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Laika

A Few Question from a Communist

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hey,

I've been a Communist for almost a decade, but have found myself on a sort of journey towards "recovering" from the experience of realising how fragile and fallible human beings are after coming to terms with the reality of violence and atrocity in Communist countries. That's sort of led me to explore other materialist ideas such as Anton Le Vey's Satanism and Objectivism that my provide a much stronger moral compass and make me much happier. I've only flicked through "The virtue of selfishness" and know not much more than I could get off a few Wikipedia pages, so I'm not really in a position to know what I'm looking for.

I'm aware that the forum guidelines specify that members cannot spread ideas contrary to objectivism, including Communism, so I thought I'd get straight to the point and ask a few questions.

1. To what extent was Ayn Rand influenced by her experiences in the Soviet Union, particularly given that she was a women educated at a Soviet University? I realise her First Novel "We the Living" was set in the Soviet Union so I'm just curious if it had an effect on her later work given that Objectivism and Marxism are both atheistic and materialist ideologies.

2. Is it possible to have a Socialist Objectivism driven by selfishness? Can Altruism be driven by selfishness (such as the expectation of reciprocity, or the selfish gratification of emotional desires such as love, sex, empathy) or do Objectivists use altrusim more narrowly to refer to only when it is driven by coercion or ideologically as a duty/obligation irrespective of the wishes of the individual?

[As its likely to come up, its a common misconception of Communism that it was driven by a sense of "fairness" to achieve "equality of outcome". Marxists only wanted to eliminate those inequalities based on class and attacked such views as "liberal" rather than authentically "revolutionary". In Stalin's Russia, economic inequality was greater in the USSR than in the United States. This was deliberate because, as materialists, Marxists continue to believe in the important of material incentives as a reward for their labour. http://akarlin.com/2012/06/ayn-stalin/ ]

3. Can Capitalism prevent catastrophic climate change through technological innovation or are environmental concerns inherently coercive as altruistic interventions in the marketplace? Do you think Climate Change, whether as a (possibly false) idea to control the people or as a real problem, could encourage a wave of totalitarian mass movements over this century?

4. If free markets lead to free societies, would you agree that it is logical to argue that the freest society would be an Anarcho-capitalist one without a state? Would you expect the future to therefore evolve in the direction of anarcho-capitalism or does the necessity of the state mean that only a "minarchist" society can be achieved? 

5. Has anyone here on Objectivism Online actually changed their views from being a Marxist-Communist to an Objectivist? or made the change from Socialism or Anarcho-Communism? What were the experiences that meant you made that shift? Was it something that made you happier and more fulfilled out of respecting yourself more?

6. [...and just for fun :D ] How many of you watched Wall Street and wanted to be Gorden Gekko as a kid?

There is probably more I could ask, but I think they may come up in discussion if this thread goes somewhere. If you want to ask me questions, you're welcome to- but I will try to keep the short and sweet to stay within the forum rules. 

Thanks in advance. :) 

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Laika said:

hey,

I've been a Communist for almost a decade, but have found myself on a sort of journey towards "recovering" from the experience of realising how fragile and fallible human beings are after coming to terms with the reality of violence and atrocity in Communist countries. That's sort of led me to explore other materialist ideas such as Anton Le Vey's Satanism and Objectivism that my provide a much stronger moral compass and make me much happier. I've only flicked through "The virtue of selfishness" and know not much more than I could get off a few Wikipedia pages, so I'm not really in a position to know what I'm looking for.

I'm aware that the forum guidelines specify that members cannot spread ideas contrary to objectivism, including Communism, so I thought I'd get straight to the point and ask a few questions.

Welcome to the board. I hope you benefit from your time here.

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1. To what extent was Ayn Rand influenced by her experiences in the Soviet Union, particularly given that she was a women educated at a Soviet University? I realise her First Novel "We the Living" was set in the Soviet Union so I'm just curious if it had an effect on her later work given that Objectivism and Marxism are both atheistic and materialist ideologies.

As a lazy answer, I don't think it can be questioned that Rand's experiences in Russia/the USSR had enormous influence on her, just as I expect that any individual is enormously influenced by the circumstances of their upbringing. But to the extent that Objectivism is "atheistic" and "materialistic," I think it would be a mistake to try to find the reason(s) for that in the fact that Rand hailed from a particular country (if that is the proposed project); Rand typically gives incredibly thought-out and painstakingly argued reasons for her positions on sundry topics, and those reasons -- right or wrong -- stand without respect to the origin of author (or reader).

That said, I'm certain that Rand's early experiences and education emphasized certain readings or access to specific intellectual strains of thought, or etc., and perhaps that's what you're after, to trace the intellectual history of her ideas. Rand herself chiefly acknowledged Aristotle, though I have heard that she was influenced by Nietzsche early on...

But come to that, others here are Rand scholars who can offer much more insight into this question than I.

Quote

2. Is it possible to have a Socialist Objectivism driven by selfishness? Can Altruism be driven by selfishness (such as the expectation of reciprocity, or the selfish gratification of emotional desires such as love, sex, empathy) or do Objectivists use altrusim more narrowly to refer to only when it is driven by coercion or ideologically as a duty/obligation irrespective of the wishes of the individual?

I'm not certain what you mean by "Socialist Objectivism," but let me try to speak to "altruism." Yes, Objectivists use "altruism" in a rather narrow, specific way, which is the idea that actions are considered moral to the extent that they benefit others (in contrast to selfish actions, which benefit the self).

Rand on "altruism": "Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil."

Rand on "selfishness": "[T]he exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word 'selfishness' is: concern with one’s own interests. [...] The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. [...] Since selfishness is 'concern with one’s own interests,' the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense."

This is what Rand (and knowledgeable Objectivists) mean when using those terms. There are yet many actions (which we could roundly describe as "kind" or "benevolent" or even "charitable") which society would sometimes consider "altruistic" that are not contrary to Rand's selfishness -- but are, in fact, quite selfish.

