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David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

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brandonk2009
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I completely agree with Old Toad's post number 232.

...

You don't have to roll out a red carpet for every newcomer, but if your goal is to spread Objectivism as a philosophy to as many people as possible (without compromising any of the principles of Objectivism) yet you lack the patience to be cordial to those who are willing to learn, but do not learn as quickly as you like, please defer to someone who does have such patience.

Jackethan,

Thank you for your response. Regarding my post #232 on this thread, I later made a correction in my post #236.

I do try to be patient with people interested in Objectivism, for the reason you wrote. (I don't always succeed.)

-- OT

Edited by Old Toad
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Ayn Rand on Tolerance as a Virtue to Obtain Value From Others

"Dominique, I'd like to know what you think."

"Of what?"

"Of... of..." He searched for an important subject and ended with: "... of Vincent Knowlton."

"I think he's a man worth kissing the backside of."

"For Christ's sake, Dominique!"

"I'm sorry. That's bad English and bad manners. It's wrong, of course. Well, let's see: Vincent Knowlton is a man whom it's pleasant to know. Old families deserve a great deal of consideration, and we must have tolerance for the opinions of others, because tolerance is the greatest virtue, therefore it would be unfair to force your views on Vincent Knowlton, and if you just let him believe what he pleases, he will be glad to help you too, because he's a very human person."

"Now, that's sensible," said Keating; he felt at home in recognizable language. "I think tolerance is very important, because..." He stopped. He finished, in an empty voice: "You said exactly the same thing as before."

"Did you notice that," she said. She said it without question mark, indifferently, as a simple fact.

--Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, p. 420.

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Ayn Rand on Tolerance as a Virtue to Obtain Value From Others

Either you are saying that in jest, or you are siding with the moral tolerationists. One day, I would like you to be clear about your position. That particular tracked you quoted from The Fountainhead was when Dominique was being mocking of Peter's second-hander values. It no way implies that Miss Rand through Dominique was for the toleration of people's views that one disagrees with -- especially on philosophical issues.

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Either you are saying that in jest, or you are siding with the moral tolerationists.
??? Rand did not say tolerance was a virtue. However, Old Toad was not implying she did. Unless I've completely misunderstood his post, he's showing that she scorned the idea of tolerance.
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??? Rand did not say tolerance was a virtue. However, Old Toad was not implying she did. Unless I've completely misunderstood his post, he's showing that she scorned the idea of tolerance.

I agree that is what the passage means, and sometimes I don't know what Old Toad means. So I wanted to clarify what that passage is all about. Dominique despises moral tolerationism by implication of what she is doing in that part of the novel. Similar passages can be found in Atlas Shrugged. I thought it was necessary to clarify that position because just quoting from it without that context is ambiguous (unless you know the context).

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Here's a quote from a radio interview Ayn Rand did with Garth R. Ancier in 1976.

Ancier asks: "Miss Rand, is there anything more to say about your philosophy that you haven't said already?"

Ayn Rand replies: I'm glad you are not that acquainted with my philosophy, because if you were, you'd know 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.

I think this supports the idea that objectivism is an open system. The system itself is secure and complete, but there is much philosophical work yet to be done.

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I think this supports the idea that objectivism is an open system. The system itself is secure and complete, but there is much philosophical work yet to be done.
Clearly not. It means that Objectivism is a system with finite precision, whereas "open system" means that it isn't any kind of system at all.
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It means that Objectivism is a system with finite precision, whereas "open system" means that it isn't any kind of system at all.

Peikoff used the analogue of objectivism as a constitution, with additions/revisions being a derivative of the founding, closed document. I think this is true, but I think the constitution has yet to be enumerated entirely. As Rand says, more work is evidently necessary, and that work can and should be called objectivist if it is a coherent, necessary, branch. In this sense, Rand's work is objectivist, so is Peikoff's, Kelley's, or yours, if and only if it adheres to the systematic principle of pure reason. The system by its nature should seek to build more of itself, and reinforce its inviolate power. Example: I think that homosexual relationships can be, and probably are, moral. I do not think they are "hideous." You might say that AR's opinions on homosexuality were not philosophical, but I think they were. What individual objectivists conclude is objectivist is ultimately based on their rational analysis, so there will rarely if ever be a 100% agreement. Hopefully there will be 90%-99% agreement. Every objectivist should properly think his conception of objectivism is more complete than his neighbor's. You think you are more right, and you should, but you're not.

