Objectivism and Christianity


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Instead of a religious preacher like Dawkins, start with something like Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. And then guess what? Neo-Darwinian theory can't explain shit. Deal with it.

The neo-darwinian synthesis is the best available account for the variation of life forms through the eons. What it does not explain, and there is no scientific theory that does explain, is how life originated on this planet or how life emerges from non-living material. However, neither Darwin nor his successors addressed themselves to that problem.

By the way, Behe's thesis was thoroughly demolished during the Dover trial. Irreducable complexity is an unscientific position and factually bogus.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Hi Darrell,

Thank you for the nice comment. As for the welcome, which is appreciated, Michael and I have a fairly long history, and my appearance here is only a formal continuation of discussions that have gone on for some time, somewhat intermittently, I admit.

But again, thank you, I'm satisfied if you enjoyed the thoughts, which to my mind, speak highly of your understanding of some very subtle issues.

Regi

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Michael,

I've clearly gotten under your skin, so let me respond to some of your points. You may not be preaching, but you're trying awfully hard to ingratiate yourself to the "Christian Objectivists."

I don't see Michael as trying to ingratiate himself. I see him acting on an impulse of thoughtfulness and kindness. I see him as having been moved by a sense of empathy for others who are trying to piece together an understanding of the world. I see him trying to right what he perceives to be an injustice in social interactions. He is acting on a vision of people as psychological beings before religious/philosophical beings. At least, this is my read.

You're coming awfully close to giving away the farm here. As has been pointed out, Christianity and Objectivism cannot be integrated at a fundamental level, so I fail to see how it does anyone any good to encourage people to try. Although I do not approve of people mocking the "Christian Objectivists" or others for their philosophical problems, it also does no good to encourage them.

So what if Christianity and Objectivism cannot be integrated on a fundamental level. We all hold conflicting perspectives of existence at one time or another. We can be in situations where we think one thing rationally and our "gut" tells us something else. Or we can maintain that there is no such thing as bodies without physical extension, and no disembodied actions, on one hand, while committing ourselves to the idea of point particles and singularities on another. The best answer is not always to choose one over the other. It is not just a matter of choosing between thesis and antithesis. There is much to be gained from a striving for synthesis. This is one way people, and their perspectives, evolve.

Objectivism and Christianity are fundamentally contradictory. Growing up I always thought a scientist who believes in God was a contradiction in terms. But I now get how people can hold different frames of reference, different orientations of consciousness, to process different types of information. Owning one perspective and disowning another doesn't work. The struggle to integrate has psychological value. At the end of the struggle, what does it matter to us if they end up Christian or Objectivist, some paradoxical mix that operates differently according to context, or some new synthesis that takes principles from each. They are psychological beings who have grown through the process.

Is it possible that Objectivism could be missing something? Is it possible that someone might experience existence through the lens of Objectivism and conclude: This does not capture everything I experience or everything I am? Is it possible to conclude Ayn Rand missed something fundamental to life? Is it possible she did not identify all the important aspects of the psyche? I would say it is not only possible, it is a fact.

Perhaps, for a Christian, there is something captured by their experience of Christianity that is not captured in Objectivism, but is an important part of who they are. Would it not then be the case that holding onto both Christianity and Objectivism is an attempt to find integration in themselves? And wouldn't it be worth the effort to strive for some form of synthesis between the those principles they find important in each way of viewing the world?

One example of what is missing from Rand's philosophy is the importance of empathy. The nature and value of empathy plays no role in Objectivism. In fact, Objectivism could be described as a philosophy that grew out of, and attracts, those whose psychology has disowned empathy. Or it requires the disowning of empathy to practice it consistently.

Empathy is the very thing that I have suggested motivated Michael. That such experiences and expressions of empathy run contrary to Objectivist sensibilities may have played a role in some reactions to Michael's post. So too might they have played a role in the misunderstandings of his motives.

Empathy plays a very important role for a lot of people. It plays a very important role in Christianity. Wouldn't it be worth while, even from an Objectivist perspective, if a Christian, who spent time trying to integrate Objectivism with Christianity, ended up accepting the principles of Objectivism but modifying it to include an understanding of the value and place of empathy? Or is Objectivism a closed system that could not allow such evolution?

Paul

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LOL, good one. So they don't have confessions in protestant church? If you get caught buggering the altar boys they just castrate you and get it over with?

While I'm culturally a Protestant, I don't know what sects if any have altar boys. The Church of England, which is essentially Catholic(?) without the Pope?

