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Reasoner

How "open" are you about your Objectivism?

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I have always been an Objectivist, I think.  It wasn't until about 7 years ago, however, that I discovered a woman named Ayn Rand put into words what I had felt my entire life.

I don't find myself having to modify myself very much at all in order to be "Objectivist", however I am now able to understand who I am and have a reliable framework with which I can compare and contract my though process with.

I am extremely proud of who I am, and I am proud of the time and effort I have put into understanding Rands philosophy as well.  I intend to advocate rational egoism to both of my sons and try to guide my marriage by rational principles.

That being said, I am fully aware of how controversial Objectivism is.  I am not afraid of controversy, but with two children, a wife and a job I find that I don't have time or emotional energy to effectively argue my perspective to every skeptical idiot out there that has no principles of his own but somehow finds mine to be wrong (see my post on Sanctioning Skeptics).

I am finding myself shirking from using the "O" word around my parents, who are extremely Christian and recoil in horror from the thought that I'm not going to heaven.  I am finding myself avoiding philosophical discussions with my best friend of 20 years, because over time I have found him to be a philosophical skeptic/nihilist and just 100% metaphysically opposite of me ("how do you KNOW we aren't just brains in a vat?").

I know we aren't obligated to discuss our personal moral philosophy with every idiot that demands answers for the sake of refuting them (again, see my post on Santioning Skeptics).

But how open are you guys with your objectivism?  When do you just keep your mouths shut versus proudly advocating a rational egoism based on Rands rational egoism called Objectivism?

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There's really two things here: the label "Objectivism" is one; the other is the ideas of Objectivism.

With most people, one cannot make much headway presenting the philosophy as a system. Why bother, really? Most get their philosophy via osmosis from the culture. Presenting a somewhat integrated view of the ideas would only make sense to a person who has the interest and ability to grasp what you say. To the extent you want to debate or argue with people, I think it is best to argue the specific idea on the table: say health-care, or schooling, or unions. Objectivist ideas act as your framework, but you're not presenting Objectivism.

Personally, I find little value in this too... but it really depends a lot on you, on the other person, and on your relationship. Forget even trying to convert parents. It does not matter how old you are [I'm over 50]; most parents aren't going to buy what you're selling. 

As for the term "Objectivism" just this week someone on FB told me I was not an Objectivist. Pointless to argue whether someone thinks the label fits you. You could spend all your time arguing whether some person is truly Christian. It is actually easy to have some view of what true Christianity means, and to disqualify a majority of Christians on that basis. And, for most important things, it is a pointless exercise. What matters is what they really think and believe -- the ideas. The label is secondary.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Very good advice about the label.  The other thing I have noticed is people have a difficult time arguing against rational decision making - but once you use the word "Ayn Rand" or "Objectivist" you give them a giant target to aim for.

The first thing they do is play Bioshock, and then look up all the negative reviews of Atlas Shrugged on Amazon.

I would like to say I don't care about their opinions, but some of the backlash I have experienced verges on intellectually violent, it kind of scares me.

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The other thing I have noticed is people have a difficult time arguing against rational decision making - but once you use the word "Ayn Rand" or "Objectivist" you give them a giant target to aim for.

Even people who read and like Rand, don't like all of it. Some Fountainhead readers take away a message like: "decide on personal goals for your own life, and strive to achieve them, being honest to your own vision of the truth; and, to hell with people who say you're wrong". Yet, they see this as compatible with their understanding of altruism (which goes something like "help the poor and disabled"). they take away a fairly non-political message. Another type of reader loves Atlas because it resonates with their view of oppressive government, yet they disagree vehemently with Rand on God and altruism.

My sense is that most people who think of themselves as Objectivists have a bit too much of an outward focus. It's natural: when one agrees with all of Rand's message, one can see a hundred ways in which so many people are doing things wrong. It's natural, but ideally it should just be a phase. Then, it's best to focus on things one has a hope of controlling and changing: things about one's own life. Not that activism and advocacy is wrong; but, they should not be at the cost of one's own happiness. 

