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whYNOT

Cultural Objectivism

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With a background in two religions, I have been privy to the variety of rituals and culture that they're comprised of.

Despite being a long-time atheist, I have to admit that there is some beauty and upliftment in a Passover supper, Anglican hymns, a Catholic midnight Mass, a Greek Orthodox wedding, and the fine architecture of some churches and cathedrals.

It may be that one of the hardest aspects for an individual in the process of giving up his religious faith, is in leaving behind its history and tradition.

I will never doubt my decision to break with mysticism and the collective, for Rationality and Individualism, but is there a place in Objectivism, as it matures and evolves, for a cultural Renaissance, as well as an Intellectual one? A 'temple' to Man, and his mind, as opposed to God. A celebration in music and architecture to those great thinkers and achievers who have gone before us?

Or is this in complete contradiction to O'ism's moral principles?

Any ideas?

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A 'temple' to Man, and his mind, as opposed to God.

Mate, read The Fountainhead!

A celebration in music and architecture to those great thinkers and achievers who have gone before us?

Read The Fountainhead AND Atlas Shrugged!

JJM

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JJM, Considering your thoughtful insights on other threads, I would have expected more from you on this one.

The 'shooting down syndrome' is much too prevalent on this forum, and should be resisted.

Thx cobber,

Tony

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Mate I'm not shooting you down, I am trying to avoid giving you spoilers!

The questions you ask are directly dealt with in those books and are part of the plots. If someone were to do justice to your questions without recognising that fact then they'd be giving key plot points away.

I apologise for appearing dismissive.

JJM

Edited by John McVey

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O.K., The books themselves will always be the deep core of Objectivism. I am suggesting that we can do more to give the movement more impetus and [dare I say] unity.

The why and the how I'm throwing open to others.

The paradox of a bunch of Individualists, scattered all over the world, ever uniting doesn't escape me.But even a confirmed 'loner' like myself senses that human need for occasional re-inforcement from like minded thinkers. And the recognition and respect that such a movement should be getting from outsiders.

Otherwise we can go on eternally wrangling with each other on websites, without cohesion.

(Sorry I shouted at you JJM - And how're the Wallabies looking?)

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A 'temple' to Man, and his mind, as opposed to God.

If you mean an actual temple with worship services, I see that as extremely unlikely. But then I've never understood prayer and religious worship.

A celebration in music and architecture to those great thinkers and achievers who have gone before us?

This already exists. Statues and monuments of and to great men are common all over the world (deservedly or not). And in the West we live with the working monuments to human achievement every minute of every day: houses, office towrs, LCD TVs, computers, cars, trucks, airplanes, satellites, etc etc. We have museums to show off great works of art and science and technology, too. We spend billions or more every year in entertainment and recreation. What do you feel when you see or go to a modern stadium?

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O.K., The books themselves will always be the deep core of Objectivism. I am suggesting that we can do more to give the movement more impetus and [dare I say] unity.

Re music for instance, actually, try this thread?

And yes, now that you mention it, I am getting a bit concerned about the increasing proportion of effort being dedicated to discussing political issues, even if they are horrendously topical, at the expense of the arts and sciences and the celebration of life.

(Sorry I shouted at you JJM - And how're the Wallabies looking?)

That's okay, my fault. Dunno about the Wallabies, I don't follow the rugby - all I know is that your team are the Springboks!

JJM

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Too true, D'kian!

But there is a lack of awareness and acknowledgement out there about the source of these marvellous things, you must admit.

The mass of people have the jaded conviction that > somebody will provide , or MUST provide. Most of them are beyond educating - if they don't know that often it was the vision and mind of a single man or woman by now, they'll never know.

What is more bothersome and complex is that it is often the creators and builders themselves who humbly shrug their shoulders, and disavow all allegiance to the Rational Mind, or Individualism, and especially to any influence of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

They don't even acknowledge themselves!

In this vein I remember my utter disappointment on reading in Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography about his meeting with Ayn Rand. She regarded him as an heroic figure, and all he made reference to was this 'intense, chain-smoking Russian'. [or something like that].

Anyhow, the question remains, how does Objectivism achieve cohesiveness (and should it) in time to come?

