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Can politeness be reconciled w/ justice in O'ism?

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AwakeAndFree, what is "real politeness"? As opposed to what? To etiquette applied for the sake of purposeless convention -- that is, convention for its own sake?

Also, I do not understand what you mean by saying that being polite is applying justice to the realm of impersonal relations. 

First, justice is the virtue of "judging a man's character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion[.]" (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, p. 51.) So, how does being polite to a stranger at a dinner party apply justice?

Second, what do you mean by "impersonal relations"? Aren't all social relations personal?

Well yes, "real politeness" as opposed to dogmatic etiquette upheld for its own sake.

By saying "Impersonal relations" I meant to stress that politeness should not apply in close relationships - not with lovers, friends, or even close family members. The reason is that once in those relationships, a person has a specific understanding of the person he's dealing with, and can taylor his behavior rather than stick to general guidelines.

As to applying justice to new relationships - this is exactly what politeness is: You don't know the person very well yet, so you treat him with a certain amount of respect; saying in effect: I will hold you worthy of respect until proven otherwise.

This is different from "having good manners" which does not entail respect at all. Francisco D'Anconia and Rhett Butler are two very good example of this kind of well bred insolence. When the situation called for it, they were often good mannered, without being polite.

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Do debaters and discussers need a narrower principle to guide them? I am not sure, but I suspect not. If I have a clear hierarchy of values, I would think the principle of acting in one's long-term, selfish interests would be enough.

If narrower (more specific) principles were unnecessary, Ayn Rand could have stopped after page 18 of "The Virtue of Selfishness".

One issue which arose in the Debate forum and also in "Perfecting Logic" is whether a participant has some kind of obligation to answer questions. If a question is ignored or answered in a way which the questioner considers inadequate, should he confront the other participant? And if so, how?

Maintaining a (justified) reputation among good people for certain characteristics (knowledge, honesty, et al) increases my opportunities for trading with like-minded individuals who have something worth trading.
Yes. For example, you are more likely to get return customers, if you provide a reliable product, good service when customers have problems, and a money back guarantee. And as you say, it only makes sense to do this when the customer pays his bills and does not cause unnecessary trouble.

...  a confrontation is a switch of attention from content to manner.

Yes.

...  why do you think that an alleged implication of being unable to answer would be an insult?
Telling a person that he lacks a capability, whether true or not, is humiliating and tends to provoke anger. If you did not have to say it, then it was insulting and impolite.

Why? People have an involuntary tendency to believe what they are told by others. So saying to someone that he is less capable than you think that he should be tends to lower his self-respect. If it appears that you are saying it to achieve that effect, then it will be perceived as an attack.

My example of a confrontation was primarily intended as an example. But if you chose to construe it as confronting you, then it would have had the same effect as if I had confronted you. And pointing out your insult, at least, was actually pointing out an error on your part. You could have simply asked to what extent he agreed with Objectivism.

...  when should one confront another person about his behavior ...

Not just when, but how (in what way).

I would rather not go into an analysis of LauricAcid's actions. I think it would take us too far afield from this thread, and it would force me to choose sides between you two and thus offend at least one of you.

Asking about a particular philosophical belief which is relevant to the discussion is not confrontational. Asking about his entire philosophy is confrontational.

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  • 2 weeks later...
... whether a participant has some kind of obligation to answer questions. If a question is ignored or answered in a way which the questioner considers inadequate, should he confront the other participant? And if so, how?

Since no one else has answered this question which I consider to be of crucial importance, I will give it a try myself.

There is no obligation to answer questions. However, failure to answer may result in a breakdown of communication.

Only the mildest form of confrontation is appropriate -- repeating the question or giving notice that it has not been answered yet.

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Since no one else has answered this question which I consider to be of crucial importance, I will give it a try myself.

There is no obligation to answer questions. However, failure to answer may result in a breakdown of communication.

Only the mildest form of confrontation is appropriate -- repeating the question or giving notice that it has not been answered yet.

I believe, in the interest of self-respect, dignity, refinement, and culture you have a duty to yourself to answer any question, (as you say, even an "I don't know" or "Let me get back to you" is sufficient, in the interest of keeping dialogue going). I think, thusly, that politeness is a highly important virtue to an Objectivist. If every man is an end unto himself then we all must demand the most of ourselves in every possible capacity up to and including etiquette and temperment. If someone is unjust and you address them in a rude manner, this would indicate that their injustice is getting to you, and you have to be better than that. We are absolutely called to identify and stamp out any injustice in the interest of our own good, but we can't get self-righteous or preachy about it because that would mean that we want to "teach those punks a lesson," which to me is anti-objectivist. To me, the Objectivist belief is in retribution, not rehabilitation, and the unjust must suffer the penalties because they know the rules and chose to break them of their own accord. What difference does it make to us that they made a stupid decision?

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Objectivists have said that Justice requires that one be intolerant of evil and of error.

Yet Politeness, which is commonly considered to be a virtue, demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others.

