Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Why Should One Dismiss The Arbitrary?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

does the person hold to reason?

if yes, it is simple... merely define arbitrary: selected at random and without reason... or as LP puts it "an arbitrary idea is a sheer assertion with no attempt to validate it or connect it to reality." this might spring a few quesions from someone with no understanding of objectivism, but these should be answered easily.

if no... well than have fun trying.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The above is definitely a good approach. Another is reducto ad absurdum. Consider the most aabsurd example of an arbitrary assertion and then demand that person *prove* you wrong. He will not be able (the amount of time he tries may vary depending on his grasp of reason). At that point you can try explaining the reason he cannot - ie explain lase of logic and the basis of proof. Ultimately, you have to teach him that 'nothing' cannot be 'something'. And you will also have to explain why 'nothing' can not be considerd at all - because that is the attempt to make 'nothing' into a 'something'. This should be obvious at this point of the conversation. If he holds to reason, you will have given him the fundaments he needs to grasp the idea you want to get across. If he does not hold to reason, he will not grasp this, and you may need to go deeper philosophically - to the basic axioms and the laws of logic which are derivatives of those axioms.

This will take you to his core. And he will either defend that core no matter what you say - ie he will defend his subjectiveness and reject reason and reality. At that point, there is no dealing with him. You can only abandon him, because he makes himself into a virtual 'nothing' by denying the nature of both nothingness and existence.

I had this exact scenario happen to me. It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. One time - and one time only - I was able to go inside the core - to the very essence - of a person. I was able to do this - to get this far inside someone - where even they don't always look, because I was her paramour for nine years. She was an objectivist and we lived as a family with her very young daughter. Her parents and siblings was somewhat religious and not happy with her acceptance of objectivism in general and her atheism specifically. But for those nine years we were two peas in a pod We were perfedt together. Then, one day when helping her care for her newborn, she had an 'epiphany' and became a VERY devout born again christian literally overnight. This obviously changed our entire relationship. I had conversations with her trying to understand her new world views and trying to get to the core to know what was wrong and why she had changed 180% to the complete opposite person. Ultimately, it came down to one whim. She didn't care about reality. She didnt care about reason or logic - and this from a CHEMICAL ENGINEER. Her new philosophy - her religion made her feel good inside. That was her essence. So long as she was happy, it didnt matter what was 'real'. That was the point I had to release her and part company - which was a mutual decision. "If you dont walk with god, you walk with the devil" was her view. As I was an atheist, this meant she was consorting wth the devil. And since the rational objectivist I had know disappeared from the face of the earth and was replaced by a stranger with her face, a stranger whom I had known so well, but who now denied reality and accepted whim worship EXPLICITLY and emp0hatically, with full knowledge of what she was accepting, there was simply no way rationally and emotionally that I could stay with her any longer.

To tell you the truth, the above really affected me negatively. Prior to that, I (erroneously) thought that you could reason with everyone and get them to accept reality, so long as you were logical and rational enough to point out the errors in their thoughts. And I have had successes in convincing people of certain ideas. I was a very persuasive individual before then. If you thhink my post here are good, you should have heard me before then - I was damn good. But I was shaken to my core when I took the person I loved to her core and found her core could not be altered because she explicitly rejected reality in favor of the unreal. It made her happy - and that was all that mattered. Neither before then nor since, have I experienced touching the very ESSENCE of someone - and discovering pure subjecctivism - pure negation of reality - a pure worship of nothingness. It is a startling experience. And when it occurs with a loved one, it is also a shattering experience.

After recovering from the shock of it all - from the revelation that some individuals simply cannot be reasoned with, I have had to adopt a more focused analysis of whom I am speaking to. Not only now must I gauge what is wrong with someone's ideas. I must alsso guage whether or not that person can be a reassonable person, or if they will ultimately reject reality. Sometimes you can tell imediately. Other times it takes much conversation to discover whether they are amenable to reason or not.

This is what you also have to be aware of when dealing with someone who is implicitly accepting the unreasonable. Not only muust you guage the error of his ways, you must guage whether he is ipen to the reason of your position. If he is not, then you simply walk away.

On the other hand, the person may accept your reasoning and seek to change his core. At this point you will be able to help him in that change. Talking to him on the proper subjects and recommending books appropriate to his new grasp on reality.

