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what would be some good points to make when justifying/ explaining Obj

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I was sitting in the Hennepin county courthouse on jury duty last week and to pass the time, I brought along a book I recently purchased called "why businessmen need philosophy"  its a collection of essays on Objectivism and Atlas Shrugged including two essays by Ayn Rand.  The book is a really good collection of essays actually.  Anyways, I'm sitting in the waiting room and this older gentleman picks up my book and starts looking at it and me, trying to start a conversation.  I engage, and he starts attacking me, saying that I have no idea what I'm filling my head with and that I'm not actually thinking for myself if I follow Objectivism.  So in my rebuttal, I did my best to explain my interpretation of Objectivism and how I live by it, but got torn apart by this guy.  My question is what type of talking points would be good to use in defense of Objectivism when someone tries to argue that Objectivism is evil?

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I was sitting in the Hennepin county courthouse on jury duty last week and to pass the time, I brought along a book I recently purchased called "why businessmen need philosophy" its a collection of essays on Objectivism and Atlas Shrugged including two essays by Ayn Rand. The book is a really good collection of essays actually. Anyways, I'm sitting in the waiting room and this older gentleman picks up my book and starts looking at it and me, trying to start a conversation. I engage, and he starts attacking me, saying that I have no idea what I'm filling my head with and that I'm not actually thinking for myself if I follow Objectivism. So in my rebuttal, I did my best to explain my interpretation of Objectivism and how I live by it, but got torn apart by this guy. My question is what type of talking points would be good to use in defense of Objectivism when someone tries to argue that Objectivism is evil?

The best defense is to let them dig their own hole. Why is Objectivism evil? Then respond accordingly.

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... So in my rebuttal, I did my best to explain my interpretation of Objectivism and how I live by it, but got torn apart by this guy. 

 

Whenever I mention Rand, the main responses I get are:

 

-She's that communist from Russia, isn't she?!! or... Isn't she a filthy REPUBLICAN?!?!?!?

-Rand thinks charity is evil, doesn't she?!?!?!

-Doesn't she also think homosexuality is immoral?!?!?

-Who would help the poor in a Randian society?!?!

-What would happen to workers rights and unions in a Randian society?!?!?!? What about the little guys?!!!

-What about minimum wage??!! You know big businesses would take advantage of all their workers without it, right??!!!

-Didn't Rand have affairs with a bunch of young guys?!?!! She's just like Clinton!!!

-What do you mean, religion is evil?!!? Faith is what got me through so-and-so!!!!

 

(...Not necessarily in that order.) But for me, the best way to learn something is to explain it to other people. So maybe the first time you try to explain it, you'll get torn apart.. or you'll say 'Hey, that's a good question.. I'm not 100% sure about that.' Then you'll go home and think about it, think about it some more, and then the answer will hit you in the face and you'll have that 'AHA!' moment. It will be so clear that there will be no doubt in your mind that you are right. And then the next time you start talking about Rand to someone, and hear a similar question, you'll know how to answer it.

 

Edit:

 

The best defense is to let them dig their own hole. Why is Objectivism evil? Then respond accordingly.

 

Sure, being on the offense can be a good move.. but it kind of implies that you don't know your shit. If you can't answer simple questions you either can't articulate your thoughts very well, or you don't understand the concepts well enough to explain them to someone else.

Edited by mdegges
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Talking points are bad. They are the intellectually lazy person's method of having an argument. Instead, you should listen to a person's arguments, and find faults within them. If you can't think of anything, you should politely inform them that you will take what they said under consideration. If they fail to be polite, then you should politely ask them to leave you alone. 

 

As for what the guy said, you could've replied that you're not following Objectivism, you're learning from it. Objectivism doesn't contain a single command or instruction. To be an Objectivist has nothing to do with following instructions, it is about understanding a set of ideas and agreeing with them (if you do agree with them). 

 

You could've also asked him why he would advise someone against reading a book. Any book, good or evil. What exactly could an evil book contain, that a rational person would need to be afraid of learning about?

 

But all this is from the comfort of my house, where I have all the time I need to think of an answer. Not being able to think of one on the spot is of absolutely no consequence. It's the absolute last thing you should worry about. It doesn't matter at all. Unless you happen to be a politician, or TV/radio personality, having a razor sharp wit and the ability to win any argument on the spot would in fact earn you nothing in life. 