So my question is -- can Politeness be reconciled with Justice? Is there a polite way to dispense justice? Or must Objectivists be impolite?

Politeness for me always had a connotation of "tact over truth" in which case you're doing yourself no favours by being tactful instead of honest with people. For me the best was to be polite is just not to verbalise my thoughts when in a group discussion. When I'm being directly questioned or in a one-on-one conversation I am just as blunt as I can be--direct and honest.

For the people I consider evil, who I still see and for some reason or another they still think of me as a friend, I don't tell them to piss off when I see them, but I don't stand there and ask them about their lives.

Don't be overly concerned with politeness--it's over rated and you are just liable to let Politeness win over truth and honesty.

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  • 1 month later...

Manners are [EDIT: is] justice in the confines of respect. You can be "rude" (which just means disrespectful - it comes in many forms) while still maintaining irreproachable manners. As Egoists, we (Objectivists) don't observe any standard outside the judgement of our own minds. Consequently, stating our mind will often be considered as rude, or harsh, or cruel, or many another adjective.

To be rude means to be unjustly disrespectful. The inverse, called supplicating, is to be unjustly respectful/polite.

Politeness means to be (justly, by default) respectful. You can use your own judgement and err, and thus be rude: a rational man will correct his mistake by apologising.

I hope that clears things up.

Edited by iouswuoibev
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Politeness for me always had a connotation of "tact over truth" in which case you're doing yourself no favours by being tactful instead of honest with people.

But it's important to realize that they don't have to be alternatives. One can be truthful and polite.

I can say the same thing in at least two different ways;

1) I do not think you are grasping the idea as well as you should.

2) Can't you get this idea through your thick freakin' skull?

They are each equally honest, but one is more polite than the other.

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I believe, in the interest of self-respect, dignity, refinement, and culture you have a duty to yourself to answer any question, (as you say, even an "I don't know" or "Let me get back to you" is sufficient, in the interest of keeping dialogue going).

I disagree that it represents a duty to myself to entertain someone else's questions. I can have self-respect, dignity and the other qualities you mention without entertaining anyone else's curiosity, idle or otherwise, depending on the context of the situation. I need only ask myself, what value does it represent to me to answer a given question by a given person.

If every man is an end unto himself then we all must demand the most of ourselves in every possible capacity up to and including etiquette and temperment.
ONLY IF a specific level of ettiquette or temperment represents a value to you in the context you are handling.

What difference does it make to us that they made a stupid decision?

If that stupid decision involves my property being stolen, or a knife or gunshot wound in my gut, it makes a significant difference to me. Anger and/or rudeness are just emotions which can be justly expressed in the right contexts.

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Asking about a particular philosophical belief which is relevant to the discussion is not confrontational. Asking about his entire philosophy is confrontational.

I still don't understand what you mean by "confrontational." I apologize for being slow here, but I am also trying to be very careful about defining the ideas we are using in this topic. They are personally and professionally important to me. So, could you define the fact first -- What is confrontation? -- and then explain why you think it is good or bad -- or, if either, in which circumstances?

I am not asking for a whole treatise, just brief comments so I can respond: What is confrontation? Is it good or bad? (If both, then which would it be in the context of discussion or debate?)

Perhaps you could use the statement I quoted above as an example of when some behavior is confrontational (and therefore presumably bad?) and when similar but not identical behavior is non-confrontational. In other words, why would asking about a particular philosophical principle be not confrontational, but asking about one's philosophy as a whole would be confrontational?

If "relevance" is the distinguishing characteristic, then I would wonder why you think asking only about a particular belief is relevant, but asking about the identity of one's philosophy -- which sets the context for everything else thought and said -- would not be relevant.

Edited by BurgessLau
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What is confrontation?

I thought that we had already reached agreement on this. Remember:

By "confront", I mean to break away from the normal flow of argument and bring attention to an error or supposed error of the other person. This may be coupled with a threat to break off communication or to report the offense or alleged offense to the authorities.

In the context of a discussion or debate (and perhaps elsewhere in society), a confrontation is a redirection of attention from a common subject to the persons involved, that is, to their behavior in the particular common project.

.....

In short, a confrontation is a switch of attention from content to manner.

I agreed with this in my Post #28. Let me emphasize your: "to the persons involved".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Is [confrontation] good or bad?

Whether it is good or bad depends on the circumstances. It should not be done unnecessarily.

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... why would asking about a particular philosophical principle be not confrontational, but asking about one's philosophy as a whole would be confrontational?

Asking about a particular principle fits into the flow of the discussion. And most intellectuals are able to answer questions of that sort without too much difficulty.

Asking about one's entire philosophy requires one to stop and think about what one's beliefs are and how much of them one can reasonably explain. I think that if I were to try to explain COMPLETELY where I agree and disagree with Objectivism, I could go on for days. It is too big a question to fit within a discussion of a specific topic.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If "relevance" is the distinguishing characteristic, then I would wonder why you think asking only about a particular belief is relevant, but asking about the identity of one's philosophy -- which sets the context for everything else thought and said -- would not be relevant.

