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Morality of intelligent disagreement with Objectivism

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RichyRich
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In theory, yes, I think it's possible. Consider the case of somebody who has read and fully understood Rand's philosophy and her arguments in support of it, but is honestly mistaken about some facts in the world -- say, about human nature or history or the like. Such a person would understand the philosophy but be in a position of saying, in effect "If X were true then Rand's philosophy would follow, but X isn't true, so it doesn't." I don't see how that implies dishonesty or immorality.

I don't think I've ever encountered such a person, however. In my experience people critical of Objectivism are usually either ignorant of its actual positions and arguments, or they have automatized a method of thinking that makes grasping and/or accepting Rand's arguments difficult-to-impossible.

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Do you think it is possible for someone to read and fully understand Ayn Rand, yet disagree with her, AND not be immoral?

Interesting question.

Given Rand is fully consistent with reaity, reason and rationality, and that to "fully understand" is to fully integrate her principles and their consistency, one would have to agree short of serious rationalization and/or evasion (post-integration). If the latter, then he is not being rational, thus not moral.

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The point of disagreement does not have to be on Ethics, but on any particular opinion of Ayn Rand, if I am understanding correctly the question being asked here.

It could be on applied politics, the role of a woman as President, pornography, homosexuality, interpretation of American history, air pollution, UFOs, esthetics of folk dances, etc.

If that is the question, I would say yes. You may disagree with some concrete applications of Objectivist philosophy as expressed by Ayn Rand and still be moral, because as any human being, she might not have all relevant information about an issue, stay focused 100% of the time, have enough insight to tell between her reasoning and her emotions, etc.

As far as I remember, Leonard Peikoff has recognized he disagrees with Ayn Rand in things like pornography and homosexuality.

In the future, other still greater philosopher may honor the memory of Ayn Rand while pointing out the mistakes she made, just as she honoured the memory of Aristotle but recognized his flaws.

Now, if the question is about Objectivism as a philosophy (as the title of the thread suggests) then Tanaka's answer is correct.

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Do you think it is possible for someone to read and fully understand Ayn Rand, yet disagree with her, AND not be immoral?

The point of disagreement does not have to be on Ethics, but on any particular opinion of Ayn Rand, if I am understanding correctly the question being asked here.
Good catch! When I read the OP, I assumed he meant "...understand Objectivism, yet disagree with it and not be immoral...", but perhaps he meant it more broadly to include all Rand's views.
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Do you think it is possible for someone to read and fully understand Ayn Rand, yet disagree with her, AND not be immoral?

Do you ever read an author that you totally agree on literally everything they ever said? Take a step back just one moment and forget one specific author. Before anyone accepts any idea, he should “fully understand” it, in the sense that you have to grasp the facts and concepts from which it is derived, thus to know the reasons which validate the conclusions, and since man is infallible, mistakes in reasoning or insufficient information is possible (and these are mistakes of knowledge, not immoralities.) You are only expected to accept that which makes sense to you first-hand, but you are expected to know what and why, and never to close anything off to further investigation. Immorality basically consists of saying (though not literally in words every time) “I refuse to even try to know what and why” and shutting something off from reason, that is, to evade and blank out.

That doesn't necessarily make one immoral to disagree, obviously, it depends on if they have a good reason for disagreeing and they better be able to say what and why. So if ethics is rational, then the question is not “do you disagree with X and does that make you immoral,” the question is “what and why?”

Edited by 2046
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The last 3 of you are (as I read the initial question) misreading the question.

"...read and fully understand Ayn Rand" does not refer to subjective statements by Rand; it means her philosophical principles. Don't over-complicate it. The answer as I presented has to be No.

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"...read and fully understand Ayn Rand" does not refer to subjective statements by Rand; it means her philosophical principles. Don't over-complicate it. The answer as I presented has to be No.

That is not true at all. Rand's philosophical principles are formed and validated inductively through utilizing knowledge of the world and of human nature and the requirements of human life. It is quite possible to reject some philosophical formulation of hers because you are not convinced of the factual basis upon which it rests. Such an error of knowledge is not an indication of immorality or the failure to think.

There is a difference between understanding Rand's principles and confirming firsthand the facts upon which they rest.

