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Hello everyone,

I'm a college student who just finished Atlas Shrugged, and I was blown away-- it truly was an epic piece of literature, and it spurred me to research some of the concepts introduced in the book.

I have a few base questions about Objectivism. In order to be up front, I'll go ahead and say-- I don't agree with all that I've read about it, but there's a lot I find intriguing. Plus, I'm the only person I know who actually would give it a second thought. I'd like to learn about it so I can learn about Objectivist viewpoints, as well as be able to argue for it with people who are in complete disagreement.

Now, on to my questions.

1. How do Objectivists deal with Pascal's Wager?

Feel free to look up Pascal's Wager (or Gambit, if you prefer) if you don't already know about it. The entire argument seems immensely rational to me; I have a hard time thinking of objections. Now, if for the purpose of this post one were to conceded Rand's statement "belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason" (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_FAQ#obj_q6), which may or may not be accurate, then still...

If Rand is right and you are a Christian, you die in (maybe, maybe not) blissful ignorance and have no further punishment. Everyone is guaranteed death.

If Rand is right and you are not a Christian, you die and have no further punishment. Everyone is guaranteed death.

If Rand is wrong and you are a Christian, you get rewarded for all of eternity. Incredible value. You are guaranteed life after death.

If Rand is wrong and you are not a Christian, you get punished for eternity (and, as it's crucial to this argument, please pause and think of eternity) and are guaranteed eternal suffering.

When framed in this manner, how is the rational thing to do denounce the existance of the divine? The response to this may or may not be solely Objectivist, but athiest in general, except for the fact that Objectivists claim to depend solely on logic; thus, it is logic I ask for.

2. Why do Objectivists trust reason?

This is one I really don't understand. According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself. If you don't see the inherent problem in this logic, I don't quite know how to explain it. Basically, to trust that reason is worth basing your life off of seems like a major leap of faith.

3. How can the future/probability be trusted?

This argument is largely based on Hume's statements, but here goes anyways. Basically, how can one assume that they know enough about reality from an objective sense to really understand anything? What if all this time, scientists were missing that the earth actually revolves around the sun (lousy attempt at a historical tie-in), or that our knowledge of probability is not hindered by some variable of which we are not yet aware? Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and it seems logical to me that to say that one knows the exact nature of the physical universe is somewhat ridiculous.

Thanks for responding to my questions! I certainly hope I don't sound like a troll; I just would like to read some responses. If you would like any clarifications, that's fine.

Quick note-- I know someone will respond with my allegory in question 3 to, "But they were religious fanatics!" However, I feel this is irrelevant; they did the best with the science they had at the time. However, their science was based off religious texts. We base ours off certain empirical facts, but my question is whether or not it is rational to trust the validity of both these supposed facts and the conclusions we draw from them.

Have a great day!

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Howdy there Moogle,

Welcome to the site. I can deal with question #1, at least. There are several way's of debunking Pascal's wager. You wrote:

"If Rand is right and you are a Christian, you die in (maybe, maybe not) blissful ignorance and have no further punishment."

If Rand is right, and you are a Christian, then you've utterly wasted your precious life. A man who sincerely dedicates his life to Christian principles, never questioning his faith, eschewing earthly pleasures -- this man has condemned himself to a state of living death. Pascal's Wager assumes that the Christian can live a happy life, but this is true only so far as one does not actually live according to Christianity. The extent to which one rejects reason and embraces self-sacrifice is the extent to which he destroys his capability for happiness. If you've read Atlas Shrugged, then you have an idea of what living according to an irrational philosophy can do to a person. If you truly live your life according to Christian principles, then you risk much.

But all this is beside the point, in light of the fact that God, Satan, Heaven, Hell, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Bigfoot, and Zeus do not exist. Pascal's Wager assumes that there's some chance that the supernatural exists, when in fact such is impossible. The supernatural is metaphysically impossible, and the recognition of this fact opens up a world of discovery, namely -- what exactly is the cause of things?

