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Hi, there. You can call me Talya.

I'm a 35 year old mother of two, who has gone through an evolution in religious, political, and social views over the years. I find myself admiring Ayn Rand's objectivism more and more, without necessarily agreeing with or espousing all of her views. Of course, in the points where I differ, it's often more of a theoretical disagreement, than a practical one. I often find myself using objectivist philosophy in debates and disagreements, to the point that I sometimes consider identifying myself as Objectivist, but there are enough differences I do not want associated with me that I end up shunning such collectivist groupings in favor of my own unique individual interpretations.

Let's start with who I have been.

I was born in Ontario, Canada. My parents are first generation immigrants from Northern Ireland, my father is a very "orange" Irish loyalist and an Anglican priest as well. (Uh oh, the preacher's kid...betcha she's fun, eh?) I abandoned the beliefs of my father fairly early in life, and as a teenager began investigating "new age" religions that fit with my sense of self identity...Druidism and Celtic paganism in various forms. In the end, though, it would seem I never really had faith in a God. You can read my very sporadically updated blog if you'd like to know how that came about, but suffice it to say, I'm quite Agnostic now. Atheist? I object to the term. I cannot prove that there is no God, any more than my father can prove that there is one. Atheism requires the faith that God does not exist. I merely know that the existence of God is no more likely than the existence of the invisible pink unicorn, or the flying spaghetti monster. God may exist or may not, but I see no evidence of Her existence, nor do I see a reason to put faith in one. The universe exists how it exists, whether due to divine intervention or not, and any God who may or may not have existed has long since abandoned us.

Politically? As a teenager, I was quite "left wing," bleeding heart socialist in my views--because to a teenager, who doesn't see the whole picture or understand economics, that seems like the moral, good thing to be. But life is so much more complex than the way its seen in youth, and over time, I've drifted toward the "right," in a somewhat "libertarian" direction, going more and more for individualism and freedom over the collective.

So here I am, the almost-atheist who believes in individualism, rewarding excellence, and generally stamping out the mediocrity-inducing snare of socialsim. How can I not be objectivist?

Well, for one, I'm a moral relativist (isn't relativist the opposite of objectivist?). I have my own personal morality that agrees for the most part with what Rand believed, but I do not believe in intrinsic "right" or "wrong." I'm a social darwinist (really, a darwinist in every possible way) who believes that humans have evolved the concepts of "right" and "wrong," (and indeed, that all of our behavioral mores are evolved social traits) and that there is no objective morality...there is merely what helps us advance both as individuals and as a society, and that which hinders us. It just so happens that I believe that many of Rand's philosophies are the most helpful to human advancement. How can I be a relativist objectivist? It doesn't work. So I've never identified that way. Then there are some minor issues. I believe in providing equality of opportunity in society, not equality of outcome. The disadvantaged may have excellence that surpasses those born with advantages, if given the opportunity. As such, I end up believing in certain small social structures and safety nets (far less than what most governments offer today, so I end up on the same side of most political beliefs anyway.) I am not a true "laissez-faire" capitalist, although I strongly believe that we should head a lot more towards governmental non-interference than what we see around us in developed nations today. In a group consisting otherwise of a combination of Libertarians and Objectivists, I'd definitely be the "bleeding heart left-wing" voice. On the other hand, in a group consisting otherwise of neo-cons and liberals, I'd be the "evil godless/right-wing nazi." I'm really without a political place that I fit into.

But then again, isn't that rather a point that Ayn Rand would have agreed with? Was not individualism and finding your own path, rather than parotting and following the beliefs of others something she would have agreed with? Even if she didn't agree with all of my positions, would not we have had more common ground than differences, and out of respect for the individual, been happy to agree to disagree (even as we could debate such things forever?)

So in the end, am I an Objectivist? Or do such distinctions matter, and is the need to belong to a collective think-tank and all be in agreement in itself something that Rand would have despised?

I don't know. I just know that I have more in common with you guys than I do with society at large.

Edited by Talya
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Hi, there. You can call me Talya.

Welcome!

I'm a 35 year old mother of two, who has gone through an evolution in religious, political, and social views over the years.

Let's start with who I have been.

My father is a Lutheran minister. Your description of your walk through faiths strikes a chord.

but suffice it to say, I'm quite Agnostic now. Atheist? I object to the term. I cannot prove that there is no God, any more than my father can prove that there is one.

Yeah, I was there for a long time. But ...

Atheism requires the faith that God does not exist.

...what I realized is that this is not true.

I used this example earlier today: I don't believe there are gas creatures living in the heart of Jupiter. We have no evidence they exist. BUT there's no logical reason we know of that they couldn't exist. There could, theoretically, be creatures that are able to develop and survive in Jupiter's recesses, just like there are creatures that live in the deepest oceans devoid of sunlight. My not believing those creatures exist is simply because there's no indication they do - but they could.

God, however, is a contradiction to reality. One does not need faith to not believe in something that contradicts reality. To not believe in the FSM or the IPU or God is to reject belief without basis. There is no evidence, but even more so the very idea of God creates a logical contradiction, and logical contradictions are always false.