Edited by Dante
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That is not true at all. Rand's philosophical principles are formed and validated inductively through utilizing knowledge of the world and of human nature and the requirements of human life. It is quite possible to reject some philosophical formulation of hers because you are not convinced of the factual basis upon which it rests. Such an error of knowledge is not an indication of immorality or the failure to think.

There is a difference between understanding Rand's principles and confirming firsthand the facts upon which they rest.

But if you are not convinced, then you have not fully integrated said principles - unless you believe there is some flaw in them. One does not have to "confirm firsthand" in order to be so convinced.

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But if you are not convinced, then you have not fully integrated said principles - unless you believe there is some flaw in them.

But there are perfectly valid reasons for believing there is some flaw in her principles (these reasons inevitably come down to some error of knowledge). She herself said that it would be very hard for an individual who lived before the Industrial Revolution to understand the vital role that man's mind plays in his life. This is because they would not have the requisite knowledge to form and validate that principle inductively. One just has to look at a high school textbook section on the Industrial Revolution to know that there is still a lot of misinformation out there about the subject. Simply because it happened and we can gain some knowledge from it if we have the facts straight doesn't mean that everyone living now either understands the truth or is evading. In fact, there are many common knowledge mistakes in today's culture which make it difficult for people to accept the principles of Objectivism. For instance, there is a widespread belief that man's interests are set against one another; that selfishness requires the sacrifice of others to oneself. The factual and theoretical argument against this perception can get quite involved, and it is not always a refusal to understand which leads one to accept that particular dichotomy.

One does not have to "confirm firsthand" in order to be so convinced.

I don't know what you think I mean by 'confirm firsthand,' but... one most certainly does. I'm not claiming that after reading an essay by Rand you have to go out and test every proposition, but you do need to attempt to integrate those principles with your previously gained firsthand experience, and if they don't click, you should endeavor to figure out why. Objectivism cannot be adhered to by accepting its propositions on faith or on the authority of the writer or speaker.

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To answer the question -- yes, it's possible. I know a few individuals that I have discussed Objectivism with who can give reasonable objections to the philosophy. I think it is also true that most do not understand the philosophy or have not studied it sufficiently to have reasoned objections.

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I don't think it's possible to fully understand and disagree with any Ethics, and stay moral according to that Ethics. That would be a logical contradiction.

If your philosophical system is open and encompasses the possibility that truth is not fixed then I don't think the above applies. It seems it's systems like Christianity (or O'ism), which require 100% adherence it's system, that your comment applies to. Saying this, I think most Christians (and O'ists) are tolerant of disagreement.

Interesting question.

Given Rand is fully consistent with reaity, reason and rationality, and that to "fully understand" is to fully integrate her principles and their consistency, one would have to agree short of serious rationalization and/or evasion (post-integration). If the latter, then he is not being rational, thus not moral.

Don't you think that it's ridiculous if Objectivism allows no intelligent moral disagreement?

Now, if the question is about Objectivism as a philosophy (as the title of the thread suggests) then Tanaka's answer is correct.

Yes, this is the question I meant, apologies for the confusion.

That doesn't necessarily make one immoral to disagree, obviously, it depends on if they have a good reason for disagreeing and they better be able to say what and why. So if ethics is rational, then the question is not “do you disagree with X and does that make you immoral,” the question is “what and why?”

I agree.

That is not true at all. Rand's philosophical principles are formed and validated inductively through utilizing knowledge of the world and of human nature and the requirements of human life. It is quite possible to reject some philosophical formulation of hers because you are not convinced of the factual basis upon which it rests. Such an error of knowledge is not an indication of immorality or the failure to think.

There is a difference between understanding Rand's principles and confirming firsthand the facts upon which they rest.

I agree.

But if you are not convinced, then you have not fully integrated said principles - unless you believe there is some flaw in them. One does not have to "confirm firsthand" in order to be so convinced.

I disagree. I guess I started this thread because I knew that some Objectivists believe anyone who disagrees with them either doesn't understand O'ism fully, is being immoral, or being stupid. I hope most Objectivists do not believe this.

