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Dustin86

What if the "Big Atlas Catastrophe" Never Happens?

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It seems to be implied in Objectivism that there is going to be this giant catastrophe like in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged that is going to force human society to go from Subjectivism to Objectivism. I can personally remember during the Great Recession, whose worst years were approximately from 2008-10, at least some Objectivists saying "this is it! this is Atlas shrugging!" But that didn't happen. Here we are in 2016, the world got back on its feet and "Subjectivism" has kept on rolling.

Also, the "doers" and "makers" according to Objectivism, such as Bill Gates, are not "Going Galt". I cannot even think of one single major entrepreneur who has "Gone Galt" because they're fed up with the "Subjectivist society" (please correct me if I'm wrong).

So my question is what happens if this big catastrophe that is supposed to force society to become Objectivist never indeed happens?

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3 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

It seems to be implied in Objectivism that there is going to be this giant catastrophe like in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged that is going to force human society to go from Subjectivism to Objectivism.

I don't think it is implied in Objectivism even if it was depicted in  Atlas Shrugged. In fact, even the novel did not do much in that regard. Yes, it has that as a bit of a "happy ending", but there's no believable bridge between the collapsing society it depicts in far more detail and then this finale of a return. Just the author's wishful thinking that living happily ever after in Galt's Gulch was unsatisfactory.

I could be forgetting something that Rand said elsewhere regarding a collapse being a favorable pre-condition, but that would not be Objectivism, the philosophy. You're right that some Objectivists think that a collapse of society would be a good thing: wiping away the old to make space for the new; but, they're terribly wrong. A collapse is a bad thing, both while it is happening, and because of the likely aftermath. To think that a post-collapse society will somehow see the folly of its ways and support individual rights is worse than wishful thinking: it is the opposite of what is likely.
 

In general, the way to approach the subject is to study the history of actual past collapses and major depressions. 

Edited by softwareNerd

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9 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

I don't think it is implied in Objectivism even if it was depicted in  Atlas Shrugged. In fact, even the novel did not do much in that regard. Yes, it has that as a bit of a "happy ending", but there's no believable bridge between the collapsing society it depicts in far more detail and then this finale of a return. Just the author's wishful thinking that living happily ever after in Galt's Gulch was unsatisfactory.

I could be forgetting something that Rand said elsewhere regarding a collapse being a favorable pre-condition, but that would not be Objectivism, the philosophy. You're right that some Objectivists think that a collapse of society would be a good thing: wiping away the old to make space for the new; but, they're terribly wrong. A collapse is a bad thing, both while it is happening, and because of the likely aftermath. To think that a post-collapse society will somehow see the folly of its ways and support individual rights is worse than wishful thinking: it is the opposite of what is likely.
 

In general, the way to approach the subject is to study the history of actual past collapses and major depressions. 

Ok but then that begs the question, if Subjectivists are supposedly living in denial of objective reality, which according to Objectivism they are, then a collapse of our society, which is Subjectivist according to Objectivists, would seem to be inevitable. If this collapse never happens, then doesn't that prove that Subjectivism is at least workable if not outright true.

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1 hour ago, Dustin86 said:

Ok but then that begs the question, if Subjectivists are supposedly living in denial of objective reality, which according to Objectivism they are, then a collapse of our society, which is Subjectivist according to Objectivists, would seem to be inevitable. If this collapse never happens, then doesn't that prove that Subjectivism is at least workable if not outright true.

I would not use the terms "subjectivist" and "objectivist" here, but -- more broadly -- there's a lot of irrationality in the world... all sorts of forms. Does that mean the world will collapse? No; after all there's this guy who goes to church on Sunday and thinks prayer can get things done; but on 5 days of the week he is fixing cars at his job, and appears fairly rational at that task.

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35 minutes ago, Nicky said:

They still had names though, right?

Among my self-identifying Objectivist FB "friends", and their friends, there are a few who will occasionally say good things about societal collapse. One could argue that they're non Objectivist anarchists, even if they don't know it, but they're there. I hope they're a small minority. 

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sNerd, the original title of Atlas Shrugged was "The Strike". The book is clearly about what supposedly happens when "the men of the mind" go on strike. The book clearly portrays a societal collapse when "the men of the mind" go on strike.

sNerd, now I'm starting to think there's something to this. North Korea produces next to nothing of value. If North Korea stopped receiving aid from China, America, etc., then North Korea would collapse.

