How Do I Become a Good Objectivist?


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To dissent is to disagree, and I've written a hell of a lot of posts in which I've disagreed with Objectivists. So it's accurate to call me a dissenter in that context. But there's more to my being officially labeled a dissenter by the staff of RoR last week. The purpose of applying the term to me, and to limiting my freedom to post, is to imply that my views aren't just disagreements with Objectivists, but that they are ~disagreements with Objectivism~. It's a chicken shit way of tainting all arguments in favor of one side before the arguments have taken place. Its purpose is to say, "Everything we say is representative of Objectivism, even if it's wrong. Everything you say is dissent, especially if you are right and have been effectively and consistently applying Objectivism to our erroneous opinions."

The reason that I've been tagged a "dissenter" is that I've embarrassed people like Joe Rowlands by implementing Objectivism -- reason, logic, objectivity -- better than they have. I've committed the crime of challenging some of their rather silly evaluations of art which they've assumed are the default Objectivist positions.

At least that's the way that I've been looking at the issue. But I want to be a good Objectivist. So I'm willing to reconsider my position. I'm eager to question my own ways of thinking and seriously ponder the admonishments of Objectivism's self-appointed spokesmen.

When people like Lindsay Perigo, Joe Rowlands and their pals have attacked art which represents heroism, rational defiance, deep contemplation, justice, liberty and other virtues and values, I've thought that I was applying Objectivism's methods when defending the art. I've thought that I've been quite effective in using reason and providing objective evidence where my opponents have been relying on little more than their shallow, subjective reactions to the art.

I've thought that I've been quite Objectivist when demanding that Objectivism's self-appointed spokesmen equally and consistently apply Rand's requirement that if a work of art "does not present an intelligible subject, it ceases to be art" to ~all~ art forms and works of art. I've thought that I've been ideally Objectivist in expecting that my opponents' aesthetic evaluations should meet Rand's requirements of ~objective~ aesthetic judgment by identifying "the artist's theme, the abstract meaning of his work (exclusively by identifying the evidence contained in the work and allowing no other, outside considerations)."

Apparently I was wrong, but I need help in understanding why. I can't grasp the principle behind the view that it is "pro-Objectivist" for Objectivism's self-appointed spokesmen to attack heroic art, but it is "anti-Objectivist" or "dissent" for me to defend it. If ~I~ were to attack heroic works of art based on the type of arguments that Objectivism's spokesmen have used, it would be considered further proof of my evil, anti-Objectivist ways. So I'm totally at a loss to understand any of it. Could someone please explain, in simple terms that I might understand, the proper Objectivist principles of aesthetic interpretation, why Objectivism's self-appointed spokesmen are exempt from following Rand's requirements, and why I am "anti-Objectivist" and a "dissenter" for demanding that Objectivists adhere to Rand's guidelines?

J

Edited by Jonathan
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Jonathan,

Start by reading "INDEPENDENCE AS A PRIMARY ORIENTATION TO REALITY, NOT TO OTHER MEN" from OPAR and follow that up with Rand's essay "Who is the final authority in ethics?"

You'll be a "good Objectivist" in no time.

Victor :rolleyes:

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Jonathan,

OL is not really the place for "good Objectivsts" - especially those deemed good by self-proclaimed "Objectivist leaders." (Shoot, even Victor is aboard! :D )

What the hell is a self-proclaimed "Objectivist leader," anyway? Didn't Rand herself point out somewhere that when enough people believe in the need for a leader who cannot be judged, it is only a matter of time before someone pops up and says, "That's me!"?

Personally, I call myself a "renegade Objectivist." You are welcome to that term if you like it. "Good Objectivist" for you sounds so Don Quixote-like anyway. That's because I have seen that you use your own mind, not the Objectivist bromides served up by the "leaders."

Michael

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Victor:

Start by reading "INDEPENDENCE AS A PRIMARY ORIENTATION TO REALITY, NOT TO OTHER MEN" from OPAR and follow that up with Rand's essay "Who is the final authority in ethics?"

You'll be a "good Objectivist" in no time.

But I've already tried an independent orientation to reality, and look where it got me -- dissenter moderation!!! So, no, don't try to trick me into remaining evil, Victor. Independent thinking is just the type of thing that I should not be doing. It's "anti-Objectivist" according to the policies of Joe Rowlands and his staff at RoR.

J

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MSK:

OL is not really the place for "good Objectivsts" - especially those deemed good by self-proclaimed "Objectivist leaders." (Shoot, even Victor is aboard! )

What the hell is a self-proclaimed "Objectivist leader," anyway? Didn't Rand herself point out somewhere that when enough people believe in the need for a leader who cannot be judged, it is only a matter of time before someone pops up and says, "That's me!"?

Personally, I call myself a "renegade Objectivist." You are welcome to that term if you like it. "Good Objectivist" for you sounds so Don Quixote-like anyway. That's because I have seen that you use your own mind, not the Objectivist bromides served up by the "leaders."

