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Is it wrong to converse with opposing viewpoints?

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I just read (most of) Peikoff's essay on Kelly's philosophy. I agree with all the major points, but I am confused by one of them. Okay, I agree with him when he says that we should pass moral judgment on ideas, and not just actions. But I don't quite follow the logic of the idea that we shouldn't even converse with people who have opposing viewpoints. Maybe I just read that wrong, but that's how it sounded to me. Why wouldn't we converse with opposing viewpoints? First off, it seems logical to do so, in the sense that we can try and convince them that they are wrong. Secondly, it helps you learn about their own personal philosophies so that you can spend some time, by yourself, picking it apart and preparing yourself for your next conversation. I'm not suggesting that we "learn from them" in the same way that Kelly does...I'm saying we can learn about them, instead. Did I just read something wrong? Any responses are appreciated. Thanks.

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But I don't quite follow the logic of the idea that we shouldn't even converse with people who have opposing viewpoints.  Maybe I just read that wrong, but that's how it sounded to me.  Why wouldn't we converse with opposing viewpoints? [...]Did I just read something wrong?

I suspect you did. The way to find out is for you to prove your claim that he said don't talk to people who have opposing viewpoints. Please cite (and quote) the passage from which you inferred your conclusion.

With that settled, we can then go on to your main topic, which is intriguing. There is a whole "art" to talking with people who have radically different ideas. I would very much like to discuss it.

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I had a metaphysical/Epistemological arguement with my roommate earlier today. Bless his heart he's one of the most hard working and rational persons I know, a real Howard Roark in terms of work ethic, with the sole exception that he is a devout christian, the kind that prays with his girlfriend over the phone before they go to bed at night, and hasn't so much as given a girl the stray elbow to the breast because he is saving himself for marriage. So anyway, the conversation went something like this:

me: prove to me that God exists

him: the bible says he does

me: how do you know the bible is factual?

him: because God made it

me: but how do you know he made it?

him: because the bible said he did

me: but how do you know the bible is factual?

him: because God made it

me: you aren't listening to me are you?

him: you aren't being real!

me: but you are the one who believes in a ficticious being whose existence you cannot prove

him: but I can prove it

me: how?

him: the bible says he exists

I know this example makes him sound stupid, but he's not. He's a medical undergrad with a 3.5+ G.P.A. smart guy, but one who has spent a life time within a religion to the point where he can not grasp the concept that you can not substitute faith for reason. To him, the concept of God's existence is an axiom, he wanted me to disprove God's existence. My usual counter of "the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff, not the defendant" didn't even register with him. He's a damn fine arguer, great at twisting words and forcing his opponent into an etymological corner, whereas I am not good like that, but have reason on my side. It proved to be an entertaining debate.

sometimes I have noticed that some people simply do not want to listen to reason. In that case, there really isn't any point in continuing the conversation. I think that was the point Dr. Peikoff was trying to make.

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sometimes I have noticed that some people simply do not want to listen to reason. In that case, there really isn't any point in continuing the conversation. I think that was the point Dr. Peikoff was trying to make.

BINGO! There is nothing wrong with conversing with people of opposing viewpoints--except if that opposing viewpoint is "Man ought not to be rational."

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Then I guess I misread it.

It? What do you mean by "it"? You said in your first post that it was an "essay on Kelly's philosophy." You still have not told us the name of the essay or where we can find it.

I also gleaned that from the fact that he has cut off all contact with David Kelly.

I don't understand how you could "glean" the conclusion, that we should never talk to people who have opposing views, from the premise that Dr. Peikoff "has cut off all contact with David Kelly." Could you explain what thought process led you from your premise to your conclusion?

Have you studied logic? If not, which seems to be the case here, I highly recommend Dr. Peikoff's lecture series, "Introduction to Logic."

Edited by BurgessLau
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I don't understand how you could "glean" the conclusion, that we should never talk to people who have opposing views, from the premise that Dr. Peikoff "has cut off all contact with David Kelly." Could you explain what thought process led you from your premise to your conclusion?

Well, he seemed hostile towards the idea that we should be "open-minded in conversation with others." That coupled with the fact that he cut off contacts with Kelly made me wonder...but, hey, that's why I started this thread. I figured I had something wrong and I was just asking.

