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David Kelley's Moral Theory Contra Objectivism

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brandonk2009
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Marc,

Interesting, and amusing.

The first, because in your response I find nothing to disagree with, and you found little to disagree with me - which goes to prove my original point that no matter our respective introductions and development within Oism, any two Objectivists are overwhelmingly in agreement, most of the time. Most differences revolve round the 'application'.

(BTW, sure, politics and economics, Capitalism, derive from the other fundamental principles, and is part of the closed system.)

I'm wryly amused because I was defending Ayn Rand against intellectuals ( in those days Existentialists and socialists) since about 40 years ago - before I'd begun to fully grasp the entirety of her philosophy. Now someone else is defending her against me and my supposed insult!

It was just some facetious English humour on my part ("two or three life-times of thought," ie, NEVER, for someone apart from Rand to have come up with Objectivism!)

Still, reality, the truth, has always been under mankind's nose. It simply took a rare genius to put it together.

The "major, major, issue" of moral toleration is definitely a stumbling block - but mainly in the highest academic circles, IMHO.

I understand the reason for the face-off between the two distinguished Intellectuals, and have resolved the toleration issue, at least for my own 'consumption'.

I have learned much from Peikoff, and from Kelley.. At my own relatively low-brow level - with my first priority being a philosophy for my life - my respect for both is unceasing.

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Marc,

Interesting, and amusing.

The first, because in your response I find nothing to disagree with, and you found little to disagree with me - which goes to prove my original point that no matter our respective introductions and development within Oism, any two Objectivists are overwhelmingly in agreement, most of the time. Most differences revolve round the 'application'.

(BTW, sure, politics and economics, Capitalism, derive from the other fundamental principles, and is part of the closed system.)

I'm wryly amused because I was defending Ayn Rand against intellectuals ( in those days Existentialists and socialists) since about 40 years ago - before I'd begun to fully grasp the entirety of her philosophy. Now someone else is defending her against me and my supposed insult!

It was just some facetious English humour on my part ("two or three life-times of thought," ie, NEVER, for someone apart from Rand to have come up with Objectivism!)

Still, reality, the truth, has always been under mankind's nose. It simply took a rare genius to put it together.

The "major, major, issue" of moral toleration is definitely a stumbling block - but mainly in the highest academic circles, IMHO.

I understand the reason for the face-off between the two distinguished Intellectuals, and have resolved the toleration issue, at least for my own 'consumption'.

I have learned much from Peikoff, and from Kelley.. At my own relatively low-brow level - with my first priority being a philosophy for my life - my respect for both is unceasing.

This is perhaps a digression, but exactly what have you learned from Kelley that couldn't have been learned from Rand, Peikoff, or philosophy in general?

-- Mindy

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Tony,

Thanks for the response. I think you took my post in exactly the spirit it was intended. I could tell from what you had written that you appreciate Ayn Rand. I don't think you intended to insult her and I didn't intend to insult you.

One more note on moral toleration:

The "major, major, issue" of moral toleration is definitely a stumbling block - but mainly in the highest academic circles, IMHO.

I understand the reason for the face-off between the two distinguished Intellectuals, and have resolved the toleration issue, at least for my own 'consumption'.

I have learned much from Peikoff, and from Kelley.. At my own relatively low-brow level - with my first priority being a philosophy for my life - my respect for both is unceasing.

I disagree that moral toleration is a minor issue relegated to academia -- perhaps it once was, but via academia it has infused the culture. Moral toleration is essentially the fundamental idea fueling moral relativism in our culture and the day isn't long off (in philosophic terms) before that combination will destroy the US and the world. I think the idea of "the sanction of the victim", which is the main theme of Atlas Shrugged, is a form of moral toleration and it shouldn't be dismissed.

There are many Libertarians who supposedly revere most of Ayn Rand's ideas and yet this one mistake has led them to consort with marxists, anarchists and to tolerate terrorists. They think that we are aggressing against Iran!!! and that the ideas ruling Iran are to be tolerated!!! This kind of toleration has the potential to kill you and me in the short term.

Now, I understand that those "Objectivists" who promote toleration would object and say "ideas are one thing, force is another" but force comes from bad ideas and I think it is completely legitimate to point that out.

I don't know your stance and so you shouldn't take the exclamations personally -- just me spouting off.

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Marc and Mindy,

I have one major concern, it is a selfish interest in seeing Objectivism grow and flourish.

To do this it needs a cohesive front that reflects the basic truth of the philosophy - reason, self-esteem, and calm benevolence. (I believe.)