To not believe in jupiteroids is to say, "Until we find evidence, I won't believe it" - i dont actively DISbelieve it either.

To not believe in God is like not believing that 1 = 7.

I'll let others address some of the other points. I have to get back to work. But once again, welcome! :D

So in the end, am I an Objectivist?

Not yet.

But if you adhere to the principle that reason trumps belief, that reason is fundamental to the operation of the universe (A is A), then you're on the road there.

I believe that either you will:

1) Disprove or amend all or part of Objectivism, in which case everyone here who is true to their principals of reason will be persuaded that you are correct;

2) Have it proved to you that Objectivism is correct; or

3) Depart from reason by evading 1 or 2

I hope you enjoy the journey, I have! (And so far, #2 has been the case with me, every time...)

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God, however, is a contradiction to reality. One does not need faith to not believe in something that contradicts reality. To not believe in the FSM or the IPU or God is to reject belief without basis. There is no evidence, but even more so the very idea of God creates a logical contradiction, and logical contradictions are always false.

To not believe in jupiteroids is to say, "Until we find evidence, I won't believe it" - i dont actively DISbelieve it either.

To not believe in God is like not believing that 1 = 7.

I suppose that depends on what you believe God is.

My father believes in an omnipotent, omniscient being. There's no way to say such a belief is incompatible with the universe as it exists, because no matter how you argue, the answer can be "God made it that way." My counter to that, is if the deity my father believes in truly exists, that deity is an {insert condemnatory epithet here}. Lacking either proof (or even evidence) that He exists, and a desire to worship Him if he does, it seems easier to simply go with the "He doesn't exist" scenario than to scream against the injustices perpetrated by an invisible man in the sky who may not be there.

Now, on the other hand, I once saw an interview with Stephen Hawking (a man whose mind can reason on levels none of us can even dream of) where the interviewer asked him outright, "Do you believe in God?"

His (non)answer was, for me, at any rate, thought provoking.

"If I say yes, you will assume that I believe in the same type of divine creature that you do, which would be horribly incorrect. If I say no, you will assume I have no faith. So I decline to answer that question."

"God" can simply be defined as "first cause," and many of the neo-pagan beliefs I walked through seem to mesh more with how nature truly exists, than the beliefs of my father. That said, there's still no proofs for any of them. They are much like your "gas creatures on Jupiter" example. Science or religion both run into the same problem of "First Cause," neither provides an answer. It is likely no science we discover ever will.

I identify more with the non-answers of Stephen Hawking than the dogmatic answers of Richard Dawkins. :D

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Welcome to the forum, Talya, and to discovering Ayn Rand's philosophy. In reading your post, I wondered, "What do you wish to get out of philosophy, and what about Objectivism appeals to you or do you agree with?"

Good questions. I never think about what I "get out of philosophy." But it's true, it's about selfishness--if there wasn't something to get out of philosophy, we wouldn't create it. What do I get out of it? A worldview that feels complete. A practical set of ethics and/or morals (or merely a touchstone against which I can check the morals I already possess.) Political views to advocate and promote. I'm sure I could come up with more things given time.

Objectivism appeals to me primarily in three ways (in no particular order): (1)the emphasis on the individual rather than the collective, (2) on practical ethics and morality that are shaped by reason and reality rather than nebulous religious concepts of right and wrong, and (3) on the recognition of merit and excellence, rather than the egalitarian ideals becoming so prominent that promote mediocrity.

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Is there some reason why there has to be a first cause at all?

Has to be? No. The lack of one just ends possible use of reason to investigate the subject. As someone who believes that everything has a logical explanation (which is the whole basis of using our powers of reason at all), that's not really acceptable. At the same time, we do not have the information needed in order to reason through the question at all.

In either event, neither religion or science can answer the question of First Cause, so there's no logical way to debate it. It is best to pretend the question doesn't exist, and deal with what we can reason on. So for practicality alone, lets ignore first cause. :D

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Good questions. I never think about what I "get out of philosophy." But it's true, it's about selfishness--if there wasn't something to get out of philosophy, we wouldn't create it.
How true!

What do I get out of it? A worldview that feels complete.
If you don't mind a little critique, why is a complete worldview important to you? How do you determine when a worldview is complete?

A practical set of ethics and/or morals (or merely a touchstone against which I can check the morals I already possess.) Political views to advocate and promote. I'm sure I could come up with more things given time.
Practical ethics -- good! Merely another system against which to measure your own morality -- not so much. If your own ethical system was moral, of what value would an immoral ethical system hold for you? Why do you want to advocate political views? Do you want those views to square with a particular worldview, or just come from any old view? How will you determine which political views to advocate?

Objectivism appeals to me primarily in three ways (in no particular order): (1)the emphasis on the individual rather than the collective, (2) on practical ethics and morality that are shaped by reason and reality rather than nebulous religious concepts of right and wrong, and (3) on the recognition of merit and excellence, rather than the egalitarian ideals becoming so prominent that promote mediocrity.
1)Why is emphasis on the individual important to you? Is it important to just you or is it essential to everyone as a basic philosophical fact?