"The Undercurrent" is a good example: Objectivist students who were engaged in activism and advocacy on campus. Now, they're adding a focus on personal success. To the extent that one cannot change other people/politics/culture, one should make the most of one's life despite all that.

 

 

Edited by softwareNerd

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Reasoner,

 I have no reservations about telling people I am an Objectivist. Most people I encounter have no idea as to what that is. As the subject of metaphysical beliefs rarely comes up in casual conversation, this is merely one more thing that people don't know about me. In the event that God, Bible-based morality, or the limits of man's knowledge becomes a matter of discussion, I generally state that I believe in objective reality. No one so far has had a problem with that, with the exception of a few religious fanatics. Inasmuch as I'm not the most qualified expert on philosophy, I tend to keep explanations of metaphysics to a minimum. As for politics, I have had a life-long interest in history, and with thanks to Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, I've been able to argue in favor of capitalism and individual liberty much more easily. I noticed your first encounters with Objectivism are recent, that is, within the past eight years; this is coincidence, as I, too, only in the past eight years became aware of the writings of Ayn Rand. And a life-time of searching for the Truth is evermore reaching fulfillment. Most people would accept some aspects of Objectivism; most are unwilling to abandon the religious teachings of their youth. Either way, it is your life, and you have much greater advantages understanding Objectivism at an earlier age, as opposed to my personal case of learning of Objectivism at middle-age. People may reject labels they don't recognize or understand, but most people will respond well to reason.

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Reasoner,

 I have no reservations about telling people I am an Objectivist. Most people I encounter have no idea as to what that is. As the subject of metaphysical beliefs rarely comes up in casual conversation, this is merely one more thing that people don't know about me. In the event that God, Bible-based morality, or the limits of man's knowledge becomes a matter of discussion, I generally state that I believe in objective reality. No one so far has had a problem with that, with the exception of a few religious fanatics. Inasmuch as I'm not the most qualified expert on philosophy, I tend to keep explanations of metaphysics to a minimum. As for politics, I have had a life-long interest in history, and with thanks to Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, I've been able to argue in favor of capitalism and individual liberty much more easily. I noticed your first encounters with Objectivism are recent, that is, within the past eight years; this is coincidence, as I, too, only in the past eight years became aware of the writings of Ayn Rand. And a life-time of searching for the Truth is evermore reaching fulfillment. Most people would accept some aspects of Objectivism; most are unwilling to abandon the religious teachings of their youth. Either way, it is your life, and you have much greater advantages understanding Objectivism at an earlier age, as opposed to my personal case of learning of Objectivism at middle-age. People may reject labels they don't recognize or understand, but most people will respond well to reason.

well put!

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I am not afraid of controversy, but with two children, a wife and a job I find that I don't have time or emotional energy to effectively argue my perspective to every skeptical idiot out there that has no principles of his own but somehow finds mine to be wrong (see my post on Sanctioning Skeptics).

I am finding myself shirking from using the "O" word around my parents, who are extremely Christian and recoil in horror from the thought that I'm not going to heaven.  I am finding myself avoiding philosophical discussions with my best friend of 20 years, because over time I have found him to be a philosophical skeptic/nihilist and just 100% metaphysically opposite of me ("how do you KNOW we aren't just brains in a vat?").

While it's not your responsibility to fix anyone else's problems for them, you should try to discuss these things with anyone that really matters to you; self-censorship is just as selfless as making yourself a 24/7 Crusader for Capitalism.

When you censor yourself on a frequent or chronic basis, you end up damaging your own grasp of what's true and what's worthwhile (see this). So it's in your best interest to have these hard conversations, if you'll otherwise end up having to suffer that.

And if you try to talk to someone close to you (such as your parents or best friend) about it and find that they aren't interested in the true or the good -that they actually practice their evil ideas and intend to continue doing so- then you know what they're worth, according to the standard of their impact on your own life.

 

Personally, I tend towards the opposite extreme sometimes; towards trying to fix every single person in the world. However, as SN pointed out, that's not truly selfish either.

The right approach is to help those who deserve it, and to Hell with anyone else.