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Well, he seemed hostile towards the idea that we should be "open-minded in conversation with others."  That coupled with the fact that he cut off contacts with Kelly made me wonder...but, hey, that's why I started this thread.  I figured I had something wrong and I was just asking.

Are you refferring to the essay that talks about "the fallacy of the open-mind," or something along the lines of that? I remember reading such an essay, but I can't seem to find it.. :confused:

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I think Zoso means Fact and Value (this is why we need specific reference to sources) and I think the confusion stems from this

"Tolerance," as used by Kelley, is a concept (or anti-concept) out of the modern liberals' world-view; it is a further expression of the philosophy of subjectivism; it conveys the notion that one must be fair to one's opponents by means of not judging them, by being "open-minded" and saying, in effect: "Who am I to know? Maybe I have something to learn from this person." The term means, in essence, "fairness through skepticism." So crude a package-deal does not need much analysis. (In a political context, the term could be taken to mean that no one may initiate governmental force against others. But the proper concept to identify such a political condition is "rights" or "freedom," not "tolerance.")

But if you go through the whole essay carefully you will understand that he (Peikoff) is not saying we shouldn't talk to people who disagree, but unless Zoso cites a quote or passage I can't understand exactly how to argue this except to say it needs to be re-read.

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Well, he seemed hostile towards the idea that we should be "open-minded in conversation with others."  That coupled with the fact that he cut off contacts with Kelly made me wonder...but, hey, that's why I started this thread.  I figured I had something wrong and I was just asking.

Just because we shouldn't be open-minded when talking to people of opposing viewpoints doesn't mean we can't talk to them at all. Have you ever read anything of Rand's that discusses open-minded. She called it an anti-concept. I'm sorry I can't remember which essay it was, but there should be a definition in the Lexicon. In any case, what people mean when they say open-minded is some sort of sponge that accepts whatever is thrown at it instead of analyizng other viewpoints. To be open-minded is to regard every viewpoint as equally valuable, regardless of it's factual basis. Instead, Rand wrote that we should use an "active mind" which means, in simple terms, to think about other viewpoints and decide for ourselves whether they are true or not.

As for Dr. Peikoff cutting off contact with Kelly, has it occured to you that he may not like the man and therefore does not wish to waste his valuable time associating with him? I think it might help if you define what you mean by opposing viewpoints. Because I might be friends with someone who likes a particular politician who I do not like, but it is unlikely that I would be friends with someone who does not believe that reality is real. There are certain people that it is impossible to talk to. Kelly may have been dishonest, and in my opinion it is a waste of time to discuss views with the dishonest. I don't know enough about Kelly or Dr. Peikoff to know the exact reasons. All I'm saying is that the severed ties between them is hardly sufficient evidence that Objectivists cannot talk to people who have opposing viewpoints.

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I can't understand exactly how to argue this except to say it needs to be re-read.

Also for context it helps to read the article On Moral Sanctions

One quote in particular stands out as appropriate to this discussion

Does this restrict the options open to Objectivist speakers? Certainly. Objectivism is a restrictive philosophy. It holds that the irrationalities of today's culture should not be aided. However, this fact does not require Objectivist thinkers to communicate only with those already in basic agreement. Ayn Rand, after all, somehow managed to convey her ideas to many millions without having to violate her principle of not sanctioning evil. Aside from the books and articles to be written, there are countless non-Objectivist audiences that speakers can profitably address. There are college and high school students. There are numerous professional groups, such as medical or legal associations. And there are those with mixed ideologies, who hold mistaken but not necessarily irrational views, such as various conservative or liberal groups. There may be nothing wrong in cooperating or debating with those who merely hold mistaken views (as long as one makes clear what one disagrees with); there is nothing wrong in implying that they are moral. It is the irrational that ought not be granted a moral sanction; it is the irrational that should not be addressed as though it were open to reason.

(Edited to add quote)

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I've never heard that definition of open-minded before. To me, open-minded means you're willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and consider them...that doesn't mean you will automatically accept them. It means you are open to the possibility of accepting them if, after you consider them, you find them to be valid. To me, closed-minded is a negative term that means you bury your head in the sand and refuse to even consider opposing viewpoints.

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To me, open-minded means you're willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and consider them...that doesn't mean you will automatically accept them.  It means you are open to the possibility of accepting them if, after you consider them, you find them to be valid.