Rand writes, for instance, "Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime."

And this is just so. (If you take away from this that an Objectivist could morally give a dime to a beggar, in a given context, I would say that you are correct.) Some people try to point out the supposed hypocrisy of Objectivists by noting, for instance, that the Ayn Rand Institute is "non-profit" (and donates books to schools!), or that one of the Atlas Shrugged movies used Kickstarter as a partial source of funding, or etc. Those people do not understand what Objectivists believe, though this does not appear to give them any pause in their invective.

So, good on you for trying! :)

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3. Can Capitalism prevent catastrophic climate change through technological innovation or are environmental concerns inherently coercive as altruistic interventions in the marketplace? Do you think Climate Change, whether as a (possibly false) idea to control the people or as a real problem, could encourage a wave of totalitarian mass movements over this century?

Climate change is a matter for scientists, and while philosophy sets the ground rules for scientific thought, Objectivism qua philosophy does not have a position on whether the climate is changing, or what the cause is, or etc. Accordingly, you will find diverse opinions among Objectivists on those sorts of questions.

Personally, I'm not sufficiently educated about climate change to hold forth on it to any great extent, though I am impressed (and distressed) by the seeming scientific consensus. I know there are skeptical challenges to various models, and use of data, and etc., but again, I'm not sufficiently educated on these topics to be able to say much more.

I take it for granted that catastrophic climate change is a real possibility for planet Earth, whether man-made or not, because obviously the climate has changed in the past (in ways I would regard as "catastrophic" for human life, if repeated), and I expect it could again. If technological innovation has the potential to help mankind combat such catastrophic outcomes, should they threaten -- and I would suppose that such innovation is our best hope, speaking generally -- then I would want man to be unfettered to think and work and pursue those innovations. This "unfettering" refers to political "liberty," which is what Objectivists mean when referring to "capitalism," which thus primarily refers to a political system and not economics, as such.

This said, there are specific scenarios related to the environment which I believe would justify "interventions in the marketplace," by which I mean regulatory laws (or criminal laws, or civil lawsuits). If we were to determine that polluting the ocean (which is a common resource; or at least, I don't know of any proposal to privatize it yet) to whatever extent is bound to exterminate the world's algae, let's say, and thus choke off all of our oxygen, or what-have-you, then yes, we cannot be allowed to pollute the ocean like that (though such a discussion would be heavily nuanced and context-dependent). If this makes me a heretic in the eyes of other Objectivists, so be it, but my policy is to keep breathing.

Edited to add: As to the question of whether climate change (real or imagined) could lead to totalitarianism, well yeah. But the power hungry have never wanted for reasons to impose their wills on others, and totalitarianism has seemed to exist in every age. If climate change could spark a resurgence in totalitarianism (and it certainly seems to me to have that potential), the path will have been paved by centuries of philosophical thought which have argued for self-sacrifice (in the interests of the state, or God, or the race, or etc.) and against the rights and happiness of individual human beings.

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4. If free markets lead to free societies, would you agree that it is logical to argue that the freest society would be an Anarcho-capitalist one without a state? Would you expect the future to therefore evolve in the direction of anarcho-capitalism or does the necessity of the state mean that only a "minarchist" society can be achieved?

There is no Objectivist dictum like "free markets lead to free societies," so far as I am aware, and I would redirect you to what I've said above, which is that Objectivism is primarily concerned with a moral political system (which we find in protecting individual rights, which we call "liberty"/capitalism) and not economic outcomes, as such. (Though many Objectivists may appeal to various economists who have argued that such liberty does generally result in prosperity, and etc.)

That said, a "free market" is not simply an absence of state authority... and in fact, a "free market" is not possible without some state authority to protect people in the use of their individual rights, whether in producing goods, trading them, or consuming them. The market is not "free" (and not truly a "market"), for instance, if you can steal from me with impunity. That's not an example of a free society, either, and such lawlessness is not what Objectivists regard as either moral or desirable.

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5. Has anyone here on Objectivism Online actually changed their views from being a Marxist-Communist to an Objectivist? or made the change from Socialism or Anarcho-Communism? What were the experiences that meant you made that shift? Was it something that made you happier and more fulfilled out of respecting yourself more?

I never would have described myself as Marxist-Communist, or an anarchist, but I was certainly a liberal in my youth. The experiences that led me to shift are probably too numerous to mention, but as a quick reduction I'll say that I read a number of influential books (including Rand, but not exclusively written by her), and I've spent many years applying ideas, testing them out in my own life, reviewing the results, studying history and my own past, and etc.

It is a complex process.

Throughout my intellectual development (which began when I was a liberal, and many years before discovering Objectivism), and despite the pride of place I now give to "happiness" and "self-esteem," I was led onward in the main by a passion for discovering the truth of things.

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6. [...and just for fun :D ] How many of you watched Wall Street and wanted to be Gorden Gekko as a kid?

I watched Wall Street when I was young, and I cannot tell you what impression it made on me (because I do not remember). I imagine that the stereotypical "businessman world-beater" aesthetic did not do much for me at the time, as, quite frankly, it does not do much for me now.

Edited by DonAthos
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Posted (edited)

8 hours ago, Laika said:

1. To what extent was Ayn Rand influenced by her experiences in the Soviet Union, particularly given that she was a women educated at a Soviet University? I realise her First Novel "We the Living" was set in the Soviet Union so I'm just curious if it had an effect on her later work given that Objectivism and Marxism are both atheistic and materialist ideologies.

Her philosophy was very much influenced by her exposure to Marxism, both in the Soviet Union and the U.S.  It can be seen as primarily a refutation of it.  Both are materialist in the sense that there is no appeal to the "supernatural", but a primary difference between the two has to do with epistemology (see Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology).