--Brant

I think Roman Catholics are older than Protestants right? Didn't the breakup start with the formation of the Church of England? The Catholics never allowed marriage (and so sex) in their priesthood and so promoted a suppression of natural physical drives which it seems promoted deviant sexual behaviour (oops, there's that damn 'u' again. Maybe I should use the American spelling since I have an American spell-checker in the browser and it underlines 'behaviour' in red because it thinks it is spelled wrong anyway :D ) Being raised as Protestant was there any confessions in your upbringing. I was raised as Cathoilic and we had to go to confession before communion every week.

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Nice post, Mind-Unchained, whoever you are!

When Nathaniel Branden's Lecture 4 of The Basic Principles of Objectivism -- "The Concept of God" -- appears in print form, there will no longer be any excuse for these woozy-headed attempts to "integrate" Objectivism and Christianity, or any other form of theism. You'd think that Peikoff's discussion in OPAR would suffice, but apparently not.

REB

Thank you Roger, I was beginning to think that everyone had just skipped over my first real post on this forum, I am glad you got some value out of it.

BTW, my name is Michael. I don't like using my real name on internet forums, I know that is standard practice here, but it makes me uncomfortable.

Michael

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Michael,

I've clearly gotten under your skin, so let me respond to some of your points. You may not be preaching, but you're trying awfully hard to ingratiate yourself to the "Christian Objectivists."

I don't see Michael as trying to ingratiate himself. I see him acting on an impulse of thoughtfulness and kindness. I see him as having been moved by a sense of empathy for others who are trying to piece together an understanding of the world. I see him trying to right what he perceives to be an injustice in social interactions. He is acting on a vision of people as psychological beings before religious/philosophical beings. At least, this is my read.

You're coming awfully close to giving away the farm here. As has been pointed out, Christianity and Objectivism cannot be integrated at a fundamental level, so I fail to see how it does anyone any good to encourage people to try. Although I do not approve of people mocking the "Christian Objectivists" or others for their philosophical problems, it also does no good to encourage them.

So what if Christianity and Objectivism cannot be integrated on a fundamental level. We all hold conflicting perspectives of existence at one time or another. We can be in situations where we think one thing rationally and our "gut" tells us something else. Or we can maintain that there is no such thing as bodies without physical extension, and no disembodied actions, on one hand, while committing ourselves to the idea of point particles and singularities on another. The best answer is not always to choose one over the other. It is not just a matter of choosing between thesis and antithesis. There is much to be gained from a striving for synthesis. This is one way people, and their perspectives, evolve.

Objectivism and Christianity are fundamentally contradictory. Growing up I always thought a scientist who believes in God was a contradiction in terms. But I now get how people can hold different frames of reference, different orientations of consciousness, to process different types of information. Owning one perspective and disowning another doesn't work. The struggle to integrate has psychological value. At the end of the struggle, what does it matter to us if they end up Christian or Objectivist, some paradoxical mix that operates differently according to context, or some new synthesis that takes principles from each. They are psychological beings who have grown through the process.

Is it possible that Objectivism could be missing something? Is it possible that someone might experience existence through the lens of Objectivism and conclude: This does not capture everything I experience or everything I am? Is it possible to conclude Ayn Rand missed something fundamental to life? Is it possible she did not identify all the important aspects of the psyche? I would say it is not only possible, it is a fact.

Perhaps, for a Christian, there is something captured by their experience of Christianity that is not captured in Objectivism, but is an important part of who they are. Would it not then be the case that holding onto both Christianity and Objectivism is an attempt to find integration in themselves? And wouldn't it be worth the effort to strive for some form of synthesis between the those principles they find important in each way of viewing the world?

One example of what is missing from Rand's philosophy is the importance of empathy. The nature and value of empathy plays no role in Objectivism. In fact, Objectivism could be described as a philosophy that grew out of, and attracts, those whose psychology has disowned empathy. Or it requires the disowning of empathy to practice it consistently.

Empathy is the very thing that I have suggested motivated Michael. That such experiences and expressions of empathy run contrary to Objectivist sensibilities may have played a role in some reactions to Michael's post. So too might they have played a role in the misunderstandings of his motives.

Empathy plays a very important role for a lot of people. It plays a very important role in Christianity. Wouldn't it be worth while, even from an Objectivist perspective, if a Christian, who spent time trying to integrate Objectivism with Christianity, ended up accepting the principles of Objectivism but modifying it to include an understanding of the value and place of empathy? Or is Objectivism a closed system that could not allow such evolution?

Paul

Paul,

I found your post (#78) very perceptive. Thank you for it.

We should remember that the hardware of the brain is far from perfect, allowing contradictory functioning on semi-independent levels. I see that you understand this.

