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So I have this friend. He's a freshman in college, and a psychology major. I went to high school with the guy, and he's a good friend.

He's on some sort of crusade against Objectivism, and I still haven't figured out why. It almost seems as a giant personal attack. He has said he "doesn't want me to believe in a mistake." He brought up Dr. Ellis's "Is Objectivism a Religion?" book - an attack on Objectivism from 1962 that's out of print. He actually went out and bought the book. I have no problems with critics of Objectivism - but he's only read "some stuff online" and about a third of Atlas. He asks me how "I follow a flaw" and says he "feels there are problems with O'ism" and Dr. Ellis confirms it.

When I brought up the point that he's not bringing up anything but what others say - he says "points are points whether they are mine or not." Right now he's saying that his logic TA has a "friend that got fuxed up by objectivism."

Thoughts?

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Does he give any examples of what these flaws are? Did this TA's friend get "fuxed up by Objectivism," or by some misunderstanding/misapplication of Objectivism?

How much of an effect does his "crusade" have on an otherwise valuable friendship?

Are you an Objectivist or Student of Objectivism? If the latter, you might point out to your friend that you are still in the process of learning about the philosophy and are perfectly capable of recognizing any errors when and if you come across them. If the former, it's up to you to decide how much effort to put into defending your philosophy to others. It is my experience that almost all disagreements with Objectivism stem from a misunderstanding of it.

It's important that you are willing to listen to what your friends have to say, when they are actually saying something themselves. If I were in your position, I would point out that he doesn't understand the philosophy, and it would be more conducive to your continued friendship if he asked questions about where you are coming from, rather than attacking something that is a very high value to you. All that's going to accomplish is driving a wedge between you.

If he comes to you with a question, and you honestly don't have the answer, thank him for making a point you haven't considered before, and do think about it honestly, and reach your own conclusion. If he continues to make attacks based on other people's assertions, or isn't willing to honestly listen to what you have to say, I suggest making an explicit boundary around certain areas of life your friendship isn't to touch. If he can't discuss it like adults and accept that you might disagree with him, just label it "off limits" and continue sharing the things that are common values between you.

I had to follow a similar course of action with my closest and dearest friend. She was entirely receptive to the "question, don't attack" method of discussion, and because of it has lost a lot of her apprehension regarding Objectivism.

And yes, it definitely does matter where the arguments are originating, if he is the one making them. What he's doing is exactly what the "dogmatic Objectivists" do, and should be dismissed out of hand for exactly the same reasons. It seems he's allowing someone else to do his thinking for him, although it might cause more harm than good to point that out to him just yet (do keep it in mind for later on, though).

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Insist that he be specific in his attacks. He says you're following a mistake... Ask, "which idea of mine is mistaken?" Make him be as specific as possible.

If any argument is left after that (and often with attacks of this kind, there won't be), then address it.

[edit: I forgot the crucial question of whether or not you are an Objectivist and what your level of knowledge is. Sorry about that. Dondigitalia's answers to cover the possibilities of this question are good ones.]

Edited by Inspector
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I think you have been given some good ideas so far by dondigitalia and Inspector.

What may be relevant is how you personally value friendship versus how you value the philosophy that guides your life. I don't mean it's necessarily an either/or situation, but that may tailor your response.

If I were in your place, I'd tell my friend that I'm open to rational discussion on the issue, but I'm not open to being a target of a crusade or a conversion attempt. I have my own mind for which no other man is the keeper. I can understand why friends sometimes want to look out for what they think are the best interests of their buddies, but some folks take it too far.

[Edit - Grammar and clarification - RC]

Edited by RationalCop
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ObjectivismOnline.net has a debate forum perfectly suited for your friend. It will be an opportunity for him to put his thoughts into logical order -- and down in black and white. The debate can proceed with a very high level of etiquette.

Invite him to place his arguments here. I am certain there are qualified individuals here who will respond.

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neverborn,

I'd reason that one of two things is true. Either your friend is some hippie liberal whose incredibly delicate sensibilities are offended by Objectivist principles, or he is perhaps an actual rational thinker who has come up against--or has read a lot of material from people who have come up against (dong made a good point about him letting others do his thinking for him)--too many "Objectivist" dogmatics (contradiction in terms, hence the quotes) who discount objectivism (little O intended) in order to mold "their" ideals around things Rand might have said in passing or that some other so-called "Objectivist" improperly misconstrued from her philosophy. The latter is an issue I've had to deal with first hand from participating on this forum.

