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MrSeagull

Arguing with the irrational

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I would like to request a sort of critique from those who are more seasoned in Objectivism then I am. I'm at an early stage of learning myself. I'm attempting to reason with a fellow by the name of TheCrookedTimber on a Youtube post about the new Atlas Shrugged movie.

Here, the fellow is likening Objectivism as a brainwashing cult. I'm trying to defeat his argument with reason, but I'd like to know if my approach is flawed. I have a feeling I'll be seeing alot of his type in the future, and I'm always willing to learn of mistakes I'm making.

For the benefit of those who don't wish to wade through the comments section...

@ChaosDynamics I don't hate Rand. I hate her ideas. But it isn't only because I disagree with her. There are plenty of right-wing libertarian thinkers whose work I respect: Murray Rothbard, for instance. What I hate about Rand's ideas (it cannot be properly dignified with the label "philosophy") is its contempt for the poor and weak, its absolute moral indifference to the suffering of others, and the fact that she claimed to be atheist but demanded to be treated as a demi-god.

TheCrookedTimber3 days ago

@ChaosDynamics As for the notion of brainwashing -- have you seen or listened to Leonard Peikoff, or anyone from the Ayn Rand Institute? That is the text book definition of a brainwashed fucking cult. Even Michael Shermer, who is both an atheist and a libertarian, wrote a piece on why Objectivism is a cult. To be a Randian or an Objectivist is to be brainwashed, no less than a Muslim or Christian or Hare Krishna. In the world of philosophy, politics, and literature, Rand is a FAILURE.

TheCrookedTimber3 days ago

@TheCrookedTimber It's hard for me to approach any of your points rationally because they are formed in a rickety foundation of irrationality.

I'm not sure what textbook you're getting your definition of "Brainwashing," but no follower of Rand (who's truly following her philosophy) will ever force anyone to conform to their thinking. If someone cannot come to the same conclusion as us through sound reasoning, then so be it.

TheMrSeagull1 day ago

@TheMrSeagull I actually didn't make any "points," as such. This isn't an essay. Its a fucking comments box. I was stating my view. But you're clearly ignorant about some definitions here: cult, for example, and brainwashed. The Ayn Rand Institute and Objectivism is a cult. Leonard Peikoff, Rand's executor and intellectual heir, has stated that Objectvism is a "closed philosophical system.' In other words, no room for dissent, critical thinking or, ironically, individualism. Its a fucking cult!

TheCrookedTimber20 hours ago

@TheCrookedTimber Sorry, but your premesis is well beyond reason. Your argument is is seemingly based off of the opinions of others and a casual glance. Head over to the objectivismonline forums and take a look at the discussions there, then formulate your opinion on the "cult"

TheMrSeagull16 hours ago

@TheMrSeagull My opinion is drawn from my own experience with Objectivism, reading the works of Rand and her disciples. It is not my opinion that Peikoff wrote "Objectivism is a closed philosophical system," which is just another way of saying, "Accept it without critical, independent thought." Its no different from divine revelation in other cults. The dear leader has spoken, and heretics must be purged. Ask Nathaniel Branden and David Kelley about objectivist excommunications. Its a cult!

TheCrookedTimber16 hours ago

@TheCrookedTimber You are completely and totally wrong. If a person doesn't come to an objectivist point of view without critical thinking, then they don't belong. It's about the individual, not herd mentality.

This is an illogical argument anyhow, you're attacking Objectism by what you see as it's mentality to others, not on its principles.

What it all comes down to is this: I will live my life as I see fit, niether sacrificing others for me, nor myself for others.

TheMrSeagull5 hours ago

@TheMrSeagull You can ignore the history of this cult and its founder all you like, but the facts are the facts. Both Rand and her disciples simply state their case (without proper philosophical argumentation, which is why she is ignored by academic philosophers), and then declare that anyone who disagrees with them is irrational and dishonest. This is the supreme irony of Objectivism: it claims to be both individualistic and atheistic, yet in every characteristic it is identical to a cult.

TheCrookedTimber3 hours ago

@TheCrookedTimber Again, you are wrong. You formulate your "facts" on opnions, nothing more. Find me proof of your claims, reason-base proof.

If my way of life is based on reason, and you cannot refute them on reason, then you -are- being "irrational and dishonest."

TheMrSeagull8 minutes ago

Thanks ahead of time.

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Silly arguing on YT = pointless

Just make your pithy comment, if you have one, and leave it at that. Don't worry so much about arguing, worry about knowing. I mean this guy is just name-calling and giving you bigoted assertions and apparently thinks "closed system" means something other than what it means. The internet is full of such people. What's the point in dealing at all? Pick your battles, man.

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Silly arguing on YT = pointless

Just make your pithy comment, if you have one, and leave it at that. Don't worry so much about arguing, worry about knowing. I mean this guy is just name-calling and giving you bigoted assertions and apparently thinks "closed system" means something other than what it means. The internet is full of such people. What's the point in dealing at all? Pick your battles, man.

Yes, normally I would feel that way, but I see this as an attempt to cut my teeth when it comes to arguing my views. So far I'm feeling rather confident that my stance is set firm in reason, but I am always willing to learn from mistakes.

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Silly arguing on YT = pointless

Just make your pithy comment, if you have one, and leave it at that. Don't worry so much about arguing, worry about knowing. I mean this guy is just name-calling and giving you bigoted assertions and apparently thinks "closed system" means something other than what it means. The internet is full of such people. What's the point in dealing at all? Pick your battles, man.

Keep in mind that YT is public forum. He has an opportunity to make his case to a fairly sizable audience of more rational people. It isn't just an argument with a single person.

