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Oakes

Ex-marxist With A Q

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The point is, Objectivism is not a game of logic, or a house of cards built from the axioms up. It is a system built on induction - like an experimental science. The morality of Capitalism does not arise from Existence Exists, or any other axiom that Ayn Rand identified.

The nature of man as a rational being is not an axiom OR a derivative, but an observation. The morality of rational self-interest is not an axiom OR a derivative, but an observation.

In fact, MOST of Objectivism™ is not an axiom OR an obvious logical derivative.

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In fact, MOST of Objectivism™ is not an axiom OR an obvious logical derivative.

But they all derive from the fact that reality is objective, and that our observations of it are valid. To say that the ideas have no obvious derivation from the self-evident starting points implies that any other creater of Objectivism would have reached different conclusions.

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But they all derive from the fact that reality is objective, and that our observations of it are valid. To say that the ideas have no obvious derivation from the self-evident starting points implies that any other creater of Objectivism would have reached different conclusions.

That's possible. Aristotle for example shared many of Objectivism's axiomatic principles but held a very different ethics and politics. I wouldn't be surprised assuming it were possible to sit down with Thomas Aquinas that he would agree with Objectivism's axioms - and he was a Christian!

How would you derive egoism or capitalism purely from the axioms?

Consider: it is axiomatic that reason is valid but it is not axiomatic nor does it follow that one should therefore always be rational. But such a view is inherent to the entire rest of Objectivism.

Fred Weiss

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That's possible. Aristotle for example shared many of Objectivism's axiomatic principles but held a very different ethics and politics.

Doesn't this sound at all subjectivist to you?

How would you derive egoism or capitalism purely from the axioms?

I've already conceded to the fact that we cannot derive everything from axioms, that we must always refer back to reality. But that doesn't mean everything is subjective, either. The objectivity of reality is axiomatic, so any attempt to come up with ethical and political policies based on observation must accept this fact.

So, here's the crux of my claim: If everyone accepted the axioms of Objectivism, the only way they can differ on political/ethical issues is by conflicting observations or logical errors (both mendable but only with much debate).

Consider: it is axiomatic that reason is valid but it is not axiomatic nor does it follow that one should therefore always be rational.

Right, this can only be arrived at by one who values his life, and who observes reality and judges that reason is the best way to fulfill that value. Am I right? If so, then this doesn't really have to be part of the philosophy: anyone who accepts the axioms and who values his life will arrive at the same answer.

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What if Objectivism could be defined only by its axioms?

But it can't.

You mean it is just impossible, or legally impossible, or what?

It's impossible because the axioms are identified by observation of reality and come from observation of reality. Knowledge of reality leads to the identification of the axioms, not the other way around.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the entire philosophy supposedly drawn in accordance with the axioms?

No, it is derived from observation of reality.

So, everything is derived from observation, but isn't it still true that no part of objectivism may contradict the axioms?

It means that no part of Objectivism may contradict observation.

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In fact, MOST of Objectivism™ is not an axiom OR an obvious logical derivative.

But they all derive from the fact that reality is objective, and that our observations of it are valid.

"They?" Do you mean all philosophies? Oviously not. Many philosophers hold that there is no such thing as an objective reality and that our observations are an illusion.

To say that the ideas have no obvious derivation from the self-evident starting points implies that any other creater of Objectivism would have reached different conclusions.

WHAT "other creator of Objectivism?" Ayn Rand is the creator of Objectivist ™ and there was only one of her.

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Right, this can only be arrived at by one who values his life, and who observes reality and judges that reason is the best way to fulfill that value. Am I right? If so, then this doesn't really have to be part of the philosophy: anyone who accepts the axioms and who values his life will arrive at the same answer.

Objectivism ™ is a system of principles, and if they apply Objectivist principles, they will arrive at the same conclusion -- in principle. They may not necessarily agree on how to apply the principle to a given context. They may not agree on which principle applies to a given context. They may not agree on what, in fact, the context actually is.

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Knowledge of reality leads to the identification of the axioms, not the other way around.