Edited by Nicky
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Not being able to think of one on the spot is of absolutely no consequence. It's the absolute last thing you should worry about. It doesn't matter at all. Unless you happen to be a politician, or TV/radio personality, having a razor sharp wit and the ability to win any argument on the spot would in fact earn you nothing in life. 

Though I don't think being amazing at polemics is a necessity, I do think that being able to articulate your beliefs in a social setting is an effective way to attract like minded people and repel others. For instance, if the person who started grilling the OP had been a more open minded individual and the OP could have articulated his beliefs well, he could have potentially began a relationship based on ideas and Objectivism. On the other hand, if you can't articulate well, you will not want to discuss your beliefs with others making it harder to find like minded people. 

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Am I the only one who can't figure out how to use this new quote system? It's ridiculously annoying to me.

 

To Bert: What makes you think that OP is unable to articulate his beliefs in a social setting? Also, do you believe that, in the actual situation he's describing, him simply articulating his beliefs would've been appropriate? Did you get the impression that the other person was interested in his beliefs?

Edited by Nicky
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Am I the only one who can't figure out how to use this new quote system? It's ridiculously annoying to me.

So every time I hit the "Quote" button, a quote bubble is pasted in the "Reply to this topic" box at the bottom of the page. Then I just carefully edit the bubble to get what portion I'm addressing.

 

 

 

To Bert: What makes you think that OP is unable to articulate his beliefs in a social setting?

The OP asked for advice for explaining and defending Objectivism. He obviously had troubles in this situation and I was defending him seeking advice by adding to your point - "Unless you happen to be a politician, or TV/radio personality, having a razor sharp wit and the ability to win any argument on the spot would in fact earn you nothing in life" - that there is something to be earned from being moderately good at explaining and defending your beliefs outside of these professions. 

 

 

Also, do you believe that, in the actual situation he's describing, him simply articulating his beliefs would've been appropriate? Did you get the impression that the other person was interested in his beliefs?

Well I wouldn't call it inappropriate - perhaps futile given the other person seems sort of close minded towards Objectivism. Still, as mdegges mentioned, engaging with others is a good tool for learning - in this case the OP is likely thinking more about the points he could not address. 

 
 
To the OP -  I don't think people who truly understand Objectivism could really think it is evil. With this is mind, the best tool discussing Objectivism people who think it is evil (yet are still open for discussion) is the truth. I like the approach of asking "why is Objectivism evil" as one poster suggested and then trying to address their misconceptions. The issue with having talking points to give them is it doesn't adjust to their misconceptions which are really what is driving their belief it is evil.
 

 

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Don't argue with random strangers who attack you as soon as you start to explain yourself. Someone like that decieved you into thinking you were going to have an exchange of ideas, but instead turned the conversation into a way to chastise you for your supposedly bad ideas. Those kinds of people deserve to be ignored and ridiculed .

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Sure, being on the offense can be a good move.. but it kind of implies that you don't know your shit. If you can't answer simple questions you either can't articulate your thoughts very well, or you don't understand the concepts well enough to explain them to someone else.

 

No it doesn't. Based on the situation given by the OP, the man started the conversation by "saying that I have no idea what I'm filling my head with and that I'm not actually thinking for myself if I follow Objectivism."

Does that sound like someone that wants to have an intellectual exchange of ideas or a better understanding of Objectivism? Why waste time explaining a philosophy to someone that has no interest in learning about it?

 

He started the conversation by coming up to the OP and asserting that Objectivism is evil, so he should be the one that explains why Objectivism is evil. The OP shouldn't have to waste his time explaining to someone who is not interested why Objectivism is not evil.

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@nelli: I was replying to the main question the OP asked: "What type of talking points would be good to use in defense of Objectivism when someone tries to argue that Objectivism is evil?" Everyone and their mother has an opinion about Ayn Rand, regardless of how much they know about her or her philosophy, so the situation the OP mentioned isn't suprising.

 

Does that sound like someone that wants to have an intellectual exchange of ideas or a better understanding of Objectivism? Why waste time explaining a philosophy to someone that has no interest in learning about it?

 

To practice!! ("The best way to learn something is to explain it to other people.") If that's your goal, it doesn't matter who those people are. You'd be suprised how many great questions you can get out of people who have seemingly no interest in philosophy. Which brings us to this question: why would the old man in the OP's scenario start a conversation about oism if he had no interest in it? Hmmm...