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Dustin86, Yes, in Atlas, Rand wanted to demonstrate the importance of the mind. So, she create a story where the mind was taken out of the equation, and showed that this would lead to collapse. In North Korea, the mind has been taken out of the equation by the application of force, as happened to a large extent in Mao's China and Stalin's Russia too. 

But, I'm not sure how your last post relates to your opening post. Objectivism does not posit that the mind will be taken out of the equation. Objectivism is a philosophy, not a set of predictions about the future. Objectivism, as a philosophy, can say that if you take the mind out of the equation, then XYZ will follow; but, it would not attempt to predict whether people will choose to take the mind out of the equation and to what extent. 

We should hope we do not go down the path of collapse that is North Korea. never under estimate the degree of collapse that a tyrant is willing to allow inside his country, and the amount of desolation before the country can actually hit its nadir. Sure, there's a light at the end of that tunnel, but many will die before we get there. And, more importantly, it isn't the light of unbridled freedom. At best, the reaction will be some type of democracy that will be pretty bad anyhow.

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Interesting conversation...

In some respects, Dustin, we catch a glimpse of "the collapse" when a natural disaster disrupts communication, transportation and medical care.  Nature Shrugs, perhaps?  At those moments,  cut off from their normal routine, effected populations tend to pull together to weather the storm rather than collapse into a mindless existence.

One of the  things that bothered me about Atlas Shrugged, was the premise that a significant number of intellectuals would act in concert to pull the plug as they did, effecting the lives even of those who appreciated their social contribution. Of course a work of fiction creates a scenario to make a point, that being the utter dependence looters have on individuals of worth to provide for their existence.

In reality, I think there will always remain a more significant number of Eddie Willers who will continue to work with whatever remains to rebuild a normal life for themselves and their neighbors; to not let go of what they know is the correct way to live.  At least I tend to remain optimistic that that remains more possible than the alternative.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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On September 5, 2016 at 5:47 AM, softwareNerd said:

Among my self-identifying Objectivist FB "friends", and their friends, there are a few who will occasionally say good things about societal collapse. One could argue that they're non Objectivist anarchists, even if they don't know it, but they're there. I hope they're a small minority. 

Since positive political change is unlikely, some of us would just like to see the people who brought about the current state of affairs get it in the neck. A good crisis would thoroughly discredit the incumbent politicians and bureaucrats and potentially open up peoples' minds to liberty ideas.

Edited by happiness

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6 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

... the recent "great recession", Bush et al got most of the blame. We got 8 years of Obama.

Adding ... along with Bush, the GOP lost their house majority late in Bush's term, and the Democrats continued to hold the majority for the start of Obama's term. That's when Obamacare went through. So, the crisis of the great recession (with other factors) brought us Obamacare.

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11 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

This assertion is not backed by facts. The 1929 depression had people up in arms. Their solution was FDR. In the recent "great recession", Bush et al got most of the blame. We got 8 years of Obama. Now, the 8 years of wallowing has turned many people against Obama and they're looking to Trump. Go back in history and you find Germany in severe crisis -- hyperinflation that basically wiped out all debt, the French re-taking parts of Germany between the two wars. People were anxious and turned to Hitler. 

Assertions like this are baseless unless you can provide counter-examples from history. Without that, it is like saying "if I heat water, maybe it will freeze".

The key flaw is thinking that politicians and the "elite" classes are the real problem. In fact, your average voter is the kernel of the problem. He only gets the politicians he deserves.

I don't dispute or misunderstand anything you wrote here, and i'm not saying a crisis under the tenure of Democrats will automatically cause people embrace liberty, only that it will hopefully discredit the left, including authorities like central bankers and open people up to considering radical pro-liberty ideas in the long term. Is there an imminent danger that Americans will turn to a proverbial man on a white horse? Maybe, but as Peikoff noted in his book, Americans are still much more rational than Wiemar Germans. 

