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Brainstorming How to Spread a Radical Philosophy

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In another recent thread (or possibly several), the idea has come up that the Objectivist community has not yet done a great job of setting the earth aflame with reason. Indeed, it seems to me that things are getting progressively worse. Leaving aside questions of "blame," or trying to dissect the history, and also setting aside the question of whether or not we ought to want to spread Objectivism, if we wanted to do a better job of spreading Objectivism -- what should we do?

My initial thought is that a radical philosophy, running so against the cultural grain, will probably require something more than simply making books or lectures available, or writing the occasional op-ed. If we really want to make an impact, then we will have to come up with something more... compelling. So I'd like to dedicate this thread to some out-of-the-box thinking. Not every idea need to be perfect, and most of my own are probably flawed (maybe deeply so), but I'd like to see if we can generate something interesting through a brainstorm. Here are a few possibilities...

In 2017, social media is a big deal. I'm a bit on the older side now, and much of it has passed me by or isn't very relevant to my day-to-day, but is there a way we could make compelling content for YouTube or other hip services? There's room for counter-cultural voices, I think, and some of them are successful. But where's the Objectivist Sargon of Akkad?

Or how about learning from some of the older methods of proselytization? The Mormons (who have always struck me as being very friendly -- and I don't think I'm alone in that; I think it's part of their appeal) go door-to-door with literature, and they send missionaries to other countries. In fact, churches of all kinds seem to be big on missionaries. Perhaps they find that it works. Why not Objectivist missionaries? Maybe some of these ideas would be easier to spread elsewhere...

Why not Objectivist charity in general? Providing daycare or preschool, or study services for youth (oriented towards critical thinking skills and reason), or even hot meals for the poor (perhaps specifically children of poor families) while promoting Objectivist ideas to them -- could that possibly be effective? I mean, I've gone to Las Vegas and put up with an interminable timeshare sales pitch for the sake of some free show tickets; and providing free books to schools is something along these lines -- so can more be done?

Speaking of the essay contests, they're great. Seriously, I think it's a wonderful initiative. But do you know what the Scientologists do? They host the Writers of the Future contest. Every year, four times a year, they hold a fiction writing contest, and get hundreds of entries from all over the globe. What about something similar to that, perhaps an annual contest with a different theme each year, oriented towards some pro-reason, pro-egoism, pro-capitalism idea? If we can get young writers producing not alone essays, but art (which they will likely take and try to sell to other magazines, etc.), then wouldn't that have the potential to make an impact?

Why is it left to the neo-Nazis and Antifa to make headlines for protesting some of the nuttiness that has been happening recently? Why is it the alt-right that's hosting "free speech" weeks at Berkeley? Where's our Milo Yiannopolous? This seems like a critical time, and the culture is wide open, people are looking for answers (some of them dropping into the laps of Trump, Sanders, et al.) -- and we actually have them. Why aren't we making more noise?

Thoughts on my ideas? Any to add to the list?

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Mormons have a reputation for being nice people. We don't have a reputation for being anything other than grouches. People who preach happiness but aren't themselves happy. We're the most basic of jokes. If you don't walk around with a smile on your face most of the time, you're being an Objectivist in the wrong way. If this philosophy isn't fun to you, but is drudgery like it was for Peikoff and Rand, you're not living up to your own ideals.

I actually do have a YouTube channel on which I present Objectivist ideas. I don't market it as such, but my reasoning is based off of an Objectivist foundation. It's meant to make people think. Of course, you can't "make" people think, but hopefully I can convince people to consider my ideas--Ayn Rand's ideas.

I'm not one for proselytizing. If somebody wants to set up an O'ist soup kitchen, I'll come volunteer, but I'm not getting into anybody's faces about my philosophy.

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54 minutes ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

Mormons have a reputation for being nice people. We don't have a reputation for being anything other than grouches.

Based on the feedback I've gotten in society, "grouches" is putting it lightly. But yeah, I agree: our reputation sucks.

54 minutes ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

I actually do have a YouTube channel on which I present Objectivist ideas. I don't market it as such, but my reasoning is based off of an Objectivist foundation. It's meant to make people think. Of course, you can't "make" people think, but hopefully I can convince people to consider my ideas--Ayn Rand's ideas.

I'm not one for proselytizing. If somebody wants to set up an O'ist soup kitchen, I'll come volunteer, but I'm not getting into anybody's faces about my philosophy.

