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Popularizing Objectivism: Is it possible without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?

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Carts Before Horses is claiming that Objectivism as presented to the public is no fun and that this causes the public to reject it.  The question is: Can you popularize Objectivism (make it more fun as he puts it) without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?  

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"Fun: 1. Enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure."

Philosophy in general isn't really fun. Contemplating new ideas isn't really fun. Figuring out your course of action isn't really fun. Fun is kind of like humor, the flip side of something difficult. Objectivism can't be "popularized" with fun like a pop song. It's a slow burn from the other side.

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4 hours ago, Craig24 said:

Carts Before Horses is claiming that Objectivism as presented to the public is no fun and that this causes the public to reject it.  The question is: Can you popularize Objectivism (make it more fun as he puts it) without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?  

I think there are two separate streams of ideas here:

  • Should Objectivists be having lots of fun?
  • Can Objectivism be popularized without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?

On Fun: No, definitely not. We should struggle stoically. Life is a challenge. LOL, just kidding! Of course, Objectivists should have as much fun as they can. However, fun is really not a great word to describe all the ways of enjoying being alive. You could use it that way, but many people do not: so there could be an issue in communication.

As an example: I've occasionally worked with people -- just regular middle-class colleagues -- who consider the jobs they do to be more than  drudgery. They think of their jobs as draining their souls. Then,  there is the larger set who "like their jobs", because the pay meets their expectations and their colleagues are fun to hang out with, but when it comes to the job itself they do it competently enough but do not seem to have much zest to improve or to change. And, finally, one has the third set -- not insubstantial -- who seem to find a degree of purpose in their work, and try to improve how they do things, and to put in their best. People spend almost all their adult lives working. SO, the key to long term happiness is to be working somewhere and on something that gives you some degree of enjoyment. A 2 week vacation to Florida isn't going to do it.

Westerners advise their kids to "follow their passion", whereas your traditional Easterner tells their kid that they should get a well-paying career and that money will bring them the happiness they need. None of them are talking about fun in its narrower sense. They would all advise fun. Even most Christians and a church social have lots of fun, in the narrower sense. But, the broader idea is: enjoy life. That's a place where Objectivist-inspired authors still have a role to play.

Candidly, I wouldn't find it weird is people at a Christian social are having more "fun" in the narrower sense than folks at an Objectivist social. I would find it depressing if those Christians understand the broader value of seeking a purpose (and diving into that purpose, and feeling rewarded by achieving that purpose) better than Objectivists. That would be a true wake-up call.

History: I think the history of Objectivism does support some of Cart's critique, but it's "so 1990s". Again though, the problem is not that fun was undervalued. More importantly, the focus was on politics; and the psychological feel was one of us-vs-them; never healthy. From me, this is a critique, and not criticism. I think the movement through a learning process where everyone, from Rand down to new readers had to digest what it all meant, in all sorts of aspects of life. As it grew, the many new people in the movement questioned some false assumptions and I think the late 1990s might have been a time -- the internet did it -- when the majority discarded various concrete-bound false ideas around the whole idea of fun. 

However, I think too many Objectivists continued to be more outward-focused rather than focused on their values. That appears to have changed in the last decade or so. It has probably been a combination of on-going learning and maturity of the movement, and also the ability of the internet to allow people to come together, but also to selectively meet-up in real life and do things that have little to do with philosophy. 

Job #1 is to maximize happiness: Still, this last bit is where more "work" is needed. It has to be done primarily by each Objectivist individually: turning a focus inward, understanding that some things outside are unlikely to change, and figuring out how to make the most of one's own life anyway. If one is living in the U.S., and most western countries, there's seldom an external excuse for not having a good, enjoyable life. There are exceptions of course. Some people fall afoul of "the system" and it chews them up. For others, it may be too late. And, for still others, reality might have dealt them a really bad hand: a debilitating disease, for instance. So, I'm talking about the typical Objectivist here.

