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Don E.

Any success stories about spreading Objectivism?

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Has anyone had any success introducing other people to Objectivism, or convincing someone to change their ideas?

I've never had much success debating with irrational people (socialists, religious people, etc.). Even though they can't logically refute my arguments, they still stick with their irrational ideas. I don't think you can convince an irrational person to think rationally. Here are a few examples of my failed attempts:

1.) Once, when I first discovered Ayn Rand, I started describing Ayn Rand's concept of the "virtue of selfishness" to a religious friend of mine, who was a very close friend that I grew up with and had known for years. I told him how Ayn Rand was a genius, and how Atlas Shrugged was the most amazing thing I ever read, and how it had changed my life. I clearly explained what Ayn Rand meant by "selfishness", as opposed to the traditional definition. He said her ideas were "the work of the Devil", and refused to read it.  

2.) More recently, I've debated with socialists (Bernie Sanders supporters), about politics, then morality, all the way down to "A is A", but they still won't be convinced that individual rights are preferable to socialism. 

3.) I have a friend who, for the most part, is very logical and scientific-minded. He's an engineer, and has an advanced degree in astrophysics, and seems to enjoy philosophical discussion, and looking at scientific evidence for things, such as evolution. But he still believes in God, as well as the entire literal story of Jesus, and original sin, and heaven and hell, and all that. Despite his logical side, it seems no amount of argument can convince him that he doesn't have good evidence for his belief in God. He referred me to one book that supposedly provides evidence for the Jesus story ("The Case for Christ"), but it was so weak and unconvincing, it was embarrassing. No rational person could be convinced by it.

Maybe these examples just mean that I'm a lousy debater. (I don't think I am.) But even among people who I know would agree with Ayn Rand, I can never convince them to read her books: 

4.) I recently met a somewhat well-known atheist, who consistently expresses many, many ideas about rational, skeptical thinking that are perfectly aligned with Ayn Rand's views on concepts, epistemology, metaphysics, and reason vs faith. When I asked him what he thought of Objectivism, he said he didn't like the idea of "unrestrained selfishness", or words to that effect. I'm doubtful whether he has ever actually read any of her books; but in any case, he didn't seem to have much interest in, or respect for, Ayn Rand. 

5.) I also have friend who's a very conservative, right-wing guy. I know he would agree with all of Ayn Rand's politics, and I know her philosophy would give him a lot of intellectual ammunition against the socialists he hates, and a moral foundation for capitalism. But I can't convince him to read her books - I've been trying for years, but he just doesn't seem interested.

6.) I have a couple other friends who are deep thinkers, and free thinkers, and avid readers, but they don't seem interested either. Even when I try to tell them what a genius she was. 

So I wonder if anyone here has any success stories about spreading Objectivism that they could share. Or is it hopeless to even try? 

 

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1.  Why is converting people to Objectivism important to you? Is it not enough to just live your own glorious Objectivist life and let others live the life they want to live (as long as it doesn't interfere with yours)? Promoting a cause looks to me like maybe a bit altruistic and unselfish.

2.  If you want to contribute to the promotion of Objectivism and are ineffective in doing it directly yourself, maybe you would accomplish more by supporting professional Objectivism promoters such as Yaron Brook.

3.  Perhaps the best way to promote Objectivism is to live a glorious, heroic, productive, happy Objectivist life; attraction rather than promotion.

4.  If you insist on promoting Objectivism, maybe let them come to you first, thereby showing that they are interested.

 

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6 hours ago, jts said:

1.  Why is converting people to Objectivism important to you? Is it not enough to just live your own glorious Objectivist life and let others live the life they want to live (as long as it doesn't interfere with yours)? Promoting a cause looks to me like maybe a bit altruistic and unselfish..

 

"converting people to Objectivism"??   That sounds religious.

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jts,

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1.  Why is converting people to Objectivism important to you? Is it not enough to just live your own glorious Objectivist life and let others live the life they want to live (as long as it doesn't interfere with yours)? Promoting a cause looks to me like maybe a bit altruistic and unselfish.