For what it's worth, I regard that sort of YouTube channel as a kind of proselytizing. I watched your free will vid. I thought it was well made (even if I disagree with you).

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16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

My initial thought is that a radical philosophy, running so against the cultural grain, will probably require something more than simply making books or lectures available, or writing the occasional op-ed. If we really want to make an impact, then we will have to come up with something more... compelling.

My own thought, on which I expanded elsewhere, is that we're fighting, not ignorance, but evasion, and that what we need to do to spread our ideas further is more akin to therapy than persuasion.  Although it is impossible to make a person stop evading, it is certainly possible to encourage them to do so.  But doing so requires one-on-one interactions or, at worst, small groups with live interactions  --  individual and group therapy -- and the focus has to be not so much on the ideas we want to spread but on what people think and feel that keeps them from giving our ideas a fair examination.

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

In 2017, social media is a big deal. I'm a bit on the older side now, and much of it has passed me by or isn't very relevant to my day-to-day, but is there a way we could make compelling content for YouTube or other hip services? There's room for counter-cultural voices, I think, and some of them are successful. But where's the Objectivist Sargon of Akkad?

You mean a flamboyant personality not afraid to provoke?  Objectivism doesn't encourage flamboyant personalities; as it stands, it reaches people whose relationship with thought is much stronger than with the public.  Also, there's the question of whether such a person would help or hinder the spread of Objectivism.  On the one hand, there is the notion that any publicity is good publicity.  On the other, there is the risk of cementing the view that Objectivists are kooks.

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

In fact, churches of all kinds seem to be big on missionaries. Perhaps they find that it works. Why not Objectivist missionaries? Maybe some of these ideas would be easier to spread elsewhere...

The essence of missionary work is going one on one to engage the potential convert, teaching by precept and example.  Going out into the community and engaging one on one could be more effective than relying on general missives, because it allows tailoring our message to each person's context.

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Why not Objectivist charity in general?

You need to define the goal.  Is it to get Objectivism established in the community, viewed as another cultural group that is as legitimate as others?  Or is it to reach the people who receive the charity?  Or both?

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Providing daycare or preschool, or study services for youth (oriented towards critical thinking skills and reason), or even hot meals for the poor (perhaps specifically children of poor families) while promoting Objectivist ideas to them -- could that possibly be effective?

Certainly. The churches do just this, providing services to the poor while surrounding them with symbols and ideas of religion.  Many of the churches, as well as secular organizations that provide similar services, actually include many virtues in their teaching that are consistent with Objectivism.  There's no reason that Objectivists couldn't provide similar services, minus the supernaturalism, of course.  I also think that the younger the better -- best to get to them before the evasion becomes too ingrained.

17 hours ago, DonAthos said:

What about something similar to that, perhaps an annual contest with a different theme each year, oriented towards some pro-reason, pro-egoism, pro-capitalism idea? If we can get young writers producing not alone essays, but art (which they will likely take and try to sell to other magazines, etc.), then wouldn't that have the potential to make an impact?

Presumably you know that ARI holds an essay contest.

What might be more effective than an essay contest is publishing the works.  The writers and other artists would get some cash and exposure, the public would get their works, and we'd benefit from the ideas expressed in the works and the publicity of having published them.  A win all around.

17 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Why is it left to the neo-Nazis and Antifa to make headlines for protesting some of the nuttiness that has been happening recently?

I doubt this would be worthwhile.  They get headlines, but thoughtful people tend to dismiss protesters as kooks.  Rightfully so, since most are....

17 hours ago, DonAthos said:

This seems like a critical time, and the culture is wide open, people are looking for answers (some of them dropping into the laps of Trump, Sanders, et al.) -- and we actually have them. Why aren't we making more noise?

Because noise alone won't do it.  Rand made lots of noise, but it got her nowhere to speak of.  Many of us are Objectivists in spite of Rand.....

17 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Thoughts on my ideas? Any to add to the list?

The common feature to your ideas is to work bottom up rather than top down.  Official Objectivism has tried the top down approach, and that clearly hasn't made the expected progress.

The bottom up approach -- community engagement, talking to individuals -- has the benefit that its results can be measured in terms of lives changed rather than ideas spreading.  It's hard to measure the influence of ideas on society, easy to measure the number of individuals adopting some or all of the ideas one is trying to spread.

 

Besides, Objectivism is an individualist philosophy; it seems odd to think it could be spread by collective action.....
 

