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Who Are The True Objectivists?

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*** Mod's note: Merged with a similar topic. -sN ***

First some facts:

1. To date (10.35pm GMT+1 on 25th November 2009) I have never described myself as an objectivist. I still consider myself to be in disagreement with many objectivists I have spoken to on a great deal of issues.

2. I am still working through the vast body of objectivist thought and writing, and am willing to accept that my knowledge might be incomplete to make certain judgements yet.

3. I have witnessed some quite worrying disagreements in philosophical discussions between people who both (or all) claimed to be objectivists.

Now my questions-

Do objectivists consider that there are basic tenets which, if one accepts, then one is an objectivist, but that there are other areas of thought which are still open to discussion, within which objectivists are striving towards the truth.

A different question, or perhaps a different way of phrasing this is "Can one disagree with Ayn Rand on a given issue and still be an objectivist? And if so, which issues?"

I feel I should also say that I write this message because although I would not call myself an objectivist (yet?) I feel that I might one day do so, and I would value any input from objectivists who can sympathise with my thoughts and help answer some of my questions.

I feel I should ALSO say that I while I disagree, as I have said, with some objectivists on some issues, I agree with a great deal of objectivists on a great deal of issues also.

I feel I should ALSO say that I am increasingly finding that non-objectivists are making less and less sense to me.

Your input would be much appreciated.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Chris, my understanding is that Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. It is a "closed system" as Miss Rand is dead. It is settled and not open to change. Of course, you can accept basic parts of it if you like, agree with certain parts or the vast majority of it and reject or disagree with other parts. That simply means you like and agree with some ideas of Ayn Rand but reject Objectivism as a whole.

Accord to Dr. Peikoff:

“Objectivism” is the name of Ayn Rand’s achievement. Anyone else’s interpretation or development of her ideas, my own work emphatically included, is precisely that: an interpretation or development, which may or may not be logically consistent with what she wrote. In regard to the consistency of any such derivative work, each man must reach his own verdict, by weighing all the relevant evidence. The “official, authorized doctrine,” however, remains unchanged and untouched in Ayn Rand’s books; it is not affected by any interpreters.

My suggestion is don't worry about labels. You're not a Coke can. There is no organization or club to join. This isn't church. A lot of people feel like you or have left like that at one point. The information is always out there for your questions, you can always post them on here. Asking questions is good, this forum is a good tool to bring your questions to Objectivists and other smart people.

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... Ayn Rand gave her opinion on a large number of other topics which were an application of Objectivism or a reflection of her personal tastes and not part of the philosophy as such.

Just that if Obj. principles are applied correctly, then the application is "part of her philsophy"; as opposed to something subjective or a mis-application.

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Ok, so far the thread has centred on what a true Objectivist thinks and believes.

But what about things upon which a person has no control over?

For example, a person who was abused as a child might grow up to be a really nervous adult. He/she might encounter Objectivism and find a new guiding principle to their lives. However, lets say they never really shake off their nervous disposition that was created in their childhood. Can they really be called an Objectivist?

Or another example. Say a person is really fat, short and ugly. They might agree with Objectivism, but how many doctors or lawyers, or millionaires (ie very rational and productive people) do you know who are short, fat and ugly?

I guess I am alluding to a principle that would say that most of our lives are beyond our control and are dictated by genes and childhood. I am basically saying that a true Objectivist is born and not made.

I am trying to figure out whether I really believe this. I am not sure and eagerly await responses!

If you hold Obj. ideas, those things outside your control should not contradict the ideas. If you are fat et al and make rational attempts to correct for that but remain fat, that is not a philosophical issue.

I certainly would not conclude from that that most of our lives are beyond our control!

An Objectivist is an Obj. as a result of rational thinking. You are born tabula rasa!

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Do objectivists consider that there are basic tenets which, if one accepts, then one is an objectivist, but that there are other areas of thought which are still open to discussion, within which objectivists are striving towards the truth.

Yes. Specifically, the philosophical principles of Objectivism. If you understand the principles, accept them, and act on them, then you're an Objectivist.

A different question, or perhaps a different way of phrasing this is "Can one disagree with Ayn Rand on a given issue and still be an objectivist? And if so, which issues?"

