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brian0918

"One Problem With Objectivism"

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Harry Binswanger and the Maverick Philosopher have been going at it in several blog posts over the last few weeks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). See 6, 7, 8 for debates in which Binswanger was involved. The only apparent purpose of post #9 is to call Binswanger an "amateur philosopher", which he claims is not a "cheap shot" by linking to all the previous blog comments in which he essentially talks past Binswanger by rejecting HB's usage of "necessary", "contingent", etc, and continually asserting his own usage.

Anyway, the most recent post (#10 above) is a lengthy comment from another post, in which the writer assumes that Objectivists assert the following theses:

Thesis A: There is a fundamental conceptual distinction everyone does or ought to accept between “metaphysical facts” vs. “volitional or man-made facts”; for the sake of brevity of exposition I shall occasionally refer to this distinction as the ‘Randian distinction’.

Thesis B: The content of the traditional philosophical distinction between contingent vs. necessary facts [e.g. the fact that the moon has craters is not necessary] is either reducible to the Randian distinction or to the extent it is not so reducible it is conceptually incoherent, superfluous, or cannot be clearly demarcated; for the sake of brevity I shall occasionally refer to the distinction between contingent (and possible) vs. necessary facts as the ‘Modal distinction’.

The writer then goes on to show that thesis B is false by finding a distinction between what is possible and what is impossible, and labeling that the 'Modal distinction'. In short, while man does make choices (such as deciding to throw a ball), there are some things he doesn't have a choice over (such as deciding to turn into a ball) because such things are impossible. The Maverick Philosopher presents this post as some grand treatise worthy of publication. I found it absurd because the Objectivist argument makes constant reference to the nature of man, and it is not in the nature of a man to be able to turn into a ball. A more thorough rebuttal from Binswanger or another O'ist philosopher would be interesting.

Edited by brian0918

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Harry Binswanger and the Maverick Philosopher have been going at it in several blog posts over the last few weeks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). See 6, 7, 8 for debates in which Binswanger was involved. The only apparent purpose of post #9 is to call Binswanger an "amateur philosopher", which he claims is not a "cheap shot" by linking to all the previous blog comments in which he essentially talks past Binswanger by rejecting HB's usage of "necessary", "contingent", etc, and continually asserting his own usage.

Actually, I was thinking about getting involved in that discussion, but given the way he treated Harry Binswanger, who is a professional Objectivist philosopher, I decline. I read several of those entries when Harry and Bill were discussing the issue of necessary and contingent, and I think part of the problem is that Bill was talking about necessary and contingent truths, as opposed to necessary and contingent facts of reality. The facts of reality are what they are whether anyone recognizes them or not, and it is a fact of reality that the moon got hit by many objects; and one cannot say that was contingent on anything except that reality is what it is. In other words, since existence exists and since no volitional consciousness was involved in the formation of the solar system, then everything that happened in or to the solar system -- including the moon being hit many times -- had to be that way. And if, by implication, Bill is rejecting volition, then he is wrong from the get go -- i.e. it was not necessary that he put his hat on when he did, he chose to do it.

I don't see much sense in arguing with people about necessary and contingent facts, because most of them reject volition or free will from the outset, which means they'll never get the point anyhow -- and I will even add that they don't get the point by their own free will of evading the fact that we have free will.

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no volitional consciousness was involved in the formation of the solar system

The major respondents in the discussion are Christian, and I believe Bill is too, and their problem is with this statement. The continually reiterate that you can't know such a thing for sure.

Edited by brian0918

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This "Maverick Philosopher" has now deleted two of my replies. My most recent one was basically my original post above. My other post listed Binswanger's credentials and asked if he deserved to be called an "amateur philosopher" as Bill had done. What gives?

Edited by brian0918

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What gives is typical intellectual dishonesty on "Maverick Philosopher's" part.

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I have a rather pointed remark to say about the Binswanger visit to the "Maverick Philosopher" blog. Please forgive the long post...the de-personalized problem given below is important.

I think Binswanger is doing harm to Objectivism at that blog.

Now before I go forward, you will notice that I was a significant contributor to the discussion early on. My position when confronting Kantians -- and these are MAJOR Kantians -- is to attempt to find some unusual way to paint the picture of what Objectivism is. This usually does not go very far, and in this case they trotted out puerile slurs early, often and with impunity. They displayed hate. The post mentioned above is not even the most egregious pile of effluvia thrown.

