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Jon Southall

Future of Objectivism

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I am genuinely interested to know what your views are on the future of Objectivism.

There are different ways you could go about answering this; as long as it is constructive you can answer it how you choose. 

For some examples, your focus might be the practical application of the philosophy to how you live your life. It might be more to do with expanding the influence of Objectivism. It might be creating a new community.

To what extent do you think its possible in your lifetime?

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As far as practical applications to my individual life, Objectivism forms a basis that informs everything I do, even if I hardly ever think about Objectivism as such. If not for Objectivism, I would likely have done many similar things in many of the same ways, but my approach would have likely been a wee less rational, a wee less integrated and a wee less happy.

As for impact on broad society: I think that -- within my lifetime (lets say 25 or 30 years), there will be no discernible impact. Even if it grows somewhat, the impact will be near zero. 

On communities, I don't think there'll be any commune-like place, but there will likely be a couple of cities with large and active communities of Objectivist who are easy to get along with. What I mean is: communities (often not even organized, just clusters of groups of friends) that exist primarily to fulfill a social function, and are a bit like the social groups in some church's where being a member does not involve significant doctrinal tests and conversations, but are primarily social... yet, where the members want to socialize within a group that shares a philosophy. A few cities have such groups already, and I assume that will be the case in the future too.

Edited by softwareNerd

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1 hour ago, softwareNerd said:

As for impact on broad society: I think that -- within my lifetime (lets say 25 or 30 years), there will be no discernible impact. Even if it grows somewhat, the impact will be near zero. 

I think that Ayn Rand has had a very measurable impact on the U.S. and the world.  There are many think-tanks that DO have impacts on legislation, etc.  But, I have mixed opinions regarding "Objectivism" in general.

On the one hand, I can appreciate persons such as Leonard Peikoff trying to keep Objectivism from breaking apart into splinter-groups, where each one claims to "really know" what Ayn Rand "really meant".  Where I differ from Rand in posts, I try to make very clear.

But, the fact that Rand claimed that she owed no philosophical debt to anyone other than Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas - coupled with the desire to avoid splinter-groups - has kept Objectivism isolated from the broader academic community, which means that there have been no real advances in the philosophy of Objectivism since her death.  I do believe that many academics are influenced by Rand, but know that if they reference her in their papers, they would probably not get published or taken seriously.  This has changed in a positive direction over the decades, but not by very much.  Of course, much of that is due to the Left-Leaning nature of modern academia.

I personally think that Rand's epistemology was very much influenced by William James - but James has been repeatedly slammed by Objectivists  (such as Tara Smith) -- so that there is little to no chance that Objectivism can be seen as a continuation of James' work in psychology - irrespective of his Pragmatism or Radical Empiricism.  I do see that Binswanger has incorporated some work of J.J. Gibson into his his book How We Know, regarding perception, but he does so almost apologetically, and only in a footnote does Binswanger explains how he differs from Rand.  (Personally I don't see that Binswanger "differs" from Rand due to the direct James, E.B. Holt, Gibson, Pierson connection.) 

This desire to regard Rand as "unique" as though she sprang from the forehead of Zeus with a fully formed philosophy has done more to isolate Objectivism than anything.

Edit:  Kelley is a good example.  He was a student of Rorty, who was very much influenced by Dewey - and his "break" with Objectivism was an unnecessary mess and laid the ground rules for anyone differing from Rand.  So to is the relationship with Libertarians - although that has softened a bit, I believe, over the years.

Edit 2: And there was the McCaskey "break" regarding induction.  Again, pointless, imho.

Edited by New Buddha
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7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

I think that Ayn Rand has had a very measurable impact on the U.S. and the world.  

Yes. I think her impact on the Reagan/Thatcher generation of politically-active intellectuals is underestimated.

7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

But, the fact that Rand claimed that she owed no philosophical debt to anyone other than Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas ...

That's an example of some Objectivist taking Rand too literally. Writers sometimes wax poetic to make a point. But, this type of interpretation is fading and will be negligible in the next generation of Objectivist scholars (probably already the case for those in the "young professor" age group.) So, the integration will come: as long as there's a core body of Objectivist scholar chipping away at the marble. There's probably some critical mass of scholars needed to keep it alive in that sense, but we're probably speaking in the tens rather than the hundreds.

