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Objectivism: "Closed" system

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This is so funny. In other words - it's just our opinion. I believe in god because I have evaluated the "proof" that god exists and I came to the conclusion that the statement "god exists" is true. I also believe in the tooth fairy (I put a tooth under my pillow just yesterday and found a dollar proof!).

spookthegod

When reason is not enough there's always my opinion.

The penalty for posting too many silly postings in one day is death. This is legally binding, btw. Apparently you didn't read the small print before signing up with this forum. Too bad for you.

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I've been reading a lot about the Peikoff-Kelley debate, and have found little reason to not believe that Kelley has a good point regarding the "open" argument, but I don't think it is that simple. Obviously, there are certain axioms that exist, which are irrefutable, and there are principles of Objectivism which are inarguable. But I think that to label Objectivism with Ayn Rand as its parallel is a dangerous belief to hold. Nathaniel Branden once made the argument that to do that is the equivalent to "What would Jesus do?" which I think is a valid point. It subtracts the necessity of reason for the practicality of simplicity.

Why can't Objectivism be based on the fundamental truths of Objectivism that are inarguable, and leave the inferences we derive from these inarguable truths open to continuous debate and discussion? I don't think it's unrealistic to say that the progression of time can affect aspects of one's understanding of something, even if it doesn't affect the actual truth of the topic at hand. At the very least, we can benefit from approaching old topics in modern times. One immediate example I can provide is Ayn Rand's views on homosexuality. If we were to have a truly "closed" system, then Ayn Rand's word from back in the 1970s would have been the final word on that subject, and Peikoff's assertion that ideas can be evil would have meant that anybody who doesn't think that the morality of homosexuality is a valid topic of judgment, would be acting evilly. If Peikoff believes Objectivism is a closed system, furthermore, it makes me seriously wonder why he felt the need to publicly refute Ayn Rand's claim about homosexuality after her death, when she had already made her argument heard on the topic.

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Why can't Objectivism be based on the fundamental truths of Objectivism that are inarguable, and leave the inferences we derive from these inarguable truths open to continuous debate and discussion?
What do you mean by the "fundamental truths of Objectivism"? What are those fundamental truths, and how do you know that those truths are indeed the fundamental truths. Are there any fundamental truths that are not part of Objectivism; are there parts of Objectivism that are not fundamental truths?

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What do you mean by the "fundamental truths of Objectivism"? What are those fundamental truths, and how do you know that those truths are indeed the fundamental truths. Are there any fundamental truths that are not part of Objectivism; are there parts of Objectivism that are not fundamental truths?

Well, I like the way Wikipedia sums it up:

Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness; that individual persons are in contact with this reality through sensory perception; that human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest; that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform man's widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.

I think that every Objectivist needs to agree with the above to label oneself as such. But as I said in my previous post, this does not mention anything about Ayn Rand's word being infallible. I think that her comments on homosexuality are a pertinent example of this, and it also represents the dangers of having O'ism being a closed system.

So, those fundamental truths, more explicitly, are the axioms that uphold the Objectivist epistemology, views of metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics. We know those truths are indeed fundamental because axioms - as their nature implies - are irrefutable. Anyone trying to object to them must implicitly assume them even before he or she can formulate a counter-argument. No, there are no fundamental truths that are not part of Objectivism. I think that there ARE parts of Objectivism, according to Peikoff and the ARI, that are not necessarily fundamental truths. I, like Kelley, do not believe that Ayn Rand is infallible. Objectivism, on the other hand, definitely is infallible.

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Well, I like the way Wikipedia sums it up
Now, leaving aside the Wikipedia summary for a moment, do you have a different name for the philosophical system that Ayn Rand created? I assume you would not call it "Objectivism".
No, there are no fundamental truths that are not part of Objectivism.
Since, under your version of Objectivism, the nature of "truth" is itself not a fundamental truth, then it would be easy to imagine defining any discovered truth as a "fundamental truth" which, it turns out, is part of "Objectivism". Until it is determined what the whole truth is, "Objectivism" has no definite nature.
Objectivism, on the other hand, definitely is infallible.
In other words, whatever belief you have in "Objectivism" is rooted in faith, not reality.

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In other words, whatever belief you have in "Objectivism" is rooted in faith, not reality.

I didn't mean to communicate that, if that is actually what you think I meant. I would imagine that every Objectivist agrees that A is A - a thing is itself - that a leaf cannot be red and green at the same time. Objectivism is grounded in reality that exists regardless of one individual's perception.