When this happens, I sometimes hang in there and accelerate the obvious: We are on one side of a gulf and they are on the other, namely POE/POC. In this case that differentiation was met by the most obstinate position of hubris I have ever encountered. The Presuppositionalism is so powerful that they consider even the slightest discussion of existence as primary, objective and total as utter stupidity, not even rising to the level of 'realism' or 'materialism.' Moreover, their monolithic assertion that they ARE -- and only THEY ARE -- philosophy means that anyone even remotely not accepting the Kantian Apparatus is simply an ignoramus, amateurish, sloppy, (and then the hate came out again.) I commented elsewhere that they have taken the Appeal to Authority to new levels, with full traction for the idea that the more confident, loud and arrogant you bray, the less fallacy you exhibit! I call it the Totalizing Appeal to Authority now. I can guar-an-tee that if charged with this fallacy they would immediately scream "It is not a fallacy because Kantianism and our gang IS the authority. And Ayn Rand is a hack."

I didn't care. I continued to confront them that Ayn Rand and Objectivists simply do not stipulate the Kantian presuppositionalism, a priori truths, supernatural realms, induction as fallacious and the usual epistemological schisms ad nauseam.

Then, get this: Mr. Binswanger shows up and informs the blog that "... my impression is that John Donohue is not equipped to be representing the Objectivist side of the discussion." He then follows that in the next thread with the comment "As an actual Objectivist philosopher, let me attempt ...."

I don't know what the terms of service are here about swearing, but use your imagination. I used it on Binswanger at that moment in the privacy of my studio.

Just above that, Bill Vallicella banned me from the blog on the charge "... because he has amply demonstrated that he is incapable of understanding the issues or engaging in rational discussion."

Sorry, "bill", but I understand it with deadly deep comprehension and you don't like me calling you on you ....scheme. Moreover, I submit I understand better than Mr. Binswanger how to deal with rabid Kantians, in this case theist rabid Kantians. Yes, I know that is a serious charge. He is an important Objectivist and one of my heroes. I have followed his writings for years. I have never had an issue with him before. And yes Mr. Binswanger IS a trained professional philosopher and I am not.

Here is the substance of my point: Harry just took the bait and started "discussing" things in syntax and argumentative style that the academic Kantians immediately recognized. That made them polite for a few minutes. They lured him in, and unfortunately Harry deployed a speculation on how metaphysically given facts could be viewed as "necessary." Well, all hell broke loose and the Kantians just seized on that word and are now running riot on the word 'necessary', gleefully claiming that Rand did not get it right and is ignorantly (they call her a 'hack') botching the proper power of the necessary/contingent distinction. They have resumed open insult again. They are swarming and mass cross posting support on other blogs. Vallicella himself keeps creating post after post and Mr. Binswanger cannot keep up. It matters little that they have not remotely touched actual Objectivism, it just looks like a total thrashing by them.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Mr. Binswanger erred in his argument. I am just saying this is the wrong approach. As pointed out above, all they did was talk past him but created the appearance of having trod a major Objectivist philosopher into the mud. What the hell good did Mr. Binswanger's gambit accomplish?

Did Mr Binswanger write to me or call me and explain why he insulted another Objectivist in a rabid, prestigious Kantian public forum when it was completely unnecessary? Did he explain to me what harm I was doing to Objectivism and if convincing help me to improve? No.

Lest it be thought that this is just a case of hurt feelings when I was pushed aside like a 125 LB water boy when the real linebacker came back on the field, I assure not. My concern is for Objectivism.

I am perfectly willing to listen to the informed opinions of other Objectivists here on this including Harry Binswanger if this comes to his attention. If my line of attack is harmful to Objectivism, tell me how, specifically. I am open to learning. I have already been neutrally non-supported by Gus Van Horn and told my approach was wrong by another Objectivist there. His argument was not convincing, however.

To de-personalize: when confronted with a major league Kantian warrior who is openly attacking and slurring Objectivism*, is it better to seem to talk like them and seem to be attempting to persuade and act civilly (even when the Kantians are slurring, insulting, vile and blind) to show off that "we are philosophers too" or is it better to hold their feet to the fire: "I don't accept your supernatural realm, your various other a priori truths, your various epistemological schisms nor your hubris that only YOU are philosophy. Kant never justifies these things, true, but that is no excuse for you. Ayn Rand has thrown down the challenge in the 20th Century and she is right to have done so. I await your justification."

Here is how I held the fire to the flame right before being banned:

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/mav...-rand.html#more

Despite two "don't point it outs", it is enormously sloppy to attack Rand's position on the metaphysically given with an example of the man-made. So, I'm pointing that out. Why didn't you just use the icicle?