But there are perfectly valid reasons for believing there is some flaw in her principles (these reasons inevitably come down to some error of knowledge). She herself said that it would be very hard for an individual who lived before the Industrial Revolution to understand the vital role that man's mind plays in his life. This is because they would not have the requisite knowledge to form and validate that principle inductively. One just has to look at a high school textbook section on the Industrial Revolution to know that there is still a lot of misinformation out there about the subject. Simply because it happened and we can gain some knowledge from it if we have the facts straight doesn't mean that everyone living now either understands the truth or is evading. In fact, there are many common knowledge mistakes in today's culture which make it difficult for people to accept the principles of Objectivism. For instance, there is a widespread belief that man's interests are set against one another; that selfishness requires the sacrifice of others to oneself. The factual and theoretical argument against this perception can get quite involved, and it is not always a refusal to understand which leads one to accept that particular dichotomy.

I agree with this.

To answer the question -- yes, it's possible. I know a few individuals that I have discussed Objectivism with who can give reasonable objections to the philosophy. I think it is also true that most do not understand the philosophy or have not studied it sufficiently to have reasoned objections.

I agree, most people do not understand Objectivism and attack a strawman.

Edit: I have to put a caveat on some of my agreements above. To the extent that you guys are saying "unless you fully understand Objectivism, then it's immoral to disagree" I do not support you. But if you are saying that one can fully understand Oism, and morally disagree, then I support your argument.

Edited by RichyRich
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Clarification.

I never said one could not disagree or give "reasonable objections."

I said "No" to the question "Do you think it is possible for someone to read and fully understand Ayn Rand, yet disagree with her, AND not be immoral?"

Those here who have noted people they know who can give reasonable objections to the philosophy have not said whether or not those objectives hold up. And they also admitted that most people - those with objections - do not understand the philosophy or have not studied it sufficiently to have reasoned objections.

I am essentially saying that the objectors have never, to my knowledge, given fully rational objections, partly because they have not "fully understood" and fully integrated Obj.; and to continue to object - rationalize and/or evade - is immoral.

It is not being too narrow or egotistical to answer No to the quesiton.

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If your philosophical system is open and encompasses the possibility that truth is not fixed then I don't think the above applies. It seems it's systems like Christianity (or O'ism), which require 100% adherence it's system, that your comment applies to.

What would it even mean to have a philosophical system where "truth is not fixed"? Any claim of knowledge is a claim of something fixed and immutable. A philosophical system where every statement is followed by "or maybe not..." isn't really a philosophical system at all.

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Those here who have noted people they know who can give reasonable objections to the philosophy have not said whether or not those objectives hold up. And they also admitted that most people - those with objections - do not understand the philosophy or have not studied it sufficiently to have reasoned objections.

I am essentially saying that the objectors have never, to my knowledge, given fully rational objections, partly because they have not "fully understood" and fully integrated Obj.; and to continue to object - rationalize and/or evade - is immoral.

Obviously I don't think any of those objections hold up, or I wouldn't be an Objectivist. However, I did not say that everyone with objections does not really understand the philosophy. What I said was that Objectivism makes a lot of claims about facts of the world, and disagreement about those facts often stems from errors of knowledge on the part of the objectors. Rand's answer to this was simply that "reality is the final arbitor," and that's true in the abstract, but "looking at reality" is not always as simple as that phrase might imply. Resolving empirical questions can often be quite involved, and not everyone who comes out on the objecting side does so because of evasion. It is improper to equate "continuing to object" with rationalizing and/or evading.

Edited by Dante
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I disagree. I guess I started this thread because I knew that some Objectivists believe anyone who disagrees with them either doesn't understand O'ism fully, is being immoral, or being stupid. I hope most Objectivists do not believe this.

Let's start with the fact that Objectivism holds that it is right, and if you disagree with it in any essentials, you are incorrect. Objectivism also holds that an error of knowledge is not immoral, but an error of intent/rationality IS immoral. Objectivism assumes, then, that anyone who disagrees with it is either:

1. ignorant of some salient fact about reality or Objectivism, OR

2. immoral.

It therefore further holds that if an ignorant person is presented with the salient fact and refuses to change his mind, he is evading, and therefore immoral. (Unless some OTHER fact that he's unaware of prevents him from agreeing.) Basically, if you're in an ongoing discussion with an Objectivist who presents Objectivism accurately and answers all your questions correctly, then you are immoral if you fail to eventually agree with Objectivism.

