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"Am I following you correctly here? You started off this topic with a story about a guy that treated you badly who claimed to be an Objectivist. This gave you a bad impression of the philosophy. But now you find it disturbing that an Objectivist would not kill an innocent?"

I mean to say (and I hope it can be seen in my semantics) that I would be very disturbed were I mistaken; I.E., I would be very disturbed if Ayn Rand said that she would kill someone innocent. I doubt she would say this, as well, of course. So for clarification, I mean exactly the opposite of what you have inferred.

"Another question. How steeped are you in Kantian philosophy? These conversations are going to get pretty twisted since the 2 philosophies are diametrical opposites."

I dislike Kant for some of his strange metaphysical claims, and Kantian work has been pretty irrelevant to my life's persuit of philosophy. That said, this strikes me as a very strange question.

I am also curious that if you ask this question to evaluate whether I am moral, how do you make a distinction between the beliefs of a person and their intentions? Or is the distinction moot? I have to admit that mere ideology has always struck me as a very strange and impractical way to evaluate someone's character, as it does not account for intentions, information they have received, emotional maturity, and the subconscious. This is a serious beef with Objectivism that I do have, admittedly.

TBH, my philosophies of living are not very applicable to either philosophy and they definitely can't be put on an axis between the two. My political and epistemological philosophies are much like those of Objectivism, but my moral philosophy is very different and disctinctly independent of either.

Edited by Arkanin
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My political and epistemological philosophies are much like those of Objectivism, but my moral philosophy is very different and distinctly independent of either.

If you understand why there is no difference between the two, you'll understand how one can evaluate a person on the simple basis of their beliefs/philosophy.

Philosophy is the operating system of the rational animal we call man. Whether one is talking of epistemological issues, political issues, or moral issues they stem from the same basic root, the philosophy and/or set of principles one lives by; whatever they may be.

This is why an Objectivist, being one who understands why this is true, has an easy time judging people. The very words out of one's mouth and the meanings they convey (if any) are a window to the very basic foundations of that person's mind.

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What I am getting at is that if it is good that each person be self-interested, it would be ideally moral to uphold others' right to other lawful self-interest, within reason, for reasons that do not revolve around our own benefit.

I disagree. The ideal is a harmony of interests. If my interests do not involve stepping on anyone else's. Happily, this is in fact the case, so long as both myself and the other fellow are being entirely rational about it.

But you don't seem to think that's the case. Well, suffice to say: The philosophy of Objectivism does.

If in another sense, it is our good that we be self-interested, it is our duty to uphold our own desires.
Desires are simply unexamined emotions. Under rational scrutiny, they can be found to be either in our actual best interests or in fact rather against them. Desires, therefore, are not a proper guide to action, but rather a rational examination of the facts, is.

Also, Objectivism does not recognize "duty." Objectivist ethics take the form of "if-you-want, then-you-must." There is no categorical imperative.

The principle that it can never be of self-interested personal net benefit to murder a person who has not wronged you is demonstrably false.

Is it? Then, demonstrate. Actually, don't bother. There's a huge thread on it. Instead, read that thread and also pick up Tara Smith's book and re-read the Virtue of Selfishness, and then read OPAR and then come back here if you still think that's true. (It's not.)

I am not making an argument, but I am saying, surely neither you nor rand mean this, do you?
I mean it and I am pretty sure that she did as well.

So the principle is very important.

Oh, I very much agree that the principle is important...

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If you understand why there is no difference between the two, you'll understand how one can evaluate a person on the simple basis of their beliefs/philosophy.

Weeellllll, yes and no. Just because someone talks a certain talk, it doesn't mean that they'll walk that walk. Mind you, if they're spouting pure evil, the good bet it that they'll act that way. But a lot of neophyte Objectivists can be too trusting of someone simply because of their professed beliefs. If that's what Arkanin was referring to, then he's got a point.

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I don't understand.

Of course people lie and mislead. I was still assuming that was the case.

It's in the context of truthful discourse I should say, that it's very easy to judge a person at a basic level. Given you're talking about such things, as in this environment right here.

That aside, I say again that the basis of one's beliefs and values are rooted very intimately in the basic principles one holds, and that it's correct to assume that link.

