Mike Hansen

Objectivist Contradictions

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On another topic, 'Christopher' talked about how Rand's contradictions were probably caused by her creation of her metaphysics & epistemology AFTER she had established her ethics. If she has contradictions, this would definitely be a cause. My question involves her contradictions themselves. I haven't read or listened to very much of Rand, mainly just Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead, and some of her TV interviews (youtube). From what I've seen/heard, I don't see any contradictions. I'm not trying to defend Rand as perfect. Quite the opposite. I'd like to hear her contradictions, and how they affect Objectivism in general.

Thanks.

Mike

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> I haven't read or listened to very much of Rand, mainly just Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead, and some of her TV interviews (youtube). From what I've seen/heard, I don't see any contradictions. I'm not trying to defend Rand as perfect. Quite the opposite. I'd like to hear her contradictions, and how they affect Objectivism in general.

My suggestion is to study the philosophy and learn what it says first. Galt's speech is just an introduction. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is the place to start. Take your time to let it and all its implications sink in. Don't be in a hurry to 'jump' to the next topic without having had time to fully consider the implications of the preceding.

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> I haven't read or listened to very much of Rand, mainly just Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead, and some of her TV interviews (youtube). From what I've seen/heard, I don't see any contradictions. I'm not trying to defend Rand as perfect. Quite the opposite. I'd like to hear her contradictions, and how they affect Objectivism in general.

My suggestion is to study the philosophy and learn what it says first. Galt's speech is just an introduction. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is the place to start. Take your time to let it and all its implications sink in. Don't be in a hurry to 'jump' to the next topic without having had time to fully consider the implications of the preceding.

I actually prefer The Virtue of Selfishness over Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. But then that was my introduction to Rand and her ideas. Still, I think it's more tightly focused.

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Heck, they are both great reads and don't take long (although you find yourself wanting to come back and back over time). These are two very, very good books--her tone, the way she lays things out. Very patient, pure, passionate. I liked The Virtue of Selfishness for the last of those qualities--it is a very inspirational book.

I guess it just depends on how much time you have for reading. Also, if you do a little poking around (which is distractingly fun), you will find all kinds of forum discussions on OL about this, and related topics. The people here love to chew on the ideas, and do it well. This forum has come into maturity very nicely. It's been a few years now, and I must say that it is one heck of an archive.

But the boys are both right: reading those two books would be icing on the cake if you have what you have. That is typical. See, it is so much better nowadays. You used to have to really scramble to get stuff...you'd wait around, look around. Borrow and share copies. It got a lot easier somewhere around the nineties.

Enjoy!

rde

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Heck, they are both great reads and don't take long (although you find yourself wanting to come back and back over time). These are two very, very good books--her tone, the way she lays things out. Very patient, pure, passionate. I liked The Virtue of Selfishness for the last of those qualities--it is a very inspirational book.

Just a minor point: she didn't write either of the books in toto. They are compilations of her writings along with those of Nathaniel Branden and others.

I also think 30 pages into The Virtue of Selfishness you'll know much more about Objectivism and Rand's thinking than 30 pages into any of her big novels.

And most people I've talked tend to read nonfiction more critically than fiction. So I feel one is more likely to get a thoughful reaction rather than someone merely adoring the heroic portrayals and falling for the emotional impact. There's, of course, nothing wrong with the latter -- and it's not entirely absent from the nonfiction. But, in my experience, most people tend to approach nonfiction in a different way than fiction.

I guess it just depends on how much time you have for reading. Also, if you do a little poking around (which is distractingly fun), you will find all kinds of forum discussions on OL about this, and related topics. The people here love to chew on the ideas, and do it well. This forum has come into maturity very nicely. It's been a few years now, and I must say that it is one heck of an archive.

I wouldn't denigrate forums, including this one. But a big problem with coming to a knowledge of Rand or Objectivism via a forum -- and this applies to any thinker or system of philosophy -- is that, I feel, it's no substitute for reading the core works. It's an excellent way to broaden or deepen one's knowledge, but I believe it's not the best introduction.