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3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

My own thought, on which I expanded elsewhere, is that we're fighting, not ignorance, but evasion, and that what we need to do to spread our ideas further is more akin to therapy than persuasion.

I agree in certain respects, at least (where "persuasion" ends and "therapy" begins, or how "education" sits with either, I'm not entirely certain). Evasion has been much on my mind of late, and perhaps you've noticed the thread I've created to explore it in more detail. My burgeoning beliefs on the topic are that subconscious habits with respect to focusing (including evasion) may, in part at least, be addressed through the conscious adoption of certain beliefs, tools and mindsets.

A more effective persuasion, then (whether that persuasion is conceived of as proselytizing or educating or therapy or what-have-you), should address itself primarily to the spread of the kinds of beliefs, tools and mindsets necessary so that people may "program" their subconscious to focus more fully, and more often, and to be hostile against evasion.

This is probably more easily accomplished with the young than the mature, although the sometimes success of Rand amongst college-aged populations (which is where I encountered her, too) suggests to me that some people are yet resilient (to some degree, at least) against those cultural forces which encourage evasion.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Although it is impossible to make a person stop evading, it is certainly possible to encourage them to do so.  But doing so requires one-on-one interactions or, at worst, small groups with live interactions  --  individual and group therapy -- and the focus has to be not so much on the ideas we want to spread but on what people think and feel that keeps them from giving our ideas a fair examination.

I don't know if it has to be exclusively this, but I'm not against the idea of this sort of "therapy." Again, I'm reminded that there are other groups which try to spread their own ideas, and some of them seemingly find more success than we do. What (if anything) can we learn from their methods? What can we use for our own purposes? The Scientologists pull people off the streets with the promise of IQ tests, and they peddle highly destructive, ridiculous sci-fi nonsense. I don't advocate for Xenu, or whatever-the-fuck, but IQ tests are kind of neat. I can see why people stop for a minute.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

You mean a flamboyant personality not afraid to provoke?  Objectivism doesn't encourage flamboyant personalities; as it stands, it reaches people whose relationship with thought is much stronger than with the public.  Also, there's the question of whether such a person would help or hinder the spread of Objectivism.  On the one hand, there is the notion that any publicity is good publicity.  On the other, there is the risk of cementing the view that Objectivists are kooks.

There are a couple different ways to look at "provocation." The first, which I do not endorse, is a kind of insulting, demeaning, asshole-like behavior that some Objectivists are already quick to adopt. The second is the provocation of having strong, clear, challenging ideas and being unafraid to endorse them without apology. I like the second, and I think that, in terms of personality, there's no reason why it cannot be coupled with "flamboyance," or charm, or an interesting demeanor, or unusual presentation.

In another thread, StrictlyLogical linked to this "philosophical oratorio" by Robin Field. I think it's brilliant. Now... musical theater isn't for everyone (and there's probably no one-size-fits-all path to persuasion, either, no matter how we feel about Atlas Shrugged... and frankly, it's not exactly my favorite novel ever); but I think there's room -- and call -- for greater exploration in terms of how the message is conveyed. To risk abusing the word, there is more room for "fun." And while some might kind the Field bit sort of "kooky," I really don't think we can do much more in the way of hurting the general impression of Objectivists than has already been done (insofar as anyone has any idea of what "Objectivism" is).

I wouldn't just take anyone, but yeah, I'd be willing to risk a charismatic, flamboyant face of Objectivism for a while -- someone who can project warmth and caring, while making philosophy appear fun for a while, and relevant to our lives. I think that would be enough to provoke (in the good sense) and that it could only help begin to dig our brand/reputation out of the ditch where it currently lies, dead and buried.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

You need to define the goal.  Is it to get Objectivism established in the community, viewed as another cultural group that is as legitimate as others?  Or is it to reach the people who receive the charity?  Or both?

Primarily the idea would be to reach the people who receive the charity, but secondarily I believe that this would function to improve the standing and visibility of Objectivism more generally (moving from incremental success towards exponential). As a tertiary (though far less important) point, it might even serve to clarify some of the confusions that people have about Objectivist ideology, when they question why ARI is funded by donations, or etc.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Certainly. The churches do just this...

[...]

I also think that the younger the better -- best to get to them before the evasion becomes too ingrained.

Yup. It's one of the big lessons we must learn from other, more historically successful programs. We must teach people to be critical thinkers from an early age.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Presumably you know that ARI holds an essay contest.

I do! I was making reference to that, when I'd said, "Speaking of the essay contests, they're great. Seriously, I think it's a wonderful initiative."