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That aside, I say again that the basis of one's beliefs and values are rooted very intimately in the basic principles one holds, and that it's correct to assume that link.

Yes, I agree. But it isn't always a good idea to assume that a person has indeed subconsciously integrated the principles that he speaks of and actually acts like what he sounds like.

Oh, and as for the rest:

intentions, information they have received, emotional maturity, and the subconsciou

1) Intentions follow directly from stated principles, so that's invalid. One is responsible not only for "good intentions," but also for the results, in reality, of their actions

2) Objectivism most certainly DOES alter judgement based on "information they have recieved;" it is called the difference between an error of knowledge and a moral breach and it was described earlier in this thread

3) I know that I hold adults responsible for their emotional maturity and as I said earlier it doesn't matter to me how smart someone is, if they don't have the character to back it up. I don't see how this is connected to Objectivism, as such.

4) I think I've covered that above. It's not a flaw of the philosophy itself.

All of the above is assuming that I've correctly divined what you mean by that statement. Your way of speaking is very non-specific and so I might have your meaning wrong. That may be why you were asked if you were a Kantian, BTW... you just have a very vague writing style.

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Philosophy is the operating system of the rational animal we call man. Whether one is talking of epistemological issues, political issues, or moral issues they stem from the same basic root, the philosophy and/or set of principles one lives by; whatever they may be.

This is why an Objectivist, being one who understands why this is true, has an easy time judging people. The very words out of one's mouth and the meanings they convey (if any) are a window to the very basic foundations of that person's mind.

Thank you for your polite response.

Still, this is troubling for me, as taken literally, it would fly in the face of modern psychology. One's rational beliefs do not account for the myriad psychological factors that define the nature of a person's inner workings. If this is actually your position, I will be respectful and try not to argue with you further, but I would also be very surprised to hear this is what you mean.

I do understand the difference between having a sincerely mistaken belief and a dishonest belief, but it would seem there is a more important problem. Particularly, sincere or insincere, our conscious beliefs are only one factor in our individual personality that defines our decision-making processes.

"Is it? Then, demonstrate. Actually, don't bother. There's a huge thread on it. Instead, read that thread and also pick up Tara Smith's book and re-read the Virtue of Selfishness, and then read OPAR and then come back here if you still think that's true. (It's not.)"

Why do you give me a task and then tell me not to bother? There is a backspace key on your keyboard. So I would imagine that you must want me to demonstrate, or you would not say such a thing. True story: my grandfather was a professional hitman who did not ever even have a slight risk of getting caught. His options were that or die in a slum. He ended up saving his money, getting an education for himself, and moving to the states... on the money he made killing people.

Mind you, I'm not sure any objectivists would make good self-interested murderers. The point is just that in principle, they exist, and one of them was my grandfather. In conclusion, either you are defending an extraordinary claim or I do not understand the nature of your position. If I do not understand it, let me know where my logic goes awry.

All of the above is assuming that I've correctly divined what you mean by that statement. Your way of speaking is very non-specific and so I might have your meaning wrong. That may be why you were asked if you were a Kantian, BTW... you just have a very vague writing style.

I'm sorry if you do not find my style of communication pleasing. If I seem vague, it is because I consider it important that I don't actually say anything I don't mean to say. As a result, I often feel obliged to pad my words carefully, because I might otherwise say something I don't mean to say. I will do my best to be more precise, all the same.

TBH, I receive the impression I am not being viewed in a positive light. I am not comfortable feeling scorned for having sincere philosophical criticisms, especially when I admit that I do not adequately understand the philosophy after having read many books about it.

Edited by Arkanin
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True story: my grandfather was a professional hitman who did not ever even have a slight risk of getting caught. His options were that or die in a slum. He ended up saving his money, getting an education for himself, and moving to the states... on the money he made killing people.

You should be careful to distinguish between self-interest and rational self-interest. Though rational self-interest is a bit redundant, because it is always in one's self-interest to be rational, it is an important distinction to make in light of the way people today inaccurately use "selfish" and "self-interest." Killing people, or stealing, or doing anything merely because you want to does not mean that it is in your self-interest. If you understand that, it should be easy to understand (at least in general terms) that your grandfather was probably not acting in his self-interest because his actions were probably irrational.