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12 hours ago, New Buddha said:

But, the fact that Rand claimed that she owed no philosophical debt to anyone other than Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas

Actually, it was only Aristotle. I don't think she felt indebted to Aquinas, but acknowledged that he revived Aristotle's ideas and helped bring the West out of the Dark Ages. She also acknowledged other great thinkers, like John Locke and the Founding Fathers of America. But her real debt, at the fundamental levels of thought, was always to Aristotle. It's true that this fact isolates her philosophy from most of the Academic world, which has a Platonic, Kantian base. But let's not separate fact from value here. The fact of Objectivism's relative isolation does not mean that "there have been no real advances in the philosophy." It simply means that the philosophy is not as widespread or influential as others. But there are Objectivist thinkers making advances and writing books purporting to discover new things based on Rand's ideas. That's a fact. 

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13 hours ago, New Buddha said:

This desire to regard Rand as "unique" as though she sprang from the forehead of Zeus with a fully formed philosophy has done more to isolate Objectivism than anything.

This is absurd, and only further reveals your spiteful animosity to Objectivism as a distinctive philosophy in the history of man. In no sense does any Objectivist, including Ayn Rand herself, believe that she and her philosophy emerged full-grown and god-like from nothing. You sound like the liberal academics who hate Objectivism.

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5 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Actually, it was only Aristotle. I don't think she felt indebted to Aquinas, but acknowledged that he revived Aristotle's ideas and helped bring the West out of the Dark Ages.

In a letter to a Catholic priest, she is recorded as having written:

However, I regard Aquinas as the greatest philosopher next to Aristotle, in the purely philosophical, not theological, aspects of his work.

18 hours ago, New Buddha said:

I personally think that Rand's epistemology was very much influenced by William James - but James has been repeatedly slammed by Objectivists  (such as Tara Smith) -- so that there is little to no chance that Objectivism can be seen as a continuation of James' work in psychology - irrespective of his Pragmatism or Radical Empiricism.

Andrew Bernstein in his course What Everyone Can Do to Promote Freedom, gives William James positive credit for his work in the Inventive Age on psychology, citing his wealth of knowledge written on the subject, along with the extensiveness of his research laboratories.

 

On 12/7/2016 at 9:12 AM, Jon Southall said:

I am genuinely interested to know what your views are on the future of Objectivism.

The most encouraging elements are the developments in understanding just what Ayn Rand bequeathed us. Take The Foundations of the Renaissance by Andrew Lewis. The approach to this series was inspired by The Ominous Parallels. Andrew examines the events from ancient Greece to the Renaissance to isolate why Aristotle did not catch on then, and can that reasoning be applied to Ayn Rand now. How did one of the mystery cults gain such a foothold, and what factors, other than Augustine, fueled its entrenchment. The Ominous Parallels examined what factors contributed to the nihilism, Foundations of the Renaissance, what factors dragged man down into and what factors lifted man up from the dark ages.

Andrew Bernstein, in the freedom course, said if a person reads The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and still doesn't get it, what can we add that Ayn Rand didn't already say. The rest of his course argues for familiarizing yourself with those philosophic facts and integrating them with some economic facts from Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson and the model of America that Miss Rand used for Galt's Gulch that he presents in The Capitalist Manifesto addressing numerous errors that the historians have made about the "gilded age" with facts he uncovered about the Inventive Age.

The future of Objectivism will be determined by those who take philosophy seriously. The core literature of Objectivism recognizes this fact explicitly. Reality is on their side.

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16 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Andrew Bernstein in his course What Everyone Can Do to Promote Freedom, gives William James positive credit for his work in the Inventive Age on psychology, citing his wealth of knowledge written on the subject, along with the extensiveness of his research laboratories.

Thanks for the link!

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29 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Thanks for the link!

It is about a one to maybe a three minute aside tossed in with innovations in music and literature. (All in all, about the humanities, approximately ten minutes of an hour presentation.) [You're welcome.]

Edited by dream_weaver

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Capitalism isn't Ayn Rand's invention, true, and she doesn't deserve credit for all the benefits of capitalism. Capitalism has been around before her, and would've been around without her, in some form. Not just in the US, but in the whole non-communist world.

That said, Rand deserves credit for her moral defense of capitalism, and helping clarify what capitalism is and what it isn't, to some extent, in the minds of her small number of, but often influential, followers.

Some of those followers have made her influence pretty wide spread. Not among the masses that make up the nations of the world (that's a cultural victory that is yet to be won), but behind the scenes. You have to remember, for instance, that capitalism in Asia isn't really due to nations like SK, Taiwan, Thailand, etc. developing it on their own. The work ethic and sense of justice ingrained in local cultures was key to the spectacular economic growth once capitalism was introduced, sure, but the smooth, efficient introduction of capitalism is due to western influence and constant, careful US guidance. And Alan Greenspan, the man sitting at the center of the western economic system for several decades, during the development of the Asian "tiger" economies, NAFTA, ASEAN, the European Union, etc. was a student of Ayn Rand's. As were, I'm sure, many others in the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations, and probably even in the Thatcher, Major, Kohl, etc. administrations.