-Dennis

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Darrell,

You didn't get under my skin. I was merely stating a fact. I cannot concede something without first wishing to change it and then backing up. I was simply clarifying to you, not griping. The only thing I preach is for everyone to use his own mind to the best of his ability.

If I have any faith at all, it is in the good side of people over the bad and the belief that most people will be rational when alternatives are presented in a form they can understand.

Also, the idea of "ingratiating" myself is so tribal in the insinuation that I find it amusing. That is so not me.

If YOU want me to be a hardcore a priori atheist, I agree you can call my letter wishy-washy. But that's what YOU want. If you read my letter from the standpoint of commitment to using my own mind, it is not wishy-washy at all. On the contrary, it is radical. Actually, for your intentions on how I should use my mind, my letter only appears wishy-washy simply because I was not considering at all how you want me to use my mind. If I were to address this directly, I would be more emphatic and say that I will be the one to make my own decisions irrespective of what you think. If you insisted and tried to intimidate me, you would see that I am not wishy-washy about this at all.

:)

My use of my own mind in my own manner is not negotiable.

Paul has it right (mostly). The part about empathy is true but overstated a bit. The fact is that, with others, I place more value on character than on any stated philosophical position or religious belief. There are so many people of bad character in the Objectivist world that I began to lose interest, so for my own life, good character is a standard I needed to set. You can't rationally use a standard like good character if you do not extend it to all people.

Michael

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Ken Wilber is on my >gack< list, along with Rupert Sheldrake, Larry Dossey, Deepak Chopra, and other purveyors of woo woo. I don't think you mean Wilber himself provides a similar process and fruit to that of the scientific enterprise.

In this enterprise, there is no equivalent to enduring religious sectarianism. The universalism of science has no equivalent on the spirit side -- in a dominant and accepted spiritual framework for the entire globe. Religious theories neither fit together nor mutually support and reinforce each other. They contradict each other in manifold ways. Gurus contra gurus, Sunni vs Shia, Orthodox versus reformed . . . what is the common ground and common fact that undergirds the panoply of spirit practice?

I don't think there can be a coherent framework that enfolds and supports all the ramifications. In the spirit-raddled enterprise, each sectarian conclusion does not fit into any framework shared with all the others. Theories are not discarded. Syntheses do not abound, technologies do not sprout.

So the unity, the integration that Wilber seeks and pronounces is a false equation, to my mind. His four quadrant model does not test its modeled relationships and leads to no research program. In any case, he seems profoundly ignorant of aspects of science, sneering at evolutionary theories and allying himself, in effect, with intelligent design.** That he prefers Sheldrake to Dawkins tells me the kind of integral knowledge he seems to have the corner on -- woo woo.

I'm not endorsing Wilber for purposes of this discussion for anything other than what he says in this particular book. For that purpose, I'll reference two posts I made about two years ago, here:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...entry7969

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...entry8033

Ad hominem arguments regarding Wilber, even if they're true, don't detract from the validity of this particular theory.

The point isn't about resolving sectarianism; it's about experiences, and their commonality regardless of the so-called theories that have been invented to explain them.

Judith

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Nice post, Mind-Unchained, whoever you are!

When Nathaniel Branden's Lecture 4 of The Basic Principles of Objectivism -- "The Concept of God" -- appears in print form, there will no longer be any excuse for these woozy-headed attempts to "integrate" Objectivism and Christianity, or any other form of theism. You'd think that Peikoff's discussion in OPAR would suffice, but apparently not.

REB

Thank you Roger, I was beginning to think that everyone had just skipped over my first real post on this forum, I am glad you got some value out of it.

BTW, my name is Michael. I don't like using my real name on internet forums, I know that is standard practice here, but it makes me uncomfortable.

Michael

Hi Michael,

I also noticed your very fine post, but didn't get around to responding to it, being involved in other discussions <-- lousy excuse. I hope you'll contribute more.

Darrell

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For an eloquent example of how Rand responded in an irenic fashion to a letter-writer who suggested Roak was a Jesus-figure, see the following from Letters of AYn Rand, pages 287 - 288:

Dear Mrs. Austin:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the honesty and seriousness of your inquiry—and particularly the last paragraph of your letter. It would take a whole philosophical volume to answer your questions properly, but I shall try to indicate a few brief answers.

You say that "Roark is like a portrait of Jesus." This statement can mean many different things. In a very general sense, if you mean that both Roark and Jesus are held as embodiments of the perfect man, of a moral ideal—then you are right, but there the comparison must end. The moral ideal represented by Roark is not the one represented by Jesus.