But I don't want to fit in with evil renegades like you, Michael. I want good, clean, proper Objectivists like Joe Rowlands to like and accept me. I want to learn to be just like them. I want to help change the world by figuring out how to condemn the right art (or should I say the wrong non-art?), and I don't want to just mimic and agree with Joe's opinions without actually believing them. I want to learn the principles which guide him in exempting himself from following Rand's theories and requirements for judging art while claiming that those who disagree with him are anti-Objectivist dissenters. (All of that still sounds like a contradiction to me, but that's probably because I'm still being controlled by the evil within me. Once I learn to more effectively fight my evil thoughts, I'll probably understand how not applying Objectivism is good Objectivism.)

Perhaps a good first step would be for me to stop studying art and art history since there seems to be a strong correlation between lack of knowledge about art and having correct Objectivist opinions about it. The less I know the better.

J

Edited by Jonathan
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Jonathan: "But there's more to my being officially labeled a dissenter by the staff of RoR last week. The purpose of applying the term to me, and to limiting my freedom to post, is to imply that my views aren't just disagreements with Objectivists, but that they are ~disagreements with Objectivism~. It's a chicken shit way of tainting all arguments in favor of one side before the arguments have taken place."

I very well understand why you are upset at being demoted to "consistently anti-Objectivist." I don't object in principle to establishing a separate forum for people who are antagonistic to Objectivism, but there is an arbitrariness in the way the whole issue is being handled that I find objectionable. It is not made at all clear on what grounds and according to what principles someone will be banished; the person to be banished is not given any warning in advance; and the reasonss for the banishment may not be questioned or discussed after the fact. Posters are being treated like children, some of whom are told by big daddy that they have been bad and are to be sent to their rooms without dinner and forbidden to join the big folks. What became of objectivity in all this?

Barbara

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I'll admit I haven't been watching RoR very closely lately, but I am truly confused as to why Jonathan is in the doghouse. There has been nothing posted in the art gallery for over two months and I have never seen Jonathan being offensive over there.

Not everyone shares the same artistic tastes and variety is the spice of life. Considering that Ayn Rand had very limited tastes, one's views in aesthetics as a criteria for being labeled as a dissenter is a pretty lame excuse indeed. Our tastes are very personal and are part of being a true individualist. This whole ordeal is basically a witch hunt.

I think Jonathan deserves an explanation.

Kat

Renegade Objectivist

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I wonder if you will be accused of dishonesty or evasion, J. Heh... You know, not being responsible to the facts as defined and judged by your "judgers" .

Why worry about it, what Rowlands, or Perigo, or whoever say about you? What, are you acting in "bad faith" too, aside from your dishonesty and evasion.

Those kinds of terms sicken me, they really do. Nathaniel got it right to the bone when he talks in his self-esteem work about how no one ever gets helped to hit the glory by being told in effect that he or she is rotten. It does do one thing when it happens, though- it shows you something about the behavior of the judger, it shows you something about their own self-view, doesn't it?

Do you, in a very deep way, have absolute conviction that you are giving everything the best go you possibly can? That you act honorably, with integrity? Can you go through Nathaniel's 6 pillars and feel like you're pretty much in the game? I, for one, bet you can. But only one person's evaluation matters. As NB says, the most important judgment you'll ever make in your life is the one you make on yourself.

As to the art stuff, quite frankly, I've always found the classic O-aesthetic to be narrow, and maybe more importantly, prone to aggressive, nasty misinterpretation. For instance, I really don't give a rat's ass that Ayn Rand didn't like rock music. As far as I can tell, she didn't know jack squat about it, knew nothing of the language. Brilliant virtuosos like, say, John McLaughlin or Hendrix worked in the rock genre, and whatever Miss Rand thought of them, they were bright, burning musical souls.

As soon as someone gets all militant about what (blank) "should be," I stop listening, because I think that's a tell. It's a tell that they aren't working from their core. Bottom line? Fuck 'em, do your do.

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The reason that I've been tagged a "dissenter" is that I've embarrassed people like Joe Rowlands by implementing Objectivism -- reason, logic, objectivity -- better than they have. I've committed the crime of challenging some of their rather silly evaluations of art which they've assumed are the default Objectivist positions.

The reason you have been tagged as a dissenter is that you fit the criteria set by the owner of the RoR site.

Personally, judging from the tone of your posts here I can see several other reasons to moderate you myself.

Ethan

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You know, Ethan, I can't speak for MSK but that's kind of snotty, coming over here and laying down that stuff on Jonathan. Surely you have the Shangrila of moderation available to you elsewhere.

Moderate that .

Edited by Rich Engle
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You know, Ethan, I can't speak for MSK but that's kind of snotty, coming over here and laying down that stuff on Jonathan. Surely you have the Shangrila of moderation available to you elsewhere.

Moderate that .

Rich,

What is snotty about it? The first part is a fact and the second a personal evaluation of the tone of Jonathan's post, as your post above is of mine.

Ethan

Edited by ethan dawe
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Let's just say I question your motives.