These were the people who guided the world towards globalization (which is just a moniker for global capitalism), and built a world where there's nothing anti-capitalists on the left or right (whether they're named Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson or even Alexis Tsirpas, as Greece so painfully realized) can do to roll it back. And, by their own accounts, they owe an intellectual debt to Ayn Rand. Most have not integrated her entire philosophy, and they compromised even on the parts they did pay attention to, but they still brought about unprecedented prosperity, and they did it by spreading capitalism and free trade.

Edited by Nicky
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5 minutes ago, Nicky said:

And the man sitting at the center of the western economic system for several decades, during the development of the Asian "tiger" economies and the European Union was a student of Ayn Rand's.

Who was he?

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Just now, softwareNerd said:

Who was he?

You're probably asking sarcastically, but you're right, I shouldn't speak in riddles. I meant Greenspan. I'll edit my post.

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1 minute ago, Nicky said:

You're probably asking sarcastically, but you're right, I shouldn't speak in riddles. I meant Greenspan. I'll edit my post.

No, actually I misread your sentence (don't ask how) as "the man sitting at the center of Eastern economies" and was wondering if there was major influential guy in Taiwan or China who had been inspired by Rand. Thanks for the reply.

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Ayn Rand spoke of the 'child prodigy speed' with which the world had developed when man adopted and defended the rational rights of man. 

1776-1943 = 167 years

1943 the publishing of the Fountainhead

1943-2016 = 73 years. 

How much more has changed since she came onto the intellectual scene, and how much can be attributed to her influence?  It seems impossible to quantify without being able to see how the world would have developed without her. 

How much has she affected your own life personally?  Can you project that difference onto the world?  She didn't cause each rational mans mind to function, but she defended him, told him he didn't need permission, offered illuminating examples of what is possible in her work and in her person. 

Ayn Rand's life is at the curving transition in this chart. 

World population growth rate.jpg

How many Objectivist's are bold enough to give her credit? 

Can this chart measure human success? 

What would a chart depicting the increase of rational minds look like? 

 

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9 hours ago, Tenderlysharp said:

How many Objectivist's are bold enough to give her credit? 

Can this chart measure human success? 

I don't think Ayn Rand was responsible for the dramatic increase in world population which started in the 1900's. The chart has a couple of issues. Firstly, it should stop at today if it is really trying to make a point about causation; it should not extrapolate to 2050.

The second is a question of interpretation. The chart shows world population shooting up and might leave one with an impression that there is some causal factor that has been rising. This interpretation would be wrong. What happened was a single causal factor: call it "live growing kids per mom". During the mid 1900's improvements in medicine and agriculture meant less kids died in childbirth and more continued to live. As a result, the growth rate in population rose.

However, the growth rate did not continue to rise. Instead, people figured out they did not have to "budget" so many "spare" kids into their plans. And, as luck would have it, birth control arrived on the scene to help them make these decisions. Governments in China and India also advocated (and forced) birth control. Therefore, in the 1970's this higher growth rate began to slow. In other words, the causative factor began to slow not rise; but, since it was still above the pre-1900 level, the overall population continued to grow.  (Look at the red-line in the chart below.)

updated-World-Population-Growth-1750-210

 

Added: Googling a bit, I found a site that tried to attribute world-population increases to various people (typically scientists). Can't vouch for it, of course, but it looks like a promising start if you wish to understand the causality.

 

The reason I responded as comprehensively as I could is because Objectivists need to watch out not to mis-attribute positive developments to Rand. It is not objective. And, non-Objectivists will pick up on that, reflecting badly on the underlying philosophy.

 

Edited by softwareNerd

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Thank you for the discussion so far.

I liked reading your reasoning for what might come next.

Some have looked at what Objectivism can be attributed with so far; interesting context but would be good to go further and explore where you think it is going.

Also in terms of not winning the cultural battle yet, is this something you would like to see happen? What do you think it might take? 

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Dow Jones Historical chart 1900s.jpg

It is interesting contemplating the Objective approach.  How the battle is won without triggering the irrationality of the opposition to even know what they are fighting. 

I take personal note again of 1943...

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One person's affect on the world can not be measured.  But the affect Ayn Rand has on the mind of man...  Whether the innovators of vaccines, inventions, farming equipment had ever heard her name or not, she inspired a friend, sibling, cousin, uncle, or artist to respond favorably upon those efforts. 

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I saw an interview of Rand where she stated, "It's not a matter of opinion, its a matter of life or death."  Objectivism gets into trouble mis-attributing anything on a large social scale.  I try to bring the issue, the ideas back to a personal scale.  How has she affected your life?