Spreading the philosophy: I'd start with asking: "why?" and, even more importantly, "are you going to focus on that at the cost of your happiness, or as something that would bring you great happiness under realistic assumptions about what you can achieve?" If the things you think you can achieve, and the process you have to go through to achieve them, will not bring you happiness, then why would you waste your time doing them?

This is not to diss those who spend their time doing this. For instance, the Institute of Justice fights cases that take a small bar-grade ice-pick to an ice-berg. But, I think this could be enjoyable and purposeful and some lawyers could have a lot of fun (that word again) doing it. If they can put food on their table in the process, more power to them! Similarly, if someone makes it his mission to get a few thousand additional kids to read The Fountainhead each year, and they enjoy this, and can make a living doing this, I wish them well. 

In the end though, most people have other career goals, and since work is such a large part of life, that's where they have to seek fun and fulfillment. The Objectivist youth organization that began as a campus newsletter, changed its focus. They figured out that their members could do more with their lives if they know a little less about Kant and Plato, and a little more about more immediate ways to make one's life a success, or if they had a way to network while looking for work, etc. 

In terms of spreading the philosophy, I think it will take something similar. It won't take people having more fun as narrowly defined. It's more likely to take someone who can craft a coherent message that gives great advice about how to live one's life to the fullest. it would take someone who understand the best ideas of modern motivational speakers, evangelists and self-help writers. Someone who can throw out the bad, and keep the nuggets that make sense. Someone who can craft that into a coherent whole, and can do so consistently with Objectivist Ethics. That could be a a game-changer.

Meanwhile, if you're not that person, I'd fall back to: get a life... where you can find the maximum happiness for yourself, and feel a sense of purpose. 

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8 hours ago, Craig24 said:

Carts Before Horses is claiming that Objectivism as presented to the public is no fun and that this causes the public to reject it.  The question is: Can you popularize Objectivism (make it more fun as he puts it) without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?  

I don't think philosophy is all that dissimilar to other ideas through history: man made flight, electricity, combustion engine etc., etc. All these ideas became popular because they resulted in worthwhile concretes. They weren't ideas the general public could've successfully been presented with, in theory alone.

There was a need for concrete achievements, to go along with the ideas themselves. So that's the key: to go along with all the activism, people who like the ideas should live good lives, and that achievement will cause interest in the ideas that shaped that life.

That doesn't mean activism is useless, but activists need to be conscious of the full range of their communication: both the intended and the unintended messages. For instance, an Oist activist focused on pointing out the flaws of the political system may think he's just communicating political ideas, but, in reality, to the average person, he projects a sense of isolation and even fatalism (us vs. them, as SN put it). When there's a contradiction between a more concrete and a more abstract message, people (rightfully) give more weight to the former. So that activist is hurting more than he's helping.

To effectively control the message, and only communicate what he intends to, an activist needs to be well versed in communication and dedicated to the work full time. Even if you're naturally charismatic and an effective leader in your day job, it's not enough. Your message, no matter how convincing, can still be presented selectively, or misrepresented, by others (both in the traditional media and on social media). So you still have to be deliberate about everything you do and discerning about who you talk to...and that takes a lot of expertise and tedious research.

Just to be clear: you don't have to be "fun", charming, or even nice and friendly, to be an effective communicator. Trump's an effective communicator...I doubt even his minions would ever accuse him of any of those four things. But you need to be aware of the times when you might be perceived as unhappy or a pessimist (as well as of the many other unintended messages we send out on a daily basis).

Edited by Nicky

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There's something that John Allison said once in a reply to someone asking him how to spread Objectivism. (My paraphrase from memory.).

"Become a success in your field, using Objectivism. And when people ask you what makes you so successful, tell them." (something along those lines.)

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8 hours ago, Craig24 said:

Carts Before Horses is claiming that Objectivism as presented to the public is no fun and that this causes the public to reject it.

