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The "unappeal" of Objectivism vs. Collectivized Ethics (TVoS 10)

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

What would the other 20% be, and why would that be better? I mean, I guess you think more people would be persuaded to something nice, but I don't know to what. To be mixed a capitalist economy by compromising on freedom of choice? Being aggressively authoritarian to force laissez-faire by compromising on non initiation of force?

Rand's response is pretty bad because the question is wondering what systems might exist in lieu of safety net programs. There are good responses to that. "Feel free to help" avoids the issue.

I don't have to determine the other 20%, and obviously the 80% is an arbitrary number picked for argument's sake.  I would very much like to see others get a few steps more toward Objectivism, and I can't help but think that interested folks hear "nothing but rational self-interest" and "no altruism" and it disqualifies us from being part of the conversation altogether.

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2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I disagree, strongly.

A persuasive reply is one which is based on proper premises and viable values and proper standards of morality.  It is an appeal to what is right and correct.  That is what makes it objectively persuasive.

I don't think that is really right.  Evidence, reason, science, and proof are terrible ways to persuade almost anyone.  For popular explanations of this, see Pink's Drive and Heath's How to Change When Change Is Hard.

Edited by Szalapski

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9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

No.  First, I want to know the truth about reality, i.e. to hold the correct philosophy.  Secondarily, I would want others to also know the truth about reality and hold the correct philosophy (it would make life better for me).  Merely having "an impact" of any kind as such has no value... it is only the particular kind of impact that might result which matters.  If everyone already knew the truth and had the correct philosophy I would not be pining and wishing to have an impact on someone.

You imply by your OP and other posts that either A) the philosophy is incorrect/erroneous, or that B ) the philosophy is correct but people are inherently flawed and cannot accept it.

(A)  If you are implying the philosophy is wrong, I take it you are proceeding in the attempt to show that. 

If B ) is the case, then logic would dictate from your premises, that since it is futile, one should not try to convince others.  Which is odd, because at the same time you state we should "want" to convince others.  All I can think is that maybe B ) is that case, but not all people are impervious to the truth (after all there are people who have heard the evidence and accepted the philosophy) and hence attempting to convince others, although difficult, is not futile.

The point of your OP and your ensuing argument, if there is one, is elusive.  Please be more succinct if you would like a direct answer.

even

 

I am not sure, but I as of right now I might say "the philosophy has much merit, but people cannot accept its core teachings", which is in between your A and B but I think closer to B.  It is difficult even to get a fair hearing, much less convince others, and it strikes me that I would like Objectivism to have a voice in the crowd.

My point is really my honest questions in the OP and the "thinking by typing" that has occurred since and hopefully will continue.

Edited by Szalapski

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Just had a related thought.  Rand is fully expecting that her ideas will not get a fair hearing--after all, none of Kira, Roark, and Dagny ever had any platform or audience that fairly considered their ideas.  In the few occasions when they could explain their motives, they were dismissed, ridiculed, or admonished.  Am I wrong to hope for more than that?

I don't know that I can accept never getting a hearing.  I am more like Dagny in that I want to fight and struggle in the world, than I am like John Galt, picking up my ball and going home.  Dagny eventually gave up and went to the Gulch--but I'd hate to resort to that now.  I'm afraid it would be worse than continuing to build my railroad.

I do think it missing from her novels of characters that are principled yet moderate.  Maybe she hated the idea of such figures?  Not every moderate is a Toohey, nor two-faced like Wynand.

Edited by Szalapski

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8 hours ago, Szalapski said:

Yes, I think one flaw is that the core ideas of Objectivism are extreme and beyond the pale for so many.  Individuals would be better off if we could be 80% Objectivist, but since Objectivism teaches no compromise or moderate adoption, it perhaps will remain a freak sideshow in the market of ideas, and thus most remain altruists, looters, and moochers. 

Is it a flaw because Objectivism is factually incorrect 20% of the time -- or -- is it a flaw because these semi-altruists/looters/moochers will disagree with it 20% of the time?   

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52 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

I don't know that I can accept never getting a hearing.  I am more like Dagny in that I want to fight and struggle in the world, than I am like John Galt, picking up my ball and going home.  Dagny eventually gave up and went to the Gulch--but I'd hate to resort to that now.  I'm afraid it would be worse than continuing to build my railroad.

Obviously Galt's refractor rays are doing their job. The prerequisite to entering the valley existentially is to discover it psychologically. (Facts elucidated in the chapter Philosophical Detection in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It?)

As to getting your hearing, bear (or is that bare) in mind that when one is dealing with words, one is necessarily dealing with the mind.