 

PS:

 

I find that the best approach, with Skeptics, is to take their questions seriously and to request the same courtesy for your answers. It consistently demonstrates who's honestly confused and who's just wasting your time.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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While it's not your responsibility to fix anyone else's problems for them, you should try to discuss these things with anyone that really matters to you; self-censorship is just as selfless as making yourself a 24/7 Crusader for Capitalism.

When you censor yourself on a frequent or chronic basis, you end up damaging your own grasp of what's true and what's worthwhile (see this). So it's in your best interest to have these hard conversations, if you'll otherwise end up having to suffer that.

And if you try to talk to someone close to you (such as your parents or best friend) about it and find that they aren't interested in the true or the good -that they actually practice their evil ideas and intend to continue doing so- then you know what they're worth, according to the standard of their impact on your own life.

 

Personally, I tend towards the opposite extreme sometimes; towards trying to fix every single person in the world. However, as SN pointed out, that's not truly selfish either.

The right approach is to help those who deserve it, and to Hell with anyone else.

 

PS:

 

I find that the best approach, with Skeptics, is to take their questions seriously and to request the same courtesy for your answers. It consistently demonstrates who's honestly confused and who's just wasting your time.

Exceptionally well put, thank you!  I have found that many font deserve it and blank-out during discussions.  While of may not be prudent to end a 20 year friendship based on this, it certainly makes me think less of someone. 

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A big factor which prevents me from often publicly declaring myself to be an Objectivist is that the idea of a person having a non-religious personal philosophy, especially one attached to an individual, is pretty crazy to most people. Many people even associate all such adherence to cultish behavior.

 

Consider the last time you ever heard someone say "I am an Aristotelian/Kantian/Hagelian" outside of maybe a philosophy department (though even that is pretty rare). The closest we get to that these days is "I'm a humanist" or "I'm a secular progressive," but these views tend to be vague, leftist, and politically oriented.

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Consider the last time you ever heard someone say "I am an Aristotelian/Kantian/Hagelian" outside of maybe a philosophy department (though even that is pretty rare). The closest we get to that these days is "I'm a humanist" or "I'm a secular progressive," but these views tend to be vague, leftist, and politically oriented.

Dormin111, it is for that very reason you've pointed to that one must clarify to people unfamiliar with Objectivism as to exactly what Objectivism is. Secular humanism may be the only widely known agnostic or atheistic school of thought presently. As mentioned in another thread, there is a popular notion that atheists must be "liberals" or immoral parasites, or both. As Harrison mentioned earlier, it is right and proper to take on these discussions, when it is appropriate. As I witness our social order turning more toward religion, people of secular preferences need support more than ever. Reaching out and informing those who both reject mysticism and altruism could be the means by which society may begin to view philosophy, specifically Objectivism, as preferable over the more popular beliefs in Platonist or Kantian teachings. And that could be the point at which we turn to a brighter future.

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To acquaintances, my response also depends on whether I think they're asking from a personal/ethical perspective or a political one.

If the former, I usually start by saying "I'm not religious". I might or might not add, "...but I'm not a typical atheist either". So, on and so forth, as conversations ramble. But, without knowing the other person's context, I'm unlikely to say I identify with "Objectivism". it would typically be meaningless to them: most would not even recognize their own philosophy if i were to label it accurately.

If the questioner's perspective is political, I usually start with something like "I don't lean to either party, I'm something like a libertarian". And, I let the conversation ramble from there.

I agree with Harrison's point that you should not try to censor yourself chronically. That would leave you like Peter in the Bible: having betrayed what you hold deepest. In turn, betraying yourself by denying your reality is selfless and psychologically negative. 

However, there need not be any denial if you are explaining your position clearly, in a way the other person can understand. 

To put it another way: tell people you're an Objectivist, but not necessarily by using the term. Rather, tell them what you think. Do so in a way that keeps them asking, and in a way they can understand.

Finally, this does not mean it hurts to use big words that people cannot understand. One has to judge what will work in a particular conversation. Telling people you're an Objectvist, but judge what makes sense in a particular conversation. 