You've correctly described my views but I should make one thing absolutely clear. The lack of fun in our philosophy is *one* cause, but not the *sole* cause of the public's rejection of our ideas. Inadequate marketing is another. An inconsistent, neocon foreign policy is another. The split within Objectivism on the topic of immigration is another. And, as Invictus2017 points out, many people are simply unwilling to change regardless of what we do. They have free will, they can choose to think or not to think.

8 hours ago, Craig24 said:

The question is: Can you popularize Objectivism (make it more fun as he puts it) without compromising objectivity, truth and the good?  

Of course. There is no conflict there.

The idea that we have to compromise, and pick either fun or objectivist, is a false dilemma. Just like the alleged is-ought problem, the alleged mind-body problem, and the alleged emotion-reason problems are false dilemmas.

What man is, informs him as to what he ought to do. There is no contradiction.
Consciousness exists, and the body exists. There is no contradiction.
Logical premises inform emotions. There is no contradiction.
Our true philosophy informs us as to fun. There is no contradiction.

We make our philosophy fun by being fun people. This should be the natural result of our rational and moral rightness as individuals. We can also promote the fun parts of our philosophy.

We're a philosophy that says it's morally good to be rich in a selfish way. That sounds like fun to me... you get to keep your stuff if you legitimately earned it. No taxes! I'm a CPA but doing taxes is not fun at all, even for me.

We're a philosophy which says that drugs, sex, booze, prostitution, pornography, dog track racing, are all okay as long as you don't violate others' rights. We literally have the entire universe to enjoy as we see fit... and the universe is benevolent, it allows for success barring accidents. How is that not a fun proposition?

We're a philosophy that says that you do have a (moral) soul, you do have free will, and you don't have to follow any stupid rules from an invisible sky man. Atheists are successful in spreading their message because they're fun in certain respects, but they deny free will and a soul and postulate man as a sort of robot. We can be even more fun than them... because we're actually true!

For those who are willing to unchain their soul, for those who are willing to let their spirit soar, for those who want to find their wings, Objectivism is the truest, purest form of happiness. It is the truest, purest form of fun.

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2 hours ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

The lack of fun in our philosophy is *one* cause, but not the *sole* cause of the public's rejection of our ideas. Inadequate marketing is another.

2 hours ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

We're a philosophy which says that drugs, sex, booze, prostitution, pornography, dog track racing, are all okay as long as you don't violate others' rights.

I, for one, am not interested in buying into this sort of package deal.

You were not proselytized into coming here. If what is being offered here is not your idea of fun, there is nothing barring the doorway to your egress.

I'll add to this what has essentially been my motto, stated by Francisco to Dagny:

"[T]here's nothing of any importance in life—except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It's the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they'll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that's on a gold standard. When you grow up, you'll know what I mean."

You state

3 hours ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

The idea that we have to compromise, and pick either fun or objectivist, is a false dilemma. Just like the alleged is-ought problem, the alleged mind-body problem, and the alleged emotion-reason problems are false dilemmas.

The is-ought, mind-body, and emotion-reason dilemmas have been well addressed. Substituting fun for happiness is a sleight of hand trick only a most astute magician could hope to pull off.

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35 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

I, for one, am not interested in buying into this sort of package deal.

Neither am I, but others might. That is what Objectivism offers you the chance to do if you desire. Again, the entire universe is open to us.

35 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

If what is being offered here is not your idea of fun, there is nothing barring the doorway to your egress.

Noted.

35 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Substituting fun for happiness is a sleight of hand trick only a most astute magician could hope to pull off.

Yeah, and you just tried to pull it off. I never said that fun was a substitute for happiness. I said that it was a virtue and that we should use fun to market our philosophy

Edited by CartsBeforeHorses

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5 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

There's something that John Allison said once in a reply to someone asking him how to spread Objectivism. (My paraphrase from memory.).

"Become a success in your field, using Objectivism. And when people ask you what makes you so successful, tell them." (something along those lines.)

