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Oakes

Ex-marxist With A Q

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I have learned a lot about Objectivism and about life over the years and changed my mind about some things as the facts required.

Then it looks like you need not worry. To be honest, I shouldn't be worrying either. I could easily go on like any closed-system objectivist, insisting on absolute agreement, because I personally haven't yet found disagreement on anything. But there may be people who do find disagreement, and I want to be able to communicate with them, and possibly even change my mind, all under the name of objectivism.

YOUR philosophy is not a closed system and you should keep on learning all you can ... Ayn Rand's system, on the other hand, IS closed.

Enough people have made it clear that this is the way things are. My premise at the beginning of this thread was to ask why. I know I've got a lot to learn, and my current state demands an open system, but so does everyone else's. We are all humans with limited knowledge, and we could all use the input of others, even if it means a change in our own beliefs.

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oakes:

It seems as if you are unusually antagonistic. Why? I thought you were asking if Rand can be wrong....and she can be. Does that mean that she is? Nope. Can you come to your own conclusions using Objectivist principles? Yep. Will they coincide with Rand's applications? If you use the principles right, they probably will. I think this is EXACTLY what everyone here is telling you.

PS: I wouldnt use hypotheticals that dont actually support your point. If your point was Rand could be wrong, I would choose an instance where her fallibility actually shows. And abortion isnt one of those issues, where her application is flawed.

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I could ask the question: Why does anyone care if he is, or is considered, an "Objectivist?" Why does the label matter? But I already know the answer.

During the teens and twenties intelligent, sincere young people are involved in the normal process of defining who they are and where they belong in the world.

Until they have defined who they are and where they belong, life is confusing, uncomfortable and at times unbearable. One way most people cope is to act as if they have finished the self-definition process by finding a group or a set of ideas they like and trying it on for size. They join. They seek acceptance. They put labels on themselves. Belonging and labeling themselves are ways to say "This is who I am. This is where I belong in the world." There's nothing wrong with doing that as long as a person is aware that's what he is doing.

But in addition to examining and trying out ideas and meeting groups of possibly compatible people, a smart young person spends most of his time, effort, and thought in the most important self-definition task of all. That is exploring, developing, and pursuing his own personal values.

This is the time for him to think about what he likes to do, try out interesting activities, and explore the many possibilities the world offers until he finds something that really matters TO HIM. Then he should pursue it with all he has and is. If he does that, he will gain a solid sense of himself, where he is, and where he is going.

"I have a column in the school paper and someday I'm going to write books."

"When I'm an engineer, I'm going to build bridges."

"I'm on my way to being the next Bill Gates."

"I'm an actor who loves doing character parts."

"I'm selling my drawings to put myself through art school."

Once a person has defined himself, belonging and labels don't matter all that much. He's too busy living and loving life to care.

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Then it looks like you need not worry. To be honest, I shouldn't be worrying either. I could easily go on like any closed-system objectivist, insisting on absolute agreement, because I personally haven't yet found disagreement on anything. But there may be people who do find disagreement, and I want to be able to communicate with them, and possibly even change my mind, all under the name of objectivism.

I find this sort of attachment to the name "Objectivism" somewhat odd. Isn't the purpose of calling yourself an Objectivist to efficiently identify a set of philosophical beliefs you adhere to? If you were to find that something in Objectivism is wrong, wouldn't you want to drop the term, or at least qualify it: for example, by saying "I'm in agreement with most but not all of Objectivism"?

As for "insisting on absolute agreement", nobody is out to denounce every non-Objectivist in the world. It's perfectly appropriate to communicate with many people who disagree with Objectivism, and so long as you're not certain that you agree with Objectivism, it's entirely proper to be open to having your mind changed. That's the difference between dogmatism and thought.

Incidentally, I can attest to the value of that mind-set, with regard to beliefs you're not certain of, from personal experience. I first read Rand because I had heard she was one of the great exponents of everything I thought was evil -- capitalism, selfishness, etc. Boy, was I glad I picked up her books! The only thing I'd caution you about is getting into the mindset that truths are established through debate. The way to evaluate the principles of Objectivism is primarily to study them and connect them to facts of reality, not to bounce them off of contrasting systems and ideologies.