We spend too much time uncovering the differences between ourselves, and others imo, perhaps as a result of it being quite a youthful philosophy, still. At what point in time will it stop splintering and regrouping, I wonder.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but personally have benefited in my life by discovering the areas where my convictions intersect with another person, engaging on that level, and only then, finding where we diverge, and deciding at that point if there is further value to be had. I would be very bored and lonely if I had waited for only the most rationally moral people to come along!

Looked at objectively, all of us, whether quasi-Oists, neo-Oists, or the real Randian Objectivist, have more in common with each other than we think; let's keep in mind those similarities, and moreso, keep in mind the potential for change in other people - something that Rand herself stressed.

The differences - as I've proposed before - lie in the 'applications' of (mostly) ethics and rights. From person to person, context to context, this can, and will, vary. Nothing and nobody should challenge each individualist's authority to his own volition.

These practical applications lie at the end of a long chain that began with Ayn Rand's epistemology and metaphysics - he, the individualist, is at the pinnacle of a solid hierarchy, and he has to call his own shots.

Even the odd irrationality, or inevitable errors of judgement, can't rattle that hierarchy - so well is it structured.

This is my personal philosophy, and it's served me well...

This is getting circuitous. To get back to the point, I do not believe that Kelley has overturned anything fundamental in his writing. I view his 'additions' as a practical extension (applications, maybe?:) ) of ethics, specifically on 'judgement' - which I had been already having my own thoughts about.

No ways is he the 'appeaser' of evil that the word "toleration" seems to suggest. I also don't agree that he has negated Rand's achievement of refuting the mind/body dichotomy , by interrupting the link between idea and action.

To the best of my knowledge, he is a staunch Randian admirer and scholar.

But out of deference to the affiliation of this valuable forum, I won't be the one to reopen this long debate.

The bigger picture is really what concerns me.

B)

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I have one major concern, it is a selfish interest in seeing Objectivism grow and flourish.

To do this it needs a cohesive front that reflects the basic truth of the philosophy - reason, self-esteem, and calm benevolence. (I believe.)

We spend too much time uncovering the differences between ourselves, and others imo, perhaps as a result of it being quite a youthful philosophy, still. At what point in time will it stop splintering and regrouping, I wonder.

Actually, the question of whether Objectivism is a specific, well-defined philosophy or is a general "school of philosophies" is itself resolved, so the only time that we spend any time on defending the proper boundaries of Objectivism is when someone tries to misrepresent it by saying that Objectivism is a "kind of libertarianism", or when a Kelleyite / Brandonite complains that their version of philosophy isn't also called Objectivism. Were it not for whiners and liars, and those whose career is smearing Rand, nobody would pay any attention to the revisionists.
The differences - as I've proposed before - lie in the 'applications' of (mostly) ethics and rights. From person to person, context to context, this can, and will, vary. Nothing and nobody should challenge each individualist's authority to his own volition.

These practical applications lie at the end of a long chain that began with Ayn Rand's epistemology and metaphysics - he, the individualist, is at the pinnacle of a solid hierarchy, and he has to call his own shots.

Don't get confused between the fact that the individual has to call his own shots and the fact that other people with a more solid grip on reality can see when that individual is just wrong. He may have the right to make his own choices, but his choices can easily be wrong. Objectivity means judging according to fact, not personal feeling, and if an individual ignores facts or reason, there is no moral waiver that derives from saying "he's an individual(ist)".

I assume you know the saying about a teaspoon full of sewage in a barrel full of wine. Rand's "The Anatomy of Compromise" explains why it is important to keep the sewage out of the wine, especially these three facts:

1. In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

2. In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

3. When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

It is not due to cussedness that we strive to keep the sewage out of the wine. It is because of the importance of this particular philosophy that we try to keep it.

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Valid remarks, David.

Yes, there will always be someone who has a greater grip on reality - at a particular time, and in a particular area - and what can be done about it? Plenty, I believe.

One can only know what one knows at this moment, and continuously apply one self to integrating further knowledge onto that. Without anguishing about the as yet unknown.

My observations on independence and individualism still hold water, I think.

Without a base point of self-authority, even when at a low level on the knowledge 'totem pole', I see a danger of a dichotomy arising.

The best term I can think of right now, is "authority dichotomy." One needs to seek out superior thinkers, and knowledgeable experts to learn,- but at the same time without elevating them to supreme authorities over one's mind. (IMO)

To gain and keep knowledge, requires that one reasons constantly, and that one's sense of self-responsibility (ie authority to oneself, ego,) is uncompromised.

By no means am I suggesting not acknowledging and respecting that a parent, or a teacher, or an expert in some field has knowledge and expertise and grasp of reality that I don't have - yet - or never will have.

Thing is, all of us have the right to be wrong, and to correct our premises as we go along. Having said that I can appreciate a certain amount of "cussedness" given in helpful spirit, whenever I'm wrong!