Forumfolk, is this an accurate presentation?

Edited by musenji
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What would it even mean to have a philosophical system where "truth is not fixed"? Any claim of knowledge is a claim of something fixed and immutable. A philosophical system where every statement is followed by "or maybe not..." isn't really a philosophical system at all.

Examples of such philosophical systems would be Kantian epistemologies wherein the meaning of any concept is determined by the other concepts to which it is logically related, and all concepts are defined by social convention. Also, epistemologies endorsing innate knowledge may entertain the notion of different racial means of knowing and reasoning.

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... if an ignorant person is presented with the salient fact and refuses to change his mind, he is evading,...
I don't think being presented with a fact is equivalent to being convinced about the truth of that fact. If an ignorant person is presented with the salient fact and sees that it is true but refuses to change his mind, he is evading. However, if he does not see that it is true, he may not be evading.
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Obviously I don't think any of those objections hold up, or I wouldn't be an Objectivist. However, I did not say that everyone with objections does not really understand the philosophy. What I said was that Objectivism makes a lot of claims about facts of the world, and disagreement about those facts often stems from errors of knowledge on the part of the objectors. Rand's answer to this was simply that "reality is the final arbitor," and that's true in the abstract, but "looking at reality" is not always as simple as that phrase might imply. Resolving empirical questions can often be quite involved, and not everyone who comes out on the objecting side does so because of evasion. It is improper to equate "continuing to object" with rationalizing and/or evading.

The initial assumption was that one fully understood Rand. Such a person should not have errors of knowledge that pertain to Rand's fundamental principles and all that derives from them. Sure, one can make errors on philosophical issues without evading; but not the person initially described. "Continuing to object" for that person - when all objections should have been addressed - is immoral (because it is irrational).

Note that I am not equating "objections" with "questions" or "mere disagreements" prior to full integration.

It is important not to drop the initial context in these forums.

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Basically, if you're in an ongoing discussion with an Objectivist who presents Objectivism accurately and answers all your questions correctly, then you are immoral if you fail to eventually agree with Objectivism.

As someone else has already noted, being presented with a fact is not the same as being convinced of the truth of that fact (that it is a fact at all). If an individual can give reasonable and reasoned explanations as to why he is not convinced, I don't see it as either immoral or evasion. I do see it as a dead end conversation, wherein one ends up merely agreeing to disagree. It may simply not be possible to demonstrate, with 100% measurable and convincing proof, the truth of a particular disputed fact or premise.

Those here who have noted people they know who can give reasonable objections to the philosophy have not said whether or not those objectives hold up.

Since I'm the one who said that, I will give two examples: years ago I had lengthy discussions about Objectivism with my philosophy professor. I respected him greatly: quite a brilliant man, and no fan of subjectivist and relativist philosophies. His contention was that the atheism of Objectivism made the philosophy inherently subjectivist. I debated this quite extensively with him. Since I was concerned that I was not presenting the argument correctly, I also enlisted the help of another Objectivist with better credentials than myself (via e-mail), but in the end it was simply acknowledged that no agrement was possible.

The second involved a similar discussion with my Physics prof, who also had a lively interest in philosophy. Same problem, ultimately, though as I recall the discussion had more to do with the nature of existence and the origins of the universe. No proof was possible....Another very intelligent, rational individual -- to say that either of these two men were "immoral" or "evading" seems ludicrous.

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If your philosophical system is open and encompasses the possibility that truth is not fixed then I don't think the above applies. It seems it's systems like Christianity (or O'ism), which require 100% adherence it's system, that your comment applies to. Saying this, I think most Christians (and O'ists) are tolerant of disagreement.

If a philosophical system encompasses the possibility that truth is not fixed, then that system can only be contradicted by one idea: the truth is fixed. That's the one idea it doesn't allow for, and the one idea its proponents tend to frown upon.

Every other idea you can think of is not a disagreement. The system allows for them, since it encompasses the possibility that "the truth is not fixed". That means the philosophy's track record on rejecting disagreement is one out of one. By my calculations, that's still 100%.

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