I actually did this to some degree yesterday, while working on the set. I happened to strike up a conversation about movies with one of the grips, speaking of their themes and their style. This lead to a much deeper discussion of absolutes and about reality, because he started to speak of moraly relativity (no absolutes - everything is not black and white, but all greys). The conversation carried through lunch and to the time we wrapped shooting. By that time, he was acknowledging that realiity exists, and that things are black and white - that the world is nothing but absolutes. In addition, he was going to read atlas shrugged and get a copy of OPAR from the library. Not bad for a day's discussion :)

Of course, inn either case, you will likely be in for a long conversation (or conversations

. ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was discussing a logical fallacy with someone the other day and they kept confusing axioms and concepts. So I gave them a long lesson on what axioms were and how they led to epistemology and then to concepts and they pretty much ignored everything I said and just kept using incorrect logic. At that point I just threw up my hands and walked off. :dough:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it for lack of a better graphic, particularly the :surrender: one, that you used that smilie? Or, in your story, did you proceed to find and use a "to relieve stress, bang head here" stress-relief kit?

Edit: This is my 200th post. Whoever cares, send me something nice (like a blank check or a credit card).

Edit: In continuation of the above -- Had Ayn Rand lived in a slightly later era, or had credit cards been invented and popularized in a slighly earlier era, how would her use of the term blank check been affected?

Edit: In recognition of this thread's title, you are all free to dismiss my above question.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Objectivist principles are my stress relief kit. I look at stress as getting angry, depressed, or impatient with something you cannot change (nature). If getting angry, depressed, or impatient would actually affect the course of nature, I would utilize those emotions to do so. I don't get angry, or depressed, or impatient any longer.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Unfortunately, you will find that even those who espouse Objectivism are perfectly capable of making arbitrary assertions and sticking to them in the face of all reason. While you might have a better chance with someone who knows something of The Philosopher, it isn't necessarily the case.

I learned to use a simple test: reduce the argument to its main contradiction. If the person states explicitly that he or she is comfortable living with their contradiction, don't waste your breath.

In my experience, it usually boils down to a question of absolutes, as in "there are no absolutes." If a person doesn't understand that this wipes out their argument, there is no use in continuing. I've had people actually try to say that it doesn't change the validity of what they say, that not everything is subject to logic. You see how a person can never get away from philosophy? All you can do is snicker and walk away.

Miss Rand points out this phenomenon many times in her books. Taggert used it a lot: "Oh, that's just logic. I'm talking about the real world." and "That's not practical." They never consider the fact that it depends upon what one wishes to practice.

P.S. At one point in the history of European philosophy, when talking about Aristotle, people simply referred to him as The Philosopher. I've revised this for my own use and I now refer to Miss Rand by that august title.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whether or not someone is willing to explicitly accept a contradiction or not is indeed a very good way to identify the fruitfulness of continuing a conversation with them. However, I usually dont stop at that point. I like to employ a little tactic against them that Dr. Peikoff pointed out in History of Western Philosophy.

If an individual disagrees with your premise - accepting a contradiction and thus essentially saying there are no absolutes - that the law of identity has no meaning - I like to turn around ad say: "Wow - Im glad you agree with me. I am glad that you accept contradiction does not exist, and that you embrace my particular premise in this argument." Invariably the person will say that they do not. They will protest they just argued AGAINST my position. To which I will just proclaim "I am extremely heartened to see you are such a staunch defender of my premise." This will confuse and anger them. They will protest further, claiming I must be dense or ask what I am going on about. They specifically state they are NOT saying what I am saying. They are saying the opposite. I say "Oh - you mean they dont mean the same thing?" "No - they are OPPOSITES" "And opposites cannot mean the same thing? Why not?" At this point, some get it - others need it explained to them. So either THEY will say - or I will say "Because that is a contradiction!"

Heheh - this produces one of two results: either it opens their eyes to the problem of their position. Or it shuts them up and makes them angry. In either case, you have effectively challenged their premise. In the former case, they honestly must deal with that. In the latter case, they have to try to reject it - but will have to engage in a major blanking out to do so - and will always have it eat at the back of their mind.

Either way, you are effective. <_<

Link to post
Share on other sites

oldsalt, you can accomodate all true Aristotelean worlds by applying the appelation The First Philosopher to Aristotle and the appelation The Second Philosopher to Ayn Rand. Thereby, both of the worthy get that august title.

RadCap, you are hereby awarded a ph34r me <_< badge.

You can put it in a sticker book or something :nerd: .

Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent suggestion, RedCap. Dr. Peikoff always offers the most down to earth pointers for dealing with the world.