Ask that friend if his problem is with Objectivism, or with the lack of reason of so many who seek to label themselves "Objectivists." If the answer is the latter, tell your friend that he ought not crusade against Objectivism, but against irrationality. Tell him that he might need to read more of Rand's work and judge a little more for himself through reason (one of the fundamental principles of Objectivism). Tell him that true Objectivism is not about "believing" anything per se, but about knowledge through reason. Tell him that many supposed "Objectivists" have an inablity to divorce theory from practice (In other words, a self-labeled "Christian" who practices ritual human sacrifice, covets his neighbor's property, etc. is not much of a Christian, so his actions do not reflect on the religion). The same follows for Objectivism. Tell him that he would be wise not to make this same mistake if he is to make a rational judgement on the philosophy. Objectivism isn't a religion, but it is often treated as such, even by those who say they don't treat it as such. See what he says. Only then do I think you'll really know how to proceed on this matter.

Also, I wouldn't mind hearing some of his specific criticisms, myself.

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If I were in your place, I'd tell my friend that I'm open to rational discussion on the issue, but I'm not open to being a target of a crusade or a conversion attempt. I have my own mind for which no other man is the keeper. I can understand why friends sometimes want to look out for what they think are the best interests of their buddies, but some folks take it too far.

I think the above is great advice - except for the part about inviting rational discussion on the issue. It sounds like this friend is NOT capable of rational discussion on this particular issue and any attempt to do so would probably undercut the rest of the excellent advice.

My suggestion is to point out to your friend the specific things that you and he have in common and the traits of personality and character that you value in him. Then explain to him that, in order to preserve the friendship, you would like to keep it focused on the things that you have in common and not on your differences. If he does not immediately see the merit in what you are saying, point out to him that there are two forms of behavior that you simply will not tolerate in your friends: any attempt to "save your soul" and any attempt to recruit you into some sort of multi-level marketing ponzi scheme - and that he is becoming perilously close to the first and as obnoxious as the second. So long as you comply on your end of the agreement and do not bring the subject of Objectivism up in conversations with him, this is an entirely reasonable request and if he values your friendship, he should have no problem making an effort to comply with it

Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that he might not be willing to comply with such a request and will attempt to stay on your case until change your opinions according to his tastes. If he is simply unable to deal with the fact that you and he have differences of opinions on philosophical issues - well, that is a pretty good sign that the friendship is already over. Sometimes people change - especially when they are of college age. Perhaps he has changed since you knew him in high school. Or perhaps you are the one who has changed. Ultimately, if he has that much difficulty dealing with who you are and what you stand for, he may no longer be the sort of friend you thought he was.

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Assuming you value his friendship, here's an idea: you read the Ellis book and in return he reads Virtue of Selfishness. You both promise to actually read the two books by a certain date and to try to limit discussions about philosophy until you're both done.

Tell us which author wins.

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I have basically gone through the same situation with my brother (but from a different angle). He's an intelligent & somewhat rational person who is well read in history, politics and philosophy. However, he's a product of today's educational system and is full of contradictions (for example, he recognizes the value & benefits of capitalism but at the same time believes in the mixed economy and the welfare state). As I gained a deeper understanding of Objectivism I thought he would be a good person to discuss & explore the ideas presented. Long story short -- he reacted almost violently to the ideas, and I soon found myself faced with the impossible task of trying to teach him what Objectivism REALLY means and dispel his misconceptions & contradictions. I also soon realized that, as a fairly new student of Objectivism, there are others who are much more qualified than I to accomplish that task. So I gave him a recommended reading list (and even put the books in his hands myself). I then told him I would not be speaking to him about anything to do with the subject until he learns what the philosophy actually says & means, as opposed to spewing the regurgitated falsities & misconceptions he currently has.

We have not spoken of it since (it's been months), and I don't think he's reading the books I gave him.

So long as you comply on your end of the agreement and do not bring the subject of Objectivism up in conversations with him...

So that's where I stand with him at the moment. However, one thing that I'm finding very difficult about this tactic is that it's not just the subject of Objectivism that's off limits. I have found that any conversation of substance at all is off limits, due to the fact that if our core underlying ideas are conflicting then the logical application of those ideas to everyday issues invariably conflicts.

