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Is it a denial of existence?

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Greebo
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One of my passions these days is personal finance. As a result, I'm heavily active on a forum that deals with being smart about money. While it is widely known on that forum that I am an atheist, I frequently recommend a particular book to people on that forum who are struggling with altrusim in very real and immediately threatening ways. I have done so today, in fact, to a woman who feels duty bound to be walked all over by her sister, her mother, her coworkers and her "friends".

The book in question is "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud. It provides a Christian frame of reference as to why it is not proper for a Christian to allow others to rule their lives, to sacrifice themselves to others needs, to be exploited, and such. It addresses the issue from a Christian perspective at home, at work, with friends and neighbors, and especially with family.

I have read the book. While I find the book to be deeply flawed in its premises - for what I would hope are obvious reasons to my fellow Objectivists - I find the CONCLUSIONS in the book with regard to why individuals should not allow themselves to be exploited to be generally sound.

Obviously the right answer reached by the wrong logic is still the wrong answer. However, the people to whom I am making this recommendation are already entrenched in their irrationality WRT reality, and arguing the flaws in their epistemology would be pointless.

I think that helping people to find their proper moral boundaries is doing them good - and I feel personal satisfaction in being able to help these people - so my emotions do seem to be validating my conclusions. Still, occasionally I wonder, because I'm recommending a book that is based on premises with which I wholeheartedly (wholemindedly?) disagree, whether I am betraying my principles by offering these people something that gives good advice based on a bad foundation?

I need some help in understanding the source of this self-doubt. Am I betraying Objectivism by offering a non-objectivist an irrational book that will help them? Am I denying reality?

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I don't particularly see anything wrong with it, so long as you make clear that you are not advocating the premises, just the conclusions.

But, you have to ask yourself: are you actually helping them? Is giving them that book serving your purpose? Those people, holding those false premises, are going to constantly run into the same or similar problems, with or without that book. Challenging their bad premises helps them more, and if they aren't willing to be rational, why bother helping them at all?

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Am I denying reality?

If these people that you recommend the book to gain any insight that is valuable to them, I think youve done them a favor. A little pragmatism in the context of a internet chatroom isnt TETWAWKI. The info in that book could be the first step in getting these people to rethink altruism as a moral code, which could lead them to even more promising intelectual voyages, beyond personal finance. So no.... in my opinion youre good.

j..

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You can recommend the book to your friend, as long as you make it clear about what you're agreeing with and what you disagreeing with.

For example, Objetivist authors sometimes mention in their books authors with whom they do not agree 100%, but they make a statement like "Although I do not share her views on X, I do support her views on Y".

One of the most frequent examples is Aristotle. Ayn Rand praises Aristotle altough she recognizes that his philosophical system had flaws or errors.

The world is full of fantastic, wonderful works of many minds. We should not hesitate to guide other people to those marvels.

In addition, reality teaches us that most people do not get it right the very first time they are confronted with truth. It is a process. While we should not aim at anything less than rationality, the path to awakening people to rationality may take many ways.

Take my case:

I was a Seventh Day Adventist. I firmly believed the Bible was inspired by God. Then I became Mormon. Then I started believing the there can be many Scriptures, many prophets and revelations across time, that biological evolution was compatible with faith, that God's purpose for man was to become god just like him. Mormons value independence, productivity, a pioneer-spirit, and this was a step in the right direction. Mormonism is, in the end, a very "American" religion.

Then I discovered Carl Sagan and fell in love with a scientific view of the origin of the universe and life. I stopepd needing God as an explanation. I became an atheist. Still, I was an atheist utilitarian, but I hated totalitarism, and the marxism inherent in some utilitarism premises.

By rejecting totalitarism in politics and theism in philosophy, I happened to discover Rothbard and anarcho-capitalism. And from Rothbard and Noczik I became interested in knowing Ayn Rand, who was quoted in their books.

