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  1. Hi. I'm a philosophy student and don't take Rand's work seriously but I am fascinated by Objectivism and the community around it for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Anyways, in some discussions I've had with supporters of Objectivism I've had various questions, concerns or criticisms relating to language but the other person always seemed hesitant to say much and never pointed me toward anything which could serve as a response or clarification. Are any of you aware of any writings on Objectivist theories of language? If there aren't any, that confuses me because of the explosion in linguistics beginning before and lingering after the writings of Rand. Based on my beginner to intermediary knowledge of Objectivism, I've assumed what that theory might look like. This is another part which is kind of interesting to me because, the 'Objectivist theory of language' that I haphazardly threw together looks very similar to what was, essentially, the theory of language that began the explosion. I don't consider that to be impressive since it happened several decades before Rand was writing but I do see it another problematic component of Objectivism given the relative ease with which one can topple this sort of linguistic theory. Regardless, my point here isn't to argue about philosophy of language but to ask if anyone is aware of and Objectivist philosophy of language. If you're curious, the following is how I think about an Objectivist approach to language. Feel free to tell me if you think this is accurate or in which ways this is inaccurate. I'm aware that this will surely have flaws being incorporated into an existing Objectivist philosophy of language if one exists. I've noticed that discussions on this forum tend to almost immediately get sidetracked into bickering over peripheral issues so please remember that this section isn't the point of my post, I'm just sharing it in case anyone is interested. It seems to me that an Objectivist theory of language would be very similar to Frege's. Language functions properly with sense and reference. There is a common sense view that there reality is composed of divisible objects which exist, objectively, 'out there' or things-in-themselves with objective identities. Going from there, language boils down to the function of naming. We have a word, arbitrarily chosen, which is attached to a thing-in-itself, objectively existing. Some things have multiple words attached to them. Our language misfires when we speak nonsense. In order to speak sensically we must form propositions with a logical structure that refer to the things. For example, we say, "There is the morning star," and, "There is the evening star." Our sentences make sense and have a referent. They both have the same referent, the sun, which is expressed in two different senses. This seems to accurately reflect my impression that Objectivism takes common sense to the extreme by appealing to these sorts of pieces of reality which have objective characteristics and relations. What would you say with regard to Frege's thoughts and an Objectivist theory of language?
  2. Hi everyone, I didn't know this was going to turn into this long of a thread. Let me just say, I don't intend on debating any points with any of you. All that this was intended to be was an honest call for someone to explain, from the Objectivist perspective, what was going on in the situations I described in the orginial post. I have no interest in massaging my ego by "winning" online debates, I'll leave that to any of you here who wish to do that. Thank you to those of you who responded before my second post, it did actually clear some things up for me.
  3. Gramlich, let me address each of your comments in turn. I’m disappointed that you chose to write with an air of superiority so don’t be surprised by the tone of my response. Your assumption that respect is expected when dealing with philosophy in an academic setting is correct. I’m also well aware that most Objectivist’s are not academics. I’m aware of this for a few reasons: for the most part, Objectivism is not taken seriously at the academic level for a host of reasons, every Objectivist I’ve talked to who I’ve also asked about their life has not studied philosophy academically, the way that Objectivist’s discuss philosophy allows me to assume that they don’t study philosophy academically, and, more relevantly, I’ve read all the comments that people have posted here which sufficiently addressed my concerns. I think that if you read all of the comments, you would see the same and you would also understand that I was merely pointing out a difference that I find frustrating. If you want to debate the merits of respecting other human beings, that’s a different issue. Respect isn’t just something expected at an academic level; it’s something that most people expect of any competent person along with acknowledging that those who don’t show respect should not expect to be respected by the people they disrespect. Showing respect doesn’t mean that you’ve bowed down to academia; it shows that your social intelligence has matured past the level of a newborn baby. You go on to talk about something completely irrelevant to the topic of this thread: Ayn Rand’s metaphilosophy. I mulled over various ways to respond to your second paragraph and since it was such a tightly knit ball of non-sequiturs that I’ve come to expect from Objectivists, I decided to just go sentence by sentence. You say that Objectivism is a philosophy for living on Earth. That’s great, so is every other philosophy. You say Rand didn’t direct her efforts toward academics. I’m aware of this. She also didn’t direct her efforts toward addressing serious criticisms made by anyone, including huge philosophers during or even before her time whose philosophies were already, in many ways, much farther along than her own. If you read my original post, you will see that this was one of my concerns which were addressed in this thread. I don’t care what Rand thinks is worth her time but if she wanted her philosophy to be taken seriously as philosophy or by any intelligent person who questions the things they hear, she probably should have considered spending some time responding to other important ideas instead of just using ad hominem and ignoring it. You say she directed her work toward