Marx held an individual's ideas to be formed via a dialectic process between and individual and his class and it's relationship to the material means of production in any given age.  Marx also saw history as unfolding to a finished state (Pure Communism).  Rand's epistemology, on the other hand,  does not posit any type of dialectic process in an individual's formation of knowledge.  It is based sensations, percepts, concepts, the formation of abstractions-from-concretes and abstractions-from-abstractions, etc.  Too much to explain here in detail.  ITOE would be a good place to start if you are interested.

8 hours ago, Laika said:

2. Is it possible to have a Socialist Objectivism driven by selfishness? Can Altruism be driven by selfishness (such as the expectation of reciprocity, or the selfish gratification of emotional desires such as love, sex, empathy) or do Objectivists use altrusim more narrowly to refer to only when it is driven by coercion or ideologically as a duty/obligation irrespective of the wishes of the individual?

The altruism that Rand opposes should not be confused with the "helping your neighbor raise a barn variety."  In it's current, modern form, it is the virulent yet historical German idea that one's spirit may be free, but one's body belongs to the State.  This can be traced back to at least Martin Luther and the German Prince's using the Protestant Reformation as a rallying cry to oppose not only the Church but also the Holy Roman Emporer.  You might say that Hegel led to Hitler, and Marx - who switched the "state" to the "collective" - led to Stalin.

8 hours ago, Laika said:

3. Can Capitalism prevent catastrophic climate change....

 

I've been following the Global Warming debates for close to 9 years, and I see no evidence that any changes in temperature cannot be explained by natural variations within the limits of precision of measurement and a general warming trend that has been going on for a long while.  But this Post would not be a place to debate it.  If you want to, let's do it!  :thumbsup:

8 hours ago, Laika said:

4. If free markets lead to free societies, would you agree that it is logical to argue that the freest society would be an Anarcho-capitalist one without a state? Would you expect the future to therefore evolve in the direction of anarcho-capitalism or does the necessity of the state mean that only a "minarchist" society can be achieved? 

The role of government is often debated among Objectivist.  I think that since Objectivism does not believe that clashes are inevitable among reasonable Men (or "classes") nor is economics a zero-sum game, it is possible to create a fair and equitable government, and that one will always exist.  A good government should be seen as a wonderful achievement of rational men.  Rand had a great deal of respect for the U.S. Government and the Founding Fathers.

8 hours ago, Laika said:

5. Has anyone here on Objectivism Online actually changed their views from being a Marxist-Communist to an Objectivist? or made the change from Socialism or Anarcho-Communism? What were the experiences that meant you made that shift? Was it something that made you happier and more fulfilled out of respecting yourself m

I first read Rand around the age of 14 or 15, and in my youth, I was much more anarcho-capitalist than I am now.  As I grew older, and began to participate in society and not just observe it, I grew to appreciate the important role that government plays in society.  And per No. 4, I think it can be a net positive and not all negative.  Others will have different opinions.

Edited by New Buddha
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7 hours ago, Laika said:

1. To what extent was Ayn Rand influenced by her experiences in the Soviet Union, particularly given that she was a women educated at a Soviet University? I realise her First Novel "We the Living" was set in the Soviet Union so I'm just curious if it had an effect on her later work given that Objectivism and Marxism are both atheistic and materialist ideologies.

Everyone is affected by their experiences, as far as one makes sense of the world which includes their experience. Her family was affected by all the stuff going on (she wasn't rich, more that she saw a lot). But she was still educated by the Soviets, and she took from that education what she could, even if she didn't say so. I don't know how much, though.

"Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical" would give details, but I'd say don't read it until you read more by Rand herself: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GNDX6LS/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I2DQS0RI53V32T&colid=8LQT80FO5G1M

7 hours ago, Laika said:

4. If free markets lead to free societies, would you agree that it is logical to argue that the freest society would be an Anarcho-capitalist one without a state? Would you expect the future to therefore evolve in the direction of anarcho-capitalism or does the necessity of the state mean that only a "minarchist" society can be achieved? 

No, it would not be logical.

One, we'd say free markets are necessary for a free society. Free society itself isn't the end goal really, but it's part of the good life. This doesn't promise that the free society will be utopia or even as good as you expect, as it takes people thinking rationally and all that. Of course, there is a lot of reason to say free market societies enable freedom of thought and action so that rational action is easier. Freedom is good, yes, but it isn't the absolute top thing we care about. 

Two, the government is not a necessary evil. It is a necessary -good- to deal with rights violators and to protect one's rights. There is a monopoly on force for this reason. Force is not legitimate as a market, force is not something you can wield in any manner you want. Specifically, initiating force is not something one should be free to do. There is no market of force then, "defense agencies" as ancaps talk about would be illegitimate (if the agency really isn't a danger, and not a violent nowhereland, it would be ignored). The monopoly on force is legitimate because it is a way to put force under strict control. Taking away your freedom to steal isn't any violation.

8 hours ago, Laika said:

5. Has anyone here on Objectivism Online actually changed their views from being a Marxist-Communist to an Objectivist? or made the change from Socialism or Anarcho-Communism? What were the experiences that meant you made that shift? Was it something that made you happier and more fulfilled out of respecting yourself more?

Communism appealed to me in high school, until my senior year. The sentiment appealed to me, I always had a strong sense of justice so I liked the sound of a worldwide worker's revolution. It sounded more meritocratic than a capitalist world to me because money distorted value and worth of individuals. Part of this outlook was from "Motorcycle Diaries" about Che Guevara. I didn't read Communist literature, but as far as I remember, I had beliefs consistent with it.

Nothing made me shift, nothing specific. I heard of Rand in my senior year. I got Atlas Shrugged, mostly curious because Rand was an atheist, and I wanted to read more by atheists besides Hitchens. Also, it sounded individualistic, and I thought I might like the book anyway. I ended up seeing a lot of similarity with Dagny, so I saw something in it. More or less, I wasn't able to see any logical reason to see Communism as compatible with individualistic sentiments. I learned what individualism was, not just how it felt.