The term "Objectivist" shouldn't be viewed as a badge of honor, in the sense of developing a psychological attachment to the term itself. It's a description. If you find yourself in disagreement with some part of it, drop it, and identify yourself more accurately. And don't feel bad about it if it's a conclusion you reach honestly. Objectivism is a philosophy, not a club, and there's no value in claiming to be something you're not.

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It seems as if you are unusually antagonistic.

Oh, I'm sorry.

I thought you were asking if Rand can be wrong....and she can be.

That wasn't my question at all.

Does that mean that she is? Nope. Can you come to your own conclusions using Objectivist principles? Yep.

I already know all this, you need not re-assert it. My question was and is, why do you insist on remaining in a closed system philosophy? Why do all objectivists do so? Why do we seek more to preserve the integrity of a word than to find answers?

Will they coincide with Rand's applications? If you use the principles right, they probably will. I think this is EXACTLY what everyone here is telling you.

Actually so far only you and DWP have asserted that I'll arrive at all of Rand's conclusions if I would only *think* hard enough.

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Oakes:

This is how I like to think about this issue. This whole controversy about the property of “Objectivism” I have no trouble with. I am after truth. I am after the philosophy that corresponds to the facts of reality, i.e., that is true, that is WISDOM. Coincidentally I have come to learn that Objectivism is the only philosophy that “really makes sense to me”. It is the only philosophy that I have been able to validate. Coincidentally, Objectivism can be synonymous with “Philosophy”.

But I have tremendous admiration and respect for the life and mind that was Ayn Rand. And I understand her historical importance. Observe that she stated principles that no philosopher, genius or otherwise, stated. And ironically she provided us with keys to logic by which we will validate her philosophy and philosophy.

But the quest is for your philosophy, my philosophy. Ironically, that is the nature of philosophy: that it is yours and it has to be yours; otherwise, philosophy is useless.

Right now, my favorite thing about the literature of Ayn Rand, is the mother-load of leads she provides me with in her writings. I read a passage that years ago I read and didn’t take a second look, and now in merely one paragraph, I see weeks or even years of an intellectual journey.

It is possible for Objectivism not to match with Philosophy but one certainly has to prove it!

One last thing, Rand has a distinctive and marvelous style of writing. Much of the fruit is to be found “between the lines”; that is hers too. But you need logic to harvest that as well.

Americo.

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Why does anyone care if he is, or is considered, an "Objectivist?" Why does the label matter?

It's not what you're thinking. I want to remain an objectivist even if I disagree with a minor point, because I find it detrimental for a philosophy to be so strictly defined and static. It is possible just to move on to a new name, and admit that the past one was a failure. I plan to avoid that beforehand via dynamic philosophy. I plan for it to have shelf-life.

Isn't the purpose of calling yourself an Objectivist to efficiently identify a set of philosophical beliefs you adhere to?

The purpose is to efficiently identify you with core values and beliefs, and that's all.

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It is possible just to move on to a new name, and admit that the past one was a failure. I plan to avoid that beforehand via dynamic philosophy. I plan for it to have shelf-life.

And nobody's going to stop you. Anyway, this whole issue has been discussed on this forum before, and I can't take the time to rehash it from the start. You might want to review some of those threads.

A quick search turns up a bunch of threads with the term "closed system" in them. The following, as I recall, were the most relevant:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...d%20system&st=0

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system"

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system"

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...ed+system"

Needless to say, I disagree with a lot of what's said in those threads. So don't take my silence on any particular issue as agreement, even if I've expressed agreement with most of what any particular person says.

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Oakes,

You are speaking in generalizations. If you disagree with Ayn Rand's view on, say, the psychology of humor, you may still call yourself an Objectivist.

But if you disagree with her about basic issues of ethics, epistemology, esthetics, metaphysics, politics - you must find a new name.

The terms open and close are meaningless in the way you use them. The fact that the name Objectivism means something specific and not other does not make Objectivists "closed". It just makes it a thing of identity that cannot be twisted to fit anyone's need.

You can always call yourself an admirer of Ayn Rand, or say that you agree with "many aspects" of Objectivism.

If you develop your own system and give it a name, it will be just as "closed" as Objectivism, by virtue of you creating it and naming it.

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Actually so far only you and DWP have asserted that I'll arrive at all of Rand's conclusions if I would only *think* hard enough.