non-academics. This is apparent and I wish that more philosophy was done this way, actually. However, it doesn’t follow that she ought not to respond to criticism or other ideas. There’s tons of popular philosophy that respects itself enough to respond to likely criticisms. She has a habit of just asserting things, sometimes explaining herself and then moving on without considering objections. If you think that this is necessary in order to reach the masses, it seems to me that you/Rand are more concerned with reaching people who are good at taking orders rather than questioning what they’re told. Your next sentence basically restates the one preceding but also tosses in a use of one of the annoying things about Objectivists that I pointed out in the original post. By saying that her philosophy was to save the world from its state of decay is to assume her correctness before actually assessing it. As for your last sentence in this paragraph, of course philosophy is a practical issue. Most philosophy can be used practically (incidentally. it can also be a ‘game’; something fun to do without any real consequences). I’m not sure what you mean though when you say that it’s something which should be understood by anyone who wishes to live. Do you mean specifically Objectivism? If so, that’s just hilarious. If you mean philosophy in general, I still have to disagree to an extent. Yes, even people who don’t study any sort of philosophy still live their lives with some sort of implicit philosophy. However, it doesn’t follow that they ought to develop that in any way. I love philosophy, that’s why I do it. I think that people who don’t like it shouldn’t do it. I think that everyone should respect philosophy. I don’t do science because I don’t enjoy it but I definitely respect science and it is definitely a very important aspect of human existence. Different people enjoy different things and I don’t think that any one area of study is, by its nature, more important to every individual. Basically, you just need the necessities of survival in some way. Most people wouldn’t call the acquisition of those things “doing philosophy.” Therefore, philosophy is definitely not necessary in order to live. It’s fun, I love it, it’s important and it might be necessary on a societal level but it definitely isn’t necessary on an individual level. I’m sure this is something for which you’ll be foaming at the mouth, anxious to give a response. If you choose to do that, I’ll probably ignore it since, again, your second paragraph was not very relevant to the topic of the thread. I’m not looking for a sermon on the importance of Objectivism, I’m looking to understand why so many Objectivists are bad at debating effectively and in very specific ways. I’m responding to each paragraph as I read it and I see now that the third paragraph is a continuation of the second. So, for the reasons I mentioned above, I still disagree. It seems we agree that, at least on an implicit level, philosophy plays a role in everyone’s life. The most we can say then is that philosophy is a part of everyone’s life. It doesn’t follow that a specific ideology is necessary, only that the space filled by that ideology is necessary. For example, we agree that philosophy plays a role and, for some people, the space is filled by fundamentalism. Attacking that, as their philosophy, is not an attack against their very being; it isn’t a call to destroy the philosophical aspect of their being. It is a call to alter what inhabits that space. You seem to be implying that an Objectivist can’t separate the concepts of the philosophy itself and the role that that philosophy plays which could be played by countless other philosophies. This is kind of concerning just on the level of psychological health. So, it’s more than a little dramatic and hasty to say that an attack on someone’s philosophy is an attack on their life. I agree with what you have to say in the following paragraph. I’m aware of the basics of Objectivism. I’m asking that people enter discussions with a critical eye. This means being critical even to your own ideas. If you can’t withstand that, you’re ideas are probably pretty weak. Being critical of your own ideas, accepting and responding to criticism is what allows you to hone and strengthen your ideas. Other people and things are the only way to do this which is why one ought to show a level of respect for the other person involved, acknowledging that you can’t possibly learn anything without something exterior to yourself (even if it allows you to confirm your previously held beliefs). This doesn’t seem like a concept that anyone should have difficulty in grasping and applying. If you care about yourself and your ideas, you will treat others with respect when discussing ideas. What you say in the following paragraph is understandable, given what I know about Objectivism. However, when discussing the validity of the approach that the Objectivist takes, it doesn’t make sense to appeal to Objectivism. This was precisely one of the issues I posted about originally. Your last paragraph was as a response to my question in the previous post. I can say that they would definitely be disgusted by Rand’s philosophy based on my knowledge of their philosophies. You seem most concerned about Aristotle. Aristotle would be disgusted for the simple reason that Rand and her philosophy explicitly denounce the kind of moderation and the teleology which Aristotle propounds. I can explain further if you’d like but, since this was a kind of off topic question I had, maybe you could message me about it if you’re concerned. Also, you’ll see that I never said it was important. I thought it was more ironic than anything that Rand’s philosophy was supposedly influenced by Aristotle and Nietzsche. “Also, this comment makes me suspect that some of the Objectivist's response to your approaches weren't entirely due to an error on their part.” Your entire post came close and, at times, reached the levels of absurdity I mentioned in the original post. This last comment of yours clears things up for me as to why this was the case. You are the only poster here that felt the need to take a strangely snobbish tone. Every other person who posted here managed to be helpful. I don’t understand why you even posted if it wasn't to get some weird internet-argument head-rush by temporarily feeling better than someone.