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2 hours ago, Szalapski said:

I don't have to determine the other 20%, and obviously the 80% is an arbitrary number picked for argument's sake.  I would very much like to see others get a few steps more toward Objectivism, and I can't help but think that interested folks hear "nothing but rational self-interest" and "no altruism" and it disqualifies us from being part of the conversation altogether.

I know you made up the number, but you're suggesting to get rid of something for the sake of being palatable. What kind of things would make a "moderate Objectivism"?

2 hours ago, Szalapski said:

I don't think that is really right.  Evidence, reason, science, and proof are terrible ways to persuade almost anyone.  For popular explanations of this, see Pink's Drive and Heath's How to Change When Change Is Hard.

To add to this, persuasion isn't a matter of only stating what is true. In another thread, some of us were saying non-rational persuasion is needed to persuade some people (not violence - things like engaging their emotions). Being persuasive takes understanding motivations of people and resolving their concerns. Sometimes that means helping them integrate their ideas. It takes truth AND effective rhetoric.

 

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3 hours ago, Craig24 said:

Is it a flaw because Objectivism is factually incorrect 20% of the time -- or -- is it a flaw because these semi-altruists/looters/moochers will disagree with it 20% of the time?   

Neither--I think it is a flaw in that a philosophy ought to be compelling in its content to some degree.  (I'm not claiming this makes the philosophy itself objectively wrong.)  I wonder if an 80% pure (or any other degree) Objectivism might be more acceptable to more people and thus improve on the 80% altruism we seem to have today.

Edited by Szalapski

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6 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

Niether--I think it is a flaw in that a philosophy ought to be compelling in its content to some degree.  (I'm not claiming this makes the philosophy itself objectively wrong.)  I wonder if an 80% pure (or any other degree) Objectivism might be more acceptable to more people and thus improve on the 80% altruism we seem to have today.

Why is not being compelling a flaw?  

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I know you made up the number, but you're suggesting to get rid of something for the sake of being palatable. What kind of things would make a "moderate Objectivism"?

That's a great question, and I think there could be many great answers.  I would start by trying to think what might be a way to strip away bits of altruism as the apex of morality and instead get people to consider something other than the common Good [or the will of God] as the source of morality.  I wonder if some kind of well-rounded, ethical individualism might have enough attraction among some to lead us into a better place.  I don't suppose I would use the word "selfish" that Rand did, as it seems to me to have a misleading connotation, but I would like to push an ethical, others-respecting, kind, nice, generous, amiable individualism.

There could be other, better approaches too--the above is merely speculating through typing.

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9 minutes ago, Craig24 said:

Why is not being compelling a flaw?  

Because it strikes me that it is holding Objectivism back from being taken seriously among many.

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46 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

....but I would like to push an ethical, others-respecting, kind, nice, generous, amiable individualism.

And you don't think rational self-interest leads to people being all of the above?  

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11 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

And you don't think rational self-interest leads to people being all of the above?  

Yes--It is because I think so that I also think message might need to be nuanced and moderated so that more might be willing to consider it, even if it means they fall short of Rand's explanation in the end.

Edited by Szalapski

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2 minutes ago, Szalapski said:

Yes--It is because I think so that I also think message might need to be nuanced and moderated so that more might be willing to consider it, even if it means they fall short of Rand's explanation in the end.

Rand did not invent capitalism, individual rights, private property, individualism, the concept of rational self-interest, etc.  I question to what degree you even understand what Rand's "message" was.  Specifically, what is it that you think she contributed to philosophy and the above ideas?

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To add to my above post.  From the Lexicon entry America.

It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders’ motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.

The Americans were political revolutionaries but not ethical revolutionaries. Whatever their partial (and largely implicit) acceptance of the principle of ethical egoism, they remained explicitly within the standard European tradition, avowing their primary allegiance to a moral code stressing philanthropic service and social duty. Such was the American conflict: an impassioned politics presupposing one kind of ethics, within a cultural atmosphere professing the sublimity of an opposite kind of ethics.

Edited by New Buddha

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15 hours ago, Szalapski said:

 I'm concerned that absolutism and the stand on "being right" prevent that from happening.

It's really the same argument that some use against capital-L Libertarians: you want to legalize heroin, meth, and pimping, and you wonder why no one takes you seriously?  I find this argument hard to refute.

Are you suggesting that there are no absolutes?

As for the concept of individuals taking responsibility for their own lives, I suppose that couldn't possibly be taken seriously? Don't you suppose it's the responsibility of the individual as to whether or not they choose to poison themselves with heroin or meth? But again, these are straw-men and the real problem is how to convince others as to just what is meant by rational self-interest.  Fifty years ago, people would never have taken you seriously if you advocated homosexual marriages or an African-American president.

