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Can we refute this criticism of Objectivism?

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Part 1: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-1_02.html

Part 2: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-2.html

Part 3: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-3.html

Part 4: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/to-begin-discussing-objectivists.html

Part 5: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-5.html

I'm sorry not to post any of my own rebuttal attempts at the moment; I'll return here and try my hand at it.

What I would like to see by the end is a fleshed-out rebuttal using the different parts of all our objections from this thread.

Thank you, guys!

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I'm not really interested in reading the whole thing. From the text in their header, I get the impression they're attacking Oism for its denial of religion. And they also have subtley misunderstood Oism within the first few paragraphs of the first page. Or at least they appear to be ignorant of some important aspects of Oism. Like that Rand wasn't an empiricist. She rejected the dichotomy between intrinsic and subjective and put forth a third alternative, objective.

This will quickly and easily explain the trichotomy if you haven't seen it already.

http://objectivism101.com/Lectures/Lecture29.shtml

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If these are simply religious criticisms elaboration is not necessary nor worthwhile, one must simply point to the axiomatic principles it violates...no less the other extremely good reasons.

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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If these are simply religious criticisms elaboration is not necessary nor worthwhile, one must simply point to the axiomatic principles it violates...no less the other extremely good reasons.

I think the criticisms he makes are of broader philosophical concepts he believes Objectivism espouses. To clear them up for him I think would really be the point. Perhaps I should just work at it myself and ask you guys, instead, about the legitimacy of my contributions to him on the topic.

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I didn't mean to give the impression that they were giving a religious-based criticism of Objectivism. They are giving a philosophical criticism. I was just saying that the header at the top of their page suggests a context of these people having religious motivations for their philosophical attack. I haven't read much of it and I haven't explored their site at all really, so my context here is extremely limited. So don't take my word for it. xD

I just made a judgment for myself based on their site header and I don't see any value to be gained for myself in spending more time reading their site.

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Part 1: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-1_02.html

Part 2: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-2.html

Part 3: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-3.html

Part 4: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/to-begin-discussing-objectivists.html

Part 5: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-5.html

I'm sorry not to post any of my own rebuttal attempts at the moment; I'll return here and try my hand at it.

What I would like to see by the end is a fleshed-out rebuttal using the different parts of all our objections from this thread.

Thank you, guys!

I see no reason to refute people who do not have the slightest clue of what they are talking about.

Example: accusing Ayn Rand of subjectivism because she, correctly, says that you can only judge reality using your reason and that reality is the standard of truth and false. This criticism is dishonest and makes no sense. If this is "subjectivism", what is then not subjectivism?

And this is what I found in the very first sentences of this nonsensical mess of lies and contradictions. I will not engage it. There is no reason.

I submit that any honest and knowledgeable observer can see for himself that this makes no sense and is dishonest. It is a prerequisite for a rational discussion that you know your subject and that you do not intentionally engage in bizarre misinterpretations, the arbitrary or outright straw man-attacks.

If you have read OPAR, which you claim you have, then you should easily be able to spot all the obvious fallacies and distortions in these futile and silly attacks on Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

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Example: accusing Ayn Rand of subjectivism because she, correctly, says that you can only judge reality using your reason and that reality is the standard of truth and false. This criticism is dishonest and makes no sense. If this is "subjectivism", what is then not subjectivism?

From my - admittedly brief - reading of the site it appears that they are not arguing that using reason to determine reality is subjectivism, rather their criticism is that Rand does not appropriatley explain what happens when two people using their mind disagree on their perception of reality. Since there are no contradictions in reality, when two people disagree, one (or both) must be wrong - so how is "reality" determined?

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I see no reason to refute people who do not have the slightest clue of what they are talking about.

Example: accusing Ayn Rand of subjectivism because she, correctly, says that you can only judge reality using your reason and that reality is the standard of truth and false. This criticism is dishonest and makes no sense. If this is "subjectivism", what is then not subjectivism?