"Next, why do you not provide the context of the source material? It is from the 'after-matter' of ITOE, 2nd Edition and is part of a transcription of what is known as a "chewing" session, where various thinkers, in an informal setting, toss an idea into the ring and bounce it around, viewing it from different angles and stretching the subtext and periphery of definitions, usages and context. It is NOT from her formal presentation. This is not to say that Rand was weak in these settings; I can guarantee that you have never met a person more able to speak with power off the cuff, penetrate to the core of an argument, and bring her system to the fore.

Last, you go to great pains to somehow 'discover' that Ayn Rand's system respects 'contingency' in the way you do. It does not, and she does not. She rejects it utterly. Things that are not man made simply "are." That is why, formally, she uses the phrase "metaphysically given." As Rand rightly points out, unless it can be proven that the metaphysically given was created by God and God had a choice, then it serves no functional purpose, meaning or logic to ponder 'what it could have been.' Here: I'll quote someone other than Ayn Rand! "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Francis Bacon

It would be more honest, rather than trying desperately to wedge Rand into your world view, to simply roast her for not respecting the dichotomy that you consider so fundamental.

if this subject is of interest to anyone, I suggest reading the body of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Edition, which contains Rand's complete dismissal of the schism represented by necessary/contingent as Hume/Kant constructed it, and THEN the after-matter (transcription)."

Note: in several other posts, I confronted Vallicella to the effect that the burden of proof was on the Kantians to justify the introduction of a priori truths and the necessary/contingent schism, not on Ayn Rand to conform to them in attempting to "contribute" to philosophy.

John Donohue

Pasadena, CA

*If you think I exaggerate, please go to the Ayn Rand listing on Wikipedia. These Kantians have vandalized the piece and are now complaining that hack Objectivists are preventing them -- The Orthodox Authority -- from rewriting the article to clarify Miss Rand's hackism.

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Brian welcome to the club! You have been Maverick-ed!

They are not going to allow any challenge to their position as the Orthodox Authority, such as a post of Mr. Binswanger's credentials. This is one reason I never mentioned Dr. Peikoff's credentials.

John Donohue

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At first I thought he deleted a reply simply to keep the discussion professional - even though I was responding to a post in which he makes a cheap shot at Binswanger. But deleting my most recent reply is inexplicable!

Edited by brian0918

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What he did to you is not inexplicable. It is practically predictable.

One of the cronies over there, Ocham, has his own blog and is cross posting. He is one of the main aggressors on mutilating the Wikipedia article on Ayn Rand. He is tremendously put out that Objectivists are actually stopping him from rewriting the article. His frustration came to a point with this beautiful sentiment:

"Governments are now forcibly taking over banks. Why can't they forcibly take over Wikipedia?"

He was not joking. This was my response:

"I looked for irony. Could not see any. If informed it was ironic will retract: Scratch the witch doctor and you get Attila. --- [Objectivist inside reference]"

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=21...00528&pli=1

Certainly it is his blog and Vallicella can make up the rules, that's his right on his blog in the marketplace of ideas.

However, is it "fair?" He can act arbitrarily. In PostModerneese, he has the Knowledge and therefore he exercises the Power. You'll notice, for instance, that in between two "discussion" threads (on which he deletes posts if he wishes) he will insert a one-post thread that consists of a complete smarmy slur and vile attack. Commenting is turned off on those.

By the way "Ocham" rejects induction totally and gets his existents into knowledge by divine revelation. You'd think that would embarrassingly disqualify him from any serious discuss, not to mention polite company. Be prepared, instead, to see that this is triumphantly accepted as valid by the entire corps of theist Kantians. Also be prepared to be unable to dismiss them as a bizarre unimportant inbred obsure faction. Nope. They -- or their Radical Skeptic nearly identical twins -- are running the university your children attend.

John Donohue

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You may not have been aware of this, but Binswanger sent out a message on the HBL that he didn't want non-academic Objectivists to engage them, because it wouldn't be productive for Objectivists who didn't speak their lingo to join in. I agree with this. The "inadequate potshots" (as Binswanger puts it) from the people who posted before Binswanger and Travis Norsen arrived are rather embarrassing.

