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Why People Don't Accept Objectivism

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ZSorenson
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One subject relating to Objectivism that has always concerned and interested me is why altruism and Kantian philosophy have such a powerful hold over modern intellectuals.

At the heart of this subject is what I see as an apparent contradiction. On the one hand, we understand (as Objectivists) that man’s nature demands he use reason to live and thrive. On the other hand, there has been a constant struggle between altruistic philosophies and objective reality-based philosophies. In this struggle, the primitive philosophies dominate the greater part of human history.

The contradiction is: if man by nature requires reason to survive, why is irrationality such a huge part of his history, and likewise so dominant during the modern era? By irrationality, I mean a rejection of reason philosophically, rather than an incomplete intuitive primitivism.

Objectivism, Ayn Rand particularly, seems to provide an answer. Ayn Rand held that man is born tabula rasa. So man is not by nature born to be rational. He must learn to be rational, and choose to be rational. This he may do, and must do, if he desires to live. Nevertheless, the choice is open. Cultural factors, and perverse incentives, can cause man to choose unreason. To this effect, many good explanations have been given for why ‘mystics’ and ‘Atillas’ arise. This includes an overview of their motives and tactics. If I am not mistaken, Ayn Rand’s solution – beyond the generic ARI tactic of educating young intellectuals and exposing them to new, Objectivist, ideas – was for men of reason to cease sacrificing themselves to the mystics. By this tactic, the mystics lose their incentive for upholding philosophies of unreason, and thus the intellectual culture can be cleansed.

Towards a Different Tactic

I do not object to the ‘classic’ interpretation which I have laid out (and forgive me if you think I’ve got it wrong – better yet, correct me). However, I think it is not quite focused enough.

I think this classic interpretation fails to properly account for incentives as they operate for individuals. As such, I will reexamine the contradiction which I have earlier pointed out.

Man needs reason to live. Man historically has chosen unreason, and lived in misery, dying young. Why is this? Why would man be so often so quick to work against himself?

I have a theory that resolves this contradiction.

Different Levels of Identity

Man’s identity is defined simply. It includes many parts, such as his physical body, his ideas, his history, his desires, his name, his consciousness and so forth. Nevertheless, the union of these components as man’s identity is easy enough for even any child to grasp. This, I posture, is because consciousness itself has its basis in self-awareness. The primary for consciousness is that there is a self, which is a thing apart from everything else.

The question remains: what is this self? Specifically: how does one define it? I’ve pointed out all of the components that are included in the definition of self. The answer, then, is that context determines which definition is relevant in particular. For example, a man in relation to his children is a father. A woman in relation to her employee is a boss. And so on.

These contextual definitions differ along epistemological levels as well. Perceptually, a man who has not eaten in a long time is hungry, or hunger is part of his identity at that moment. Likewise, a man who accomplishes a goal might be considered successful. These last two definitions relate adjectives to a definition of identity. Consider that the identity itself would be: “a hungry man”.

After a certain point, there are concepts which are open-ended that can be included in the definition of a man’s identity. Virtues are an example of this. A man who consistently accomplishes his goals as a matter of character, would have the virtue of industriousness – perhaps. This sort of definition doesn’t refer to specific instances of what a man does, but generally refers to whom he is. This is important because this sort of characteristic can be predictive of what man will do in the future.

An argument might be made that these character traits are the only proper way to define man. One would not answer: “Hungry” to “How is Bob like?” The reason for this is critical to revealing my theory.

Man’s Spiritual Identity

When one asks, “How is Bob like?” they are specifically asking about the man’s man-ness. They know Bob is a mammal, they know he has two legs, and so forth. Now, Bob might be hungry, but this trait does not relate to those characteristics that distinguish Bob as a human being.

Character traits, virtues, vices, and so forth, speak towards a higher, abstract, conceptual level of man’s identity. This level exists only because man is a creature of reason. Man’s actions are the product of his reason – whether he chooses to believe it or not. Even brute instincts are indulged because at some point a man has chosen to evade his rational abilities, because he has chosen to place himself in a situation where instinct would rule him.

The key concept to understand in order to see this requires looking at the big picture of a man’s life. A man in a hotel room about to commit adultery, unable to resist temptation; a series of choices led him to that situation. Therefore, regardless of any contextual definition of man’s identity, there exists a more refined definition of his identity that links the different contexts together.