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@nelli: I was replying to the main question the OP asked: "What type of talking points would be good to use in defense of Objectivism when someone tries to argue that Objectivism is evil?" Everyone and their mother has an opinion about Ayn Rand, regardless of how much they know about her or her philosophy, so the situation the OP mentioned isn't suprising.

 

 

To practice!! ("The best way to learn something is to explain it to other people.") If that's your goal, it doesn't matter who those people are. You'd be suprised how many great questions you can get out of people who have seemingly no interest in philosophy. Which brings us to this question: why would the old man in the OP's scenario start a conversation about oism if he had no interest in it? Hmmm...

 

I still think the best way to respond to someone who says Objectivism is evil is to let them explain their position. They asserted something so they should explain the reasoning behind the statement and you can respond accordingly.

 

I don't think talking points are very effective to explain a philosophy. To explain why Objectivism is not evil, it will take more than talking points.

 

As for using him as a means of "practicing" -- the guy as told by the OP was insulting and obnoxious. I wouldn't give him two seconds of my time.

Edited by thenelli01
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The OP asked for advice for explaining and defending Objectivism. He obviously had troubles in this situation and I was defending him seeking advice by adding to your point - "Unless you happen to be a politician, or TV/radio personality, having a razor sharp wit and the ability to win any argument on the spot would in fact earn you nothing in life" - that there is something to be earned from being moderately good at explaining and defending your beliefs outside of these professions. 

 

Yeah well, I think what I said and what you replied with are two entirely unrelated statements. Care to explain the connection between being able to win and argument such as the one the OP describes, on the spot, and being able to explain your beliefs?

 

So every time I hit the "Quote" button, a quote bubble is pasted in the "Reply to this topic" box at the bottom of the page. Then I just carefully edit the bubble to get what portion I'm addressing.

Right. Problem is, it's counter-intuitive and difficult to use. I would prefer to use a normal text editor, like I do on the rest of the Internet.

Edited by Nicky
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Yeah well, I think what I said and what you replied with are two entirely unrelated statements. Care to explain the connection between being able to win and argument such as the one the OP describes, on the spot, and being able to explain your beliefs?

 

I was originally trying to comment on this part of your response:  

But all this is from the comfort of my house, where I have all the time I need to think of an answer. Not being able to think of one on the spot is of absolutely no consequence. It's the absolute last thing you should worry about. It doesn't matter at all. Unless you happen to be a politician, or TV/radio personality, having a razor sharp wit and the ability to win any argument on the spot would in fact earn you nothing in life. 

All I meant to say was even though I agree that being excellent at arguing your beliefs in a social situation where one is "on the spot" is not crucial outside some professions such as you mentioned, there are benefits in having a moderate skill at it. 

Edited by bert
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  • 1 month later...

One way is to ignore him or tell him to FOAD if he is being rude. No sense in having a conversation with someone who isn't willing to use even the slightest amount of reason.

 

Another way, if he does want to have a grown-up conversation, is to ask him if he thinks Objectivism is bad. When he says yes, ask him if he believes it is objectively bad, or subjectively bad. If he believes values are subjective, then why is he bothering to tell you his subjective values or to attack yours, since neither is better than the other? If he believes values are objective, ask him to explain how. 

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you all for the suggestions.  I obviously could have worded it a bit different; "talking points" almost makes me sound like a politician lol.  I think I just need more time to develop my interpretation of objectivism... and probably find some more literature.

Everything by Rand is good; fiction, nonfiction, it's just amazing.  I haven't read anything by any other Objectivists, yet; I'm still trying to finish reading everything she wrote, herself.  (her stuff is available at Barnes and Nobles or, sometimes, Half-Priced Books)

 

As for the OP, the main thing to understand is that most people truly consider Rand evil because she dropped the conventional morality (altruism) and started something totally and completely different.  The thing to ask yourself, before the next argument, is what you think of altruism and of rational selfishness.

If anything, the single most important question to ask is: does a man have the right to live for himself; to earn his own way and work for nobody's benefit except his own?  Are YOU entitled to make YOURSELF happy?

Most altruists, when pressed on that question, will eventually say yes.  If and when they do then they've already agreed with you; the rest is getting them to logically follow that rational selfishness is good.

Anyone who answers "no" to that question is dangerous.

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