Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Brian

Why O'ism shouldn't be spelled with a capital 'O'.

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I had no idea where to put this post, so I decided to put it in the Basic Questions section. I am concerned when many people on this forum (and else where) go into lengthy detail on why Objectivism, properly, should be typed with a capitalized 'O' whenever someone makes this mistake. Granted, I type Objectivism with a capital 'O' due to force of habit - but I want to make the argument as to why it should be typed with an uncapitalized 'o'.

I think that Objectivism with a small 'o' is the highest compliment that one can pay Ayn Rand's system. We do not capitalize intrinsicism or subjectivism, do we? This is because they are accepted terms of understanding - look them up in the dictionary and one will see. If Ayn Rand has indeed discovered a third way of fundamental thinking (I do not have a problem giving Rand the credit for understanding this new way of systematically thinking), then to DISassociate the system from her exclusively and place it in its rightful category of legitimate thought immortalizes her right there with Plato and Aristotle. Before Ayn Rand, there was no explicit assertion by philosophers that objectivity was not only a standard, but a system. As far as I know, she is the first major thinker to raise the concept of 'objectivity' up to the ultimate abstract level (with the other two). Prior to Rand, 'objectivity' was something that was applied to abstract thought, not the basis of it.

With this given, can anyone convince me (and others) why it should be spelled with a capital 'O' - even though objectivism has been a word even before Ayn Rand came around? Furthermore, even if you beleive it should properly be spelled with a capital 'O', why do you take it as a personal insult when someone does not spell it to your liking? Personally, I am indifferent when I read someone's spelling of the word - to me, they are the same.

Best premises,

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those various isms shouldn't be capitalized, since they refer to vague classes of ideas and not a single philosophy. Spelling Objectivism as a proper name gives it a definite reference, and indicates that it is well-defined. Compare "liberal" which is a vague description of a lot of different ideas, and "Liberal" which refers to a member of a specific political party, same with "libertarian" and "Libertarian". In addition, "objectivism" refers to a completely unrelated philosophy of word meaning and "objectivist" can refer to a practicioner of an old literary school, so there cold be some confusion. In the context of contemporary philosophies, in referring to "objectivism" you're effectively saying "Objectivism, or something kind of like it". BTW I'm not personally insulted if you make the mistake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, David. You seem to have hit the nail right on the head, so to speak. I will have to think about this a little more.

Cheers! :)

--Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brian,

The problem is that the term "objectivism" with a small o existed before Rand defined her philosophy. It was used to define what Rand called "intrinsicism."

The difference between "Objectivism" and "objectivism" was discussed in a recent thread about the dictionary definition of "objectivism" which I started at:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...wtopic=2693&hl=

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many philosophical doctrines which can be classified as subjectivism or as intrinsicism (which is Ayn Rand's word for objectivism). There are vastly different and not necessarily related doctrines of subjectivism and intrinsicism in every branch of philosophy.

There is only one doctrine of Objectivism, and it pertains to all the primary branches of philosophy as one. It means Ayn Rand's philosophy.

If you want to identify which doctrines of philosophy you agree with, there are only two ways to specify Ayn Rand's. Either you can say Ayn Rand's Philosophy or you can say Objectivism. They are both equally specific and equally immutable, having the same referent. But identifying oneself as an objectivist is asking to be misunderstood.

Similarly, one can call oneself a subjectivist. And nobody will have any idea what specifically he means by that, or which of the vast field of individual subjectivist doctrines he agrees with. But if he says he agrees with Kant's philosophy, there is no longer a question what he means.

Objectivism spelled capitalized refers to a single philosophical doctrine. Objectivism spelled uncapitalized refers to a whole class of philosophical doctrines, none of which is Ayn Rand's philosophy.

It's not calling oneself an objectivist when one wants to express agreement with Ayn Rand's philosophy is an insult. Merely, it's incorrect, and it's asking for confusion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kant wasn't a subjectivist, he was an idealist (philosophically speaking).

Kant was most certainly a subjectivist, and many call him the father of modern subjectivism.

His expressly stated purpose was to save the morality of self-sacrifice, and he knew that in order to do so he had to denounce reason in favor of faith & emotion -- and he did exactly that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kant wasn't a subjectivist, he was an idealist (philosophically speaking).

As the term is sometimes used, doesn't "idealism" mean a belief that the basic nature of reality is ideational rather than material? Plato's ontology would be an example of this use, wouldn't it? The perfect ideas cause the imperfect material objects we see. (Perhaps Republic 517b sequel is an example, if not the best one.)