In other words: man, in the context of his rationality, is defined by the uniting purposes that link his decisions and actions together over the course of his life. Rationality defines man as man. Man's rational purpose defines his essential identity as a man. Most of man's follies are derived from a failure to identify this fact.

It is base and dehumanizing to define man by his conscious-state. Such a definition would imply that life is nothing more than an arbitrary chain of instinct-gratification. Such a life would not be possible to a creature of reason. Reason and awareness demand some opinion of self-purpose. In order to be a brute, a man would be forced by his nature as a rational animal to first view himself as a brute.

How is purpose defined? My conclusion is that a man takes all his memories, thoughts, understandings, ideas, perspectives, opinions, feelings, fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations, experiences, and does his best in retaining all the information for how those things have produced value in his life, omitting the measurements. This concept, an automatic holistic conclusion that results from introspection, is the basis of man’s soul. The extent to which this ‘soul’ is well-developed depends on the effort exerted in introspection, and the rationality and wisdom of the introspective individual.

A well-developed soul will lead an individual to obtain the most self-relevant values for himself in his life. In a word, this is called ‘harmony’.

Why People Fail to Achieve a Well-Developed Spiritual Identity

Note the apparent contradiction in how I’ve defined ‘soul’. On the one hand, a holistic conceptual understanding of one’s life and values specifically takes the form of purpose. On the other hand, by omitting the measurements, that purpose is open-ended.

The error that many fall into is to equate purpose with destiny.

Purpose, as I have defined it, is open-ended. Evidence from the world, properly integrated, that speaks towards possibility, does not determine the outcome of action. The omitted measurements are: what will yet be accomplished in reality. Purpose is defined by potential.

Nevertheless, identity exists. A well-developed person has a specific purpose. That purpose exists in reality. The stark reality of purpose in defining man’s most important level of identity makes it foundational in a person’s rational, purposeful, living. When fate doesn’t fulfill the promise of potential, a person might enter into an existential crisis.

This is to be expected. Purpose as a product of reason is what sustains man’s life. When a man’s plans fail him, he ought to react strongly. His plans existed to sustain his life, and so he must double down in his efforts to construct a new purpose when the first fails.

This effort to construct a new purpose requires reason, as always. Also as always, a person can improperly integrate the facts of his life.

The process of constructing purpose, and a sense-of-life, is ongoing throughout a man’s life.

Destiny is a stop-gap primitive concept that assists the epistemological process for those operating with primitive knowledge. Believing that one’s fate is inherently programmed to fulfill a purpose-linked destiny allows a person to retain the greater measure of their sense-of-life as fate fails to fulfill their expectations. “I don’t know why this happened to me, but there has to be a reason.”

Religion, Spirituality, and the Intellectual State of Civilization

My theory, after this lengthy explanation, is that the utility of destiny (providence, God, etc.) as a primitive stop-gap for enhancing the epistemological process that man uses to construct a sense of his own purpose leads man to fall into, and to too readily accept, destiny as a proper concept existing in reality.

All religion and unreason, I believe, is derived from this – or any similar – failure by man to rationally determine his purpose in life.

More critically, when pseudo-conceptual stop-gaps – such as God, or ‘the Party’, or ‘the Fuhrer’ – meant to free man from uncertainty and solidify his sense-of-life succeed in redistributing gains from the rational to the irrational, these pseudo-concepts produce temporary real effects. Once validated to man, these concepts are infamously difficult to eradicate from his sense-of-self. And because sense-of-self is at the core of a man’s rationally determined purpose, he is committed to defending it perhaps more fanatically than even all his other values.

If you agree with me that self is one’s highest value (as a matter of fact), the truth of this is self-evident.

Those that hold that self-sacrifice is a value, I believe, have improperly integrated the concept of self (they don't actually accept self-sacrifice). Specifically, I think they conflate destiny with some sort of amorphous meta-identity. A man’s spiritual identity, if tied to destiny, forms a component of God’s identity. Because ‘self’ is equated more essentially with ‘God’ than with the tangible self, then self-sacrifice is not ‘self’-sacrifice. This is the conceptual essence of altruism, and religion, and conscious-state ethics, and Kantian duty, and eastern nihilism, and so on and so forth.

