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Do Objectivists truly believe Objectivism will ever be more than a philosophy of the few?

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Consider this portion of a paragraph from "What Can One Do?"

There are also a great many men who are indifferent to ideas and to anything beyond the concrete-bound range of the immediate moment; such men accept subconsciously whatever is offered by the culture of their time, and swing blindly with any chance current. They are merely social ballast—be they day laborers or company presidents—and, by their own choice, irrelevant to the fate of the world.

While being able to state things collectively this way, the quantitative  singular nature of Rand's expression can shine through.

Sometimes I wonder if it is agreement and accordance sought by those with which Rand's words resonate, or if discordance and division are the "natural" line of demarcation.

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20 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Catholic Inquisitors persecuted people for being heretics. Soviets persecuted people for being religious, being capitalist, and resisting collectivization. Those aren't identical reasons.

Also, the ends were different. Catholic heretics were forced to repent, tortured into confessing, or burned at the stake. The Soviets imprisoned their opposition in labor camps, worked many to death, and let some groups, like the Ukrainians, starve in famines.

 

The identical motive was maintaining, forcing, *the purity* of the relevant ideology. A capitalist and religionist was seen, equally, to be a "heretic" to the communists as to the inquisitors. One minor distinction was that Catholics believed they were saving one's immortal soul. Not believing in this, the Soviets punished and executed (mortal) men and women, and removed their contaminating heresy from society.

Edited by whYNOT

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9 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

None of the statements you quoted imply collectivism.

Before I quoted you, I said there is no singular line, because they would be out of context quotes. I gave you some quotes anyway because you wanted something. But now you're saying you don't like that I gave you out of context quotes! They don't necessarily imply collectivism, but in context of everything you wrote and said, they do.

If you don't really want to get into it, that's fine, I'm just be curious as to any related sources about what you think. 

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8 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

While being able to state things collectively this way, the quantitative  singular nature of Rand's expression can shine through.

Even if you accept Rand's metaphor of human ballast, such ballast is not of one mind, as long as there is more than one choice to be made. There is ballast for the socialists and ballast for the capitalists. A nation is not one ship. It's a fleet that either remains together or separates. So this ballast is not inconsequential. It determines which ships stay upright, and which ships lose their balance, forcing the crews to board another ship or perish in the sea. 

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22 hours ago, Eiuol said:

 

By creative genius I don't mean "the only truly rational individuals". They are individuals of the highest degree of rationality and individuality. It's the difference between Eddie Willers and Dagny Taggart. Eddie is average, a good person, and generally quite rational. Dagny is above average, an actual hero, and much better at applying rationality to her life (and because it's fiction, we know what goes on in her private life and don't need to wonder if she is privately a pretty nasty person). It doesn't matter if Dagny became a towering figure in history, but creative genius like hers is a necessary requirement to alter the world in a consequential way. 

I didn't level that at you personally. You recalled a thought I've had often. (The meme of the predetermined, almost, "creative genius"). There's reality which one has to refer to first, foremost, during and after. I'm also in favor of presenting the highs and low points of human endeavor, the extreme of rationality, reason, individualism - against the extreme of people who explicitly oppose those virtues/values. Contrast makes these things clearer for thought and discussion. The hallmark of Rand's romantic realism is the essentialization of fictional characters. Her readers may take out the essential ideas of the individuals and their subsequent acts and triumphs (or overthrow) as reference points, which we can hold in common. "Dagny" instantly brings her specific qualities and so on, to mind.  A 'Toohey" represents the lowest. Elsewhere, lie the "Eddies" whom Rand didn't overlook, and treated sympathetically if briefly - they simply weren't important enough in her creative, philosophical scheme of things - the extremes. In actuality, the thinking/valuing Eddies make up the majority of good people we know of.

However in real life, very few of us will run their own railroad, discover a new atomic particle, become a world-famed artist - etc.etc. Which brings up a main point: rationality is a top virtue, one shouldn't forget. Therefore instrumental to one's chosen, rationally selfish ends - whatever they are. One's rationality and reason do not serve 'a greater purpose', although evidently they sometimes have great, secondary effects upon mankind. Those we recognize after the fact, as "creative genius". What one's "purpose" in life is, comes in a very large potential array, to the extent of one's capabilities and ambitions. Wishing e.g. to discover the atomic particle without all that that entails (a supreme capacity for and education in physics, for one), is going to destine one to frustration and disappointment. What one ~can~ do exactly matching what one ~wants~ to do, rather, is a strong recipe for "success" (personal achievement, I prefer to think of it). And there, one would apply the highest standards and aims possible. Adding value to the values others found and made. Again, as with fiction and art, referencing the best of those individuals' creative achievements can help set one's standards and motivation.

It's not one's duty to "shape history", certainly not to live for the non-specific 'others' (outside of one's sphere of value), but without pressing one's purpose to its maximum, you'll never know how much one could influence an individual here or there, or many, even bearing upon the future course of events. 