Someone asking "Are you Catholic?" when the pope appears on TV might only be looking for "no" so he can make a negative remark. Another person, asking this might simply be judging you on the tone of your response, and it might even work to say: "I'm a Reformed Orthodox Confoundationalist Objectivist".. and see how you can take it from there.

Edited by softwareNerd

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A big factor which prevents me from often publicly declaring myself to be an Objectivist is that the idea of a person having a non-religious personal philosophy, especially one attached to an individual, is pretty crazy to most people. Many people even associate all such adherence to cultish behavior.

 

Consider the last time you ever heard someone say "I am an Aristotelian/Kantian/Hagelian" outside of maybe a philosophy department (though even that is pretty rare). The closest we get to that these days is "I'm a humanist" or "I'm a secular progressive," but these views tend to be vague, leftist, and politically oriented.

It has occured to me in the past that Objectivism is a massive paradigm shift from how most people have been taught to think, and we, as students of the philosophy, can lose sight of that.

Comprehending even the basic concepts of Objectivism can require a massive shift in the way one thinks, and can be impossible to some.

Unless one has the ability to totally redefined their mental schema, and is working off a solid psychological and character foundation, it will be very challenging for them to grasp objectivism in entirety without suffering massive guilt and cognitive dissonance as they try to entertain the contradictions between their own perspective and this new one they are trying to integrate.

This, I think, is the source of some of the most violent opposers of objectivism.

To paraphrase Branden, it is a sad lesson to learn the extent people will go to evade the truth when their emotions are on the line. (Actual quote is: "how low in their priorities is the issue of truth for most people when issues are involved about which they have strong feelings.")

Edited by Reasoner

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I wanted to add something to this thread that I created, even though it's been a few months since it's been active.

In the Objectivist Epistemology, Rand makes it very clear that the last step of concept formation is to name the concept.

In the latest revised edition, with the Q&A at the end, she reiterates this point - the naming of a concept ties together the importance of objective language and concept formation.

There is an article that recently appeared on "spiked-online" (I admittedly am not familiar with this site outside of this one article, so please don't take this as a promotion for that site) that spoke to the recent trend of "identifying" subjectively with some external aspect of existence as opposed to objectively naming WHAT (who) we are.

http://www.spiked-online.com/spiked-review/article/the-crisis-of-character/17691#.VoQIIjfnbkL

Such is a symptom of the anti-conceptual mentality that refuses to admit the law of identity into it's consciousness - the refusal to define oneself.

And, as we all know, definitions are of key importance to coming to an understanding both within our own minds and with others.

Thus, those who wish for others not to understand them, those who wish desperately not to be defined, those who "identify" with vague notions rather than explicitly define who and what they are within the appropriate contexts, are desperately revealing a dangerous aspect of themselves.

They ultimately wish not to be.

Or at least, they wish to evade the necessity of making the choices inherent in existing.

They are attempting to entertain contradictions by refusing to name and define themselves objectively.

Unless one excludes so many key characteristics of a conceptual integration that it ultimately resembles nothing and is no longer a concept at all, one can NOT be a woman AND a man.  One can NOT be an objectivist and a subjectivist (in definition - errors in cognition will occur).  Otherwise, to quote from the article "Feeling is reality. The entirely subjective sentiment becomes objective, legal fact."

So to bring it full circle, and to add context to my original question - there is no question as to whether an objectivist is an objectivist in name, definition, and concept, or whether an objectivist should make the claim that they are an objectivist (if only within their own mind, at a minimum.).

These are a given for a rational thinker who understands the concept.

The question is whether it benefits the objectivist to share this FACT of their identity (having no reasonable cause to doubt it's truth) with others.

To sanction an anti-conceptual philosophical opponent by giving them a bulls-eye to target with their brain dead zero-reifications is to sanction their assault on your mind (see my post on Sanctioning Skeptics).

Therefore, the answer to my own question is that I will share the fact of my objectivism with those who will be of greater benefit to my highest values in knowing this information.

My wife, who is open to these ideas and understands them at a high-level and supports my quest to improve myself with a rational, non-contradictory moral philosophy.

My children, who I endeavor to guide towards being the noblest expression of my values.