2)Excellent. Do you understand why morality must be derived by reason and not religion?

3)Again, excellent. Do you understand what is fundamentally wrong with egalitarianism and fundamentally right with individual merit?

The purpose of my asking is not to provoke you with skepticism, but to indicate what kinds of basic questions one must ask and answer in evaluating a philosophy based on reason and tied to reality. Put in simpler terms, these are questions that one must answer in order to live. I hope this helps!

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Do you consider to the question of a 'First Cause' to be on the level of considering the existence of the totally smell-less aroma, or the invisible colour? I disagree that it's that ridiculous a question. Certainly, if cause precedes effect, then for every effect we discover there must be a preceding cause. And then we run into how we answer that problem: is it some holy door-stop, or is it an infinite regress, or maybe some kind of causal loop, or maybe causality is a total illusion! These are all ridiculous answers, but none-the-less, the question isn't ridiculous, I do not think.

However, this is a thread for your introduction. If you want to look into this issue some more, I invite you to consider this essay on how the universe cannot be bounded, neither spatially nor causally (i.e. the universe is the definition of space and time, and therefore cannot be described as having a beginning or an end):

http://www.geocities.com/rationalphysics/U...nded_Finite.htm

There are also a myriad of topics on God here which go over this argument again and again which I invite you to browse. Do a search for 'God' (no, not that kind of search; I mean the Search bar) and you'll find a wealth of topics. Better yet, use this in Google:

site:objectivismonline.net search term

Replacing 'search term' with whatever you want to know more about. We have not discussed everything here, but probably most of the things you might want to know more about. I'm sure looking after two kids doesn't leave you with enough time to manually look through everything on this forum, but, when you have the time, just give it a go, typing in a few key terms relevant to what you might want to know something about, like 'moral relativism').

Welcome to the forum! Don't worry too much about whether you're an official Objectivist. Worry more about whether you are thinking, honestly, openly, really. Never bow to the pressure of authority in regards to knowledge, do not succumb to the easy route of Rationalism and most of all: ask questions, of other people, and of yourself. See if they've been answered before, but get in touch with people otherwise, or start a thread, or reply to an old thread and get it going again if you think it hasn't addressed your concern.

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Has to be? No. The lack of one just ends possible use of reason to investigate the subject. As someone who believes that everything has a logical explanation (which is the whole basis of using our powers of reason at all), that's not really acceptable. At the same time, we do not have the information needed in order to reason through the question at all.

In either event, neither religion or science can answer the question of First Cause, so there's no logical way to debate it. It is best to pretend the question doesn't exist, and deal with what we can reason on. So for practicality alone, lets ignore first cause. :)

Well, it's good that you see that there doesn't have to be a First Cause, but there's a real problem in ignoring the question. By ignoring it, you are implicitly saying that the question of a First Cause is either knowable, but not worthy of knowing, or it is unknowable. If it is the former, then you are evading a potentially hugely important fact about reality. If a question is worth answering, it is not at all best to pretend that the question doesn't exist just because you can't currently answer it. They right thing to do is to put it on the shelf until you gather enough information to answer it -- like the question, "Is there life on other worlds?" However, if it can't be answered -- like the question, "What were the first words uttered by the first homo sapiens?" -- you don't ignore the question, you properly label it as unknowable, and you specify why it is unknowable, so that you can properly put it out of consideration for all time.

The question of First Cause is knowable, though, and the answer isn't just that there doesn't appear to be one or that we haven't identified it yet, but that there can't be one. It is a flat out contradiction to assert that some thing caused all of existence. If such a thing existed to cause existence, then it would exist in existence, too. It would be a part of existence, not an outside, causal agent. If it existed "outside of" or "prior to" existence, then by definition, it didn't exist and hence couldn't have "caused" anything. Grasping this demonstrable fact of reality is key to grasping the eternal, uncaused nature of the universe.

The question should not be ignored, because doing so takes facts that are comprehensible to man's mind and crucial for his existence (philosophy), and replaces them with arbitrary assertions about reality that cripple man's ability to live (religion).

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If you don't mind a little critique, why is a complete worldview important to you? How do you determine when a worldview is complete?

I said "feels complete." I don't believe a complete understanding of our universe is possible in my lifetime, but if the philosophy I live by is both satisfying and stands up to logical scrutiny I suppose it would feel complete.

We talk about reason and logic--for good cause, admittedly--but we are not logical creatures, but rather emotional ones. Our personal satisfaction with life is very much dependant on emotion. I don't think the two things should be completely divorced. If I make completely rational, reasonable decisions and yet they leave me depressed and sad, then they probably weren't the best decisions for me. A "worldview that feels complete" is just that--something that I can rationally and logically defend and agree with, yet that also resonates with me on an emotional basis.

Practical ethics -- good! Merely another system against which to measure your own morality -- not so much. If your own ethical system was moral, of what value would an immoral ethical system hold for you?