1. It's not particularly important to me. But don't you get any pleasure from sharing something great with people you care about? Have you never recommended a book or a movie or a TV show to a friend who might enjoy it? I'm not out evangelizing or attempting to "convert" people. But I would like my friends to have a chance to enjoy the same things I've enjoyed, because it's fun to enjoy it with them and discuss it with them. Especially something profound and life-changing like Objectivism. For the most part, I don't care if anyone accepts it or not, and I'm happy to live and let live. But I think there is a danger in taking that attitude with socialists and looters, because if we don't challenge them they will continue to take over the country. They don't want to "let live" - they want to control you and redistribute your wealth to those who haven't earned it. I mean, what kind of world do you want to live in? Wouldn't you prefer to have the largest number of people exposed to Objectivism as possible, so they can at least consider it as an option? So yes, I think there is a selfish reason to promote Objectivism. Outside of my friends, I never bring it up unless someone starts a discussion on a philosophical or political topic with me. But I do think there's value in it. 

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2.  If you want to contribute to the promotion of Objectivism and are ineffective in doing it directly yourself, maybe you would accomplish more by supporting professional Objectivism promoters such as Yaron Brook.

2. I do support Yaron Brook and ARI.

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3.  Perhaps the best way to promote Objectivism is to live a glorious, heroic, productive, happy Objectivist life; attraction rather than promotion.

3. I do live my life well, although I wouldn't go so far as to call myself glorious or heroic. 

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4.  If you insist on promoting Objectivism, maybe let them come to you first, thereby showing that they are interested.

4. Again, I never bother anyone with unwanted promotion or evangelizing. I recommend it to my friends, and I debate with people when they bring it up. 

But you seem to have missed the point of my question. I suppose I didn't make it clear. What I'm wondering is, is it possible to get people to change their minds? Is it possible to get irrational people to see the value in reason and start thinking rationally? Is it possible for a religious person to be convinced to use evidence and reason instead of faith? Is it possible for a socialist to change to a supporter of individual rights and free markets? Are some people just naturally more rational than others? I get pretty discouraged when I explain things very clearly and logically to people, and they still refuse to listen to reason.

Objectivists are certainly a minority in the world. For some reason, there seems to be a real bias against rational thinking out there. Considering that humans are rational animals, and that we survive by using reason and free will, it's surprising how many people reject reason and freedom, and choose faith and collectivism instead. I just wonder if people who choose that path are even capable of being convinced to change their minds.

And is it even a choice? I was very rational and logical even as a child, but most other people I grew up with weren't. Maybe we're just born rational or irrational and we can't change. I don't think anyone could ever convince me to start taking things of faith. Maybe the faithful can't be convinced to listen to reason. If that's the case, then there would seem to be no hope of ever living in a rational world under a completely free political system, and I find that kind of depressing. 

So I wasn't asking, "how can I spread the gospel of Objectivism?". I was trying to ask, "are irrational people capable of choosing to be rational?". I haven't seen any examples of it in my experience, so I'm interested in hearing success stories that demonstrate that it's possible. 

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You have irrational people and irrational positions.

The irrational people are likely irrational on some things and rational on others. It would seem therefore you go through their rational doors before trying to bust open their compartmentalizations.

You might try small bites.

The best way is to be as open and unapologetic about your beliefs as you can if appropriate.

I wonder if you've read the following by Ayn Rand:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/9476

--Brant

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There are several forms of "mind changing".  One of them is conversion in the sense that a  person is persuaded to give up one set of religious (or quasi-religious) beliefs and take on a different set of beliefs.  Another form is teaching.  Teaching is  "mind changing".  People come to the teacher to acquire new ideas and knowledge and also to give up ideas which are mistaken  and to discard non-facts which the believed to be factual. The latter form of mind changing is the most useful and it can be done,  very often,  without a teacher.  

religious or quasi-religious conversion almost always requires the inducing of emotions,  often the emotions of shame, guilt and fear. 

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13 hours ago, Don E. said:

And is it even a choice? I was very rational and logical even as a child, but most other people I grew up with weren't. Maybe we're just born rational or irrational and we can't change. I don't think anyone could ever convince me to start taking things of faith. Maybe the faithful can't be convinced to listen to reason. If that's the case, then there would seem to be no hope of ever living in a rational world under a completely free political system, and I find that kind of depressing. 