This is the case with my entire family, in fact (as they're a bunch of liberal socialist religious subjectivist pragmatists). I find myself constantly biting my tongue around them because challenging them on the often absurd garbage that comes out of their mouths would accomplish nothing. So I say nothing.

It's a difficult situation for me that I have not yet found a resolution to.

I don't mean to hijack your thread with my story -- I'm just hoping some insight into what I'm going through will help you, even though I don't have any good ideas to share.

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I find myself constantly biting my tongue around them because challenging them on the often absurd garbage that comes out of their mouths would accomplish nothing. So I say nothing.

This gets easier as time passes and you have integrated more and more of the right ideas. Once you come to understand and internalize (i.e. really understand) the real significance of their philosophy to your own life, you'll react with a familiar eye-roll and move on. Objectivism is a great value to have, but most people don't want to recognize it. As long as they step aside and let you value what you choose to value, that's OK. :)

Having disagreements with the people in your life who hold a different philosophy than you is inevitable. Most of the time, there's really nothing to be gained by verbally duking it out. That's why we duke things out with fists... Just kidding :thumbsup:. That's when you just make use of the sentence, "I disagree."

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He has said he "doesn't want me to believe in a mistake."

Ask him to identify some real world mistake that he thinks you have made rather than simply his belief that you have made a mistake. Ask for evidence, but don't debate him if you aren't convinced by what he says.

Then consider asking this: "Do you learn more from your own mistakes or more from the mistakes of others?"

Then ask him to tell you about a mistake that he made and what he learned from it.

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So I have this friend. He's a freshman in college, and a psychology major. I went to high school with the guy, and he's a good friend.

He's on some sort of crusade against Objectivism, and I still haven't figured out why. It almost seems as a giant personal attack. He has said he "doesn't want me to believe in a mistake." He brought up Dr. Ellis's "Is Objectivism a Religion?" book - an attack on Objectivism from 1962 that's out of print. He actually went out and bought the book. I have no problems with critics of Objectivism - but he's only read "some stuff online" and about a third of Atlas. He asks me how "I follow a flaw" and says he "feels there are problems with O'ism" and Dr. Ellis confirms it.

When I brought up the point that he's not bringing up anything but what others say - he says "points are points whether they are mine or not." Right now he's saying that his logic TA has a "friend that got fuxed up by objectivism."

Thoughts?

Does you friend give you any point or points of reference where he thinks Objectivism is wrong,

if you have a true friend he should let you know where he is coming from some time people can't handle

Objectivism because it offer a way for people to learn how to know truth and when they learn the truth they reject what they have learn because there afraid of the information.

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  • 1 month later...
... he's only read ... about a third of Atlas.

This is a big problem. If someone can read any portion of Atlas Shrugged and not see the truth in it, the person is not reachable (certainly at this time and maybe never).

I held a lot of very wrong ideas before I read Atlas Shrugged and within the first 50 pages I knew that I was wrong about a lot of things. If your friend can read 1/3 of the book and still attack Objectivism, something is wrong.

My only advice is urge him to finish reading Atlas Shrugged. If after that he is still on a crusade against it, there is nothing that will reach him.

I have met my share of people who have read Atlas Shrugged and didn't "get it". If they don't get Atlas Shrugged they will never accept Objectivism.

I am very interested in the phenomenon of people who have read Atlas Shrugged and didn't get it. I'm currious as to what is wrong with these people. What makes them not see the value? I have found that there are two classes of people who do not get it: The first, those who just shrug and say basically nothing about the book as if it made no impression on them at all. And the second, those that rant about how wrong the book is. I feel both types are unreachable.

Edited by ajm
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I am very interested in the phenomenon of people who have read Atlas Shrugged and didn't get it. I'm currious as to what is wrong with these people. What makes them not see the value? I have found that there are two classes of people who do not get it: The first, those who just shrug and say basically nothing about the book as if it made no impression on them at all. And the second, those that rant about how wrong the book is. I feel both types are unreachable.

I would say the second type is unreachable, but not necessarily the first. Remember that Atlas Shrugged is a somewhat advanced book. I think that some people read the book and see it as just a novel, meant to entertain. The philosophical concepts just go over their head. If you are trying to expose someone to Objectivism like that, then I think Anthem would be a better place to start than Atlas. It's far shorter and easier to read.

I actually had Anthem as assigned reading my freshman year of high school and loved it. And I think the book is at about the high school reading level, so that might be a better place for some people to start off.