I know some people make a distinction between Ethics and Morality, but when reading my words, know that I don't. I see them both as the same thing: human constructs, products of our evolution that vary from person to person, with no absolute objective (sorry) truth, any more than there's a way to determine if the bright colored "warning" skin of the tree frog is a more effective evolutionary adaptation than the more subtle skin of their camoflauged amphibious cousins. Anyway, the "touchstone" comment is implied that if something in my ethical values conflicts with another, I need to investigate how, and why, and if there is a practical, logical reason why one could be considered superior to the other...and then to adopt whichever I consider superior.

Why do you want to advocate political views? Do you want those views to square with a particular worldview, or just come from any old view? How will you determine which political views to advocate?

If I believe that a society in which objectivism or something similar was the basis for all law would be a better place to live for me and my family, and future decendants, would it not be to my benefit to attempt to promote or advance such a view in the hopes, however slim, that they will take hold? (Unfortunately, I do not believe that democratic government forms will ever provide this--"democracy can only last until enough voters realize they can vote for largess to be awarded to themselves from the public trough." Still, one can hope.)

1)Why is emphasis on the individual important to you? Is it important to just you or is it essential to everyone as a basic philosophical fact?

I would say primarily the latter. That said, i believe there will always be "worker drones" in human society that either are unable to or are too apathetic to embrace that philosophical fact. I believe, ironically, that the concept of the individual is important to society as a collective, and to the individuals that embrace it.

2)Excellent. Do you understand why morality must be derived by reason and not religion?

3)Again, excellent. Do you understand what is fundamentally wrong with egalitarianism and fundamentally right with individual merit?

I could write pages on these two. I should perhaps save them for another thread.

The purpose of my asking is not to provoke you with skepticism, but to indicate what kinds of basic questions one must ask and answer in evaluating a philosophy based on reason and tied to reality. Put in simpler terms, these are questions that one must answer in order to live. I hope this helps!

Thanks. It's a fun thought excersize anyway.

On "First Cause," I'm actually suspicious that the answer to first cause lies in the relativistic nature of the space and time. In the singularity that would have existed prior to the big bang, time would not flow like it does here, and in fact would be curved to such a degree that any measure of it would meaningless. Both Quantum Mechanics and Relativity break down at the singularity level, the laws of the universe as we understand them simply do not work. The very concept "What came before the big bang?" is a logically incorrect question -- "What came before the beginning of time?" The "First" in the phrase "First Cause" is a temporal measure, and therefore the very "First Cause" would be that which existed at the moment time began. We are beings that live a linear temporal existence, and the idea of time not existing is not something we can wrap our minds around easily. Asking what happened before time started is not a rational question.

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Welcome to the forum Tayla :)

We talk about reason and logic--for good cause, admittedly--but we are not logical creatures, but rather emotional ones.

Can I ask what you've read of Rand's writing? Is there a reason why you reject the idea that humans are rational beings? What do you think emotions are?

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Welcome to the forum Tayla :)

Can I ask what you've read of Rand's writing? Is there a reason why you reject the idea that humans are rational beings? What do you think emotions are?

Atlas Shrugged, of course (but that was back in High School. I need to read it again someday, but reading it is a ... formidable effort, in a setting and story that doesn't appeal to me, however much the message does.) I've recently taken a liking to the Fountainhead. I haven't read any of her earlier works, I'm afraid. (I wish one could get more than an cursory introduction to Objectivism by watching "The Incredibles." I read for escapism, and prefer sci-fi or fantasy settings if I'm going to read a book, but sometimes it's worth it.)

Any reason why I reject the idea that humans are rational beings? I think we can be rational beings, but I don't believe that is our natural state. Call me a cynic, but I have a fairly low opinion of humanity as a whole. I don't really see the majority of us as having done much to differentiate ourselves from the other animals that inhabit our world. (And in fact, less than many of them.) Even the best of us often make decisions based on our hearts rather than our heads. Howard Roark is a fascinating protagonist, but he didn't seem entirely, well, reasonable. Perhaps more subjects for another thread, though.

I certainly appreciate the value of reason, and the dangers of not using it. I think it's a matter of personal integrity that I admit none of us our entirely logical beings. (Being an old trekkie, I'll have to say I thought, intentional or not, the failings and advantages of the two very different allied worlds, Earth and Vulcan, always resonated with me. Spock in the end seemd the most ... complete character on the show, for learning to utilize the advantages of both.)

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I have to admit I don't know Star Trek from Battlestar Whateverica so that was kind of greek to me, haha. I don't really know what you mean by "not entirely logical beings". Do you mean that sometimes we act logically (making decisions based on criteria in pursuit of a goal), but sometimes randomly, and can't help it? I would have to say that I personally don't make random decisions very often. Making emotionally based decisions is really a process of logic, albeit with a misguided premise. Anyway there's no fundamental reason why "your heart" and "your head" should necessarily conflict*.