So I wasn't asking, "how can I spread the gospel of Objectivism?". I was trying to ask, "are irrational people capable of choosing to be rational?". I haven't seen any examples of it in my experience, so I'm interested in hearing success stories that demonstrate that it's possible. 

 "Born rational", yes we're all certainly born with the *capacity*, but the *state* of rationality is a full-time commitment and is endlessly volitional. My personal view is that one's early recognition of one's independent consciousness is the prerequisite for full function of volition, rationality and reason (conceptualization). I'm leaning towards some combination of parenting, religion, schooling and various conformist pressures diminishing autonomy and independence in many, if not most, young minds. And/or, some young minds are more resistant. Religion (mystic intrinsicism) isn't the only premise you'll be up against, the philosophical skepticism of secularists, who are often determinist, is harder to deal with (in my experience). In fact I can have more satisfying conversations with many religious folk who at least know and have *conviction*, and can be highly rational (in part, up to a point). I know I won't persuade any, and don't try to.  

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"So I wonder if anyone here has any success stories about spreading Objectivism that they could share. Or is it hopeless to even try?"

If a photo had been snapped of me at 17, we would've seen me: Naked, drugged and in a room isolated on a 340 acre former farm, laid out under kegel lights on a cart, wrapped in cold wet sheets packed tightly around every inch. I woke to a calm, deep voice, saying,  "Mr A. My name is Dr. -. You're safe. 

It was the most dangerous place I had ever been.  

By my reckoning, 1 1/2 yrs later was a win, today is a success story. I kid you not.

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On 7/31/2016 at 11:09 PM, Don E. said:

Has anyone had any success introducing other people to Objectivism, or convincing someone to change their ideas?

Don E.,

I know what I'm doing. It's called OL.

:)

It sometimes works, too, for changing people's ideas. The funny part is it never works the way one would imagine.

As to your interest in knowing what is possible and your interest in knowing how to do it, that would require a really long answer to do it right. Unfortunately, I don't have time to get that deep into it.

But I do have time for a short answer, so here are a few things off the top of my head.

People don't change long-held beliefs the way it seems like they should, that is, you give them a better argument than the one they have, they go, "OK," and BAM, they are different human beings. :) That never works. It's a lot more complicated, nuanced and it goes through stages. However, it is possible for people to change deeply held views over time.

I won't quibble over what you mean by being rational except for one distinction. If what you mean is being more rational than before, this is entirely possible and happens all the time. If what you mean is prompting people to turn into a Randian, that is a far harder task and, frankly, one I am not enthusiastic about. It's not that I don't think they would not get value from becoming a Randian. I merely think a core elaborated worldview is something you acquire gradually and not everyone needs the form Rand provided or will even agree with certain facets. Yet they can still become a lot more rational. 

Apropos, I always tell people that the approach to Objectivism here on OL is different than it is at other more orthodox places. Other places tend to use Objectivism as a goal or an end (a complete thing), and you (the incomplete thing) are supposed to strive to mold your life according to it. Some even talk about becoming morally perfect human beings this way.

I do the opposite. People generally come to OL from a shared interest in Objectivism. But that interest is different for each person. Some (like me) experienced a blinding conversion in one night by blasting through Atlas Shrugged. Others were swayed by an argument in a Randian essay or something like that. Some people like the Rand-Branden gossip. Some might even be hostile to Rand. But all have been touched by Ayn Rand to some extent. 

So the only thing we try to do here is make sure they get the ideas correct when they talk about them--not as dogma or lesson plans or anything like that. I, for one, just don't want to see someone saying Rand said or meant XXX when she clearly meant YYY. As long as they get her notions correct, where they go from there is totally up to them.

That's why you will not find many examples on OL of people "defending Rand's honor" or things like that, but you will find them correcting someone's attributions to Rand and citing Rand's words to back it up. That happens all the time.

Back to your concerns. If you are really interested in moving hostile or indifferent people through the process of becoming acquainted with Rand's work, you need to study persuasion, possibly marketing, and definitely storytelling. I would throw in the modern layman's books on neuroscience and psychology. There are tons of books and online information on these things, but there is also a ton of information on them here on OL. If you stick around and we discuss things, I will end up pointing you in good fruitful directions once in awhile.

