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Some Questions For Objectivists

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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.

I think you're mistaken. I do not recall Rand discussing this particular topic in that book. She discusses topics somewhat relevant to this, but not about this particular overlap between metaphysics and ethics. You must keep in mind that I am not an Objectivist, so it is not as easy for me to make inferences from or conclusions about the system that you might make with little difficulty. At any rate, if I am mistaken, just show me where to open up to and I will take a look at the discussion of this particular topic for myself.

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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?

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I realize I'm jumping into this rather late, but the discussion seems interesting, so I hope no one will mind. B)

I consider myself a student of Objectivism. I have not yet found a part of Objectivism that I disagree with, though I admit that I have left much unstudied; philosophy is not my chosen field.

Yours is a rather odd question. An irrational person would not recognize a rational position for what it was, so it makes little difference whether they ever see one or not. I could, as a scientist, prepare an experiment to test for something that makes absolutely no sense; I designed the experiment irrationally. I may, by some fluke of coincidence, arrive at the correct conclusion, but I will have no way of knowing that it is correct, so I will treat the data in the same way as I would have if the conclusion had been incorrect. The conclusion will be irrational, thought it is correct, because I have no way of backing up its correctness. Similarly, Objectivism, pulled out of thin air with no reason to substantiate it, would not be Objectivism at all, but a series of blind assertations (which happen to be correct).

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I think you're mistaken. I do not recall Rand discussing this particular topic in that book.

If my memory serves, you're right about that. The most concise and instructional book on the topic is Dr. Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Similarly, Objectivism, pulled out of thin air with no reason to substantiate it, would not be Objectivism at all, but a series of blind assertations (which happen to be correct).

Yes, I agree. Like 1000 monkeys at 1000 typewriters, as the old saying goes. Objectivism also hold that something isn't properly considered knowledge unless you fully understand it and have integrated it into the heirarchy of your total knowledge of the world. (I don't have my source material in front of me, so I apologize in advance if I've mis-stated that in some way.)

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.

For clarity's sake, I should say that I agree with this. Not only is it wonderful, but it is in fact perfect. Well said!

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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.
Stopped clocks do not tell time, so they cannot tell it correctly (or incorrectly, for that matter). If you still disagree, you might find this earlier thread to be of some interest.
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Let's say "Evasively non-integrated" then; not a real belief but a false one. I think this is just a semantic problem.

Stopped clocks do not tell time, so they cannot tell it correctly (or incorrectly, for that matter). If you still disagree, you might find this earlier thread to be of some interest.

If my memory serves, you're right about that. The most concise and instructional book on the topic is Dr. Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.
I have a copy of that on hand (it's the book by Peikoff I've read); can you suggest a page number or section?

Yours is a rather odd question. An irrational person would not recognize a rational position for what it was, so it makes little difference whether they ever see one or not. I could, as a scientist, prepare an experiment to test for something that makes absolutely no ense; I designed the experiment irrationally. I may, by some fluke of coincidence, arrive at the correct conclusion, but I will have no way of knowing that it is correct, so I will treat the data in the same way as I would have if the conclusion had been incorrect. The conclusion will be irrational, thought it is correct, because I have no way of backing up its correctness. Similarly, Objectivism, pulled out of thin air with no reason to substantiate it, would not be Objectivism at all, but a series of blind assertations (which happen to be correct).

Strange or not, my question has some important implications for objectivist epistemology and morality. Is the meaning of your response that an answer arrived at through bad mechanisms is not correct at all? If reason is fundamentally grounded in reality, then the bad answer -- still reflecting ontological reality -- would be reasonable in its factual correctness regardless of whether it was arrived at through rational processes.

If Objectivists see epistemological correctness as rational, and non-evasive thought processes as rational, but they believe there can be epistemological correctness sans rational thought-process, this would imply some kind of dualism in the nature of what is rational. That is not what Objectivists mean to say, so something is wrong here. An Objectivist could solve this by saying epistemological correctness is nothing more than rationality, but this solution has dangerous implications I doubt objectivists would accept; i.e., relativism.

