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The Autonomist

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JeffS
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I read AS, FH, and WtL in highschool. Liked the heroic characters, didn't much like the style of writing.

Tried to read VoS sometime in college, but honestly couldn't get past the first few pages. I didn't understand what I was reading, so the only thing I got out of it was "I'm the best, f*** the rest." It made me a little ill.

Picked up VoS again a couple years ago and couldn't put it down. When I was done, I immediately read it again. I don't know what changed in the last 20 years, but what I was reading made so much logical sense it was like a light going off in my head. I re-read AS and FH in the next two weeks, trying to see what else I had missed. Picked up OPAR and C:UI and read those, though the latter was far more easy to assimilate than OPAR. Scoured the internet for anything I could find, and that's when I came upon Reginald Firehammer's Autonomist site. That, too, made a great deal of logical sense, though he admits he's not an Objectivist and his philosophy is not Objectivism - though that's where he begins. What he's written has helped me get through OPAR.

I know he used to post on this site and others, though I haven't seen anything from him lately. Posts on his own web site also seem to be few and far between, and I don't think he's done anything more with his philosophy.

I'm wondering if anyone has read his stuff, if anyone has written any critiques on it, or would like to? Are there any glaring flaws in his philosophy that a professional philosopher can pick out, or at least better trained than I? What questions should I be asking myself in evaluating his philosophy?

Thanks, in advance.

Edited by JMeganSnow
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That link is broken... you forgot to add the (dot) suffix.

Also, It is exactly for your experiences that I think it's best to never try to "teach" kids Objectivism. Some may understand more than others, but for the most part it's always better the wait until they've grown and had some life experience.

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Firehammer is the loon who wrote a series of articles arguing that homosexuality is immoral. He was banned from NoodleFood for advocating the death of millions of people to reach his individualist goals. The philosophy articles he has on his site are not good guides to studying Objectivism. For example, how is his article about 'metaphysical hierarchy of existence' going to help you understand Objectivist metaphysics, given that Objectivism rejects those kind of hierarchies? He's a homophobic nut who should not be promoted.

If you're trying to study OPAR, the study guide sold through ARB is a far better way to navigate through the book.

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Also, It is exactly for your experiences that I think it's best to never try to "teach" kids Objectivism. Some may understand more than others, but for the most part it's always better the wait until they've grown and had some life experience.

I don't think I agree. You cannot help teaching kids some ideas about things like ethics and politics, and implicitly even about metaphysics--you know how they keep asking questions! And even if they don't ask, I think it's always a good idea to give them material to learn. And if you're going to teach them something, why not teach them the truth?

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Firehammer is the loon who wrote a series of articles arguing that homosexuality is immoral.

Does doing that automatically make one a loon? Ayn Rand herself thought that homosexuality was immoral.

He was banned from NoodleFood for advocating the death of millions of people to reach his individualist goals.

Okay, that does sound loony enough, although I'd have to read his exact words to make a judgment. One could pretty much say about any Objectivist intellectual who spoke out on Islamic totalitarianism that he was "advocating the death of millions of people to reach his individualist goals."

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Many of the articles on his site, are critiques that could be written by anyone, from conservative to anarchist. However, here's an article from his site that somewhat cuts to the chase about his view on Objectivism's Politics. (If anyone wants to make a quick judgment about whether to check him out further.)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Firehammer Noodlefood thread.

Re homosexuality: Rand expressed her opinion decades ago, when homosexuality was still widely thought to be a psychological disease. From what I know, the psychologists around her were telling her homosexuality was a product of choice and could be cured. All of that is false, though was widely believed by psychologists (Objectivist or not) until the last 30 years or so. In the 21st century, the average person should know that homosexuality is not a choice, and hence can not be immoral, even if it is damaging (I don't believe it is). (Such information is readily available in any library). For that reason alone, I think any attempt to argue for the immorality of homosexuality is nothing but an attempt to rationalize pre-conceived prejudices. Firehammer does so in the name of "defending" Objectivism, and so should not be promoted.

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Many of the articles on his site, are critiques that could be written by anyone, from conservative to anarchist. However, here's an article from his site that somewhat cuts to the chase about his view on Objectivism's Politics. (If anyone wants to make a quick judgment about whether to check him out further.)

I've only read a few of the articles on his site. I'm mostly impressed with his philosophy series which I linked to above (thanks for fixing the link, JMeganSnow!).

What, if anything, do you disagree with in the article you posted?

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Firehammer is the loon who wrote a series of articles arguing that homosexuality is immoral. He was banned from NoodleFood for advocating the death of millions of people to reach his individualist goals. The philosophy articles he has on his site are not good guides to studying Objectivism. For example, how is his article about 'metaphysical hierarchy of existence' going to help you understand Objectivist metaphysics, given that Objectivism rejects those kind of hierarchies? He's a homophobic nut who should not be promoted.

If you're trying to study OPAR, the study guide sold through ARB is a far better way to navigate through the book.