As good-intentioned as you and others may have been, in the end I don't think your posting contributed anything meaningful or productive. You have to understand that with these academic philosophers, they have read/understood very little of Objectivism, and generally take a small aspect (or article) of Rand's and run with it, using their particular methodological framework to critique it. Taking the fact that they will ultimately disagree on a fundamental level into consideration, you can choose two different purposes: to be polemical, or to attempt to create a bridge to foster understanding. The former isn't constructive per the context (it's not ObjectivismOnline.net), but the latter may be, since in the end, they may ultimately disagree, but may find that they understand and agree on more than they would on their own. I contend that this does more to service Objectivism than any screeching about "Kantians!, Primacy-of-Consciousness-ers!, Hegelians!," etc. does. Doing this only further solidifies the general notion that Objectivists can't engage in philosophical discussion properly and have to ultimately resort to name-calling.

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West,

I reject the emotion of your "embarrassing", Binswanger's "potshots", your "screeching about "Kantians!, Primacy-of-Consciousness-ers!, Hegelians!," and "name calling" and especially your patronizing "good intentions". It is unfortunate you people are embarrassed by me/us and have to totalize as above. You are actually looking at fellow Objectivists, who posted no actual errors, from the point of view of the Kantians.

I'll take the Ayn Rand stance of, to paraphrase, 'it used to be that philosophers would step onto the field of battle and lay down their axiomatic propositions and fight over them' and also on her courage to tell it like it is, in the open: The Kantian Apparatus is a hippo doing the mambo with grotesque gyrations of the belly.

West, the method of you reproach makes it difficult to actually turn and look at the more pressing argument, "does the 'confrontive' approach or does the "nice" approach, accomplish more?" Despite fury at your patronizing tone, I will continue.....

I did not get the Binswanger memo on HBL.

What are we trying to accomplish?

{A} We want to dethrone Kantianism and all forms of neo-Platonism from running the universities and intellectual establishment and replace it with Objectivism (by that name or any other).

You said:

"Taking the fact that they will ultimately disagree on a fundamental level into consideration, you can choose two different purposes: to be polemical, or to attempt to create a bridge to foster understanding. The former isn't constructive per the context (it's not ObjectivismOnline.net), but the latter may be, since in the end, they may ultimately disagree, but may find that they understand and agree on more than they would on their own. "

So to accomplish {A} by getting those who will never fundamentally yield an inch to "understand and agree on more than they would on their own" -- is this actually productive? What, exactly, do you think it accomplishes? They reduce the degree of slur and hate? They get bored since we are not the buffoons we seem to be and thus less fun to skewer and therefore they don't bother?

Just because they understand a little more does not mean they will cease indoctrinating freshmen into the Apparatus. If anything, they will have been put on notice and be craftier. "Yes, I looked into this and satisfied myself I really did understand what she meant. One of their better people came by. Needless to say, even though she is a little more interesting than I thought, she is wrong. Dismiss dismiss. You students don't need to check it out, I did it for you, thoroughly. Now back to teaching that induction is a fallacy."

My purpose in these fights is: Anyone reading the blog not completely indoctrinated into Platonism will see that another thinker challenges them at the root, at the common sense root that not-yet-destroyed young mind already suspects might be better than the Hippo. In other words, I wish to "scream" [irony intended] that the emperor has no clothes. I acknowledge that you said "per context". Does that mean you think no open minds read these Kantian blogs; that they are read only by the choir?

Much as I hate to say it, I would cease my efforts on the Kantian blogs if you or Mr. Binswanger or anyone can explain to me how attempts to create a bridge to foster understanding with the rabid enemy actually, strategically and tactically, advances {A} and a root contrarian attack at the base to raise the eyebrows of the not-already-lost does not.

John Donohue

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You may not have been aware of this, but Binswanger sent out a message on the HBL that he didn't want non-academic Objectivists to engage them, because it wouldn't be productive for Objectivists who didn't speak their lingo to join in. I agree with this. The "inadequate potshots" (as Binswanger puts it) from the people who posted before Binswanger and Travis Norsen arrived are rather embarrassing.

As good-intentioned as you and others may have been, in the end I don't think your posting contributed anything meaningful or productive. You have to understand that with these academic philosophers, they have read/understood very little of Objectivism, and generally take a small aspect (or article) of Rand's and run with it, using their particular methodological framework to critique it. Taking the fact that they will ultimately disagree on a fundamental level into consideration, you can choose two different purposes: to be polemical, or to attempt to create a bridge to foster understanding. The former isn't constructive per the context (it's not ObjectivismOnline.net), but the latter may be, since in the end, they may ultimately disagree, but may find that they understand and agree on more than they would on their own. I contend that this does more to service Objectivism than any screeching about "Kantians!, Primacy-of-Consciousness-ers!, Hegelians!," etc. does. Doing this only further solidifies the general notion that Objectivists can't engage in philosophical discussion properly and have to ultimately resort to name-calling.

