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What is, and is not, an Objectivist?

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I am curious if anybody here has a clear definition of "Objectivist" in the sense of, "when would you consider somebody to be (or not to be) an Objectivist?

So what does an "Objectivist" do to make him so, and/or somebody who might claim to be an Objectivist (for instance, quote Ayn Rand or consistently act in a way consistent with Objectivist ethics) make him not so?

Thank you.

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I find "Objectivist" uncomfortably culty as a term to describe how somebody lives his private life. Decades ago, before his kiboshing, Nathaniel Branden said that an Objectivist is a professional intellectual who uses and extends the theory in his work. At the time (1965), he said, this applied only to himself and AR though in the future it would come to include others.

Apart from that, in a much looser sense, I'd presume in favor of calling anybody an Objectivist who claims to agree with Rand. Someone might overcome this presumption by showing systematic ignorance of the theory or systematic disagreement with it, but I'd wait to see the evidence.

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I believe that "Objectivism" is a philosophy, and that an "Objectivist" is someone who adheres to that philosophy.

What does it mean to "adhere" to a philosophy? Specifically in this case, I believe that it means to explicitly accept those ideas which Ayn Rand identified as being fundamental to Objectivism (e.g. "rational self-interest" in Ethics, etc.) and to attempt to hold those concepts with "total consistency" -- to "understand, to define, to prove and to apply them."

A person on this path of mental integration and resulting action, whether just beginning or 30 years on, is an Objectivist in my book.

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Assume you're not trying to troll, why would you care about the answer to such a question? not saying you must not care, but you must have a reason.

Well, I suppose that's part of the answer to my question, isn't it? (Which maybe is why you are asking).

In other words, why should one care about a "label" you ascribe to yourself or to somebody else, or somebody ascribes to you? What objective need is served by this bit of knowledge?

To take a stab at it, I suppose the answer is unit economy: rather than asking somebody what could be dozens of questions, they could instead simply tell you, "I'm a Muslim" and you would instantly know a lot about what they think (insofar as you believed them to be consistent with their views). On the flip side, identifying yourself as a Something might allow you to be able to find other Somethings and converse much more efficiently as you can presume that you don't have to go over the endless details of your context every time--you are presumed to agree on a great many things.

For instance, I personally have no interest in teaching somebody Objectivism as I understand it as this is a waste of my time. I happen to know that fundamental premises don't change particularly rapidly and truly "teaching" this (in the sense of changing somebody's mind over very fundamental things) is an arduous task at best. However, it's interesting to me to discuss things with those whom I presume to have quite a bit in common with my own fundamental premises--I can learn things I didn't know before, easier. I can discuss things "efficiently" as it were.

Hence it's useful for me to be able to identify others as "Objectivists" and it's useful for me to have them identify me as "an Objectivist".

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I don't think this comes off as troll-ish at all. Here's Peikoff's answer:

Podcast from June 30th, 2008

From the podcast (transcribing here, conveying the typical Peikoff EMPHASIS on terms :-) ):

"[...] it's practically almost impossible to apply [the definition] to A particular case".

and:

"[...] there are DEGREES of understanding"

and:

"[...] personally I would not WORRY whether the label [Objectivist] applies or doesn't apply, what you should [do is judge the person within the specific context of that person's word/actions/etc.]".

and:

"people make too big of an issue [out of this question]".

***

So what I take all of this to mean is that, while it might be a handy construct to locate and/or identify "somewhat like-minded people" and to be able to start with the assumption that you don't have to go over "basic stuff" when you strike up a conversation, this definition most decidedly breaks down in the edge cases, and it's much more accurate to simply stick to "true" and "untrue" in any particular context.

So my answer, I think, is as follows:

1. If somebody identifies themselves to me as "an Objectivist" I should take that in a general way in that they won't be a Muslim or a Socialist, etc. However, I should also not assume they are Leonard Peikoff in terms of their knowledge of Objectivism, or even that they necessarily apply every aspect of Objectivism correctly.

2. Insofar as I identify somebody being in the right "ballpark", I should not use this concept any further and simply decide on "who they are" using other concepts such as true/not true, smart/dumb, evil/good, honest/dishonest, etc.

3. I should not worry whether I myself am an Objectivist or not. As far as I'm concerned, I am, and there's no loyalty oath beyond that. Clearly, at minimum, I'm trying to be, and in this context "trying" is actually quite material.

Anything else?

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Anything else?
And a similar procedure is appropriate when someone tells you they are Christian or Muslim... it gives you a tiny bit of a starting point within which to guess at their philosophy, but the terms include huge variations.

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And a similar procedure is appropriate when someone tells you they are Christian or Muslim... it gives you a tiny bit of a starting point within which to guess at their philosophy, but the terms include huge variations.