Full context is everything. And everything is relevant to some degree. But it is impossible to provide such a full context or to explain everything which is relevant. One must focus on what is MOST relevant.

Edited by jrs
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Asking about a particular principle fits into the flow of the discussion. And most intellectuals are able to answer questions of that sort without too much difficulty.

I do not see how the difficulty "most intellectuals" have or don't have is relevant to my need to know the context from which another person is speaking. Why should I -- in either a discussion or a debate -- care about the difficulties of others when my purpose is to learn or win, respectively?

Asking about one's entire philosophy requires one to stop and think about what one's beliefs are and how much of them one can reasonably explain. I think that if I were to try to explain COMPLETELY where I agree and disagree with Objectivism, I could go on for days. It is too big a question to fit within a discussion of a specific topic.
From this statement I infer now, for the first time, that you are not an Objectivist, that is, a person who agrees with every element of the philosophy that Ayn Rand created, as far as you have studied it. (A person's philosophy does not include that person's views on particular sciences such as history or the psychology of homosexuality, for example, or on personal views of particular works of art.) Is my inference correct?

Perhaps we are having a miscommunication on one point. I never have asked anyone to identify every element of his philosophy. I have asked individuals, including Lauric Acid, to name their philosophy and -- if it is unknown to me or it has no name -- to identify the essentials of that philosophy ("standing on one foot").

So I wonder if you think I was asking for a complete (your word) inventory of anyone's philosophy. If so, then perhaps you have inadvertently created a strawman argument.

Full context is everything. And everything is relevant to some degree. But it is impossible to provide such a full context or to explain everything which is relevant. One must focus on what is MOST relevant.

Absolutely. That is why, when I asked Lauric Acid for a definition of "logic" -- in a thread on logic -- and received no answer except a link to dictionary usages, I began to wonder what context Lauric Acid was speaking from. Hence the question: What is your philosophy?

Is it Objectivism? If yes, then "Yes" answers my question and allows me to proceed with the discussion. If the answer is "No, its the Christian philosophy of Thomas Aquinas," then I can ask one or two more questions -- perhaps about the relevant epistemological principle(s) -- and get on with the discussion, assuming that the person I am asking is not a troll in disguise, one violating forum rules by advocating non-Objectivist positions outside the context permitted. But if the answer is evasive, then my suspicions are rightly raised about the motivations of the person I am speaking to.

To summarize, the choice is not between asking about one principle versus asking about every element of a vast philosophy. The choice is much simpler: Name the philosophy, or, if it isn't known well by name, then simply essentialize.

Of course, as always in life, "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. But in that case, the person is admitting that he may have a floating -- that is, contextless -- belief about a particular subject such as logic.

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Why should I -- in either a discussion or a debate -- care about the difficulties of others when my purpose is to learn or win, respectively?

If you ask a question which is unreasonably difficult to answer, then the other party may choose not to answer and/or he may decide that you are an unreasonable person. Even if he does answer, you should expect answers to more difficult questions to: be less precise; be more likely to be wrong; or have unmentioned exceptions.

... you are not an Objectivist, that is, a person who agrees with every element of the philosophy that Ayn Rand created, as far as you have studied it.

.....

to identify the essentials of that philosophy ("standing on one foot").

.....

... perhaps you have inadvertently created a straw-man argument.

I study Objectivism; and I do not study any other philosophy. I use it as a starting point for my thinking about philosophy. However, I have disagreements with Ayn Rand on numerous particular points.

What are you asking about? Is it "every element" or "the essentials"? You seem to be contradicting yourself.

If you made it clear that you were only talking about the essentials (Reality, Reason, Self-Interest, Capitalism, and Romantic Realism; to put it generally), then I would agree that my objection was a straw-man. It is not hard to affirm or disavow these five things in a general way. (And I do affirm them. But I am sure that many people on this forum would disagree with me about the details of some of them.)

Of course, as always in life, "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. But in that case, the person is admitting that he may have a floating -- that is, contextless -- belief about a particular subject such as logic.

Yes. Unfortunately, that is the state of most persons' thinking.

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Let me emphasize your: [defining "confrontation" as switching the subject of discussion] "to the persons involved".

[My comment inserted in square brackets, for sense, to avoid nested quotes.]

I am more confused than ever by parts of your position, but maybe, later in this post, I can offer a distinction that will resolve some of the dispute.

If confrontation in discussion/debate is switching the subject of discussion/debate from an abstract issue (which might apply to anyone, anywhere, at any time) to focusing on one of the persons involved in the discussion/debate, then I do not see why asking the other discussant/debater to name his philosophy (or, in the absence of a name, to essentialize it), as the context for the discussion/debate, is confrontational.

Do you believe that you are your philosophy? I don't believe that about myself. My philosophy is my guide in life, but I am much more than my philosophy, just as I am much more than any one particular belief.

In short, why do you think that if I, for example, ask you -- in a discussion on logic -- to name/essentialize your philosophy so that I will be better able to understand your comments, that that is making you as a person, jrs, the subject of the discussion?