8 hours ago, Laika said:

How many of you watched Wall Street and wanted to be Gorden Gekko as a kid?

I saw it the year after I read Atlas Shrugged. I found Gorden Gekko to be vapid.

I bet you'd find tons of House M.D. fans, though, like me. :P

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Thanks everyone. Its been an interesting read so far. keep the replies coming- I will read them all. :)

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Posted (edited)

16 hours ago, Laika said:

I'm aware that the forum guidelines specify that members cannot spread ideas contrary to objectivism, including Communism, so I thought I'd get straight to the point and ask a few questions.

There is nothing within the guidelines preventing an open, intelligent discussion of Communism on this forum.  It does become apparent when someone is just "trolling", but it's pretty clear that you are not doing that.  By exploring the differences between Marx and Rand, many insights can be gained.  I'd go so far as to say that one can't really claim to have a detailed understanding of Objectivism without also having a detailed understanding of Marxism/Communism.

What led you to originally lean towards Communism?  It would be interesting to hear from someone in the UK.  Is it common?

Edited by New Buddha

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, New Buddha said:

There is nothing within the guidelines preventing an open, intelligent discussion of Communism on this forum.  It does become apparent when someone is just "trolling", but it's pretty clear that you are not doing that.  By exploring the differences between Marx and Rand, many insights can be gained.  I'd go so far as to say that one can't really claim to have a detailed understanding of Objectivism without also having a detailed understanding of Marxism/Communism.

What led you to originally lean towards Communism?  It would be interesting to hear from someone in the UK.  Is it common?

excellent. :D 

Both my parents were teachers working in public sector and were Socialists. They were involved in the Labour Party and were pro-Blair and New Labour. My dad had a strong environmental/green bent (as he was also in the Green Party at an earlier age). So I really couldn't escape politics growing up with a lot of discussions going on (and in retrospect it was really unhealthy). Communism came up in a history textbook and I just read about it and it stuck by marrying my interest in history and science. 

Later on I went to University and did a year studying economics and it was quite a big shock to realise how out of sync I was with the "conventional wisdom". it gets more complicated from here because I fell in love with a flat mate and have spent the past nine years coming out as bisexual and dealing with depression. I left university in october 2008, so the financial crisis just gave me an extra push to walk away knowing the course was not in touch with reality as I understood it. Communism happened at that moment of vulnerability when I felt really lost and needed answers as depression started.

After my crush from Uni visited Cambodia, I had a moment of honesty and read up about the atrocities in the black book of Communism. Within a month I was reading Freidmann's Capitalism and Freedom and read Hayek's the Road to Serfdom from cover to cover as it scared me that much. its taken years to unpick marxist ideology then at the start of the year, after Trump got elected, I got caught up in the liberal hysteria and wondered if I should go join a Stalinist party in the UK; emotionally, sorting through what I feel as part of dealing with depression has made me come out strongly against the idea. On paper, there is the rationale for it (just about), but in practice- hell no. not a chance. somethings really wrong with the world to make that seem even plausible. the media aren't helping by sensationalising everything out of proportion.

There may be some truth in Marxism but overall I've become aware of how abstract it is, how poorly thought out it is when it comes to asking the really important questions about truth and ethics and how crucial violence is in the ideology which has just sucked the soul and joy out of it. I'm still a Communist by force of habit as I haven't escaped its influence and in certain ways helped with the depression making me feel more empowered but I'm looking to move on just for the sake of being happy so I can put depression behind me if I can. the unhealthy and destructive side has become more obvious as time has gone on. 

I think a fascination with Marxist ideas is not uncommon amongst students in the UK, but statistically the far left has never got more than 0.5-1% of the vote in elections. far left politics is divided between the very old (who can't escape old habits) and the very young- but amongst the general population there is little appetite for Communism. its possible it may just die out within a few decades if it doesn't renew itself. that being said, it's not accurate to say that most communists or Marxists actually have much understanding of what they are saying or doing; the ideas just produce an intoxicating and persuasive high of thinking you know everything and are important enough to "change the world". For most people that doesn't last beyond 30 or 40 at most and only a tiny minority keep going. the far left in the UK simply hasn't recovered since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War- they're just stuck in being sectarian and can't do anything useful or productive. So if Communism has a future- we're talking miracles at this point. Being depressed, vulnerable, pretty smart and deluded enough to think that means I can find all the answers means Communism has burnt brighter and longer than it does for most people but that's definitely not the norm. 

Edited by Laika

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3 hours ago, New Buddha said:

There is nothing within the guidelines preventing an open, intelligent discussion of Communism on this forum.  It does become apparent when someone is just "trolling", but it's pretty clear that you are not doing that.  By exploring the differences between Marx and Rand, many insights can be gained.  I'd go so far as to say that one can't really claim to have a detailed understanding of Objectivism without also having a detailed understanding of Marxism/Communism.

What led you to originally lean towards Communism?  It would be interesting to hear from someone in the UK.  Is it common?

p.s. People talk about "Cultural Marxism" nowadays and whilst the influence of Western Marxism and the Frankfurt School is pretty pervasive on university campuses and in the media, it doesn't compare with the "hard stuff" in Marxism-Leninism that came out of Russia. they are like distant cousins intellectually with common ancestry but very little else in common. it maybe like comparing cannabis with cocaine because they're both illegal substances but ignoring how differently they effect people; Western Marxism slow you down, depresses you, fills you with guilt and makes you paranoid, Marxism-Leninism makes you feel indestructible, that you could conquer the world and care about nothing other than the cause because the buzz feels that good. I think you may see what I'm getting at. :)

At a guess, Cultural Marxism is more a by-product of Liberalism insistence on egalitarianism than on anything arising out of Revolutionary Marxism itself. its sort of weird to find myself turning against "Marxism" as its becoming fashionable again. I hope I just know better but I can't be sure. 