Every Objectivist can agree on that, whereas there were clearly opposing views on other topics, like the morality of homosexuality. I need to stress the importance of this particular subject, because I think it best illustrates the point. Peikoff claims that going against Ayn Rand is going against Objectivism, but what does that say about every single Objectivist that exists today, who now goes by the word of Leonard Peikoff - that homosexuality is not subject to moral judgment - versus the word of Ayn Rand - that it is vile and disgusting? If you analyze every subject by utilizing knowledge and writings that existed 20 years ago, especially regarding issues of policy and government, wouldn't that be the ultimate example of context-dropping?

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Objectivism is grounded in reality that exists regardless of one individual's perception.
So ground that claim in reality. How do you know that Objectivism is grounded in reality that exists regardless of one individual's perception? What is your justification for making that claim about the nature of Objectivism?

Previously, I asked you what name you would give to the philosophical system created by Ayn Rand. You didn't answer the question. I really need to know. You've invented a whole new definition of Objectivism -- and I have no idea what evidence you have that this new system of yours is Objectivism. How do I know that your Wikipedia-based definition is really correct; maybe you're mistaken. So start by grounding some of your claims in reality. You reject the philosophy of Ayn Rand as being Objectivism, and substitute something else. How do I know that I should reject the philosophy of Ayn Rand as being Objectivism, and how do I know that Wikipedia is the source of the true Objectivism? You yourself have deviated from the Wikipedia canon by claiming that A is A -- you don't see that in the Wikipedia version of Objectivism that you revealed to us.

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Why can't Objectivism be based on the fundamental truths of Objectivism that are inarguable, and leave the inferences we derive from these inarguable truths open to continuous debate and discussion?

It already is. The fundamental truths being what Ayn Rand wrote and approved as part of her philosophy before she closed it.

Consider the closed system as a core that you're not allowed to change. You can certainly build around that core. You can build outward as long as you don't contradict, change, or remove the core. When someone adds onto Objectivism today, they aren't altering this core. They're building around it. They aren't adding to the closed system itself, they're building outward from it.

No real Objectivist asks "What Would Ayn Rand Do?" They ask "What should I do?" Objectivism requires independence. If you reject the responsibility of thinking for yourself, you haven't really accepted Objectivism.

Also, I doubt Ayn Rand wrote "Homosexuality is Evil" directly into her philosophy. She had reasons for forming that opinion, for coming to that conclusion. As long as we aren't contradicting the core, we're free to come to whatever conclusions and opinions we come to. You can disagree with Rand and still be Objectivist, as long as you still accept the philosophy itself.

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So ground that claim in reality. How do you know that Objectivism is grounded in reality that exists regardless of one individual's perception? What is your justification for making that claim about the nature of Objectivism?

Previously, I asked you what name you would give to the philosophical system created by Ayn Rand. You didn't answer the question. I really need to know. You've invented a whole new definition of Objectivism -- and I have no idea what evidence you have that this new system of yours is Objectivism. How do I know that your Wikipedia-based definition is really correct; maybe you're mistaken. So start by grounding some of your claims in reality. You reject the philosophy of Ayn Rand as being Objectivism, and substitute something else. How do I know that I should reject the philosophy of Ayn Rand as being Objectivism, and how do I know that Wikipedia is the source of the true Objectivism? You yourself have deviated from the Wikipedia canon by claiming that A is A -- you don't see that in the Wikipedia version of Objectivism that you revealed to us.

Last time I checked, Wikipedia was real. I don't think Wikipedia is axiomatic in nature, if that's what you're intending to imply. It actually does mention A is A in the article, but this is old news for anybody who claims to be a fan of Ayn Rand's books, let alone her philosophy.

I'd prefer you not dodge the issue and merely present your point. Obviously the philosophical system Ayn Rand created was called Objectivism. So-effing-what? That doesn't make it any more or less right. I won't fall to the mercy of word games.

I never said Ayn Rand wrote about homosexuality. I believe only Nathaniel Branden did that, and he did so in passing.

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It already is. The fundamental truths being what Ayn Rand wrote and approved as part of her philosophy before she closed it.

Consider the closed system as a core that you're not allowed to change. You can certainly build around that core. You can build outward as long as you don't contradict, change, or remove the core. When someone adds onto Objectivism today, they aren't altering this core. They're building around it. They aren't adding to the closed system itself, they're building outward from it.

No real Objectivist asks "What Would Ayn Rand Do?" They ask "What should I do?" Objectivism requires independence. If you reject the responsibility of thinking for yourself, you haven't really accepted Objectivism.