By contrast, here is an example of what I mean by making the other person the subject of a discussion/debate. Let's say we are discussing the anarchists and Islamo-fascists in France, and the question is what should a proper government do to stop the attacks on innocent people and on property. Then I suddenly I ask whether you are homosexual, or whether you prefer strawberry over vanilla ice cream, or whether you are a coward in battle, or whether you are an evader. By presenting such points, I would be making you -- your personal preferences, your core virtues or vices -- the subject of discussion.

The issue wouldn't be mere "relevance," but instead I would actually be switching to discussing you as a person. That would be improper etiquette. Why? Because etiquette is the art and science of formulating and applying principles and rules to social relations for the purpose of facilitating trade among individuals. Switching the subject of discussion from philosophical to personal doesn't facilitate trade of philosophical ideas.

If we are discussing/debating the actions of a proper government, we are talking about an issue of philosophy. Asking for your philosophy -- as a whole, by name or by essentials, but especially your politics, ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics -- would be not merely pertinent but cognitively necessary if I am to understand your comments. Yes, it's your philosophy I am asking about, but that doesn't mean I am making you as a person the subject. The reason I would be asking about your context-setting philosophy in the discussion/debate is that your comments would have no meaning independent of the context from which you speak.

In conclusion, I reject your contention that asking for another discussant/debater's philosophical context -- particularly in a philosophical discussion/debate -- (1) is confrontational (as defined before) and (2) is therefore improper etiquette in this setting. Stated positively, asking for someone's philosophy as a way of establishing context is both necessary and proper.

I would agree however that one person asking for the other discussant/debater to name/essentialize his philosophy is stylistically confrontational, and perhaps this distinction has not been clear to either one of us. (Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss this subject, because I am learning more as I go along.)

Tentatively, in the absence of better terminology, I would propose a distinction between:

1. Confrontation as an improper procedure. Switching the subject of discussion/debate from ideas to one of the persons, qua person, in the discussion/debate. This we agree is wrong in terms of etiquette.

2. Confrontation as a style of engagement. For example, two debaters can discuss a subject "at a distance," that is, without any reference to themselves or each other, even casually. Or they can address each other as persons: "Bill, what you just said contradicts my whole lifetime of experience," or "Jane, your position here undercuts what you said over there."

In a totally nonconfrontational style, debaters might, for example, always use third person: "Ethically, one must ..." and "Applying the virtue of justice to this situation in France results in ..." and so forth.

Or the debaters can use a confrontational style: "Gladys, even though I know you work for the Libertarian Party, as you said in your pre-debate resume, I am still astounded to hear you defend the French arsonists as 'freedom fighters struggling against the state' -- when they have beaten to death an innocent old man and burned hundreds of privately owned cars."

SUMMARY OF MY POSITION: (1) I reject the idea that asking a debater to name/essentialize his philosophy, in a philosophical discussion, is confrontational in the sense of turning him into the subject. (2) Whether or not a confrontational style -- addressing the other person as a person rather than impersonally -- is improper etiquette in a debate would depend on what the debaters had agreed to in the beginning. If there were no previous agreement, then it should be considered acceptable etiquette.

Edited by BurgessLau
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If you ask a question which is unreasonably difficult to answer, then the other party may choose not to answer and/or he may decide that you are an unreasonable person.

First, if a difficult question leads a discussant/debater to not answer, then he is withdrawing from the discussion/debate. If I had withdrawn from every discussion or debate because another person had posed a difficult question, then I would never have been able to finish any discussion or debate.

Jrs, the whole point of discussion and debate is to deal with difficult questions -- the more difficult, the better. (I have no idea what you mean by "unreasonably difficult.") Every discussant/debater should welcome "difficult" questions, especially if that means questions that require philosophical detection, that is, ones that might reveal underlying principles.

Further, relevant to the quote above, if I am in a discussion/debate, why should I care whether a question I pose is difficult to answer? If the question is necessary for eliciting information that I need to pursue the discussion/debate, then I will ask it. If the other person were to say, "That is difficult to answer," then I would ask, "Why?" and follow up from there in any one of several directions depending on what he says.

Also, if you will permit a touch of sarcasm, in relation to your caution that I might be considered an "unreasonable person," then my reaction must be: "Yikes!" If insisting on logically necessary information is "unreasonable," then so be it. Why should I care what others think about me in such situations -- especially when they are wrong?

Even if he does answer, you should expect answers to more difficult questions to: be less precise; be more likely to be wrong; or have unmentioned exceptions.
Well, in a debate, where I am trying to win a prize, then the situation you describe is simply good tactics. In a discussion, the issue of such questions as -- What is your philosophy? -- is an issue of cognitive basics (causality in ideas). Further, if the question is difficult, and fundamentally important, but leads the other discussant to errors -- then good! Such problems are an opportunity to probe for the cause and thus lead possibly to a breakthrough.

I study Objectivism [...] However, I have disagreements with Ayn Rand on numerous particular points.