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Even Jesus begrudged starting a church knowing his message would be abused and ultimately lost in becoming an organized religion.

I think that the nature of objectivism does negate anything church-like in organization even if it is non religious and non worship based. That's just my take, some may disagree.

I think informal things like these websites, occassional meet-ups, the occassional getting together to discuss how to stem the rising tide of socialism is as good as it gets given the individualism at the core of objectivism.

..since I have to admit that this is more something I intuit based on imperfect knowledge I would be glad for anyone to give me facts to the contrary.

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Yup, you've got something there, QuoV. My mind revolts at the thought of anything so organised, so 'religious'. Next thing we'll be meeting in dark alleys, and giving secret handshakes, or something!!

Look, I don't think that Objectivism will ever sweep the world. But without a doubt, it will grow , and it will ALWAYS have a disproportionate influence on the affairs of Man - in politics, in economy, in aesthetics, in everything. Sometimes it will do no more than neutralise irrationally bad ideas. Sometimes it will be the rallying cry for sweeping change.

I do have - still - a desire to see more acknowledgement granted. To go back to the 'culture' question, it was always - without any exception - a single individual that created the base of a culture: Moses leading the Israelites out of the desert,etc.

The telling, and retelling of that story, made for a strong unity among a group of people 1000's of years down the line.

Selfishly, I don't want to wait 10 years.

I would like to see some immediate results, small and large ---- a top businessman called to give evidence, and when sworn in ['to tell the truth'etc ], responding "I am an Objectivist. I always speak the truth". Or a composer naming his symphony 'Anthem, for We the Living'. Or the designer of a gracefully, innovative bridge, dedicating his work to Ayn Rand. Or a politician openly espousing her philosophy......

I can go on and on (and usually do).

We aren't going to organise, and maybe we shouldn't. But we need these stories to get us through the night, and keep us warm. There is value in culture.

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"Or a politician openly espousing her philosophy..."

Egad! Much as I'd love to see the day you realize the mobs of religious, liberals, unions and welfare moochers would tear them limb from limb! :lol:

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Well, given the tone and context of my posts, I assumed it was obvious that I am not advocating a temple, literally.

O.K., I must cut back on metaphors, obviously.

Thx for the headsup.

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It is apparent that the OP is eager to shrug away the idea of unity in favor of individualism, but I feel that gathering together in open acknowledgment of a shared ideal does not violate the function of Objectivism. Agreeing with one another does not spit in the face of Individualism. If you want a common culture to crop up around this philosophy, it requires a dose of exactly what you are shunning: agreement.

Most of us here are in agreement with the basic principles of Objectivism, correct?

Agreement can forge a bond, can build memories, and can change the established order of things. None of this is sacrificial or a relinquishment of individuality, it is simply the acknowledgment of similar beliefs.

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"Eager to shrug away the idea of unity" ? Oh no.

That was clear, wasn't it - the need for cohesion was the whole purpose of this topic.

Playing d. a., and looking at the scenario from all sides is an old habit of mine, and at times, I admit, self-defeating or confusing.

Otherwise I'm with you.

"Agreement can forge a bond"? Too true.

BUT WHERE IS IT ?

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It is apparent that the OP is eager to shrug away the idea of unity in favor of individualism, but I feel that gathering together in open acknowledgment of a shared ideal does not violate the function of Objectivism. Agreeing with one another does not spit in the face of Individualism. If you want a common culture to crop up around this philosophy, it requires a dose of exactly what you are shunning: agreement.

After reading that I had more thoughts about whyNot’s original post.

There is more to a culture than generalised beliefs and methods. A culture implies shared values and history at the concrete level. That does not hold in reality, and nor is it any part of Objectivism that it should be made to. Certainly, Objectivism supplies admirable ethical principles to which all men of all nations should aspire, but the concretes are up to each of us - and those concretes can and should be chosen by what is of particular importance to our own concrete existences. The result will be differences in culture that reflect differences in history and experiences. Two different groups, composed entirely of Objectivists, can quite legitimately end up having two markedly different cultures even though they do indeed share some commonalities and will likely be very strong allies.