Honestly, I think this is a very important criticsm to be made. However, it doesn't seem unreasonable to just say a stopped clock tells the wrong time twice a day, evading the whole problem. At that...

Stopped clocks do not tell time, so they cannot tell it correctly (or incorrectly, for that matter). If you still disagree, you might find this earlier thread to be of some interest.

TBH, this comparison between an irrational person and a stopped clock does not make any sense, as a person who has evasively found the "correct" belief will give you the correct answer every hour and through a real semantic information-parsing process, whereas a stopped clock simply sits there without doing much. A more appropriate analogy would then be that we are dealing with some sort of evasive and irrational clock that will give you the correct answer 24 hours a day, but not through unevasive reasoning processes, so while it always provides the correct answer, it can't be trusted (that shifty clock). When you think about trying to apply this to a fundamentally materialistic thing like a clock, it does not make much sense. Being fundamentally materialistic, it does not much make sense when applied to the human mind either.

If anything, by comparing humans to a clock, your analogy illustrates a problem of mind that emerges when someone judges one process grounded in reality as 'reasonable' and another 'unreasonable'. I understand that Objectivists make a distinction between that which survives and flourishes but this creates an entirely new problem, as not all which flourishes is rational and not all which is rational flourishes unless it is so by definition. But if 'rational' is 'that which flourishes' I would pragmatically observe it is often more rational to be dumb than not. In its adherence to Objectivism, this cannot be what it means either.

Edited by Arkanin
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But how would a person who uses the wrong methods to arrive at his conclusions ever know if they are correct? I think this is what sNerd means here.

If someone simply acts on the range of the moment and doesn't look at long term effects, he may occasionally get it right, but that doesn't make his way of acting rational by any means.

I don't think you look at results when you say if something is rational or not; it's the means that matter here. If something is correct it would be truth or a fact, but if you have no way of knowing what you say is true or not then anything you claim will be just so much hot air; to you and to others.

Edited by Maarten
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TBH, this comparison between an irrational person and a stopped clock does not make any sense, as a person who has evasively found the "correct" belief will give you the correct answer every hour and through a real semantic information-parsing process, whereas a stopped clock simply sits there without doing much.
If passivity blows the analogy, then instead of a stopped clock, simply imagine one that goes backward.

Your second criticism is true: neither a stopped clock nor a backward one tells the "right" time all the time. I agree that I can think of no analogy to a person who is irrational and always right, unless one constructs an analogy of a clock that shows time randomly but just happens to be "right" all the time.

That sounds like the person who randomly types keystrokes and just happened to come up with "Atlas Shrugged". Even if he did, his next sentence is going to sound like gobbledygook. As evidence, consider the many substantially rational people who agree with much in Objectivism, but do not "digest" some aspect of it and break down on the next application. [For Objectivism, you could substitute some other field of knowledge.]

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I think this is just a semantic problem.

[...]

a person who has evasively found the "correct" belief will give you the correct answer every hour and through a real semantic information-parsing process, whereas a stopped clock simply sits there without doing much. [emphasis added]

Apparently it is not just a semantic problem. Coming to a correct conclusion via irrational means is about as random as a stopped clock being correct twice a day. And an irrational person is about a useful as a stopped clock. (At least as far as gaining knowledge is concerned).

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For clarity's sake, I should say that I agree with this. Not only is it wonderful, but it is in fact perfect. Well said!

This implies something that is incorrect: that there exists a moral system different from Capitalism that is not quite as good. Capitalism isn't the perfect system, i.e. the best of many good alternatives, it is the only moral system. There is no good alternative.

Apparently it is not just a semantic problem. Coming to a correct conclusion via irrational means is about as random as a stopped clock being correct twice a day. And an irrational person is about a useful as a stopped clock. (At least as far as gaining knowledge is concerned).

Marc is correct, and Isaac Asimov stated this point very well in one of his essays, and illustrated it using this example: No matter WHAT method you use to arrive at your conclusion, there are basically only three options to choose between regarding the physical universe.