Of course, this probably depends much on the person entering the fray. But my experience has been coming across people who are completely unfamiliar with the ideas and then get exposed with some debates on a forum come away with a tiny grab bag view of the philosophy. And rarely, if they don't work at it and read the core works, are they able to do much with it.

But the boys are both right: reading those two books would be icing on the cake if you have what you have. That is typical. See, it is so much better nowadays. You used to have to really scramble to get stuff...you'd wait around, look around. Borrow and share copies. It got a lot easier somewhere around the nineties.

Enjoy!

rde

I've never known a time when Rand's main works weren't readily available from a variety of sources. I could see if we were talking about some more obscure works by some lesser known lights in the libertarian movement, but Rand has almost always been easily available, no?

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Thanks guys,

I probably buzzed through Galt's, Francisco's, and Ragnar's Speeches too quickly. I was so excited to hear those ideas.

I found The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal on Amazon.com. (fifteen dollars for both)

If Galt's Speech is just an introduction, then these two should be really, really good.

Mike

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Necessarily Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are great books (wow, I actually prefer Fountainhead because it lays out the premises more clearly, whereas Atlas demonstrates those premises in more applied settings).

I also found Capitalism: Unknown Ideal to be a bit daunting if you're not into economics. But Virtue of Selfishness is simply amazing. Probably one of my favorites!

I wonder whether we can find contradictions explicitly in Rand's writings? Most of the contradictions I find are between her definitions and actual exposure to life or other fields of knowledge. It's not that her writings are contradictory per se, they just often are not complete. As such, she tends to reduce other aspects of life (say, human psychology) into her model when her model is incapable of handling it. These reductions then result in interpretations that contradict her premises. For example (and just for example, not an actual take on Rand's work): she might conclude empathy-drive is selfless, whereas psychology shows that empathy is fundamental to happiness. Therefore, she might interpret something required for self-fulfillment as self-sacrifice. Why? Simply because she did not understand the subject... a reduction.

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Metaphysics. She accepts both free will and determinism (the law of casuality) but rejects compatibilism.

Epistemology: There is no apriori, but there are "axioms".

Concepts are formed by the mind yet somehow encompass the totality their referents.

Ethics: Initiation of Force is always wrong, but pre-emptive military strikes are OK.

Selflessness is not so much of a virtue that you should practice it for its own sake, but enough to practice it as part of a campaign of self-improvement.

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FYI:

Compatibalism Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

"Compatibilism

First published Mon Apr 26, 2004; substantive revision Mon Oct 5, 2009 Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism."

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Forget ethics. And consider this. We (human beings and other living things) are physical entities and we are described by the same laws as any other physical systems. Humans do not have a privileged mode of being. We are gooey, sticky, wet machines who doings are correctly described by physical laws.

We are big ugly bags of mostly water (I got that description from a Star Trek: TNG episode).

Ba'al Catzaf

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Metaphysics. She accepts both free will and determinism (the law of casuality) but rejects compatibilism.

Wrong, the law of causality is that the actions possible to an object depend on its nature. She does not accept determinism.

Epistemology: There is no apriori, but there are "axioms".

Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

Concepts are formed by the mind yet somehow encompass the totality their referents.

Wrong. If your statement means anything, you conflate epistemology and metaphysics. A concept is not a physical box. "If the shoe fits" is not a literal call to find Cinderalla.

Ethics: Initiation of Force is always wrong, but pre-emptive military strikes are OK.

Wrong. These are not Rand's words and she obviously recognized the need for a cassus belli.

Selflessness is not so much of a virtue that you should practice it for its own sake, but enough to practice it as part of a campaign of self-improvement.
]

That's just incoherent.

Edited by Ted Keer

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Forget ethics. And consider this. We (human beings and other living things) are physical entities and we are described by the same laws as any other physical systems. Humans do not have a privileged mode of being. We are gooey, sticky, wet machines who doings are correctly described by physical laws.