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... As Rand says, more work is evidently necessary, and that work can and should be called objectivist if it is a coherent, necessary, branch. In this sense, Rand's work is objectivist, so is Peikoff's, Kelley's, or yours, if and only if it adheres to the systematic principle of pure reason.
You seem to make a switch here. Should you really be saying the following: "... that work can and should be called objectivist if it is a coherent, necessary, branch. In this sense, Rand's work is objectivist, so is Peikoff's, Kelley's, or yours, if and only if it is coherent with Rand's work." If someone, using reason, refutes Rand's work in any serious way, it would be odd to label that refutation "Objectivism".

Example: I think that homosexual relationships can be, and probably are, moral. I do not think they are "hideous." You might say that AR's opinions on homosexuality were not philosophical, but I think they were. What individual objectivists conclude is objectivist is ultimately based on their rational analysis, so there will rarely if ever be a 100% agreement. Hopefully there will be 90%-99% agreement. Every objectivist should properly think his conception of objectivism is more complete than his neighbor's. You think you are more right, and you should, but you're not.
You're wrong about it being part of the philosophy. However, suppose we assume that Objectivism says "homosexuality is evil". Now, let's say we use reason and refute it and say that "homosexuality is good". How is coherent to call this Objectivism. By that line of reasoning, why couldn't we call it we could all it "Aristotelianism".

You seem to be reducing the body of Objectivism to a single tenet: use reason. To do so is not helpful. We're using words to represent a certain set of things (ideas, in the case). We use the term "Objectivism" to describe a certain set of views. The notion of (say) individual rights is as much a part of Objectivism as the notion of reason, self-esteem and justice. The same with (say) Platonism or Kantianism. It would be wrong to take some notion that is part of the essence of Kantianism or Platonism and say it is not, because it does not follow from some other, more fundamental tenet of Kantianism or Platonism. "Kantianism" names a certain set of ideas that comprise th body of Kant's work. If Kant would have strongly disagreed with an idea, then it is not Kantian.

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I think this is true, but I think the constitution has yet to be enumerated entirely.
That's a bad analogy, even if Peikoff used it. A mutable constitution necessarily contains a statement that forces the document to describe an open system. If you want to invent a philosophical system, called Bondism, and establish as an irrevocable principle of Bondism that the principles of Bondism can be changed by vote of a majority of the board members of JBI, then Bondism by definition has no specific and permanent nature.

If you want examples of real open-ended philosophies, take libertarianism, epistemological skepticism and moral relativism. You could define an open-ended class of philosophies called "Rationalism" as those schools of thought that adhere to the systematic principle of pure reason. What you can't do is call that class "Vaishnavism" (because that term already refers to something else), "Platonism" (because that term already refers to something else), or "Objectivism" (because that term already refers to something else). Similarly, you can't call this "dog" (because that term already refers to something else).

cow.jpg

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You seem to make a switch here. Should you really be saying the following: "... that work can and should be called objectivist if it is a coherent, necessary, branch. In this sense, Rand's work is objectivist, so is Peikoff's, Kelley's, or yours, if and only if it is coherent with Rand's work." If someone, using reason, refutes Rand's work in any serious way, it would be odd to label that refutation "Objectivism".

Not at all. The issue is whether we can call additions or revisions of the philosophy objectivist. I think we can, assuming they are rational. Accordingly, David Kelley's work should be considered objectivist, and so should Peikoff's. I think it can get dangerous to hold someone up above any scrutiny.

You're wrong about it being part of the philosophy. However, suppose we assume that Objectivism says "homosexuality is evil". Now, let's say we use reason and refute it and say that "homosexuality is good". How is coherent to call this Objectivism. By that line of reasoning, why couldn't we call it we could all it "Aristotelianism".

That would never happen. Contradictions don't exist. Either one side is right, or one is wrong. It is a philosophical issue. AR calls homosexuality morally evil, which pertains to ethics, and to the philosophy of gender.

You seem to be reducing the body of Objectivism to a single tenet: use reason. To do so is not helpful. We're using words to represent a certain set of things (ideas, in the case). We use the term "Objectivism" to describe a certain set of views. The notion of (say) individual rights is as much a part of Objectivism as the notion of reason, self-esteem and justice. The same with (say) Platonism or Kantianism. It would be wrong to take some notion that is part of the essence of Kantianism or Platonism and say it is not, because it does not follow from some other, more fundamental tenet of Kantianism or Platonism. "Kantianism" names a certain set of ideas that comprise th body of Kant's work. If Kant would have strongly disagreed with an idea, then it is not Kantian.