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Laika,

Welcome to the Forum; I find your statements above particularly interesting. It would not be the first time I have engaged a self-identifying Communist here, but you seem to be questioning your own rationale regarding Marx. You must understand by now that there is no utopian paradise, nor any process of achieving one, at least in the sense intended by Marx. Objectivism does not promise utopia. Rather, it is a philosophy detailing a path to personal fulfillment and possibly the creation of the most just society possible under a purely capitalist system, separating economic activity from government action. We may never arrive at the later, but you have every opportunity to discover more about the former. I am unable to offer any recommendations with regard to your depression, only to say that in my youth, I could only see the bleak outcome of social and political trends, if carried to their extremes, and it frightened me. I knew nothing about Ayn Rand or her Objectivism, only the absurdity of social, political, and cultural norms. I knew about Marx; I always considered him to have been a fraud, as well as an easy target for Right-Wing pundits and common place conversation. But one of the great contributing factors to the problems of our times is that few if any people question their own notions of right and wrong, let alone seek out a philosophical school of thought. It is apparent from your posts that you have put a great deal of thought into your philosophical outlook. As for your list of six questions opening this thread, I will limit my response to only number six: Gordon Gekko is a fictional character, a caricature created by Oliver Stone. If you look at Stone's body of works, you see many films critical of American militarism, capitalism, and Right-Wing points of view in general with no regard for honesty. Objectivism does not support Right-Wing politics any more than it supports Left-Wing politics. Inasmuch as I hope you will keep examining the works of Ayn Rand, I hope you find the honesty lacking in Marx, and possibly even your happiness.

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On 6/22/2017 at 2:44 AM, Laika said:

3. Can Capitalism prevent catastrophic climate change through technological innovation or are environmental concerns inherently coercive as altruistic interventions in the marketplace? Do you think Climate Change, whether as a (possibly false) idea to control the people or as a real problem, could encourage a wave of totalitarian mass movements over this century?

The American journalist H. L. Mencken said, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

I don't think that many in the U.S. understand how fully the "threat" of Global Warming permeates Western European thought and shapes the direction of politics.  Christiana Figueres, at the time, the top UN Climate Change official said:

 

"This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history",

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 - you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation."

 

She obviously is not advocating Free Market economics, private property, etc. From my perspective, I see people adhering to Global Warming and Environmentalism as a substitute for "religion" in much the same way that previous generations adopted Marx's pseudo-scientific Historical Materialism/Determinism as something inevitable.  How much did the "threat" of Global Warming form your ideas?  How much was it a part of your educational experience, and education in the UK in general? 

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Laika:

In answer to your OP I would offer the following as my take on the most important takeaways from Rand's Objectivism re politics.

You and your life belong to you and no one else.  Likewise you have no rightful claim to anyone else or their lives.  Any initiation of force injected into interactions between men is thus immoral.  Force is only moral in retaliation and in the protection of individual rights.

There is plenty more believe me but as far as important basics these are the ones which stand out to me.

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Laika said:

I've been a Communist for almost a decade, but have found myself on a sort of journey towards "recovering" from the experience of realising how fragile and fallible human beings are after coming to terms with the reality of violence and atrocity in Communist countries. That's sort of led me to explore other materialist ideas such as Anton Le Vey's Satanism and Objectivism that my provide a much stronger moral compass and make me much happier. I've only flicked through "The virtue of selfishness" and know not much more than I could get off a few Wikipedia pages, so I'm not really in a position to know what I'm looking for.

Laika, there are a few things anyone who takes Objectivism seriously would need to know about your context before engaging in this discussion.

How old are you? 

Do you currently consider yourself a Communist? If so, are you saying you are doubting Communism as a philosophy as a result of your awareness of the outcomes of it in practice?

You should note that just because you are getting answers from members here doesnt mean they are Objectivist and, or, are presenting Objectivism in their responses. That is why studying Rand for yourself is the best approach to any questions about Oism.

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

Laika said:

 

 

Laika, there are a few things anyone who takes Objectivism seriously would need to know about your context before engaging in this discussion.

How old are you? 

Do you currently consider yourself a Communist? If so, are you saying you are doubting Communism as a philosophy as a result of your awareness of the outcomes of it in practice?

You should note that just because you are getting answers from members here doesnt mean they are Objectivist and, or, are presenting Objectivism in their responses. That is why studying Rand for yourself is the best approach to any questions about Oism.

1. How old are you?

28 (or at least I will be in a month)

2. Do you currently consider yourself a Communist?

That's a hard one because Communists don't "believe" in Communism as an opinion or subjective individual belief. They'd assert it as a "scientific" conception of society built on objectively real and true laws of social development. 

So the way you ask the question is like "Do you currently consider yourself a Newtonian?" and in terms of how fundamental it is in terms of the pattern of reasoning, you may reply "Is believing in the law of gravity even a choice?" As horrifying as the consequences of the law of gravity are for someone falling off a cliff- does that make the law of gravity immoral or untrue because it contradicts moral truths?

Capitalism relies on theories of natural law that came out of Christianity: the belief in free will, human nature, natural rights, etc. these are very useful philosophical principles as a basis for moral objections to Communism, but to a Communist its like saying "the earth is clearly flat- just look at that horizon! the horizon is flat so the earth is flat! the sun moves in the sky- so clearly the sun moves round the earth!".

Marxism is a philosophy of history, so its perspective is a lot bigger than individual observations of our finite horizon within our lifetime. human history is bigger than our own individual observations, but that level of abstraction risks huge errors. Marxism does for Social Sciences what Galileo did for Natural Science: he showed that the world doesn't revolve around us and as human beings we aren't "special". the troubling moral implications of Communism are a reflection of coming to terms with the fact we are not the masters of society or even our own nature. we are at the mercy of forces that we do not understand or control- and its from this that the Marxists argue "we need to know society and to control it" with all its totalitarian implications. 

where I'm at is- assuming that Marxism is in fact a form of scientific knowledge- how do I best use it so that it will ultimately be the greatest good?  The problem is, that what ever my intentions, there is no control on who would use that knowledge or what for. so it cannot be made "safe". 

