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Trouble with friends

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Hey all, I'm having a problem that I'm pretty sure only you guys can help with.

I've long since been used to the fact that everyone I've met and talked to for anylength of time so far holds a multitude of flawed premises, and I accept my friends for the good I see in them and try to avoid the bad while avoiding sanctioning it. The problem is, every once in a while I find myself getting into an ethical or political debate that brings out the pure irrationality in people, and it sours my mood for the rest of the day and I become completely uncivil and take it out on people not involved. As an example, tonight I saw the movie Blood Diamonds with a friend. On the way home, she mentioned how she wanted to join the peace corps, and we got into a big debate about whether or not it helps. Now, I personally think an organization that gives more to people the worse they are is only furthering the problem, and she is convinced that peace corps and similar organizations are the only way to solve the problem. Now, I can understand a difference of opinion, but when we debated she dismissed my ideas as unrealistic and used the "life's not that simple" card, and refused to accept the posibility that her ideas might lead to harm in the area. Since then, I've been moody, snapped at both my parents and a few of my friends, and am in general feeling like shit. I hate that this bothers me so much, and I hate having this issue over and over again... In fact, if I'm not in a good mood you can almost be sure it is because of this issue. Any thoughts are greatly apreciated.

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Just a wild guess here, but I can get irritable if I encounter a topic, know that I am dealing with an irrational mystic/altruist/collectivist type, and am unable to articulate properly my point. It helps me to write down my arguments in blog posts and "get out" what is frustrating me.

If you're not a big writer, maybe it would help to read a good article on the subject.

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and am unable to articulate properly my point.

Yeah... That's it. Hit it dead on. Thanks... Now I just need to work on proper articulation... Hey, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to build a better foundation for my philosophical beliefs, that will certainly help here.

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I find that the more Rand I read, the better my debate and articulation skills become. Part of the failure of my personal debating skills is being presented with concepts that I've never given any thought to. While some of them are easily debunked, others have to be pre-contemplated to be effectively debunked. Reading Rand and other Objectivists helps me to think about things I otherwise wouldn't have thought of until I was already in a debate. Really, it just helps because Rand's words usually end up being how I thought, only stated far more eloquently.

Alas, I still have a lot of reading to do, but my advice is to read as much Rand as you can.

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Yeah... That's it. Hit it dead on. Thanks... Now I just need to work on proper articulation... Hey, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to build a better foundation for my philosophical beliefs, that will certainly help here.

I mean, not to say that it's an excuse for snapping at people (believe me, I've done that myself...), but that does seem to be the root of your trouble.

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Perhaps your irritation and bad mood is a result of realizing that your friends are not what you imagine they are. Since, as what you imagine they are, they are a great value to you, having this value destroyed is upsetting.

It might also add to the frustration of not finding any rational friends. You might not have accepted yet, that most people hold irrational ideas, and not realize why this is possible that most people are not rational (in the core, the way of thinking of things).

If this is the case, I'd suggest giving your friend the benefit of the doubt. Her premises might come from a more positive outlook on the human spirit than what some people really are. Remember that in AS, for example, Dagny stayed and fought to save the world because she didn't believe that certain people are really after total destruction, and that they can't be changed if someone presented them with logical arguments. After she's been to the valey and returned to her work, she took the chance to meet with the government representatives over dinner. She did this because she thought this is her chance, because they would listen to her. She believed that they were essentially good but misguided, and this might be the premise that your friend is holding. It is a very difficult premise to become disillusioned from.

Another option is that you feel that by not agreeing with you, they somehow transform reality into "their view"? And that the new reality is bad, and must be changed back.

If this is the case, I would remind you that you are just learning those subjects, and in the process of working out your philosophy and integrating it. You should allow yourself to have the process advance in your own pace, and not feel disapointed with yourself if you fail to fully explain your position on something, right NOW.

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I'm not sure if this is relevant to your situation, but I remember ayn rand saying something to the extent of "love people for their virtues, not their vices." try not to think about your friends' problems, but focus on what is good about them. After I got into Objectivism, people really started to bug me, it seemed like everybody was a mindless sheep. After awhile, I learned to just not care if people don't live up to my standards, and only associate with people in situations where they could.

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I know how you feel. Sometimes I get way too passionate about things and let them affect me more than they should. If you know what you want to say but can't find the right way to say it, it can become very frustrating indeed. When I'm in those kinds of situations, I just take a moment to collect my thoughts and formulate my argument. Then I begin speaking.

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LazloWalrus:

I don't have my copy of AS on me right now, but I'm pretty sure it was in there. Its most likely in the chapter where Fransisco talks about sex. Actually, thats what that whole speech was about, now that I come to think of it...

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Remember that most people don't like to debate when they're losing badly. If you want to keep things going smoothly with friends, it's often best to avoid philosophical tangents in discussions.

Why would you even want friends who debate for the sake of "winning" (or keeping their fragile self esteem) instead of for the sake of knowledge? I don't see any reason why friends who only like it when things go "smoothly" are desirable at all.

I can see how this would be a good choice of behavior with coworkers, for example, but not with friends.