Beyond that, why not substitute Islam for Chistianity in Pascal's Wager? Islamists believe that if you're not Islamic, then when you die you go to Hell, but if you are a good little Allah-worshipper, then you get to bed a crap-load of virgins in the afterlife. Or what about Ancient Greek Mythology? Or Hindu? Or any other myriad of other fairy tales which offer eternal happiness to the righteous and eternal damnation to the heathens? The fact is that all of theses belief systems are equally invalid, because they are based on irrational premises. To blindly follow any of them is destructive to one's life. Living as a man requires the use of reason, which is the antithesis to faith.

I will let others take a stab at your other questions. For now, I leave you with a reading recommendation: Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. This is the commencement speech she delivered to West Point Academy in 1974. It gives a good introduction for why a philosophy of reason is so essential to man. It's the first essay in the book I linked to.

I hope you find the answers to these questions, and many more.

Take Care,

--Dan Edge

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1. How do Objectivists deal with Pascal's Wager?
We don't, and we also generally don't respond well to invitations to look something up. However, being a nice guy and all, I'll tell you that the presumed odds on the bet are wrong. The odds against god are infinite, and the cost of wagering on the losing side are somewhere between "non-trivial" to "enormous", depending on the individual. The opening stakes in this bet are "man's proper means of survival" -- people who bet in favor of god have put up the car, the house, the Rolex, the savings account, and all because the other guy is bluffing.
If Rand is right and you are a Christian, you die in (maybe, maybe not) blissful ignorance and have no further punishment.
That would be the Christian focus -- focused on death. Objectivism, in contrast, is a philosophy for life.
If Rand is wrong and you are a Christian, you get rewarded for all of eternity. Incredible value. You are guaranteed life after death.
Yeah, and az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde. Since there is no life after death, there is no benefit to acting as though there is, and plenty of cost attached to doing so. Also BTW the correct form of the logic is:

If Rand is wrong then

If the Christians are right then

If the Catholics are right then

If you are Catholic then benefit

Else if the Protestants are right then

If you are Protestant then benefit

Else if the Muslims are right then

If the Sunnis are right then

If you are Sunni then benefit

Else if the Shiites are right then

If you are Shiite then benefit

Else if the Yazidis are right then

If you are Yazidi and you don't wear blue then benefit

Else if the Mwanamiti are right then

If you are Mwanamiti and pray to the correct tree then benefit

Else if you're Buddhist then you're screwed no matter

When framed in this manner, how is the rational thing to do denounce the existance of the divine?
That's a more advanced question. To denounce the existence of the divine requires that you understand the concept fully, which most people don't, and thus don't understand that it's a contradictory concept. But anyone can simply ignore the putative divine, since there is no reason to believe in the existence of the divine.
except for the fact that Objectivists claim to depend solely on logic
Uh, no, you've just described rationalism, the antithesis of Objectivism.
2. Why do Objectivists trust reason?
It's our means of survival.
According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself.
You have misinterpreted Objectivism.

Here's what I suggest. Go back to Galt's Speech, and try to re-state your questions about Objectivism, but this time actually use quotes from Galt's Speech to support your claim about what Objectivism says. Also, try to be a lot more focused. I know it's tempting to want to ask every big question all at once, but that's contrary to the incremental, bottom-up, perceptually-driven nature of Objectivism.

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If Rand is wrong and you are not a Christian, you get punished for eternity (and, as it's crucial to this argument, please pause and think of eternity) and are guaranteed eternal suffering.

When framed in this manner, how is the rational thing to do denounce the existance of the divine? The response to this may or may not be solely Objectivist, but athiest in general, except for the fact that Objectivists claim to depend solely on logic; thus, it is logic I ask for.

Whenever I am told the same thing by a Christian, my response is: "Even if he were magically real,(which he's not)why should I worship an jerk that would punish me for all eternity for not believing in something evidenceless and illogical. He seems like quite the ass for sending innocent people, even ones who've never heard of him, down to Hell with all the criminals." With this arguement, you address both sides. :confused:

Edited by kufa
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Well, Dan and David both gave nice answers. I'll try another shot and see if that doesn't help.