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

What might be more effective than an essay contest is publishing the works.  The writers and other artists would get some cash and exposure, the public would get their works, and we'd benefit from the ideas expressed in the works and the publicity of having published them.  A win all around.

I don't dislike the idea of publishing the essays, but speaking to this specifically, I think that the market for essays (both in terms of publishing and consumption) is much smaller than stories.

Someone who writes a story for an Objectivist-themed writing contest -- and fails to win -- can turn around and submit their story to one of a few dozen markets; an essay that fails to place... probably goes directly into the trunk.

But what about something more? What about movies? Suppose something like "Project Greenlight," but for original Objectivist-inspired material (with an emphasis on good art/production, not slavish ideological agreement). Instead of feature-length films, it could be shorts, such that could be hosted on YouTube or similar, with some not-too-extravagant cash prize.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I doubt this would be worthwhile.  They get headlines, but thoughtful people tend to dismiss protesters as kooks.  Rightfully so, since most are....

Because noise alone won't do it.  Rand made lots of noise, but it got her nowhere to speak of.  Many of us are Objectivists in spite of Rand.....

When you say "in spite of," I'd like to get at your meaning more; perhaps we could discuss that another time. But sometimes a little noise is good, like the IQ test, like the spotlights that pronounce a Hollywood premier, like the barker at the front of the carnival; because: we need to bring people into the tent, first.

You're right that Rand did make noise, publishing fiction, hosting seminars, appearing on talk shows, and etc., and while it didn't completely reshape the world in her lifetime, I'd say that there were some positive results from it. Personally, and I've made mention of this elsewhere, I think that there should be less focus on Ayn Rand, the person, and more focus on the ideas of reason, reality, egoism, and capitalism (though also shifting slightly away from capitalism and towards the more fundamental areas). So it shouldn't just be any noise. It ought to be a pleasant-sounding one; something consonant with the voice of reason. But a noise of some kind is probably required, if we want to be heard at all. And while I don't want us to be further cast as kooks, it still seems to me that those kooky (and awful) groups are capitalizing better on current conditions than we are. They're irrational morons, but they're making hay, regardless, while we sit on our hands and wait for people to come to Rand.

Or as Littlefinger would have it, "chaos is a ladder." We don't want for chaos, currently, so why not get to climbing.

Or here's a more specific proposal: "free speech" has been a serious topic of debate, of late; the alt-right proposed a "free speech week" at Berkeley and it made headlines, and largely fell through. So why not something like that, hosted by (for instance) ARI? A celebration of free speech, hosting firebrand speakers representing various political viewpoints, a few high-profile debates (maybe over the role that "free speech" itself plays in society) featuring Objectivist speakers -- but don't let it collapse through poor planning. Pull it off. Film it and put it online. I'd watch it. I think others would, too.

3 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

The common feature to your ideas is to work bottom up rather than top down.  Official Objectivism has tried the top down approach, and that clearly hasn't made the expected progress.

The bottom up approach -- community engagement, talking to individuals -- has the benefit that its results can be measured in terms of lives changed rather than ideas spreading.  It's hard to measure the influence of ideas on society, easy to measure the number of individuals adopting some or all of the ideas one is trying to spread.

 

Besides, Objectivism is an individualist philosophy; it seems odd to think it could be spread by collective action.....

I'm not entirely sure I understand the distinction between "top down" and "bottom up," as you've presented them here; I do look at my efforts as equally interested in the spread of ideas. I'm trying to figure out how best to spread them.

But I just really quickly want to speak to the idea of "individualist" versus "collective action"; I hope that I'm not being misunderstood as saying that we ought not work together to accomplish our goals. I'm an individualist, but I also believe very strongly in teamwork (I do not find these ideas incompatible at all), and that it is important that we work together to achieve these huge, and hugely important ends. Individual genius is a inimitable spark, but mass movements (such as the spread of a philosophy, especially against a cultural tide or other obstacle) require some degree of coordination and cooperation.

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22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I agree in certain respects, at least (where "persuasion" ends and "therapy" begins, or how "education" sits with either, I'm not entirely certain).

In persuasion, you try to convince someone of something.  In therapy, you try to remove mental roadblocks, often with the intention that, once those roadblocks are gone, either persuasion will not be necessary or will be much easier.  In education you try to impart information, often, but not necessarily, with the intent to persuade.