How open are you to considering the viewpoint "A is not A?" As one matures philsophically, more and more statements become as clear in one's mind as this one. In this sense, philosophical maturity leads to "close mindedness."

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I have considered it. In order to decide that your own view is true, it seems as though you must consider the alternative and decide it to be false. I considered it, but I never seriously entertained the notion that I would change my mind and start believing that it was true. I debated it with some people and realized that it was an indefensible position. But that doesn't mean I didn't consider it.

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I've never heard that definition of open-minded before.

Zoso, do us all a favor: Open up your copy of The Ayn Rand Lexicon to p. 347. Read the excerpts for the entry, "'Open Mind' and 'Closed Mind'." You can also find that discussion in "Philosophical Detection," in Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 25 (hb) or 21 (pb).

After you have studied Ayn Rand's discussion, please come back to this thread with your analysis, if you believe your approach is superior.

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[...] I'm not an expert on these matters by any means...in fact, my stated purpose in being a member of these forums is to ask questions and learn about Objectivism.[...]

A more productive -- because more objective -- procedure is to study Objectivism first (as recorded in Ayn Rand's writings) and then come to this forum with questions as they arise (and after you have tried to find answers in your resources).

Keep in mind that you are not assured of getting correct answers here. Not everyone here is an Objectivist. Those who are have widely differing levels of knowledge overall and especially in particular areas. Go to the source. The ARL is the single best (and least expensive!) guide to an initial study of Objectivism.

Please also keep in mind the difference between discussion (an interchange leading to a solution to a common problem) and a debate (a contest in which each side attempts to win some prize, such as audience favor or influence). I infer from looking at some of your many, many threads that you might be trying to learn through debate. If so, that is backwards. Debate should follow mastery. Questioning and discussing and sustained thinking are the ways to gain mastery. With mastery attained, you can then debate, and that social crucible might then reveal minor problems deserving further attention.

P. S. -- I want to point out that one of the reasons you raise the ire of some forum members (and moderators) is that you are very careless about important details -- such as naming the exact sources you say you have read. (See the first lines of post no. 1.) Doing so is part of the practice of being objective (drawing conclusions logically from facts of reality), and that is what this forum is all about.

Edited by BurgessLau
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Being that I am in graduate school, I don't currently have the time to read much other than what I am assigned for my classes. I try not to debate on here, because I realize that I don't know what I'm talking about. I ask questions and, if I disagree, I ask to be shown where I am wrong.

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Please also keep in mind the difference between discussion (an interchange leading to a solution to a common problem) and a debate (a contest in which each side attempts to win some prize, such as audience favor or influence). I infer from looking at some of your many, many threads that you might be trying to learn through debate. If so, that is backwards. Debate should follow mastery. Questioning and discussing and sustained thinking are the ways to gain mastery. With mastery attained, you can then debate, and that social crucible might then reveal minor problems deserving further attention.

I read last night the essay in VOR by Dr Peikoff on Why Johnny Can't Think, and it mentions how many classrooms are taught not by Lecture but by discussion amongst the students who haven't even been taught the material in the first place. Peikoff was very critical of this and I can say that a few of my classes were taught in this way. I recently had a problem with a friend of mine who kept playing devils advocate with everything I tried to explain to him without actually coming from any particular position, just against whatever I said. It was infuriating. Learning is fostered by discussion, but it is not started with discussion before the pertinent material has even been digested. I think the intentions are good (to learn) but the premise (of course) is flawed, in that knowledge is a consensus from others rather than from the material itself, and that if agreement can be reached then that is "truth". Peikoffs essay is very good, it was given in 1984 (I think as a speech originally) and I was 4 then-just entering the school system. I identify alot with what he was saying, as I have to unlearn alot of bad habits myself.

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Practically all of my graduate classes are discussion.  It can be appropriate in certain context.  For instance, in my classes we are expected to do quite a bit of reading.  So, when it's time for class, we have something to discuss.

Certainly, once the material is digested, it is certainly appropriate and can foster learning.

I found an essay on ARIwhich touched on what Peikoff was saying:

The underlying assumption of Progressive education is that children should discover or construct their own knowledge. Teachers, therefore, should not seek to convey knowledge and to train minds in objective principles of thinking. Instead, they should be "facilitators" and "enablers."

but the epistemology necessary for students to discover their own knowledge is never taught. I'm fascinated by this subject because as I mentioned in another thread, one of my ultimate goals is to participate in education reform, and clearly the ARI has done alot of the work already. I want to be a part of it.