There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means—one's ego and the integrity of one's ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul—(this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?)—Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others.

This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men's natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war—both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man's soul).

he solution? We have a choice. Either we accept the basic principle of Jesus—the preeminence of one's own soul—and define a new code of ethics consistent with it (a code of Individualism). Or we accept altruism and the basic principle which it implies—the conception of man as a sacrificial animal, whose purpose is service to others, to the herd (which is what you may see in Europe right now—and which is certainly not what Jesus intended).

You ask: "Do you think it would demean man to think that he was the child of the Creator of the earth, stars, etc.? Don't you think it would make his noble dreams and acts even more noble to think that he has a divine heritage?" To your first question I would answer: No, not necessarily. Perhaps a philosophical statement could be made defining God and man's relation to God in a way which would not be demeaning to man and to his life on earth. But I do not know of such a statement among the popular conceptions of God.

The second question contains a most grievous demeaning of man, right in the question. It implies that man, even at his best, even after he has reached the highest perfection possible to him, is not noble or not noble enough. It implies that he needs something superhuman in order to make him nobler. It implies that that which is noble in him is divine, not human; and that the merely human is ignoble. This is what neither Roark nor I would ever accept.

You say: "Jesus said we were to love one another, and to bear each other's burdens." "To bear each other's burdens"—is the purest statement of collectivism and altruism, the very thing to which Roark's whole philosophy said "NO."

As for "loving one another" (this means, I presume, indiscriminately), it is a precept which I do not understand. It has no actual meaning and no possible application in practice. Love is the recognition one grants to value or virtue. Since all men are not virtuous, to love them for their vices would be a monstrous conception and a vicious injustice. One can not love such men as Stalin or Hitler. One can not love both a man like Roark and a man like Toohey. If one says one does, it merely means that one does not love at all. To love the ideal and also those who betray it, is only to betray the ideal.

You say: "It would seem to me that Jesus loved people in a way that you would approve." No, I do not approve of what you describe as that way. You say that "Jesus loved the dream of goodness He saw in every man." I do not see a "dream of goodness" in every man, nor do I see any inborn evil or original sin in him. I see man as, above all, a creature of <ltrs_289> free will. This means that it is up to him, and to him alone, to decide whether he will be good or evil. Then one judges him on his own record, and one loves or hates him according to what he has deserved. I do not approve of loving anyone for a potentiality, particularly when his every action is a denial of that potentiality, is its exact opposite.

As to Roark, in relation to the kind of love for others which you describe, it is the whole point of Roark and of my philosophy that he was not concerned with other men. Yes, his goal was perfection, but not the perfection of the world or of others; only the perfection of that which lay within his power—of himself and his work. He did not set himself up as the power who should or could bring out the potential perfection in others. First, because he knew he could not do it; second, because he would not want to do it, if he could. Others did not interest him enough to become his concern. If he made it his goal to perfect them, it would mean that he had made them his concern, and he would then become the kind of second-hander whom he denounced most clearly and specifically.

Roark did better than to love men—he respected them. He granted to each of them the same right which he did not let them infringe in him—the right of an independent entity whose fate, life and perfection are in his own hands, not anyone else's and certainly not Roark's.

As to your sentence that Roark would want to serve that kind of God—that is the only sentence in your letter which was offensive to me. The word "Roark" and the word "serve" are opposites—the two antagonists who will never meet and must not be connected. There is no such conception as "service" in Roark's consciousness nor in the kind of universe to which he belongs and which he represents. Roark would not "serve" God nor anyone nor anything. He would never even use such a word in relation to himself. He would never think of "serving himself" or "serving his art." Roark is a man who does not serve—that is his whole meaning. Roark is man as an end in himself. That which is an end in itself does not serve anything. That which serves is the means to something which is the end.

I note that Rand doesn't angrily and emotionally denounce the letter-writer. Neither does she term her a whim-worshipper, a mystic, etc. She builds an honest, reality-based bridge ("Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim...") and then points out the problem - the contradiction of the ethics to this basic principle.

This is a great example of Rand dealing with the situation. It is something I find far more characteristic of early Ayn Rand (this is from a letter dated 9 JUly 1946) than post-Atlas.

Bill P (Alfonso)

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Rand continues as follows, in a later letter to Mrs. Wilson dated 14 August 1946. I have bolded the portion I wish to call to your attention. Note in 1946 Rand explicitly saying that one needn't agree with "truth" when first hearing it to avoid being dishonest, but instead the warning is to not refuse to see.