By the way, regarding linking stuff in. We can certianly look up Pascal's wager quickly. I did it in about 5 seconds, however, it incentivises others when you make it as easy as possible for them to understand your issue. Some people like David get grumpy and that might be a turn off, but its still in your interest to do it.

Pascal's wager is a probabilistic hedge. As Dan says, it depends on the assumption that we do not (or maybe can not) know whether or not God exists, nor with what probability the possibilities of his existence are. This is really a statement of ignorance about reality. It's problem is epistemolgical.

If one were to know for certain that God did not exist, then the expected values all fall apart, right? Any effort to believe in God or practice any religion is wasted entirely, right? That's how Objectivists handle the issue, at its fundamental premise. We know that the concept of God is entirely, 100%, certifiably in contradiction with reality. Problem solved.

Now if you want to know what makes us so sure, that takes a little longer (but not much) and as David said, the answer is probably sitting in Galt's speech.

Plus, I'm not sure that Christian philosophy actually allows you to play the odds. That is, belief in God just to hedge your bets is somewhat frowned upon (I would think it makes a mockery of religion). So the next question if what evidence do you have that if you believe in God just for the sole purpose of hedging your bets, that you'll actually get in to Heaven? i.e. that that form of belief is a virtue in God's eyes? :confused:

I'm a college student who just finished Atlas Shrugged, and I was blown away-- it truly was an epic piece of literature, and it spurred me to research some of the concepts introduced in the book.I have a few base questions about Objectivism. In order to be up front, I'll go ahead and say-- I don't agree with all that I've read about it, but there's a lot I find intriguing.

I said that exact same thing the first time I read Atlas. If you are intellectually honest and stick with it, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll change your mind. Rand couldn't write the stuff that actually occurs in reality that is parallel to the events in Atlas. She'd be written off as "unbelievable". I think she may actually have said that herself once too.

Edited by KendallJ
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Hi moogle525! Welcome to the Forum! I have a few little odd tidbits to add.

If Rand is wrong and you are a Christian, you get rewarded for all of eternity. Incredible value. You are guaranteed life after death.

If Rand is wrong and you are not a Christian, you get punished for eternity (and, as it's crucial to this argument, please pause and think of eternity) and are guaranteed eternal suffering.

This is actually an example of a stolen concept. Rewards and punishments (happiness and suffering) are results of achieving values, and the concept "value" only has meaning in the context of living creatures. To an immortal, indestructible "soul" (or robot or whatever you want to call it) nothing can possibly make any difference. What does pain matter if whatever is causing it can't kill you? What does pleasure matter if it isn't furthering your life in some way? *Eternity* in a lake of fire? I'd bet you'd be bored out of your mind after a week.

A freligious friend once responded to that with: the *purpose* of life is to teach you to distinguish between pain and happiness. So I asked him, "The purpose of life is so your so-called immortal soul can develop a permanent psychosis based on false premises?"

Noone really tackled this next question very thoroughly, so here goes:

Why do Objectivists trust reason?

This is one I really don't understand. According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself. If you don't see the inherent problem in this logic, I don't quite know how to explain it. Basically, to trust that reason is worth basing your life off of seems like a major leap of faith.

Objectivists have invested a great deal of time in validating why reason can be used to gain accurate knowledge of reality. I won't give you the full validation here, I'll just point out why the question, as you have posed it, is erroneous.

Reason is not *inherently* accurate, or at least human reason isn't. That's why all of your conclusions have to be logically validated and *proven*. We don't usually use terms like "the material world" because they are used as part of an erroneous metaphysics. Usually we use the term "reality". Reality, then, cannot be modified by such an adjective as "accurate"; what is there for it to be accurate to? Reality is the test of accuracy, it is the bar against which all ideas must be compared.

Blindly trusting that reason is worth basing your life on *would* be a leap of faith. (It would also, as you have stated, be illogical.) That's why Objectivists insist on such a scrupulous validation and proof of the efficacy of reason.

How can the future/probability be trusted?