  4. A couple of things first, as far as my analogies go, I'm not using them as perfect matches of what happens. They are analogies. I'm using them in the hopes that it will make my point clearer, regardless of their necessary imperfection as analogies. Featherfall, I mentioned that I'm aware that this doesn't apply to all Objectivists and the fact that I have an Objectivist friend to whom this doesn't apply should show that I'm aware of this. Saying that every conversation I've had was like this was obviously an exaggeration. That said, thank you all for your responses. This does help make sense of why some of this happens. With regard to the reading thing, I would love it if anyone read more of the philosophy I like. I'm not surprised that Objectivists would also like it if more people read Objectivist literature. The problem that I have, which I may not have made sufficiently clear but I think that some of you caught on nonetheless, is not the simple recommendation of reading itself. It's one thing to say something like, "I don't know how to answer your question," or, "I don't want to have this discussion anymore," and then say, "maybe you could go read some more of the literature if you're interested." I would have no problem with this. It's respectful, polite and honest .What I have a problem with are the people that treat me like they are so far above me intellectually such that the only way I could possibly begin to comprehend them is by reading the literature. This is ridiculous. I've found ways to explain some of the most difficult philosophical ideas to people that have almost no exposure to philosophy. If you don't want to explain something, just tell me. There is no need to be rude. As you all have pointed out. This is, by no means, limited to Objectivism. There are definitely people like this all over. However, being involved in philosophy academically, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I've seen borderline behavior whereas, with Objectivists, most of my interactions have been like this. I know that this philosophy claims to be individualistic but I don't see how it follows that one would be arrogant and disrespectful when explaining themselves. If anything, one who cares about themselves would care enough to recognize that they can probably learn a lot from others and should therefore be a bit more humble when discussing ideas. Confidence is a good thing; arrogance is not. The friend that I mentioned is probably the best defender of Objectivism I've ever encountered and this is, in large part, due to his patience and non-condescending attitude. Although I will likely never agree with much of what he has to say, I respect him more than most people. I sincerely thank you all for your comments. On a side note, which were the two philosophers Rand wrote about as having influenced her. Were they Aristotle and Nietzsche? If so, that confuses me because both would definitely be disgusted by Rand's philosophy.
  5. Dream_weaver, logic would be predicated upon and therefore constructed through experience.
  6. I’m aware that the following won’t apply to every person who considers herself an Objectivist but my experiences with Objectivists have almost always been perplexing for the following reasons and I wonder what any of you might have to say about this. 1. During every discussion I’ve ever had with an Objectivist, the Objectivist has always resorted to ad hominem. I’m not an Objectivist, I’m a philosophy student and I really enjoy debating ideas. Often times, when I raise an objection to something, the Objectivist will say something like, “You are being irrational,” “You are incapable of grasping reality,” “Your ideas are not consistent with reality” etc. Sometimes I’ll also get a real response included but that’s not guaranteed. This method employed by many Objectivists is counterproductive for two reasons: attempts at insulting the other’s intelligence do not, in any way, forward an argument because they fail to explain why the other’s argument is wrong or even why you feel compelled to insult the other, also, more importantly, these responses already assume that the Objectivist approach to reality is correct when that is usually the very thing being debated. It’s much like debating a fundamentalist Christian about the accuracy of her interpretation of the Bible and then the Christian rejecting your ideas because they are inconsistent with her fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. 2. There is a weird repulsion toward non-Objectivist philosophers. This overlaps with #1 in that I will sometimes bring up an idea of another philosopher and then, in response, I get some quote of Ayn Rand insulting that particular philosopher. I find this problematic. It shouldn’t matter which philosopher said it, you should take the actual concept and its consequences into account. For example, we typically think of Hitler as a bad person but if he said that eating food is likely to keep one from dying, being Hitler wouldn’t make his idea incorrect. Also, most philosophers aren’t Hitler. Rand uses the same method that I described in #1 by already assuming that she is correct. This allows her to remove any responsibility she has to be honest by actually considering the ideas. Instead, she can just reject them immediately and toss in some ad hominem. For example, I’ve brought up some idea of Wittgenstein’s during a conversation. Instead of an actual consideration of the idea, the response was a quote by Ayn Rand which said something about Wittgenstein having fuzzy logic (which is ironic, considering he helped develop symbolic logic and invented truth tables). 3. Often times, if I know I’ve cornered the Objectivist, they will resort to ad hominem and then tell me to come back when I understand Objectivism better/have read more Objectivist books. I have a problem with this because, even if they mean this sincerely and not as a way to dodge a question, it isn’t at all convincing. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats debate a lot but it would be very strange to see one of them say, “You don’t understand my ideology, go read everything that I have read before you argue with me.” Or, if a fundamentalist rejects your skepticism on the grounds that you haven’t read the Bible cover to cover and haven’t read all of the theological works that she has read. It’s almost always the case that people involved in a debate haven’t read everything that the other person has read. It doesn’t follow that you shouldn’t be able to ask the other person to clarify one of their opinions. Yes, debates often center on a misunderstanding of the other’s view. For example, I might ask what exactly and Objectivist means when they use the word “reason.” Usually, Objectivists will answer this sort of question. But then, if I disagree with or find what I see to be a problem with their concept, they stop the argument. I think that here we need to distinguish between points in arguments that are either focused on understanding or are focused on critiquing. Arguments focused on understanding are the arguments one could resolve by reading more but, once the concept is understood and a critique is made, it doesn’t do any good to read more about that concept. After all, you understand it. Unfortunately, it always seems to be the case that, once the Objectivist and I have agreed upon and understand his/her concept, I will provide a critique, an argument for which it doesn’t make sense to “go read more,” and then the Objectivist will get mad and tell me to go read more. Again, I’m aware that this doesn’t apply to all Objectivists. I have a close friend who is an Objectivist and this doesn’t apply to him. I think it does, however, apply to the more cultish aspect of Objectivism which is prominent or, at the very least, the most outspoken portion of the community. I think that the preceding can also be seen as some of the reasons that philosophy students and philosophers don’t take Ayn Rand or Objectivism seriously. I’m not saying any of this is a critique of Rand’s actual philosophical ideas. None of these are objections to the actual ideas of Objectivism. These are objections to the unreasonable tactics used by some Objectivists and, at times, Ayn Rand. The refusal to seriously engage with the ideas of other philosophers and the entry into an argument with the refusal to believe that any part of Objectivism could possibly be wrong, is what, I believe, turns off so many philosophers and often makes Ayn Rand a joke in the philosophy community. It’s difficult to take seriously the ideas of someone else if they refuse to acknowledge any one else’s ideas. That, in combination with the lack of popularity of Objectivism relative to other things perceived to be intellectually limiting, like fundamentalist religion, makes Objectivism very easy to ignore. I’m wondering then, for people who so proudly embrace ‘reason,’ why are these tactics used? It makes Objectivists look scared, not intelligent.
  7. Marc, I'm not saying that you contradicted yourself. I was answering dream_weaver's question.
  8. From an empiricist perspective, which is what MarcT is claiming to be, logic would be predicated upon experience.
  9. As someone who previously identified as a liberal, I just want to clear up what I think are some mischaracterizations. None of what I’m saying is meant to be taken as me saying that liberals are in any way correct. I just think you’ve missed the mark with regard to the approach that liberals are taking. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve left out examples but I’d be happy to provide some for each point, if you’d like. 1. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. To the extent that the typical liberal agrees with this, it also seems to be the extent to which an Objectivist would agree. This is targeting those who are successful mainly due to government corporatism. 2. I’m not sure what you mean by this. Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point but liberals typically don’t want people to be poor. 3. I think this is probably your worst point. There are sheepish people in every ideology. Many liberals consistently criticize all of the people you listed. 4. I don’t know where you’re getting this. Insofar as there are anti-libertarian laws which liberals support, this might be true but I don’t think the reasoning is ever that people are too stupid. The fact that liberals tend to be more libertarian on “social” issues should be enough to show us that there is more to the liberal argument than just saying that people need to be told what to do. 5. I think you’re basically correct here. But, again, the way you’ve characterized it isn’t exactly right. We all want every parent to be a good parent, unfortunately some of them aren’t and liberals have taken a specific stance with regard to this fact. 6. This seems like more of a liberal ideal or hope than a “liberal truth.” 7. This is more like a stereotype that some liberals, unfortunately adhere to. Stereotyping is almost always unintelligent, whether it’s stereotyping the rich or stereotyping liberals. 8. No. Liberals have specific ideals for society, just like any other ideology, including Objectivism. To the extent that society and its laws line up with liberal ideology, liberals believe people are obligated to follow but to the extent that society and laws do not line up with the ideology, liberals believe people ought to rebel against this in some way. 9. It’s not that gov’t is supposed to. It’s more like, the gov’t is something that can be used to do this and that it would be a good thing if it does. 10. I think you’re right on this one. 11. That’s just not true. I don’t even know where to begin on this one. 12. It’s more like some people are disenfranchised people who either have to do it themselves or with the help of state or charity. Again, I don’t consider myself a liberal but I think your list is an unfair portrayal of liberal ideology. If we’re going to attack liberalism, we should attack liberalism instead of a straw man.
  10. Hello, everyone. This will be my first post on the forum. If you want to know more about me you can look at my profile. While reading the first essay in "The Virtue of Selfishness," I often wondered about Rand's epistemology. Basically, I'm wondering if someone could explain to me how we acquire knowledge and what is the nature of knowledge? I'm wondering how it is that knowledge is objective, for example.
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