Regardless, what I was really getting at in my last post is that a financial crisis would bring richly deserved justice upon a lot of people. Those of you whose lives haven't been as badly and directly affected as mine maybe can't appreciate this, but not having been so lucky myself due to a health issue and healthcare policy, there are times when I would really just like to see some of the assholes driving that policy and gloating about their success get what's coming to them. For me, witnessing current politics is like watching the person who murdered your wife and kids get off on a technicality and walk free, and in my darker moments I say things like that I just want to see the sky fall on this country. 

Edited by happiness

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I understand the frustration of facing just such terrible choices; also, the emotion of fantasizing situations where we perish as long as our tormentors perish as well. I remember one of the most important things I got (second-hand) via Rand:

Quote

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." --  Reinhold Niebuhr

Acceptance is not easy when the things one is trying to accept are man-made and could be different. Yet, stepping back, and understanding the possibilities within one's lifetime, some man-made things might as well be metaphysical. Resentment against those who made the man-made problems can be paralyzing. It may not be easy to get beyond it, but that's what one needs to do. It is paralysis in being demotivating, and it also becomes a crutch, as in "I cannot do XYZ, because of those evil ones". 

In his lecture "Understanding Objectivism", Peikoff speaks of people who give up on Objectivism because it depresses them when they see so much more clearly what is wrong with the world, understand that there are actually good known solutions, but realize it ain't going to change anyway. Imagine you learn the secrets of holy grail: the secret to happiness and long life. But, imagine you can only speak Aramaic, and can never learn any other language, and nobody else can learn Aramaic. It's like a Greek tragedy, and it would be natural to wonder: is ignorance bliss?

Knowledge is a good thing, but one has to figure out how to stop it from being debilitating. Somehow, one has to understand "this is how things are going to be in my lifetime", and one has to reach a level of comfort with this: perhaps a complete comfort would be a bad thing, but enough comfort to let it be mostly an element in the background. 

Within the most likely scenarios going forward, most Americans will have the ability and opportunity to live comfortable, happy lives that will remain the envy of at least half the world. The real tragedy would be to starve oneself amidst a great buffet because the meal could be so much better.


 

BTW, I don't see any evidence for the following.

1 hour ago, happiness said:

... , but as Peikoff noted in his book, Americans are still much more rational than Wiemar Germans. 

 

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On 9/4/2016 at 11:25 AM, softwareNerd said:

I could be forgetting something that Rand said elsewhere regarding a collapse being a favorable pre-condition,

There are many statements scattered throughout Rand's works talking about collapse as something that will happen as a result of societal "Subjectivism". One example that comes immediately to mind is from "Philosophy, Who Needs It?", in which Ayn Rand writes:

Quote

"Justice does exist in the world, whether people choose to practice it or not. The men of ability are being avenged. The avenger is reality. Its weapon is slow, silent, invisible, and men perceive it only by its consequences—by the gutted ruins and the moans of agony it leaves in its wake. The name of the weapon is: inflation." (Emphasis mine - Dustin)

Ayn Rand does not call it "a favorable precondition", but that's not the thrust of what I'm trying to say.

To her, "reality", namely collapse, is the avenger of "the men of the mind". This theme is very clear in Atlas Shrugged, and is scattered throughout her other works as well.

The thrust of what I'm saying is what if these prophecies about ruin on account of "Subjectivism" never come true? What if "reality" does not "avenge" "the men of the mind"?

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37 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

...  The thrust of what I'm saying is what if these prophecies about ruin on account of "Subjectivism" never come true? What if "reality" does not "avenge" "the men of the mind"?

Then they will avenge themselves by understanding and exercising what control they have under the circumstances.

I'm reluctant to qualify Donald Trump as, "a man of the mind", but witness the effect he's had by out playing the Republican party.  Woud that he could have the same effect on the Democrats, we might begin to see the emergence of intelligent political leadership. As it is, he's transformed the political landscape into a reality show, which was absolutely his intention.

There are better historical examples of men of character having a more positive political effect. The optimist will always try to rebuild what the jackass has kicked down.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Dustin86, consider this passage from:

The Ayn Rand Letter
Vol. III, No. 10  February 11, 1974
Philosophical Detection--Part II

Observe that the history of philosophy reproduces—in slow motion, on a macrocosmic screen—the workings of ideas in an individual man's mind. A man who has accepted false premises is free to reject them, but until and unless he does, they do not lie still in his mind, they grow without his conscious participation and reach their ultimate logical conclusions. A similar process takes place in a culture: if the false premises of an influential philosopher are not challenged, generations of his followers—acting as the culture's subconscious—milk them down to their ultimate consequences.