The failure of world philosophy to properly and objectively pursue knowledge is because of subjective bias based on this one single flaw.

The flaw lies with failing to understand how man’s spiritual identity is to be integrated.

Western philosophy demands that a man’s purpose be tied to some analytically determined outcome. But purpose is open-ended.

Eastern philosophy denies that purpose can have any tangible relationship with reality. Purpose and desire are to be denied, and left to fate. But purpose is the product of man’s identity, and identity exists.

It’s the analytic/synthetic dichotomy all over again.

In Conclusion

The proper, objective, definition of man’s purpose and spiritual identity takes into account the fact that it is open-ended but defined.

When men can rationally understand that their focus is not determined by the outcome they receive, but is instead determined by the outcome they work towards, then they can live fully rationally.

If you don't believe me, try this experiment: produce something. Ask yourself if your sense-of-life, self-esteem, self-awareness - whether you feel alive - are more actualized while you are working to produce that thing, or whether you are enjoying it later.

This specific, almost self-help style of knowledge is what needs to be taught. Once a man grasps this concept, he will be liberated. Well explained, unattached to preconceptions or superstitions, I believe this understanding will be easily adopted. My opinion is that much of the energy expended by people to defend broken ideologies is directly the consequence of their souls seeking to be found. But the soul isn’t found in some transcendent answer ‘out-there’, it is found as man applies his reason in his work and efforts to live.

The tactic I propose is developing this idea as a well-formulated concept, and teaching it as a ‘spiritual’ solution. I don't propose founding a movement, though, because any spiritually-oriented insitution automatically grows dogmatic because of the reasons I have outlined previously.

I know I have produced quite a few sentences here, and before you conclude that my idea is hopelessly complicated, consider the past. America was founded on philosophical principles that had their origins in Aristotle, who essentially was nothing more than an advocate for reality.

In the Declaration of Independence, the listed self-evident rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was adopted from Locke’s life, liberty, and property. That a subtle appreciation for reality would translate the importance of property to the “pursuit of happiness” is a testament to the reality of man’s nature.

While the values he must obtain are what are important to man, his focus is more greatly directed on what he must do to obtain them.

An animal consumes value. A rational animal pursues value. That is the secret of man’s success.

Edited by ZSorenson
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Now that is some huge territory you covered, and I won't propose to address it fully, or do it justice.

Rather, one minor thought it prompted:- at a certain level, Man has done quite well with reduced Reason, and with limited focus on reality, hasn't he?

I mean he's survived, wrong, or mixed premises, notwithstanding.

I put this down to the fact that he is born into a readymade identity - his family, his tribe, society, and his choice of god, are all prescribed for him.

With this 'destiny' awaiting him, he does not need to fully apply his mind, beyond the normal and expected, and anyway, he has the comfort of 'knowing' there is a plan for his life.

That is what is truly astonishing - that such a person can actually do well, and be content, while living semi-consciously. In the short term, even irrational self-certainty can be effective.

How could you persuade this person to take the first step to self-made identity? Why should he take the responsibility, when other people, and God, are being responsible for him - as he believes.

What would you tell him his reward would be, for becoming more totally aware? Could you guarantee him more wealth, fame, love and happiness?

(I have some answers, as I know other Objectivists do, so this is mainly rhetorical.)

Just some observations, and thanks for a thoughtful essay.

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Man needs reason to live. Man historically has chosen unreason, and lived in misery, dying young. Why is this? Why would man be so often so quick to work against himself?

I have to say, this is a bit broad. Historically speaking, there have been many instances of applying reason and a subsequent increase in the advancement of knowledge. I disagree that anyone is quick to work against themselves, I'd argue that's a more modern thing that grew out of the rise of Christianity and worsened as philosophers have systemizied and even secularized those ideas. This goes back to everything Rand has said about Kant and religion. I honestly don't understand how the "classic interpretation" fails to properly account for anything. When ideas are spread over many generations, they tend to stick, along with all the rationalizations.

You severely lack concretes here in my estimation, so a lot of this is kind of floating castle in the sky reasoning. It would help to use a single concrete and continuously build upon it.