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He brought up Dr. Ellis's "Is Objectivism a Religion?" book - an attack on Objectivism from 1962 that's out of print. He actually went out and bought the book.

Deffinitely read the book. I actually read that when I was first interested in Objectivism. I wanted to hear "the other side," because I couldn't imagine what the objections to Oism would be.

..All I can say is I thought they would be a little better than that. But I've never really found any that are. There are some that annoy me more, though-- the ones put out by those who, unable to oppose Ayn Rand's arguments directly, claim to be proponents of her philosophy while peddling something opposite. But Ellis's book is nothing that subtle. It's more obvious, and easier to refute than Toohey's claims in the Fountainhead, or probably even Alvah Scarrett's.

To me, it says something that your friend would read an entire book attacking Objectivism before reading a single book by Ayn Rand. Read his book, have some laughs, come to understand your friend's emotional position on the issue, and correct any errors that he's willing to let you correct. And if you value his frienship, keep him as long as you can tolerate him. That's my advice :lol: (I agree w/ the other posters too)

Was that your first exposure to Ayn Rand? I ask because my first exposure was in high school, when our senior English class watched the Fountainhead movie. Stories like that make me very optomistic about what ARI is doing with essays and giving free books to classes.. (I don't think we would have watched it otherwise..)

I actually had Anthem as assigned reading my freshman year of high school and loved it. And I think the book is at about the high school reading level, so that might be a better place for some people to start off.
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I would say the second type is unreachable, but not necessarily the first. Remember that Atlas Shrugged is a somewhat advanced book. ... If you are trying to expose someone to Objectivism like that, then I think Anthem would be a better place to start than Atlas. It's far shorter and easier to read.

I actually had Anthem as assigned reading my freshman year of high school and loved it. And I think the book is at about the high school reading level, so that might be a better place for some people to start off.

I agree that the selection of Rand's books should be based on the age of the reader and Anthem is a good choice for high school students. The people I am talking about are adults over the age of 20. These are people that should understand Atlas Shrugged and if they don't they are unreachable.

Great to hear that you found out about Ayn Rand in school. I am very interested in how young people react to reading her work at a young age. How did students react? Did any others besides you pursue finding out more about her work and philosophy?

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Great to hear that you found out about Ayn Rand in school. I am very interested in how young people react to reading her work at a young age. How did students react? Did any others besides you pursue finding out more about her work and philosophy?

Actually I already knew about Objectivism to a certain extent before that. My family exposed me to it from an early age, but as a young kid, I admitedly didn't care about reading philosophy books. :lol: It wasn't until college that I read more Rand books.

The actual reading assignment was to read Anthem and The Giver. Then write an essay comparing the two and make a case for which one we agree with. For those who are unfamiliar with it, The Giver is about some sort of totalitarian, collectivist utopia where every job is assigned to the citizen based on how they can best serve the community. They even went so far as to mandate drug use to all citizens to control them.

If I remember correctly (it was about nine years ago) most people tended to agree with Anthem. But at the freshman high school level we didn't exactly get into any in-depth philosophical discussions. Basically most high school students don't like being told what to do by parents/teachers and they all want to go off on their own. That is basically the story line for Anthem so I think most of the students could relate to it.

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Good for you. I assume you say this to illustrate that there is hope that your friend will "see the light". I agree.

I disagree with those who have advised you to walk away from this friendship. If they knew much more about you and him, it might be the right advice. However, with the facts provided, it would be baseless advice. Almost everyone in the world accepts the idea that there is a conflict between selfish desires and "the good".

  • Most resolve it by saying that "one must be practical" and "strike a balance".
  • A few say: to hell with the good, I'm going to be "selfish".
  • Others cannot bring themselves to being "evil", so they try to be good altruists, and even communists

As they "grow up", most migrate into the "strike a balance" camp. Still, all accept the same fundamental dichotomy of self versus good. Let's say I was young and a close friend and I were in the third group. Now, this friend came upon Ayn Rand and figured out that he was wrong. I might object, I might even unreasonably resist his attempts at making me read his new-found "propaganda". However, I wish he would persist -- if he were really a friend.

That's why I suggested that you make a deal with him and show as much "open-mindedness" as you are asking him to show. You read the book he suggests if he will read "Virtue of Selfishness".

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  • 2 weeks later...
So I have this friend. He's a freshman in college, and a psychology major. I went to high school with the guy, and he's a good friend.