3. If so, are you saying you are doubting Communism as a philosophy as a result of your awareness of the outcomes of it in practice?

Imagine being present at the detonation of the first atom bomb. the destructive power of the thing as it rips apart the landscape. seeing something (from the safety of a remote location through darkened goggles) as hot as the sun, incinerating everything in its path. then realising that this is going to be used against people and this is your life's work. As Oppenheimer said, "I have become death, the destroyer of worlds".

Having read a great deal about Communism's atrocities, I can understand that position as I'm "just a theorist" scribbling away ideas on tonnes of paper thinking its harmless, safely watching this thing explode at a distance, incinerating whole societies in its wake, laying waste to people's lives. I spent years reading, learning and trying to imagine all this stuff so its personal. then you make the "connection" and see yourself as part of this picture and can't get out of it. its like falling through a trap door into the abyss. not pleasant at all. 

Its less a sense of "doubt", more like "desolation" as I watch moral certainties I once held get burned in the wake of this idea spreading outwards as I realise its implications.  I can't ignore that understanding or un-invent the totalitarian state and I'm of the belief that "something" like that could happen again. I might be able to use that understanding for something better and make it right somehow but I don't know what that looks like. you just do what you can.

Edited by Laika

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Laika said:

So the way you ask the question is like "Do you currently consider yourself a Newtonian?" and in terms of how fundamental it is in terms of the pattern of reasoning, you may reply "Is believing in the law of gravity even a choice?" As horrifying as the consequences of the law of gravity are for someone falling off a cliff- does that make the law of gravity immoral or untrue because it contradicts moral truths?

Do you mean to say that for a Communist view, there is no form of natural rights?

Anyway, at least around here, we wouldn't treat capitalism itself as a fact, or even a "natural" thing (natural as in a drive to trade that's an inborn thing we all naturally strive for). Capitalism is more like a desirable system that depends on protecting individual rights, while allowing individuals to lead their lives as they see fit.

Forcing right actions, or forced rational actions, don't in fact result in better society, partly because no one is all-knowing. True, there are impossible situations that arise, like absurd pharma prices, but this can often be attributed to many factors. Mainly, we'd look at non-capitalistic features like the FDA or lobbyists having undue and improper influence on private companies.

Private individuals also may use force, which wouldn't be a consequence of capitalism, as the system would be failing to protect rights. This is an issue of mixed economies. We can say the US is more capitalist than not, but this does not mean we excuse all private actions. Capitalism without effective rights protection and/or without an established government might be descriptively capitalist, but normatively, it isn't. Respecting individuals rights is the very thing that makes trade and free exchange of goods possible.

I say "we" as in fellow Rand fans who agree with her fundamentally. 

Edited by Eiuol

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Do you mean to say that for a Communist view, there is no form of natural rights?

Anyway, at least around here, we wouldn't treat capitalism itself as a fact, or even a "natural" thing (natural as in a drive to trade that's an inborn thing we all naturally strive for). Capitalism is more like a desirable system that depends on protecting individual rights, while allowing individuals to lead their lives as they see fit.

Forcing right actions, or forced rational actions, don't in fact result in better society, partly because no one is all-knowing. True, there are impossible situations that arise, like absurd pharma prices, but this can often be attributed to many factors. Mainly, we'd look at non-capitalistic features like the FDA or lobbyists having undue and improper influence on private companies.

Private individuals also may use force, which wouldn't be a consequence of capitalism, as the system would be failing to protect rights. This is an issue of mixed economies. We can say the US is more capitalist than not, but this does not mean we excuse all private actions. Capitalism without effective rights protection and/or without an established government might be descriptively capitalist, but normatively, it isn't. Respecting individuals rights is the very thing that makes trade and free exchange of goods possible.

I say "we" as in fellow Rand fans who agree with her fundamentally. 

it would be accurate to say that Communists do not believe individuals have natural rights. Yeah.  they aren't nihilists but sometimes its hard to tell the difference. 

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"Even when it proclaims itself to be atheist, the socialism of Marx, of Trotsky, of Ernst Bloch, is directly rooted in messianic eschatology. Nothing is more religious, nothing is closer to the ecstatic rage for justice in the prophets, than the socialist vision of the destruction of the bourgeois Gomorrah and the creation of a new, clean city for man."   -  George Steiner

Giving up religion is hard, but keep at it if you ever hope to be sane again.

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Posted (edited)

On 6/23/2017 at 2:17 PM, Laika said:

Capitalism relies on theories of natural law that came out of Christianity: the belief in free will, human nature, natural rights, etc. these are very useful philosophical principles as a basis for moral objections to Communism, but to a Communist its like saying "the earth is clearly flat- just look at that horizon! the horizon is flat so the earth is flat! the sun moves in the sky- so clearly the sun..."

Laika,

I find this to be a curious statement. Christianity, a source of theory for capitalism? Aside from the fact that commerce was conducted since the earliest civilizations, well before the establishment of Christianity, it should be pointed out that Christianity has a great deal more in common with communism, rather than capitalism. Freewill was not an original component of Christianity; it developed from the Protestant Reformation more than a thousand years later, and led to the decline of religious (Christian) influence on Western Civilization. Christian teachings emphasize redistribution of wealth voluntarily, while Marx advocated the same results through violent revolution, coercion, enforced by state law. Both require man to submit to a higher power,i.e. either supernatural authority, or the authority of the masses. Objectivism rejects any form of submission, other than an acceptance of reality. Human rights, natural rights, these are the domain of the individual, and man is the only form of life able to conceptualize the values that recognize the proper relationship between the individual, his place in society, and to the state. Correct me if I wrong, but I understand Marx viewed history as driven by the class-struggle. Rand held that history is driven by philosophy. And the political rise of Christianity proved to be one of the most detrimental philosophical/theological tragedies in the history of Western Civilization. The metaphysical rejection of supernatural powers is a matter of common ground for Marx and Rand, but details beyond that point are a bit more complex. 