I was glad to hear that you seem to be sincere and serious about intellectual arguments.

No, I didn't mean that to test the logic of an idea by questions is to be intellectually dishonest. You must really be careful not to confuse issues like that. The first sign of intellectual honesty is precisely to ask as many questions as one needs, until one has reached a complete logical understanding. I have written to you at such great length, because I respect the questioning mind.

Intellectual dishonesty comes, when one begins to muddle the premises of one's questions and to attempt to reconcile a blatant contradiction, a procedure which is best expressed by a question such as: "Why can't I have my cake and eat it, too?"

It is not dishonest if one is unable to see a point at first glance. It is dishonest when one is unwilling to see it. The person asking a question is the best judge of which is which, but the person hearing it will always be able to tell the difference.

As to the present political trend of government controls, I quite agree with you. It is vicious, immoral, collectivistic—and will achieve, if continued, neither freedom nor security, but only total destruction.

If my letters have helped you to clarify some important issues, I am very glad.

Bill P (Alfonso)

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Objectivism and Christianity are fundamentally contradictory. Growing up I always thought a scientist who believes in God was a contradiction in terms. But I now get how people can hold different frames of reference, different orientations of consciousness, to process different types of information. Owning one perspective and disowning another doesn't work. The struggle to integrate has psychological value. At the end of the struggle, what does it matter to us if they end up Christian or Objectivist, some paradoxical mix that operates differently according to context, or some new synthesis that takes principles from each. They are psychological beings who have grown through the process.

Paul,

Is it ok if they end up being Islamists or Communists or Nazis? These may be extreme examples, but I am just taking your argument to its logical extreme.

Your argument is reminiscent of the arguments of multiculturalists who say that all societies are a priori equal and deserve our respect. Any argument for one over another is taken to be an unfair Western cultural bias. In your case, the fact that people are "psychological beings" is supposed to excuse whatever mish-mash of a philosophy that they end up with as long as they have "grown through the process." Besides, "the struggle to integrate has psychological value."

I understand that sometimes people do go through such struggles and grow in the process. However, I am uncomfortable encouraging people to go off in any random direction. By encouraging them to try to integrate Objectivism and Christianity, you are, in effect, giving your moral sanction to Christianity, which, despite all its virtues, is often hostile to free inquiry and rational thought.

I remember being taught the story of "Doubting Thomas" over and over in church when I was a kid. The lesson was that we should never doubt the Truth of the existence of God or of Jesus. There are also various warnings that people who do not believe, or even doubt the Truth of the Word, when they die will go to hell where men will weep and gnash their teeth or burn in eternal fire.

Despite all that, I am not hostile to Christianity for many of the reasons that Regi mentioned in his post and in the essay on his website. However, I do not believe it is proper for Objectivists to provide their moral sanction to Christianity.

Darrell

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Bill,

Just another parallel. Jesus and John Galt were both tortured because they couldn't or wouldn't rule men through their special attributes (Jesus for being the son of God and Galt for being a genius-producer). With both, society perceived them as the answer to all its problems in this life and tortured them when the goodies were not forthcoming. Despite all the differences, I find these kinds of parallels fascinating.

A good many things in Objectivism derive from Christianity, but with obvious differences.

Michael

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Is it ok if they end up being Islamists or Communists or Nazis? These may be extreme examples, but I am just taking your argument to its logical extreme.

I question your logic. How does encouraging someone to struggle with integrating Christianity and Objectivism lead them to become Islamists or Communists or Nazis? I am curious what the causal chain would look like that connects these events.

Your argument is reminiscent of the arguments of multiculturalists who say that all societies are a priori equal and deserve our respect. Any argument for one over another is taken to be an unfair Western cultural bias.

Again, I question your logic. How does saying its good to encourage people to strive for integration, or synthesis of conflicting views they may hold, "reminiscent of the arguments of multiculturalists who say that all societies are a priori equal and deserve our respect?" In fact, my argument suggests that some perspectives, and, by extension, some cultures, are more integrated than others. Cultures that encourage the generation of more integrated psychologies, and philosophies that integrate more of reality, are more deserving of our respect. By extension, our goal is increasing integration toward an ideal of complete integration, not settling for the best of several semi-integrated package-deal psychologies and philosophies.

In your case, the fact that people are "psychological beings" is supposed to excuse whatever mish-mash of a philosophy that they end up with as long as they have "grown through the process." Besides, "the struggle to integrate has psychological value."