If you don't think we've really differentiated ourselves from other animals then what do you make of, say, cities? Manned flight? Modern medicine? Mathematics? The colour wheel? (etc.)

[Edit to add:] *This might be why you think Roark acts emotionally rather than rationally. He is specifically an example of someone whose emotions are perfectly attuned to his standards of value, so there's no conflict between the two. I mean, Roark reacting "emotionally" and Roark making "rational" decisions are just two sides of the same coin; there are no conflicting motives for him to choose between.

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Welcome Talya, good to see another Canuck (and an Ontarian to boot) in here.

When you were talking about First Cause, and that neither science nor religion has the answer I disagree, at least in how the question itself is answered by the scientist and the Priest.

The scientist says "we don't know yet, but we're working on it!" Implying an eventual and knowable outcome to investigative discovery.

The Priest says "We know, it was god, and his plan and method is unknowable!"

As for the Atheist question, would you consider yourself a deist then?

The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.
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Thanks for elaborating on your view of philosophy. We've hit on a lot of points, and as you posted this as an introduction, I don't want to derail it into a bazillion different arguments. I see some good things and some bad things in your view. I'll try to address them briefly, and in the spirit of keeping a lid on this thread, leave it to you to investigate them further.

I said "feels complete." I don't believe a complete understanding of our universe is possible in my lifetime, but if the philosophy I live by is both satisfying and stands up to logical scrutiny I suppose it would feel complete.
Well, a philosophy may be complete, even without an understanding of everything in our universe. Because philosophy is an integrated view of man's nature and the nature of reality (as a whole, not item by item), those are the two things which must be understood completely. Today, man does know enough about them to formulate a complete philosophy, even though there are plenty of areas of human inquiry yet to be explored. For example, every time we look, we see that man must use reason to survive; nothing else will do. The fact that we can't pin down the rest mass of a top quark does not change this fact. Similarly, all we see in reality is that contradictions don't exist. We can look forever, but we'll never see otherwise. There's no reason to think that future human inquiry will change this fact. We can use it as a basis for an objective philosophy.

We talk about reason and logic--for good cause, admittedly--but we are not logical creatures, but rather emotional ones. Our personal satisfaction with life is very much dependant on emotion. I don't think the two things should be completely divorced. If I make completely rational, reasonable decisions and yet they leave me depressed and sad, then they probably weren't the best decisions for me. A "worldview that feels complete" is just that--something that I can rationally and logically defend and agree with, yet that also resonates with me on an emotional basis.
The logical/emotional setup is a false dichotomy. What man is, fundamentally, is volitional. His means of survival is reason, which uses logic as its tool for handling the data provided by man's senses. Man also has emotions, but they aren't his means of survival, but rather an automatic response to his values. You automatically feel love for something you value most highly, anger towards a threat to your values, and so on. First comes your valuation of some thing in reality, and your emotions necessarily follow.

Our personal satisfaction with life (happiness) comes from the achievement of our values, not our particular emotions. If you're good at something you want to be good at, you'll be happy, and you'll experience the emotions associated with being happy. I think if you do a little introspection, you'll see that one's state of happiness doesn't start with emotions, it "ends" with it.

How could you make a rational decision that would make you sad and not be the best decision for you? I could see how bad premises could lead you to feel sad about something that was rational (such as feeling sad about getting a dear friend out of your life who was a jerk), but if it's rational, it can't be bad for you. The rational is the good.

I know some people make a distinction between Ethics and Morality, but when reading my words, know that I don't. I see them both as the same thing: human constructs, products of our evolution that vary from person to person, with no absolute objective (sorry) truth, any more than there's a way to determine if the bright colored "warning" skin of the tree frog is a more effective evolutionary adaptation than the more subtle skin of their camoflauged amphibious cousins. Anyway, the "touchstone" comment is implied that if something in my ethical values conflicts with another, I need to investigate how, and why, and if there is a practical, logical reason why one could be considered superior to the other...and then to adopt whichever I consider superior.
There is a distinction worth noting. Often, "ethics" refers to a system to guide human action. It could be good, it could be bad. "Morality" refers to the proper system to guide human action -- the one needed for man's survival and determined by man's nature -- as opposed to an improper one.

Oy. Well, without objective truth (a redundancy), morality isn't possible. Man becomes a quivering, helpless heap of body parts who manages to survive by luck alone. I think all the examples of human advancement, not the least of which is Objectivism, refutes that claim. Additionally, and not to be coy, but the claim that there is no objective truth is itself a claim of objective truth. And certainly there is a way to determine which evolutionary adaptations are more advantageous to a given species. I'm not even sure why you would posit such a thing, or even if you believe it.

If I believe that a society in which objectivism or something similar was the basis for all law would be a better place to live for me and my family, and future decendants, would it not be to my benefit to attempt to promote or advance such a view in the hopes, however slim, that they will take hold? (Unfortunately, I do not believe that democratic government forms will ever provide this--"democracy can only last until enough voters realize they can vote for largess to be awarded to themselves from the public trough." Still, one can hope.)
Absolutely! The very reason to advance a particular social system (or idea, in general) is that you will benefit, by your nature as a human being, from it becoming a reality. That's why Objectivists are so passionate about Ayn Rand's philosophy: we have everything to gain from it!