I agree, mostly. Objectivism is the truth. I'd be surprised if Rand would strongly disagree with future objectivist thought. She'd probably be impressed. What better way to pay homage to someone than to contribute to their fundamental work? To say that that all of the philosophy that we call objectivist was finished back in 1982 would be an odd thing to do. If we are going to do that, we also have to start calling work Peikoffism, Smithism, Binswangerism, you get the idea.

Edited by James Bond
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Objectivism is the truth.
No, we already have a word for truth, why would we coin another word? Even if one wanted to use a word for "true philosophy", why take the term "Objectivism" and use it as the label for "true philosophy"?

Even if you usurp Rand's chosen term -- "Objectivism" -- as your label for the concept of "true Philosophy", you will need a different term to describe Rand's philosophy.

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Even if you usurp Rand's chosen term -- "Objectivism" -- as your label for the concept of "true Philosophy", you will need a different term to describe Rand's philosophy.

We use the term "calculus" to refer to a general body of work. There are taxonomies of Newtonian/Leibnizian calculus, but it is proper to call both calculus. Objectivism holds that truths are discovered, the same way systems like calculus are discovered. If calculus, or a philosophy, has room for addition, it would inimical to say we shouldn't add to either, or that we should start giving separate names to the same concept.

To say that that all of the philosophy that we call objectivist was finished back in 1982 would be an odd thing to do. If we are going to do that, we also have to start calling work Peikoffism, Smithism, Binswangerism, you get the idea.

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We use the term "calculus" to refer to a general body of work.
We have the term "philosophy" already.

To say that that all of the philosophy that we call objectivist was finished back in 1982 would be an odd thing to do.
Sounds like you did not understand the responses above. If one develops an Objectivist idea further, then it makes sense to call it Objectivism. People might still argue whether it is or not, but if it is, then it is a label that does not confuse. However, if one finds a truth that is contradictory to Objectivism, then it it proper to declare that Objectivism is wrong in that respect; it is not proper to change the meaning of Objectivism. Even if you think -- today -- that "true philosophy" and "Objectivism" have identical referents, that does not make them synonymous.

If we are going to do that, we also have to start calling work Peikoffism, Smithism, Binswangerism, you get the idea.
A lot of material from Peikoff and others are elaborations on Objectivism, but there are quite few places -- at least in Peikoff's and Binswanger's lectures where they point out that a particular view is their own, and not Objectivism. One does not have to give a name to each and every person's philosophy. Naming is a question of need. Still, if one of them came up with a different philosophy and if you wanted to label is, then it would be right to call it something other than Objectivism. If they do not come up with a completely different philosophy, but only some new theory, then one might label the view more narrowly, e.g. "Peikoff's Theory of Induction", and so on.
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Not at all. The issue is whether we can call additions or revisions of the philosophy objectivist. I think we can, assuming they are rational. Accordingly, David Kelley's work should be considered objectivist, and so should Peikoff's.

How about Nathaniel Branden's work, should it be considered part of Objectivism?

I'd be surprised if Rand would strongly disagree with future objectivist thought.

Wait a minute, there already is a disagreement between Peikoff and Kelley. Do you think both are right? And do you not think that Ayn Rand would agree with one side or the other?

To say that that all of the philosophy that we call objectivist was finished back in 1982 would be an odd thing to do. If we are going to do that, we also have to start calling work Peikoffism, Smithism, Binswangerism, you get the idea.

I don't think these people would agree with you. In fact I'm quite certain that they disagree with you and accept the fact that Objectivism has already been formulated by its discoverer, that what has been formulated is true and that they are only elaborating upon it.

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What better way to pay homage to someone than to contribute to their fundamental work?
It is one thing to develop an idea within a framework of specific fundamentals, and entirely different to create new fundamentals. Any legitimate development of ideas within Objectivism must be entirely consistent with the fixed fundamentals that Rand articulated in her lifetime. For example, Rand never specifically said whether it would be legitimate for the US to overthrow the mullah regime in Iran; but a straightforward application of Objectivism leads to the conclusion that the US has the right to do so. The only thing that has to be added is knowledge of particular facts, not philosophical principles.
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James,

Objectivism is not like calculus. If we were to take your math analogy seriously, that would mean labeling all rational post-calc discoveries "calculus." But that's false; set theory isn't calculus.

This morning you wrote, "The issue is whether we can call additions or revisions of the philosophy objectivist." This would make Objectivism synonymous with "true philosophy." That's cheating.