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Evasion has been much on my mind of late, and perhaps you've noticed the thread I've created to explore it in more detail. My burgeoning beliefs on the topic are that subconscious habits with respect to focusing (including evasion) may, in part at least, be addressed through the conscious adoption of certain beliefs, tools and mindsets.

I did notice; I at least skim everything posted.  However, I decide to sit that one out, due to limited time.  It's a real test of won't power, let me tell you!

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

A more effective persuasion, then (whether that persuasion is conceived of as proselytizing or educating or therapy or what-have-you), should address itself primarily to the spread of the kinds of beliefs, tools and mindsets necessary so that people may "program" their subconscious to focus more fully, and more often, and to be hostile against evasion.

Mindfulness and reason, more or less.

22 hours ago, DonAthos said:

This is probably more easily accomplished with the young than the mature, although the sometimes success of Rand amongst college-aged populations (which is where I encountered her, too) suggests to me that some people are yet resilient (to some degree, at least) against those cultural forces which encourage evasion.

"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man."

There have been attempts at Objectivist schools.  I don't recall anything good coming from them, but it's been awhile since I paid attention.  But it still seems a place to start.  When's the last time you heard of someone over 30 coming to Objectivism?  I'm sure it happens, but not that often.

23 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Again, I'm reminded that there are other groups which try to spread their own ideas, and some of them seemingly find more success than we do. What (if anything) can we learn from their methods? What can we use for our own purposes?

In general, these groups rely on things we can't.  Christians, when they don't get to the children early, rely on the fact that the Christian world-view underpins both the secular and religious popular thought in this country.  You brought up Scientology, but what I know of them suggests that they target the mentally vulnerable, as do most other "successful" proselytizers.  Handing out IQ tests might get people in the door, but you have to "sell" people by giving them something they think they want, whether it be a religion that tells them that, though they are scum they can be saved, or a cult that promises certainty without the effort of thinking. What can we offer that will be seen as desirable?

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

The first, which I do not endorse, is a kind of insulting, demeaning, asshole-like behavior that some Objectivists are already quick to adopt.

I spend way too much time in and around religious people -- they're the ones that do charity and I am forced to live off charity for now -- and no one finds me objectionable, even if I tell them I'm an atheist (only when asked).  I actually agree with them on many of the virtues, as would any Objectivist, and in my behavior, I mostly fit right in (except when they're doing something explicitly religious, and I then just wait politely for them to be done).

By contrast, you wouldn't want the sort of person you described anywhere near.  But they're the face of Objectivism.  Why don't people know that you can find Objectivists all over the place, from tending bar (one of the first Objectivists I met in person) to running Wikipedia, being ordinary and sometimes extraordinary good citizens?

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

The second is the provocation of having strong, clear, challenging ideas and being unafraid to endorse them without apology. I like the second, and I think that, in terms of personality, there's no reason why it cannot be coupled with "flamboyance," or charm, or an interesting demeanor, or unusual presentation.

The problem here is that one is asking a lot: someone who understands Objectivism, practices it, is comfortable with public speaking, quick on his feet, not prone to overreaction...and still is noticeable in the crowd.   Such people do exist, but I don't know of any Objectivists who would qualify.
 

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

And while some might kind the Field bit sort of "kooky," I really don't think we can do much more in the way of hurting the general impression of Objectivists than has already been done (insofar as anyone has any idea of what "Objectivism" is).

There's kooky like Scientology and then there's kooky as in off the wall.  The former is what hurts us; the latter can be helpful.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

Primarily the idea would be to reach the people who receive the charity, but secondarily I believe that this would function to improve the standing and visibility of Objectivism more generally (moving from incremental success towards exponential).

One thing you have to watch for is the nature of the recipients.  Rather a lot of charity is focused on those who are simply never going to make anything of themselves.  Objectivist charity can extend to, say, a single mother trying to become a productive citizen, but not the drug addict who is perfectly happy to live a life of dependence and self-abuse.  There's a lot of entitlement mindset among the poor, which is why liberals can always find someone to claim they need this or that program.

But, yeah, helping that single mother become a steady breadwinner by teaching her to think for herself and otherwise act independently would in itself be a big win for everyone, especially if she is exposed to Objectivist ideas in the process.  But that means that those ideas have to be simplified without being dumbed down....

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

Yup. It's one of the big lessons we must learn from other, more historically successful programs. We must teach people to be critical thinkers from an early age.

"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man."

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

I don't dislike the idea of publishing the essays, but speaking to this specifically, I think that the market for essays (both in terms of publishing and consumption) is much smaller than stories.