If that is what you mean by "idealist," why do you consider Kant an idealist? Which of his writings reveal him to be such? I am familiar only -- and only partly -- with Critique of Pure Reason. Does he in CPR reveal himself to be an idealist? If so, where?

Edited by BurgessLau

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kant was most certainly a subjectivist, and many call him the father of modern subjectivism.

My understanding is that "subjectivism" -- as the term was used by Ayn Rand -- names "the belief that reality is not a firm absolute, but a fluid plastic, indeterminate realm which can be altered, in whole or in part, by the consciousness of the perceiver -- i. e., by his feelings, his wishes or whims." ("Subjectivism," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 486, first excerpt, citing The Objectivist Newsletter, February, 1965, p. 7.) This is the metaphysical meaning of subjectivism.

The epistemological meaning follows from the metaphysical: To know reality (which we created) -- that is, facts -- we need only look inside at our ideas or feelings, as a guide. (The distinction between the metaphysical and epistemological meanings comes from Leonard Peikoff (working under the exacting editorship of Ayn Rand), Ominous Parallels, p. 58 (hardcover) and p. 62 (softcover).

If either usage is what you mean by subjectivism, what is the evidence -- from Kant's own writings -- that Kant was a subjectivist, either metaphysically or epistemologically or both?

I have "read" several of Kant's writings, but I am familiar only with Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and then only partly. What passage in CPR proves that Kant was a subjectivist, either metaphysically or epistemologically?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have "read" several of Kant's writings, but I am familiar only with Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and then only partly. What passage in CPR proves that Kant was a subjectivist, either metaphysically or epistemologically?

I don't have CPR, but look at the title of the book. What does it imply? What alternatives are available? There is only one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't have CPR, but look at the title of the book.  What does it imply?  What alternatives are available?  There is only one.

I am bewildered by your comment above. Could you elaborate?

Are you saying that you can draw inferences about a philosopher's epistemology from examining an English translation of a German title of a text that is hundreds of pages long?

If that is what you are saying, then I am very interested in learning your method. It will save me enormous amounts of time. I won't have to read books. I need only look for implications in the titles.

Further, when you say "alternatives," to what are you referring? Alternatives to doing a critique? Alternatives to pure reason? Alternatives to reason?

If you mean any of these, then how do you conclude that the only alternative is subjectivism -- rather than intrinsicism or skepticism, for example?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My understanding is that "subjectivism" -- as the term was used by Ayn Rand -- names "the belief that reality is not a firm absolute, but a fluid plastic, indeterminate realm which can be altered, in whole or in part, by the consciousness of the perceiver -- i. e., by his feelings, his wishes or whims." ("Subjectivism," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 486, first excerpt, citing The Objectivist Newsletter, February, 1965, p. 7.) This is the metaphysical meaning of subjectivism.

This is something I was wondering about. Which major philosophers would actually qualify as subjectivists by this definition?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Burgess, I am a little vague on what modern philosophers call Kant. I first wanted to say objective (little 'o'), but then that's not often used, so I opted for idealist. The way I understand this term, it has a broader meaning than merely Plato's metaphysics. After all if it were that narrow, no modern philosopher could be called that, whereas the term came into usage precisely in modern times, not ancient. I think someone like Descartes is an idealist, vs Hume who definitely is not. Kant could qualify also, as I'll try to explain in my response to Tom.

Kant was most certainly a subjectivist, and many call him the father of modern subjectivism.

His expressly stated purpose was to save the morality of self-sacrifice, and he knew that in order to do so he had to denounce reason in favor of faith & emotion -- and he did exactly that.

Again, this is another thread where I completely miss your logic. How does subjectivism stem from rejection of reason? Does that mean that the Christians are all subjectivists? Quite the contrary, they are one of the few remnants of the objective theory of ethics left anywhere, and are the opposite of subjectivists.

What Kant did was accuse all consciousness of distortion, by the fact that it perceives. Not only human, but any consciousness at all, consciousness as such, is necessarily doomed to live in its own private little world, forever incapable of reaching outside. So things like "time" and "space" don't exist out there in the real world, nor can we ever gain a glimpse of the outer world, because our consciousness is by nature incapable of it. Things like "time" and "space" are merely our categories of thinking, ways in which our primitive minds distort the perception of the real world, categories which we must impose on reality in order for it to be comprehensible to us. BUT, and here's the 'objective' part of his philosophy - all humans do this distortion and imposition of categories upon the real world. It is an objective fact in his philosophy (we all must do it, necessarily), stemming from the objective status of our futile consciousness (we all have it) and the objective status of human nature (we all have it). So how is this idealism? Well the real world exists, though it is inaccessible to us using regular means; we also exist, and our human nature is objective, therefore ethics are objective. How do we gain understanding of this real world, if not by consciousness and reason? Faith. What is the real world? God.