I would rather you not put words into my mouth, as I am very careful about choosing the words that come out of it. If you will review this thread, you'll see that in the posts you were referring to I was discussing whether Rand's stance on abortion was part of Objectivism. Another convinced me that it was. Whether or not you will arrive at the same conclusion depends on a number of factors, many of which have nothing to do with how hard you think.

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Enough people have made it clear that this is the way things are. My premise at the beginning of this thread was to ask why. I know I've got a lot to learn, and my current state demands an open system, but so does everyone else's. We are all humans with limited knowledge, and we could all use the input of others, even if it means a change in our own beliefs.

Oakes, it may be that you are misunderstanding the meaning of "closed system" (I could be wrong here, but I'm remembering that I mistunderstood thee term myself for a while.) Objectivist principles can be applied to anything and everything in the world. In that sense there are no "limitations" to Objectivism. Whether you are interested in science, literature, adventure, industry, etc., the methods you learn from Objectivism will help you understand and appreciate these areas.

But, the actual philosophy of Objectivism is "closed", meaning its principles and methods have already been formulated. Whether they are right or wrong is a different matter, which each of us has to discover independently, but, right or wrong, Objectivsm is only *one certain thing*. If you have an emotional attachment to the label, because of all wonderful things you've learned about it so far, and wish to still label as Objectivism something which isn't, then, well, you're out of luck.

That it's "closed", should no more imply dogmatic narrowmindedness, than, for example, the fact that mathematics is "closed".

An anology, for what it's worth: "bicycling" is a closed system; it can refer only to those activities involving a pedal-powered, 2-wheeled vehicle. You can bicycle on the road, in the woods, on the moon, or anywhere else you wish. But if you instead want to pedal a 3-wheeled vehicle all those places, that's fine; you can't logically call it "bicycling", though. It's "tricycling". It might still get you where you want to go, but there's no point calling it one thing when it's another.

(In the case of Objectivism, I think you'll find the perfect vehicle to get you wherever you want to go.)

P.S. You've indicated that you're very new to Objectivism -- this issue of "closed" vs. "open" system is a very abstract issue. I would think it would be a very difficult topic to tackle early in your interest in Objectivism. It took me years, back when I heard of the Kelleys and Libertarians espousing the "open system" theory, to figure out what the issue was. What finally helped me was seeing what sort of nonsense they presumed was compatible with Objectivism in their "open" systems.

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A quick search turns up a bunch of threads with the term "closed system" in them. The following, as I recall, were the most relevant:

Thanks, I'll look over them. I've scanned a few so far. I don't know if this is intentional, but I've already picked up on interesting word-usage:

... it would be false to call myself an Objectivist if I'm in fundamental disagreement with the philosophy in some way. -AshRyan

For those of us who take our ideas very seriously, we get a bit annoyed when some idiot calls themselves an Objectivist but explicitly contradicts all or some of the fundamentals of the philosophy. -RationalEgoistSG

It is an insult to everything I believe in for a person to label themselves as an Objectivist and simultaneously agree with Freudian theory, or anarchism, or "tolerance," and many other such things which clearly violate the fundamentals of the philosophy. -RationalEgoistSG

If you develop your own system and give it a name, it will be just as "closed" as Objectivism, by virtue of you creating it and naming it.

Right, I think its "openness" is a relative thing. So the important thing is not just that it is open, but that it is open enough to welcome new ideas and yet closed enough to reject ideas that are clearly irrational. The kind of philosophy I'm talking about would lay out fundamental principles and encourage you to deduce conclusions about real-world issues from there. It could suggest certain conclusions, but allow disagreement at the same time.

Now, don't go off telling me that I'm perfectly free to do this. I know that. I am here to ask you why you don't do the same.

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I would rather you not put words into my mouth, as I am very careful about choosing the words that come out of it.

I wasn't paraphrasing you. What you actually said was that "these cases are so clear cut that ... there is no way to oppose abortion rights on Objectivist premises". In other words, there's no way I couldn't arrive at Rand's answer.

That it's "closed", should no more imply dogmatic narrowmindedness, than, for example, the fact that mathematics is "closed".

Math is a hard analogy to use. In science, there are different theories, but they are all wrapped around some basic principles like the scientific method. Why is philosophy different? Why can't we create a strong base, like the scientific method, and leave the rest to debate without calling disenters "un-Objectivist", or following the analogy, "un-scientific"?