What are some examples? This question should be very easy for you to answer. For you to identify the disagreements as "numerous," you must have first identified the disagreements. I am not asking for an exhaustive list, but only for a few. The ones I am most interested in are the ones in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics -- that is, the ones that are fundamental to our discussion of etiquette (which is an application of ethics to social relations that involve trade).

What are you asking about? Is it "every element" or "the essentials"? You seem to be contradicting yourself.

If you think I am contradicting myself, please show me the evidence. Taking one brief quote from one passage of text, in one context, and juxtaposing it to another brief quote from another passage of text, in another context, and then suggesting contradiction doesn't do the job.

Since you are not an Objectivist, and especially since you are apparently beginning your study of Objectivism, I need to ask an obvious question: What do you mean by "contradiction"?

Informally stated, what I mean by "contradiction" is saying that a thing is A and not-A in the same way, at the same time, and in the same circumstances (and therefore same context). Now, can you show me how I contradicted myself in speaking about asking another person to (1) name his philosophy, OR (2) essentialize his philosophy (if it doesn't have a generally recognized name), OR (to show that he is an Objectivist) (3) affirm complete agreement with Objectivism?

Holding contradictions in one's thinking leads to disaster, if the ideas are fundamental. So, I am eager to see your proof that I am holding a contradiction. Then I can correct my problem.

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SUMMARY OF MY POSITION: (1) I reject the idea that asking a debater to name/essentialize his philosophy, in a philosophical discussion, is confrontational in the sense of turning him into the subject. (2) Whether or not a confrontational style -- addressing the other person as a person rather than impersonally -- is improper etiquette in a debate would depend on what the debaters had agreed to in the beginning. If there were no previous agreement, then it should be considered acceptable etiquette.

I totally disagree with you on both points.

Jrs, the whole point of discussion and debate is to deal with difficult questions -- the more difficult, the better.

.....

Why should I care what others think about me in such situations -- especially when they are wrong?

Everyone has a limit on the complexity of what he can comprehend. And even if he can comprehend it, he may not be able to explain it given the constraints of the English language. And even if he can explain it in a way that would be clear to some people, there may be many others who would find it incomprehensible.

I was tempted to respond to your lack of concern for your co-discussant's needs by simply not answering at all.

Further, if the question is difficult, and fundamentally important, but leads the other discussant to errors -- then good! Such problems are an opportunity to probe for the cause and thus lead possibly to a breakthrough.
One does not arrive at the truth thru errors.

What are some examples?

Beginning on page one of OPAR:

1. "... man by his nature as a conceptual being, cannot function AT ALL without some form of philosophy to serve as his guide." (page 1, emphasis added) is false.

2. "Your only CHOICE, she continues, is whether your principles are true or false, rational or irrational, consistent or contradictory." (page 2, emphasis added) is false. One does not choose truth or falsity.

3. "For a philosophic idea to function properly as a guide, one must know the FULL system to which it belongs." (page 3, emphasis added) is impossible to implement.

4. "Even lower are the men of an advanced civilization who -- thanks to the work of a genius such as Aristotle -- know the explicit identification of the axioms, then consciously reject them." (page 9) is an ad hominem and argument by intimidation. It also assumes incorrectly that all men in the advanced civilization are fully familiar with Aristotle.

5. "Entities constitute the content of the world men perceive; there is nothing else to observe. ... none of these categories has metaphysical PRIMACY; all represent merely aspects of entities." (page 13, emphasis added) confuses epistemological primacy with metaphysical primacy.

6. "If, under the same circumstances, several actions were possible ... such incompatible outcomes would HAVE to derive from incompatible (contradictory) aspects of the entity's nature." (pages 14 & 15, emphasis added) is not justified and may be false.

Et cetera.

Now, can you show me how I contradicted myself in speaking about asking another person to (1) name his philosophy, OR (2) essentialize his philosophy (if it doesn't have a generally recognized name), OR (to show that he is an Objectivist) (3) affirm complete agreement with Objectivism?
Suppose you asked me to name my philosophy and I said that I am an Objectivist. Would you understand me to be saying: (1) that I agree completely with Ayn Rand on philosophy; or (2) that I agree with her on the essentials which can be stated "standing on one foot"?

The first is supported by the first part of the following quotation. The second is supported by the second part.

... you are not an Objectivist, that is, a person who agrees with every element of the philosophy that Ayn Rand created, as far as you have studied it.

.....

I never have asked anyone to identify every element of his philosophy. I have asked individuals, including Lauric Acid, to name their philosophy and -- if it is unknown to me or it has no name -- to identify the essentials of that philosophy ("standing on one foot").

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1. "... man by his nature as a conceptual being, cannot function AT ALL without some form of philosophy to serve as his guide." (page 1, emphasis added) is false.

You had to use philosophy to arrive at that conclusion. You can't think without at least some basic assumptions about reality. The assumptions may not be explicit in your mind, but they are there.

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1. "... man, by his nature as a conceptual being, cannot function AT ALL without some form of philosophy to serve as his guide." (page 1, emphasis added) is false.