I would say primarily the latter. That said, i believe there will always be "worker drones" in human society that either are unable to or are too apathetic to embrace that philosophical fact. I believe, ironically, that the concept of the individual is important to society as a collective, and to the individuals that embrace it.
Well, it may well be that for the forseeable future, a good chunk of humanity will be indifferent to integrating a rational philosophy, but that isn't a problem for those who are, as long as they're allowed to live free. The problem starts when the irrational folks replace indifference with force. And society isn't "a collective" that you can treat as an actual entity apart from everything else. It's a shorthand way of saying "a group of individuals", but should not be thought of as some kind of human entity. There is no "collective consciousness" or "collective mind" or any of that nonsense. The concept of the individual is important to man as such, full stop, for each and every man, past, present, and future.

On "First Cause," I'm actually suspicious that the answer to first cause lies in the relativistic nature of the space and time. In the singularity that would have existed prior to the big bang, time would not flow like it does here, and in fact would be curved to such a degree that any measure of it would meaningless. Both Quantum Mechanics and Relativity break down at the singularity level, the laws of the universe as we understand them simply do not work. The very concept "What came before the big bang?" is a logically incorrect question -- "What came before the beginning of time?" The "First" in the phrase "First Cause" is a temporal measure, and therefore the very "First Cause" would be that which existed at the moment time began. We are beings that live a linear temporal existence, and the idea of time not existing is not something we can wrap our minds around easily. Asking what happened before time started is not a rational question.
Oh, boy, I'm not even gonna touch this one, but you're essentially right! :)

P.S. If you're really interested in understanding Objectivism, keep reading Ayn Rand. You'll get it!

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Any reason why I reject the idea that humans are rational beings? I think we can be rational beings, but I don't believe that is our natural state. Call me a cynic, but I have a fairly low opinion of humanity as a whole.

You really should read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

When a child discovers the world, he learns about the world only by use of his reason. The child discovers that the ball rolls, the block does not, and that the table hurts when you bang your head into it - eventually he even learns that it is a table, not a chair, even though they look similar.

Everything you eat, everything you wear, and the place you live - these are also all constructs of the mind of man. If you were dropped naked in the virgin wilderness, you would not survive without using your mind - your reason - to figure out how to get food, clothing and shelter.

We are emotional beings, this is true. This is not incompatible with reason. The person who lives by following emotion - what feels good, what do they want to do this moment - that person self destructs. The addict, the lout, the slut, the thief - the person who uses emotion to justify destructive behavior - that person lives a life that is contrary to survival. That is contrary to our nature to survive, and more so to thrive.

When emotion is used as a tool to judge our feelings, used as input, not rationale, and when reason rules, then one survives, thrives, excels.

Reason isn't an automatic process - it must be discovered. It must, in fact, be reasoned out. But that state of learning - of reasoning - that is something we are born with the ability to do. In that respect, it is our most important fundamental trait - our natural ability not shared by any other animal on the planet as far as we know to our degree.

Man can choose to be heroic or lethargic. Moreso man MUST make the choice. Man has volitional rationality.

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Both Quantum Mechanics and Relativity break down at the singularity level, the laws of the universe as we understand them simply do not work.

That simply means that our theories are incomplete. It doesn't mean that the world would have been some wild and wacky place, just that we can't model what it would have been like. And that's it.

We are beings that live a linear temporal existence, and the idea of time not existing is not something we can wrap our minds around easily. Asking what happened before time started is not a rational question.

What it comes down to is that time is a measurement of motion, and if the universe had a beginning, then there could not have been anything by which to measure motion (and no measurer) in this "pre-universe", and hence no time. If however the big bang is just some local event, and the regions of spacetime are so huge that we have not yet received light from the other "universes" that are more than 15 billion light years away, then time could have always existed (ie, there could have always been stuff by which to measure motion).

Edited by brian0918
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As for the Atheist question, would you consider yourself a deist then?

Most certainly not. In jest, I'd call myself a militant agnostic. ("I don't know if a god exists, and neither do you!") In seriousness, I'd add "Apatheist" to the description.

Edited by Talya
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So in the end, am I an Objectivist?

No.

Or do such distinctions matter, and is the need to belong to a collective think-tank and all be in agreement in itself something that Rand would have despised?

I don't know. I just know that I have more in common with you guys than I do with society at large.

The idea that you need to belong to the church in order to be saved is pervasive in the culture and, from what you revealed above, may be particularly powerful in your own life.

Nobody here owns or controls rationality and reason, so feel free to save yourself anytime.

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Well, a philosophy may be complete, even without an understanding of everything in our universe. Because philosophy is an integrated view of man's nature and the nature of reality (as a whole, not item by item), those are the two things which must be understood completely. Today, man does know enough about them to formulate a complete philosophy, even though there are plenty of areas of human inquiry yet to be explored. For example, every time we look, we see that man must use reason to survive; nothing else will do. The fact that we can't pin down the rest mass of a top quark does not change this fact. Similarly, all we see in reality is that contradictions don't exist. We can look forever, but we'll never see otherwise. There's no reason to think that future human inquiry will change this fact. We can use it as a basis for an objective philosophy.