West,

I agree with you on this. It's not a good idea for people unfamiliar with the analytic tradition to engage these kind of debates with analytic philosophers. You're more likely to come accross as ignorant of philosophy than anything else. Communication between Objectivists and analytics is near impossible without that kind of knowledge. And pot shots... if you think you're being treated unfairly, just leave. Complaining about Kantians or accusing your opponent of evasion or whatever just comes of as completely strange to people who aren't very familiar with Objectivism. Which means you come of as kooky to most of your audience. As a graduate student in philosophy, let me just add my name to West's and Binswanger's as one who found some of the comments on that thread embarassing.

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West,

I reject the emotion of your "embarrassing", Binswanger's "potshots", your "screeching about "Kantians!, Primacy-of-Consciousness-ers!, Hegelians!," and "name calling" and especially your patronizing "good intentions". It is unfortunate you people are embarrassed by me/us and have to totalize as above. You are actually looking at fellow Objectivists, who posted no actual errors, from the point of view of the Kantians.

You can reject the emotion of what I said all you want, but having inspected the reasons why I have those feelings, I've found those quick judgments to be correct. You did in fact have good intentions, but your actions do not support the purpose that you outlined, and I will point out why.

I'll take the Ayn Rand stance of, to paraphrase, 'it used to be that philosophers would step onto the field of battle and lay down their axiomatic propositions and fight over them' and also on her courage to tell it like it is, in the open: The Kantian Apparatus is a hippo doing the mambo with grotesque gyrations of the belly.

It's true that she told it like it is, but you have to consider the various contexts with which she engaged, and how she presented her philosophy. When she was writing or speaking for an Objectivist audience, her tone and characterizations (and the terms she uses at times) are vastly different than when she engages a broader audience that is predominantly non-Objectivist. You'll see the same difference between Harry Binswanger's (HB from here on) posts on HBL and his posts on the Maverick Philosopher blog (or any other public forum, such as his comments on Time's website).

What are we trying to accomplish?

{A} We want to dethrone Kantianism and all forms of neo-Platonism from running the universities and intellectual establishment and replace it with Objectivism (by that name or any other).

You said:

"Taking the fact that they will ultimately disagree on a fundamental level into consideration, you can choose two different purposes: to be polemical, or to attempt to create a bridge to foster understanding. The former isn't constructive per the context (it's not ObjectivismOnline.net), but the latter may be, since in the end, they may ultimately disagree, but may find that they understand and agree on more than they would on their own. "

So to accomplish {A} by getting those who will never fundamentally yield an inch to "understand and agree on more than they would on their own" -- is this actually productive? What, exactly, do you think it accomplishes? They reduce the degree of slur and hate? They get bored since we are not the buffoons we seem to be and thus less fun to skewer and therefore they don't bother?

You don't have to get people to yield on a fundamental level for an intellectual discussion to be productive. If you look at the posts in response to yours and others, you'll see that no real understanding occurred, and they only grew more rabid and insulting. Your actions actually emboldened them. In the end, they stuck to their guns and you guys ended up in a name-calling mire (to paraphrase, "You guys spout nothing but analytic mumbo jumbo and Kant informs you of everything you should think," with the other side saying "Objectivists have no skill for debate, cannot be taken seriously, are a joke, etc.").

Contrast that with the responses to Travis Norsen and HB's posts. You see substantially more understanding, good will, and even agreement. This accomplishes a great deal--going from "all Objectivists are ridiculous and Ayn Rand is a complete joke" to "there are some respectable Objectivists out there and Ayn Rand may deserve more attention" is a good thing. Which result do you think does better in accomplishing {A}, yours or HB's, if your intended audience is the people running the blog?

Just because they understand a little more does not mean they will cease indoctrinating freshmen into the Apparatus. If anything, they will have been put on notice and be craftier. "Yes, I looked into this and satisfied myself I really did understand what she meant. One of their better people came by. Needless to say, even though she is a little more interesting than I thought, she is wrong. Dismiss dismiss. You students don't need to check it out, I did it for you, thoroughly. Now back to teaching that induction is a fallacy.