13 hours ago, Grames said:

"Even when it proclaims itself to be atheist, the socialism of Marx, of Trotsky, of Ernst Bloch, is directly rooted in messianic eschatology. Nothing is more religious, nothing is closer to the ecstatic rage for justice in the prophets, than the socialist vision of the destruction of the bourgeois Gomorrah and the creation of a new, clean city for man."   -  George Steiner

Giving up religion is hard, but keep at it if you ever hope to be sane again.

I'm glad that you can appreciate Grames' remark; in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, socialism was considered the "new religion."

Edited by Repairman
Added Grames remark for context

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Posted (edited)

51 minutes ago, Repairman said:

Laika,

I find this to be a curious statement. Christianity, a source of theory for capitalism? Aside from the fact that commerce was conducted since the earliest civilizations, well before the establishment of Christianity, it should be pointed out that Christianity has a great deal more in common with communism, rather than capitalism. Freewill was not an original component of Christianity; it developed from the Protestant Reformation more than a thousand years later, and led to the decline of religious (Christian) influence on Western Civilization. Christian teachings emphasize redistribution of wealth voluntarily, while Marx advocated the same results through violent revolution, coercion, enforced by state law. Both require man to submit to a higher power,i.e. either supernatural authority, or the authority of the masses. Objectivism rejects any form of submission, other than an acceptance of reality. Human rights, natural rights, these are the domain of the individual, and man is the only form of life able to conceptualize the values that recognize the proper relationship between the individual, his place in society, and to the state. Correct me if I wrong, but I understand Marx viewed history as driven by the class-struggle. Rand held that history is driven by philosophy. And the political rise of Christianity proved to be one of the most detrimental philosophical/theological tragedies in the history of Western Civilization. The metaphysical rejection of supernatural powers is a matter of common ground for Marx and Rand, but details beyond that point are a bit more complex. 

I'm glad that you can appreciate Grames' remark; in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, socialism was considered the "new religion."

I'm sort of following from the idea of the "protestant work ethic" rather than Christianity as a whole. Christianity itself may be a feudal ideology based on its prevelence for european feudal society which explains the re-distributive elements, and the centralisation of authority into the hands of a monotheistic deity as symbolic of the centralisation of authority into the hands of a monarch. the marxist analysis of religion is definitely not a strong point, but I think it is fair to say that many economic and political ideas of liberal capitalism developed out of the protestant reformation. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism

John Locke's Two Treaties on Government is not a bad an example. I realise Americans like it because it provided one of the intellectual inspirations for the founding fathers in drafting the US constitution so it may resonate with Objectivists and Libertarians. the first treaty on government deals with the relationship of the rights of individuals and the monarch using the rights of the biblical "Adam" as the patriarch as a basis for the divine right of kings (a king being the father, the people being the children). so the relationship between Christianity and Liberalism is pretty explicit and it shocked me quite a bit as that was not what I was expecting. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Treatises_of_Government#First_Treatise )

Christians in the 20th century also went out of its way to repudiate any relationship between Christianity and Communism or socialism as "materialist" doctrines incompatible with belief in God. its probably in self-defence so they didn't lose followers but an explicitly theological case was made too. 

from Protestent fundamentalist Christianity: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/torrey_ra/fundamentals/71.cfm

from the Catholic Church: https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19370319_divini-redemptoris.html

 

The religious character of Socialism and Marxism has been one of the reasons it originally appealed to me. As an atheist and a materialist, it sort of fulfilled a desire for "meaning" by thinking you can make a contribution to a bigger picture. there wasn't a book I could open for advice about big life questions, but Marxism was occasionally useful for approaching those kind of things in a fresh way. Of course, wanting that kind of moral guidance is a window for authoritarianism but as a kid that didn't really occur to me when I started out. There was a "deviation" amongst Marxists that supported a "socialist religion" known as the God-Builders and its something I have been sympathetic to. its not clear whether religion being a "false" conscious necessarily means that the propensity for fanaticism, sectarianism, cult-like behaviour, etc would disappear under Socialism. History would suggest not if the personality cult in North Korea is anything to go by, but the same theme kept coming up over and over again. In the USSR in the 1920's they had "red weddings" such as peasents being married in front of a tractor and "red baptisms" where babies were "octobered" before a picture of Lenin. it's all very weird but fascinating none the less. :D  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-Building

https://riojjones.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/octobering-red-baptisms-and-soviet-baby-names/

Edited by Laika

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2 hours ago, Repairman said:

Freewill was not an original component of Christianity; it developed from the Protestant Reformation more than a thousand years later,

 

It's just the opposite.  Predestination was a thesis Lutheranism and Calvinism.  Protestantism held the position (roughly speaking) that no one - that is, no Man - in the Roman Catholic Church had the power to grant or confer, to another Man, salvation or the absolution from sin.  Predestination was a way of denying the RC Church power.  The RC Church did believe in Free Will.

In England, Protestantism (more specifically, Dissenting Protestants/Puritans/Nonconformists, etc.) were directly linked with the rise of both Science and Capitalism -- the latter which included a mature development of Natural Rights and Property by Locke among others.  Those who refused to join the Anglican Church did not have full Civil Rights so to make a "living" they went into banking, trade, science, engineering, industry, manufacturing, etc.  Of the 68 early Fellows of the Royal Society, 42 were Puritans.

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2 hours ago, Laika said:

the first treaty on government deals with the relationship of the rights of individuals and the monarch using the rights of the biblical "Adam" as the patriarch as a basis for the divine right of kings (a king being the father, the people being the children). so the relationship between Christianity and Liberalism is pretty explicit and it shocked me quite a bit as that was not what I was expecting.

Locke was specifically rejecting the Divine Right of Kings as put forth by James I and his supporters.  The modern form of the Divine Right of Kings can be traced to Luther's decision to side with the German/Prussian Princes (see my post above about the rise of Altruism - meaning the "State").