1. The universe is eternal, without beginning or end.

2. The universe is progressive, with a beginning and a different end.

3. The universe is cyclical, with the beginning being the end and vice versa.

Regardless of method, any prophet or doomsayer will necessarily pick the correct conclusion 1/3 of the time. It is only through rational means, however, (such as discovering the radiation background from the Big Bang) that you can definitively know the answer. To a rational person such a discovery will mean something along the lines of: we can estimate how long it took for the universe to reach its current physical state and what future changes may occur. To an irrational person, this means: God created the universe. They will not "parse" the same information "semantically".

This is because knowledge isn't a series of disconnected, floating ideas, but is an integrated whole. Introduce irrationality at any phase, and you will have an irrational total.

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My answer comes a little late. I've been busy at college for the past few weeks and didn't even post here.

1.) Not all evil behavior is stupid behavior, nor is all stupid behavior evil, correct?

Depends on what stupid behavior is exactly. If it means behavior which is not thought through to the best of one's ability, then all stupid behavior is evil. Errors in judgment may become clear afterwards, but that would not mean that the taken course of behavior was neccessarily evil. Evil would be to ignore the error and pursue this behavior without rethinking it. However, there are evil actions which are thought through, so not all evil is neccessarily stupid (in the meaning I gave above).

3.) It is not moral to mistreat stupid people simply because they are stupid, correct?
I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'mistreat'. It is immoral to initiate physical force against anyone, and that includes stupid people.

4.) It is not immoral to help someone without expecting anything in return, correct? (E.g., it is immoral to promote this as an imperative instead)

No it isn't immoral. However, to promote this as an imperative is immoral, because to do that you would need to initiate force. And I already said that initiation of force is immoral.

6.) From a secular, neurological perspective, it seems more reasonable to view morality as an emergence of empathetic centers of the brain which reinforce and punish "socially approved" and "socially unacceptable" behaviors, respectively, rather than "beneficial" and "non-beneficial" behaviors. E.G., morality seems more sensibly modeled as a function of the superego. Are any of you guys bothered by this sort of positive description of morality, or do you consider it more adequate than "socially approved" and "socially unapproved" models?
Morality is not relative. Societies in different parts of the world approve of very different things, so by what you are saying, morality would be relative to where you currently are. This is not so. A society cannot tell an individual what to do - this it could do only by initiating force against that individual. The parents could raise their child to accept their social norms and this would be moral, but if it refuses to do so, they would be immoral trying to force their child to behave as they desire. Morally, force can only be applied against the one who initiated it (note that I am only speaking of physical force - "force" such as denying their child pocket-money in order to get him to accept their norms is not an immoral means).

The government in a rational society differs from parents (by analogy) in that the government does no make money. It does not produce, thus it does not earn, thus it cannot cut allowance to their citizens. Thus the government cannot "raise" their citizens to respect the norms which it desires, but it CAN force them to be moral - though even then it is limited to utilizing force only in retaliation, never initiation.

7.)Do you consider the distinction between "socially approved" and "personally beneficial" behavior less-than-meaningful or unimportant?

"Socially approved" does not even exist in my dictionary!

And just out of curiosity,

8.) What is more important in a friend: their maturity or their intelligence?

Intelligence.

9.) Do you like kids?

Yes.

10.) Leonard Nemoy or William Shatner?

Oh, dear. This is a false dichotomy. ;) The correct answer is Patrick Stewart!

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This implies something that is incorrect: that there exists a moral system different from Capitalism that is not quite as good. Capitalism isn't the perfect system, i.e. the best of many good alternatives, it is the only moral system. There is no good alternative.

You're right, there is no good (or moral) alternative. By "wonderful" I meant that it wasn't just what we are stuck with, but that it is something to be admired, celebrated, etc. I'm afraid I've made a bit of a muck of it, though. :confused:

The parents could raise their child to accept their social norms and this would be moral, but if it refuses to do so, they would be immoral trying to force their child to behave as they desire.