You had to use philosophy to arrive at that conclusion. You can't think without at least some basic assumptions about reality. The assumptions may not be explicit in your mind, but they are there.

Notice that the word "philosophy" refers to one's aggregate of EXPLICIT philosophical ideas. Implicit ideas do not count as philosophy, even if their content is similar.

Philosophical ideas, if true, are helpful; and may be necessary for more advanced thinking. But the sentence in question says that one cannot function "at all" without philosophy. This is impossible, because one could never arrive at such true philosophical ideas in the first instance without being able to function at all.

By the time men begin to philosophize, they are adults who have acquired a complex set of concepts.

How did they survive to adulthood? How did they acquire a complex set of concepts? How did they begin to philosophize? If they were not functioning "at all", they could not have done these things.

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Notice that the word "philosophy" refers to one's aggregate of EXPLICIT philosophical ideas.

That's the source of your misunderstanding. There is such a thing as an implicit philosophy. Everyone has a certain view of existence, whether they are able to state it in words or not.

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Everyone has a limit on the complexity of what he can comprehend. And even if he can comprehend it, he may not be able to explain it given the constraints of the English language. And even if he can explain it in a way that would be clear to some people, there may be many others who would find it incomprehensible.

I do not understand what you are talking about. Why should others' ignorance deter me from trying to win a debate or pursue a discussion to meet my selfish needs?

Further I reject the implied skepticism that runs through your comments.

I was tempted to respond to your lack of concern for your co-discussant's needs by simply not answering at all.
Are you concerned about others as a standard by which to adjust your own actions? Are you an altruist?

One does not arrive at the truth thru errors.

I do, and quite frequently. If you are trying to say that epistemologically the process of inducing or deducing truth is free of errors, you are right. But psycho-epistemologically and methodologically, cognition and analysis of errors is one important path leading to truth, that is, identification of facts of reality.

Suppose you asked me to name my philosophy and I said that I am an Objectivist. Would you understand me to be saying: (1) that I agree completely with Ayn Rand on philosophy; or (2) that I agree with her on the essentials which can be stated "standing on one foot"?

In this forum, all other factors being equal, I would assume number 1 because that is the meaning of "Objectivist," at least the last time I looked at the Forum Rules (which may have changed). If then I saw you write something which contradicts that assumption, I would question you about it. If you said you disagree with even one element of Ayn Rand's philosophy, then I would know that you are not an Objectivist.

(By the way, when you say "Ayn Rand on philosophy," I assume you mean "Ayn Rand's philosophy." Ayn Rand's views on earlier philosophers are historical views, that is, dealing with the history of philosophy.)

Someone who agrees with the essentials of Objectivsm, but not all of its characteristic elements is not an Objectivist. So, if you agree with Ayn Rand's on-one-foot statement of Objectiivism -- which she presented for a certain purpose -- but no other elements, you would not be an Objectivist.

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Suppose you asked me to name my philosophy and I said that I am an Objectivist. Would you understand me to be saying: (1) that I agree completely with Ayn Rand on philosophy; or (2) that I agree with her on the essentials which can be stated "standing on one foot"?

The first is supported by the first part of the following quotation. The second is supported by the second part.

Following is the text to which you referred:

... [1]you are not an Objectivist, that is, a person who agrees with every element of the philosophy that Ayn Rand created, as far as you have studied it.

.....

[2] I never have asked anyone to identify every element of his philosophy. [3] I have asked individuals, including Lauric Acid, to name their philosophy and -- if it is unknown to me or it has no name -- to identify the essentials of that philosophy ("standing on one foot").

[i have added numbers in square brackets.]

Jrs, I am completely bewildered. Are the quotations you have provided supposed to be evidence of a contradiction in what I have said? If so, you need to spell out the contradiction. I don't see it. And while you are at it, please define what you mean by "contradiction."

In [1] immediately above, I define what I mean by "Objectivist." In [2] immediately above, I state accurately that I have never asked anyone to identify every element of his philosophy. If you think I have, then show me where I said, "Identify every element of your philosophy."

In [3] immediately above, I explain that when I suspect I am dealing with someone who is not an Objectivist, then I ask him to either name his philosophy (Kantianism, Platonism, etc. so that I will recognize it by name) OR (in the absence of a recognizable name) to essentialize it -- so that I will know what I am dealing with, as general background if I continue to read or participate in the thread..

Now, if you see a contradiction there, please -- I ask once again -- show me where it is. State it, please, and define "contradiction" so we can make sure we are talking about the same thing.

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Notice that the word "philosophy" refers to one's aggregate of EXPLICIT philosophical ideas. Implicit ideas do not count as philosophy, even if their content is similar.

That's the source of your misunderstanding. There is such a thing as an implicit philosophy. Everyone has a certain view of existence, whether they are able to state it in words or not.

I tried to find a quotation which would support my claim that philosophy is explicit, but I could not find one. And I did see one use of "explicit philosophy" which could be taken to imply that there is such a thing as an implicit philosophy. So I withdraw my claim; and I accept your position that philosophy also includes implicit ideas.