Edited by whYNOT

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2 hours ago, whYNOT said:

The identical motive was maintaining, forcing, *the purity* of the relevant ideology.

I think this relates to a very basic similarity among political systems, which is the motive of maintaining or creating order versus permitting chaos. The Catholics were trying to keep a brand of Catholic order, the Soviets wanted a Soviet-style order. If you accept that order is preferable to chaos, then almost any political system is better than none, even tribalism. Arbitrary, malevolent dictatorships, I think, would be the exception, because they're essentially like chaos.

That similarity, however, is not the only criteria for judging political systems. We differentiate the systems by their other features, and so some are better than others and represent a more rational kind of order-keeping.

Edited by MisterSwig

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14 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Consider this portion of a paragraph from "What Can One Do?"

There are also a great many men who are indifferent to ideas and to anything beyond the concrete-bound range of the immediate moment; such men accept subconsciously whatever is offered by the culture of their time, and swing blindly with any chance current. They are merely social ballast—be they day laborers or company presidents—and, by their own choice, irrelevant to the fate of the world.

While being able to state things collectively this way, the quantitative  singular nature of Rand's expression can shine through.

Sometimes I wonder if it is agreement and accordance sought by those with which Rand's words resonate, or if discordance and division are the "natural" line of demarcation.

When and if concrete-bound (in the moment) and although concretely aware of facts, but of disconnected (- "discrete", I believe is the philosophy-speak -) facts which one doesn't conceptualize, that's not rationality. Then, one is at the mercy of random ideas at large, as per Rand. Rationality orientates one towards reality AND reasoning.  

Nathaniel Branden (Honoring the Self) defined: "Rationality is our unreserved commitment to perceive reality to the best of our ability, a commitment to being conscious--an acceptance of reason as the ultimate arbiter and guide in matters of knowledge, values, and action".

I maintain that there are some of modest intelligence and not much education who are rational - in their perceptions - and "naturally" conceptual to a degree - while completely unversed in "epistemology". I.e. they have independent ideas/minds taken from observed facts. Many educated intellectuals do not. I've known such individuals broadly from both camps. 

Edited by whYNOT

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51 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

Nathaniel Branden (Honoring the Self) defined: "Rationality is our unreserved commitment to perceive reality to the best of our ability, a commitment to being conscious--an acceptance of reason as the ultimate arbiter and guide in matters of knowledge, values, and action".

A commitment to anything, without considering capability to cause or create, is simply a declaration, a promise. When one accuses another of not being rational, it's not an accusation of a lack of commitment but rather an observation that the end results of what someone said or wrote or conveyed is contradictory.

So this tendency to attack people's rationality should really be directed at the "arguments"/premises. Finding and demonstrating contradictions is what changes minds.

And if we want to quote Branden, the most powerful message he left us was that if you want to change someone's mind, don't attack their self esteem. Based on that, as far as an ethical direction, rationality is a valued direction. But calling people names, as in "you're being irrational" is counterproductive.

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33 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

A commitment to anything, without considering capability to cause or create, is simply a declaration, a promise. When one accuses another of not being rational, it's not an accusation of a lack of commitment but rather an observation that the end results of what someone said or wrote or conveyed is contradictory.

So this tendency to attack people's rationality should really be directed at the "arguments"/premises. Finding and demonstrating contradictions is what changes minds.

And if we want to quote Branden, the most powerful message he left us was that if you want to change someone's mind, don't attack their self esteem. Based on that, as far as an ethical direction, rationality is a valued direction. But calling people names, as in "you're being irrational" is counterproductive.

Who is making an attack on anyone's rationality here? No name -calling that I see - though true, it's counter-productive to do so, often unjust and a poor substitute for argument. 

Whew. That's all you took away from Branden?! Not attacking anyone's self-esteem? Only one take-out, evidenced in the quote, was his advocacy for living a first-handed life. 

Edited by whYNOT

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9 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

It determines which ships stay upright, and which ships lose their balance, forcing the crews to board another ship or perish in the sea. 

But if you want to continue with that metaphor, the ship doesn't go anywhere. Absolutely nothing happens. It's not pointless to have ballast of course (society moves after all), but it is inconsequential as far as who the ballast even is. 

Edited by Eiuol

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56 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

But if you want to continue with that metaphor, the ship doesn't go anywhere.

Of course it does. It goes where the crew sails it.

56 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

It's not pointless, but it is inconsequential as far as who the ballast even is. 

Not so. We're talking about humans. Humans are individuals. They make choices. They must choose which ship to board and act as its ballast. And so the quality of the ballast matters. 

