Mike Hansen

Objectivist Contradictions

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I listened to a Harry Binswanger lecture on free will many years ago, his solution had something to do with calling consciousness a kind of "field", analogous to an electric field. This is of course not far from the literal truth.

Shayne

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Peter, I haven't been following this discussion very closely but upon skimming it seems like all you're doing is saying that Rand's belief in cause and effect is determinism, and then you juxtapose this with her view on free will and say it's contradictory.

It's been a while since I've read Rand on these issues, but in principle there is nothing wrong with observing that we have free will, and also observing that the nature of existents is that they behave in a causal, determined manner according to their nature. Reconciling these two things is a separate matter, and while it might be interesting to see how Rand would have done it, the fact that she didn't is no contradiction.

I have quoted Peikoff as saying FW and causality are contradictory. You seem to be proposing a kind of

null compatibilism (saying they are compatible, without offering an explanation how)). That is not

great philosophy...but the actual situation is much worse.

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I listened to a Harry Binswanger lecture on free will many years ago, his solution had something to do with calling consciousness a kind of "field", analogous to an electric field. This is of course not far from the literal truth.

Shayne

Uh-huh. How do you know? Have you measured it?

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I have quoted Peikoff as saying FW and causality are contradictory.

I doubt very much that he would say that.

You seem to be proposing a kind of

null compatibilism (saying they are compatible, without offering an explanation how)). That is not

great philosophy...but the actual situation is much worse.

No I'm not proposing anything but the fact that philosophical truth should be arrived at in a first-handed manner. If that statement doesn't mean something very particular to you in this context then I think we've found the root of the problem here.

Shayne

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I listened to a Harry Binswanger lecture on free will many years ago, his solution had something to do with calling consciousness a kind of "field", analogous to an electric field. This is of course not far from the literal truth.

Shayne

Uh-huh. How do you know? Have you measured it?

The general association of electric fields and consciousness is noncontroversial and much of the study of neurons includes various electric potentials.

Shayne

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This statement of yours above is equivalent to sticking your fingers in your ears and singing,

"La la la la la la la la la..."

No, it is equivalent to me asking you for the correction you say I need. and not getting it.

I, for one, have showed you where you are making a "mistake of interpretation"

You wrote a response to my comments. I responded to that in turn. As far as substantive debate

goes that was it. The ball was left in your court. You did not make a further response to

my comments.

You ignored the argument while you kept parroting your self-promoting opinion

What argument? Your comments were themselves contradictory. I pointed that out and you apparently took

umbrage

would wager good money (and win) that, at the time of reading this post, you don't have a clue as to what that argument was. I would further wager you don't even remember it and need to go back and see if you can find it just to be able to articulate it.

I made an effort in perfectly good faith to respond to you. If you write a sentence, and then another

contradictory sentence, as you did, I can't respond to that as if it were a cogent argument because

it isn't.

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For the benefit of the reader, this last exchange is a great example of an epistemological problem I call the cognitive-normative inversion. A person starts out by judging, then seeks to identify--when he should start out with a knowledge-based sequence, i.e., identify-then-judge.

Notice the poster's judgment in place ("I'm right and Rand is wrong"), then notice how he seeks facts/other judgments that support it. You can detect this kind of attitude simply by the number of times such a person repeats the judgment (normative idea) that is in what should be the cognitive seat (in this case, that Rand was wrong).

I'm not trying to give this guy a hard time. It's just such an easy case that it serves as a great example.

Here's a logical fallacy as gravy:

1. Attributing a meaning Rand did not use to a word that she did,

2. Noticing where Rand's views elsewhere clash with this foreign meaning,

3. Claiming that this proves Rand contradicted herself.

This is a very common fallacy with Rand critics. But it happens when a person is on a "prove someone wrong at all costs" quest instead of a "learn what someone meant, then judge it" quest.

Like I keep saying, you have to know what something is (identify it correctly) before you can properly judge it. In the cognitive-normative inversion, a person has judged what he does not know, then seeks whatever he can find to back that up. Even to the point of committing logical fallacies.

In my experience, there is not much point in engaging a person who is on such a quest until he puts the cognitive part of his brain in gear on the fundamental level (meaning he places more emphasis on getting it right before he judges instead of the contrary--in this case, correctly understanding Rand's meanings before judging her logic). You will mostly get talking points and little else to anything you say, not a true exploration of ideas.

Michael

Once again, clearly and concisely stated and exactly, 100%, correct.

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For the benefit of the reader, this last exchange is a great example of an epistemological problem I call the cognitive-normative inversion. A person starts out by judging, then seeks to identify--when he should start out with a knowledge-based sequence, i.e., identify-then-judge.