I don't see why this prevents the philosophy from being defined only by its axioms. Certainly knowledge was required to identify them; such an achievement was a great one. But nevertheless, they are all, if only implicitly, necessary precursors to all knowledge. All else, as Kelley said, are "subject to further confirmation, qualification, or revision." That's why they shouldn't be part of what defines the philosophy.

"They?" Do you mean all philosophies?

Oh, definitely not! "They" refers to all the observations made within Objectivism. "Derive" was the wrong word; what I meant was, the observations were made within the context of an objective reality. So although the observations themselves are not axiomatic, the fact that reality is objective is axiomatic, so we shouldn't ever arrive at conflicting observations. Since it is possible that we may do so, we should always be prepared to fix our mistakes. That's why they (the observations) shouldn't be part of what defines the philosophy.

WHAT "other creator of Objectivism?" Ayn Rand is the creator of Objectivist ™ and there was only one of her.

What I mean is, the philosophy was not dependent on Rand. It isn't subjective. If someone else had created it, assuming they observed the same axioms, they would have made the same ethical/political conclusions.

Objectivism ™ is a system of principles, and if they apply Objectivist principles, they will arrive at the same conclusion -- in principle. They may not necessarily agree on how to apply the principle to a given context. They may not agree on which principle applies to a given context. They may not agree on what, in fact, the context actually is.

I don't think this is refuting anything I said. In principle, they will arrive at the same conclusion because there is only one non-contradictory answer. Certainly people will disagree, but debate will show who is the right one, i.e. who is applying the principles in a non-contradictory way.

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Knowledge of reality leads to the identification of the axioms, not the other way around.

I don't see why this prevents the philosophy from being defined only by its axioms.

Objectivism is not "defined" at all. Only concepts are defined. Proper nouns like Objectivism ™ are denoted as in "Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand."

Certainly knowledge was required to identify [the axioms]; such an achievement was a great one. But nevertheless, they are all, if only implicitly, necessary precursors to all knowledge.

All else, as Kelley said, are "subject to further confirmation, qualification, or revision." That's why they shouldn't be part of what defines the philosophy.

The axioms are not unique to Objectivism. Aristotle and others identified and endorsed them and everyone with knowledge has to use them. As such, they hardly serve to distinguish Objectivism ™ from other philosophies.

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What I mean is, the philosophy was not dependent on Rand. It isn't subjective. If someone else had created it, assuming they observed the same axioms, they would have made the same ethical/political conclusions.

The philosophy of Objectivism ™ is not "subjective." It is objective and "personal" -- meaning it is the philosophy of one PERSON. If you agree with Objectivism, it can become your own personal philosophy too.

Regardless, Objectivism ™ is first and foremost the philosphy of Ayn Rand.

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Certainly people will disagree, but debate will show who is the right one, i.e. who is applying the principles in a non-contradictory way.

More precisely, observation of reality will show who is applying principles in a way that does not contradict observations of reality.

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Objectivism is not "defined" at all.

What I mean is, what defines Objectivists. Their only requirement should be to recognize the axioms. Since that includes the Law of Identity, they are forced not to allow contradictions in their philosophy. So essentially they would still be in agreement with Ayn Rand, until such time as an error is found.

The axioms are not unique to Objectivism. Aristotle and others identified and endorsed them and everyone with knowledge has to use them. As such, they hardly serve to distinguish Objectivism ™ from other philosophies.

Ah, so now we get to the heart of the matter :confused: I haven't studied Artistotle, so I'm going to need some help here. Did his philosophy stay consistent with the axioms? Certainly everyone is forced to use accept them implicitly, and some may even recognize them explicitly, but that never means that they will not contradict them.

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Ah, so now we get to the heart of the matter :confused: I haven't studied Artistotle, so I'm going to need some help here. Did his philosophy stay consistent with the axioms? Certainly everyone is forced to use accept them implicitly, and some may even recognize them explicitly, but that never means that they will not contradict them.

He was the first man to define the Law of (Non-)Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle as well as the basic rules of deductive logic.

See the ending of Atlas Shrugged. Ragnar is reading Aristotle.

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He was the first man to define the Law of (Non-)Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle as well as the basic rules of deductive logic.

Did he or did he not contradict the axioms?