Let's consider a more realistic example. Joe is a miner looking for a mining job. There are two mining operations in town. Company A will pay Joe according to how much he produces himself. Company B will pay him an equal share of profits no matter how much he produces himself. The choice Joe makes represents his small part in the grand battle between individualism and collectivism, whether or not he understands it at that level. Maybe he just understands that he'll make more money at Company A because he's a hard worker. That's okay. He doesn't need to understand what the owner of Company A understands: that treating people like individuals will attract the hardest workers; and that his competition will attract the low-quality workers by treating them like a collection of equal parts in a machine. The Company A ship will sail perfectly with the best ballast, while the B ship, with its lousy ballast, will probably sink in the first storm it encounters.

Edited by MisterSwig

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11 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Even if you accept Rand's metaphor of human ballast, <...>

Collective mind, no. Collective term, as in man refers to every man that was, that is, or that ever will be.

Even the compartmentalist that uses reason to make a new discovery, uses reason in that regard. Argument(s) that try passing off irrationality as plausible, or deserving the benefit of a doubt, bypass or bastardize reason in such regard(s).

Individuals are either seeking values, or they aren't. Individuals are either seeking to apply right reasoning to their understanding, or they aren't. Capitalism is the system that manifests under a system devoted to upholding the rights of man. Fascism, Communism, Nazism, etc., could be considered different outcomes of irrationality. The 'ballast' winds up under a system conducive to Capitalism, or it does not.

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Coming late to the conversation. Am I hijacking if I go back to the original question?

The most important point here is one that the participants have barely touched on if they have touched on it at all: to the extent that an idea is the cultural norm, people won't be aware of it as somebody's philosophy at all. As long as the only people who accept Objectivist ideas are the ones who got it from Rand and could tell you that they did, those ideas are not the cultural default. Once they are, people will treat them as ordinary common sense.

Many Americans, perhaps most, would accept that an action is meritorious to the extent that the actor has nothing to gain from the outcome, and that any personal interest somehow weakens the merit of the act. Most of them, though, have never heard of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, much less read it. To pick another example, people nowadays accept without question that in politics we should do what's effective without attention to rigid ideology. Very few, though, could name any of the Pragmatists, and fewer still have read their writings.

The pop culture in the last forty years has come to appreciate assertiveness as a character trait and to admire entrepreneurship of the disruptive kind. I suspect that Rand's influence was part of it, but most who cite such notions could not tell you this.

(Nathaniel Branden made this point on occasion, though the current formulation is mine.)

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11 hours ago, Reidy said:

The most important point here is one that the participants have barely touched on if they have touched on it at all: to the extent that an idea is the cultural norm, people won't be aware of it as somebody's philosophy at all. As long as the only people who accept Objectivist ideas are the ones who got it from Rand and could tell you that they did, those ideas are not the cultural default. Once they are, people will treat them as ordinary common sense.

To the extent a philosophy is true, its ideas don't need to be transmitted from the top down. They can be gleaned from the bottom up as well, because each individual can see reality for himself and come to the same true conclusion as the philosopher. Lesser minds might need some help in focusing on the right aspects of reality, articulating observations, and systematizing principles, but ultimately reality is the great teacher. Common sense doesn't come from the ivory tower. It rises from the common experience of man.

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On 12/31/2019 at 8:27 PM, MisterSwig said:

The Company A ship will sail perfectly with the best ballast, while the B ship, with its lousy ballast, will probably sink in the first storm it encounters.

What are you trying to convince me of? I understand what you're trying to say, the metaphor isn't helping me understand better. I understand perfectly fine. The more you say, the more I am convinced that you are making a collectivist argument. 

On 12/31/2019 at 10:37 PM, Reidy said:

The pop culture in the last forty years has come to appreciate assertiveness as a character trait and to admire entrepreneurship of the disruptive kind. I suspect that Rand's influence was part of it, but most who cite such notions could not tell you this.

I wonder if Rand was a symptom or a catalyst? 

 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

The more you say, the more I am convinced that you are making a collectivist argument.

That's probably because I'm a deeply closeted communist.

 

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On 12/31/2019 at 8:37 PM, Reidy said:

Many Americans, perhaps most, would accept that an action is meritorious to the extent that the actor has nothing to gain from the outcome, and that any personal interest somehow weakens the merit of the act. Most of them, though, have never heard of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, much less read it. To pick another example, people nowadays accept without question that in politics we should do what's effective without attention to rigid ideology. Very few, though, could name any of the Pragmatists, and fewer still have read their writings.

Fair point. One can argue that if people could cite origins and history of ideas that we would be in better shape as a society or species. The basic benefit of history, that one does not have to repeat it. But most people don't want to know/research the historical source of an idea. Knowing the source has some benefit but does not provide a mastery that would make knowledge of history absolutely necessary. Citing sources are necessary in academics, or in legal court proceedings but not in the average conversation.

For instance, identifying Trump as a pragmatist may be close to the truth, but can only predict in the most broad fashion what he would do next. It may help to know the historical arguments against pragmatism when objecting to some policy that he is promoting. But ultimately, isn't focusing, drilling down without citation effective enough? In other words, the argument has to stand on its own, no matter who made it first in history.

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