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Overzealous N00b Objectivists

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Do you know anyone like this?

About a year ago, I recommended to my best friend from A&M that he read Atlas Shrugged. He had read some Ayn Rand before and liked it...our political views were always similar, so he took my advice and read it. He has since gotten into Objectivism with a lot of enthusiasm, but he's a little too enthusiastic.

He came into town the other day and we wanted to go out to eat. I suggested that we go to a good Chinese place that I go to sometimes. He said it would be immoral to eat there because eating Chinese food somehow amounts to supporting the collectivist culture that has pervaded Asian history. This is only one example, but I could post quite a few if I wanted to.

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I laughed when he said it and assured him that the money we spent would not find its way into the coffers of the Chinese government. Then I explained that, by his reasoning, we would not be justified eating anywhere since all food is a product of cultures which are collectivist, to some degree.

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I've suggested it to him, but he's kind of reluctant. He's one of the few people left alive who is scared by computers. He only uses email and word processors because he has to for work...he doesn't use AOL or anything.

I lot of people on this forum are like that. They have a bastardized version of what they think Objectivism is, and then they talk to others about O'ism from that perspective (which is why AR wrote that people should call themselves "students of O'ism", versus speaking on behalf of O'ism). It really is destructive - both to O'ism and themselves (To be fair, when I first read AR, I acted like that as well).

O'ism is a complicated system of ideas - it can't be learned piecemeal or in a short amount of time. It takes years of dedicated study to fully integrate it.

Edited by Free Thinker
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I know what you mean, Moose; especially by "overzealous." Jennifer's statement cuts to the heart of the matter; it's about the misintegration of Objectivism. Until they "grow out of it" they're a bit of an embarrassment, and need the occasional boxing 'round the ears. Hopefully they understand that we're just trying to help. :D

Oh, and though you are indeed new, you haven’t displayed any of this vice; at least that I’ve noticed.

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I'm always somewhat skeptical of philosophical/political ideas that I am not familiar with. That, alone, prevented me from swallowing Objectivism hook, line, and sinker when I first got into it. Later on, I realized that I hadn't really found a new way of thinking so much as I had found one that I, for the most part, had agreed with for a number of years.

Edited by Moose
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I must admit that I recently realized that I have had a mistaken view of Objectivism, after speaking with Dr. Onkar Ghate of the ARI.

I also was very dismissive and contemptuous of certain ideas, and most people and social events.

Where did Ayn Rand explain the bit about "student of Objectivism"?

But, yes, lets be thankful that "noobs" know that Objectivism is a value. We all make mistakes, and we can all calmly help each other correct them.

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Usually they grow out of it.

And when they don't, the results are either very sad or very ugly.

It becomes ugly when, after a lengthy period of renouncing the things (like Chinese food) they once genuinely valued in the name of "Objectivism" and after making an ass out of themselves and often alienating themselves from former friends and family members, their inner worm finally rebels and they end up blaming Ayn Rand and Objectivism. It never occurs to them to examine whether they had anything even remotely approximating a grasp of the philosophy to begin with. These are the people who go around crying the loudest that Objectivism is some sort of "cult" and that Objectivists are nothing more than mind-numbed "Randrioids." Objectivism isn't and Objectivists aren't - but they were and thus their bitterness. For them, the only alternative to cultishness that they can identify with is cynicism.

Moose - you might want to refer your friend to Dr. Peikoff's tape lecture course Understanding Objectivism. In it, he addresses exactly the sort of mindset that your friend has currently fallen for. (If I remember correctly, it was in this course where he provided the famous example of the person he once ran across who dyed his hair orange so that he could be like Howard Roark!)

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It becomes ugly when, after a lengthy period of renouncing the things (like Chinese food) they once genuinely valued in the name of "Objectivism" and after making an ass out of themselves and often alienating themselves from former friends and family members, their inner worm finally rebels and they end up blaming Ayn Rand and Objectivism. It never occurs to them to examine whether they had anything even remotely approximating a grasp of the philosophy to begin with. These are the people who go around crying the loudest that Objectivism is some sort of "cult" and that Objectivists are nothing more than mind-numbed "Randrioids." Objectivism isn't and Objectivists aren't - but they were and thus their bitterness. For them, the only alternative to cultishness that they can identify with is cynicism.

Excellent post.

Where did Ayn Rand explain the bit about "student of Objectivism"?