That is, assuming that the social norms were rational and that the parents knew it. Even if they didn't initiate force, it would still be immoral to teach the child nonsense. All initiations of force are immoral, but it is certainly possible to be immoral without initiating force.

Which is what I'm sure you meant.

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By "wonderful" I meant that it wasn't just what we are stuck with, but that it is something to be admired, celebrated, etc. I'm afraid I've made a bit of a muck of it, though.

I one-upped you, and then Jen proceeded to promptly one-up me. I guess the only thing left is for Zeus to reign lightning upon us all.

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That is, assuming that the social norms were rational and that the parents knew it. Even if they didn't initiate force, it would still be immoral to teach the child nonsense. All initiations of force are immoral, but it is certainly possible to be immoral without initiating force.

Which is what I'm sure you meant.

True, but I think that parents don't know that the norms they teach their children are irrational, and are not aware of the consequences of teaching such norms to their children. It is a norm to believe in a god, in almost all societies in the world. Many see no harm in it, but it is still an irrational norm. Are the parents, who do not see the irrationality of it, still immoral when they teach this norm to their children? I mean, is the very act of teaching them immoral just because an irrational norm is being taught, or is it immoral because it is immoral not to think about norms critically before and if they are taught?

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I mean, is the very act of teaching them immoral just because an irrational norm is being taught, or is it immoral because it is immoral not to think about norms critically before and if they are taught?

I'd say the latter, although it might vary with individual cases. It's quite possible to teach something irrational that you held because as an error of knowledge, rather than a moral breach.

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Your second criticism is true: neither a stopped clock nor a backward one tells the "right" time all the time. I agree that I can think of no analogy to a person who is irrational and always right, unless one constructs an analogy of a clock that shows time randomly but just happens to be "right" all the time.

That sounds like the person who randomly types keystrokes and just happened to come up with "Atlas Shrugged". Even if he did, his next sentence is going to sound like gobbledygook. As evidence, consider the many substantially rational people who agree with much in Objectivism, but do not "digest" some aspect of it and break down on the next application. [For Objectivism, you could substitute some other field of knowledge.

The problem with saying this is that you would be conflating "wrong" with "random". People who come up with ideas through an allegedly "wrong" process do not do so randomly or arbitrarily. They are a semantic machine that parses various concepts and then respond in a non-arbitrary non-random fashion, even if they respond incorrectly or correctly through "incorrect" means. i think your analogy would require something always give the correct answer given correct inputs and somehow still be wrong.

The underlying problem I am driving at is that when examining people or clocks as entities which process information, we are necessarily forced to accept that their rightness is determined by their ability to be correct all the time; otherwise, you'd have to propose some other criteria for being "correct" other than "Giving the correct answer for any given input", and at this point the concept of rightness would almost certainly become subjective.

This is why I think it's important to acknowledge a stopped clock does tell the right time twice a day and also think this fact is the sort of distinction that can make or break an entire philosophy of mind; it seems that to think otherwise is absolutely disastrous for objectivism, as it forces us to accept an essentially subjective concept of correctness if not a kind of dualism )in the case of the dualism, for reasons I have not listed here).

Depends on what stupid behavior is exactly. If it means behavior which is not thought through to the best of one's ability, then all stupid behavior is evil.

Another important distinction needs to be made: if I make a decision without thinking, and my decision is better for having not thought, is it "stupid" for me to analyze the decision (even if there is no time limit on the decision)? The end of what I am asking is whether disuse of conscious intelligence is stupidity (which equals immorality) or if the sum of our person's behaving foolishly is stupidity. This latter would seem to be a special definition of stupidty used by Objectivists, that is similar if not the same as immorality (It also seems to me that immorality here has a slightly special definition as well).

8.) What is more important in a friend: their maturity or their intelligence?

Intelligence.

TBH this is the answer I was hoping not to hear. It seems to me that an intelligent but immature person will virtually never do or accomplish anything worthy with their intelligence -- for theirself, included -- at which point they'd just as well be an immature retarded person. This would seem especially true when choosing someone to be your friend. An intelligent immature person can give you masturbatory debates that are sometimes superficially interesting, but a mature friend can give you companionship and understanding. So I am curious, why would you choose someone intelligent over someone mature?