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I'm with 2046: move on.

If you really don't want to do that, then you need to agree on some basic definitions: define exactly, for example, what is meant by "brainwashing" and "cult". Then ask for concrete, specific examples, not just assertions and generalizations.

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There are very few out there who deny the self-evident, and many of those people simply misunderstand what is being put forth as self-evident by Objectivists. Furthermore, I see no indication of anything like that in the OP; just someone who thinks Rand said a bunch of stuff she didn't actually say (contempt for the poor and weak, moral indifference to the suffering of others, and her demanding to be treated as a demi-god) and misunderstanding what 'closed system' means. Calmly and rationally arguing with such people is not always a waste of time; how else will misconceptions about Rand ever get cleared up? I do agree, though, that Youtube comments are not the place for it.

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Answer's reveal a person's priorities. I am usually more interested in having discussions about Ayn Rand with people on this forum, or with those whom I know personally.

Be aware that he is setting you up for a "gotcha", he already believes anyone who responds is only responding mindlessly from the "cult". This paradigm he has already created is a sign that he may not respond favorably, but he is not essential. The essential you are aiming for is anyone in your audience who might be rational. You don't have to overtly tell the antagonist that he is not essential, but keep it in mind when forming your argument.

Building a common premise gives more of a foundation to stand on. Ask questions at first, questions that relate to something the two of you may already have in common. Rather than jumping out of the gate in opposition, appeal to what ever rational faculty he may have. For instance, he does not like cults. Figure out what can be construed as cult like behavior. Then, Illustrate how Ayn Rand is in opposition to cults?

What about Objectivism seems like a cult? Being sure, having convictions, a superior attitude, being closed minded... all make people afraid of cults. Pragmatism is a rebellion against absolute certainty, it has also been used as a self defense against various cults that have risen up throughout history.

I would say:

"What is wrong with freedom of speech, independence, self respect, reason, rationality, focus, the necessity of choice, volition? A cult is diametrically opposed to all of these. Cults thrive on selfless, defenseless, irrational, dazed people who never made or wanted to make an important choice in their lives, and they give that choice over to the power of the cult. Ayn Rand was opposed to cult like behavior. She valued argument, and questioning. She wanted fully conscious, focused, thoughtful people in her life. She wasn't opposed to charity or benevolence, she simply meant it is impossible to give genuinely if one is forced to give at the point of a gun. Because when generosity is forced, expected, and unappreciated it naturally turns into resentment. No one's life is yours to waste. I don't expect you to believe anything I say without thinking about it."

I have been thinking it is "self defense" that those opposed to Objectivism seem to feel so threatened by. Delve deeply into many of these random online conversations and you will see how controlling the antagonist usually is, how he projects his own control issues onto Objectivism. I have observed that he becomes insecure when his usual emotional manipulation tactics don't work against Objectivists. He uses emotion as a tool of cognition and so his attacks intensify in search of an emotional response.

Being a closed system doesn't mean mankind can't gain new knowledge, it means that Ayn Rand is no longer here to defend herself, nor to admit where she might have been wrong. There were times when she admitted she was wrong while she was alive, and amended her position.

Edited by Tenderlysharp

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It is good to consider targeting your audience to give you the most return on your investment.

What is your goal when approaching your opposition? What steps are necessary to get the response you desire?

What do you want him to do? Do you want feedback from him? What are his intentions? What does he want?

The more you know about a subject the better your case. Develop your message, say it in the most concise way possible. On a short attention span media like youtube it is more productive to make one good precise point illustrated in a creative way.

Perhaps you are attracted to the argument because you want clarity on the issues of no conflicts of interest in Objectivism.

How do you gauge the long range success of your actions?

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For some reason, I stopped getting email notifications on this topic.

Thank you all for your input, I find it very helpful and educational. I guess the reason why I participate in these seemingly less-than meaningful discussions is a mix of pride and stubbornness, mixed in with a bit of idealism – That untruths will be seen as true by others without a challenge.

I’ve lately delved into a discussion with a separate individual on that same page. This person seems to come from the premise that existence without force is impossible, that theft is necessary to provide for basic needs. Here is a sample…

Refraining from the use of all force is impossible if you want to stay alive. I suppose I have come to this conclusion because I don't believe that anyone deserves any particular birthrights more than anyone else does; therefore keeping and using them is the arbitrary application of force on everyone else. This creates situations in which free will is gray if you think about the real-world consequences of exchanges rather than simply ignoring them as 'irrelevant.' How would you ever have an inkling that, for example, improving your own situation was possible if all you had ever seen was other people trying and failing at it? Under Objectivism, are you supposed to eschew learning from your own observations of the world you live in?

I would provide the long, convulted discussion in whole, but I would prefer to avoid posting a gigantic wall of text. I’m standing my ground in this discussion, and now the person is degrading into strawmen and ad hom attacks.

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I think the relevent thing to ask here is not how to win an argument with the irrational but rather why you would do it?

I may feel better for a microsecond when I scream at the end table I stubbed my toe on.... but if anyone witnesses me doing it I feel foolish.

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Well, I suppose it's somewhat of a compulsion for me - When I see someone misrepresent or demean something important to me I feel compelled to challenge them. As I stated above, it feels like some people see their view as justified when it’s unchallenged.

I will say this – I’m beginning to develop a personal enjoyment from walking away from these discussions knowing my reason stood unchallenged by anything other than logical fallacies.

On the subject of the more recent discussion, I decided to walk away, as the opposing voice was degrading into attacks and insults.

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