And this is what I found in the very first sentences of this nonsensical mess of lies and contradictions. I will not engage it. There is no reason.

I submit that any honest and knowledgeable observer can see for himself that this makes no sense and is dishonest. It is a prerequisite for a rational discussion that you know your subject and that you do not intentionally engage in bizarre misinterpretations, the arbitrary or outright straw man-attacks.

If you have read OPAR, which you claim you have, then you should easily be able to spot all the obvious fallacies and distortions in these futile and silly attacks on Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

It's true that I've read OPAR and it's true that I see the distortions in his attacks.

The refusal to refute it is just odd to me that since it is 'so easy' to refute. This isn't an attack on you guys for making that choice, it just seems like a different reaction to me than the natural one if it's the simplest objection to see through.

I mean, at one point in my life, I was a Christian who would not have accepted plenty of the points of Objectivism. Now that I have seen their validity and realize the truth of the philosophy, I do. To refuse to refute the people that disagree with you seems strange to me.

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It's true that I've read OPAR and it's true that I see the distortions in his attacks.

The refusal to refute it is just odd to me that since it is 'so easy' to refute. This isn't an attack on you guys for making that choice, it just seems like a different reaction to me than the natural one if it's the simplest objection to see through.

I mean, at one point in my life, I was a Christian who would not have accepted plenty of the points of Objectivism. Now that I have seen their validity and realize the truth of the philosophy, I do. To refuse to refute the people that disagree with you seems strange to me.

I have studied Objectivism for about ten years. I have heard plenty of objections. I myself had plenty of objections and questions when I first encountered Objectivism. And I still get plenty of objections and questions from others. I love objections and questions, intelligent and honest ones. So do not make any assumptions about me nor for that matter about anybody else. I do, however, not find any pleasure in answering really bad and ridiculous objections. I think it is a pure waste of time.

It is good to play the Devil's advocate if you seek a good understanding of Objectivism. That is, to present the BEST arguments against one's position and to answer them. Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff have both argued that you should engage in this. I have done that and most serious students of Objectivism do it to for the same reason; if you cannot answer the best case from the Devil then you have to check your premises and see if you can come up with an answer or, if they turn out to be false, drop them.

There is another value of being able to answer the best arguments of the Devil; not only will you discover that your ideas are true, if you can defend them, and that the ideas of your opponent are false. Another value is that your clarity of thought will also improve. You can only communicate clearly what you really understand. So if you manage to answer good arguments, then you will get a clearer understanding of your own ideas and this, in turn, will allow you to answer other objections and questions with even greater clarity.

Edited by knast

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Part 1: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-1_02.html

Part 2: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-2.html

Part 3: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-3.html

Part 4: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/to-begin-discussing-objectivists.html

Part 5: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/11/criticisms-of-objectivism-part-5.html

I'm sorry not to post any of my own rebuttal attempts at the moment; I'll return here and try my hand at it.

What I would like to see by the end is a fleshed-out rebuttal using the different parts of all our objections from this thread.

Thank you, guys!

This analysis is full of epic failure I don't care to mention right this moment, but he does ask some awesome questions and occasionally raise some awesome legitimate points.

Apparently Rand has said this:

“The possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government”

-- which IMO is completely wrong.

The writer brilliantly defies her own statement with another of her own statements:

"Her description of Galt’s Gulch:

“We have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind” (Atlas Shrugged, pg. 714).

“We are not a state here, not a society of any kind – we’re just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man’s self-interest” (Atlas Shrugged, pgs. 747-748)

This is anarchistic."

This is another extremely interesting thing he pointed out, which apparently completely slipped by me when I read it in VOS:

"The closest she comes to committing to a course of action is given when she claims:

“Man has to choose his course, his morals, his values in the context and terms of a lifetime” (The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 24)."