By this, I take it you agree with my premises here, correct?

In browsing through the forums here, I noticed you (softwareNerd) made the following claim of another poster in another thread:

"Just as an FYI, the OP is not an Objectivist."

The OP clearly was "trying" to be an Objectivist and clearly had a lot of knowledge of it. What was the rationale behind that statement? Was there any?

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In browsing through the forums here, I noticed you (softwareNerd) made the following claim of another poster in another thread:

"Just as an FYI, the OP is not an Objectivist."

The OP clearly was "trying" to be an Objectivist and clearly had a lot of knowledge of it. What was the rationale behind that statement? Was there any?

I don't remember the details. If you give me a link I will explain. If I said that in public on the forum about another member I assume I was using the term in the sense of "someone who claims to be an Objectivist". We have a few people who post to the forum who are very up-front about not claiming to be Objectivists. For instance, we recently had someone who was a Keynesian leftist arguing against the gold standard and in favor of Krugman. One current member is a Christian. Sometimes, another member -- being unaware of this -- will reply to the leftist/christian in a way that assume the other agrees with Rand. That's the typical situation where I would point out the incorrect assumption.

You could read such a statement as saying "Person X is not an Objectivist in any sense of the term". You claim that the person was trying to be an Objectivist. I'm curious who this could be... post a link.

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I don't remember the details. If you give me a link I will explain. If I said that in public on the forum about another member I assume I was using the term in the sense of "someone who claims to be an Objectivist". We have a few people who post to the forum who are very up-front about not claiming to be Objectivists. For instance, we recently had someone who was a Keynesian leftist arguing against the gold standard and in favor of Krugman. One current member is a Christian. Sometimes, another member -- being unaware of this -- will reply to the leftist/christian in a way that assume the other agrees with Rand. That's the typical situation where I would point out the incorrect assumption.

You could read such a statement as saying "Person X is not an Objectivist in any sense of the term". You claim that the person was trying to be an Objectivist. I'm curious who this could be... post a link.

It was this thread:

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22456

Are you sure you'd characterize that poster as a "Keynesian Leftist"?

The OP said, "A proper government has no moral right to meddle in the area of trade" and demonstrates a pretty deep knowledge of Objectivism in that post (including an anecdote from an obscure Peikoff taped lecture!). That doesn't sound very "Keynesian Leftist" to me...

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An Objectivist is a person who is rationally convinced that the philosophy of Ayn Rand, Objectivism, is true and good - and who, therefore, consistently applies in his life.

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The OP said, "A proper government has no moral right to meddle in the area of trade" and demonstrates a pretty deep knowledge of Objectivism in that post (including an anecdote from an obscure Peikoff taped lecture!). That doesn't sound very "Keynesian Leftist" to me...
Hey if that was you and you think of yourself as an Objectivist, then you ought to have clarified it rather than create a new id. I don't care enough about whether people self-identify themselves as Objectivists. My only intent there was to provide the other poster with context, since he exclaimed "...claiming the Gold Standard is 'immoral' is unbelievable". Obviously I believed LeftistSpew was not a self-described Objectivist, but if he (or you) think so... it is hardly worth discussing (at least not to me) since it makes absolutely no difference to the truth of his actual claims.

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Here's David Kelley's answer. You can zap to 30 minutes in, though the whole thing is certainly worth hearing.

http://www.atlassoci...g-atlas-society

Great lecture--and one that I had not heard before.

Interesting that both Peikoff and Kelly essentially tell you to "not bother" with this label, generally, as it is not very practical (Peikoff) and ripe for abuse (Kelly).

I have the answer to my original query, which is that generally we should not get caught up with labels and names as they redirect the conversation needlessly away from the subject at hand--and I can properly call myself "an Objectivist" and not worry that somebody is going to check my identifying documents or demand a secret handshake. I agree with the fundamental principles of Objectivism and I'm trying to apply these principles, and that's enough.

Thanks, everybody.

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Hey if that was you and you think of yourself as an Objectivist, then you ought to have clarified it rather than create a new id. I don't care enough about whether people self-identify themselves as Objectivists. My only intent there was to provide the other poster with context, since he exclaimed "...claiming the Gold Standard is 'immoral' is unbelievable". Obviously I believed LeftistSpew was not a self-described Objectivist, but if he (or you) think so... it is hardly worth discussing (at least not to me) since it makes absolutely no difference to the truth of his actual claims.

It would appear that the name, "LeftistSpew" was meant to be ironic--I don't think a "real" Leftist would identify himself as one who "spews"...

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It would appear that the name, "LeftistSpew" was meant to be ironic--I don't think a "real" Leftist would identify himself as one who "spews"...
Quite possible, Though my conclusion would not have been based on the name, but on things he posted.

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