This strikes me as an example of context dropping. You can only make your assertion if you drop the context in which I used the terms "psychological beings." To say that people are psychological beings is to emphasize that an understanding of human thought and behaviour requires an understanding of people's psychologies, not just their philosophies. I did not suggest that it is an excuse for "mish-mash...as long as they have 'grown through the process.'" An understanding of people's psychologies is necessary condition of understanding how they can move toward greater integration between conflicting perspectives. Someone who doesn't understand the nature and role of psychology in determining our philosophies will suggest its okay to disown the part of oneself that connects with one philosophy/religion so one can identify with, or own, another part of oneself by embracing another philosophy/religion. This thinking says, " Make a mish-mash of your psychology to save the consistency of your philosophy!"

An integrated psychology requires an integrated philosophy.

I understand that sometimes people do go through such struggles and grow in the process. However, I am uncomfortable encouraging people to go off in any random direction.

No. We wouldn't want people to negotiate the path of personal development and evolution by going off in random directions. New integrations could never happen via random mutations (of genes or ideas). New integrations are much more likely within systems that rigidly resist mutations.

By encouraging them to try to integrate Objectivism and Christianity, you are, in effect, giving your moral sanction to Christianity, which, despite all its virtues, is often hostile to free inquiry and rational thought.

Again, I question your logic. I am giving my moral sanction to asking rational questions, seeking rational answers, creating new integrations, and using independent judgement. I am giving my moral sanction to independent thinking and to thinking outside the box of any given system. This type of thinking can have the effect of holding one's own autonomous judgement and independent perspective as an authority above any particular system. This is good. This is the path to breaking free of dogmatism of all stripes. Far from giving my moral sanction to Christianity, I am encouraging the use of tools that are inconsistent with the practice of Christianity and could work like an antibody to the doctrines of Christianity.

As a system, Christianity comes far from capturing human nature and the nature of existence. Objectivism comes closer but still misses some key elements of our existence. Integration of existence and oneself requires reaching beyond both.

Paul

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Paul,

I found your post (#78) very perceptive. Thank you for it.

We should remember that the hardware of the brain is far from perfect, allowing contradictory functioning on semi-independent levels. I see that you understand this.

-Dennis

Thanks Dennis. It seems others do not agree.

Paul

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Hi Michael,

I also noticed your very fine post, but didn't get around to responding to it, being involved in other discussions <-- lousy excuse. I hope you'll contribute more.

Darrell

Thank you very much. I hope to contribute a lot.

Michael

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Paul has it right (mostly).

Sounds like something Shauna would say.

The part about empathy is true but overstated a bit. The fact is that, with others, I place more value on character than on any stated philosophical position or religious belief. There are so many people of bad character in the Objectivist world that I began to lose interest, so for my own life, good character is a standard I needed to set. You can't rationally use a standard like good character if you do not extend it to all people.

Michael,

My use of the word empathy could have been misleading. I have an expanded concept of what could be called the empathic perspective. It includes more than just the emotional component normally associated with the term. It includes the underlying image generating mechanism that allows us to experience other people's perspectives on an experiential (intuitive) level. See here for more.

Maybe this will make what I said seem a little less overstated.

Paul

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Paul,

I found your post (#78) very perceptive. Thank you for it.

We should remember that the hardware of the brain is far from perfect, allowing contradictory functioning on semi-independent levels. I see that you understand this.

-Dennis

Thanks Dennis. It seems others do not agree.

Paul

This has survival value in that it imparts flexibility to whomsoever is so blessed. In this context the 'perfect brain' for the species would end in extermination. For the DNA, survival need only be literally physical. And Newton can be the greatest scientist of all time in spite of all the non-scientific junk in his brain. The best way to characterize this is "compartmentalization." This really isn't imperfection. Anyone who bothers to think this through can maintain his brain in as rational a state as can be imagined. (I'm not talking about emotional and tending to hysterical hormonally upset women, of course--God bless 'em!)

--Brant

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This has survival value in that it imparts flexibility to whomsoever is so blessed. In this context the 'perfect brain' for the species would end in extermination. For the DNA, survival need only be literally physical. And Newton can be the greatest scientist of all time in spite of all the non-scientific junk in his brain. The best way to characterize this is "compartmentalization." This really isn't imperfection.

Brant,

I agree that "allowing contradictory functioning on semi-independent levels" is not imperfection. It is parallel processing and has definite survival value. It is the result of looking at existence through different 'lenses' or orientations of consciousness. We are all familiar with the shifting figure/ground phenomenon found in discussions of Gestalt psychology, such as the one where you can either see a vase or two faces (see here). We cannot perceive the vase and the two faces at the same time, even though they are part of the same picture. Contradictory conclusions can be drawn about the picture as the result of our perception's paradoxical functioning. The reason this can occur is because perception can operate according to different principles. Specifically, in this case, we can adjust the principles by which we determine the figure and the ground in the picture.