One thing you'd do good to investigate, I think, is the role envy has played in human development, even before the first full-fledged civilizations such as Sumerians and Egyptians. It explains well why exactly anyone would ever have altruistic ideas. What other people have and desiring it strongly has often throughout history grown into violence or hatred towards others. Think about how some cavemen might act around somebody who has acquired a large amount of meat from a hunt. Given that we're speaking of primitive people, they have little understanding of the benefits of trade. Since food is essential for survival, a cavemen may even demand food be shared and whatnot. This is something that guilt grew out of. Guilt is a way of avoiding having too much, that way there is less people will be envious of. (Another concrete to consider: why did Hank Rearden ever feel guilty? He was avoiding the resentfulness of the parasites. If you want, I'll find some real life examples.) Altruism can develop from there. In a world where everyone is equal in every single regard and are cared for, there's supposedly less worry about violent envy, a viewpoint explicitly stated by socialists in the past. That's actually not true at all; there will STILL be differences in intellectual pursuits, or even physical appearance. So, there's my hopefully short and quick explanation of my thoughts onto why altruism ever developed in the first place, much of it influenced from a book that I highly recommend. Might that be another approach to your question?

Interestingly enough, what I wrote about in the previous paragraph is kind of like what Rand wrote about in "The Age of Envy" (it's in Return of the Primitve).

Edited by Eiuol
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Thanks for the link, Eiuol.

I think I've read that essay you've mentioned, also.

Granted, my comments are complete speculation, and so I don't find your comments to be uninformative. I'm particularly drawn to your idea that guilt is a defense mechanism - perhaps semi-rational - to the envy of those with more physical power. This helps explain the intellectual dominance of altruism when such is the case.

Nevertheless, might you agree that envy could be a manifestation more so than a root cause? Envy seems to be essentially an attack on individual distinction. Envy would be the product of longing for successful and distinguished individuals to submit to the communal identity. This submission is both metaphorical - sustaining the psychological construction that identifies man's soul more with God than with himself - but also material - making the individual's gains into communal property, thus covering the losses of others.

So, you see, I wasn't disagreeing with what I termed the 'classic' interpretation at all. I just felt that it doesn't go deep enough.

Taking envy as an example of this, I'd ask: why do people feel envy? If people feel envy historically, than the dangerous implication is that envy might be intrinsic to humanity. But reason is. That's the 'contradiction' I mentioned earlier. Why would envy be so common in human history.?

My explanation was epistemological: envy is a product of the failure to fully integrate one's concept of one's self as a spiritual being (metaphorically if that hasn't been clear). I would expect early generations of men to fail along these lines, as they slowly accumlated knowledge over history's course.

I think Objectivism hasn't failed at all in positioning itself as a spiritually useful set of ideas. Ayn Rand defined philosophy's purpose along these lines, so naturally the primary purpose of her philosophy would be to provide individual men with a framework by which to live their lives.

My objection to the 'classic' interpretation is along tactical lines. When 'pitching' Objectivism to intellectuals, you'd have to start with Metaphysics and work on down. That's proper and good.

What I see as possibly helpful would be to pitch Objectivism to non-intellectuals. I think both avenues are needed for the philosophy to be accepted. Someone pays the intellectuals, and from my friends who are actually members of the Harvard faculty lounge (in hard sciences albeit), the importance of social pressure, popularity, 'kool aid drinking', is not to be underestimated.

Objectivism has to triumph as an intellectual movement, or its triumph has to be on the heels of its premises having significant sway in academia. But that triumph won't be possible, I don't think, until there is broader cultural acceptance of these premises. We've seen this a little actually recently.

To sway the culture, you can't start with metaphysics. You have to frame your argument along personal lines, and show how a philosophy is personally relevant.

That's why I favor framing Objectivist ideas as a sort of 'spiritual' solution for individuals. I also feel that if people would learn to properly integrate their 'soul' concept as it applies to their sense-of-life and purpose, they would not only more readily accept Objectivism, but more significantly in the short run they would be less inclined to reject it off hand.

So, in answering, finally, the title of my post: people don't accept Objectivism because it challenges their fundamentally held premises about themselves, according to how they've integrated their concept of their own identity. Teach them the proper integration, and they won't reject Objectivism.