Yes, one can disagree with Rand and still be an Objectivist -- as long as one doesn't disagree with her philosophical principles. Her views on psychology, for example, are not a part of Objectivism. One must also draw a distinction between a principle and the application of that principle to concrete situations. One could agree with the philosophical principle of individual rights, for example, while differing on the question of how best to move the United States back towards respecting that principle in its political policy.

Those are the two key things to understand: what is and is not part of philosophy, and what is and is not a principle.

I feel I should also say that I write this message because although I would not call myself an objectivist (yet?) I feel that I might one day do so, and I would value any input from objectivists who can sympathise with my thoughts and help answer some of my questions.

I will say this: your reluctance to call yourself an Objectivist while there are still areas of the philosophy which you either know you don't grasp or know you don't agree with speaks well of your basic intellectual honesty. There's nothing wrong with saying "I agree with Ayn Rand on many points, but disagree with her on others, and here's why." Some of the best Objectivists I know -- Paul Hsieh, for one -- spent many years in the 'sympathetic non-Objectivist' camp while they chewed over the ideas.

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*** Mod's note: Merged with a similar topic. -sN ***

First some facts:

1. To date (10.35pm GMT+1 on 25th November 2009) I have never described myself as an objectivist. I still consider myself to be in disagreement with many objectivists I have spoken to on a great deal of issues.

2. I am still working through the vast body of objectivist thought and writing, and am willing to accept that my knowledge might be incomplete to make certain judgements yet.

3. I have witnessed some quite worrying disagreements in philosophical discussions between people who both (or all) claimed to be objectivists.

Now my questions-

Do objectivists consider that there are basic tenets which, if one accepts, then one is an objectivist, but that there are other areas of thought which are still open to discussion, within which objectivists are striving towards the truth.

A different question, or perhaps a different way of phrasing this is "Can one disagree with Ayn Rand on a given issue and still be an objectivist? And if so, which issues?"

I feel I should also say that I write this message because although I would not call myself an objectivist (yet?) I feel that I might one day do so, and I would value any input from objectivists who can sympathise with my thoughts and help answer some of my questions.

I feel I should ALSO say that I while I disagree, as I have said, with some objectivists on some issues, I agree with a great deal of objectivists on a great deal of issues also.

I feel I should ALSO say that I am increasingly finding that non-objectivists are making less and less sense to me.

Your input would be much appreciated.

The fact of disagreement among people should be discarded from consideration of your own understanding. To quote from Atlas Shrugged:

Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is merely that negation of existence which is the content of a human consciousness when it attempts to abandon reason. Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man's only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.

The most depraved sentence you can now utter is to ask: Whose reason? The answer is: Yours. No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it. It is only with your own knowledge that you can deal. It is only your own knowledge that you can claim to possess or ask others to consider. Your mind is your only judge of truth—and if others dissent from your verdict, reality is the court of final appeal. Nothing but a man's mind can perform that complex, delicate, crucial process of identification which is thinking. Nothing can direct the process but his own judgment. Nothing can direct his judgment but his moral integrity.

If you can agree with that, you'll be on the right path.

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Dr. Peikoff answered this question on a podcast episode 83, minute 10:00: "'I disagree with Ayn Rand on architecture as an art form and on the nature of femininity and masculinity and a few other things, but I accept objective reality, reason, self-interest, capitalism. Am I still an Objectivist?'"

He answers, "There is no list of concretes that bar someone from being an objectivist. Objectivism is a philosophy, and as such is defined in terms of essentials. The essentials are basically what you said or what I offer in OPAR in more detail. Objective reality, reason- defined as the coceptulization of sense data by using logic as a means of knowledge. Rational self-interest is the ethics, lazze faire capitalism as the politics, and romaticists art as esthetics."

He says much more which I reccomend one listen to.

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Dr. Peikoff answered this question on a podcast episode 83, minute 10:00: "'I disagree with Ayn Rand on architecture as an art form and on the nature of femininity and masculinity and a few other things, but I accept objective reality, reason, self-interest, capitalism. Am I still an Objectivist?'"

He answers, "There is no list of concretes that bar someone from being an objectivist. Objectivism is a philosophy, and as such is defined in terms of essentials. The essentials are basically what you said or what I offer in OPAR in more detail. Objective reality, reason- defined as the coceptulization of sense data by using logic as a means of knowledge. Rational self-interest is the ethics, lazze faire capitalism as the politics, and romaticists art as esthetics."

He says much more which I reccomend one listen to.

Excellent! Where can I find this podcast?

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