So far, this is the strongest and most simplified argument for NOT proselytizing Objectivism to anyone other than your children. Why bother trying to change the minds of those unwilling to embrace the fundamentals of Objectivism. Why bother probing the minds of people who likely would not be good company. The connection between fun and popularity needs little explanation. But satisfaction does not come from being popular; satisfaction comes from being successful. One can easily attract all the friends one needs after one has achieved success, and it's entirely possible that one, two, or more of your friends will activate their minds enough to reconsidering their views. They might even become Objectivists. But if they don't, there's no reason they couldn't remain one's friends, as long as one wishes them to be.

If one is striving for success, I have found that it is of little benefit to strive for fun or popularity, when one's time could be better spent reaching one's next goal.

The greatest impediment to Objectivism's popularity is the atheist component. From personal experience, sharing Objectivism with people who plan to retire for eternity with their good buddy, Jesus, is a bad idea. I don't expect such people to be receptive to reason, nor would I expect them to have much in common with me. And while I realize that this is not at all an either-or-proposition, I'd rather be right than popular. No one proselytized to me. I had to discover the works of Ayn Rand after many years almost entirely at random. While I suppose it's better late than never, I am hopeful, that is, I am still able to rise to a higher level of personal success. I am hopeful that one day a franchise of secular private elementary schools may make The Fountainhead part of its required literary studies. I am hopeful that just such an effective learning environment could discover new ways to make philosophy fun, and thereby more popular. Maybe someone will invent a popular video game that promotes reality-based morality. I will leave that task to much younger innovators. Persuasion can yield results, but early indoctrination would work much better. Just look at the results early indoctrination as had for the government and parochial schools.

 

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40 minutes ago, Repairman said:

The greatest impediment to Objectivism's popularity is the atheist component. From personal experience, sharing Objectivism with people who plan to retire for eternity with their good buddy, Jesus, is a bad idea. I don't expect such people to be receptive to reason, nor would I expect them to have much in common with me.

My mom is one of the most rational people I know... but for her Christianity. She uses reason in every other area of her life, and accepts the science around evolution and the big bang... she is a "selfish" person in the right sense of the word... but I don't think that she is willing to accept dying and that being that. That being said, she does live her life in "this world" and honestly I think she sees church as more of a social club than anything.

I mean, this is a woman who remained married to my dad, an atheist (and later in his life, Objectivist) for 30 years--15 of which he was an atheist for.

I would try to convert her to being an Objectivist but I don't see a point. She is already reasonable enough when it comes to morality and politics, the two areas which have the ability to influence others.

Should we really care if somebody wants to believe in a god, so long as they're rational as it relates to this universe? We view the universe as a self-contained whole, with nothing on the outside. If somebody wants to place a god on the outside for their own emotional inspiration, is that so terrible? I think it's incorrect, sure. But I don't think that we should be pushing the atheist angle in our marketing as much as we do, because it simply doesn't work for most people emotionally. We can still encourage them to embrace rationality in other areas without making them "full objectivists."

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7 hours ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

My mom is one of the most rational people I know... but for her Christianity. She uses reason in every other area of her life, and accepts the science around evolution and the big bang... she is a "selfish" person in the right sense of the word... but I don't think that she is willing to accept dying and that being that. That being said, she does live her life in "this world" and honestly I think she sees church as more of a social club than anything.

I mean, this is a woman who remained married to my dad, an atheist (and later in his life, Objectivist) for 30 years--15 of which he was an atheist for.

I would try to convert her to being an Objectivist but I don't see a point. She is already reasonable enough when it comes to morality and politics, the two areas which have the ability to influence others.

Should we really care if somebody wants to believe in a god, so long as they're rational as it relates to this universe? We view the universe as a self-contained whole, with nothing on the outside. If somebody wants to place a god on the outside for their own emotional inspiration, is that so terrible? I think it's incorrect, sure. But I don't think that we should be pushing the atheist angle in our marketing as much as we do, because it simply doesn't work for most people emotionally. We can still encourage them to embrace rationality in other areas without making them "full objectivists."

