catholic Archdiocese ( doubly humiliating - for a Protestant "mainline-affiliated" denomination [Reformed Church in America]).

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People in Crystal Cathedrals should not throgh stones!

Now where have I heard that sounds so christian...

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