Of course, I say "probably" because I am not aware of the full context of his actions. Where did he live? What was it like? Who was he killing? I could see how it would be moral to be a professional "hitman" in the following example: A country's legal system is a complete sham. Laws are nonobjective in both substance and enforcement. People are killed by whomever for whatever reason. In such an anarchist environment, being a professional "hitman" could be moral if the ones he "hit" were the ones committing unjust murder, rape, and so forth. Those would be acts of vengeance made necessary by the complete, I mean complete, breakdown of civilization.

So, if you care to share it, provide some context about your grandfather's situation. This, along with your loose, but common, usage of "self-interest" could help us and you determine where you are in error.

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Why do you give me a task and then tell me not to bother?

Because I think that

1) You will not be able to demonstrate this.

2) I suspect that you might try to do so and your example will only bring up larger and larger issues that extend this into a debate. Ultimately, I know that if you're honest you will see what we mean, but I think it would be a lot easier if you glean this information from some well-written books rather than here.

3) I wanted you, especially, to look at the thread on this board (I think it has the name "prudent predator") which discusses this very topic, before creating a redundant thread here.

I'm personally not interested in debating the point, but I'm sure there are plenty here who will. However, in deference the thread continuity, I would suggest you continue that discussion in the appropriate thread. (the mods will likely move it there, anyway)

As for the answer that is relevant to this thread: Objectivism holds that it is never in your best interests to initiate force. Agree or disagree with it, but that is it.

I'm sorry if you do not find my style of communication pleasing. If I seem vague, it is because I consider it important that I don't actually say anything I don't mean to say. As a result, I often feel obliged to pad my words carefully, because I might otherwise say something I don't mean to say. I will do my best to be more precise, all the same.
If I may, I have the following constructive criticism:

It's not a matter of if I find it pleasing; it's a matter of the fact that I don't find it intelligible. When you speak in approximates, you might lose the danger of accidentally saying something you don't mean... but it's at the cost of not saying anything at all (or worse, having people assume you mean one possible interpretation of what you said which was not in fact the interpretation you intended).

TBH, I receive the impression I am not being viewed in a positive light.

Depends on what you mean by that. (again, precision!) If you mean that we don't agree with you, or that we are a bit passionate in the defense of our ideas, then I guess I'm guilty as charged. If you mean that the lynch mob is being prepared, then no, you're not coming across that badly.

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If you find the rational composition of meaning in communication childish then you, my friend, are in the wrong place.

Because that is in fact what we are trying to do, determine what it is you actually mean to the end of engaging in a valuable intellectual exchange.

After all, you are the one asking the questions and most have made an honest effort to address them.

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If you find the rational composition of meaning in communication childish then you, my friend, are in the wrong place.

Because that is in fact what we are trying to do, determine what it is you actually mean to the end of engaging in a valuable intellectual exchange.

After all, you are the one asking the questions and most have made an honest effort to address them.

I imagine you realize that "the rational composition of meaning in communication" is not what got under my skin and it is disrespectful to put words in my mouth, so I would ask you not to do so again. I'm annoyed by Inspector's last post. I was annoyed by the one before, too, but the second one feels like "Yes, if you're wondering, I'm trying to be condescending on purpose" when you set aside pedantic BS. I did not come here to start a flamewar, so if anyone asks about anything I said in this paragraph, it's best I don't answer.

At any rate, I do appreciate the comments that you made earlier. Getting back on topic -- and I should have asked this earlier -- are many of the positions Peikoff or Rand defend in Objectivist works considered unnecessary for objectivism? For example, I just finished reading a paper by Peikoff supporting the position that some ideas themselves are inherently dishonest and that if a person holds that idea, they are automatically party to intellectual dishonesty. Is that considered central to objectivism? It wouldn't seem so to me, but I'm curious.

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Of course, I say "probably" because I am not aware of the full context of his actions. Where did he live? What was it like? Who was he killing? I could see how it would be moral to be a professional "hitman" in the following example: A country's legal system is a complete sham. Laws are nonobjective in both substance and enforcement. People are killed by whomever for whatever reason. In such an anarchist environment, being a professional "hitman" could be moral if the ones he "hit" were the ones committing unjust murder, rape, and so forth. Those would be acts of vengeance made necessary by the complete, I mean complete, breakdown of civilization.