We are big ugly bags of mostly water (I got that description from a Star Trek: TNG episode).

Ba'al Catzaf

If true, that refutes one position on free will (interactive dualism/supernatural FW) and leaves all other options open.

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Wrong, the law of causality is that the actions possible to an object depend on its nature. She does not accept determinism.

Yes she does. Here she is saying so:

"All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe, from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life, are caused and determined [ emph. added ] by the identities of the elements involved".

Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

"It's negation is a self contradiction" is a classical way of defining an apriori statement, found in much philosophical literature.

So your objection is like saying "it's an equine quadruped, not a horse".

Concepts are formed by the mind yet somehow encompass the totality their referents.

Wrong. If your statement means anything, you conflate epistemology and metaphysics. A concept is not a physical box. "If the shoe fits" is not a literal call to find Cinderalla.

I am referring to this claim by Peikoff:

"Metaphysically, an entity is what it is, (it has all of the characteristics that it has) therefore there is no basis for saying that some characteristics are contained within the meaning of a concept and some are not, therefore there is no basis for the analytic/synthetic dichotomy'. "

I agree that his idea of "containment within a concept" is both unclear and unlikely. If you want to say he is

just plumb wrong. go ahead....although you will then need a substitute argument against the A/S dichotomy.

Ethics: Initiation of Force is always wrong, but pre-emptive military strikes are OK.

Wrong. These are not Rand's words and she obviously recognized the need for a cassus belli.

Well, Peikoff doesn't.

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Peter:

I know that this should be obvious, but Peikoff and Ayn Rand are different people.

Freud allegedly said to his friend on his death bed...

"Please protect me from the neo-Freudians."

Rand speaks for herself. Peikoff speaks in tongues.

Adam

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Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

Denial of the axiom that only one line parallel to a given line through a point outside the given line exist does not lead to any self refutation. Non-euclidean geometries are as self consistent as Euclidean geometry.

Some axioms can be denied without leading to a contradiction, others which are self-referencing cannot be denied without creating a contradiction. For example: Axiom-- something exist. Deny it and this raised the question of the existence of the denial or denier itself. Problem is that Something exists is a very broad axiom and is implicitly self referential.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Metaphysics. She accepts both free will and determinism (the law of casuality) but rejects compatibilism.

Wrong, the law of causality is that the actions possible to an object depend on its nature. She does not accept determinism.

Epistemology: There is no apriori, but there are "axioms".

Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

Concepts are formed by the mind yet somehow encompass the totality their referents.

Wrong. If your statement means anything, you conflate epistemology and metaphysics. A concept is not a physical box. "If the shoe fits" is not a literal call to find Cinderalla.

Ethics: Initiation of Force is always wrong, but pre-emptive military strikes are OK.

Wrong. These are not Rand's words and she obviously recognized the need for a cassus belli.

Selflessness is not so much of a virtue that you should practice it for its own sake, but enough to practice it as part of a campaign of self-improvement.
]

That's just incoherent.

Good job Ted! Saved me a lot of work. Thanks.

Edited by Mary Lee Harsha

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I came here because of Hansen's request for Rand's self-contradictions that we could discuss. I asked that somewhere else, too. What would be helpful is to keep doing the list of the contradictions as was done above, along with the explanations. But first a complete list. Everyone who comes up with one could just add their example to the list rather than creating a new entry on the thread. What do you say?

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I came here because of Hansen's request for Rand's self-contradictions that we could discuss. I asked that somewhere else, too. What would be helpful is to keep doing the list of the contradictions as was done above, along with the explanations. But first a complete list. Everyone who comes up with one could just add their example to the list rather than creating a new entry on the thread. What do you say?