I can try and find it for you. I believe it was in "Ayn Rand Answers", where she becomes indignant (and rightly so) concerning a question which misrepresented her views (the origin of the misrepresetation being a student, if I remember correctly). If anyone knows what I am talking about, please go ahead and post!

Edited by Free Thinker
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Excellent post.

Gee- thanks!

I can try and find it for you. I believe it was in "Ayn Rand Answers", where she becomes indignant (and rightly so) concerning a question which misrepresented her views (the origin of the misrepresetation being a student, if I remember correctly). If anyone knows what I am talking about, please go ahead and post!

I am not familiar with what you are referring to - "Ayn Rand Answers" is on my "to do" list. However, the term "student of Objectivism" dates back to when Ayn Rand was still alive. My understanding is that, at that time, it was not appropriate for people other than Ayn Rand and anyone she designated as being expert in her philosophy to call themselves Objectivists because Objectivism was her philosophy and she was still in the process of publishing it and always had the option to make elaborations, new formulations, new identifications, etc. at any time. Therefore, all one could be is a student of her philosophy unless Ayn Rand alone regarded the person as being expert in it.

Now the following is something I heard second hand and should be taken as such - but when I first became involved in Objectivism, someone I know told me that after Ayn Rand died, Dr. Peikoff either made a statement or wrote something to the effect that "we are all Objectivists now" and that it was no longer necessary for people who understand and agree with the philosophy to regard themselves as "students of Objectivism." With Ayn Rand gone, Objectivism is what it is and is not subject to further revision and whether or not a person is expert in it is determined in the same manner one determines whether a person is expert in any other subject.

Again, I heard the above second hand - but it makes sense to me.

The one thing I like about "student of Objectivism" is that it is a much more appropriate description of a great many people with a serious interest in the philosophy. I consider myself knowledgeable enough to say that I agree with the philosophy - so in that sense, I am comfortable calling myself an Objectivist. However, I certainly don't consider myself knowledgeable enough to teach the philosophy or present it in public - so in that sense, I am very much a "student of Objectivism" and in some contexts refer to myself as such.

Also over the years, I have run into some rather pretentious individuals who were under the illusion that they were highly knowledgeable about the philosophy when it was painfully obvious that they weren't. Requiring such people to call themselves "students of Objectivism" would at least shut them up to some degree.

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Gee- thanks!

I am not familiar with what you are referring to - "Ayn Rand Answers" is on my "to do" list. However, the term "student of Objectivism" dates back to when Ayn Rand was still alive. My understanding is that, at that time, it was not appropriate for people other than Ayn Rand and anyone she designated as being expert in her philosophy to call themselves Objectivists because Objectivism was her philosophy and she was still in the process of publishing it and always had the option to make elaborations, new formulations, new identifications, etc. at any time. Therefore, all one could be is a student of her philosophy unless Ayn Rand alone regarded the person as being expert in it.

[...]

You're welcome!

Another great post. I would agree with the majority of what you are saying. As Peikoff pointed out in "Fact and Value", Objectivism is restricted to everything that AR ever wrote on the subject. So to me, to say "I am an Objectivist" is a huge thing - it means (techincally) you are in complete agreement with everything that AR ever wrote on Objectivism. I think, then, that "student of O'sim" is a much more accurate term for the majority of us.

Additionally, to say "I am an O'st" may imply to a non - O'st listener (given the above proviso) that you are an authority on her writings, which may or may not be the case. To speak from experience though, I think many people attach "O'ist" to things (including it's position on things, to people, etc.) when they mean "in basic agreement" or "generally consistent" with.

Edited by Free Thinker
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There is a guy who posted here, a couple of weeks ago, who held that to be an Objectivist, one must be teetotal.

When I said, 'If you don't like whisky, that leaves all the more for me. B) ', he threatened to have me banned. :)

He was a textbook example of this sort of behavior. The phrase "You're embarrassing both of us" comes to mind.

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I've also made the mistake of claiming the title of Objectivist falsely, but it was in ignorance. However, I believe that the thinking displayed by the friend in the origional post is much more damaging than the guy threatening to ban people off of O'ism.net I believe its much more common, in any case. I would also like to completely agree that although it is relatively simple to understand some aspects of Objectivism, it would take a lifetime to fully and accurately integrate it. Fortunately, I'm very fond of integrating. :D

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