My purpose in these fights is: Anyone reading the blog not completely indoctrinated into Platonism will see that another thinker challenges them at the root, at the common sense root that not-yet-destroyed young mind already suspects might be better than the Hippo. In other words, I wish to "scream" [irony intended] that the emperor has no clothes. I acknowledge that you said "per context". Does that mean you think no open minds read these Kantian blogs; that they are read only by the choir?

If your intended audience is instead the people reading the blog, is your method really that much more effective? I contend that the people who will understand your criticisms (or screaming) are only going to be well-read Objectivists. I don't think that the idea that Kant is evil and pervasive is common sense--it's a MASSIVE integration. This idea (and many others expressed) are completely alien to those outside of Objectivism. How does this sound to those who are unfamiliar with Objectivism (much more, those few within Objectivism who actually understand these ideas in their full contextl)? In short, it sounds crazy.

To continue, HB/Travis Norsen take the time to not only address errors, while showing that they understand the philosophy that they are challenging (without resorting to question-begging and name-calling), but explicate Objectivism to a significant degree in the process. I think that a disagreement qua disagreement with some name-calling looks worse to the on-lookers than a substantive explication of Rand's philosophy with a respectful addressing of errors does. HB/Norsen address the blog in a way that's not only for Objectivists, but for any thinker, whereas you address the blog in a manner that I personally can understand (since I'm an Objectivist), but isn't fit for a non-Objectivist venue. I therefore think that HB's approach is far more effective at achieving {A}.

Much as I hate to say it, I would cease my efforts on the Kantian blogs if you or Mr. Binswanger or anyone can explain to me how attempts to create a bridge to foster understanding with the rabid enemy actually, strategically and tactically, advances {A} and a root contrarian attack at the base to raise the eyebrows of the not-already-lost does not.

For me, it boils down to the fact that Ayn Rand isn't just criticized in academia, she's hardly even mentioned. This is slowly starting to change, with the publishing of academic texts by Gotthelf, Smith, etc., but Rand is still widely unknown/unread within this context. If academic philosophers began to get the sense that Rand "had something to her" and began to discuss and criticize her, I would be happier than if she remained in obscurity. I'm reminded of Jean-Baptiste Say, who had faded into obscurity, but upon being vehemently attacked by John Maynard Keynes in the 20th century, came back into serious discussion. So, in a sense, I think that all publicity is good publicity.

This leads me to consider how I would want the purveyors of Objectivism to come across in content and tone, if I weren't an Objectivist. Would I be more convinced and interested from coming into contact with someone who slings around terms that come from an esoteric context, or would I be more comfortable and receptive to someone who spoke my lingo and could show a significant exposition of what they mean and why? (Let's set aside disagreement for the time being and consider the approaches, which are prior to the disagreement)

edit: Got rid of what could be misinterpreted as "scare quotes".

Edited by West

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To add to what West said re Kant. I've heard many well known analytic philosophers refer to Kant as a bad philosopher. I've even heard analytic philosophy refered to as philosophy's recovery from Kant. I believe Russell had a negative view of Kant. So now if you come into a discussion with this tradition and accuse them of being devilish Kantians, they are going to have not one clue as to what you are talking about. Unless you have the chance to explain yourself at length (which you won't, because people don't read 10,000 word blog comments), such comment come off as a kooky, Rand-parroting, mystery. So if your goal is to dialogue with them, you will fail. If your goal is to impress the audience, you will fail. If your goal is to let off some steam and impress the already converted Objectivist audience, maybe you will suceed. But that's not a valid goal. In contrast, Norsen and Binswanger's comments are spot on, excellent examples of how we should be communicating with people from an alien philosophical context.

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If I may be so bold to say this, I think that the only problem Objectivists have at this moment is giving creatures of Maverick Philosopher's nature any importance whatsoever, to the point of calling for posters to reply to him. I propose we leave him to his Sonoran desert and his grandiloquent web log. Engaging in discussion with an 'academic philosopher' that belongs to that very notable leprous community with whom we are more than acquainted and who obviously wants Rand discredited as soon as possible is only conceding that he may actually have something worthwhile to say in the matter- giving him a forum for his opinions, so to speak. To borrow a scene from my favorite novel, Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, going at it with these intellectual midgets is pointless, it is akin to Don Quijote charging at the windmills. To preoccupy ourselves with the windmills is fruitless... rather, let us change the wind instead.

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1) I did not use the term 'Kantians' over there very much if at all. I know they are Analytic Philosophers. This does not stop them from being Kantians or me calling them Kantians in my back yard.