We can agree, there is no point to "pushing the atheist angle," anymore than pushing anything other than that which matters to our own self-interest. Also I don't really care if someone wants to believe in god, regardless of their rationality. Generally, people are not opposed to rationality, and yet, Americans are careening toward one artificial crisis and then another. People claim to embrace life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most don't want to be preached to as to how to define their pursuit of happiness. They don't want to be told that they're "no fun." They don't need philosophy, or so they will tell you. There's nothing terrible about such people, and I never said there was. And we can accept these people for who they are, but they are not Objectivists, and they never will be. If your objective is to "push" any sort of agenda, marketing is everything. Catholics, communists, and Nazis used propaganda to their ultimate outcome. The explanation for the ultimate decline and/or demise of these ideas is the fact that people are rational, and these ideas are based on irrational premises. While I couldn't tell from present conditions, we may pull the United States from the descent into the Leviathan/welfare state, but religion will always have a hold on people. This doesn't concern me. What concerns me is that as the United States flounders, religious movements will have the upper hand as people become more demoralized. The religious movements will be more successful, because their followers were introduced to "god" at an early age. Speaking strictly for myself, I wouldn't even raise the subject of Ayn Rand to anyone other than my closest associates, unless they confide with me their disbelief of the supernatural, and their frustration with the current direction of our collective social order. To try to "push" Objectivism on anyone else would be a waste of their time, but more important to me, it would be a waste of my time. I have no criticisms of your parents; I don't know them.  

Edited by Repairman
spelling error

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22 hours ago, Repairman said:

But satisfaction does not come from being popular; satisfaction comes from being successful.

I would argue that satisfaction, for a rational person, comes from living a good life.

Just to explain what it is I'm nitpicking about: "being successful" implies the achievement of a final, set benchmark (or at least crossing a set threshold). Living a good life implies continuity.

You can only derive so much satisfaction from "being successful". But you can derive endless satisfaction from continuously living well. And you don't have to wait before you're satisfied. You can be satisfied with what you did today, even if you're not yet "successful".

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5 hours ago, Nicky said:

You can only derive so much satisfaction from "being successful". But you can derive endless satisfaction from continuously living well. And you don't have to wait before you're satisfied. You can be satisfied with what you did today, even if you're not yet "successful".

It's an echo of the classic Stoic vs. Epicurean dichotomy. The stoics were the driven ones, doing big things, but driven by a sense of duty. The epicureans had a more "take it easy and smell the roses" attitude; but, the notion of purposefulness was not stressed. 

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12 hours ago, Nicky said:

I would argue that satisfaction, for a rational person, comes from living a good life.

Just to explain what it is I'm nitpicking about: "being successful" implies the achievement of a final, set benchmark (or at least crossing a set threshold). Living a good life implies continuity.

You can only derive so much satisfaction from "being successful". But you can derive endless satisfaction from continuously living well. And you don't have to wait before you're satisfied. You can be satisfied with what you did today, even if you're not yet "successful".

Of course, one can derive satisfaction from day-by-day successes. In the context of the main argument, success, whether major or minor, is for some, the measure of a good life, as opposed to trying to be popular-especially if one compromises one's principles (or lacks principles) in the process of becoming popular. You make a valid point. Perhaps I should have clarified my statement. I suppose for some, popularity would be a major factor contributing to a good life. But as for me, a life of personal accomplishment is much more satisfying than fitting in with a large crowd, most of whom would be mere acquaintances. I have had success in both areas of my life, and I prefer accomplishment. It was not my intent to imply that success must be grandiose or driven by a sense of duty; the knowledge that I earned that which is mine gives me enormous satisfaction. Earning the right sort of companionship (i.e. without compromise of one's values and principles) is a major success that many might never achieve. Until then, successes both minor and major are quite satisfactory.

In the quest of expanding the popularity of Objectivism, I maintain that any attempt to impose one's beliefs on an unresponsive audience for any other reason than the cause of justice is a bad idea. Arguing for recreational purposes can be amusing when one has the time, but when challenged, I will defend myself and my beliefs, even when the cost is a loss in public approval ratings.

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