The use of 'We' is dangerous.  We don't want them to misunderstand us.  We don't want them to have any weapons to use against us.  It is a difficult perspective for me to see clearly. 

Does Objectivism have to wait 2400 years before the history books will be able to see clearly her influence on the development of the world?  

 

Edited by Tenderlysharp
grammar

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There are a few key factors in the dramatic population increase. First there was the industrial revolution, which increased the efficiency of human labor, enabling each human worker to produce more resources for consumption by more humans. The creation of America recognized inalienable individual rights, which led to the end of slavery as an accepted institution, which led to the unleashing of mankind's full potential as a unified rational species. The free market and focus on science led to many medical advances which saves lives and increases both lifespan and fertility periods. The American development of atomic weapons created a persuasive disincentive for aggressive nations to conduct massive ground wars which historically devastated whole continents. In fact, the A-bomb is probably the single biggest factor in the world's population increase since the 1950s. 

Edited by MisterSwig

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38 minutes ago, Tenderlysharp said:

How has she affected your life?

Rand freed my mind from the clutches of religious belief. I had a friend from India in high school who was a very smart atheist, but I didn't really understand him. I was stuck on the notion of an all-seeing God in the Protestant sense. Then I went to college and gravitated toward the campus Objectivist group. By then I was able to see my mistake in choosing faith over reason. I think it was because I always treated life and ideas seriously, which is a virtue I got from my parents. My mom used to correct my grammar at the dinner table. My dad and school principal spanked me when I acted badly or lied. My grandparents went to all of my ballgames. These sorts of things instilled the idea that life is a serious thing, and what you do and say matters very much. And when it came time to decide whether Rand was right, I took the endeavor seriously and refused to evade troubling facts about my own views. She taught me to be rational.

Edited by MisterSwig
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On 12/7/2016 at 9:12 AM, Jon Southall said:

For some examples, your focus might be the practical application of the philosophy to how you live your life. It might be more to do with expanding the influence of Objectivism. It might be creating a new community.

I don't think it will ever become a dominant force, at any point. But I don't think it matters. What matters is that however many great and heroic people there are, they would continue to be their best and attain the best in life. There may be ups and downs of political trends in liberty, yet that's not enough to stop an individual for their life.

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Once all of humanity has discovered reality and how to be objective and discovered what morality is as Ayn Rand has done, it will not be so much that Objectivism has finally exerted some kind of direct causal influence... in a sense Reality and the nature of Man themselves will take centre stage, they are the absolute, and the only reasons and ever constant causal forces for individuals to adopt a philosophy which is correct.

 In that sense Objectivism won't be the main cause (although it may help) for the correct philosophy eventually becoming dominant, Reality and the nature of Man will be the main causes.  

That said Rand and Objectivism will be credited with being the first discoverer and expression of that correct philosophy no matter how long it takes humanity to catch up.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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9 hours ago, Jon Southall said:

Thank you for the discussion so far.

I liked reading your reasoning for what might come next.

Some have looked at what Objectivism can be attributed with so far; interesting context but would be good to go further and explore where you think it is going.

Also in terms of not winning the cultural battle yet, is this something you would like to see happen? What do you think it might take? 

I would like to see more well recognized persons speak about the influence of Ayn Rand. Someone with celebrity status is more likely to draw attention among the younger audience. This would make it possible for a victory, whether major or minor, in the cultural battle.  Off hand, I can only think of a few that have made mention of Ayn Rand in a positive light: Neil Peart, (drummer for Rush), and Penn Jillette, (Los Vegas illusionist, and media star.) Perhaps there are others, but these are the only ones of which I know.

That being said, it would reinforce my optimism to see more people identifying themselves as atheist; I wish to see fewer people assuming that there must be some good in anyone who believes in any form of deity.

I wish to see more people acknowledging the rights of the individual, and positively acknowledging their own status as a minority of one, rather than demanding rights for a collective, of which they are a mere percentage. I seek the day when identity politics is consider passe. I wish to see more people say with conviction: "You damn right I'm looking out for myself!"

If, one day, more nations develop institutions allowing stability within their borders, it will likely be the result of reforming laws that stifle entrepreneurial activity. Greater economic stability would naturally lead to domestic and military stability. A true meritocracy would emerge, and more prosperity for those who've earned it. 

While this all seems a bit beyond the scope of my present-day vision, it doesn't do any harm to fantasize. But if this vision of the future does come about, I won't care it is called Objectivism, or merely a revision of good ole common sense. I can only suppose that some intelligent individuals will rediscover the 20th century writer who espoused the philosophy that respected the virtues of intellectual honesty and industrious action. And I hope they'll more than: "She was ahead of her times."

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