2) "Bill" refers to himself as a Kantian philosopher. Please see his reference at the Ayn Rand article on Wikipedia, note #4

3) Yes, i wrote a few long posts (not many) and not as long as the blog author and his following.

4) My goal was not to dialog, so that is rejected.

5) my goal was not to impress the audience, either the AP/Kantians or viewing Objectivists, so that is rejected.

6) my goal was not let off steam or impress Objectivists. Rejected

Why did you create this list speculating on my motives? First, you give me the un-benefit of the doubt, thanks a lot. Second, I explicitly provided my motive above and you ignored it! Unless you just want to voice your unfounded opinions, why not actually respond to my actual reasons as actually provided at length.

The failure to respond to my question then makes your "Norsen and Binswanger's comments are spot on.." arbitrary, since you do not respond to my confrontation: what, exactly, is accomplished by the Binswanger mode. (Please re-read my specific formulation of this in the above post. No need to restate it here.)

John Donohue

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This is perhaps very wise.

One of the things pushing me was this overt act they did: they vandalized the Wikipedia article on Ayn Rand, and intend[ed] to carry the alteration much further. Objectivists are opposing them. And then "Bill" took flight on his own and started deconstructing madly.

I wrote to Dr. Peikoff on this issue, should we challenge them or not. We had a brief email exchange. In my first letter to him I pre-acknowledged that i presumed he was unlikely to visit such sites and interact, based on the principle behind the Dagny "do you think I consider it debatable" comment. Leonard said that indeed he does not engage. He thanked me for pointing out the situation. That's all there was to that, except I also requested he respond to the question on his podcast.

So.....how do we change the wind. The battle has to be won at the root, with larger numbers of new generations rejecting Primacy of Consciousness/Platonism from the foundation. It is not wise to directly confront the enemy as I do, and if I am correct in my assessment that polite conversation with them in their jargon does more harm than good......

What is the gameplan?

John Donohue

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.... what, exactly, is accomplished by the Binswanger mode. (Please re-read my specific formulation of this in the above post. No need to restate it here.)

John Donohue

This appears to be where you did not read what West wrote.

West said:

Contrast that with the responses to Travis Norsen and HB's posts. You see substantially more understanding, good will, and even agreement. This accomplishes a great deal--going from "all Objectivists are ridiculous and Ayn Rand is a complete joke" to "there are some respectable Objectivists out there and Ayn Rand may deserve more attention" is a good thing. Which result do you think does better in accomplishing {A}, yours or HB's, if your intended audience is the people running the blog?

In other words, what HB's method appears to accomplish is constructive dialog on the matter.

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Kainscalia & John,

So I think there are two issue here. (1) How/when to engage with academic philosophers? and (2) is the Maverick worth engaging? Maverick may well be small potatos. But what if the philosopher were, for instance, David Chalmers? (Chalmers is a very influential philosopher who also blogs). We can abstract away from the fact that maybe Maverick isn't worth talking to and still use the episode as a learning example, so that we can apply what we learn in the future when someone worth talking to writes about Rand. Given that a helluva lot of famous philosopher run these kind of websites, and even more follow these sites, it is likely the situation will arise again. Who should participate in these discussions when they arise? How should they conduct themselves? My opinion is that, unless you have a strong grasp contemporary philosophy to go along with your strong grasp of Objectivism, don't participate in philosophical debates with professional philosophers. Leave it to the pros like Binswanger and Norsen. That's why I didn't participate in the discussion.

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I think one of the bigger issues long-term is do we try to get into academia on their terms, or do we do something independent until we can open our own schools? I decided not to continue in philosophy past a BA because I had some advanced philosophy courses and it was just gibberish. It wasn't that I couldn't understand them, because I could, it was that there was no way to get them to observe reality and introspect on what their mind was actually doing. I run into that here on oo.net at times and it is frustrating, because you can point to facts all day but they don't take is seriously. They tend to be more rationalists and for the die-hard rationalist in the analytic tradition, pointing to the facts is like out of bounds.

Another things I noticed about that brief dialog on Maverick Philosopher's blog is that I don't think he understands what "necessary" means in terms of what happens in reality. Speaking of it on the level of "necessary truths" is already at least one level removed from observation because it ignores the correspondence theory of truth -- i.e. that a statement is true if it corresponds with reality; though I think reality is lost on them. If they are so messed up in that manner, how can we reach them? and if they are going to consider Harry Binswanger an amateur philosopher, on what grounds? That he is not teaching in academia and doesn't know the current terminology? Anyone who understand Objectivist reasonably well can explain the major terminology, and often has to, but the academics just scoff at you if you don't understand the current usages of the terms, which you wouldn't know if you were not in academia.