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Why would you even want friends who debate for the sake of "winning" (or keeping their fragile self esteem) instead of for the sake of knowledge? I don't see any reason why friends who only like it when things go "smoothly" are desirable at all.

I can see how this would be a good choice of behavior with coworkers, for example, but not with friends.

I consider a debate to be something you undertake primarily to win. A discussion is something undertaken primarily to gain knowledge.

I recommended avoiding philosophical tangents in discussions because they usually either turn into debates which the other party will likely lose if you're an Objectivist and he's not; or a lecture, and people don't like to be lectured by those they consider equals, i.e. friends. So my point is, tread carefully when dealing with the topic of philosophy around casual friends.

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Another option is that you feel that by not agreeing with you, they somehow transform reality into "their view"? And that the new reality is bad, and must be changed back.
Wow, I've never seen that premise expressed that way. But I've seen people act as though they thought like that! In fact, when I am forced to spend a lot of time with a group of people who all share a same point of view which is foreign to me, sometimes it does seem like the whole world is going crazy, or I am, and not just those people (but if I think about it, of course I'm aware that it's only an odd sensation, and that I know it's really just them [edit: as opposed to reality]). How did you come up with that formulation? Very interesting.

I'm not sure if this is relevant to your situation, but I remember ayn rand saying something to the extent of "love people for their virtues, not their vices." try not to think about your friends' problems, but focus on what is good about them. After I got into Objectivism, people really started to bug me, it seemed like everybody was a mindless sheep. After awhile, I learned to just not care if people don't live up to my standards, and only associate with people in situations where they could.
Where does she say this? It doesn't at all strike me as familiar.
It didn't sound familiar to me either, so I skimmed around that part of the book to see if I could find what kufa meant.

This is the closest part I could find--is this what you're talking about, kufa? If so, I'm very interested in how you think it is related to the current discussion. Not that I think it's not, just that it's not obvious to me how, exactly.

Love is our response to our highest values—and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws—and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit. And then he will wonder why love brings him nothing but boredom, and sex—nothing but shame.
I'll admit, when I read "I remember ayn rand saying something to the extent of 'love people for their virtues, not their vices,'" my reaction was, "Love someone for their vices? But why would anyone do that??" I'm glad she explains it. : )

I consider a debate to be something you undertake primarily to win. A discussion is something undertaken primarily to gain knowledge.
Why do you make this distinction? It seems highly unusual to me--isn't a debate usually considered to be a type of discussion? Edited by Bold Standard
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Why do you make this distinction? It seems highly unusual to me--isn't a debate usually considered to be a type of discussion?

It just depends on how you're using the words. You'll find it both ways in the dictionary. Sometimes a debate is for asserting that you're right, and showing that the other person is wrong - period. This is what ends up happening when I discuss philosophy or related subjects (haha, what isn't?) with many of my friends, who have tons of irrational beliefs about things - even friends who implicitly share many of my values.

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Wow, I've never seen that premise expressed that way. ... How did you come up with that formulation?

Well, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that in part, my choice of words was influenced by another user, even though I had the ideas in mind for years now.

The offensive action is often based on the idea that a worded insult is an actual damage, and must be handled.

I'm such a cheater :lol: . Guess the words just clicked perfectly with the ideas in my mind so I sort of borrowed them.

If you're asking how I came up with the idea - by observation. But I was able to put it into words (as far as I remeber) during the last part of 'meaning of nakedness' thread.

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BoldStandard:

I wasn't sure if it was relevant to his situation, thats why I said "I'm not sure if this is relevant to your situation" in the beginning. :D I suppose what I was trying to say is that most peoples friends have shortcomings, but it is best to focus on their positive traits. So long as the positive outweigh the negative, the relationship is fine. If not, well, that is why people stop being friends.

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I'm not sure if this is relevant to your situation, but I remember ayn rand saying something to the extent of "love people for their virtues, not their vices."

Where does she say this? It doesn't at all strike me as familiar.

Here is the answer to that question. The first source can alternatively be found on p. 234 of the Lexicon.

Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally, a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proven guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential. After that, he judges them according to the moral character they have actualized. If he finds them guilty of major evils, his good will is replaced by contempt and moral condemnation. ... If he finds them to be virtuous, he grants them personal, individual value and appreciation, in proportion to their virtues.

Since morality is man's motive power, there is no spiritual reward one can offer as consequential as one's moral sanction--and no spiritual deprivation as harsh as withholding it.

The first of these comes first. The conventional view is that justice consists primarily in punishing the wicked. This view stems from the idea that evil is metaphysically powerful, while virtue is merely "impractical idealism." In the Objectivist philosophy, however, vice is the attribute to be scorned as impractical. For us, therefore, the order or priority is reversed.

Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring--and then in expressing one's admiration explicitly and in fighting for those one admires. ... Evil must be combatted, but then it is to be brushed aside. What counts in life are the men who support life.