So, if you care to share it, provide some context about your grandfather's situation. This, along with your loose, but common, usage of "self-interest" could help us and you determine where you are in error.

Sure, I will be happy to tell you that story (it's kind of an interesting one, too, as are most stories involving hitmen ;)). Before I go further, I would ask you to clarify about something.

In such an anarchist environment, being a professional "hitman" could be moral if the ones he "hit" were the ones committing unjust murder, rape, and so forth. Those would be acts of vengeance made necessary by the complete, I mean complete, breakdown of civilization.

Morality would not be entirely dependent on self-interest if another person's past actions (rape, murder, and so on) were a factor when deciding if it is moral to do a certain thing to that person. For example, let's propose two universes:

World A: "Steven is a professional drug-dealer who lives alone in a mansion. You will get paid $100,000 for killing him."

World B: "Steven is not a professional drug-dealer who lives alone in a mansion. You will get paid $100,000 for killing him."

Let's say that in either case, Steven is fairly well-liked by the community and all other factors are held constant. If your chances of getting caught, the penalties for getting caught, and the odds of receiving payment are the same in both situations, is it possible for one choice to be moral and the other immoral? (And if you would answer "yes", could you explain why?)

At any rate, on to my grandfather. He grew up in Mexico City which (believe me) is not the nicest place for a kid in his time. These were very bad times, before the big decades of mexican economic growth. He became involved in booze and drug smuggling and found out that killing people in the states payed well. He managed to make enough money to illegally get into the US, where he pretty much killed people for a living (he was better at killing people than smuggling). He was careful, talented, and took his job seriously, so he got a good professional reputation. After making quite a bit of money, he laundered it, made an agreement with his boss to "get out", and then used the money to open a Mexican restaraunt in Texas with my grandmother.

Let's say 95% of criminals are dumb and get caught. Of the ones who are smart, most of them don't have the instincts and talent necessary to be a very good criminal, so a good 90% of the smart 5% probably get caught too. Of the ones who are good criminals, they usually behave impulsively and stupidly anyway, so they aren't that rationally self-interested, either. At the same time, it would seem that even if a minute fraction of a percentage of killers do so out of rational self-interest, they exist all the same in principle.

At that, it seems indisputable that a person can be born into this kind of hopeless poverty in a society with no "safety net" as libertarians like us propose. I am a libertarian but I do acknowledge this as an innate flaw in capitalism (I regard capitalism as "horribly inefficient but still far more efficient than everything else" ;))

Well, I was going to answer his questions for me, but I guess he jumped ship!

That's a negatory, by all means please go ahead ;)

Edited by Arkanin
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Morality would not be entirely dependent on self-interest if another person's past actions (rape, murder, and so on) were a factor when deciding if it is moral to do a certain thing to that person.

You need context to determine self-interest. Self-interest is not just something you declare on a whim. It requires consideration of the relevant facts. Considering another person's actions can of course be relevant sometimes. If someone comes storming after you with a meat cleaver, can you not consider that fact when determining whether it is in your rational self-interest to shoot him? This is rhetorical, of course.

Let's say that in either case, Steven is fairly well-liked by the community and all other factors are held constant. If your chances of getting caught, the penalties for getting caught, and the odds of receiving payment are the same in both situations, is it possible for one choice to be moral and the other immoral?
His reputation is irrelevant here. Chances of getting caught, possible penalties, etc. are relevant only if the action is otherwise moral. I can not think of any circumstances in which it would be moral to kill a drug dealer only on the basis that he deals drugs.

He managed to make enough money to illegally get into the US, where he pretty much killed people for a living

I can not think of a single circumstance in which it would be moral to be a hitman on United States soil.

At the same time, it would seem that even if a minute fraction of a percentage of killers do so out of rational self-interest, they exist all the same in principle.
Be especially careful talking about rational self-interest and killing for hire. The circumstances in which it would be in one's self-interest to kill for hire are extremely limited and would not exist in the United States.

At that, it seems indisputable that a person can be born into this kind of hopeless poverty in a society with no "safety net" as libertarians like us propose. I am a libertarian but I do acknowledge this as an innate flaw in capitalism

There are threads discussing the differences between Objectivists and libertarians. It is not a good idea to say "libertarians like us" here.