I believe that there are such contradictions, and there is often no clear "best" answer. I also believe that this is how it will always be, when it comes to philosophical endeavors. Asking "what is the best philosophy" can often be like asking "what is the best color."

Before you see that as criticism of objectivism, it's entirely possible to have "favorite colors."

The logical/emotional setup is a false dichotomy. What man is, fundamentally, is volitional. His means of survival is reason, which uses logic as its tool for handling the data provided by man's senses. Man also has emotions, but they aren't his means of survival, but rather an automatic response to his values. You automatically feel love for something you value most highly, anger towards a threat to your values, and so on. First comes your valuation of some thing in reality, and your emotions necessarily follow.

Our personal satisfaction with life (happiness) comes from the achievement of our values, not our particular emotions. If you're good at something you want to be good at, you'll be happy, and you'll experience the emotions associated with being happy. I think if you do a little introspection, you'll see that one's state of happiness doesn't start with emotions, it "ends" with it.

How could you make a rational decision that would make you sad and not be the best decision for you? I could see how bad premises could lead you to feel sad about something that was rational (such as feeling sad about getting a dear friend out of your life who was a jerk), but if it's rational, it can't be bad for you. The rational is the good.

Interesting. I am very epicurean in my approach to life, my values are rather simple, which make it easy to acheive that happiness.

There is a distinction worth noting. Often, "ethics" refers to a system to guide human action. It could be good, it could be bad. "Morality" refers to the proper system to guide human action -- the one needed for man's survival and determined by man's nature -- as opposed to an improper one.

Ah, which is why there is no difference to me. They are all just "a system to guide human action." If I believed in the existence of a "proper system to guide human action," I'd be a lot closer to objectivist.

Oy. Well, without objective truth (a redundancy), morality isn't possible.

By your definition above, this is true. Ethics would still be possible.

Man becomes a quivering, helpless heap of body parts who manages to survive by luck alone. I think all the examples of human advancement, not the least of which is Objectivism, refutes that claim.

I see those advancements as just evidence of natural selection. From an evolutionary perspective, as a species we have survived through "luck" alone. And I see our slide toward socialism as evidence that our dominance in the role of earth's greatest evolutionary success may be in the decline...I am hopeful, but not optimistic, that we can avoid extinction even long enough to get out of Tsiolkovsky's cradle of humanity and expand throughout the stars. We may be an evolutionary dead end. It's probable that when the universe reaches the cold death it is destined for, humanity will likely not even be a footnote in its existence.

Additionally, and not to be coy, but the claim that there is no objective truth is itself a claim of objective truth. And certainly there is a way to determine which evolutionary adaptations are more advantageous to a given species. I'm not even sure why you would posit such a thing, or even if you believe it.

There are plenty of objective truths. I just do not believe it is logically possible for a particular philosophy to be one of them.

Edited by Talya
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I have my own personal morality that agrees for the most part with what Rand believed, but I do not believe in intrinsic "right" or "wrong." I'm a social darwinist (really, a darwinist in every possible way) who believes that humans have evolved the concepts of "right" and "wrong," (and indeed, that all of our behavioral mores are evolved social traits) and that there is no objective morality...there is merely what helps us advance both as individuals and as a society, and that which hinders us.(Bold added)

This is what stood out most to me when reading your post, Talya. What is your definition of "Right" and "Wrong"? I don't mean your relativist view of what is Right and Wrong for you, in your morality, I mean what is your definition of the words?

Now, this isn't the prettiest definition, but what is morally Right is any action which serves to further the purpose of a man's life -without- causing harm to another man or himself. Your problem seems to lie in that it -looks- like (correct me if I'm wrong) you believe morality is relative because you have discovered that morality's source is -not- divine. In other words, you seem to think that the only way morality can be objectively definable and universal among all men is if it was created and is enforced by some power, and since you've recently discovered you don't actually believe in such a power, you believe morality no longer has any concrete basis.

This is where Objectivism disagrees with moral relativism: Morality -is- bound in reality, and just because it is not instinctual or divine does not mean that it is not objectively definable. You describe yourself as a Darwinist, which is good! But analyzing the connections between Darwin's Natural Selection and human society actually reinforces that morality -is- objective. For instance; animals are obviously not sentient and as such cannot have rights, nor do they have any need for a code of morality, but let's pretend they do for a moment. If an Elephant decides suddenly that his mate is hogging all his food, and that he'd be much better off with her dead, and kills her, he has just committed an -immoral- act. Why is it immoral? It does not -actually- help him in any shape, now he cannot have children with her, so his genes will obviously not be passed along and he will be easier to pick off by a predator, that Elephant just FAILED at life. The reason his choice is immoral is because it leads to his death, and the death of his mate.