This paradoxical functioning can occur on many levels. As noted, it can occur on the perceptual level. It can occur on the conceptual level-- e.g.: different concepts of human nature will determine different ethical and political theories, and different interpretations of events. It can occur on the level of intuitive image generation--e.g.: images generated in response to an event from one's personal perspective will be different from images generated from an empathic perspective, as will be one's emotional responses to those images. (I still think an appreciation of the value of images generated from one's empathic perspective is the key to understanding Michael's starving child in the wilderness problem.) Even the intuitive images generated in response to an event from one's personal perspective can be generated from different principles that can vary along with one's interests and motives of the moment and view of causation.

Compartmentalization is what we might do in response to these paradoxical functions and contradictory results. We compartmentalize functions according to what our experience and judgement tell us is the appropriate context for that particular function. While it has survival value at one stage in life, the problem with compartmentalization is that it can lead to a disintegrated self. One of the basic compartmental divisions is between those parts we own, because their functions and conclusions complement our self-image and are encouraged by our environment, and those we disown because their functions are incongruent with our self-image and are discouraged by our environment.

Another answer is to try to find integration by assuming paradoxical functions to be complimentary; parallel lines of thought working via different modes, shaping different lenses, applied to different information, producing a distinctive but complimentary slant on reality. When the conclusions of two modes of processing do not agree, there is no automatic right one. One doesn't have automatic authority. If one's causal intuition and one's reason disagree, check the premises of both. But this can only work if intuition (or reason) hasn't been compartmentalized to the disowned and subconscious. Once compartmentalization and prioritization has been established to the point of automation, we loose the chance of integration, unless we apply psychological deconstruction. (That's a lot of shunning!)

Paul

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Paul,

Your analysis is sounding quite similar to Korzybski's here when you say "It is the result of looking at existence through different 'lenses' or orientations of consciousness." Korzybski says we abstract in different levels and it is imperative that we are aware of this at all times, he calls this 'consciousness of abstracting'. He goes so far as to say that 'consciousness' by itself is an incomplete term and to have meaning we must be conscious of something. He calls the "something" abstracting - consciousness of abstracting. The "lenses" you speak of can result from the influence of higher order abstractions (words) on lower order abstractions (perceptions, conceptions, etc) in the brain. When we perceive, conceive, etc. we often "fill in the blanks" which saves incredible amounts of time but also presents some dangers. Korzybski worked with psychiatrists back in the 30's and 40's and in one case a woman experienced an asthma attack after seeing paper roses across the room which shows the power of "misconceptions" or "misperceptions". In short, we neverr have all the data available and we will always have to fill in some blanks (oops, just broke my rules in my signature) and realize that these blanks constitute assumptions and try and make them consciously.

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Thomas,

The similarities you point to are intriguing. It's hard to say how close the ideas are to my own thinking without a little more information. Do you know of a good overview of Korzybski's ideas that I might find online? I wasn't too impressed with Wiki.

The phrase "consciousness of abstracting" has some vague meaning to me. Relating my use of the term "lenses" to the "influence of higher order abstractions (words) on lower order abstractions (perceptions, conceptions, etc) in the brain" does not, at first glance, fit because lenses, or orientations of consciousness, can operate without words. More information may prove this first impression wrong. The idea of intuitive processes "fill[ing] in the blanks" with assumptions definitely resonates. Trying to make these assumptions conscious is a personal quest of mine: especially the assumptions (or principles of operation) that guide the generation of various phenomenal fields that shape our intuitive orientations; and the principles by which we are able to change what structural elements of the brain process given information from experience.

Paul

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We have the ability to shift between an experience focused orientation and an imagination focused orientation when processing sensory information. In the experience focused orientation awareness is focused on the objects in the perceptual field as the given, and acts on this information by isolating, identifying, and cataloging objects, their properties, and their relationships to other objects. A person of this orientation processes sensory information by focusing attention outward. In the imagination focused orientation awareness is focused on the objects of imagination as the given, and generates a distinct phenomenal field used to represent the perceptual field with an expanded perspective that includes assumptions about hidden variables. This is good for generating an intuitive model of events as they are occurring, filling in blanks of the identity of things, and the causality in interactions, to make predictions of events and shape one's behaviour to generate desired outcomes (as in managing one's actions in social dynamics, playing sports, etc.). A person of this orientation processes sensory information by focusing attention inward.