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whYNOT: You address that long post to me (and Marc.) I don't get why.

I did ask what, specifically, you learned from Kelley. Could you give an example in definite terms? Thanks.

Mindy

No Mindy - for the reason I gave above, I don't wish to pursue that line of debate.

That's not stopping you from continuing it if you wish.

I am more interested in the question of authoritarianism vs. individualism, within Objectivism.

Though this may be the wrong thread to be discussing it.

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I am more interested in the question of authoritarianism vs. individualism, within Objectivism.

I see the issue not as essentially authoritarianism vs. individualism, but more like conformity vs. individualism. The Kelleyites want to conform to certain norms of behavior found in the culture at large, so they come up with the doctrine of the living Constitution open Objectivism so they can incorporate into Objectivism norms that have no place there.

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I am more interested in the question of authoritarianism vs. individualism, within Objectivism.
There is not a shred of authoritarianism within Objectivism. "Individualism" is a red herring. These are terms that refer to the relationship between man and the state, and I presume you know that no Objectivist holds that the government should prevent a person from holding an incorrect view of the nature of Objectivism. Therefore I am at a total loss to understand what "authoritarianism" versus "individualism" could possibly refer to in the context of Objectivism.
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No Mindy - for the reason I gave above, I don't wish to pursue that line of debate.

That's not stopping you from continuing it if you wish.

I am more interested in the question of authoritarianism vs. individualism, within Objectivism.

Though this may be the wrong thread to be discussing it.

Yes, whYNOT, you are responsible for fleshing out your claims. You said Kelley had made contributions to an objective philosophy. You used that point to make arguments. You are not required to enter into a debate about it, but you are required to name those contributions. Otherwise your whole discussion is arbitrary, akin to asserting green gremlins infest the chat room.

Mindy

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My observations on independence and individualism still hold water, I think.

Without a base point of self-authority, even when at a low level on the knowledge 'totem pole', I see a danger of a dichotomy arising.

The best term I can think of right now, is "authority dichotomy." One needs to seek out superior thinkers, and knowledgeable experts to learn,- but at the same time without elevating them to supreme authorities over one's mind. (IMO)

To gain and keep knowledge, requires that one reasons constantly, and that one's sense of self-responsibility (ie authority to oneself, ego,) is uncompromised.

By no means am I suggesting not acknowledging and respecting that a parent, or a teacher, or an expert in some field has knowledge and expertise and grasp of reality that I don't have - yet - or never will have.

I find it difficult to understand what it is that you are trying to say here. Full agreement with Objectivism is not necessarily a sign of lack of intellectual independence (I assume, that is what you mean by conformity ). Lack of full agreement with Objectivism is not a necessary product of intellectual autonomy. If you are trying to say that on the path to philosophical integration people will/may fall somewhere along the spectrum and that process can take time - I don't think anyone here would argue with that. That has never been an issue here.

The issue, as I am sure you know, has been altering Objectivism yet still wanting to call it/sell it as Objectivism (in order to ride the wave of Rand's success). It is fine to critique and to disagree providing your reasons but then be honest about what it is.

You said:

Looked at objectively, all of us, whether quasi-Oists, neo-Oists, or the real Randian Objectivist, have more in common with each other than we think; let's keep in mind those similarities, and moreso, keep in mind the potential for change in other people - something that Rand herself stressed.

Most Objectivists I know understand the fact that a mind has to come to certain conclusions on its own and thus they display a lot of patience with others and respect for their mind. I certainly have been - I do have "Kelleyite" friends (as I do religious friends or even socialist leaning friends) and I will continue to befriend (and even join forces, if necessary) with other closely like minded individuals. What I am NOT going to do, however, is to blur the line between right and wrong for the sake of "togetherness". This IS what properly "toleration" should look like.

From my experience, what Kelleyites mean by tolerance, is granting them equivalence between their ideas and mine. I have lost a friend due to this fact because he wanted me to say that his ideas are equally valid even though in conflict with mine. Me respectfully and politely not downplaying the conflict between our ideas was "intolerant".

Edited by ~Sophia~
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We spend too much time uncovering the differences between ourselves, and others imo, perhaps as a result of it being quite a youthful philosophy, still.

At the very heart of Objectivism is the recognition of the objective nature of reality. Not sure why you equate clarity about right and wrong (that it exist and what it is) with "youthfulness".

Let me guess, "not uncovering the differences" would be an example of benevolence?