Edited by Repairman
spelling correction

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Regarding the claim that 20% of Objectivism be removed, wouldn't that completely gut Objectivism if carried out consistently? For example, if Objectivism made some allowance for forcible taxation in order to help the poor, we would have to give up the non-initiation of force principle and the trader principle. Further, the non-initiation of force principle and the trader principle are based on the Objectivist ethics, so we would have to give up the Objectivist ethics.

Rand regarded Objectivism as an integrated system. It is not a bunch of independent parts with no connection to each other that you can freely tinker with.

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14 hours ago, Szalapski said:

That's a great question, and I think there could be many great answers.  I would start by trying to think what might be a way to strip away bits of altruism as the apex of morality and instead get people to consider something other than the common Good [or the will of God] as the source of morality. 

I can't tell if you are 1) suggesting a method of persuasion, or if you are 2) suggesting abandoning principles, or if you are 3) proposing convincing people to use one moral code while you use another.

1 isn't a matter of the facts per se. That's not a criticism of the philosophy, only the particular methods some people use to persuade.

2 would not be actually superior or lead anywhere good. The system I'd get isn't one I'd like in the first place. If I'm as right as I think I am, watering down my beliefs isn't going to help me reach my goal. But if you mean going slow and convincing people one small idea at a time in terms they are able to understand, that's not turning moderate.

3 is saying that some people lack any potential to become their best, so you resign yourself to say some people are too stupid to "get it". For them, reason is impotent. If you truly thought that, well, you would think Objectivism is fundamentally wrong about human nature. That's rejecting Objectivism, not turning moderate.

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A few more questions to add:

What is philosophy?  Why would anyone want to adopt a philosophy?  Do you believe philosophy is some sort of "social" endeavor rather than a completely personal affair?

 

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15 hours ago, Szalapski said:

Yes--It is because I think so that I also think message might need to be nuanced and moderated so that more might be willing to consider it, even if it means they fall short of Rand's explanation in the end.

Give me an example of moderating the message.  Pretend I'm one of those half rational half altruistic pragmatists and you want to persuade me of the virtue of selfishness.  What would you say to me?  I'll start the dialogue:

me: Why should I be selfish in principle?  Won't this hurt others?  

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On 7/26/2017 at 4:11 PM, Szalapski said:

I don't think that is really right.  Evidence, reason, science, and proof are terrible ways to persuade almost anyone.

This isn't true. If someone cares about being right and is paying attention, it matters how good your evidence is. The problem is establishing credibility with someone so that they will pay attention to what you have to say, as well as engaging their emotions at appropriate points. As Aristotle said, ethos, pathos, and logos are the key elements.

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On 7/25/2017 at 9:22 AM, Szalapski said:

In TVoS 10, in response to the question, "In a Objectivist society, what will happen to the poor?", Rand cites Barbara Branden approvingly saying, "If *you* want to help them, you will not be stopped." Rand goes on to say that nature makes no provision for providing basic needs, so neither should the collective "society".

Does it matter that more and more people will never find this convincing, that such an argument will never win the day?  In other words, do you admit that, while perhaps Rand is right, it will never matter enough to make a difference?

Does it matter that most people are willing to accept the "degree of force" required to sustain a program like Medicare?  That they have made the judgment that giving up 2.9% of their income (for now) is worthwhile so that the old and disabled can have health insurance, as long as everyone else is forced to as well?

If so, does the sheer inability of the Objectivist argument to carry the day--the impracticality of it--indicate at all a flaw in Objectivism?  Shouldn't a philosophy be convincing and persuasive and not just right?

I find Objectivism to be right -- and convincing and persuasive. Actually, it is hard for me to see any true divide between these things. But I also know that some people are bound to be reached in different ways: some through direct argumentation (often most peoples' psychological defenses are found here) and some through other means. An example of this is art, and Rand wrote her novels before she wrote her non-fiction. I think her novels generally reach more people than do her non-fiction arguments, though I can't say much more about that, or what the resultant difference might be.

That said, I would not hide any aspect of Objectivism from view, or prevaricate, because what does one "win" if one finds converts under false pretenses? If one seeks to spread Objectivism (and I think this is a value of great merit, generally), then surely it should be in a way consistent with the philosophy we mean to spread. We must proselytize with integrity and honesty.

With respect to some of the specific issues raised here, in actual conversations with non-Objectivists, I typically try to stress that my main objection to "forced charity" is not the "charity" part. Indeed, ARI runs on contributions and donates books to schools, gratis; there is no inherent conflict between charitable giving and Objectivism, and should people find it in their self-interest to contribute voluntarily to some pool for a program like Medicare, then they should consider themselves fully empowered to do so. Also, with forced contributions cut across the board, it is likely that many people would find themselves with greater resources with which they can pick and choose their causes -- how they would like to invest their time, money and energy -- whether the self, the family, or the community.

