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How many O'ists are there?

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First of all, is there any way I can get any information about the number of Objectivists? Some guy I was talking to on a forum says that Christianity counts as "good morals" because so many people believe in it, but Objectivism is not because there are fewer followers. I asked him how many it takes to become "good morals," and the number he gave me was one million. Now, that's a bs argument by him, but I kinda want to prove him wrong, you know?

Second of all, a question I hadn't seen answered very well in the books that I've read... What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system? I personally follow it and find it to be moral, but it's not like we can pull the "God wanted us to do this" crap like Christians or other religious people can...

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I kinda want to prove him wrong...
First ask him to prove himself right. But, if you really want to, tell him that any morality with 667 or more adherents qualifies as "good morals" in your book. :P

... a question I hadn't seen answered very well in the books that I've read... What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system...
In order to let people understand the background, could you tell us if you've read any of Ayn Rand's non-fiction?

I personally follow it and find it to be moral...
The key is why do you find it to be moral?
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In order to let people understand the background, could you tell us if you've read any of Ayn Rand's non-fiction?
The Virtue of Selfishness. As I recall, she gives her answer to my question towards the beginning of the book, but it's an answer that you'd pretty much already have to be an Objectivist to believe.

I'd have to check the book to find out exactly what her point was, anyway, but I no longer have it.

The key is why do you find it to be moral?

I'm young (only 16), but it's been the morals I've followed to some extent my whole life, even though my parents are both Christian. I lost faith when I was about 12, and became an agnostic, and then an atheist. I was certainly an egotist long before picking up a copy of Atlas Shrugged (pure chance, actually; I was just picking up books that looked interesting from the Literature section of a small book store). I read it when I was 15, and found myself agreeing with pretty much every moral point in the book.

It is, for me, an innate "I know this is right." I have to admit that I'm too psychologically and philosophically immature to be able to put it into better words than that.

To answer the first question, you could just as easily find one million people who subscribe to a morality that even he would consider evil... he's using a clear contrapositive of the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

I realize that that's a fallacy, but I'm unfortunately unaware of any belief systems that are evil from a Christian perspective that have over a million adherents. Satanism probably has a million+ people, but it's certainly not evil (and he, at the very least, realizes not to judge Satanism based on the name alone).

Edited by Solomaxwell6
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Thanks. That does give a much better picture of where you stand.

Let's start with your question: What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system?

It is crucial to understand the terms one is explaining. So, I'll ask a counter question: what do you mean by "true", in this situation?

Usually, when one says that a statement is true, one is saying that it reflects reality (i.e. it corresponds to reality). The implication is that reality exists and that we are capable of judging a statement (or an entire philosophy) against that reality. Is that the sense in which you ask the question?

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Great, so the questioner asks: What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system?

We have a basic understanding of the possibility of finding "truth". Also, I assume the questioner understands the need for finding truth. That's to say: in order to know how to act. The whole idea behind a moral code is to lay down a set of normative principles for human action.

Just given that much, would you say that it is clear without further explanation that man must use his reason to figure out facts and to decide how to act? In other words, rationality must be a starting point. In other words, rationality is a virtue.

One could go on with other virtues. For instance, one could ask questions about reality and man's relationship to it and validate the idea that man has to use his reason to change his environment and produce things if he is to stay alive. One can thereby validate the virtue of productivity.

However, leaving aside the fundamental virtues, what is more important in the context you describe is the approach followed by the Objectivist ethics, because that is where the questioner must be parlayed. The key question is: how does one validate a moral code and decide if it the right one.

For instance, things that are written in a particular book (the Bible or whatever) may be true. However, the way to validate their truth is not: "because it is written" (intrinsic), nor "because a million people say so" (subjective). The method is: look at reality and try to figure out whether it is true (objective).

So, the more basic answer to the question: What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system?

Is: It follows the correct procedure as required by reality, including human reasoning.

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I realize that that's a fallacy, but I'm unfortunately unaware of any belief systems that are evil from a Christian perspective that have over a million adherents. Satanism probably has a million+ people, but it's certainly not evil (and he, at the very least, realizes not to judge Satanism based on the name alone).

How about Communism? Christians typically detest it because it's atheistic, and it certainly has more than a million adherents. North Korea alone has more people than that worshipping Kim Jong Il as a god.

Or you could turn the tables on him by asking whether Christianity was a good moral system in the days of Jesus, when it certainly had fewer than a million adherents.

Fundamentally, though, if this guy takes his argument seriously there isn't much point debating him. He isn't focused on facts; he's focused on what other people believe. Once you identify that a person is using such a corrupt methodology there isn't much reason to debate substance. Either discuss the methodology directly or accept that he isn't reachable.

The right way to challenge the methodology, in my opinion, is to pretend to take it seriously and apply it consistently to issues where it leads to absurd conclusions. Do this by asking him questions about the implications of his methodology. Be polite. E.g. "So, you're saying that something becomes true if enough people believe it? Does that work for anything?" "Is it ever correct to hold a minority viewpoint?" "Does that mean that everything true has already got more than a million people who believe it? There's nothng new to be learned about the world?" Etc. Usually he'll balk at applying his methodology consistently, at which point you drill down as to why.

The process of asking polite questions is very useful in these sorts of cases. People are usually much better at defending from attacks than they are at positive justification and elaboration of their own views. And oftentimes you'll find that a polite question which they couldn't answer to their own satisfaction will take root in their subconscious and give rise to amazing results years later. This is a way of mobilizing whatever intellectual honesty your opponent possesses towards undercutting his own irrationalities. And, as a general rule, if such a person won't convince themselves then there's no way you would have convinced them either.

Edited by khaight
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Second of all, a question I hadn't seen answered very well in the books that I've read... What makes Objectivism the "true" moral system? I personally follow it and find it to be moral, but it's not like we can pull the "God wanted us to do this" crap like Christians or other religious people can...

Precisely. The only thing we can do is to use reason to figure out the "true" moral system. The most reasonable system is Objectivism. Those who disagree simply don't understand Objectivism, or alternatively, wish reality to be something that it isn't and therefore evade the truth.

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Precisely. The only thing we can do is to use reason to figure out the "true" moral system. The most reasonable system is Objectivism. Those who disagree simply don't understand Objectivism, or alternatively, wish reality to be something that it isn't and therefore evade the truth.

There are many who understand Objectivism but don't agree with at least some parts of it. Many alternatives have been devised to describe some facets of reality, all with some degree of "correctness". The history of science is full of examples like this. Even contradictory theories sometimes predict the same thing, depending on the situation. Anyway, the bottom line is that just because someone disagrees, it does not logically follow that they are either ignorant or evasive.

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You know something that I find ironic? People harass me because of the fact that I'm an egotist. However, if they looked closer at Objectivism, they'd realize that it's superior even from an altruist point of view; Objectivism improves society much more than their primitive measures do.

You are right that everyone is better off living in a free capitalist country, but it is not true that "improving society" is the altruist point of view. If that were the case, they would have adopted capitalism a long time ago. I know that's what they pay lip service to, but that isn't what they are actually after.

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