Basically, how can one assume that they know enough about reality from an objective sense to really understand anything? What if all this time, scientists were missing that the earth actually revolves around the sun (lousy attempt at a historical tie-in), or that our knowledge of probability is not hindered by some variable of which we are not yet aware? Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and it seems logical to me that to say that one knows the exact nature of the physical universe is somewhat ridiculous.

This is actually two separate questions. The first is, basically: how can you ever know you're right? This is pretty much the entire field of epistemology right here, and Ayn Rand wrote an entire book just about this issue: Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. It is also her most technical and difficult book, intellectually speaking, because it contains most of her radical new integrations.

The short version can be contained in the question: if you can't know that you know, then you can't know *anything* so all discussions, thoughts, and actions are totally pointless and you may as well sit down and die right now . . . in fact, this should have already happened automatically. You're still alive? Well then it's pretty obvious (by simple observation) that SOMEONE has to know SOMETHING via SOME method. Since this *is* ostensively obvious, the task now is to figure out: who knows what how?

Objectivism relies on perceptual self-evidencies to form its basis, and one of them is the fact that you are *conscious*, meaning aware of reality in some fashion.

Probability, on the other hand, is a totally different (and much narrower) subject. Probability is not knowledge, it means you can place a boundary of some kind on your ignorance. If you roll a die, you can say with absolute certainty that it's must eventually read some number between 1 and 6, but you are ignorant of which particular number this will be. Can you trust probability? Only to the extent that you can trust *any* kind of ignorance.

What does it mean to know the exact nature of the physical universe? If you mean, to understand the laws which govern it's functions, then yes this can be undertaken. If you mean to know exactly where every concrete in the entire universe is and what it's doing at any given moment in time, I'd say this is probably impossible. The number of concretes and their constituent parts is so insanely large that this would be a ridiculous task, not to mention an unnecessary one.

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Hello moogle525. I will only answer a couple of your questions.

2. Why do Objectivists trust reason?

This is one I really don't understand. According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself. If you don't see the inherent problem in this logic, I don't quite know how to explain it. Basically, to trust that reason is worth basing your life off of seems like a major leap of faith.

Objectivism starts with axioms; an axiom is a self-evidency which you must assert even in an attempt to deny it. The first of these is that existence exists. The second is that you are conscious. The third is the law of identity -- that every existent is something specific, has a nature and acts accordingly ("A is A"). It is this third one that explains why logic works.

3. How can the future/probability be trusted?

This argument is largely based on Hume's statements, but here goes anyways. Basically, how can one assume that they know enough about reality from an objective sense to really understand anything? What if all this time, scientists were missing that the earth actually revolves around the sun (lousy attempt at a historical tie-in), or that our knowledge of probability is not hindered by some variable of which we are not yet aware? Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and it seems logical to me that to say that one knows the exact nature of the physical universe is somewhat ridiculous.

To put it simply, you don't have to know everything (i.e., be omniscient) to know what you do know (i.e., to possess knowledge). When you do make a generalization you have to ensure that it is the product of everything that has been observed up to that point; that's the best that anybody can be rationally expected to do. If new evidence comes along, it will have to be taken into account; this is how people learn -- but until it does, you use what you have.

As an aside, you may enjoy reading Dr. Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (also known as OPAR), Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and Philosophy: Who Needs it (also by Ayn Rand). These books deal with these and similar questions in greater depth.

[minor edits]

Edited by necrovore
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2. Why do Objectivists trust reason?

This is one I really don't understand. According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself. If you don't see the inherent problem in this logic, I don't quite know how to explain it. Basically, to trust that reason is worth basing your life off of seems like a major leap of faith.

Trusting reason is not blind. Rather, it is just the opposite because reason is based on the idea of arriving at the truth through logic and knowledge rather than emotions or unprovable assumptions. We are not blind to what we see. On the other hand, faith is blind because it expects us to believe as true that which we cannot see or prove. The material world is inherently accurate because it is what we know and it is made up of truths that are proven or that can eventually be proven through further investigation.