Also, I doubt Ayn Rand wrote "Homosexuality is Evil" directly into her philosophy. She had reasons for forming that opinion, for coming to that conclusion. As long as we aren't contradicting the core, we're free to come to whatever conclusions and opinions we come to. You can disagree with Rand and still be Objectivist, as long as you still accept the philosophy itself.

Thank you, by the way, for actually giving an intelligible answer and contributing to the debate.

I consider the core the very same way you do, and I absolutely advocate building around it without contradicting or changing the core. My assertion is that Leonard Peikoff and the ARI have not properly defined what the core ought to be. They have made that core far too broad and overreaching. And yes, Objectivism requires independence, and self-responsibility - that should indeed be part of the core of Objectivism. If you define the core of Objectivism to be every work by Ayn Rand, and every work sanctioned by Ayn Rand, then you run the risk of not being able to expand anything because a certain minute aspect of the so-called "core" of Objectivism is out of touch with reality as it exists today, and thus contradicts that expansion. Think about Branden's claim in The Virtue of Selfishness that children are "confused" by their lack of respect for their evil parents, and "escape reality" by becoming homosexuals because of it. It's an asinine statement, as we now know due to modern scientific research into the psychology of the human being. Is Branden's statement on homosexuality part of the "core" of Objectivism, or is that just one contradiction we choose to leave out? I still believe that Ayn Rand has also given similar answers regarding homosexuality, even if she never decisively wrote about it in a publication. Are we to simply ignore the ill regard she held of homosexuality?

Edited by Andrew Grathwohl

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Last time I checked, Wikipedia was real. I don't think Wikipedia is axiomatic in nature, if that's what you're intending to imply.
That is pretty straight-up what I'm asking you. In this thread you advocate the Kelleyite position, that Objectivism is an open system. How then do we know what is Objectivism, and what is not? If I take an epistemological idea from Platonism or an ethical idea from pragmatism, am I entitled to call it "Objectivism"? Sure, if "Objectivism" has no definite identity.

In fact, Objectivism is the philosophical system of Ayn Rand. If Ayn Rand's philosophical system was was, then Objectivism is wrong. We can't redefine Objectivism as "whatever works". What this also means is that the authoritative source for Objectivism is in fact that philosophical material that Rand developed (or approved).

I'd prefer you not dodge the issue and merely present your point. Obviously the philosophical system Ayn Rand created was called Objectivism. So-effing-what?
It follows then that Objectivism is closed. Rand cannot change her philosophy; the philosophy cannot be changed. It's take it or leave it. If you find it so obvious that Objectivism is actually the philosophy of Ayn Rand, then how can you evade the knowledge that anything that changes the philosophy of Ayn Rand is therefore not Objectivism? That is what it means to be a "closed system".

Now, have we resolved the matter about Objectivism being a closed system; do you now understand that Objectivism is a closed system, and that it is not subject to change?

I never said Ayn Rand wrote about homosexuality. I believe only Nathaniel Branden did that, and he did so in passing.
Nor did I accuse you of saying that she did, if you reread my comment.

You seem to have a particular interest in the homosexuality question. But that's a tangent -- not a central question. Before getting distracted by that tangent, we have to establish the logically prior question -- whether Objectivism is in fact Ayn Rand's philosophy (if not, what is it). That is established. You imply in your posts that Objectivism has a position on homosexuality; but you don't give any reason to believe that there is an official position. Since Rand did not write on the topic, it's not too hard to conclude that Rand's philosophy doesn't include any position on homosexuality. It's also pretty clearly established that Branden has fundamentally repudiated Objectivism, so his views on homosexuality are indicative of nothing.

If you check Richard Lawrence's "Objectivist Reference Center", he sums up the entirety of the basis for mistakenly concluding that Objectivism had a position.

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Are we to simply ignore the ill regard she held of homosexuality?

Yes. It is not part of the philosophy, which is defined in scope and method in OPAR and ITOE.

Ill regard is justified or not, and is universal or contextual but no such conclusion is part of Objectivism. Rand defined everything in Objectivism but not everything Rand said and wrote is included in Objectivism.

I wouldn't even included Atlas Shrugged in Objectivism. It is a novel, not a philosophy. Galt's philosophical speech is primarily a plot-event, as philosophy it omits the measurement omission theory of concept formation which is the essence of Objectivism as a method of thought.

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Andrew, do you understand that to say Objectivism is a closed system is to say nothing about its truth or falsehood, and is to say nothing about whether or not one should adhere to its tenets?