Elsewhere in the section, Peikoff says that it's important to recognize the "white" and "black" parts--the good and bad--of a person with an overall "grey" moral character, and take them into consideration in dealing with that person. So it would make sense that the paragraphs I quoted above would apply not only in general, but specifically to the task of judging friends. Just as what counts in life are the men who support life, what counts in life are the virtues of men that support life--and not their vices.

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I personally think an organization that gives more to people the worse they are is only furthering the problem. Now, I can understand a difference of opinion, but ... [she] refused to accept the posibility that her ideas might lead to harm in the area.
Do you accept the possibility that your ideas might lead to harm in this area, and that her ideas might not merely be a difference of opinion, but actually be right?

Because if you don't, then it's understandable that your friend feels the same about her thoughtful assessment of the facts.

She is convinced that peace corps and similar organizations are the only way to solve the problem.
What do you mean?
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Just as what counts in life are the men who support life, what counts in life are the virtues of men that support life--and not their vices.

Well, I think you are misinterpreting Rand and Peikoff's quotations.

People's vices count, and some vices are big enough to wipe out any virtues someone may otherwise possess.

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If he does, then he's daft. His friend is so wrong it hurts.

Yes, but she thinks that he is wrong. We're not advocates of tolerance, why should we expect the commies to say "hey, you Objectivists might be right!" Seems kind of backwards to me.

Cogito, if you hang out with people that have bad ideas, they're going to say things that will make you grind your teeth. There's nothing wrong with associating with people that have bad ideas as long as you don't grant your support TO their bad ideas: say "I don't agree" and leave it at that. If they want to hear more, they'll ask you.

It can be difficult because it seems like you're being indifferent to your ideas by not proselytizing: you're not, you are being indifferent to the person that has the bad ideas.

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The problem is, every once in a while I find myself getting into an ethical or political debate that brings out the pure irrationality in people, and it sours my mood for the rest of the day and I become completely uncivil and take it out on people not involved.

So the problem is that it brings out the irrationality in other people?

My guess: I think you're frustrated because you feel like you didn't make a good showing, not because the other person disagreed with you. There's something left fuzzy or untangled, and you feel like the debate made things more fuzzy and tangled, not less. You don't feel like you got to say what you really wanted to say. You spent a lot of time talking at cross-purposes with someone who you value enough to spend time with, and that was naturally frusterating.

As an example, tonight I saw the movie Blood Diamonds with a friend. On the way home, she mentioned how she wanted to join the peace corps, and we got into a big debate about whether or not it helps. Now, I personally think an organization that gives more to people the worse they are is only furthering the problem, and she is convinced that peace corps and similar organizations are the only way to solve the problem.

I am not privy to the context, but I think you didn't define the question well enough to have a fruitful debate. "[W]hether or not it helps"--helps what? And what is "the problem" which is either being furthered or solved? If you are trying to debate whether nations with Peace Corps activity are generally helped or hurt by it, you have put yourself in a tough position. You'd have to explain away or dismiss every concrete instance where the Peace Corps did bring some measure of literacy or health to a region. You'd also have to establish that the Peace Corps does give more to people the worse they are. Unless you've already read up on it in detail to make that specific point, it's not something you can do.

Now, I can understand a difference of opinion, but when we debated she dismissed my ideas as unrealistic and used the "life's not that simple" card, and refused to accept the posibility that her ideas might lead to harm in the area.
I'm not sure it's fair to say she refused to accept that possibility. You were saying that the Peace Corps makes problems worse. Not "might" make them worse. And if you didn't have the concretes to back up your ideas, they're going to get dismissed unless you're talking to a person who already shares them. It's never pleasant to feel dismissed.

Since then, I've been moody, snapped at both my parents and a few of my friends, and am in general feeling like shit. I hate that this bothers me so much, and I hate having this issue over and over again... In fact, if I'm not in a good mood you can almost be sure it is because of this issue. Any thoughts are greatly apreciated.

I think you should go back to this friend and say something along these lines: "I owe you an apology. We went out to see a movie, and then you talked about the Peace Corps. I get angry because sometimes these helping organizations cause a lot of damage to real human lives, but it seems like everybody cuts them slack because of their 'good intentions.' But you were talking about something you wanted to do in the future. I let my opinions about humanitarian organizations in general get in the way of asking about your specific plans. What are they?" She's feeling dismissed right now, just like you are. She was expecting some interest and approval. You don't have to approve, but if you call her a friend, you owe it to both of you to dig further before you try to tell her she's doing the wrong thing.

She may even surprise you with something interesting.

--Schefflera

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"I owe you an apology. We went out to see a movie, and then you talked about the Peace Corps. I get angry because sometimes these helping organizations cause a lot of damage to real human lives, but it seems like everybody cuts them slack because of their 'good intentions.' But you were talking about something you wanted to do in the future. I let my opinions about humanitarian organizations in general get in the way of asking about your specific plans. What are they?"
Very, very nice :)
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Well, I think you are misinterpreting Rand and Peikoff's quotations.

People's vices count, and some vices are big enough to wipe out any virtues someone may otherwise possess.

What I said wasn't intended to stand alone, outside of the context of the quote. You could take the statement I extrapolated from, by Peikoff, out of context and it would be face the same problem.

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