P.S. You've indicated that you're very new to Objectivism -- this issue of "closed" vs. "open" system is a very abstract issue. I would think it would be a very difficult topic to tackle early in your interest in Objectivism.

I would think it should be the very first issue I tackle. The first and most important thing in science is not to go out start the experiment chaotically, but to step back, plan everything and make sure you are maximizing your chance of getting the right answer and minimizing your chance of bias. Saaaaaame thing :rolleyes:

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Math is a hard analogy to use. In science, there are different theories, but they are all wrapped around some basic principles like the scientific method. Why is philosophy different? Why can't we create a strong base, like the scientific method, and leave the rest to debate without calling disenters "un-Objectivist", or following the analogy, "un-scientific"?

philosophy is like that. There are five branches of study, and philosophers describe and explain each of those branches in their philosophy. If you happen to follow Ayn Rand because her's is the most rational, then you would be following her thoery: Objectivism. Their is no dissention among Objectivist principles that would allow you to call yourself Objectivist. Do you agree with Objectivist ethics, epistemology, politics, metaphysics, esthetics? If so, then call yourself Objectivist if the title even matters. If not, then dont. Its not even worth arguing over. I think if you knew a little more about Objectivism, you would know that the only person you have to convince to a way of thinking is yourself. So why are you trying to "open" up the term Objectivist?

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What you actually said was that "these cases are so clear cut that ... there is no way to oppose abortion rights on Objectivist premises". In other words, there's no way I couldn't arrive at Rand's answer.

Sure there is. You could have made a mistake, which does not necessarily imply you didn't "think hard enough." In other words, your paraphrase isn't a paraphrase, but a (false) interpretation of what I said.

EDIT: What I was saying was that, assuming one does not make a mistake, a pro-abortion rights stance follows from a proper understanding of Objectivist premises.

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...lay out fundamental principles and encourage you to deduce conclusions about real-world issues from there. It could suggest certain conclusions, but allow disagreement at the same time.

Now, don't go off telling me that I'm perfectly free to do this. I know that. I am here to ask you why you don't do the same.

Look around this forum. I don't see everyone agreeing on everything.

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philosophy is like that. There are five branches of study, and philosophers describe and explain each of those branches in their philosophy. If you happen to follow Ayn Rand because her's is the most rational, then you would be following her thoery: Objectivism.

This is just based on a misunderstanding. You comparing objectivism to a theory within science. I compare objectivism to science in general.

Sure there is. You could have made a mistake, which does not necessarily imply you didn't "think hard enough."

Or you could have made a mistake. Why isn't it possible to be fully consistent with objectivist principles and not arrive at Rand's answer?

What I was saying was that, assuming one does not make a mistake, a pro-abortion rights stance follows from a proper understanding of Objectivist premises.

Unless you yourself don't have a proper understand of Objectivist premises. You can't discount the possibility.

Look around this forum. I don't see everyone agreeing on everything.

According to you guys, if two people disagree on a minor issue that is nevertheless part of the official definition of objectivism, one or both are necessarily not objectivist. That's all I'm saying.

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Or you could have made a mistake. Why isn't it possible to be fully consistent with objectivist principles and not arrive at Rand's answer?

Where did I make a mistake?

Unless you yourself don't have a proper understand of Objectivist premises. You can't discount the possibility.

Yes, I can. Where is there evidence I do not have a proper understanding of Objectivist premises?

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I am pretty sure he is just looking to pick a fight. Oakes, seriously!!!!! Rand is the only reading you can do to learn about Objectivism. Anyother source will be secondary. If you disagree with Rand in the principles she writes, then you are not Objectivist, since only her agreeing with her writings will be following HER philosophy Objectivism. You can differ on its applications. Everyone here has said that. But you cannot disregard her writings and call yourself Objectivist. If that is what you would call open, then whats the problem? And you have avoided this: why does the title matter? and why do you want me to agree with you so badly, especially when it sounds as if we agree?

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According to you guys, if two people disagree on a minor issue that is nevertheless part of the official definition of objectivism, one or both are necessarily not objectivist. That's all I'm saying.

First, it's important to recognize that there's a difference between objectivism and Objectivism--the second being the philosophy created by Ayn Rand. The first, according to my Webster's 10C, is a term coined in 1854, the first definition of which is: "any of various theories asserting the validity of objective phenomena over subjective experience." I don't mean to quibble, I just wanted to point out that it's possible to be vague in using the term.