I wasn't clear.  I was talking about publishing works of all types.  Imagine a book that expresses Objectivist ideas through a combination of essays, visual art,  poetry, and short stories.  Center different books around different themes.  Get some good editors and artists to work with those who are to be published to ensure reasonable esthetic quality and people who are philosophically minded to keep everything on theme.

Has anyone considered writing a tragedy with an Objectivist underpinning?  Catharsis has its value.... (Remember Tony? Non Absolute?  I still tear up remembering his death scene.)

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

When you say "in spite of," I'd like to get at your meaning more; perhaps we could discuss that another time.

Nothing profound here....I just found her writing too often pointlessly abrasive.  I really didn't like having to read through reams of diatribe.  And I just didn't see the point of screaming at people who were not listening.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

because: we need to bring people into the tent, first.

Yeah, but if the sign says, "This way to the egress", people might be expecting a bird, not the back door. :)  More seriously, whatever brings them in must attract non-Objectivists while not offending Objectivist principles.  That might be a trick.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

I think that there should be less focus on Ayn Rand, the person, and more focus on the ideas of reason, reality, egoism, and capitalism (though also shifting slightly away from capitalism and towards the more fundamental areas). So it shouldn't just be any noise. It ought to be a pleasant-sounding one; something consonant with the voice of reason.

Most people don't think yelling is reasonable....

And, true, the focus on Rand is probably counterproductive.  If for no other reason than, if you can't explain a thing in your own words, you don't really understand it.  There are, of course, places where Rand's words or a slight paraphrase are really the best way to express an idea, but there are other areas where her expressions are simply confusing.  "Existence exists"?  Too ambiguous.

The other thing is that a focus on Rand plays right into the cult narrative.  I suppose there are Randian cultists around posing as Objectivists, but they're not a part of my world, and they shouldn't be a part of any effort to spread Objectivism.  Instead, we need people willing to stand on their own two feet, verbally speaking.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

Or here's a more specific proposal: "free speech" has been a serious topic of debate, of late; the alt-right proposed a "free speech week" at Berkeley and it made headlines, and largely fell through. So why not something like that, hosted by (for instance) ARI?

I have a real problem with cultural commentary.  Objectivist ethical and social principles are valid only in a certain context and we do not live in that context.  A lot of Objectivist conclusions are simple nonsense as applied to the world we actually live in.  E.g., the principle that all commerce should be unregulated is often used to support the notion that a particular bit of deregulation is a good thing.  But this often ignores the fact that in a world dominated by government interference in the economy (which is not the Objectivist context), one piece of government regulation may demand another, and the latter cannot safely be removed unless the former is as well.  When we ignore that, we often come across as fools...because we are.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

Or here's a more specific proposal: "free speech" has been a serious topic of debate, of late; the alt-right proposed a "free speech week" at Berkeley and it made headlines, and largely fell through. So why not something like that, hosted by (for instance) ARI? A celebration of free speech, hosting firebrand speakers representing various political viewpoints, a few high-profile debates (maybe over the role that "free speech" itself plays in society) featuring Objectivist speakers -- but don't let it collapse through poor planning. Pull it off. Film it and put it online. I'd watch it. I think others would, too.

So go sell the idea to ARI?

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

I'm not entirely sure I understand the distinction between "top down" and "bottom up," as you've presented them here;

The party line has been to teach the teachers and they'll teach everyone else.  Your ideas have been to go directly to those who you would persuade.

On Friday October 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM, DonAthos said:

But I just really quickly want to speak to the idea of "individualist" versus "collective action"; I hope that I'm not being misunderstood as saying that we ought not work together to accomplish our goals. I'm an individualist, but I also believe very strongly in teamwork (I do not find these ideas incompatible at all), and that it is important that we work together to achieve these huge, and hugely important ends.

Objectivism is an individualist philosophy, not an atomistic one.  We shouldn't be  metaphorical helium atoms, unwilling to associate with anyone, nor flourine, willing to associate with anyone who'll have us.  Think carbon, cooperating with a wide variety of others...to produce life.

Putting aside rhetoric...Of course.

Unfortunately, no one seems to be doing this, at least not well.  ARI has its thing, but it's not very effective, largely because it doesn't reach the masses.  ARI, no doubt, would respond that the masses are ... oh never mind, I won't repeat that joke ... not listening, and won't listen until they are taught better.  History, I would reply, has proven that their approach is not effective, so we should try a different one.  That too might not work -- I don't think it will -- but even a failure would have some value.