It's illogical to say that basing one's life on reason is "a major leap of faith" because reason and logic are not faith. Rather, they are the opposite of faith.

As to Pascal's Wager, one of the reasons that it is flawed is because under his assumption, then it is safer for us to believe whatever made up story that anyone can come up with just in case it turns out to be true. That's flawed because the default, self-evident presumption is that something must be proven, not disproved, to arrive at the truth. For instance, I am not immortal simply because you can't prove that I am not, given that I haven't died yet.

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To everyone that has posted,

Thank you for all your replies! I really appreciate it, and definitely have gained a fair bit more understanding-- as well as more material to read/research. As a lot was said, I think I'll just grab a few things here and there... I apologize if any of this sounds antagonistic; it certainly isn't intended to. It's just the best way I know to put it. :-/

In Regard to Question 1

First, a note-- I picked Christianity because it is the dominant religion in my demographic area, but one is certainly welcome to replace it with X religion that has Y characteristics, Y1 and Y2 being the eternal existence of heaven and hell being predicated upon one's fulfillment of X's principles.

Dan (or Mr. Edge? *wink*), you provided some really good stuff to think about. You, in a way, make an argument based upon two principles: A) God is nonexistent, and :confused: Even if God existed, following him would not yield a happy life. I guess I'm with you that <A> is somewhat up in the air; there are people that would argue 'til they died about the issue. Nevertheless, does it not seem that many followers of Religion X do not die happy? Is blissful ignorance not true happiness? Example... if you tell me I'm about to experience the greatest chocolate in the world, for example, but as soon as I put it in my mouth I die and cease to exist, would the expectation of something greater not cause happiness, even if the actual occurrence never took place?

Also, you state that the supernatural is "metaphysically impossible". In the event that Objectivism is right, then I suppose this argument still holds validity, and the issue is then carried onto whether or not there is such thing as an objective reality. Maybe that is the natural evolution of this question-- how do Objectivists know that the reality they perceive is objective? If everything is tainted by our perception through reason (which I gathered from "Introducing Objectivism" on the Ayn Rand site)... actually, this has quite turned into Question 2. Let's move on, shall we?

In Regard to Question 2

JMeganSnow really helped me here. I think that, once again, I was asking the wrong question. The question isn't about the nature of reason but about moreso about the nature of "Objective Reality". To quote again from Introducing Objectivism, "Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears." What's the basis for this? Which leads to necrovore's statement that...

Objectivism starts with axioms; an axiom is a self-evidency which you must assert even in an attempt to deny it. The first of these is that existence exists. The second is that you are conscious. The third is the law of identity -- that every existent is something specific, has a nature and acts accordingly ("A is A"). It is this third one that explains why logic works.

Gotcha. Let's see... I'm with you on the first one; Descartes proved that in a rather satisfactory manner. The second axiom might be a bit tricky, but I'm willing to flow with it-- to imply that consciousness exists is to work off the principle that we know what consciousness is; if this is a foundation for Objective Reality, it seems a bit like putting the horse before the cart. The nature of the third axiom I'm with you. However, I missed the jump that logic exists-- in order for it to fall under the third axiom, it must actually exist. Isn't logic more of a style than an entity? Or is this an aspect of Objectivism I'm not yet familiar with?

In Regard to Question 3

As necrovore stated,

When you do make a generalization you have to ensure that it is the product of everything that has been observed up to that point; that's the best that anybody can be rationally expected to do.
Edited by moogle525
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Gotcha. Let's see... I'm with you on the first one; Descartes proved that in a rather satisfactory manner. The second axiom might be a bit tricky, but I'm willing to flow with it-- to imply that consciousness exists is to work off the principle that we know what consciousness is; if this is a foundation for Objective Reality, it seems a bit like putting the horse before the cart. The nature of the third axiom I'm with you. However, I missed the jump that logic exists-- in order for it to fall under the third axiom, it must actually exist. Isn't logic more of a style than an entity? Or is this an aspect of Objectivism I'm not yet familiar with?

Hi moogle.