To another point: Specific moral judgments are not part of philosophy. One's evaluation of homosexuality is not a philosophical position because it depends, in part, on a theory of what causes sexuality. Such a theory requires specialized study of biologophy, neurology, and psychology. For the same reason a theory of depression is not a philosophical issue, neither is a theory of homosexuality. And since a judgment of homosexuality depends on such a theory, it cannot be philosophy. Furthermore, judging homosexuality depends knowledge of what homosexuality does to a homosexual. Is it destructive, or neutral, or positive but inferior to heterosexuality? If it is something undesirable, can it changed? All of these questions must be answered before one can reach a judgment of homosexuality. None of this is philosophy. So in addition to being false, Rand's view on homosexuality is not part of philosophy and therefore not part of Objectivism.

Marc asked if Branden's views are part of Objectivism. They can't be, but not because of Branden's character or break with Rand or anything like that. Branden's views aren't part of Objectivism because Branden's original work is in psychology. There's no Objectivist psychology for the same reason there is not Objectivist physics. (Branden did lecture and write on philosophy during his time with Rand. However, by both his and her accounts he was presenting a philosophy that was all Rand's. He and his wife may have coined some terminology, but beyond that they made no philosophical contributions). I typed this and realized Marc's question was rhetorical, but the point is worth making so I've added this sentence instead of scrapping the paragraph.

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How about Nathaniel Branden's work, should it be considered part of Objectivism?

some of his philosophical essays in the 60's I think can be..such as the ones included in VOS and CUI.

Wait a minute, there already is a disagreement between Peikoff and Kelley. Do you think both are right? And do you not think that Ayn Rand would agree with one side or the other?

I think Kelley is right that objectivism is an open system. Peikoff's intentions seem to be innocent, but I think Kelley was right when he said that there seems to be a bit of reification.

I don't think these people would agree with you. In fact I'm quite certain that they disagree with you and accept the fact that Objectivism has already been formulated by its discoverer, that what has been formulated is true and that they are only elaborating upon it.

It doesn't bother me what other people think. I'm not intimidated.

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I think Kelley is right that objectivism is an open system. Peikoff's intentions seem to be innocent, but I think Kelley was right when he said that there seems to be a bit of reification.

Have you read Peikoff's Fact and Value? Where exactly do you disagree with it? Unless you can pinpoint his exact source of error, how can you be certain that you are being motivated by reason as your only source of knowledge, and not by some latent emotionalism/evasion, as are indicated by your "seem to be" assertions. Are you really that comfortable making such sweeping judgments on the basis of what seems to be.

Please note, I have read through your posts to this thread. The replies you have gotten clearly identify the difference between an open "system" and a system driven by certain grounding principles, and show why other open "systems" such as the US Constitution are not analogous to Objectivism.

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Have you read Peikoff's Fact and Value? Where exactly do you disagree with it? Unless you can pinpoint his exact source of error, how can you be certain that you are being motivated by reason as your only source of knowledge, and not by some latent emotionalism/evasion, as are indicated by your "seem to be" assertions. Are you really that comfortable making such sweeping judgments on the basis of what seems to be.

I used the phrase "seems to be" to be polite. I don't think there's any latent evasion, although there might be some..if so I'll work on it.

Please note, I have read through your posts to this thread. The replies you have gotten clearly identify the difference between an open "system" and a system driven by certain grounding principles, and show why other open "systems" such as the US Constitution are not analogous to Objectivism.

Maybe I'm missing something but it isn't clear to me. I think it is possible for a system to be open and still be called a system. Here's an example of an area in objectivism that still needs work. Free will. I'm not satisfied with Peikoff's enumeration on it, let alone Rand's. In this case, as in other's, Ayn Rand's grounding principles are more like a foundation, and the above ground structure still needs to be made on the prepared base. Again, to say that all of the objectivist philosophical work was finished in 1982 would be absurd, something that Rand agreed with as evidenced by my earlier quote. She would probably condemn the idea of a open system, but even if she would, it doesn't matter. She was wrong. Reality is the final judge. Reason is the final tool, and I hold my mind above Ayn Rand's or anyone else's. It seems intrinsic to me to say that everything Rand said was right just because it was Rand. That's not denigrating Ayn Rand at all, but it is denigrating people who reify her. If anything that is a tribute to Rand, because of the way she herself exalted the individual mind.

Edited by James Bond
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I think it is possible for a system to be open and still be called a system.
The question is not whether Kelley's philosophy is a system. The question is whether Kelley's philosophy is the same system as Ayn Rand's, and it is not. "Being a system" is not the question at stake, it is whether Objectivism has a specific identity.
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