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A more productive -- because more objective -- procedure is to study Objectivism first (as recorded in Ayn Rand's writings) and then come to this forum with questions as they arise (and after you have tried to find answers in your resources).

.

This is a problem I am personally having here, and it seems Zoso may be as well. I find it condesending to say that certain member's here need to study Objectivism first, and then ask questions. I have read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, OPAR, and I have TVOS, the Ayn Rand Lexicon, and the lecture on Melody in Music on order. I am, in a sense, taking in as much as this philosophy as I can within my spare time. I find myself confused on many matters, as I am learning I have to revise large portions of my methodology that has been a product of 22 years of living on false premises. The biggest problem I encounter, is that barely any of the terminology used in Objectivism fits the "classic definations" that have developed in my mind through the course of my life. I think the biggest problem is confusion that is created from lack of understanding, and that is why we are all here, to clear up any confusion that has been generated along the way. Sometimes it seems as if the Objectivist here who have spent years intensely studying the philosophy seem to assume that just because some of us students may not understand the philosophy thoroughly, means that we haven't studied it at all. Objectivism covers so much that it is impossible to generate a total understanding in any short period of time. If one asks questions when the question arises (as Zoso was doing) then it clears up the confusion before it does damage on the students whole outlook of the philosophy.

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This is a problem I am personally having here, and it seems Zoso may be as well. I find it condesending to say that certain member's here need to study Objectivism first, and then ask questions. I have read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, OPAR, and I have TVOS, the Ayn Rand Lexicon, and the lecture on Melody in Music on order. I am, in a sense, taking in as much as this philosophy as I can within my spare time. I find myself confused on many matters, as I am learning I have to revise large portions of my methodology that has been a product of 22 years of living on false premises. The biggest problem I encounter, is that barely any of the terminology used in Objectivism fits the "classic definations" that have developed in my mind through the course of my life. I think the biggest problem is confusion that is created from lack of understanding, and that is why we are all here, to clear up any confusion that has been generated along the way. Sometimes it seems as if the Objectivist here who have spent years intensely studying the philosophy seem to assume that just because some of us students may not understand the philosophy thoroughly, means that we haven't studied it at all. Objectivism covers so much that it is impossible to generate a total understanding in any short period of time. If one asks questions when the question arises (as Zoso was doing) then it clears up the confusion before it does damage on the students whole outlook of the philosophy.

I couldn't have put it better myself. And, on that note, I'd like to add that I, too, have done some reading on the subject. I've read AS, WTL, Anthem, PWNI, VOS, and I'm working on the Ominous Parallels, although I'm taking a break from it right now, due to school.

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This is a problem I am personally having here, and it seems Zoso may be as well. I find it condesending to say that certain member's here need to study Objectivism first, and then ask questions.

I think it is only after repeated attempts to get specifics that I see condescention. Then I don't think it's condescention as much as tried patience.

I find myself confused on many matters, as I am learning I have to revise large portions of my methodology that has been a product of 22 years of living on false premises.
It isn't going to be more helpful to you, Zoso, or myself (I am in the same boat as you) or anyone for the more experienced members to submit to our un-learned methods. That would be sacrificing their experience out of deference to our inexperience.
The biggest problem I encounter, is that barely any of the terminology used in Objectivism fits the "classic definations" that have developed in my mind through the course of my life.
which is good, because you see that now, because it has been pointed out to you. Now you know to check your Lexicon, as I do, from reading threads directed to other members and to get your definitions straight first-so you are learning
Sometimes it seems as if the Objectivist here who have spent years intensely studying the philosophy seem to assume that just because some of us students may not understand the philosophy thoroughly, means that we haven't studied it at all. Objectivism covers so much that it is impossible to generate a total understanding in any short period of time. If one asks questions when the question arises (as Zoso was doing) then it clears up the confusion before it does damage on the students whole outlook of the philosophy.

I think the important thing here is to take criticism objectively, and process it, and not let personal subjective perception cloud the message that is being conveyed. Actually go to the source, look up the answers and then come back, instead of defending a position without any concretes. That's what I see, is assertions without backing and argument without premise. Think objective, then try to apply it, and accept the criticism as objective information from people who have more experience, and try to do better next time. Then we will learn.

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