Consider Australia and New Zealand, for example. The lands were discovered (by the English at least) by the same Captain on the same ship on the same voyage, which in the founding days of the modern states were initially populated (on the backdrop of small numbers of previous and different inhabitants) by people at the same time and from the same location, and who did the same sorts of things when they were free men. We almost were one country - even today, the provisions allowing New Zealand to join as a state within the Australian Federation are still there in the Australian Consitution.

Yet we are two different nations with two different cultures. We may share the same parentage, but we are brothers with different personalities and different takes on things. We're always up for a game of cricket together and happily trade well-crafted playful insults with each other in a manner we'd never tolerate from anyone else, but we also have our real disagreements and will separately think for ourselves. When push comes to shove we'll always have each other's backs - and on that note we do have one highly-prized cultural value in common: 25th of April, ANZAC Day - but our respective celebrations of our existences are separate affairs. The 26th of January, Australia Day, has major cultural significance for Australians but little for New Zealanders. Similarly, the 6th of February, Waitangi Day, has major cultural significance for New Zealanders but little for Australians. Despite practically identical origins, the difference has arisen from different experiences, different values, different thoughts and different conclusions, as have grown since that time. Being separated by over 1000 miles and having different problems to face, especially when growing up in a time before modern high-speed travel, tends to do that.

Leaving Australia and New Zealand, I am reminded of the anger that Dr Locke expressed after watching the movie "Independence Day." He was furious that there was an express statement of the rejection of Fourth of July as an American holiday and its conversion into a world one. "It is OURS" he exclaimed, and he was right to do so. Even if all the nations of the world were populated by Objectivists, the Fourth of July will aways be an American holiday. In a fully Objectivist world the rest of us will still recognise that day as such, despite us all being Objectivists. We, the non-Americans, will assuredly be glad of what came after a small firefight in rural Massachussets and why, but while we share the ideas and ideals in the why we will never feel it quite the same way about the concretes that made it a reality as an American does. It's an American holiday, celebrating Americans' achievements. The decent among us in the rest of the world heartily congratulate you for that, but we do so from a respectful distance. Independence Day is a part of American culture and nobody else's.

There's even more to culture than just the history. Culture is really the personal, writ large. Just as different Objectivists have different senses of life, and that this is perfectly consistent with Objectivism, so too will this hold for nations and cultures. The concretes of a local culture will see the inhabitants raised in it tend to adopt variants of the sense of life inherent in that culture. For instance, Australians are predominantly laconic while Americans are more sanguine. There's nothing wrong with that difference, and nothing that Objectivism has to say about it other than that the sense of life does exist and is different among men without this automatically being a detriment to their moral characters.

Different countries will have different problems, different histories, different ideas, different achievements, and as a result different cultures and values – and the world will always be an interesting place with new things to see as a result of that. So, to answer Tony’s original question, we can have shared gratitude for the achievements of various people the world over (I don’t need to be American, Russian, female, or whatnot, to be thankful for and willing to celebrate the efforts of Miss Rand), but the depth of feeling as applied to legitimately different historical importances can and will be different without this being a contradiction to the principles of Objectivism. Similarly, we can and should have the same principles upheld as moral ideals, but the applications have to be tailored to our own circumstances. To suggest that all members of the same one type of being sharing the same one type of consciousness and following the same one moral code should have the same one culture is pure rationalism - and Objectivism rejects that.

The global Renaissance that will arise when Objectivism controls all the world’s cultures wont be the birth of a single way of life. Instead, the glorious future we will see is what will result when all the myriad peoples of the world pick out those parts of their own heritages as they judge good and then use Objectivism to polish and make shine brightly, each in its own unique way.

JJM

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Whew, a masterful appraisal ! Thank you.

You're welcome. I do apologise again for being so curt the first time around.

The piece does need some minor editing, and were I to write something larger I'd include reference to yet more material about concretes as having different values to people in different cultures. For instance, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans are avid rugby players, while that sport is largely alien to Americans - and there's nothing wrong with that, either.

JJM

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Perhaps we miss the pomp and ceremony, but I rather think we suffer from a loss of a social cohesiveness.

The term religion itself, is a derivative of the latin "religere" which means "to bind together".