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2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

In persuasion, you try to convince someone of something.  In therapy, you try to remove mental roadblocks, often with the intention that, once those roadblocks are gone, either persuasion will not be necessary or will be much easier.  In education you try to impart information, often, but not necessarily, with the intent to persuade.

In these terms, then, I would say that everything I have in mind is persuasive in nature (whether it is also therapeutic or educational). I guess I'm trying to clarify the seeming point of contention between us that I would like to continue to try to persuade, but you believe that people require therapy, instead. I'm not against some sort of approach via therapy... so that eventually we may convince someone of something! :)

I'm not sure we really disagree here.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I did notice; I at least skim everything posted.  However, I decide to sit that one out, due to limited time.  It's a real test of won't power, let me tell you!

LOL, I understand. And that's the first I've encountered "won't power," and it's brilliant; I may have to steal it.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

There have been attempts at Objectivist schools.  I don't recall anything good coming from them, but it's been awhile since I paid attention.  But it still seems a place to start.  When's the last time you heard of someone over 30 coming to Objectivism?  I'm sure it happens, but not that often.

Now that you mention, I don't think I've ever heard of it... though I'd be surprised if it had never happened. But yeah, youth-focused seems to have the most promise. I don't think that's a new discovery on my part.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

In general, these groups rely on things we can't.  Christians, when they don't get to the children early, rely on the fact that the Christian world-view underpins both the secular and religious popular thought in this country.  You brought up Scientology, but what I know of them suggests that they target the mentally vulnerable, as do most other "successful" proselytizers.  Handing out IQ tests might get people in the door, but you have to "sell" people by giving them something they think they want, whether it be a religion that tells them that, though they are scum they can be saved, or a cult that promises certainty without the effort of thinking. What can we offer that will be seen as desirable?

We still need to work on all aspects of this. It's increasingly clear to me that Objectivism (at least as understood, practiced and portrayed by the "mainstream" Objectivist community) is not yet ready for prime time. But ideally what we have to offer that will be seen as desirable is the actual means to achieve human happiness on earth. That should be worth something.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

One thing you have to watch for is the nature of the recipients.  Rather a lot of charity is focused on those who are simply never going to make anything of themselves.  Objectivist charity can extend to, say, a single mother trying to become a productive citizen, but not the drug addict who is perfectly happy to live a life of dependence and self-abuse.  There's a lot of entitlement mindset among the poor, which is why liberals can always find someone to claim they need this or that program.

But, yeah, helping that single mother become a steady breadwinner by teaching her to think for herself and otherwise act independently would in itself be a big win for everyone, especially if she is exposed to Objectivist ideas in the process.  But that means that those ideas have to be simplified without being dumbed down....

Yes to everything. By this point, I think we agree far more than otherwise. Scanning down, most of the rest of my responses would be some form of agreement...

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I wasn't clear.  I was talking about publishing works of all types.  Imagine a book that expresses Objectivist ideas through a combination of essays, visual art,  poetry, and short stories.  Center different books around different themes.  Get some good editors and artists to work with those who are to be published to ensure reasonable esthetic quality and people who are philosophically minded to keep everything on theme.

Most of what we're brainstorming, I am probably incapable of doing much about personally. But this...?

I'm going to give this some serious consideration.

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14 hours ago, DonAthos said:

In these terms, then, I would say that everything I have in mind is persuasive in nature (whether it is also therapeutic or educational). I guess I'm trying to clarify the seeming point of contention between us that I would like to continue to try to persuade, but you believe that people require therapy, instead. I'm not against some sort of approach via therapy... so that eventually we may convince someone of something!

We have two points of contention, I think.  The first is a matter of goals.  You want to spread Objectivism to save, or at least improve, this society.  I want to do so partly because it would be a good thing to have more Objectivists in the world whether or not this society benefits.  But I also need there to be more Objectivists so that my proposed city has a better chance of success.

The other is the method of persuasion.  If effective persuasion is the goal, it needs to take into account the nature of the people who are to be persuaded.  You have two choices,  You can try to reach the evaders, in which case you need to take into account the causes of their evasion and do something therapy-like.  Or you can focus on reaching those who are amenable to persuasion alone.  Both approaches are reasonable, since therapy is much more resource consuming than simple persuasion.

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

It's increasingly clear to me that Objectivism (at least as understood, practiced and portrayed by the "mainstream" Objectivist community) is not yet ready for prime time.