...the sentence in question says that one cannot function "at all" without philosophy. This is impossible, because one could never arrive at such true philosophical ideas in the first instance without being able to function at all.

I suppose that it is reasonable to bend the meaning of "at all" far enough to exclude an infant's first learning of the axioms and their corollaries in an implicit form. So I withdraw my objection to the third sentence in chapter one of OPAR.

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Everyone has a limit on the complexity of what he can comprehend. ...

I do not understand what you are talking about.

In your post #40, you said "... the more difficult [the question being discussed or debated], the better.". But if it is too difficult, you may not be able to understand it. Or your co-discussant may not be able to understand it. In either case, the discussion would then be futile.

Why should others' ignorance deter me from trying to win a debate or pursue a discussion to meet my selfish needs?
Because it would NOT meet your needs. Unless you are merely interested in scoring points in a debate which is not what we are doing in this forum. Is it?

Further I reject the implied skepticism that runs through your comments.

What have I said that makes you think that I am a skeptic?

Are you concerned about others as a standard by which to adjust your own actions? Are you an altruist?
No. But, as a rational person, I am concerned about how my actions affect other people BECAUSE it affects how those people react and those reactions affect me. You yourself said that people should be polite to facilitate commerce between them.

I do [arrive at the truth thru errors], and quite frequently.

I agree that an analysis of one's own errors is very important -- in order to correct them and avoid similar errors in the future. But you said that a difficult issue which "leads the other discussant to errors" is good. Creating confusion in either discussant is counter-productive.

I will try again, but with a broader question that -- like the two preceding questions -- will help set a context for interpreting your various comments in this thread: In terms of essentials, what is your philosophy?

This is typical of the type of question which you often ask of other members. I quote it here to set the context for my next point.

Someone who agrees with the essentials of Objectivism, but not all of its characteristic elements is not an Objectivist.

So how should someone like me (and, I suspect, virtually all members of this forum) who agrees with the essentials of Objectivism, but not every single idea, answer your standard question? Do I say that I am "essentially an Objectivist" or a "quasi-Objectivist" or what?

And what about you, Burgess? Are you an Objectivist or a quasi-Objectivist or what?

Would someone who agrees with Kant on 95% of his philosophy be a Kantian? Or must one agree with 100% to qualify?

Are you an Objectivist?

I state accurately that I have never asked anyone to identify every element of his philosophy. If you think I have, then show me where I said, "Identify every element of your philosophy.".

Given your definition of "Objectivist", asking whether someone is an Objectivist amounts to asking whether "every element of his philosophy" agrees with Ayn Rand's. So while you may not have EXPLICITLY asked for "every element of his philosophy" (and thus not contradicted yourself), you have done something which is tantamount to that.

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Unless someone posts a major new point about the primary subject of this thread, this post is my last post. Before I unsubscribe, I want to offer brief responses to jrs's most recent statements and questions.

In your post #40, you said "... the more difficult [the question being discussed or debated], the better.". But if it is too difficult, you may not be able to understand it. Or your co-discussant may not be able to understand it. In either case, the discussion would then be futile.

Absolutely! CASE 1. If the "too difficult" question is the subject of the debate or discussion, then there can't be a debate or discussion.

CASE 2. However, if I need to ask an intermediate, instrumental question to win a debate or to facilitate a discussion, that is, to solve a mutual problem, what should I do if the question is "too difficult" for the other debater or discussants? Should I give up, out of sensitivity to others? Should I fake an easier question, even though it won't lead to the results I want (victory in a debate, or a solution to the problem in a discussion)? I say neither. I should go ahead and ask the "too difficult" question.

CASE A. When I enter into a philosophical debate, I have a purpose in mind. That sets context. I also know the subject -- or I wouldn't be debating it. So, to claim that an instrumental question leading to the subject under debate is "too difficult," would make no sense. I wonder here, again, if you are a skeptic -- that is, I wonder if you hold that the mind can't grasp certain problems and there are "limits to reason."

CASE B-1. When I enter into a philosophical discussion, I know what my purpose is and I have some idea of the nature of the people I am discussing the problem with, if not at the beginning then surely after I have heard the other discussants speak. If I decide that they are unprepared -- through lack of intelligence or training or willingness -- to discuss the issue, then I stop discussing it. It is that simple. But one thing for sure is that I would not hold back presenting a difficult, instrumental question if that is what is required to solve the problem, in either a discussion or a debate. Holding back would be pointless.

CASE B-2. Of course, if the discussion is about a technical problem, such as the molecular structure of a certain organic substance, then, yes, that would be too difficult for me because I have no training in such a subject. But, I wouldn't enter such a discussion in the first place. So, here too, the situation you describe wouldn't even arise. For example, I usually don't participate in technical discussions in ObjectivismOnline.net -- unless I can approach them dialectically, that is, unless I can query the supposed technical experts in terms that will reveal, for example, contradictions in their claims; or contradictions between their claims and philosophical facts I know to be true; or underlying premises that are contrary to those assumed for ObjectivismOnline.net.