So, I don't know if we can make inroads into academia on a serious level (metaphysics and epistemology) because they have no focus on reality. It's all a mind game to them. And if you don't know how to play the game then you are an amateur. I realize that for something like physics, I wouldn't expect a Nobel Prize winner to have a chat with me about physics, given that I only have a BA in physics. He may or may not, but I can acknowledge that he knows a great deal more than me regarding modern physics. And I just don't have that kind of respect for modern academic philosophers, because I don't think they advance anything. And they wouldn't take me seriously anyhow because I point to reality for all of my discussions, for the most part, if I run into loggerheads with someone.

If Bill wanted to engage with a serious Objectivist philosopher, there isn't anyone else besides Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff.To be sure, there are some very good amateur Objectivist philosophers up and coming, but to dismiss what Harry said as amateur is too insulting to engage with them. They think its amateur because we take reality and volition and reason seriously, while all they know how to do is to spin out rationalistic arguments, without backing them with facts. In short, I don't know if there are common grounds between the modern philosophic academic and Objectivists. It's not just another language, but a whole different view of what philosophy is all about.

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I agree with Mr. Donohue, there can be no understanding between men who accept the Primacy of Existence and those who accept the Primacy of Consciousness. These are not men who want to learn anything from us, nor respect any of what we offer, they are interested only in using their resources as mouthpieces against Rand and Objectivism. You are trying to convince men who state explicitly that divine revelation is a valid method of acquiring knowledge. How can you convince such men, if they already start at the outset with such animus against us, that reason man's method of acquiring knowledge? With reason?

I would also like to thank Mr. Donohue for his efforts as well.

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I've re-read the entries on that blog, including #10 as presented in this original post, and it is clear that one has to relate the entire Objectivist epistemology to them because they are not familiar with it. Travis Norsen made some very good points in #10 but I think the problem is with the other philosopher's idea of "modality" -- that is, they think modality precedes observation, as if we have modalities in our head before observing the world, which isn't true at all. And they have a very big problem with volition, and there have been a lot of people like that on oo.net. It is clear from introspection that we do have volition and that we do not have a priori modalities (and that we do not deduce what we know, we observe and induce, or we are talk by people who have done that).

It may well be that necessary and contingent meant something other than the metaphysical versus the man-made in earlier philosophy, but clearly those other philosophers never did answer Travis regarding what they meant by contingent -- as if it could have been otherwise. I think they don't grasp that existence exists and that it does what it does because it exists, and that there are no contingent facts, aside from what a man decides to do.

There is a usage of contingent in the sense that the dinosaurs becoming extinct was contingent upon that asteroid hitting the earth when and where it did 65 million years ago, but only in the sense of thinking about what might have happened if the asteroid had not hit. But qua metaphysical fact, it had to happen, since there was no volitional intelligence there to make it otherwise.

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since there was no volitional intelligence there to make it otherwise.

Given that they all seem to be Christian on that blog, I think they would at this point ask, "how can you say that with certainty?"

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West, I agree to put aside any parsing of the particular friction on this thread between you and I or anyone else. This does not mean I agree with everything said against what I did or the characterizations of it.

I am far more interested in seeing if Objectivists can establish a valuable strategy, even if it is "ignore them".

I'll respond to that farther down in the thread.

John Donohue

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Phoroneus thank you for your support.

I stipulate that my firebrand approach does not work to

1) make me look like anything but a screeching idiot to the authors of the blog, even though I am not an idiot and not screaming;

2) show them that I can speak their lingo;

3) get the blog author to give a little more respect to Objectivism;

4) engage the hearts and minds of others reading the blog who are firmly already on the blog's side.

However, this leaves me on thin ice.

I only can justify my time invested for one thing: to raise the eyebrows of the not-yet-brainwashed person. I still think my way has value for the person reading the blog who has never heard someone calmly challenge the root assumptions of Platonism. If I thought for a minute that no such person read that blog, that no such person might not doubt the blogs core mystical beliefs, then yes, my method is futile.

I will bluntly state that I don't care about any of those people in 1-4 above; we don't need them. And I don't think my approach does any harm to Objectivism. The post of West above that ends "(Let's set aside disagreement for the time being and consider the approaches, which are prior to the disagreement)" has good points, nonetheless, that I am now thinking about.

John Donohue

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