He's on some sort of crusade against Objectivism, and I still haven't figured out why. It almost seems as a giant personal attack. He has said he "doesn't want me to believe in a mistake." He brought up Dr. Ellis's "Is Objectivism a Religion?" book - an attack on Objectivism from 1962 that's out of print. He actually went out and bought the book. I have no problems with critics of Objectivism - but he's only read "some stuff online" and about a third of Atlas. He asks me how "I follow a flaw" and says he "feels there are problems with O'ism" and Dr. Ellis confirms it.

When I brought up the point that he's not bringing up anything but what others say - he says "points are points whether they are mine or not." Right now he's saying that his logic TA has a "friend that got fuxed up by objectivism."

Thoughts?

I had a similar situation upon speaking with an old high school buddy from years back. Him and I went in completely different directions, but growing up we were both heavily active in the Republican party and as recently as 2000 we were both staunch Bush supporters. After I moved from Baltimore Maryland to Pennsylvania we lost track of each other for a few years. During this time I went into study with the Philadelphia Arch-diocese to become a Catholic Priest and was heavily exposed to the theology of Thomas Aquinas and the Philosophy of Aristotle. When I gave up my pursuit of the priesthood in favor of advocating for Catholicism (Aquinas' theology in particular) on a non-clerical basis so that I could pursue a happy life without the sacrifices demanded of a priest, naturally I became more receptive to what came next.

It was after that time that I was exposed to Ayn Rand's literature by an atheist friend (as a man of reason, I have many of those). I have since collected 90% of Ayn Rand's books (fiction and non-fiction) as well as several selected works by Leonard Peikoff, Gary Hull and Edwin Locke. Her philosophy has had an appeal for me as a Catholic proponent of Laissez Faire and also as a fan of the naturalist philosophers of the enlightenment (particularly Voltaire, John Locke, and Adam Smith). Now I am sort of a half-breed proponent of Objectivist Ethics, Epistemology (especially in teaching), and Aristotilean metaphysics with Aquinas' theological elaborations.

My friend, on the other hand, had abandoned all traces of both his reason and his humanism in order to become a planner for animal rights protests as a ranking member of PETA. Naturally, we had a lengthy discussion about the contradiction between objective metaphysics and the idea that animals can possess rights that they are not epistemologically aware of. Furthermore, being a proponent of the benevolence consequences of animal testing, my views were naturally a sacriledge that demanded being shouted at over the phone. The friendship has thus been ended, and though I do regret his choices, I do not regret ending the friendship, there was essentially nothing left for us to relate to each other as friends.

Whether or not this event in my life bears any comparison to your situation depends on whether or not your friend has his entire life invested in his quote enquote Crusade (the Catholic in me shudders at the thought). If he can listen to reason, then you both have something to offer each other. If your debates can be civil, by all means continue them in good spirit. But if neither of these are still present, you stand only to harm yourself.

P.S. - My friend and I did still have one thing left in common however, neither one of us is any longer an avid supporter of Bush or the Republican party. He voted for Ralph Nader (the renouned pressure-group messiah/enviro-mystic wizard) and my vote for Bush was motivated by two things, Kerry's abysmally loathsome domestic and foreign policy ideas and the fact that the Objectivist denunciations of the Libertarians were made available to me before I made the mistake of supporting Badnarik. Bush was the least worst choice, which is not really saying a whole lot for everyone else who ran.

Edited by dark_unicorn
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  • 2 months later...
So I have this friend. He's a freshman in college, and a psychology major. I went to high school with the guy, and he's a good friend.

He's on some sort of crusade against Objectivism, and I still haven't figured out why. It almost seems as a giant personal attack. He has said he "doesn't want me to believe in a mistake." He brought up Dr. Ellis's "Is Objectivism a Religion?" book - an attack on Objectivism from 1962 that's out of print. He actually went out and bought the book. I have no problems with critics of Objectivism - but he's only read "some stuff online" and about a third of Atlas. He asks me how "I follow a flaw" and says he "feels there are problems with O'ism" and Dr. Ellis confirms it.

When I brought up the point that he's not bringing up anything but what others say - he says "points are points whether they are mine or not." Right now he's saying that his logic TA has a "friend that got fuxed up by objectivism."

Thoughts?

Ask him exactly what's wrong with objectivism. Go from there.

All he's doing now is making a point to show that he vaguely dislikes it. That's not nearly enough to win any argument, so get whatever he's trying to say out of him and debunk from there.

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