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I think it's forever debatable to describe what actually constitutes Objectivism, Aristotelianism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, etc., and what constitutes disagreement with them. The more you agree with the established speculations of a given philosophy, especially the fundamental claims, the more likely you can accurately be called an adherent. But the whole notion of open vs. closed belief systems seems askew and false. I think it's best to reject that terminology and mode of thinking. Rather, we need to consider whether or not a given philosophy can be corrected and expanded, and still faithfully be referred to by its traditional name. My own contention would be that you can improve and extend a philosophy somewhat and still properly and truthfully call it by its previous name. Eventually, of course, if you deviate a lot from previous established belief, you'll need a new name for your new belief-system.

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I think it's forever debatable to describe what actually constitutes Objectivism, Aristotelianism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, etc., and what constitutes disagreement with them.
One can debate forever, but in the case of Objectivism it would be an irrational debate, since it is already know what constitutes Objectivism. It is the philosophical system of Ayn Rand. Epicureanism and Stoicism lack that definite quality. Aristotelianism could, except that Aristotle's philosophy is not fully recorded.
But the whole notion of open vs. closed belief systems seems askew and false.
No, it is entirely on point. The question is whether a system is well-defined. If the system is not closed, it is ill-defined.
My own contention would be that you can improve and extend a philosophy somewhat and still properly and truthfully call it by its previous name.
You can call a cat a cow, but don't try milking one.

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That is pretty straight-up what I'm asking you. In this thread you advocate the Kelleyite position, that Objectivism is an open system. How then do we know what is Objectivism, and what is not? If I take an epistemological idea from Platonism or an ethical idea from pragmatism, am I entitled to call it "Objectivism"? Sure, if "Objectivism" has no definite identity.

You're asking me, though, how we know something is something. We know this through our perceptions of it. I'm not suggesting that we re-name or re-brand Objectivism. I'm only suggesting a difference in how its organizational structures conduct their analysis and interpretation of new issues using the Objectivist standards.

In fact, Objectivism is the philosophical system of Ayn Rand. If Ayn Rand's philosophical system was was, then Objectivism is wrong. We can't redefine Objectivism as "whatever works". What this also means is that the authoritative source for Objectivism is in fact that philosophical material that Rand developed (or approved).It follows then that Objectivism is closed. Rand cannot change her philosophy; the philosophy cannot be changed. It's take it or leave it. If you find it so obvious that Objectivism is actually the philosophy of Ayn Rand, then how can you evade the knowledge that anything that changes the philosophy of Ayn Rand is therefore not Objectivism? That is what it means to be a "closed system".

Just because Objectivism was created by Ayn Rand, though, doesn't mean that everything she said was true. If she happened to not live by her own standards, as I believe she did when she spoke ill of homosexuality, that doesn't mean we have to accept it as right. Objectivism shows us what is right and wrong, and though these ideas may have been formulated and structured by Ayn Rand, that doesn't mean that we can determine these values by just examining what Ayn Rand said. That would be lazy; we must confirm her remarks and extraordinary knowledge by utilizing our own rational minds.

I do not advocate anything that changes the philosophy of Ayn Rand. What I advocate for is simply a reevaluation of what constitutes that philosophy. Should her positions, for example, of public education, which she wrote of in the 1970s and 1980s, be part of her philosophy, or merely instantiations of that philosophy? I would think the latter, because while Objectivist epistemology and its outlook on metaphysics (objective reality) could pertain 100% no matter what time or situation, specific writings on particular issues that are colloquial and/or time-specific in nature may not.

You seem to have a particular interest in the homosexuality question. But that's a tangent -- not a central question. Before getting distracted by that tangent, we have to establish the logically prior question -- whether Objectivism is in fact Ayn Rand's philosophy (if not, what is it). That is established. You imply in your posts that Objectivism has a position on homosexuality; but you don't give any reason to believe that there is an official position. Since Rand did not write on the topic, it's not too hard to conclude that Rand's philosophy doesn't include any position on homosexuality. It's also pretty clearly established that Branden has fundamentally repudiated Objectivism, so his views on homosexuality are indicative of nothing.

But one of the fundamental differences between Peikoff and Kelley was that Peikoff believes an idea can be morally judged, whereas Kelley believes only actions can be. Ayn Rand thought ill of homosexuality; Objectivism thinks ill of homosexuality. Just because she didn't write about it in any official Objectivist literature doesn't mean that she didn't think it.

Branden did repudiate Objectivism, but certainly Ayn Rand agreed with Branden's ideas when she sanctioned his writings in The Virtue of Selfishness, among other publications?