I wasn't very old the first time I heard Dr. Peikoff's lecture on the Philosophy of Objectivism. I was heartened to hear him admit that he had a hard time im his philosophy classes and could become confused trying to argue a point. (Of course, he had the inestimable value of Miss Rand at hand to help him!) It helped ease my level of frustration, somehow. I know I'm not stupid, but I also knew that I had a long way to go in my own knowledge of Objectivism and how to argue. There are lessons that come only with the experience of living life everyday.

Back in the days when I began studying, you couldn't buy the lectures; you signed up for the the taped courses, which were usually given in someone's home. This had the advantage of offering "classroom" discussions, and the disadvantage of only hearing the lecture once. (While meeting others who were interested enough to pay for the courses wasn't my main goal, it was no small thing. It is the reason most of you are here.)

I do have a point in this off-topic meanderings of a senior citizen. To wit, you never stop learning with Objectivism. This philosophy enables one to enjoy a life of learning. As it is with good science, every answer evokes 10 new questions. There is never a dead-end. It gives a verve to life that those seeking the "peace" of an unexplored philosophy never know. The meandering is simply my way to encourage you.

Link to post
Share on other sites

rad-cap, i have to tell you i've had a similar situation happen to me, concerning a friend of mine who became very religious overnight.

i was brought up in a strict catholic family. i believed in god. until the day i heard that santa clause wasn't real. that's when my reasoning skills were born, and i kept silent about my views on the absent god i owe everything to...until 6 months ago.

i have nothing against religion, because frankly, it keeps society in line. people need some kind of permenance beyond life; they need that god-fearing quality to keep out of trouble. so go for religion if it's your bag. it's not mine however.

but this girl, this born again whatever, she used religion for all the wrong reasons...just as all actions it was of the ego, selfish perceived as selfless. for some reason beyond my fathoming, this enfuriated me.

does anyone else hate hypocrites?? i keep very calm about most things, but what irks me most is hypocrites. the ones who are so "selfless" and when i tell them they have no integrity (just as Toohey to the lady) they say that i have no idea what i'm talking about.

it's just so funny when i get into a religious discussion with her. because all my answers are backed up by reason and laws of nature that we have all learned and lived by. then she blatantly refuses reality and says, and i quote, "because it's god's will."

oh dear i think i will quit now. I think i'm turning into an objectivist without knowing it. or now realizing it.

someone convert me.

Link to post
Share on other sites

amorparatodavida: I think it is time for you to start studying Objectivism seriously... you sound an awlful lot like me the day I finished reading "The Fountainhead." On a side note, I have always hated my dad for allowing that Santa Clause nonsense to be perpetrated on my siblings and I... they are still doing it to my youngest brother.

Link to post
Share on other sites

richard- right now i have the Ayn Rand essay contest that i'm working on, as well as a class at the college along with my cosmetology class (it's a lot of hours...5 a day for me). along with that, i'm self-editing my novel to be published. the literary agent gave me a sort of ultimatem---edit and Then we'll talk about representing you. so as soon as i hit April 15th, I'm going to seriously look into objectivism.

It's good to know I'll have people to turn to when I have questions :rolleyes:

Link to post
Share on other sites
i have nothing against religion, because frankly, it keeps society in line. people need some kind of permenance beyond life; they need that god-fearing quality to keep out of trouble.

Nonsense. Have you not noticed that the most backward nations in this world are also the most religious? All that religion does to a people is create illusions of a world beyond the one in which we live. Consequently a love of life is sacrificed in favour of a love of death. Instead of people living for their lives they live for their deaths. Is this the kind of society you view as being "in line"?

While Christianity is still prominent in western nations, people have learnt to revolve their religion around their lives, rather than their lives around their religion. Herein lies the reason for western civilisations greatness. The day the Hajj becomes an obscurity is the day that the Arab world is on the path to civilisation.

Link to post
Share on other sites

amorparatodavida: Morals are necessary... it is true that, in western society, many people use religion as no more than an arbitrary set of morals. However, arbitrary morals are no better than no morals at all, especially if they are actively followed. Ask yourself what led to the crusades, and fundamentalist Islam... arbitrary morals and the faith to follow them.

Most christians today, however, merely claim to be christians and do nothing in the way of actually following the religion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

ok i do have to correct myself, invictus. when i referred to religion i was talking about the common christianity we face in america. sorry about the confusion.

yes, i agree with you about how now in the Western civilization religion revolves around people's lives. other places...well we all know what about religion overpowering all.

i think religion is just like communism. both were thought up with the best ideals, and the worst intentions.....

oh, to live in a world where we praise God and are all equal.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...