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people don't accept Objectivism because it challenges their fundamentally held premises about themselves, according to how they've integrated their concept of their own identity. Teach them the proper integration, and they won't reject Objectivism.

Teach them the proper integration, and you would be teaching them Objectivism.

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My suspicion is that yes, the sort of envy I described is a manifestation of something rather than a root cause (I don't think envy is necessarily bad, but it almost always is for most people). I agree, the explanation for that would be most likely to be epistemological, after all, the reason a person would see another having something as bad is if it is thought that, say, me having a computer necessarily deprives someone else of having a computer. A sort of zero sum viewpoint that early generations may have been suspectible to, especially before a concept of trade came about.

The solution to such ideas is focusing on exactly what one's own goals should be as well as thinking about the world for oneself. In what way is it proper to consider what people have and what I don't have? That's definitely a spiritual dilemma because that really gets at what one's purpose in life is. I would imagine most people don't want to question these things, or question what exactly a "self" is. Any apparent failure in morality or in any other regard is an epistemological issue, since any actions taken by a person requires concepts. Both badly formed and invalid concepts lead to bad conclusions, such as thinking about tangible things in terms of the short-term. In order to sway any culture, the deepest of premises need to be questioned, which of course goes to philosophy and a concept of self. Why bother existing? Why make sure concepts are properly formed and validated? Objectivism makes a person question these things, and helps to realize just exactly what the purpose of thinking is. Any purpose, of course, involves a self (only individual living entities can have goals), which is exactly why self-esteem, purpose, and reason are the cardinal values. I'm not expecting a solid answer right away, but that's how figuring things out works; lots of time and apparently sloppy thoughts.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think people do not accept objectivism because it requires people to make black and white distinctions. This means one must take a stand and defend their principles and beliefs. This assumes an individual holds principles and beliefs worth defending. Where objectivism would be based on reason and logic, its opposite subjectivism would be based on feeling and emotion. A psychology which has in preceding decades permeated our culture. People have been conditioned to think that yes or no, up or down and left or right decisions are somehow an infringement. As such, that gray area of ambivalence and ambiguity which subjectivism inhabits has been expanded to push the black or white choices to the fringes of thought. In this manner, one can mentally wander around in the intellectual landscape without making choices where everything is right, nothing is wrong OR there is no right or wrong, only shades of gray. I think this outlook also stems from an attitude that people hold where they do not want to be judgmental; they do not want to be thought a hypocrite. This indecision has the affect of more individuals not making substantive choices and in the bargain has led to a situation where others take on the role of decision maker. In essence, out of the contrived fear of having to stand on principle, people have outsourced their power to choose to others.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."

Alexander Hamilton

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Interesting thesis, ZS. Thanks.

I think you have a point on the perception of an external component of self, i.e., destiny, as being a source of irrationality.

Something I've noticed with irrational people I know, and this is not a new idea here, is that they tend to conceptualize on the basis of membership to a collective entity (e.g., "mankind"), rather than shared characteristics defining a individual conceptual entity (e.g., "man").

I believe both of these misintegrations of concretes into concepts (that is, destiny, collectivism... and maybe others?) seem logical to the mind, and become the premises, if not axioms, that lead to fundamental contradictions. These contradictions, unaddressed, lead to the conclusion that reason is flawed, and is only one of many tools with which to deal with reality.

Once a man accepts the premise that "mankind" is a valid concept, he rationally conflates his identity with his: family, tribe, race, religion, nationality, mental acuity, physical capability/disability, etc. From that point, it becomes rational to see altruism as a rational course, because, of course, the "alter" is conceptually indistinguishable from the "ego," so helping others is, to the collectivist, helping one's own "kind," i.e., one's self.

The concept of destiny helps to reinforce this misconceptualization of the individual as merely part of a collective, because as victims (or benefactors or subjects) of an all-powerful destiny/providence/God, all of our egos (that is, our potential accomplishments) are subject to same, external purpose.

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I appreciate the thesis, and the topic is always interesting.