Re your first question about consciousness. In Objectivism the axioms are validated ostensibly, via sense perception. That is, there is no implying or logic before the conclusion. The statement is really a non-sequitir. This would be equivalent to saying that to imply that an apple exists is to work off the principle that we know what an apple is. But that's not really how the concept is developed. To imply that an apple exists is to point at it, see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and say "that exists, and it's an apple." One does not define such a thing and then go looking for it. The action of perceiving it in reality is the definition. If consciousness is that which is capable of perceiving reality, then it is so because I'm sitting here perceiving reality.

Re your second question regarding logic. If I understand where you're coming from, you've misinterpreted Jen's statement about explaining why logic exists. The point is not that logic is an entity subsumed under "A is A" as much as it is that logic, as a method of non-contradictory identification of reality, cannot work unless things have identities, or natures. At least that is how I understood what she said.

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I haven't read everyones responses, so I may be repeating things but this just seems so enjoyable to respond to! I love identifying fallacies!

Also Dan Edge's response was great.

1. How do Objectivists deal with Pascal's Wager?

What Dan said.... and do you think the christian god is a moral and perfect god if it is willing to punish people who lead good lives but refuse to accept christianity? I think logically that is completely flawed. An imperfect god is a contradiction with the christian definition of god. If that god was perfect it would be willing to accept people who denied christianity. I'm sure it would understand why people like me denied christianity for it being irrational and illogical.

2. Why do Objectivists trust reason?

This is one I really don't understand. According to Objectivism, we are to blindly trust that reason and the material world are inherently accurate; this actually goes against reason itself. If you don't see the inherent problem in this logic, I don't quite know how to explain it. Basically, to trust that reason is worth basing your life off of seems like a major leap of faith.

Objectivism doesn't claim man should blindly trust anything. It encourages critical thinking and scientific analysis. Also, what's more logical, to trust unreason or reason? I feel much better with my way.

As an example, if a giant boulder is coming at me and I know I must get out of the way or I will die or be seriously injured. I'm going to trust my reasoning and move out of the way. I will not stay in front of that boulder and wish it not to hit me, I know that will not work.

3. How can the future/probability be trusted?

This argument is largely based on Hume's statements, but here goes anyways. Basically, how can one assume that they know enough about reality from an objective sense to really understand anything? What if all this time, scientists were missing that the earth actually revolves around the sun (lousy attempt at a historical tie-in), or that our knowledge of probability is not hindered by some variable of which we are not yet aware? Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and it seems logical to me that to say that one knows the exact nature of the physical universe is somewhat ridiculous.

Your question doesn't really seem match your description. I will address your description...

If you can't accept anything to be true or even partially true then you can accept nothing... at which point I think why would you even bother living. To claim I can't accept any truths because I may have a slight misunderstanding of the complete truth is completely irrational.

Should I choose to reject reason because I know I can't be 100% certain about everthing? I know that if I don't eat I will die, so I eat. To deny that truth is, again, irrational.

As another example we now have a different understand of gravity from Newtons original equations, but it was still completely reasonable to use his until we had a better understanding. That's why scientists still call theories theories despite them being proven true in reality over and over and over and over. Gravity could behave differently in different parts of the Universe, but I know it is reasonable to accept that our current understanding of it holds true as far as we know it.

... to imply that consciousness exists is to work off the principle that we know what consciousness is; if this is a foundation for Objective Reality, it seems a bit like putting the horse before the cart.

The third axiom is identity not consciousness because in order to identify anything you must be aware of reality, your surrounding, if you can't comprehend reality then you can't identify anything.

Also just to clarify, I'm not sure if this is necessary but:

Consciousness means to be aware of yourself and reality, that is the meaning/definition in this context whether you accept it or not. If you're talking about a complete scientific understanding of consciousness then that is not a requirement of acknowledging consciousness exists.

I know gravity exists despite knowing I may not have a complete understanding of it.

And finally, you have to be conscious to deny consciousness, which is a contradiction.