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Ash & Oakes, you're welcome. Glad my posts were helpful.

Oakes, people have pointed out a lot of good reasons not to take Objectivism to be just the axioms, and I won't repeat them. But if you're not convinced yet, here are a few other things to consider.

1. The axioms are self-evident, though their explicit formulation is not. If you take Objectivism to be just the explicit formulation of those axioms, you will be led to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a non-Objectivist; there are only more and less consistent Objectivists. That's pretty obviously absurd.

2. It would mean that, against anything Rand meant when she created the term, Objectivism only indirectly has to do with just about any of her philosophical writing. I've heard a few people try to define Objectivism as "the philosophy that follows from observation of reality," or "the philosophy that is true." But this is an epistemological inversion: you can't know that Objectivism is true until you know what Objectivism advocates, and that means that you have to have another way of differentiating it from other philosophical systems. Again, this same problem arises with taking it to be just the axioms: since they're self-evident, there would be no way to differentiate it from any philosophical systems except those which explicitly denied the axioms. And if it turned out that some aspect of Objectivism were wrong, you would simply claim it were not part of Objectivism... and once again, it would become mutable and subjective. The claim that it is just the axioms amounts to the claim that it's just what's true, and that's not true. It's narrower than that.

3. Can't somebody be wrong about what follows from the axioms? Rand herself said that she could not have developed her philosophy in full prior to the industrial revolution. Why? Because it's inductive, and that means that some conclusions could only be reached on the basis of certain information. If I have a limited set of observations, I might reach a faulty conclusion without violating any of the axioms. In fact, I'd argue that this is not only possible, but very common. So if you take Objectivism to be just the axioms, you're stuck with a choice: either anything that coheres with the axioms is Objectivism, even if that means that conflicting ideas are part of the same system, or that Objectivism demands omniscience. Both are clearly wrong.

Ok, just a few more points, more random now. Aristotle's ethics were empatically NOT irrational. They were wrong in some respects, but in essence they were a monumental achievement. Irrational does not simply mean wrong: it means willfully wrong, it means a flouting of reason. It is a derogatory term that should never be applied to a giant like Aristotle.

Last point: I think I agree with Betsy that Objectivism is a proper noun, and that one should not really be trying to define it. However, I think the description in this case should follow a similar pattern as a definition, so I've been using the term in order to avoid hassle. It's like what Rand talks about in, I think, the appendex to ITOE, where she talks about how in advanced civilizations there is a genus-differentia method of naming people: John (differentia) Smith (genus), for example. Here, the genus is "system of philosophical principles", and the differentia is "discovered or endorsed by Ayn Rand."

(I'm not so sure about the last point as I used to be, by the way. But I think it's right.)

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you will be led to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a non-Objectivist; there are only more and less consistent Objectivists.

Those proven to be inconsistent are violating the Law of Identity, so they aren't really Objectivists.

since they're self-evident, there would be no way to differentiate it from any philosophical systems except those which explicitly denied the axioms.

Ditto here too. Those proven to be inconsistent are violating the Law of Identity, so they would be proven not to be Objectivists. Incidentally, this sort of forces you to fall all the way back on the basic axioms every time you want to prove someone wrong.

Can't somebody be wrong about what follows from the axioms? ... If I have a limited set of observations, I might reach a faulty conclusion without violating any of the axioms. In fact, I'd argue that this is not only possible, but very common.

Right, we will have to constantly seek to broaden our horizon of observations. One most likely cannot derive all the principles of Objectivism alone with only the axioms to work with. I certainly do not claim we disregard the great achievements of Ayn Rand and just think it all up ourselves. But hopefully an open philosophy will encourage people to check her premises (and the premises of other authorities like Peikoff), and not be afraid to expose any errors, because they will not have to give up being called "Objectivist".

So if you take Objectivism to be just the axioms, you're stuck with a choice: either anything that coheres with the axioms is Objectivism, even if that means that conflicting ideas are part of the same system, or that Objectivism demands omniscience. Both are clearly wrong.

Or the content of the philosophy could constantly change with the new observations and insights of the Objectivists, always seeking to be more consistent with the axioms.