I read a little about the whole homosexuality dust-up he was having with Objectivists. Honestly, I didn't care about it. For me, it doesn't matter who's right in that discussion. I'm also not concerned with learning Objectivist metaphysics, unless Objectivist metaphysics are true to reality. I'm interested in understanding reality - I don't care what name brand gets me there, although Objectivism has done the best job so far. I don't understand why Objectivism would reject hierarchies, particularly the hierarchy of existence Firehammer presented. Is his logic flawed? Is his reason flawed? If it is, I don't see it. However, I'm willing to learn why.

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I only skimmed it, but it appears to be the standard anarchist argument that government must initiate force.

That's interesting, I didn't get that at all. In fact, he states specifically, "I am not opposed to government, and believe anyone who thinks governments will ever not exist just does not understand the nature of man." I think he's asking a question that was the subject of my first post here on the nature of force.

However, I really don't want to get involved in that right now, though I appreciate you posting the article. Is it possible for his metaphysics and epistemology to be logical, yet his ethics, and therefore politics, to go astray; that is, get divorced from logic?

Have you read any of his philosophy series? It's really just metaphysics and epistemology.

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Here is a link to the essay which got Hammer banned from Noodlefood: http://usabig.com/aaphp/permanent/phil_gen/save.php

Please note a couple of things:

  • He felt the need to introduce the readership to his opinion of blogs by way of description. As if we don't already know what blogs are. Not only is such hostility irrelevant in his essay, it's actually revealing of an error in his thinking, namely that a medium of communication is de facto worse than useless. If he has such a low opinion of blogs, why does he find it worth his time to respond to them, however indirectly? (This is rhetorical. I already know the answer.)
  • He is critical of Objectivists' declared intentions of improving the state of the world and skeptical of their motives. Judge for yourself if his reasoning is sound. Judge also whether Objectivist efforts to improve the state of the world is selfless and/or futile.

But here is what got him banned:

"The most ironic aspect of the strange juxtaposition of methods for, 'saving the world,' is that the one despised by the Objectivists just might work." He goes on to say that the method he refers to is that of virtual extinction. He is careful to pay lip-service to the revulsion that benevolent men feel toward such a thought. But observe that not only does he think, in some Darwinian fashion, that the fittest human beings would come out better for it all, but that the "world, that is, human society, in its present state, is probably not worth saving".

Again, you'll have to judge for yourself which of his contradictory attitudes is the more genuine. But if you think that all I'm doing is criticizing his scholarship, let me point out that the thesis of his essay, titled "Saving the World", is that Objectivism cannot save it, that only harsher conditions, which will eliminate (by death) the moochers and looters (who cannot produce for themselves), can save the world.

Is this consistent with the Objectivist ethics? Is this consistent with Atlas Shrugged?

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Speaking of "saving" the world, or at least America, compare Hammer's recent essay, titled "What a Real Tea Party Revolution Will Look Like", with Paul Hsieh's article, titled "Ayn Rand and the Tea Party Protests". (http://theautonomist.com/atnmst/jrnl_ii.php?art=20 and http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/ayn-rand-and-...arty-protests/).

Without going into any details, just look at the sub-headers of Hammer's and the sub-title of Hsieh's:

Hammer:

* A tax revolt

* A strike

* Civil disobedience (This seems to be the one he favors.)

* Secession

Hsieh:

* "Protesters must couple their outrage at bailouts with a positive vision of a properly limited government."

The conclusions I drew - from reading both articles, not merely from the parts I listed here - are that Hsieh has a definite principle for establishing justice once the injustice has been removed and that Hammer is advocating nothing more than violent removal of the machine of state, effectively throwing out the baby with the bath water. Personally, I categorize Hammer with the Libertarians.

He's bad news.

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Rand expressed her opinion decades ago, when homosexuality was still widely thought to be a psychological disease. From what I know, the psychologists around her were telling her homosexuality was a product of choice and could be cured. All of that is false, though was widely believed by psychologists (Objectivist or not) until the last 30 years or so. In the 21st century, the average person should know that homosexuality is not a choice, and hence can not be immoral, even if it is damaging (I don't believe it is). (Such information is readily available in any library).

Oh, but you don't have to believe everything you read in a library. :) As far as I know, most of the research that has been done presupposes a nature/nurture dichotomy and only ventures to decide between the two, not even recognizing choice as a possible factor. (This is probably a result of the fact that, at least since Kant, free will has been generally considered as something mystical and un-scientific.) So I don't think the science is "settled" and I don't have a problem with laymen making their own observations, which may not be as technically savvy as the scientists' but might be philosophically better-informed (although if they misrepresent the nature or scope of Objectivism while they do so, then that is a problem, of course).

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Personally, I categorize Hammer with the Libertarians.

Based on this quote from the "Tea Party" article:

While I personally have little faith in "organized" anything

...yup, he is a losertarian.

And I think he is wrong about Objectivists wanting to "save the world" in any sense comparable to how viros (or other fashionable "causes") want to "save the world." Objectivist ethics says that the purpose of individuals is not to merely avoid death but to achieve life--and similarly, I say, the purpose of Objectivism qua philosophy is not to "save" "humanity" from some disaster but to create a culture that reaches a new level of civilization and outshines anything seen before in history.