If you check Richard Lawrence's "Objectivist Reference Center", he sums up the entirety of the basis for mistakenly concluding that Objectivism had a position.

I'll read into this - thanks.

Edited by Andrew Grathwohl

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Just because Objectivism was created by Ayn Rand, though, doesn't mean that everything she said was true.
Andrew, I doubt anyone here would say Objectivism consists of the sum of all Rand's view on all topics. Also, I doubt anyone here would say we should stick to what Rand said, even where we find her to be wrong.

If we were to label Aristotle's philosophy "Aristotleanism", we could still exclude his views on planets and animals from the concept. However, suppose one were to decide that Aristotle was wrong about some philosophical issue that he considered settled and core to his philosophy. Would we say that his mistaken view is not a part of Aristoteleanism?

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Andrew, I doubt anyone here would say Objectivism consists of the sum of all Rand's view on all topics. Also, I doubt anyone here would say we should stick to what Rand said, even where we find her to be wrong.

If we were to label Aristotle's philosophy "Aristotleanism", we could still exclude his views on planets and animals from the concept. However, suppose one were to decide that Aristotle was wrong about some philosophical issue that he considered settled and core to his philosophy. Would we say that his mistaken view is not a part of Aristoteleanism?

I'm not well-versed on Aristotleleanism enough to say this with absolute certainty, but yes, this mistaken view would be a part of Aristoteleanism. However, there was a good reason why Ayn Rand did not like having Objectivism called "Randism." If we are to live by truth, rational behavior, and logic, then these things should be the guiding forces of our life. Objectivism is merely the instruction guide to living on earth - we live by reason, not Objectivism. Objectivism is merely a philosophy telling you that it's logical and right to live rationally and selfishly.

If somebody lived as an Aristotlean, then that mistaken philosophical view would be a necessary aspect of their life, because they have then chosen to live under a philosophy that, somewhere along the way, arrived at a false premise or conclusion, and is therefore irrational. Objectivism is a completely rational system, so it is impossible to have a mistaken viewpoint in Objectivism - only poor, inaccurate, incomplete, or mistaken, premises/conclusions/analysis.

Edited by Andrew Grathwohl

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Just because Objectivism was created by Ayn Rand, though, doesn't mean that everything she said was true.
Closer, but you missed the essential point. Not everything that Rand said is part of her philosophy. Remember, Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, not the words.

If Rand had written a treatise on homosexuality showing how it is philosophically abhorrent, then that would be the Objectivist position on homosexuality. She didn't. And there is a good reason: it requires special scientific knowledge regarding the nature of homosexuality. She was not a psychologist.

Should her positions, for example, of public education, which she wrote of in the 1970s and 1980s, be part of her philosophy, or merely instantiations of that philosophy?
Rand never articulated a philosophical principle that is specific to public education. She applied her principles to reach specific conclusions.
Just because she didn't write about it in any official Objectivist literature doesn't mean that she didn't think it.
We can be sure that Rand thought about whether cats are good pets, whether she liked Rachmaninoff, or whether smoking is enjoyable. That doesn't mean that her thoughts on the topic are therefore part of Objectivist philosophy. There is no primacy-of-cats principle in Objectivism.

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... we live by reason, not Objectivism.
We should, that's for sure; but, the closed-system/open-system debate is not about how one should live, nor about what is right and what is wrong.

Here's what I hear you saying: henceforth, any true principle that is discovered in Philosophy will be called "Objectivism", and any false aspect will cease to be called "Objectivism" regardless of whether Rand considered it core. e.g., If we were to find out that free-will is a myth, we would (correctly) take that out of our rational Philosophy; but, we will continue to call this free-will-free philosophy "Objectivism".

Is that a straw man rather than your real view? if so, where am I misinterpreting you?

Edited by softwareNerd

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".......I haven't nearly said everything yet. I do have a complete philosophical system, but the elaboration of a system is a job that no philosopher can finish in his lifetime.

There is an awful lot of work yet to be done. "

A. Rand (1976)

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".......I haven't nearly said everything yet. I do have a complete philosophical system, but the elaboration of a system is a job that no philosopher can finish in his lifetime.

There is an awful lot of work yet to be done."

Examples of such elaboration, which use only the principles laid down by Rand, are OPAR, Viable Values and Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, inter alia.

Note BTW why Rand could not have ever declared her philosophy closed: to do so is to commit yourself to no further modifications in the principles. What "closed" Objectivism was Rand's death, not her decision.

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