Ayn Rand as of today is essentially the sole source of Objectivist philosophy... and I think Objectivism has essentially nailed the right philosophy for man in many ways... but for me there are still truly fundamental things she has not even dealt with (or I have yet to read or grok from her writing that I have read), and there is certainly a ton of room for improvement, especially in terms of specifying a lot of things in a fully technical explanation... http://yudkowsky.net/rational/technical

Anyway, I seriously appreciate his miserable failure of an attempt... thanks chuff for bringing it up, I disagree that it is completely pointless to read or respond to as everyone else seems to be saying (though I'm not really responding to it myself, at least as of now).

Read the reviews on Amazon of this book, I think it's where he got a lot of his material:

http://www.amazon.com/Without-Prayer-System-Trinity-Papers/dp/0940931508

Edited by TeaPartier

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--------------

Apparently Rand has said this:

“The possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government”

-- which IMO is completely wrong.

The writer brilliantly defies her own statement with another of her own statements:

"Her description of Galt’s Gulch:

“We have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind” (Atlas Shrugged, pg. 714).

“We are not a state here, not a society of any kind – we’re just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man’s self-interest” (Atlas Shrugged, pgs. 747-748)

This is anarchistic."

------------

In what way are these two examples a problem for you? It should be clear that Galt's Gulch was not a model for society in general. It was indeed a voluntary association of invited individuals. If anyone disagreed at some point, they could leave. Galt's Gulch was privately owned property. In much the same way that any technical society is a voluntary association but is not a model for society.

Edited by A is A

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Knast brings up the essential point. It is certainly worth our time to respond to reasonable, well-thought out criticisms, but not the other kinds of criticisms, those are just a waste of our time. These criticisms in the links...they are in that latter group. It is, like you said yourself, easy to notice the distortions even for those not that well versed in Objectivism. If we were to do that the none of us would get a moments sleep. You will notice as you become more familiar with Objectivism and you browse the net/speak to people in person that the vast majority of them do not understand the philosophy before they criticize it or purposefully misrepresent it.

This alone got me to stop reading, the axiomatic concepts are self-evident (you must prove they are true in the process of refuting them) He does not address any of the in-depth comments of Rand on these axiomatic concepts, because those comments of hers destroy his argument. He also explains axioms in a way that for those unversed in how these work makes it seem as if they are based on faith, which is ridiculous nonsense:

"2. “A man of reason does not accept ideas on faith” (The Objectivist Newsletter, April 1963, pg. 15).

One wonders how this is applicable to the axioms of Objectivism. Axioms are, by definition, unable to be proved. They are assumptions upon which one builds his system. Peikoff, a student of Rand, writes:

““Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof” (The Ominous Parallels, 54).

An axiom of Objectivism is “existence exists” (Atlas Shrugged, pg. 1015). If this axiom is derived from evidence or proof, would that from which it was derived not take the place as the actual axiom? Further, would that from which it was derived not require evidence or proof? Does this not imply an infinite regression fallacy?"

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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I actually think responding to something like this is worth it for those who can, I mean I would like to read a response to this, mainly the epistemology part (the rest really is a waste of time.) But just think about someone who doesn't know very much about empiricism or concept formation and just reads this, it might spur more third party/onlookers to look more deeper into Objectivism if even a brief correction of some of the errors were put in the comments. At least it was an actual attempt at criticism and not just a barrage of insults and ad hominem. I mean, I've seen Harry Binswanger personally respond to stuff that was almost pure ad hominem, just to correct misunderstandings for any casual onlookers, so we might consider doing the same here.

Edited by 2046

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““Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof” (The Ominous Parallels, 54).

An axiom of Objectivism is “existence exists” (Atlas Shrugged, pg. 1015). If this axiom is derived from evidence or proof, would that from which it was derived not take the place as the actual axiom?

An axiom is not derived. Nor is an axiom accepted blindly, without evidence. An axiom is self-evident.

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An axiom is not derived. Nor is an axiom accepted blindly, without evidence. An axiom is self-evident.