Hammer seems to think that great individuals are created by tough circumstances. But I could list hundreds of thousands of times and places in history where circumstances were really tough--but no great men resulted. On the other hand, there are two examples in history of truly great cultures springing forth out of seemingly nowhere: 1., Ancient Greece, and 2., modern Western civilization. The former happened after Homer concretized what Greek heroes were like; the latter occurred after the West rediscovered Aristotle's ideas. Isn't the conclusion obvious?

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Oh, but you don't have to believe everything you read in a library. :P As far as I know, most of the research that has been done presupposes a nature/nurture dichotomy and only ventures to decide between the two, not even recognizing choice as a possible factor. (This is probably a result of the fact that, at least since Kant, free will has been generally considered as something mystical and un-scientific.) So I don't think the science is "settled" and I don't have a problem with laymen making their own observations, which may not be as technically savvy as the scientists' but might be philosophically better-informed (although if they misrepresent the nature or scope of Objectivism while they do so, then that is a problem, of course).

I disagree strongly with every single sentence in that post. However, this thread isn't about homosexuality, so I'll drop the topic.

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I skimmed a few of them. Did you have anything in particular in mind?

It's really just Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology, but with a few digressions and the addition of ontology. I'm curious whether the digressions he makes are valid, as well as his ontology.

For example, he argues against the Objectivist view of perception in this article.

Near as I can tell, he makes no logical errors, but he's the first to claim what he's written isn't Objectivism.

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Here's my quick review of some of Mr. Firehammer's thoughts:

The conviction that all knowledge is related and integrable into a hierarchical system, if true (and it is), means what is known, in all its parts and aspects, must also be interrelated and integrated. If the interrelationships of knowledge are to be anything more than mental constructs, that which is known must exhibit an interrelational nature that justifies the corresponding conceptual structure. It is the task of metaphysics not only to describe the nature of existence but also to discover and describe the relational and hierarchical structure of existence.
This strikes me as being a bit of intrinsicism. The hierarchical nature of knowledge is a feature of concepts, which exist as a relationship between existence and consciousness. The hierarchy is not necessarily in the existents perceived/studied by consciousness.

The essential difference in the meaning of these two words is this:

existence refers to all that there is, without explicit reference to the nature of what is or manner in which it exists;

reality also refers to all that there is, but explicitly includes in its meaning, the nature or mode of existence of anything that exists.

This clashes with the Objectivist idea that Existence is Identity. There is no existent apart from its attributes or nature.

Sometimes Objectivists say, existence is everything that is, ever was, or ever will be. If it is existence the quality that is meant, it is true, that everything that was in the past existed then and everything that will be in the future will exist then, but existence as a quality only pertains to what is, not to what was or will be. This distinction is very important to both logic and epistemology and the mistake has led some of the most absurd logical errors.
I think this is wrong, but someone more experienced than me will need to say why. It could have to do with the fact that time is a measurement of a relationship between events (i.e. actions of entities). Sorry I don't have more clarity on this point...

Of the two concepts, existence and reality, existence is the broader term. I reiterate, everything that is, no matter what its nature or mode of existence, is included in the concept existence. Reality includes everything that is, as well. It includes everything that is, but not in the same way existence does, as an unspecific collection of things, without regard to their nature, relationships, or mode of existence.

...

Things exist no matter what their nature is; things are real only if the nature of their existence is made explicit and they "really" have that nature.

Again, Existence is Identity. If you have two particles with mass A and B and there is a gravitational force between them due to their masses, then: Particle A exists, Particle B exists, and gravity exists. Gravity exists, but only as a relationship between these two particles due to their property of having mass (i.e. due to their nature). He seems to be dropping non-entities from his concept of existence.
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I'm not qualified to make an authoritative assessment of that essay. It's really more of a technical philosophical analysis. As far as I can tell, it's not really of value to anyone but a professional philosopher. And as for whether it is correct or not, I couldn't say.

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I'm not qualified to make an authoritative assessment of that essay. It's really more of a technical philosophical analysis. As far as I can tell, it's not really of value to anyone but a professional philosopher. And as for whether it is correct or not, I couldn't say.

Thanks for the detailed post (above), Rachel.

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Firehammer is the loon who wrote a series of articles arguing that homosexuality is immoral. He was banned from NoodleFood for advocating the death of millions of people to reach his individualist goals. The philosophy articles he has on his site are not good guides to studying Objectivism. For example, how is his article about 'metaphysical hierarchy of existence' going to help you understand Objectivist metaphysics, given that Objectivism rejects those kind of hierarchies? He's a homophobic nut who should not be promoted.

If you're trying to study OPAR, the study guide sold through ARB is a far better way to navigate through the book.

I'm am a bit surprised by your ad-hominem attacks on Mr. Firehammer on a site supposedly dedicated to a philosophy that should teach you and others to dispense with logical fallacies.

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