Hopefully this gives a better sense of what I mean by orientations of consciousness. Each orientation creates a unique lens from which to interpret the world. The history of philosophy is epistemologically divided by the operation of these two basic orientations. The experience focused orientation is identified with the Aristotelian epistemological tradition and flows through to ITOE. The imagination focused orientation is identified with the Platonic epistemological tradition and, through the various models of existence that have been generated, it is responsible for the Platonic forms, all theistic visions of existence, all rationalist, all "mystics," theories of the nature of the psyche, and Ayn Rand's fictions.

Clearly these two basic orientations of consciousness can produce conflicting perspectives. Even sub-orientations within these can produce conflicting perspectives. The inability to resolve these conflicts leads many to choose which to identify with and which to submerge. For others, they live with conflicting worldviews within. For some, they try to find integration. Even though I don't think he succeeded, I think psychological and philosophical integration was Kant's motive (not the evil enslavement of mankind). I think it is Nathaniel Branden's motive for exploring more spiritual realms as he moved away from Rand. I think Rand was happy to keep the two orientations separated, identifying with the source of her non-fiction but submerging the source of her fiction.

To come back to the thread, encouraging someone to attempt to integrate Christianity with Objectivism is to encourage them to explore their consciousness. Both have fictions that produce moving imagery about the nature of man and existence. Both claim to have identified epistemological truths. Both claim to know how people ought to behave. Both are fundamentally contradictory to one another. The attempt to integrate two fundamentally contradictory perspective has the potential of breaking a person away from the dogmatism of both. A child who grows up surrounded by multiple conflicting perspectives, but trusts their own judgement and ability to understand, will grow to form their own autonomous perspective outside the grip of their parents authority. The same principle applies to any genuine attempt someone might make at integrating two fundamentally contradictory philosophies like Christianity and Objectivism. With hard work they may find their own autonomous perspective beginning to evolve and break the grip of authority. This would be a victory for the principles of Objectivism (if not for the authoritarian nature of some of the Objectivist movement's practices).

Paul

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Do you believe in the uniformity of physical laws? If you do, you believe in something for which you have no empirical proof, nor can you have. To say physical laws hold everywhere and every when is to assert something that is impossible for us to verify empirically. So if you accept the uniformity of physical laws, you accept something on belief. But it is a -reasonable- belief. If physical laws were not uniform, then we could not do science. The best we could do is run with jury-rigged heuristics that have to be fixed whenever they break. We operate on the happy assumptions that our most general laws hold in all places and for all times. This is why we hold on to our best conservation laws and symmetries. Without them, our knowledge of the world would be a crap shoot.

Ba'al Chatzaf

This is quite ignorant of fact. When we use a telescope to look out in space we are also looking back in time. Near and far, stars all share the same spectral lines. Hydrogen emits and absorbs the same energies wherever and whenever it is observed. Those emission and absorption spectra are determined by quantum physics. So no matter where we look in the universe, at what time depth, we see that the rules of relativity on the macroscale and quantum mechanics on the microscale are the same. Likewise, we date the rocks of the earth by radioactive decay. There are no unexplained aberrations. Fossils show organisms which obey the same rules of biology. Science coheres on all scales, great and small, across all spaces and times. this is an entirely empirical matter. From the sound laws of linguistic change to the laws of physics and biology, all are independent of location. All are universal. this is no matter of faith, it has been discovered from and borne out by centuries of observation.

The notion that the laws of science might vary is based on nothing other than supposition. Some people, unbound by facts, can vaguely imagine quite impossible things. A knowledge of the nature of things precludes one from imagining some impossibilities. the more you understand, the fewer impossibilities you can imagine. A true understanding of physics excludes the belief that the laws of the science vary anywhere between the microwave background horizon 13.7 billion years away.

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The notion that the laws of science might vary is based on nothing other than supposition.

The so-called "laws of physics" are nothing but incomplete models of what we have observed and these models are periodically modified to reflect new data. To say they do NOT vary is ridiculous.

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The notion that the laws of science might vary is based on nothing other than supposition.

The so-called "laws of physics" are nothing but incomplete models of what we have observed and these models are periodically modified to reflect new data. To say they do NOT vary is ridiculous.

You have to be pretty perverse to ignore the obvious, that I was using "laws of science" to mean "the way reality behaves" rather than "our formulation of our understanding of how reality behaves." So perverse, that you make the claim that the laws of nature vary, however wrong, simply trivial and empty.

Its not even possible to apply this observation that scientific models change (improve) to the observation that spectral lines don't vary. That is simply an observed fact, not a matter of theory.

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