Volition is the unpredictable variable. I think of this passage as a summation of the law of causality applied to ideas held by volition. If the "men of the mind" see it coming, they might be able to get out of the way. Surely there were men in Soviet Russia, Hitler's Germany, and under other tyrannical regimes that saw what was going on around them yet were unable to escape, while others did escape.

Slow motion applies to deterioration of conditions, as well as implementing ideas that move toward more favorable conditions. To most people, the role of philosophy is "subliminal" at best. They see the events going on around them and attribute the macrocosmic explanation(s) to the likes of God(s), fate, karma, etc., ne'er to connect these as the false products of their own implicitly held philosophy. These are the people who comprise the "culture's subconscious".

So are the prophesies, as you call them, a false product of an implicitly held philosophy, or the subtle observations of a keen mind articulated in such a way to be grasped by those seeking to integrate their own understanding of reality?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

... what if these prophecies about ruin on account of "Subjectivism" never come true? What if "reality" does not "avenge" "the men of the mind"?

I hope they don't come true. What if they don't? That's a good thing. Why would anyone want society to collapse, except in a depressed state and contemplating something of a suicide pact.

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2 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

The thrust of what I'm saying is what if these prophecies about ruin on account of "Subjectivism" never come true? What if "reality" does not "avenge" "the men of the mind"?

My short answer: Even better.

If Western Civilization never collapses, then life goes on. The continuance of current social norms will very likely change. And it is very likely that independence of judgement, personal integrity, intellectual honesty, a definitive sense of justice, productiveness, and fulfillment through achievement as virtues will become normal, as opposed to the "virtues" of rebellion for the sake of rebellion, displays of material possession, and a sense of pride derived from knowing how to "game the system." 

I wouldn't expect to see these virtues rise to the standard of normal in my lifetime, but given time, the heirs of Western Civilization will learn the necessity of properly dealing with reality, even if many cling to their religious or altruistic ("subjectivist," if you wish) beliefs. Whether or not they recognize these virtues as associated with Objectivism or not is as immaterial as understanding the origins of Christmas. As an optimist, I believe this will be the ultimate outcome, whether here on Earth, or somewhere out in a future extraterrestrial colony of humans. The re-discovery of reason is inevitable so long has even a small group of people survive a catastrophic disaster. Proceeding on the premise that no such disaster happens only means that the enlightenment of individuals, and the gradual effects, will result in a second Renaissance all that much sooner.

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3 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

The thrust of what I'm saying is what if these prophecies about ruin on account of "Subjectivism" never come true? What if "reality" does not "avenge" "the men of the mind"?

It's more like predicting that to the extent people are irrational, there will be destruction. Collapse of a society is not something we want, but the good who are unfortunately destroyed will be metaphorically avenged at least. The bad will perish in the long-run - or be harmed by their irrational acts. They won't escape reality.

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In the light of the responses since this post, my statements looked pretty dark to me. Let me augment them with the following:

The history of philosophy1,2, has been a pendulum swinging between skepticism and rationalism, both more loosely considered variants of subjectivism. Until now, there has not been as insightful a case for philosophy as an "unmoved mover" as Rand has developed. When the culture rejects the current trend ebbing toward ever deeper skepticism, the groundwork for an alternative to what traditional rationalism has offered provides a metaphoric "the road less taken" in the spirit of Robert Frost's poem considered loosely as a nominalism styled aspect.

1.Founders of Western Philosophy: Thales to Hume
2.Modern Philosophy: Kant to the Present
Both of these courses are currently available free at the ARI Campus at this time.

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On 10/10/2016 at 4:10 PM, happiness said:

... in my darker moments I say things like that I just want to see the sky fall on this country. 

As do I. It's important to remember that the sky would fall on everyone, though - including us. 

 

On 9/4/2016 at 6:53 AM, Dustin86 said:

Also, the "doers" and "makers" according to Objectivism, such as Bill Gates, are not "Going Galt". I cannot even think of one single major entrepreneur who has "Gone Galt" because they're fed up with the "Subjectivist society" (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Joseph Nacchio, off the top of my head.

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