That is what I just said???

the axiomatic concepts are self-evident (you must prove they are true in the process of refuting them) He does not address any of the in-depth comments of Rand on these axiomatic concepts, because those comments of hers destroy his argument. He also explains axioms in a way that for those unversed in how these work makes it seem as if they are based on faith, which is ridiculous nonsense

Maybe you were confused because I merely copied his text and put it into quotations, rather than in a quotation box to properly separate it?

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I have studied Objectivism for about ten years. I have heard plenty of objections. I myself had plenty of objections and questions when I first encountered Objectivism. And I still get plenty of objections and questions from others. I love objections and questions, intelligent and honest ones. So do not make any assumptions about me nor for that matter about anybody else. I do, however, not find any pleasure in answering really bad and ridiculous objections. I think it is a pure waste of time.

It is good to play the Devil's advocate if you seek a good understanding of Objectivism. That is, to present the BEST arguments against one's position and to answer them. Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff have both argued that you should engage in this. I have done that and most serious students of Objectivism do it to for the same reason; if you cannot answer the best case from the Devil then you have to check your premises and see if you can come up with an answer or, if they turn out to be false, drop them.

There is another value of being able to answer the best arguments of the Devil; not only will you discover that your ideas are true, if you can defend them, and that the ideas of your opponent are false. Another value is that your clarity of thought will also improve. You can only communicate clearly what you really understand. So if you manage to answer good arguments, then you will get a clearer understanding of your own ideas and this, in turn, will allow you to answer other objections and questions with even greater clarity.

I am sorry to have made that unfounded assumption about you or any user, and I take full responsibility for doing that.

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That is what I just said???

Maybe you were confused because I merely copied his text and put it into quotations, rather than in a quotation box to properly separate it?

Yes, it is clear that the author of the criticisms does not understand the nature of axioms.

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I actually think responding to something like this is worth it for those who can, I mean I would like to read a response to this, mainly the epistemology part (the rest really is a waste of time.) But just think about someone who doesn't know very much about empiricism or concept formation and just reads this, it might spur more third party/onlookers to look more deeper into Objectivism if even a brief correction of some of the errors were put in the comments. At least it was an actual attempt at criticism and not just a barrage of insults and ad hominem. I mean, I've seen Harry Binswanger personally respond to stuff that was almost pure ad hominem, just to correct misunderstandings for any casual onlookers, so we might consider doing the same here.

I thought that, especially for people at my level of understanding of the philosophy, it would be a good exercise to have a go at refuting even the 'silly childish' stuff that the heavyweights justifiably refuse to consider.

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From the same author, in response to exactly this TAS review:

It's been a while since I've dialogued on Objectivism (see here and here). Despite working a lot, since I was just forwarded this reply to Robbins' critique on which much - though not all - of my thoughts depended, I thought it might be a good opportunity to refresh my memory, even though the book to which the article's author is responding is actually a revised edition of the one I read ("Answer to Ayn Rand," not "Without a Prayer"). Since the author doesn't deal with the bulk of Robbins' arguments, I will similarly deal with those of his which I believe best exhibit the problematic nature of Objectivism.

Epistemology

In the first paragraph, the author redefines what it means for a claim to be logically valid. A claim is logically valid because it follows from a [set of] premise. Axioms by definition cannot be conclusions derived from a [set of] premise. He writes: "[An Objectivist's axiom is] valid because it formulates a fact that is directly perceived." However, it is one thing to say that an epistemological system is self-attesting (viz. that the system explains the means or historical process by which one comes to accept an axiom), it is quite another to suggest that an axiom - which is a "fundamental" premise by definition - can be predicated on "direct perception" and yet remain an axiom.