Kant created this monster in order to fight back against Hume, who was a subjectivist.

To see further support for what I'm saying here, look at Kant's most famous student, Hegel. Was he anything if not idealist? Then his student, Marx, came along and tried combined idealism with subjectivism (materialism), and... well it went even more downhill from there.

Edited by Free Capitalist

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is something I was wondering about. Which major philosophers would actually qualify as subjectivists by this definition?

Hal, I too have wondered who of the major -- or even minor -- philosophers would qualify for being a metaphysical subjectivist. I cannot think of a single instance. However, my knowledge of the history of philosophy is very limited both in the number of philosophers I have studied and in the depth of studying each one.

Here is one thought to consider as a possibility: No philosopher who was openly and consistently a metaphysical subjectivist could become a major philosopher. He would be pitied or locked up. The bad major philosophers, perhaps, became major because they managed to mix some "good" elements in with the bad (or merely mistaken). Plato is the classic example. He was definitely an idealist in his explicit philosophy -- and very much concerned with the perceptible world.

Another thought, based only on limited personal observation: There are individuals I have met who are nonphilosophers but their personal philosophy, so to speak is, in part, metaphysical subjectivism. One classic example is the belief of one woman I met that, if she "visualized" an open parking space near her office in the morning, it would be there. She said she had proof that it worked, because sometimes the space was open. (When the visualizing didn't work, it was, she said, because she wasn't trying hard enough.) That really is part of her philosophy, as a principle. I have heard similar things from various guru types over the years.

One last conjecture. There is a bit of evidence that Kant was, in part, a metaphysical subjectivist. Note two things (from Critique of Pure Reason). First, Kant is very open about using need-based arguments: We need idea X, therefore it has to be true. Second, I see hints that Kant is suggesting that the "existence" of noumena fits the need to have some explanation of appearances. Nothing can have an appearance unless something exists behind the appearance. We don't know that noumena (which are somehow behind appearances) exist, but we need them to exist, therefore they do exist. What isn't clear to me is whether this is metaphysical subjectivism or epistemological subjectivism or some combination of the two.

Again, these points are mostly conjectures, at this point, and I am not ready to document anything. I offer all these comments only as grist for the mill: Things to keep in mind while reading Critique of Pure Reason.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am bewildered by your comment above. Could you elaborate?

I mean when you boil it all down, there are only two (2) methods of making a choice, either by reason or by emotion. There are no other alternatives.

Intrinsicism is a non-epistemology in which one need not seek to gain knowledge, it will imprinted upon you passively. How can one accept this view? Because you feel it. There is no evidence to support this idea and plenty to contradict it.

Skepticism is the theory that knowledge of reality is impossible by any means. How can one support this view? Only through emotion. Etc, etc.

So, skepticism and intrinsicism are two types of errors made by people who are actually (but may not admit to being) subjectivists.

Dr. Peikoff elaborates more on this very well in OPAR in the section "Mysticism and Skepticism as Denials of Reason". (Note that mysticism is the only way to implement intrinsicism).

Edited by TomL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How does subjectivism stem from rejection of reason?

By means of "there's no other way to do it". See the section "Reason as Man's only Means of Knowledge" in OPAR.

Does that mean that the Christians are all subjectivists? Quite the contrary, they are one of the few remnants of the objective theory of ethics left anywhere, and are the opposite of subjectivists.

Perhaps we are working with different definitions here. Christians are most definitely subjectivists. Ask them how they know God exists, and tell me the answer is not, at its core, subjectivist.

Edited by TomL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Perhaps we are working with different definitions here.  Christians are most definitely subjectivists.  Ask them how they know God exists, and tell me the answer is not, at its core, subjectivist.

Or, if you asked them how the universe was created, they would tell you that reality is subjective to the consciousness of God.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a fascinating discussion. Mostly I have just enjoyed reading, but I did want to add a little.

An acquaintance of mine is a professor of philosophy & I have conversed with him several times about the "current day take" on Kant (& Hegel, etc.). Apparently Kant is often referred to as he was in some historical texts: a "transcendental idealist". This is supposedly because he was trying to answer Hume, reconcile rationalism & empiricism, & thereby "transcend" above both. Kant refers to his philosophy as Transcendental in CPR.