I had absolutely no idea about Ayn Rand. I've never heard her name in my life, as it is the case for 99.99% of Mexicans. In mid 2009, I googled Ayn Rand and then bought her novels... and then found this forum.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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I have read the book. While I find the book to be deeply flawed in its premises - for what I would hope are obvious reasons to my fellow Objectivists - I find the CONCLUSIONS in the book with regard to why individuals should not allow themselves to be exploited to be generally sound.

Obviously the right answer reached by the wrong logic is still the wrong answer. However, the people to whom I am making this recommendation are already entrenched in their irrationality WRT reality, and arguing the flaws in their epistemology would be pointless.

I think that helping people to find their proper moral boundaries is doing them good - and I feel personal satisfaction in being able to help these people - so my emotions do seem to be validating my conclusions. Still, occasionally I wonder, because I'm recommending a book that is based on premises with which I wholeheartedly (wholemindedly?) disagree, whether I am betraying my principles by offering these people something that gives good advice based on a bad foundation?

I need some help in understanding the source of this self-doubt. Am I betraying Objectivism by offering a non-objectivist an irrational book that will help them? Am I denying reality?

You're treating these people as less than men (who are capable of rational thought). Any book that starts out with the Bible and ends up at generally sound moral principles has to be doing a lot of rationalization. In other words, it's a trick, it isn't helping people think, it tricks them into accepting your conclusions, while reinforcing their flawed way of thinking.

That doesn't bring them any closer to a moral state of existence, in fact it might get them further away from one.

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You're treating these people as less than men (who are capable of rational thought). Any book that starts out with the Bible and ends up at generally sound moral principles has to be doing a lot of rationalization. In other words, it's a trick, it isn't helping people think, it tricks them into accepting your conclusions, while reinforcing their flawed way of thinking.

That doesn't bring them any closer to a moral state of existence, in fact it might get them further away from one.

I think you just nailed it. The source of my self-doubt, I mean.

And you're absolutely right - I'm throwing up my philosophical hands and saying, "Well if you aren't going to listen to reason, here's an irrational guide instead that gets you to SOME of the right conclusions."

So I should either approach the issue directly, from a rational self-interest perspective, or recommend works that do the same, and if those paths are rejected, then I cannot help them.

Thanks, Jake

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If these people that you recommend the book to gain any insight that is valuable to them, I think youve done them a favor. A little pragmatism

Pragmatism is exactly what it is and exactly why I shouldn't be doing it.

I'm compromising - and any compromise between reason and irrationality is a lose for rationality and a win for irrationality.

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I think you just nailed it. The source of my self-doubt, I mean.

And you're absolutely right - I'm throwing up my philosophical hands and saying, "Well if you aren't going to listen to reason, here's an irrational guide instead that gets you to SOME of the right conclusions."

So I should either approach the issue directly, from a rational self-interest perspective, or recommend works that do the same, and if those paths are rejected, then I cannot help them.

Thanks, Jake

Seems to me you're better off living in a world with people who are religious but practice little altruism rather than a world of religious (or non-religious) people completely surrendering to altruism. America during the Cold War was a much better place to live than Soviet Russia, despite the prevalence of Christianity, because people's final conclusions about altruism were much more beneficial, even if their starting points were incorrect.

People don't need to be completely internally consistent and rational in order to benefit your life. Also, you don't owe it to everyone you meet to endeavor to make them completely rational, but you do owe it to yourself to make the environment around you as beneficial as possible. You do gain some marginal benefit from people moving away from altruism, even before they make it to complete consistency. It is appropriate for you to take steps to make the world around you better, and different situations call for different approaches.

I agree with Hotu Matua's perspective on bringing people to rationality. It is a slow process; sometimes experiencing the benefit of partial rationality firsthand can lead the person further along the path towards full rationality. For example, experiencing a mutually beneficial relationship (rather than a relationship based on letting people walk all over you), even if you try it out for the wrong reasons, can teach you a lot about the potentials for egoism as a morality. The logical progression of Objectivism starts at metaphysics and then proceed to epistemology, ethics, and politics, but that doesn't mean individual people travel that same path. Different parts are more or less appealing to different people, and it's effective to take those varied starting points to illustrate why the rest of the system is better than they thought at first blush.