My few comments, hoping to spur more discussion:

1) Mental laziness is the single biggest problem. Once a person learns to rely on others beyond what is fair in trade, they get used to the sense of relaxation that goes with not having to expend as much effort. Another angle is that evasions take extra effort to contain, and cause uncertainty, so the evader is left with fewer expendable cycles -- the evader feels like he/she is working just as hard as the honest person, and I expect they are (maybe harder!), but they have less to show for the effort. So, I do agree that "producing values" is the best antidote -- producing, i.e., not being lazy; and values, i.e., something of worth, so not evading reality.

2) While I applaud your attempt to analyze irrationality, I have found that irrationality, by its nature, is more or less inscrutable. Because it is irrational, it will foil any rational method of approach! So, good ideas, but I think it all goes back to your "antidote": people who don't expend the effort to learn how to earn and trade (for whatever reason) are going to be a problem for those that do.

3) In any case, I like your elaboration of the soul, self, sense of self, etc. Nicely written. One point here, which you allude to but I want to underline: the self is finite, and finitely accountable, because it is constructed; it is a structure built from finitely many identifiable experiences. It therefore cannot be an amorphous gestalt; it must be a volumetric, imaginable, finitely describable, even mathematical, structure -- with a specific nature and obeying specific rules of evolution, growth, decay, etc.

Cheers.

- ico

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I wouldn't assume that everyone rejects Objectivism for the same reason, but I think one major reason is that they have a socially oriented view of reality ('social metaphysics') and therefore take its dimissal by acadmemic philosophers as proof of it being wrong. Their standard for whether something is right or wrong is the proportion of experts who believe it. If something is unpopular among academic philosophers, they reason, then it must be wrong because "society" considers professors in universities to be presigious. And, of course, it is ultimately the collective "mind" society that determines what is right and wrong. They don't actually identify their reasoning process as such, but that's how I think it goes.

Edited by iflyboats
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When men can rationally understand that their focus is not determined by the outcome they receive, but is instead determined by the outcome they work towards, then they can live fully rationally.

If you don't believe me, try this experiment: produce something. Ask yourself if your sense-of-life, self-esteem, self-awareness - whether you feel alive - are more actualized while you are working to produce that thing, or whether you are enjoying it later.

I think you have internalized the theme of The Fountainhead so thoroughly it can bubble up out you of in relation to a different subject without even occurring to you to make the obvious connection. That is a good thing for you, but an omission for the essay.

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Self is a concept, so finite but also open-ended. That is the magic formula for purposeful life.

And as with all concepts, self is a discrete structure composed of discrete elements.

The real line is finite, but not conceptualizable, even given that the process of subdivision is conceptualizable. It is discrete as a whole, but not composed of discrete parts, so not a structure nor conceptual.

- ico

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1) Mental laziness is the single biggest problem. Once a person learns to rely on others beyond what is fair in trade, they get used to the sense of relaxation that goes with not having to expend as much effort.

I don't know if I'd say mental laziness is the problem as much as not focusing on a self-identity and a purposeful life. Not focusing on that in particular could be from focusing on other ideas. It's a lot easier to emulate some standard than to develop a personal standard catered to one's individuality. I think it's important to note that people may not be Objectivists, many people can implicitly adopt ideas of reason, purpose, self-esteem, and live somewhat consistently along those lines, but anything posted here involves why populations at large don't tend towards any kind of individualism at all. If I want god as my standard of self-evaluation, I have commandments. If I want some group as my standard, I have informal rules and behavior to mimic. Or I could just copy one person, not too difficult. Worse still I could just have an emotion as my standard, which requires no thinking. In all these cases there is an oversimplification of thought in moral purpose, although there may be considerable mental prowess displayed by being able to provide arguments for why any of these standards "work." (And don't neglect that Objectivism too can be used in a lazy way too; mimicking Roark or accepting some ideas without validation). To explain what's good for YOUR life in YOUR context isn't obvious, and no one else can give you a straight answer in all cases. "What career should I choose?" Answering that requires understanding the concept self and all that goes with it. It takes a lot of thinking to go beyond "I felt like it" or "X said so".

Edited by Eiuol
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And as with all concepts, self is a discrete structure composed of discrete elements.

The real line is finite, but not conceptualizable, even given that the process of subdivision is conceptualizable. It is discrete as a whole, but not composed of discrete parts, so not a structure nor conceptual.