I agree.  But I'll bet that, if you look, you can find lots of Objectivists and near Objectivists like the bartender of my acquaintance, people living an ordinary and happy life out of the limelight.  They'd be the better examples, and they might have something to teach the academics (and us).

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:
Quote

I wasn't clear.  I was talking about publishing works of all types.  Imagine a book that expresses Objectivist ideas through a combination of essays, visual art,  poetry, and short stories.  Center different books around different themes.  Get some good editors and artists to work with those who are to be published to ensure reasonable esthetic quality and people who are philosophically minded to keep everything on theme.

Most of what we're brainstorming, I am probably incapable of doing much about personally. But this...?

I'm going to give this some serious consideration.

My artistry is limited to singing of questionable quality and computer programming, so wouldn't be useful.  But I can write essays, critique, and edit.  And I work cheap, too. :)

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21 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

We have two points of contention, I think.  The first is a matter of goals.  You want to spread Objectivism to save, or at least improve, this society.  I want to do so partly because it would be a good thing to have more Objectivists in the world whether or not this society benefits.  But I also need there to be more Objectivists so that my proposed city has a better chance of success.

My only interest in "society" is (what else) selfish, and when I say that I want to improve society, or the world, I mean (in large part) what you do: "because it would be a good thing to have more Objectivists in the world."

There may yet be something hidden in the semantics, but I do not believe that there is any true point of contention here.

21 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

The other is the method of persuasion.  If effective persuasion is the goal, it needs to take into account the nature of the people who are to be persuaded.  You have two choices,  You can try to reach the evaders, in which case you need to take into account the causes of their evasion and do something therapy-like.  Or you can focus on reaching those who are amenable to persuasion alone.  Both approaches are reasonable, since therapy is much more resource consuming than simple persuasion.

And I think that this is mostly resolved, as well. I agree with you that effective persuasion needs to take into account the nature of the people who are to be persuaded, or as much context as possible. Effective persuasion is itself an underserved topic among Objectivists, and one of the seeming millions of things I'm still trying to sort out in my own mind.

As for "therapy-like" versus "simple persuasion," it's a hell of a thing, isn't it? In my years of discussing issues with fellow Objectivists (among others), I have been driven from relying on more simple persuasive efforts to a deep dive into the topic of evasion (whether to understand theirs, or my own). With respect to changing society, I think that a broad spectrum of persuasive efforts is necessary, howsoever my own personal efforts are focused. I'd expect to win some amount of agreement at every level (speaking very broadly, statistically), with greater/more widespread success possible (against the greater resource consumption you mention) at the lowest, root levels.

21 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

I agree.  But I'll bet that, if you look, you can find lots of Objectivists and near Objectivists like the bartender of my acquaintance, people living an ordinary and happy life out of the limelight.  They'd be the better examples, and they might have something to teach the academics (and us).

To be honest with you, I've never (to my knowledge) encountered an Objectivist "in the wild." Only people who have known an Objectivist (usually in college -- someone's roommate) and been turned off to the whole scene, or who read some of Rand's fiction at one point, with various degrees of receptivity.

21 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

My artistry is limited to singing of questionable quality and computer programming, so wouldn't be useful.  But I can write essays, critique, and edit.  And I work cheap, too. :)

Heh, I'll keep that in mind.

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3 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

My only interest in "society" is (what else) selfish, and when I say that I want to improve society, or the world, I mean (in large part) what you do: "because it would be a good thing to have more Objectivists in the world."

Well, if the goal is simply to have more Objectivists, regardless of whether this will prevent the coming catastrophe, then we're on the same page here.

11 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I'd expect to win some amount of agreement at every level (speaking very broadly, statistically), with greater/more widespread success possible (against the greater resource consumption you mention) at the lowest, root levels.

Likely, given the lack of success of previous efforts.

14 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

To be honest with you, I've never (to my knowledge) encountered an Objectivist "in the wild." Only people who have known an Objectivist (usually in college -- someone's roommate) and been turned off to the whole scene, or who read some of Rand's fiction at one point, with various degrees of receptivity.

I've been looking around and I've found a lot of Objectivists and near Objectivists writing blogs.  And there are no doubt are many more people like them who just aren't interested in being publicly identified as Objectivists.  Unfortunately,it's not a label that sheds much light.  There are too many Objectivists, like some currently engaged in a catfight in another topic, who really are not good examples of the benevolent people we can and should be.

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