But, to try to get to the crux of the issue. Oakes, one of the principle tenets of Objectivism is the law of identity--A is A (and it seems like you're well aware of that). During her lifetime, Ayn Rand chose to name her philosophical system "Objectivism," I believe because she didn't like that some of her students were beginning to use her name to identify it. In any case, she specifically gave the name to her system, and to her work therein. Therefore, the name "Objectivism" applies to the philosophy as Ayn Rand wrote/spoke about it. Now, there are plenty of Objectivists, Objectivist thinkers, teachers, etc.--men and women who call themselves, and continue to do work in philosophy, based on Objectivism. They identify themselves as Objectivists, but would not refer to their own work as part of the Objectivist corpus. Perhaps if Ayn Rand had said, "I intend/give permission for this term to refer to future work by Objectivists who consistently apply my principles," then we might call, for example, The Ominous Parallels "part" of Objectivism. But she didn't say that, so we don't.

Two more points:

Some (like myself), who might not read all of the Objectivist literature or do not feel comfortable identifying as "full-blown" Objectivists refer to ourselves as "students of Objectivism." So, if you're looking for a label (not a bad thing, since it does identify the essentials concisely), that might be the one to go for.

In response to the part of your post that I quoted:

The reason Objectivists would say that someone who disagrees on "a minor issue that is nevertheless part of the official definition" is not an Objectivist, probably has nothing to do with the issue specifically. Rather, it has to do with the root of the disagreement--usually the disagreement actually comes down to a matter of premises/principles. That is, the disagreement on the "minor issue" is actually based on a principle in conflict with a fundamental premise of Objectivism.

I'm working hard to make this as clear as possible, but I'm struggling--so, if you need clarification, let me know.

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According to you guys, if two people disagree on a minor issue that is nevertheless part of the official definition of objectivism, one or both are necessarily not objectivist. That's all I'm saying.

People have said that people disagreeing on "minor issues" can still both be Objectivists, so long as these "minor issues" don't include Objectivist principles. I would recommend reading OPAR (and anything it references...I believe there is a reference to IOE), and seeing whether you agree or not. Objectivism is a philosophy, not a system of edicts. It consists of principles, not a comprehensive system of commands for every topic invented.

I think your problem is the difference between what is "minor" and what is "fundamental." You will need to do some reading of the philosophy in general (OPAR?) to see what is fundamental to the philosophy and what is not.

Ayn Rand's favorite color was blue-green. That doesn't mean yours has to be, as well. Objectivism says there is an objective reality. If you don't agree, then you don't agree with Objectivism.

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This is just based on a misunderstanding. You comparing objectivism to a theory within science. I compare objectivism to science in general.

Wait a second. How is Objectivism, as a particular philosophy, comparable to science in general? Or even to philosophy in general? Or even to a certain broad approach to philosophy? Don't you think that that is making the term much broader than it actually is?

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Perhaps if Ayn Rand had said, "I intend/give permission for this term to refer to future work by Objectivists who consistently apply my principles," then we might call, for example, The Ominous Parallels "part" of Objectivism. But she didn't say that, so we don't.

The Ominous Parallels is, as far as I know, part of the Objectivist corpus. Rand wrote the introduction to it, and much of it had previously been published in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, and The Ayn Rand Letter. True, it was not published until just after she died, but as far as I can tell, it would have been submitted to the publisher (and therefore, the final manuscript would have been completed) before her death.

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Wait a second.  How is Objectivism, as a particular philosophy, comparable to science in general?  Or even to philosophy in general?  Or even to a certain broad approach to philosophy?  Don't you think that that is making the term much broader than it actually is?

i think that is his problems, he wants one specific philosophy to be like the whole concept of philosophy.

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The Ominous Parallels is, as far as I know, part of the Objectivist corpus.  Rand wrote the introduction to it, and much of it had previously been published in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, and The Ayn Rand Letter.  True, it was not published until just after she died, but as far as I can tell, it would have been submitted to the publisher (and therefore, the final manuscript would have been completed) before her death.

You know, after I posted that, I realized that might be the case. For the sake of continuity (and not making your post refer to nothing), I'll say here that a better example might be The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts. (In other words, other books not specifically endorsed by Rand but written by Objectivists.)

Thanks for the correction, Don.

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