I thought you were here to just "answer questions." You've done that now, I can't imagine you could further elucidate the whole dissent thing (but it wouldn't suprise me if you continued). So, all that being apparently said and done, what else ya got? Hmmm? :rolleyes: You've clearly shown that your taste for moderation is a lot heavier-handed than here, and it's irrelevant as all get out. If you want to go at it the way I did about ROR, the way to do it is say that somehow OL moderation is unreasonable because it's too liberal (i.e., moreso than ROR). That would be a fair mirror argument, and I for one would love to see you give it a go. ;) Oh, and to be exact to it, you'd have to do it OVER THERE. But, by all means... I wanna see, I wanna see!

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I didn't have a question, Ethan. I was commenting on the current situation. You just keep pointing out who owns what. Just because Rowlands owns ROR, can do what he wants, etc., and I no longer post there doesn't mean I won't talk about something I see go down there, or anywhere. I really get the whole private ownership thing, dude- I'm in the real estate business and such. I'm just airing out my opinions, like people do on discussion forums. The only question I really had was whether Rowlands really locked Dragonfly out of the two categories, and I'm not even entitled to that answer, if ROR staff chooses, right? "No comment" would be perfectly fine too.

Edited by Rich Engle
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How do you do that? All I've seen is an expanded explanation of ROR board policy. I'm not sure Jonathan's sentiments are provable or non-provable. But he sure got a nasty vibe, and it doesn't smell good at all. And why challenge it anyway? Clearly Joe has a more sharpened policy these days. Jonathan's just another one. How he feels about being profiled and pilloried into one area is, I suppose, a non-issue. It's part of what Joe wants. I and a few others happen to think it's a little weak, that's all.

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Nope. It's a deadlocked argument. What Joe does is a management style thing. I've been around forums long enough to come to a studied opinion that he is going down an unfortunate path, that's all. I hope I'm wrong.

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Mr. Dawe,

If you want to talk about multiple grounds for moderating Jonathan at RoR on RoR, go ahead.

You have no authority here, the policies are different, consequently such comments come across as inappropriate.

Robert Campbell

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Now that I think of it, there is one question left- Ethan said that, from what he saw out of Jonathan here, he found other criteria for moderation. What on earth could that be? All I saw was him laying down what was on his mind, and his take on why he got sent over to the gulag. I can't imagine he would be a flowers and love writing about that. I for one would like to hear more about this unacceptable behavior, because I didn't see a lick of anything in there. Maybe not liking to hear it is one thing, but so what?

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Ethan,

You wrote to Jonathan:

The reason you have been tagged as a dissenter is that you fit the criteria set by the owner of the RoR site.

Personally, judging from the tone of your posts here I can see several other reasons to moderate you myself.

I want to go on record as saying that I have no idea what that criteria you, Rowlands or the others involved used for your new policies, just some speculations I prefer to keep to myself or discuss off line with close friends. So I have no way of knowing what those "other reasons" you mentioned are for RoR moderation either.

Under explicit OL policies, I find no grounds whatsoever for objecting to Jonathan's posts. On the contrary, I find them to be worth serious consideration. (Notice that even when he is sarcastic, he is not sarcastic against other OL posters based on disagreement with their ideas.) According to those same policies, I do request you to not let the level of acrimony pass the point given in your quoted post, or the ambiguous (but ominous sounding) insinuation of "appropriately filing" some remark or other in your post to Robert Campbell. But up to that point of acrimony, it's OK.

In my evaluation, Jonathan has a first-hand mind, he is extremely knowledgeable about Objectivism and art, and he is a wonderful person. I got all that from reading his posts over time since I have not yet met him. And I even remember a few things that he wrote that I disagreed with (I would have to look them up again to cite them). I also find he can be hilarious, like with the moral sanction of cannibalism lampoon.

I wonder what causes us to see such different images from the same posts. (That is not a real question. I am just musing out loud - but this point does deserve thought by all concerned.)

Michael

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Out of curiosity I've now (re)read all of the posts of Jonathan on RoR and I can only conclude that his banishment there is a prime example of the petty narrowmindedness of the owner of that forum. Nearly all of his posts were about art, and his unforgivable sin was apparently the fact that he took exception to some of Rand's views about art, for example about Rand's silly condemnation of Vermeer's subjects as "kitchen naturalism". BTW Jonathan, I found your posts about Vermeer excellent, couldn't you somehow combine them to write an article on OL?

At RoR they apparently think that disagreement with some ideas of Rand about art make you an "anti-Objectivist" (I suspect that in that case there are a lot of hidden anti-Objectivists among the apparently bona fide Objectivists). And of course the true believers must be protected from such dissenters, imagine that you have to listen to someone who thinks that Vermeer's style is not naturalism!

This clearly shows that RoR is a cult and not a group of independent rational thinkers as the name would suggest.

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This clearly shows that RoR is a cult and not a group of independent rational thinkers as the name would suggest.

RoR is a website. So it cannot be a cult. Do you mean RoR managament is a cult or all the members of RoR are a cult, or just those members who agree with the new dissent moderation policy? Please clarify your statment so I can consider it properly.

Ethan

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