Aristotle's ethics were empatically NOT irrational.

Sorry, I replaced my post with a more broad and to-the-point question before you wrote this. I have a habit of going back and making big edits to my posts after I post them.

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Ditto here too. Those proven to be inconsistent are violating the Law of Identity, so they would be proven not to be Objectivists. Incidentally, this sort of forces you to fall all the way back on the basic axioms every time you want to prove someone wrong.
I think you're taking the law of identity to be far broader than it actually is. When I think I see a friend down the street, but when I get closer it turns out to be a stranger, I haven't violated the law of identity. I've just made a mistake.

Why should you fall back all the way to the axioms every time you want to prove somebody wrong? The axioms underlie and make possible all knowledge, but it's not the case that we deduce everything from them. If someone walks up to me and says "You don't have a pair of headphones in your room", I'll just point at the headphones. I won't say "not only are there headphones there, but more importantly, A is A."

When you're validating a principle, the goal is not to bring it back to axioms. The goal is to bring it back to sense perception, because THAT is the basis of all knowledge -- including knowledge of those axioms.

One most likely cannot derive all the principles of Objectivism alone with only the axioms to work with.

See, this is exactly what I mean: you still have a deductive model in mind. You've just decided to get a side order of induction with your deduction. But Objectivism is not "a lot of deduction and a pinch of induction"; it is fundamentally inductive. I challenge you to name a single principle in Objectivism, outside of metaphysics, that can be derived from the axioms alone. Name just *one*. (Hint: you can't.)

But hopefully an open philosophy will encourage people to check her premises (and the premises of other authorities like Peikoff), and not be afraid to expose any errors, because they will not have to give up being called "Objectivist".

And now we're back to the original issue. Why such an attachment to the name? If a person is afraid to think independently lest they lose a label, that's neurosis. No redefinitions will cure someone's psychological problems, and they certainly can't force people to think independently. That's a choice they have to make for themselves.

EDIT: "I think you're taking the law of identity to be far broader than it actually is" was a pretty dumb way to put it. It doesn't get any broader than that. You're just taking it to imply something it doesn't.

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Ditto here too. Those proven to be inconsistent are violating the Law of Identity, so they would be proven not to be Objectivists. Incidentally, this sort of forces you to fall all the way back on the basic axioms every time you want to prove someone wrong.

Not necessarily. The principle of proving something or proving is wrong is the same as that in the sciences (and most explicitly it is shown in mathematics). What you need are definitions of terms used in an assumption and conclusion, and then show that the conclusion is the consequence of assumptions (premises). You do that by using the already made conclusions, not by using the axioms themselves. Although, in fundamental levels, you used axioms to prove other conclusions, you can now use these conclusions in order to get to other, higher conclusions. That's called conceptualization or concept-making.

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I think you're taking the law of identity to be far broader than it actually is. When I think I see a friend down the street, but when I get closer it turns out to be a stranger, I haven't violated the law of identity.

Certainly it's not violating the Law of Identity to make a mistake; there was nothing about what you originally believed that contradicted the knowledge you had at the time. But to actually believe in something contradicting itself is violating it. Right?

See, this is exactly what I mean: you still have a deductive model in mind.

I've been struggling to understand the difference for a while. I hope there's a section in OPAR about this, or something online.

I guess you can change my statement to:

One most likely cannot derive all the principles of Objectivism alone with only the axioms and his own personal observations to work with.

Why such an attachment to the name?

I figured it would be a sub-conscious desire to stay that way, a desire to stay with the well-established philosophy rather than having to go off and start your own.

Although, in fundamental levels, you used axioms to prove other conclusions, you can now use these conclusions in order to get to other, higher conclusions. That's called conceptualization or concept-making.

I never thought about this. I take back the statement about proving people wrong only with axioms.

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If you don't agree with Ayn Rand, why would you want to call yourself an Objectivist? Would you call yourself a Christian if you didn't believe in the divinity of Jesus?

That was a flawed analogy. One does not need to believe in the divinity of Jesus in order to be a Christian. This is so despite the protestations of Catholics and others. To be a Christian one must acknowledge that at very least Jesus was the son of god (this need not imply divinity) who was sent to die for the sins of mankind; so too one must believe that he was resurrected.