Humans have it easy in one sense, we do not (currently) know of any other species that uses reason instead of instinct to survive. Because we are animals of reason over instinct, morality strictly applies to us and for us. It is wrong to initiate force, why? Because force is the opposite of reason, it breaks our 'code'. If I killed another person in anything other than self defense, I have chosen to -relinquish- my right to live. In other words, by killing someone I am saying 'I do not recognize this person's right to life.' and in turn, I should be killed; I no longer have that same right to life, because I didn't recognize it.

The initiation of force against another person is wrong universally. There is no context in which it is correct to use force unless it is for the preservation of my own or someone else's individual rights.

Morality -was- created by man, for man, and just because it was, does not mean it is relative.

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There are plenty of objective truths. I just do not believe it is logically possible for a particular philosophy to be one of them.

This is self contradictory. The truth, as a whole, can not be conflicting with itself. It cannot be true that "the ball is all red" and "the ball is all blue". It cannot be true that "Christianity is true" AND "buddhism is true". There can only be one objective truth. That truth, on the whole, is huge - but reality dictates that no matter how big the truth is, it cannot be contradictory.

You really need to begin at the beginning. One of the problems you're having here is you're trying to start with some concepts without having a foundation behind them. This is what Rand called a "stolen concept" - if you accept a complex concept as true without understanding its supports, you cannot proceed in a valid direction.

Lets start at the beginning - what do you consider to be axiomatic? What is self evident and incontrovertible, irreducible, and impossible to deny without accepting as part of the denial?

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That simply means that our theories are incomplete. It doesn't mean that the world would have been some wild and wacky place, just that we can't model what it would have been like. And that's it.

I'm aware of that.

What it comes down to is that time is a measurement of motion, and if the universe had a beginning, then there could not have been anything by which to measure motion (and no measurer) in this "pre-universe", and hence no time. If however the big bang is just some local event, and the regions of spacetime are so huge that we have not yet received light from the other "universes" that are more than 15 billion light years away, then time could have always existed (ie, there could have always been stuff by which to measure motion).

No, that's not at all what relativistic time means.

Time, like space, can be curved, warped, changed. Einstein proved beyond doubt that time is not a constant...and in fact his theories are mathematically essential in several human technological endeavors. For instance, time literally moves faster at sea level than it does in orbit. Earth's mass actually influences the flow of time, to the point where the differences need to be built into the clocks of GPS systems to avoid inaccuracy creeping (rather quickly) into the system. A singularity would actually cause such issues with the flow of time for objects within the event horizon that, assuming the big bang was the only one in our reality, would represent the literal beginning of time.

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This is self contradictory. The truth, as a whole, can not be conflicting with itself. It cannot be true that "the ball is all red" and "the ball is all blue". It cannot be true that "Christianity is true" AND "buddhism is true". There can only be one objective truth. That truth, on the whole, is huge - but reality dictates that no matter how big the truth is, it cannot be contradictory.

...i think you're misrepresenting something I've said there. I do not believe it's really possible for christianity OR buddhism to be "truth" from the standpoint of reason.

I believe there is objective truth. It's just mathematical and obvious. "The ball is all red" can be proven, it's objective. 2+2=4 is an objective truth. The sun fuses hydrogen into helium is an objective truth.

"Murder is wrong" is not an objective truth. It is something I agree with, but there's nothing objective about it. Morality/Ethics, philosophy, religion...they're thought experiments, but there's no objective truth to any of them. Some parts of them might be objectively WRONG (eg. "Noah and his 3 sons, in addition to their wives, built a big box out of wood and saved all life on earth t hrough a flood that covered the entire planet." *Bzzzzt.* Physically impossible), but objectively true? I don't see how that any objective truth can exist from the entirely human construct of "right and wrong."

For instance; animals are obviously not sentient and as such cannot have rights, nor do they have any need for a code of morality, but let's pretend they do for a moment.

Let's first address an uncommon assumption. I actually believe some animals are far more sentient than some of my coworkers.

In all seriousness, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, as one example, is said to have the approximate cognitive and reasoning ability of a human 3-to-5 year old. My three year old daughter is most assuredly sentient. And humans most assuredly are still governed to an extent by instinct, even if we have a greater capacity for learning than most species.

There is not this wide gulf between ourselves and other creatures that most people think there is. We are certainly the pinnacle, at least for now, of evolution on earth. People read a lot more into that distinction than there is.

Anyway, as to the morality of that elephant's decision: wouldn't whether it helps or hinders him depend on what his purpose is? Assuming a greater level of sentience than elephants possess, propogation may not be that particular elephant's goal.

Assuming a particular goal with which to judge objective morality that is common to all is rather ... anti-individualist. You're assuming a collective goal...and for darwinian natural selection, perhaps there may be one. But we are individuals, not collectives. If one man's goal in life happens to be going out in a blaze of glory gun battle with Los Angeles cops, his morality will be very different than mine. Everyone is an individual, and will end up deciding on their own morality based on their own values and goals.

Edited by Talya
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