That would be great. Comprehensiveness is always a good thing. I'd love to contribute to such a list but I've hardly had any time to do a comprehensive, in-depth review of the philosophy (which would have to happen before any comprehensive list of issues/resolutions could be created). (And at the current time I certainly find it rational to put numerical simulation/getting my degree ahead of philosophy :) )

Sounds like this list couldn't just be another thread. Maybe a new forum section (like the "Objectivist Living Room" or "Ethics" sections) where each issue/resolution is a thread?

Although we didn't get a list started when I first posted this, I'm glad the guys above referred me to some of Rand's nonfiction. Thanks. Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal is my favorite. The last chapter (Requiem for Man) is incredible. The Virtue of Selfishness is a close second, though.

Mike

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Mary:

If you are not a mom, you should be!

Herding objectivists into one thread is a full time job!

Mike:

Looks like there will be no NFL lockout!

Also, we have another "hiker" woodsman who just joined. Kane4.

Hello everyone.

Adam

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Peter:

I know that this should be obvious, but Peikoff and Ayn Rand are different people.

Freud allegedly said to his friend on his death bed...

"Please protect me from the neo-Freudians."

Rand speaks for herself. Peikoff speaks in tongues.

Adam

The Peikoff quotes come form works approved by Rand. Much more on the

three-way contradiction between free-will, determinism and incompatibilism

here

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Speaking to the original question, Her worst contradiction was her promotion of authoritarianism in Objectivism (particularly her TOF endorsement of it), but you won't run into that problem at OL, most people here are completely immunized.

More insidious than overt contradiction is her view that the philosophy is complete or that it properly emphasizes the right things in every place.

I think the first few pages of ITOE goes off the rails, her theory of perception is wrong.

Shayne

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Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

Denial of the axiom that only one line parallel to a given line through a point outside the given line exist does not lead to any self refutation. Non-euclidean geometries are as self consistent as Euclidean geometry.

Some axioms can be denied without leading to a contradiction, others which are self-referencing cannot be denied without creating a contradiction. For example: Axiom-- something exist. Deny it and this raised the question of the existence of the denial or denier itself. Problem is that Something exists is a very broad axiom and is implicitly self referential.

I didn't say mathematical axioms. Your dropping the context here, of axioms in Rand's philosophy, is exactly what I have come to expect from you, Bob.

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Metaphysics. She accepts both free will and determinism (the law of casuality) but rejects compatibilism.

Wrong, the law of causality is that the actions possible to an object depend on its nature. She does not accept determinism.

Epistemology: There is no apriori, but there are "axioms".

Wrong. Axioms are not a priori. They are propositions which must be accepted in any logical attempt to deny them. The denial of an axiom is self-refuting.

Concepts are formed by the mind yet somehow encompass the totality their referents.

Wrong. If your statement means anything, you conflate epistemology and metaphysics. A concept is not a physical box. "If the shoe fits" is not a literal call to find Cinderalla.

Ethics: Initiation of Force is always wrong, but pre-emptive military strikes are OK.

Wrong. These are not Rand's words and she obviously recognized the need for a cassus belli.

Selflessness is not so much of a virtue that you should practice it for its own sake, but enough to practice it as part of a campaign of self-improvement.
]

That's just incoherent.

Good job Ted! Saved me a lot of work. Thanks.

Thanks. And there is actually a valid criticism of a certain concept of Rand's lurking unspoken here - but I am not feeling charitable enough towards Peter to express it for him - others can send me a private message if they are curious.

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As for pre-emptive strikes, she explained in "Collectivized 'Rights'" that this could be condoned only after a state has forfeited its legitimacy by failing minimal conditions, which she outlined in the article. The state that is struck (such as Libya might be soon) is the initiator of force.

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Speaking to the original question, Her worst contradiction was her promotion of authoritarianism in Objectivism (particularly her TOF endorsement of it), but you won't run into that problem at OL, most people here are completely immunized.

More insidious than overt contradiction is her view that the philosophy is complete or that it properly emphasizes the right things in every place.

I think the first few pages of ITOE goes off the rails, her theory of perception is wrong.

Shayne

Shayne:

TOF ???

Adam

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