This is a very important insight. I think this is one of the distinctive traits of an ARI Objectivists. I would venture to say that one cannot even be an ARI Objectivist without having firmly implanted this "inversion" in one's mind, as how one ordinarily and as a matter of course deals with people and ideas.

Shayne

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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

I read the article (by Kiekeben) that you linked. It is virtually worthless. I say this because it makes no effort to understand, much less explain, the agency theory of causation that constitutes the foundation of Rand's theory of causality and free will. It has many other problems as well, such as a failure to understand how Rand linked the Law of Identity to causation. A philosophical theory is not difficult to refute when you present a caricature of it.

Ghs

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In TOF she laid down the law that "Objectivism" is a doctrine frozen to whatever she said it was, no more, no less, no changes allowed. At this point Objectivism ceased being a philosophy and officially became a religion.

Rand always held that Objectivism was her system of philosophy; it consists of ideas that she created and integrated. We could thus substitute "Ayn Rand's philosophy" for "Objectivism" without any loss of meaning. This has nothing to do with religion. It simply means that Objectivism is what Ayn Rand said it is, because her ideas about philosophy comprise the sum and substance of Objectivism.

If you gave a name to your philosophical ideas -- e.g., "Wisslerism" -- you would surely object if others, without your permission, changed your ideas while still attributing them to you by calling them "Wisslerism." Your philosophy would be "frozen" in the same sense that the works of Shakespeare are frozen. People can comment on the writings of Shakespeare all they like, but their comments will never become part of the writings of Shakespeare.

Similarly, people can develop or criticize Rand's ideas all they like, but their developments and criticisms are their own, not Rand's. They are therefore not part of Objectivism, as Rand understood the label.

This is why I have never called myself an "Objectivist," even during my early days when I agreed with Rand in virtually every respect. I was unwilling to identify myself in terms of the ideas of another person. I called myself a "Randian" (and still do in some contexts) in the same sense that I sometimes call myself an Aristotelian or a Lockean. Such labels indicate general currents of thought; they do not signify complete agreement with the ideas of a given philosopher.

Again, none of this has anything to do with religion.

Ghs

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In TOF she laid down the law that "Objectivism" is a doctrine frozen to whatever she said it was, no more, no less, no changes allowed. At this point Objectivism ceased being a philosophy and officially became a religion.

Rand always held that Objectivism was her system of philosophy; it consists of ideas that she created and integrated. We could thus substitute "Ayn Rand's philosophy" for "Objectivism" without any loss of meaning. This has nothing to do with religion. It simply means that Objectivism is what Ayn Rand said it is, because her ideas about philosophy comprise the sum and substance of Objectivism.

If you gave a name to your philosophical ideas -- e.g., "Wisslerism" -- you would surely object if others, without your permission, changed your ideas while still attributing them to you by calling them "Wisslerism." Your philosophy would be "frozen" in the same sense that the works of Shakespeare are frozen. People can comment on the writings of Shakespeare all they like, but their comments will never become part of the writings of Shakespeare.

Similarly, people can develop or criticize Rand's ideas all they like, but their developments and criticisms are their own, not Rand's. They are therefore not part of Objectivism, as Rand understood the label.

This is why I have never called myself an "Objectivist," even during my early days when I agreed with Rand in virtually every respect. I was unwilling to identify myself in terms of the ideas of another person. I called myself a "Randian" (and still do in some contexts) in the same sense that I sometimes call myself an Aristotelian or a Lockean. Such labels indicate general currents of thought; they do not signify complete agreement with the ideas of a given philosopher.

Again, none of this has anything to do with religion.

Ghs

To the extent that Objectivism is actually true, no, it's not "her" philosophical system. To the extent that it's pure fantasy concocted by Ayn Rand, then sure, she has every right to claim it's "hers." She can claim it's the truth or she can claim it's hers, if the former then she has a philosophy, if the latter then she has a religion. Actually she has both. Therein lies the tragedy.

It is a fact that Rand was the first to identify certain philosophic truths. She of course deserves credit for this. But they are not "her" truths, they are the truth (which reminds me of her bogus ideas on patents...). I doubt that Rand was the first person who had her basic scheme: Objective reality, reason, rational self-interest, free markets. However, she certainly did a better job selling this package than anyone who came before.

To paraphrase Ayn Rand, I would never call my philosophy "Wisslerism"; I'm much to conceited for that. I mean something different from Rand however. What I mean is that I think what I believe is true, and therefore I would never undercut myself by attaching my name to it in that manner. Which could be called conceited and humble at the same time, in different respects. It's "conceited" because I think what I think is true. It's "humble" because I don't pretend to be a god who can recreate reality as such, all I can do is observe it.