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After browsing much of this thread, and reading some essays on the subject (including "Fact and Value"), I've decided I will never call myself an Objectivist, even if it seems that what differences I have are resolved. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and anything that wasn't written or reviewed by Rand herself cannot be shown, with certainty, to be part of that philosophy. As such, my own philosophy, which must necessarily encompass more than Rand wrote in her lifetime (she said once that no philosopher can ever write their entire philosophy in their lifetime), can never be shown to be the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and therefore can never be called Objectivism. I think it much better to call myself "loosely" or "broadly" Objectivist, or "Objectivist-influenced", so as to make it clear the connection between my own philosophy and Rand's. Perhaps "Randian", that oft-denounced term that critics of Miss Rand use instead of "Objectivist", might be the best term. It evokes all the other philosophers in history. Rand was in the Aristotelian tradition. There are many Platonists, Kantians, Popperians, etc. None of those terms are taken to mean "in absolute agreement with every single aspect of the philosophy that was in the head of Plato/Kant/Popper/Aristotle", but rather "heavily influenced by and in agreement with most aspects of the philosophy of Plato/Kant/Popper/Aristotle."

In that sense, Peikoff, Binswanger, myself, most of us on this forum, Kelley, etc. are all "Randian", but not all (or, depending on your position, none of us, really) "Objectivists." I think this would be helpful. "Objectivism" is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and "Randian" is the philosophical movement inspired by her work, in the same sense as "Aristotelian" and "Kantian."

Might that be the answer to whyNOT's concerns about division and not focusing on common similarities, while also taking care of distinguishing the important differences between, for example, Peikoff and Kelley?

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Not sure I understand your question, but to answer with another question : whose philosophy is this anyway?

To try to clarify my position. It took a beautiful mind to construct the epistemology (and metaphysics, and ethics) of O'ism, which is a beautiful and efficacious philosophy.

But Rand did not just conjure it out of thin air - it was there for the taking, in the sense that it is only, and all, about reality. The reality of the Universe, and the Nature of Man.

All it needed was someone to identify, and bring it together.

Anyone could have done the same ...given two or three life-times of intense reasoning. (Ha!)

There is no way that her epistemology, metaphysics and ethics can be deconstructed, such is the strength of the inter-locking parts; it is an all-or-nothing choice.

This is where it is a closed system.

However, the application of it - particularly of its ethics - is where I don't agree, and I see other O'ists differ - on occasions. Because it is such an applicable-to-life philosophy, this is important.

It might not be entirely resolved, but, at the end of the day, it is our individual choices and independence that must be honored. This, the application and practice, is where I see it as an open system.

A. "This is where I see it as a closed system"

B. "This, the application and practice, is where I see it as an open system."

As someone wrote "Objectivist principles are no substitute for thinking." (But together, what a combination! as we well know.)

I believe the 'application' is up to me, and you, as the individuals at the end of the line, where nobody else can prescribe what is good for us.

O'ist ethics is my ethics, Objectivism is my philosophy, and independence is one of the most prized virtues to me.

One example of practical application is how my ideas on 'judgement' matured over many years. Without contradicting O'ist ethics (IMO) they developed to include assessing the motives of a person,and his character, as well as paying close attention to his ideas, and his ensuing actions. Only then would I pass judgement. Guess what, it worked well, and as far as I am concerned, is moral and just. (Remember, that the majority of people we come across have mixed premises.)

Then, only in the last 2 years, I found that D. Kelley had written and expanded on something very similar. The basic principles of Objectivism remained untouched - it is a workable addition to the 'application' of one aspect of ethics.

I am only an amateur intellectual; more like one of the foot-soldiers of Objectivism. My philosophy must work for me. But Rand called the" vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction, the subordination of your mind to the mind of another." For it to work, to be effective, I have had to avoid and resist all authority figures.

When Objectivism becomes over-prescriptive:- what one should do, given such-and such a situation - who he should despise, or value, how he should react to books, movies, or his enemies, and so on - it interrupts my connection to reality, to my sovereign independence, and my mind.

Ayn Rand is the one and only authority figure that ever existed in my life.

She was only one who I'd allow to prescribe anything to me. However, I can still recall that powerful feeling, when first reading her - that it was right and proper for me to think for myself, to value myself, and to eventually become my own authority - actually, my only duty.

.

Well, I've grown up, (and still don't know all there is to know) but now I reserve the right to occasionally disagree with the most admirable scholars on certain aspects of implementation and application of moralty - and gratefully learn from them, the vast majority of the time, in everything else.

This is my core position. It's turned into another lecture, but I needed to make myself a little clearer to those posters who I may have confused, and who responded in good faith.

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This is my core position.
Have you listened to the "Understanding Objectivism (UO)" lectures? I ask because your posts hint at a dichotomy between Peikoff et all and Kelly et al which actually does not exist, at least not in the sense you seem to be implying. I understand you're reluctant to be more explicit. So, I'll just suggest that if you have not listened to UO. give them a shot some time.
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