Don't forget that Rand spread her ideas mostly through fiction--and still does. Just look at her book sales numbers. Her fiction far outsells her nonfiction and it always has. As the saying goes, you have to sell with emotion and justify with logic. Stories are great conveyors of emotion.

Let me give you a piece of advice for now, though. And it should ring a friendly bell since you are in agreement with the morality of selfishness. There's an old saying by a recently deceased marketer named Zig Ziglar. He said, "You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." There is a deep, deep truth embedded in this message that young Objectivists tend to ignore when they discuss ideas with people unfamiliar with Ayn Rand. And that is, everyone is fundamentally selfish to start with, they are merely not conceptual about it.

That being the case, you will never get anyone to look at Rand's works until you can explain to them why it would be good for them to look--not from the perspective of what you want for them, but from the perspective of what they want on their own terms. They are too selfish to be otherwise. :) And there's nothing wrong with that.

Maybe one more thing right now. There is such a thing as a transcendental experience where people turn their lives around from one minute to the next. Religious conversions work this way where a bum gets saved, suddenly cleans up and becomes a responsible member of society. One day to the next. I'm familiar with this experience from the drug addict's perspective since I used to be a hardcore addict.

This transcendental experience can go the other way, too. A person can turn evil. I once heard a man tell me some Oriental wisdom (although I haven't found the source yet, so I can't say for sure whether it is Oriental or from somewhere else). It goes like this. Do not be too worried when someone who is a little bit honest does something wrong. He can only become a little bit dishonest so he will not hurt you much. But if a person of high integrity goes bad, get out of his way.

At any rate, I suggest you do not pursue spreading Randian ideas through a transcendental experience, nor expect a logical argument to provide one.

Instead, remember when you are talking to someone, you are before a mind that is independent from yours and there is a lifetime of thinking built up in that mind--thinking and experiencing years and years a huge amount of stuff you never thought or experienced. So what can you do before that if you forgo transcendence, but want to persuade that person to be more rational? You do it in small steps, one concrete item at a time or one small abstraction at a time or one small universal at a time. The only way a single person can eat a whole elephant is one bite at a time.

Rand said never fail to make moral denunciations. That's her advice for changing a moral culture. And that is one of her scope issues because it is good advice for some contexts and horrible advice for others. You do not tell a target for persuasion they are wrong right out of the gate, not if you want to persuade. The human brain has actual neurons that trigger defensive circuits and release cortisol (one of the pain neurochemicals) when that happens--and it's automatic. What, to you, will feel like offering help, to them will feel like an irritation or even threat. And that never persuades anyone. Instead, it calls them out for a fight. If that's what you want, OK. But don't think you will get anyone to change their fundamental ideas that way.

Save aggressive denunciation for the real evil people in the world. At the start, I would even say save it for people you and your target both consider evil. Then plant small seeds and watch them grow into big ideas in the other person without trying to micromanage them. This works well and often the results are glorious.

Michael

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On 8/1/2016 at 9:03 PM, Don E. said:

Yaron Brook and ARI

ick

I see what you mean about not being glorious or heroic. MSK had good suggestions as always, but I have a slightly different view. Hire employees, particularly young people, and have children of your own with an Objectivist spouse. Guaranteed to keep you busy being rational, and to discipline yourself not to take advantage of others. On the other hand, it took Roark 10+ years to win Dominique free and clear, and it cost Wynand his life (that's how Rand's movie adaptation played, foreshadowed pretty clearly in the novel, since we saw Wynand toying with a revolver when he was introduced, see "Chekhof's gun"). I mention this in the context of earning some stripes.

Few Objectivists live well and have a nice day. The big challenge is to ignore others, because they're none of your business.

 

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I have introduced many people to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and loaned out some Philosophical tracts written by Rand or the Branden’s when I was in my teens and early twenties, moving around with my military family, but I honestly do not know if any but a few STAYED Objectivists after professing agreement with her ideas.  I am no longer in contact with them unless they are on OL under a web name. In person, I have run into quite a few fans of Rand though.

I agree that OL is a great place for readers of Rand to come to after wondering what other fans are like.

Peter

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