Rand produced a powerful, highly motivating philosophy of reason, and then promptly undercut it by turning it into a religion. What it should have been instead was an intellectual tradition undergirded by the fundamentals of objective reality and its mirror image in man's mind: reason as an uncompromising absolute. It is this tradition that really matters, not all of Ayn Rand's particular insights and foibles in other areas. And the really sad part is that Objectivists, for the most part, reject this tradition. Instead of regarding reason and reality as absolutes, they regard Rand as an absolute. Which is precisely what she called for in TOF.

Shayne

Edited by sjw

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"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."--Ayn Rand

The trouble was, all the rest didn't follow. She was being arrogant. But what matters here is the central premise: the supremacy of reason. That is what she thought was important, and she was right. Many Objectivists have forgotten this.

Shayne

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To the extent that Objectivism is actually true, no, it's not "her" philosophical system. To the extent that it's pure fantasy concocted by Ayn Rand, then sure, she has every right to claim it's "hers." She can claim it's the truth or she can claim it's hers, if the former then she has a philosophy, if the latter then she has a religion. Actually she has both. Therein lies the tragedy.

There are true ideas expressed in Atlas Shrugged, but this does't mean that Atlas is not Ayn Rand's novel. Atlas Shrugged is the name that Ayn Rand gave to a fictionalized version of her ideas. "Objectivism" is simply the name that Ayn Rand gave to the nonfiction version of her ideas.

Ghs

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To the extent that Objectivism is actually true, no, it's not "her" philosophical system. To the extent that it's pure fantasy concocted by Ayn Rand, then sure, she has every right to claim it's "hers." She can claim it's the truth or she can claim it's hers, if the former then she has a philosophy, if the latter then she has a religion. Actually she has both. Therein lies the tragedy.

There are true ideas expressed in Atlas Shrugged, but this does't mean that Atlas is not Ayn Rand's novel. Atlas Shrugged is the name that Ayn Rand gave to a fictionalized version of her ideas. "Objectivism" is simply the name that Ayn Rand gave to the nonfiction version of her ideas.

Ghs

Rand didn't define "Objectivism" as her works, she defined it as her philosophy.

Shayne

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"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."--Ayn Rand

The trouble was, all the rest didn't follow. She was being arrogant. But what matters here is the central premise: the supremacy of reason. That is what she thought was important, and she was right. Many Objectivists have forgotten this.

Shayne

What didn't follow? And in what sense was Rand being arrogant? Was she arrogant because she believed she was right? If so, we are all arrogant. I have yet to meet a person who holds and defends ideas he believes to be wrong.

Ghs

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To the extent that Objectivism is actually true, no, it's not "her" philosophical system. To the extent that it's pure fantasy concocted by Ayn Rand, then sure, she has every right to claim it's "hers." She can claim it's the truth or she can claim it's hers, if the former then she has a philosophy, if the latter then she has a religion. Actually she has both. Therein lies the tragedy.

There are true ideas expressed in Atlas Shrugged, but this does't mean that Atlas is not Ayn Rand's novel. Atlas Shrugged is the name that Ayn Rand gave to a fictionalized version of her ideas. "Objectivism" is simply the name that Ayn Rand gave to the nonfiction version of her ideas.

Ghs

Rand didn't define "Objectivism" as her works, she defined it as her philosophy.

Shayne

Of course. I used what is commonly known as an analogy. This is a common device when one wishes to illustrate a point.

Ghs

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"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."--Ayn Rand

The trouble was, all the rest didn't follow. She was being arrogant. But what matters here is the central premise: the supremacy of reason. That is what she thought was important, and she was right. Many Objectivists have forgotten this.

Shayne

What didn't follow? And in what sense was Rand being arrogant? Was she arrogant because she believed she was right? If so, we are all arrogant. I have yet to meet a person who holds and defends ideas he believes to be wrong.

Ghs

Her slipshod reasoning on important matters is what makes her arrogant. Read her essay on copyrights and patents. That's incompetence fueled by arrogance par excellence. There are other instances in her writing as well, but that unretracted article alone is horrible enough to throw suspicion on everything. I think we can surmise that she was precocious early on, and later on was generally surrounded by acolytes, and hence had a superiority complex that blinded her to her own weaknesses.

And people will of course "heroically" rise to her defense here, pointing out this or that part of the context that excuses the arrogance. But are they excusing Ayn Rand's behavior, or their own? I am not making an overall evaluation of Ayn Rand here, I'm pointing to one of her faults. Either it is a fault or it is not. If it is, then regardless of how high of a pedestal you want to place her on, you should take due care not to emulate her faults, and that means calling them out for what they are.