Either he is arguing one knows the "axiom of existence" is true because he "directly perceives" it (even though he, like Rand, cannot even define existence!), in which case the idea that existence is "axiomatic" is false, or he is arguing that the "axiom of existence" explains how one was able to historically (not propositionally) come to accept the "axiom of existence," which doesn't explain why such an axiom would be valid; after all, I can state that regeneration is the historical point at which I was able to come to terms with Scripturalism, but since Objectivism and Scripturalism purport mutually exclusive claims derived from different epistemological axioms, it cannot be the case that this historical explanatory power is itself sufficient to constitute an axiom as valid. Whatever the author means, he seems to be arguing circularly. Compare these two statements:

"[An Objectivist's axiom is] valid because it formulates a fact that is directly perceived."

"...the Objectivist account of perception is that people are directly aware of the external world in perception; that there is no mental stand-in for reality. And since the Objectivist position is a corollary of the axioms of existence and consciousness, it cannot be questioned without self-contradiction."

In the first quote, we are told that the Objectivist's axioms are valid *because* they were directly perceived, and in the second, we are told that the concept of direct perception is a corollary (not a justificatory basis) for the Objectivist's axioms - i.e. direct perception is true *because* of the Objectivist's axioms. At best, he is equivocating, so, having already teased out the possible meanings of his first quote in as "charitable" a manner as I think can be reasonably expected and found his arguments wanting, I am not inclined to think that, had he actually addressed the other arguments Robbins made in the chapter on Objectivist epistemology, he would have faired much better.

Ethics

This section was exceptionally poor (compare what the author covers to this). The author, noting the "problem of suicide" Robbins noted, states that "Robbins's claim... does not qualify as an argument. He is simply drawing a correct implication from Rand's ethics and decrying that implication. He provides no reason for believing that the implication is false." No, that is not what Robbins is doing. The author seems to forget what he himself wrote was the purpose of Robbins remarks: to demonstrate the subjectivity of Objectivist morality. Rand's claim, then, that "The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do" (The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 17) is falsified, period.

The rest of the section, small as it is, relies on twin fallacies, inductivism and question-begging, apparent to anyone who reads it:

"A man who seeks to survive by the skin of his teeth into the next moment is highly unlikely to survive for a normal life span. One is more likely to succeed in sustaining one's existence over a period of time if one attempts to create or trade for a vast array of values, such as material wealth, art, recreation, general education, self-esteem, friendship, romantic love, and all the other values that would make one flourish.")

available here

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I actually think responding to something like this is worth it for those who can, I mean I would like to read a response to this, mainly the epistemology part (the rest really is a waste of time.) But just think about someone who doesn't know very much about empiricism or concept formation and just reads this, it might spur more third party/onlookers to look more deeper into Objectivism if even a brief correction of some of the errors were put in the comments. At least it was an actual attempt at criticism and not just a barrage of insults and ad hominem. I mean, I've seen Harry Binswanger personally respond to stuff that was almost pure ad hominem, just to correct misunderstandings for any casual onlookers, so we might consider doing the same here.

It appears that some are searching for answers without having to think for themselves.

I looked very briefly at the first link originally noted and read:

"'At birth, a child’s mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness – the mechanism of a human consciousness – but no content....'(Rand)

This is a contradiction in terms; a conscious mind conscious of nothing is nonsensical. Yet it is a presupposition which Rand must believe if her definition of reason and epistemology as experience-derived is to be strictly adhered to...."

Rand's context has been dropped here: "at birth" means pre-awareness.

Now, do people on this forum really need that level of understanding?

Is it not reasonable to ask them to think through such a conflict and at least form a decent question to better understand what Rand is saying?

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On 6/23/2010 at 8:01 PM, DavidOdden said:

An axiom is not derived. Nor is an axiom accepted blindly, without evidence. An axiom is self-evident.

My understanding is that "the impossibility of refutation" ends up being a powerful proof and can serve as evidence.
 

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10 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

My understanding is that "the impossibility of refutation" ends up being a powerful proof and can serve as evidence.

You have to assume the axioms to show that it is impossible to refute the axioms, so it isn't a proof. "p, therefore p" is never a proof of p, even if p is known to be true on other grounds.

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