Edited by Dorian
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Howdy Moogle,

You wrote:

"Nevertheless, does it not seem that many followers of Religion X do not die happy? Is blissful ignorance not true happiness? Example... if you tell me I'm about to experience the greatest chocolate in the world, for example, but as soon as I put it in my mouth I die and cease to exist, would the expectation of something greater not cause happiness, even if the actual occurrence never took place?"

Many religious people have at least some happiness in their lives, but note that they are happy only so far as they do not follow their religion. A hypocrite may be able to attain some degree of happiness, but he can never be as happy as a true man of integrity. A Christian, for instance, must necessarily live as a hypocrite to get any pleasure out of life because consistently following the Christian philosophy would destroy his capacity for happiness. What would a "perfect" Christian even look like?

As any good Christian will tell you, Jesus Christ is the "perfect" model. He spent his entire life in abject poverty, eschewed worldly things, constantly prayed for moral guidance, based all decisions on what he thought God was telling him, never held a steady job, never had sex, spent most of his time giving everything he had (and everything his followers had) to the poor, and allowed himself to be tortured to death at a young age for the benefit of what he considered to be a stained race of worthless sinners. Now imagine if you actually tried to live this way in today's world. Do you think you could be happy this way?

Of course, Christians don't expect you to actually follow the Christian philosophy to the letter. They believe men are stained, dirty hypocrites by nature. You are expected to violate God's laws -- then to accept what a guilty, worthless creature you are, go to your nearest church, and beg for forgiveness.

Now consider the alternative. Consider how a man would live if he knows there is no God to tell him what to do -- a man who holds his own happiness as the only moral purpose of his life. He knows he is going to die some day, and that will be the end, so he wants to make this life as full as possible. He values every second of it. He uses his mind to discover a code of values based on his nature, and he follows this code unfailingly. He knows that only the moral man can attain happiness. This kind of man would never accept the half-life of a hypocrite, who pays homage to one moral code for fear of supernatural retribution, but lives according to a different code.

Which kind of life do you want?

Thanks!

--Dan Edge

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In Regard to Question 2

JMeganSnow really helped me here.

Thanks!

Gotcha. Let's see... I'm with you on the first one; Descartes proved that in a rather satisfactory manner.

He did? From what I remember Descartes wound up having to invent God to solve his 'Evil Genius' paradox because he started from the wrong direction. I mention this because there is an important distinction to be drawn between Descartes 'Cogito ergo sum' and the Objectivist approach to axioms, a distinction that you may benefit from having clarified for you.

Of the axioms, existence comes first, then identity, then consciousness. This is because consciousness is dependent upon existence: in order to have a faculty of awareness, you have to be aware of *something*. As Ayn Rand put it: a consciousness conscious only of itself is a contradiction in terms. Before it could identify itself as consciousness, it would have to be conscious of *something*.

It is this fine distinction that leads directly into your next problem:

The second axiom might be a bit tricky, but I'm willing to flow with it-- to imply that consciousness exists is to work off the principle that we know what consciousness is; if this is a foundation for Objective Reality, it seems a bit like putting the horse before the cart. The nature of the third axiom I'm with you. However, I missed the jump that logic exists-- in order for it to fall under the third axiom, it must actually exist. Isn't logic more of a style than an entity? Or is this an aspect of Objectivism I'm not yet familiar with?

Objective reality doesn't require the existence of consciousness, it is consciousness that requires the existence of objective reality. Logic isn't a style, it's a method of making sure that your ideas (which are not automatically correct) correspond to reality. How do you do this? By, ultimately, applying the law of identity. It is not so much that logic "falls under" the law of identity as that the law of identity is the primary tool of logic. If you wind up with a statement that contradicts A=A, then you know your idea is illogical: it doesn't correspond to reality.

I hope you continue to gain benefit from this discussion . . . part of the reason it's often difficult to discuss these topics is the fact that you don't share the definitions we are all familiar with, so in some respects it is like we are talking a different language when we try to discuss these issues. Ayn Rand is much, much clearer than we are in presenting them, so you should always go to her first. :rolleyes:

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