Because it would NOT meet your needs. Unless you are merely interested in scoring points in a debate which is not what we are doing in this forum. Is it?
When you say "this forum," I assume you mean this topic ("thread") on politeness and justice. In that case, the answer is: "No, first of all, because this topic is not a debate, but a discussion. If it were a debate, we would be in the Debate Forum, which was made partly for non-Objectivists such as yourself.

Of course, discussants may use debate within a discussion, as a means to an end. But if I were in a full debate then of course I would be trying to "score points." That is part of what it means to debate, as I've noted before: To win a prize. (Most debaters have other purposes as well, but that's another subject.)

What have I said that makes you think that I am a skeptic?

Following is what you said earlier that made me think you are a skeptic, at least by implication (intended or not):

:

Everyone has a limit on the complexity of what he can comprehend. And even if he can comprehend it, he may not be able to explain it given the constraints of the English language. And even if he can explain it in a way that would be clear to some people, there may be many others who would find it incomprehensible.

[underlining added for emphasis.]

First and most importantly, you are saying that language -- English, the one we are communicating in -- has limits. There are none such. Language is the medium of thought. To claim limits to language is to claim limits to thought, because thought is expressed in language. To claim limits to thought is to claim limits to knowledge, which is a product of thought. A skeptic is one who claims limits to knowledge, to one degree or another, whether he is a moderate or extreme skeptic.

Now, if the problem with a question being "too difficult" is strictly that it is too complex (multipart), rather than too profound (hierarchical), then isn't the solution obvious? Simplify -- either by essentializing or by breaking the question into logically connected pieces and dealing with them one at a time! The solution is not a sensitivity to others that leads one to avoid questions that are "too difficult."

Second, relevant to the quote above, no one can comprehend a fact and not be able to explain it. To comprehend is to explain either that the fact is or (ideally) also why the fact is the way it is. That is what comprehension is. In fact, being able to explain is a way of testing one's comprehension.

No. But, as a rational person, I am concerned about how my actions affect other people BECAUSE it affects how those people react and those reactions affect me. You yourself said that people should be polite to facilitate commerce between them.
To the last, yes, assuming they have something worth trading in a discussion -- that is, that they can contribute efficiently to solving the mutual problem that provides the rationale for having the discussion in the first place.. But politeness has nothing to do with asking "too difficult" questions.

If, to solve a problem under discussion, I have to avoid asking a question that is "too difficult" for the other discussant to handle, then there is no possibility of having the discussion, in which case the issue of politeness in discussion is moot.

I agree that an analysis of one's own errors is very important -- in order to correct them and avoid similar errors in the future. But you said that a difficult issue which "leads the other discussant to errors" is good. Creating confusion in either discussant is counter-productive.

In the first place, leading a discussant to an identification of errors doesn't cause confusion but rather uncovers the confusion and is a step toward ending it.

A difficult question that leads a debater to an identification of error is good because it shows the weakness of his position. A difficult issue that leads a discussant to error is good because identifying errors -- and rectifying them -- is progress. And progress is good.

So how should someone like me [...]who agrees with the essentials of Objectivism, but not every single idea, answer your standard question? Do I say that I am "essentially an Objectivist" or a "quasi-Objectivist" or what?

That is easy to answer. Say something like this, first: "I am not an Objectivist. I don't agree with every element of Ayn Rand's philosophy that I have studied. But I do agree with most (or many or some or a few) elements."

Then you could qualify in whatever way is appropriate -- for example, "I agree with all of Ayn Rand's philosophy except that I think the axiomatic concepts of consciousness and existence should be joined by a third axiomatic concept, God." Or whatever your particular disagreements are.

And what about you, Burgess? Are you an Objectivist or a quasi-Objectivist or what?
I am an Objectivist -- that is, I agree with every element of Ayn Rand's philosophy as far as I have studied it. I haven't always agreed with every element. For example, I once (at 25) advocated "anarcho-capitalism," and before that (at 18) I was partly a conservative, one who was appalled at the idea of abolishing drug laws for adults (which means I rejected the principle of restricting government to retaliating against aggression and fraud).

If I were a moderator of ObjectivismOnline.net, I (at 61) would not allow Burgess Laughlin (at 18 or 25) to become a member -- unless he was willing to limit his participation to the Debate Forum.

Would someone who agrees with Kant on 95% of his philosophy be a Kantian? Or must one agree with 100% to qualify?

No. Yes.

Given your definition of "Objectivist", asking whether someone is an Objectivist amounts to asking whether "every element of his philosophy" agrees with Ayn Rand's. So while you may not have EXPLICITLY asked for "every element of his philosophy" (and thus not contradicted yourself), you have done something which is tantamount to that.

Being able to associate a proper name (such as "Objectivism" or "Mount Rushmore") to a thing does not mean one knows every feature of the thing named. So, your "amounts to" and your "tantamount to" are false.

I have run out of patience. I will leave the last word to you. If you have further comments and questions, perhaps others will respond.

Goodbye

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