I have read Kant (CPR, & other works) which sure is not easy. Sometimes it seems like he is using ideas that could be subjectivism; other times intrinsicism. But his conception of a priori seems many times to mean "knowledge that has no basis in experience/observation". That seems quite intrinsic.

Of course my professor acqaintance (like many people) either doesn't know about or disregards Ayn Rand's re-evaluations of historically accepted terms & definitions. That makes it very difficult to converse about these ideas since I am approaching them from an Objectivist perspective.

I am only an amateur at technical philosophy so please correct me if I am off the mark on any of this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tom, I have noticed lately that you use definitions that you know are to be different from the person you're talking to, yet you don't ask for the other person's definitions, nor provide your own. So I'll have to take the first step: please define subjectivism. Christians have many wrong things wrong with them, but subjectivism is not one of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom, I have noticed lately that you use definitions that you know are to be different from the person you're talking to, yet you don't ask for the other person's definitions, nor provide your own. So I'll have to take the first step: please define subjectivism. Christians have many wrong things wrong with them, but subjectivism is not one of them.

Although that was addressed to TomL, I also think that Christians are subjectivists and I define the word as follows:

Subjectivism in regard to metaphysics means that the nature of reality is relative to consciousnesss (such as the consciousness of a supernatural "creator") instead of existing independently.

Subjectivism in regard to epistemology means that knowledge is derived from introspection (such as faith and prayer) instead of the consideration of the facts of reality in accordance with the rules of logic.

Subjectivism in regard to ethics means that good and bad are dependent on opinion (such as the commandment of God) instead of consideration of the facts of reality in accordance with identity.

The disagreement here may center around Christian ethics, and whether or not an action is "good" because God says it is, or if an action is good in itself and this is why God describes it as such.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tom, I have noticed lately that you use definitions that you know are to be different from the person you're talking to, yet you don't ask for the other person's definitions, nor provide your own. So I'll have to take the first step: please define subjectivism. Christians have many wrong things wrong with them, but subjectivism is not one of them.

"Subjectivism is the belief that reality is not a firm absolute, but a fluid, plastic, indeterminate realm which can be altered, in whole or in part, by the consciousness of the perceiver -- i.e., by his feelings, wishes, or whims." -- from Lexicon.

And that is -exactly- the purpose of God. In the Christian philosphy, the consciousness "God" takes the place of the perceiver (but not really, since there isn't one, actually), and it is this "superconsciousness" whose whims shape reality.

"Subjectivism, by contrast, is exemplified by Kant and John Dewey. It begins by advocating the primacy of consciousness -- of human consciousness." -- from OPAR, page 146 in the paperback edition, the section titled "Intrinsicism and Subjectivism as the Two Forms of Rejecting Objectivity".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Subjectivism is the belief that reality is not a firm absolute, but a fluid, plastic, indeterminate realm which can be altered, in whole or in part, by the consciousness of the perceiver -- i.e., by his feelings, wishes, or whims."  -- from Lexicon.

And that is -exactly- the purpose of God.  In the Christian philosphy, the consciousness "God" takes the place of the perceiver (but not really, since there isn't one, actually), and it is this "superconsciousness" whose whims shape reality.

"Subjectivism, by contrast, is exemplified by Kant and John Dewey.  It begins by advocating the primacy of consciousness -- of human consciousness." -- from OPAR, page 146 in the paperback edition, the section titled "Intrinsicism and Subjectivism as the Two Forms of Rejecting Objectivity".

Christians, however, do not believe that their consciousness can change reality. How, then, can they be considered subjectivists? Mystics, yes, but they do not believe that reality responds to the feelings, wishes or whims of a human consciousness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Christians, however, do not believe that their consciousness can change reality. How, then, can they be considered subjectivists?  Mystics, yes, but they do not believe that reality responds to the feelings, wishes or whims of a human consciousness.

That's correct- they don't think that their consciousness can directly change reality. However, they still think that reality is relative to consciousness (even if not their own). This qualifies them as subjectivists. They think that the nature of the universe is dependent on the will of a supernatural entity- as opposed to existing objectively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Besides, the Christians believe that God is objective, and that ethics (his edicts) are objective rules of morality. And even their epistemology is objective - how to know reality (God)? Faith. Christianity is objective, in a twisted and perverted sort of way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On topic to the thread title, off topic of this discussion right now:

I was looking on Encarta and it spells Objectivism with a small "o" in regard to Miss Rand's philosophy. So if anybody who looks searches Encarta to find out more about Objectivism will only find it spelled with a lower case "o".

Zak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×