- ico

This is pure nonsense. The meaning of a concept is what it refers to. A concept requires a word, and for abstractions from abstractions requires a definition in words. None of this says anything about parts or a requirement to be reducible to something else.

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This is pure nonsense. The meaning of a concept is what it refers to. A concept requires a word, and for abstractions from abstractions requires a definition in words. None of this says anything about parts or a requirement to be reducible to something else.

This you obviously wrote without engaging your conceptual faculty.

Have you EVER experienced ANYTHING that was totally isolated from everything else? Wait, I'll answer for you: NO.

Have you EVER experienced ANYTHING that cannot be broken into smaller pieces? I can answer that for you, too: Nope.

Concepts integrate lower order concepts, are hierarchical STRUCTURES built on their REFERENTS as identifiable basis objects that are related to form the concept (the concept is the relation in question).

That's why definitions require genus and species: because concepts form containment hierarchies with their relatives up and down the scale of conceptual order.

Our sense organs are bifurcate, our experiences have duration and are extended in space (physical and mental space, the latter is no more unlimited than the former).

Unity is plural and at minimum two -- this includes perception and conceptualization, because in order to create concepts, we must compare and contrast, and the unit of comparison is two separate identifiables.

Please don't be so quick to reject when the statement is foreign to you.

- ico

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Concepts integrate lower order concepts, are hierarchical STRUCTURES built on their REFERENTS as identifiable basis objects that are related to form the concept (the concept is the relation in question).

Concepts also subdivide and subcategorize the perceptual level concepts such as bird, into eagle, hummingbird, etc.; trees, into oaks, elms, maples, ect.

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Actually, concepts don't subdivide; my process of thought subdivides to create new, lower-order concepts (which are structural constituents of the original).

But clearly we agree conceptually, if not on all the terms: concepts can be integrated with other concepts to form more embracing concepts, or subdivided into less embracing related concepts.

And, if people would understand the recursive nature of conceptuality, they would be more prone to accept Objectivism. It is often the search for a "single key", the attempt to find an irreducible primary other than Existence on which to build; in effect, some want to only exercise the power of conception in the outward direction from a fundamental building block that cannot be scrutinized or subdivided. This is not the nature of the process, and is like trying to see with one eye: without the triangulation, you don't see the depth (i.e., many seem to ignore/evade the "z-level" of conceptual reality in the "down-in-scale" direction).

- ico

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Actually, concepts don't subdivide; my process of thought subdivides to create new, lower-order concepts (which are structural constituents of the original).

Starting from the base of conceptual development—from the concepts that identify perceptual concretes—the process of cognition moves in two interacting directions: toward more extensive and more intensive knowledge, toward wider integrations and more precise differentiations. Following the process and in accordance with cognitive evidence, earlier-formed concepts are integrated into wider ones or subdivided into narrower ones.

Our abstractions vary in the degree relative to the perceptual level. In that sense, a first level abstraction (lowest order, if you will) is validated by the percept, or perceptual level data.

As second level abstraction, in the case of animal, is brought about by integrating dog, cat, man, as against tree.

To further move another level of abstraction more removed, would be to take animals and plants as against rocks to integrate and abstract the concept living-organism.

Rocks can be subdivided into quarts, mineral, etc, as a second level abstraction

Minerals can be further more precisely differentiated into a third level abstraction by subdividing diamonds, quartz, and mica.

Protons, neutrons and electrons are no more metaphysically significant than the universe. We may grant atoms epistemological significance relative to the universe as a whole, or grant existence as epistemologically significant when identifying its primacy to consciousness.

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Our abstractions vary in the degree relative to the perceptual level. In that sense, a first level abstraction (lowest order, if you will) is validated by the percept, or perceptual level data.

This is exactly right. Both wider and narrower abstractions are higher level relative to first level concepts.

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Actually, concepts don't subdivide; my process of thought subdivides to create new, lower-order concepts (which are structural constituents of the original).

But clearly we agree conceptually, if not on all the terms: concepts can be integrated with other concepts to form more embracing concepts, or subdivided into less embracing related concepts.