Friends and strangers, who I induce may be receptive to objectivist ideas and who may latch onto these concepts and improve the world for me through their own efforts, and hopefully, may turn around and educate me on some aspects I haven't considered myself.

All the rest, I have found, pose the detriment of conflict and misunderstanding when I share Rands theories, and I have not found value in these interactions.  These people will not receive the benefit of further interaction with me on this topic, and I find there is no benefit to me in my sharing this objective definition of my self with them.

Please read the linked article and let me know your thoughts.

Edited by Reasoner
Minor cosmetic editing

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2 hours ago, Reasoner said:

Please read the linked article and let me know your thoughts.

The article is talking about the subjectivity of these modern identities: as in -- you are what you say you are, regardless of any objectively measurable facts. I'm not sure how that relates to the thread.

I think the thrust of what you're saying is that people who agree substantially with Objectivism ought to identify themselves as an Objectivists to themselves. If so, I agree it is useful to use concepts to identify oneself, just as it is to do so with external entities.

(Technically, this is not concept-formation, but the use of the already formed concept: applying it to a particular entity -- oneself.) 

 

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2 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

The article is talking about the subjectivity of these modern identities: as in -- you are what you say you are, regardless of any objectively measurable facts. I'm not sure how that relates to the thread.

I think the thrust of what you're saying is that people who agree substantially with Objectivism ought to identify themselves as an Objectivists to themselves. If so, I agree it is useful to use concepts to identify oneself, just as it is to do so with external entities.

(Technically, this is not concept-formation, but the use of the already formed concept: applying it to a particular entity -- oneself.) 

 

Thank you for your response.  The relation to the thread comes in where I point out that there is a very important difference between refusing to name what you are (objectivist, etc) versus openly sharing that information.  Whereas I am careful who I tell that I am an objectivist, it is still crystal clear in my own mind that I am one.

Regarding concept formation, Rand directly states that a concept must be given a name before the concept formation is complete.  My post argues that the ambiguous, fluffy, blurry notions that some people today "identify" with are an example of the anti-conceptual mentality for exactly this reason.  They refuse to name what they are.  They are anti-conceptual.  (to your point, yes, "Objectivist" is an already formed concept to someone who has integrated it from the ground up in their mind and understands what it means.  "Atheist-ish libertarian-type" is not a fully formed concept and breaks down the more hyphens and attributes you add on to it...similar arguments can be made for anti-concepts such as "bi-gender", or whatever other terms Facebook gives you to choose from)

From the ITOE, page 119 (in my edition at least :))

"Prof. D: I’ve described the process, but I have arrived also at a product which is: these regarded as units. Now at that point do I have the concept of “pad,” or do I still have something further to do, a further integration to make, before the product would be a concept?

AR: Yes. You have to give it a name."

 

...This is precisely what people who "identify" with vague, arbitrary, undefined notions refuse to do - objectively assign a concept to who they are.

By saying "I am nothing in particular", or "I am two contradictory things at once", they are really saying "I am nothing at all".

This stands in stark contrast to simply...not saying (but knowing full well who and what you are).

 

Edited by Reasoner

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I agree that there are some similarities between labeling yourself and forming a concept. Strictly speaking, though, it's worth pointing out that the proper analogy is not forming a concept but applying a concept to a specific case. If I label myself an Objectivist, I have already formed the concept of an Objectivist previously and am now applying it to myself by a process of deduction.

The process would go something like this: "An Objectivist is someone who agrees with the philosophy of Ayn Rand as expressed in her novels and non-fiction work. The main views expressed in her novels and non-fiction work are metaphysical absolutism, free will, reason, egoism, capitalism, etc. I agree with all of these views, or with the most significant ones at least. Therefore, I am an Objectivist." This is a deductive syllogism in the first form, if I am not mistaken.

Why would someone not go through this process of reasoning? One possibility is that they don't have the major premise - they don't know what an Objectivist is. The other possibility is that they haven't put together the information about themselves to affirm the minor premise - they don't realize, or don't want to realize, that they affirm all of the views required to be an Objectivist.

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