Carry on...

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I am beginning to sympathize with everyone's position more. This is on account of the public statement made of Diana Mertz Hsieh, who apparently worked with TOC for 10 years and then quit. Here problem with TOC is as follows:

In the open system view, Objectivism is only limited by the principles Kelley cites as fundamental to the system. All the rest may be debated, refined, altered, reorganized, and even outright rejected within the bounds of Objectivism so long as a person "defends his view by reference to the basic principles" (T&T 69). The open system thus minimizes the importance of the wide range of insights, applications, principles, methods, arguments, and logical connections found in the full and rich system of philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. It downplays the necessity of a deep and thorough study of that system, promotes casual and superficial criticisms of it, and trivializes Rand's tremendous philosophic achievement. Such is why I do not regard the persistent problems at TOC as fundamentally due to poor management, insufficient funds, meager talent pool, or whatnot. Instead, I see them as the natural, practical consequences of TOC's view of Objectivism as an open system.

http://www.dianahsieh.com/toc/statement.html

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Certainly it's not violating the Law of Identity to make a mistake; there was nothing about what you originally believed that contradicted the knowledge you had at the time. But to actually believe in something contradicting itself is violating it. Right?
Sure, but one need not do that in order to hold a faulty philosophy. Say someone looked at reality and, by looking at the wrong cases or not looking deeply enough, decided that it's in one's best interest to trample over the rights of others. He then goes on to systematize all the ways you ought to go about trampling over other people. His philosophy could be fully internally consistent and still be wrong. Why? Because establishing that things have identity doesn't do all the philosophical work for you. You have to establish what the identity of things are, and that's not an easy task, especially when you're dealing with wide philosophical abstractions. This is an instance of the inductive nature of Objectivism as against the deductive model you have in mind, by the way.

One most likely cannot derive all the principles of Objectivism alone with only the axioms and his own personal observations to work with.

Well, there are two things going on here. Could you create it from scratch? Doubt it; Rand was a genius. Not many people could do what she did, even given the work already done by Aristotle, etc. But, having her writing as a guide, can you establish the principles based on your own observations? Put it this way: if you don't think you can, you shouldn't accept the principles. That's part of being intellectually independent: not accepting other people's proclamations on faith, but rather, using them as an indication of what to explore for yourself.

Incidentally, if you're interested in understanding the roots of your errors in more detail, I highly recommend buying Leonard Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" set.

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But they all derive from the fact that reality is objective, and that our observations of it are valid.

No, they don't. They are derived from REALITY, not any abstract principle or axioms. You don't need to observe that reality is objective in order to observe that Capitalism is better than Socialism. It's true that it is implicit in that statement - but it is also implicit in the (wrong) belief that Socialism is better than Capitalism.

A different observer of reality would have reached the same conclusions if he was honest, intelligent, meticulous, and knowledgeable enough - but not because he shared Ayn Rand's axioms - but because he shared her commitment to reality.

The explicit axioms are important, but they are the most advanced stage of knowledge, not the most basic. Most of Ayn Rand's philosophy was there BEFORE she named her axioms.

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His philosophy could be fully internally consistent and still be wrong. Why? Because establishing that things have identity doesn't do all the philosophical work for you. You have to establish what the identity of things are, and that's not an easy task, especially when you're dealing with wide philosophical abstractions. This is an instance of the inductive nature of Objectivism as against the deductive model you have in mind, by the way.

Thanks for clearing that up.

The explicit axioms are important, but they are the most advanced stage of knowledge, not the most basic. Most of Ayn Rand's philosophy was there BEFORE she named her axioms.

This too.

I don't have anything else to say on this topic, other than that I was wrong. (That's like, the second time I've had to say that on this forum)

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I don't have anything else to say on this topic, other than that I was wrong. (That's like, the second time I've had to say that on this forum)

You didn't have to. Most people have fragile egos and so little concern for truth that they do not admit it when they are wrong -- especially in public.

It takes honesty and courage to do what you just did, so congratulations!

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