I believe historically, religion has always first and foremost served this purpose... The experience of religion, is most likely dependent upon the individual. If one is sure of himself, of his perspective, and of his individuality: the experience can be quite uplifting, since it serves to unify one's own philosophy with a practice.

On the other hand, if we are wholly unsure of ourselves, we are likely to fall victim to homogeneity. Here the individual seeks to fulfill himself by uniting with a whole, who cooperatively withdraw from the social fabric, relishing their beliefs as tools of derision and self-aggrandizement.

Plainly put, the latter can be quite trying for those of us seeking self-discovery through religious perspective.

As for rationality...

I often find myself perplexed by the use of logic or scientific terminology, by the unruly masses. More often than not, someone will use a word like "logical" or "scientific", without any understanding of the term's insinuations.

One cannot be an atheistic scientist. (Hear me out)

The Scientific Method, popularized by Bacon, suggests that we must suspend judgment in the absence of irrefutable evidence. Since evidence is seldom (if ever) present to the degree of absolute certainty, we must (as scientists) always withhold judgment.

Let me say this another way! The existence of God cannot be disproved, however unlikely it may seem. Granted, a theoretical entity such as God is not (and probably cannot) be subjected to the processes of scientific inquiry, but that in no way precludes God's possible existence. Since we cannot establish, scientifically, whether or not God exists... it is erroneous, scientifically speaking, to state that Atheism is rational or again, "scientific". Since, atheism, unliek agnosticism, implies that a decision on the existence of God has been made.

Whew...

So now for a more personal touch. Whether or not one should practice a given religion, should depend, probably entirely, upon one's own enjoyment of the practice. Applying a rationalist's perspective, perhaps you might ask yourself what it is you hope to gain from the experience of religion, and whether or not said practice suffices in that regard. In the end, its a personal choice. Favoring Hegel's dialectic approach... we can say that everything has an inherently ambiguous nature, that every action can have beneficial and contradictory consequences.

Thanks for your considered post, and I wish everyone the very best.

TickledPink

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Despite being a long-time atheist, I have to admit that there is some beauty and upliftment in a Passover supper, Anglican hymns, a Catholic midnight Mass, a Greek Orthodox wedding, and the fine architecture of some churches and cathedrals.

It may be that one of the hardest aspects for an individual in the process of giving up his religious faith, is in leaving behind its history and tradition.

The history, traditions, and rituals that belong to the church are indeed powerful aspects of practicing religious faith, and I can understand how one can miss those. What I "miss" is choral music -- there are almost no secular chorales in existence, yet I'm attracted to the use of human voices as musical instruments outside of opera.

What I recommend is looking at these various aspects in a general way, and evaluating what they satisfied in you, then seeking rational means to pursue those values. If it's the architecture, then study it as an aesthetic value, and learn to appreciate rational approaches to it. It's not easy to do with something specific like choral music, but it is rational to take from it what is good, and ignore what is bad, so long as in doing so you're not overtly promoting vicious philosophies. (Buying a CD of Rachmaninov's "Vespers"? Not a problem. Performing it in a Christmas Mass? Problem.)

If it's the ritual, then you value that which regularly reinforces your philosophy -- so find new rituals. But instead of blindly practicing them as a matter of faith or duty, put them to use in your life. Take that time to pursue a productive hobby, or learn a new skill; it doesn't have to be becoming a virtuoso violinist -- something as simple as learning to cook is fine. Whatever it is, make it something that is productive, life-affirming, enjoyable, and in accordance with your individual values.

Really miss genuflecting? Take a martial arts class. :P Or learn the basics of orchestra conducting (it's a great alternative to dancing, if you're like me and don't enjoy doing so).

A few years ago, I read a blog from an Objectivist who had once taken Bible study seriously, and spent Sundays in church and Bible study. When he became an Objectivist, he replaced those with re-reading portions of Ayn Rand's fiction and non-fiction, and writing essays on them every Sunday. He satisfied that desire for regularly-scheduled reflection, but was now doing so in a productive and rational manner.

Define what those extra aspects of your religious faith brought to your life, eradicate the concrete forms of those values, and replace them with conscious, rational, and productive hobbies or chores, and you'll get to where you don't miss all those things one bit.

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