What exactly are you saying is an innate flaw in capitalism?

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...intellectual dishonesty. Is that considered central to objectivism?

I wouldn't say 'central' but more consequential. Intellectual dishonesty is a concept that comes from analysing the means by which someone arrives at a conclusion.

There are three instances, which you may already have read about:

1. A person comes to a rational and factual integration of a concept.

2. A person comes to a rational but erroneous integration of a concept through misintegrated lower-level concept or a misinterpretation of some facts.

3. A person comes to an irrational integration through a direct evasion of the facts of reality and the process (reason) by which to interpret them.

The only problem is determining whether or not a concept could or could not be arrived at by error. If not it would be said that the idea/concept is in fact intellectually dishonest.

Another factor that has brought the idea of intellectual dishonesty under scrutiny, at least in my experience, is that some ideas may be arrived at by either an error or evasion and the only way to objectively determine the difference would be to "be in someone's" head as it were.

This idea is definitely something to be considered in the process of determining someone's epistemology, and is something I forgot to mention earlier in stating that it is possible to judge someone based on their ideas.

My cursory statements earlier were perhaps a bit harsh considering your response. However, you will find on this forum that when something is not understood or is misinterpreted the regulars around here will pick at every angle until the nature of the beast is discovered.

More later.

Your comments on capitalism will bring very curious questions.

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TBH, I find this dialog childish. If you want to discuss something else, happily, but I otherwise think it would be best I spoke with someone else.

At the risk of further antagonizing you, I have to say that once again you are being unclear. When you say that you find "this dialog" to be "childish," which part of the dialog did you mean? You didn't quote any part of my post, so it's up to everyone to wonder which part you meant. Also, since you didn't quote me or name me, it's also up to everyone to wonder whether you wanted to end all discussion here, or just the discussion with me. As you can see, Thoyd Loki already took that to mean that you meant all dialog and not just with me. (although you later seemed to clarify that you meant only me... of course you were a bit unclear about that, too)

Whatever else you think of what I have said, you really should work on being precise and not leaving room for interpretation in what you say.

Anyway, I'd adress your concerns with how I've been answering you, but I'm afraid I don't know exactly what those are. You could clarify if you like, or I suppose I could simply bow out of the discussion at this point.

P.S. all that I'm trying to say about the predator principle is that there is already a thread on it, and like any forum, it is proper ettiquite to read the old threads first. And as for condescention, you're the one with the (and I'm paraphrasing here) "surely your philosophy doesn't say something as obviously false as "it is not in your self-interest to initiate force against innocent people."

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I wouldn't say 'central' but more consequential. Intellectual dishonesty is a concept that comes from analysing the means by which someone arrives at a conclusion.

There are three instances, which you may already have read about:

1. A person comes to a rational and factual integration of a concept.

2. A person comes to a rational but erroneous integration of a concept through misintegrated lower-level concept or a misinterpretation of some facts.

3. A person comes to an irrational integration through a direct evasion of the facts of reality and the process (reason) by which to interpret them.

The only problem is determining whether or not a concept could or could not be arrived at by error. If not it would be said that the idea/concept is in fact intellectually dishonest.

Another factor that has brought the idea of intellectual dishonesty under scrutiny, at least in my experience, is that some ideas may be arrived at by either an error or evasion and the only way to objectively determine the difference would be to "be in someone's" head as it were.

This idea is definitely something to be considered in the process of determining someone's epistemology, and is something I forgot to mention earlier in stating that it is possible to judge someone based on their ideas.

My cursory statements earlier were perhaps a bit harsh considering your response. However, you will find on this forum that when something is not understood or is misinterpreted the regulars around here will pick at every angle until the nature of the beast is discovered.

More later.

So, the rationality or irrationality of a person can't be found in their positions; all the same, whether their positions are rational are indicators of the probability that they have evasively integrated an idea? A very important distinction between evasion and dishonesty must be made, too, in that dishonesty implies intentional irrationality a person is aware of, whereas evasion might be a result of subconscious desires or other intangibles (thus, all dishonesty is evasive, but while not all evasion is dishonest, it is still in defiance of rationality and therefore immoral), correct? This would cause your semantic choice of "evasion" over a choice such as "dishonesty" to be very meaningful.