Shayne

Edited by sjw

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All things have both form and content--you cannot remove one without destroying the thing. The same reasoning applies to volitional beings, and goes even further. What they can do is determined, but within the confines of such limitation (including a vast array of possibilities), they have free choice. For example, man can walk to the right or to the left. Which one he does is caused by his volition. Man cannot stand naked, flap his arms and fly. That part is determined and no amount of volition will make it happen.

This is pretty obvious to me, but I see it come up all the time with people who try to play gotcha with Rand.

Determinism means that there is only one possible outcome to a situation, not that there are a number of

impossible outcomes. That is what it means in the general debate on free will, and that is what it means

in Objectivism: ""A thing cannot act against its nature, i.e., in contradiction to it's identity, because A is A and contradictions are impossible. In any given set of circumstances, therefore, there is only one action possible to an entity, the action expressive of it's identity."' OPAR

Inasmuch as this is about understanding the correct use of words, it is very properly "semantics".

Snippets like this can be very misleading. If you wish to quote only a sentence or two from a longer dicussion, then you should mention not only the source but also the page number . I have neither the time nor the inclination to search through OPAR for the passage you quoted.

Ghs

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"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."--Ayn Rand

The trouble was, all the rest didn't follow. She was being arrogant. But what matters here is the central premise: the supremacy of reason. That is what she thought was important, and she was right. Many Objectivists have forgotten this.

Shayne

What didn't follow? And in what sense was Rand being arrogant? Was she arrogant because she believed she was right? If so, we are all arrogant. I have yet to meet a person who holds and defends ideas he believes to be wrong.

Ghs

Her slipshod reasoning on important matters is what makes her arrogant. Read her essay on copyrights and patents. That's incompetence fueld by arrogance par excellence.

Slipshod reasoning makes a person careless and possibly wrong, but it has nothing to do with arrogance. We all know that you disagree with Rand on patents and copyrights. So do I. I disagree with every philosopher who has ever existed about something. So what?

Ghs

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Slipshod reasoning makes a person careless and possibly wrong, but it has nothing to do with arrogance. We all know that you disagree with Rand on patents and copyrights. So do I. I disagree with every philosopher who has ever existed about something. So what?

Ghs

Not having lived in the crosshairs of the vicious patent system, I suppose I can excuse you for thinking this is a mere "disagreement." But I wonder if you would have the same attitude if Ayn Rand had written an article supporting the War on Drugs.

Shayne

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And people will of course "heroically" rise to her defense here, pointing out this or that part of the context that excuses the arrogance. But are they excusing Ayn Rand's behavior, or their own? I am not making an overall evaluation of Ayn Rand here, I'm pointing to one of her faults. Either it is a fault or it is not. If it is, then regardless of how high of a pedestal you want to place her on, you should take due care not to emulate her faults, and that means calling them out for what they are.

Shayne

I don't necessarily regard arrogance as a "fault." Yes, Ayn Rand was arrogant, but not for the reasons you have given.

Some people have earned the right to be arrogant. Ayn Rand was one of those people.

Ghs

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Slipshod reasoning makes a person careless and possibly wrong, but it has nothing to do with arrogance. We all know that you disagree with Rand on patents and copyrights. So do I. I disagree with every philosopher who has ever existed about something. So what?

Ghs

Not having lived in the crosshairs of the vicious patent system, I suppose I can excuse you for thinking this is a mere "disagreement." But I wonder if you would have the same attitude if Ayn Rand had written an article supporting the War on Drugs.

Shayne

If Ayn Rand had disagreed with me about the War on Drugs, then, yes, I would call this a "disagreement." (I never used the qualifier "mere.) What would you call it? A meeting of minds?

Ghs

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And people will of course "heroically" rise to her defense here, pointing out this or that part of the context that excuses the arrogance. But are they excusing Ayn Rand's behavior, or their own? I am not making an overall evaluation of Ayn Rand here, I'm pointing to one of her faults. Either it is a fault or it is not. If it is, then regardless of how high of a pedestal you want to place her on, you should take due care not to emulate her faults, and that means calling them out for what they are.

Shayne

I don't necessarily regard arrogance as a "fault." Yes, Ayn Rand was arrogant, but not for the reasons you have given.

Some people have earned the right to be arrogant. Ayn Rand was one of those people.

Ghs

I am rather amazed that you don't know the difference between confidence and arrogance.

The more competent one is relative to the average person, the more one must guard against arrogance, because the usual checks on this particular vice start to fail when one is surrounded by relative incompetence. The tragic pattern of the highly competent who did not follow this advice can be observed repeatedly throughout history, Ayn Rand being yet another instance.

Shayne

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I am rather amazed that you don't know the difference between confidence and arrogance.

The difference is this: I am confident. Other people are arrogant.

Ghs

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