I do not expect, in any event, that a program like Medicare would disappear without forced contributions. I cannot predict such possible futures, and I do not know what they would look like to any great degree, but if people value such programs (and clearly they do), then if they were free to run and maintain and fund them, I would expect that they would continue to do so. Charity on the whole may even be stronger and more robust in an "Objectivist society"; or at least, I can report that as an Objectivist, I believe myself to be a more generous, giving human being than when I was a liberal. The difference in the main is that when I act now, it is not out of any sense of obligation or guilt, but because I am selfishly committed to making the world the way I want it to be.

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On 7/25/2017 at 9:22 AM, Szalapski said:

In TVoS 10, in response to the question, "In a Objectivist society, what will happen to the poor?", Rand cites Barbara Branden approvingly saying, "If *you* want to help them, you will not be stopped."

I have always been uncomfortable with the statement 'If *you* want to help *them*, *you* will not be stopped.' To put the statement another way: 'We would want to stop you but we would not.' Isn't this a rather rude, dismissive and mean-spirited attitude?

When talking about the poor, it is a floating abstraction with platitudes such as 'We have do do something about the poor'. Or, 'We must evaluate a society by how it treats its poor'.

It is important to break down what is meant by the poor.  There are many reasons or categories of poor. What people really mean by the poor is one way or another 'victims of society'. As Objectivism correctly holds, there are very view actual victims other than victims of specific actions by other people such as robbery or bodily harm. But anyone caught in a social cycle of poverty is in principle capable of overcoming their situation and thus are morally responsible for their own well-being. For example, welfare mothers caught in bureaucratic poverty. Or, inner city youths caught in poor schools and lack of employment opportunities.

But there are also people who are not morally culpable for their poverty through illness or accident. There are also people who willingly choose destitution as a way of life.

So, taking such a blanket dismissive attitude towards the *poor* reflects a lack of judgment and context which in my opinion is not objective.

Would we not encourage those caught in a vicious cycle of poverty to work their way out of it? Not out of altruism but in the name of benevolence and respect for human life. Many people are caught in a trap from which is admittedly very difficult to overcome. It takes education, time, patience and encouragement.

But this leads to the question of the meaning of *selfishness*. People have sincerely asked why Objectivists use the word selfish when it is clear (to the asker) that it has a negative connotation, that is, acting without regard for the values of other people. The Objectivist would answer that that is exactly what we mean. For truly selfish people, their are no inherent conflicts and that acting *selfishly* is a virtue. I personally think this an over-simplification and can lead to personal disaster -- even for 'rational' people.

I once loaned my copy of TVoS to an acquaintance who seemed interested in Objectivism after reading Atlas Shrugged. After returning the book, he seemed to have no more interest. I daresay this scenario has been repeated many times. There are many very informative and reasoned essays in that book. But, a well meaning good hearted person learning that selfishness in Objectivism really does mean the conventional definition could quickly lose interest.

Someone can sincerely question the tenets of Objectivism and find what they think are flaws. I agree that there is much the *official* Objectivist literature that could benefit from reasoned criticism and response from those interested. (Perhaps this process has been gaining momentum.) I believe Ayn Rand is an historical figure along with seminal figures such as Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Locke, etc. But we need to carefully distinguish between objectivism as an approach to philosophy versus Objectivism as defined by Ayn Rand.

I think that most people who only have a passing understanding of Objectivism only know it as advocating 'selfishness' and 'unbridled' capitalism. I don't mean to imply to 'soften' Objectivism but to stress its advocacy for life, rationality, benevolence and prosperity. I personally wish there were more heroic fiction along such lines. Fiction can have a greater cultural impact than non-fiction.

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9 minutes ago, Wayne said:

I think that most people who only have a passing understanding of Objectivism only know it as advocating 'selfishness' and 'unbridled' capitalism. I don't mean to imply to 'soften' Objectivism but to stress its advocacy for life, rationality, benevolence and prosperity. I personally wish there were more heroic fiction along such lines. Fiction can have a greater cultural impact than non-fiction.

I'm right there with you for focusing on positives, but the thing is, these things are only meaningful with a selfish personal foundation. Human life itself is only meaningful with selfishness as its basis. We could argue that using another word would be beneficial at this point in civilization due to knee-jerk negative reactions from most. But it's certainly not beneficial if the reason we're finding another word is to try to change its meaning and purpose just because most people don't like the idea that human livelihood has to be based on selfishness!

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