And, if people would understand the recursive nature of conceptuality, they would be more prone to accept Objectivism. It is often the search for a "single key", the attempt to find an irreducible primary other than Existence on which to build; in effect, some want to only exercise the power of conception in the outward direction from a fundamental building block that cannot be scrutinized or subdivided. This is not the nature of the process, and is like trying to see with one eye: without the triangulation, you don't see the depth (i.e., many seem to ignore/evade the "z-level" of conceptual reality in the "down-in-scale" direction).

- ico

This is what has been behind my thinking here.

But I'm focusing on the context of self-definition. I think people often do spend a great deal of focus on self-identification, but in this process they err in conflating themselves with some external, esoteric, other.

In other words: you exist because you exist. You are your own justification for being. You either will live, or get hit by a car randomly on the highway today. Anything you do to improve your chances of living a happy long life, which can be properly be considered very good, is because you decide that that is what you wish to purue.

Concepts as abstractions work because they are abstractions. Your concepts may happen to be reduceable to perceptual concretes, but as concepts their utility is that they can apply correctly to future situations about which you have no concrete points of reference. Math is a good example. 2 + 2 = 4. 2 what? 4 what? Well, more than likely the concept of 2 in your mind is represented by a vast store of perceptual examples. This doesn't change the fact that if you encounter a new object (purple orange maybe), that 2 of them and 2 of them will still be 4. This is why a concept of self is important, for its implications concerning purpose.

Again, it's fine to teach Objectivism, but most people are not intellectuals. They still need the product of philosophy. Thus they need good philosophers. But that doesn't mean they cannot receive the product of good philosophy, benefit from it, and demand more of it, before the state of institutional philosophy itself is changed.

I would use the concept of God actually, and completely un-cynically. One could point out how God represents that bit of knowledge that is inaccesible. How destiny and so forth belong to him. Thus, though we may turn our hearts to God if we need hope about what is beyond us, our minds must be turned to Earth. A rigorous, but gentle, Deism would help America at least vastly. My reasoning is that those who don't feel they need God won't. But those who haven't or can't integrate the implications of reality psychoepistemologically may still need this concept. What they need though, is a proper understanding of why - if God did create the world - reason and objectivity are the necessary and moral means of living in it. Moreover, I think people would benefit from having a object for their psychoepistemological need for God that allows them to move on from the Bible.

In fact, I think there's a compelling argument for turning the Christian parable into a spiritual argument in favor of Objectivism-like philosophy. For example: "turn the other cheek" can be interpreted as a spiritual metaphor meaning - leave divine justice to God - and instead focus on the objective justice demanded by the conditions of reality.

Well, I don't intend to make this thread a discussion about God, but I thought an example would highlight the sort of 'approach' I'm advocating here. Not an intellectual's approach, but rather one based on principles of Objectivism, translated honestly into the appropriate psychoepistemological tokens.

And I haven't read the Fountainhead because I read Atlas Shrugged first. In meetings with fellow fans of Ayn Rand, I noticed that those who had only read Atlas Shrugged were much more open to Objectivism, and those who had only read the Fountainhead were much more cynical about it. I put off reading the book for that reason, and then have been busy doing all sorts of other things.

I suppose it's good to have, as art, for 'when I need it'.

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In other words: you exist because you exist. You are your own justification for being. You either will live, or get hit by a car randomly on the highway today. Anything you do to improve your chances of living a happy long life, which can be properly be considered very good, is because you decide that that is what you wish to purue.

...

In fact, I think there's a compelling argument for turning the Christian parable into a spiritual argument in favor of Objectivism-like philosophy. For example: "turn the other cheek" can be interpreted as a spiritual metaphor meaning - leave divine justice to God - and instead focus on the objective justice demanded by the conditions of reality.

The first part is the only thing that can lead to reason and objectivity being necessary. If there's ANY sort of divine authority, that completely destroys that idea of "you exist because you exist". There is no need to justify your existence to god, reality, or anyone else, hence my previous post mentioning standards. Once you remove a sense of justifying yourself to some external source, you can then move onto focusing on self-identification, justifying your actions to yourself for your own ends. That's the point that needs to be emphasized especially to people, and I think anyone young is able to grasp that. Maybe your idea would work with people 50+ who have long decided to be "set" in their ways, but what I care about are people my age.

Edited by Eiuol
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