Edited by Arkanin
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This is why I think it's important to acknowledge a stopped clock does tell the right time twice a day and also think this fact is the sort of distinction that can make or break an entire philosophy of mind;

Now attach a calendar to the clock. It is never correct, it is broken, just as an irrational person is broken. And the ideas of an irrational person play no part in a rational philosophy.

we are necessarily forced to accept that their rightness is determined by their ability to be correct all the time; otherwise, you'd have to propose some other criteria for being "correct" other than "Giving the correct answer for any given input", and at this point the concept of rightness would almost certainly become subjective.

So now you are demanding omniscience. It doesn’t exist. No person is, has been or will be omniscient. Yet certainty does exist. I am certain that there is one objective reality. And that we can observe and describe it. And that the only way we will do that is rationally.

Objectivism will not crumble because it is based in rationality. Nor will it be derailed by skepticism.

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But that's not the point. If a person (information parser, whatever) can give the correct answer 100% of the time and still be 'irrational', what kind of definition of rationality can you offer which is not strictly relativistic? At this point, any meaningful discussion of "rational" or "irrational" thought would seem to completely disintegrate.

Edited by Arkanin
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If a person (information parser, whatever) can give the correct answer 100% of the time and still be 'irrational', what kind of definition of rationality can you offer which is not strictly relativistic? At this point, any meaningful discussion of "rational" or "irrational" thought would seem to completely disintegrate.
Rationality is a method, not an outcome.
Agreed. Arkanin, we can put books on a scale and get the correct weight, or coins in a soft drink machine and tally the correct quantity 100% of the time. Would eliminating these things from "rational" be relativistic?

When examining people or clocks as entities which process information, we are necessarily forced to accept that their rightness is determined by their ability to be correct all the time.
Ah, you were that kid who complained when the teacher made you show your work :lol:

What is more important in a friend: their maturity or their intelligence?

Intelligence.

This is the answer I was hoping not to hear... An intelligent immature person can give you masturbatory debates that are sometimes superficially interesting, but a mature friend can give you companionship and understanding. So I am curious, why would you choose someone intelligent over someone mature?
Watson over Mycroft? Pshaw. If I'm trying to build a Galt engine without any prior knowledge of its workings, I'd rather have a Beavis the sooper-genius to Forrest Gump. Stopped-clockism aside, Gump has no chance of helping me, whereas at least I know Beavis is worthwhile if I can manage to motivate him. Even more so if we were talking about average maturity and high intelligence vs. average intelligence and high maturity.

Maturity is for the nursing home :P

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Watson over Mycroft? Pshaw. If I'm trying to build a Galt engine without any prior knowledge of its workings, I'd rather have a Beavis the sooper-genius to Forrest Gump. Stopped-clockism aside, Gump has no chance of helping me, whereas at least I know Beavis is worthwhile if I can manage to motivate him. Even more so if we were talking about average maturity and high intelligence vs. average intelligence and high maturity.

Maturity is for the nursing home :lol:

Arkanin, note that the only one who said intelligence > maturity is Hunterrose, and he is not in fact an Objectivist. Keep that in mind.

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Arkanin, note that the only one who said intelligence > maturity is Hunterrose, and he is not in fact an Objectivist. Keep that in mind.

In all fairness, this says nothing as to whether Hunterrose's position is right or wrong. Am I misinterpreting what you are trying to establish in this post?

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In all fairness, this says nothing as to whether Hunterrose's position is right or wrong. Am I misinterpreting what you are trying to establish in this post?

I knew I should have clarified that. :worry:

Here, allow me to re-write that point:

Arkanin, note that the only one who said intelligence > maturity is Hunterrose, and he is not in fact an Objectivist. Keep that in mind. I'm not knocking Hunterrose or commenting on his position, just noting that you seem to be judging the position of Objectivists by the statement of someone who isn't actually an Objectivist.

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