Edited by Dante
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Pragmatism is exactly what it is and exactly why I shouldn't be doing it.

I'm compromising - and any compromise between reason and irrationality is a lose for rationality and a win for irrationality.

Pragmatism is a denial of absolute truth and objective standards, a proclamation that basically induction cannot work. It is a philosophical position, not always related to what is commonly understood by the word "pragmatic." There is nothing wrong with using the most effective strategy to communicate Objectivism to people, and often the most effective strategy is not to throw the whole system at them, but to let them familiarize themselves with pieces of it, and let them continue from there, using their own mind to guide them.

This strategy is "pragmatic," but it is not philosophical pragmatism; you are not denying the validity of absolute truth when you proclaim that there is more than one approach to changing people's minds. Philosophy makes no empirical claims whatsoever about the best way to spread Objectivism; it specifies the logical structure of the system, but not the order in which the elements must be learned and experienced by a human mind.

Edited by Dante
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Seems to me you're better off living in a world with people who are religious but practice little altruism rather than a world of religious (or non-religious) people completely surrendering to altruism.

True. But it seems to me you're worse off living in a World where people are religious over one where they aren't. So why on Earth would you hand someone a book which defends religion?

It is a philosophical position, not always related to what is commonly understood by the word "pragmatic." There is nothing wrong with using the most effective strategy to communicate Objectivism to people, and often the most effective strategy is not to throw the whole system at them, but to let them familiarize themselves with pieces of it, and let them continue from there, using their own mind to guide them.

This strategy is "pragmatic,"

Why is that strategy pragmatic? It seems to me you just described the ideal strategy for sharing Objectivism with someone. (unless you're suggesting that the ideal strategy would be to throw the whole system at them, at once)

And of course, what you are describing is not what Greebo described. He asked about giving those people a book about the application of religion, not Objectivism. If the book was about Objectivism, I would've been the first to agree.

Philosophy makes no empirical claims whatsoever about the best way to spread Objectivism; it specifies the logical structure of the system, but not the order in which the elements must be learned and experienced by a human mind.

You'd be surprised. Both ItOE and OPAR are chock-full of descriptions on proper methods for widening one's knowledge, in a way that does not permit contradictions or concepts which are not connected to the rest of one's knowledge.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Pragmatism is exactly what it is and exactly why I shouldn't be doing it.

I'm compromising - and any compromise between reason and irrationality is a lose for rationality and a win for irrationality.

There is a difference between taking a rational action to make a particular point and worrying about an idealistic view of morality. If you have a principled problem with offering advice, then don't do it. But if you think that a book will help make a point you believe in, do not fail to do so on the basis of some abstract contradiction. Only real things can be contradictory.

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There is a difference between taking a rational action to make a particular point and worrying about an idealistic view of morality.

Check your premises.

If you have a principled problem with offering advice, then don't do it. But if you think that a book will help make a point you believe in, do not fail to do so on the basis of some abstract contradiction. Only real things can be contradictory.

I don't have a principled problem with offering advice. I have a principled problem with offering advice to someone that gets them to the right place in the wrong way.

It's context dropping - and that's the thing I was missing that was giving me the sense of discomfort *while* I was "helping".

I'm still going to help - but I'm not going to continue to do so in a manner I know contradicts my morality, which is to be a radical for reason.

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The content of about 99.9% of literature available in any library of the planet derive its content from at least one false premise (whether it is theist or subjectivist or rationalist or altruist). Should we then advice children, people or adults not to read literature, unless the book is contained in our white book of "recommended literature"?

We either endorse reading a book or endorse not reading a book. We have to make a moral judgement. We cannot sit on the fence here.

Would this world be better off if we could put all that 99.9% in fire, and invent a virus that would infect all websites and computers so that the digital copies are deleted? Or would it be a better world if we could select the evil pages, burn them and keep the few good ones?