Regarding the 'nature of the beast', I think it's best to assume a person sincerely disagrees with or doesn't understand you, because if you should determine they do understand you and are just trying to be an ass, there's essentially no reason to continue talking with them at all.

Your comments on capitalism will bring very curious questions.

Do most Objectivists regard capitalism a special metaphysical ideal or the most ideal of imperfect options humanity has access to? I think more importantly, if a perfect capitalistic society can never functionally exist, and reason is just the most important tool for mankind's survival and benefit, it would seem meaningful to say the ideal itself exists. At this point the difference between "Capitalism is really good; it's the best we have" and "Capitalism is the least awful thing we have" are not so far removed.

If you think this is a bad place to make such a criticism, probably so. It is central to both the root of Objectivist epistemology and political theory, so it is probably the first criticism I have made whose best response is justifiably "go read several books about objectivism and then write a 60-page paper explaining your criticism".

Edited by Arkanin
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...so it is probably the first criticism I have made whose best response is justifiably "go read several books about objectivism and then write a 60-page paper explaining your criticism".

First, to answer the question, Objectivism regards Capitalism to be the only moral social system; the only one that subordinates might to right; that subordinates society to moral law. It is not just the only good system, it is in fact a positively WONDERFUL system.

Here is a link where Objectivist Andrew Bernstein lays out the answer you're looking for pretty clearly:

http://www.celebratecapitalism.org/bernste...lish/index.html

Now, as to your comment: I don't expect you to go read several books and then write a 60 page paper explaining your criticism. By that I meant to illustrate the futility of trying to argue a topic like that in this venue. Of course, I was serious in saying that doing that would be the least painful way for you to get a clear answer on that subject. (provided that reading the existing thread doesn't do it for you)

I apologize if I was less than clear in my meaning. I was too busy reacting to your condescending tone to make that point as clear as I might have. Next time I shall endeavor to do both.

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At this point the difference between "Capitalism is really good; it's the best we have" and "Capitalism is the least awful thing we have" are not so far removed.

In addition the great responses you have thus far received, I would like to share with you (or remind you of, as the case may be) a quote that does a great job stating the point succinctly:

"Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end." - Lord Acton

A proper, laissez-faire capitalist society is not only really good. It is even better than the "wonderful" that Inspector gives it (though I share Inspector's wonderful sentiment). Laissez-faire capitalism is a perfect moral system.

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A rational idea can only be arrived at by a rational process.

Do you mean to say that it is practically impossible to arrive at a rational position such as Objectivism through irrational processes, or that if someone arrived at a correct idea such as Objectivism through irrational processes, their idea (in this case Objectivism) would still be irrational?

Laissez-faire capitalism is a perfect moral system.

This is the clarification I was hoping for, so I thank you for offering it. I hope we can agree that the distinction between capitalism being the best system and the perfect system is a very important one for a lot of different reasons.

Edited by Arkanin
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Do you mean to say that it is practically impossible to arrive at a rational position such as Objectivism through irrational processes, or that if someone arrived at a correct idea such as Objectivism through irrational processes, their idea (in this case Objectivism) would still be irrational?
Does a stopped clock tell the right time twice a day? B)
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Does a stopped clock tell the right time twice a day? B)

To answer your question literally, yes it does. There is an important distinction to be made between "Telling the right time" and "Telling time rightly (by the right means)" and this distinction entails both epistemology and morality, especially to an objectivist, as "by the right means" is the same as "rationally". It is true that a stopped clock has basically no utility but a stopped clock is not the same as an irrational belief in this way.

Edited by Arkanin
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Do you mean to say that it is practically impossible to arrive at a rational position such as Objectivism through irrational processes, or that if someone arrived at a correct idea such as Objectivism through irrational processes, their idea (in this case Objectivism) would still be irrational?

When I say "rational idea" what I am referring to is a concept or idea that is in accordance with the facts of reality and, as a consequence, is a result of a correct application of reason.

I guess it would be good at this point to clarify that a false idea/concept is not the same as an irrational idea/concept and there is a significant difference in their moral implications.

I don't find it particularly effective to be talking in such abstract terms it just all that my time allows at this point. It is clear that you are unfamiliar with Objectivist epistemology and thus I suggest you read "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" as it will answer most if not all of your questions on the subject.

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