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2 hours ago, Laika said:

The religious character of Socialism and Marxism has been one of the reasons it originally appealed to me.

In many ways, Marx's Historical Determinism is just a reflection of Lutheranism's Predestination prevalent in German society.  This accounts for it's "fatalist" nature.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

Locke was specifically rejecting the Divine Right of Kings as put forth by James I and his supporters.  The modern form of the Divine Right of Kings can be traced to Luther's decision to side with the German/Prussian Princes (see my post above about the rise of Altruism - meaning the "State").

He rejected it by insisting on another interpretation of the relationship between God and Adam as a basis for individual rights (if I remember correctly). It may have been a liberal statement of individual freedom, but it was constructed using christian theology and biblical quotations as its building blocks. So there isn't a sharp line between Christianity and Liberalism at this stage of its development and it is not definitively secular. 

Chpater IV Of Adam's title to soverignty, by donation. (part 24) http://www.nlnrac.org/earlymodern/locke/documents/first-treatise-of-government

In opposition, therefore, to our author’s doctrine, that “Adam was monarch of the whole world,” founded on this place I shall show,

1. That by this grant, Gen. i. 28. God gave no immediate power to Adam over men, over his children, over those of his own species; and so he was not made ruler, or monarch, by this charter.

2. That by this grant God gave him not private dominion over the inferior creatures, but right in common with all mankind; so neither was he monarch, upon the account of the property here given him.

1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

In many ways, Marx's Historical Determinism is just a reflection of Lutheranism's Predestination prevalent in German society.  This accounts for it's "fatalist" nature.

Kind of. (on paper at least) Its more like the laws of history identify the "potential" energy but human action is still the way in which it is released. So if I hold a ball over the ground, the law of gravity means there is the potential energy for it to fall- but that is only realised by my action of releasing it. So Marx identified the "potential" energy for Socialism in the contradiction between Socialised Production and Private Property which was then "realised" by the Proletariat in the act of socialist revolution. we are prisoners of circumstance and our freedom consists in the degree of our mastery over it by changing it. As Marx put it:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. 

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm

This was an area of considerable debate amongst Marxist however because it concerned the nature of freedom under Socialism and the relationship between freedom and determinism. In practice, its much more debatable especially when you get to the identification of the state with the laws of history and the subordination of the individual to those laws realised in man's conscious mastery of production through planning under Socialism. Man is free only to the degree to which he is in harmony with the state, the plan and the laws of history. A certain degree of freedom of action does exist, but no where near enough in my view. 

1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

It's just the opposite.  Predestination was a thesis Lutheranism and Calvinism.  Protestantism held the position (roughly speaking) that no one - that is, no Man - in the Roman Catholic Church had the power to grant or confer, to another Man, salvation or the absolution from sin.  Predestination was a way of denying the RC Church power.  The RC Church did believe in Free Will.

In England, Protestantism (more specifically, Dissenting Protestants/Puritans/Nonconformists, etc.) were directly linked with the rise of both Science and Capitalism -- the latter which included a mature development of Natural Rights and Property by Locke among others.  Those who refused to join the Anglican Church did not have full Civil Rights so to make a "living" they went into banking, trade, science, engineering, industry, manufacturing, etc.  Of the 68 early Fellows of the Royal Society, 42 were Puritans.

That sounds about right. So I may be wrong on that. 

Edited by Laika

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Posted (edited)

34 minutes ago, Laika said:

He rejected it by insisting on another interpretation of the relationship between God and Adam as a basis for individual rights (if I remember correctly). It may have been a liberal statement of individual freedom, but it was constructed using christian theology and biblical quotations as its building blocks. So there isn't a sharp line between Christianity and Liberalism at this stage of its development and it is not definitively secular. 

I fully agree.  Locke said that neither the RC Church (or Anglican) nor the King was a source of rights, property, etc.  He attributed them to an individual Man's capacity for direct correspondence with God - i.e. no need for intermediaries such as the King or the Church.  At a later date, Jefferson's view on the foundation of rights, property, etc. were influenced by his Epicureanism - which, oddly enough (or not) formed the basis of  Marx's Doctoral Thesis"  The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature.  The reintroduction of Atomism into Western Europe was instrumental in the development of science.  Newton was very much influenced by the Lucretius' work De rerum natura .  Atomism was largely viewed as atheistic.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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2 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

I fully agree.  Locke said that neither the RC Church (or Anglican) nor the King was a source of rights, property, etc.  He attributed them to an individual Man's capacity for direct correspondence with God - i.e. no need for intermediaries such as the King or the Church.  At a later date, Jefferson view on rights, property, etc. were influenced by his Epicureanism - which, oddly (or not) enough formed the basis of  Marx's Doctoral Thesis  The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature.  The reintroduction of Atomism into Western Europe was instrumental in the development of science. 

 

According to some later Marxists trying to understand the history of science as class ideology, the idea of Atomism as the universe consisting of stable fixed bodies with inherent properties was the intellectual basis of individualism, in which individuals as "commodities" would collide with one another in the marketplace. "freedom" is therefore the free movement of individuals as social atoms in society based on laws of value as individuals collide in competition, and do not need a"divine" intervention to organise themselves. human nature represents an inherent building bloc of man as an "atom" with fixed properties. Sadly, I haven't seen this argument developed or really demonstrated but it was an interesting attempt to try to explain the scientific revolution as a "capitalist" revolution in human thought and show a relationship between natural and social science. 

Now I'm just showing off. :D 

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11 minutes ago, Laika said:

According to some later Marxists trying to understand the history of science as class ideology, the idea of Atomism as the universe consisting of stable fixed bodies with inherent properties was the intellectual basis of individualism, in which individuals as "commodities" would collide with one another in the marketplace.

If you have any links, I'd be interested in reading more about this.  

We also had a recent post about Property that you might find interesting.

 

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