I insist: we have to make clear what our position is and what is not. And once having made that crystal clear, direct our friends to any reading that, based on their real context (their level of education, background, current beliefs, preferences, interest, time, etc.) could bring them closer to a state which is rationally more beneficial to us.

I would feel relieved to observe that my religious neighbor, after reading some books, is not anymore a Fundamentalist Muslim but a moderate one. I am happier to know that my former Marxist teacher at the University now appreciates the positive practical consequences of free market through Von Mises and Friedman readings and, starting from this new outllook, is now open to hear about the moral rationale for capitalism and then... who knows... objectivism. I would have been thrilled to see how Obama, following my advice, accepts to consult a Libertarian activist, changes his mind as a result pulls back on time his health reform bill.

Our rational goal is not necessarily to convert people into Objectivism, but into a state that allows our flourishing. Our own flourishing will then be the best propaganda and the best guarantee for a future victory of reason worldwide.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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The content of about 99.9% of literature available in any library of the planet derive its content from at least one false premise (whether it is theist or subjectivist or rationalist or altruist). Should we then advice children, people or adults not to read literature, unless the book is contained in our white book of "recommended literature"?

We either endorse reading a book or endorse not reading a book. We have to make a moral judgement. We cannot sit on the fence here.

Would this world be better off if we could put all that 99.9% in fire, and invent a virus that would infect all websites and computers so that the digital copies are deleted? Or would it be a better world if we could select the evil pages, burn them and keep the few good ones?

I understand that Greebo's and my statements in the thread have some logical implications about books in general, but I think the implication is more along the lines of 'the contents of 75% of books on Philosophy should be opposed (specifically the religious and Kantian stuff), in a civil manner, strictly without the use of force', not that 'we should burn or get rid of 99.9% of all literature in general, no matter who owns it'.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I don't have a principled problem with offering advice. I have a principled problem with offering advice to someone that gets them to the right place in the wrong way.

It's context dropping - and that's the thing I was missing that was giving me the sense of discomfort *while* I was "helping".

I'm still going to help - but I'm not going to continue to do so in a manner I know contradicts my morality, which is to be a radical for reason.

I think it is more a matter of context mixing. Not dropping. :) But I get where you are coming from.

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I don't see the problem. If you are completely 100% clear that you do not believe in their God and never, ever surrender a single view in compromise, there is no problem recommending that book. I would gladly recommend Aquinas to a Christian, while being clear I do not agree with his views on theology. (I'd do the same with an Objectivist with Aquinas)

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I don't see the problem. If you are completely 100% clear that you do not believe in their God and never, ever surrender a single view in compromise, there is no problem recommending that book. I would gladly recommend Aquinas to a Christian, while being clear I do not agree with his views on theology. (I'd do the same with an Objectivist with Aquinas)

I don't disagree - the problem was, I wouldn't make it clear. I'd simply say, "You should read this book" - wanting to avoid having to explain that I don't agree with much of its premises, since I'm not Christian and the books arguments start with the Bible, etc etc...

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I don't disagree - the problem was, I wouldn't make it clear. I'd simply say, "You should read this book" - wanting to avoid having to explain that I don't agree with much of its premises, since I'm not Christian and the books arguments start with the Bible, etc etc...

I shouldn't think it'd be that complicated; just an "I don't agree with the basis for their arguments, but I think the conclusions they reach are valid for other reasons" every time you recommend it. I would say that without this rider you would be misrepresenting your position and that recommending it in this way is not in your self-interest.

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I don't agree with the basis for their arguments, but I think the conclusions they reach are valid for other reasons

Which definition of valid are you using here? If it's 'logically correct', it is not (deriving something from false premises is an invalid inference), if it is 'morally correct', it is most definitely not (since Objectivist morality requires men to think first and foremost, not just do whatever they're told is right).

And, if we were to look into that belief system deeper, I bet it won't even be valid in the sense of it being politically correct, meaning that it will probably cause those people to violate rights at some point.

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