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Why isn't Objectivism taken seriously?

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Speaking of the Stanford EP, what does this refer to? I haven't yet read ItOE, so I'm a little in the dark about what this criticism is supposed to mean:

The full elaboration of an Objectivist theory of perception in an academic style is David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses, and he specifically addresses those issues there. I have attempted an outline of the book's arguments, if you are interested check the link in my sig below.

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Are we talking not taken seriously by the mainstream of culture or not taken seriously by academia? While there is some cross-over these are definitely two seperate issues.

I've discussed this a bit with some friends and aquaintances in academia and for the most part they give one answer- the majority of people who claim to follow Objectivism discredit her philosophy.

Many of them actually see a lot of value and truth in the philosophy of Objectivism but state that the behavior of "new converts" is so distasteful that no one wants to deal with it. When I pointed out that there are plenty of people who claim to follow the philosophies of Kant, or Hume or Epictetus that act like jerks the response has always been that those philosophies having been in the mainstream of culture for so long are less personal and particular. Hence (and they agree this is not necessarily "fair") if a bunch of people claim to follow Kantian philosophy as a mode of life but act like jerks that doesn't mean that Kantian reasoning is to blame. However arbitrarily Rand's philosophy is to blame when people who claim to admire her act like jerks.

There is the phase many of us older Objectivists are used to seeing- the I AM HOWARD ROARK phase.

It is a wholly unattractive phase and I can see why people are largely repulsed by it.

To many people in academia these people are the face of Objectivism.

Edit:typos

*** Mod's note: I've split the responses to the "I am Howard Roark" part of this in to a separate thread, here. -sN ***

Edited by softwareNerd
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Here is what I think:

1) Rand's ideas are not presented by herself as rigorous theories of academia. This is usually a prescription for being taken seriously in an American university's philosophy department, since almost every department is at least leaning analytical. Rand presents ideas for a general audience, in a common sense manner. Because of this approach, she does not address common objections that would arise against her ideas on, say, perception. Philosophers have objections to direct theories of perception that they think are still valid. They will commonly accuse Rand of ignoring these objections.

2) Rather than remedy this, I think a large portion of the Objectivist community has chosen to just abandon academia. That, of course, has changed in the past decade.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have another theory.

The ethics is what makes Objectivism controversial (perhaps not in a philosophy department as they are more concerned with metaphysics and epistemology, one would suppose, and dismiss Objectivism on those grounds as pointed out here.) But the reason Objectivism does not become more popular (And thus gain even more interest in academia) I think is because of the lack of works on ethics. I think more explanatory work on ethics is required for more people to really grasp it. More books such as "Loving Life" by craig biddle for example; which I think is an absolutely perfect book in every regard except in the most important part where he says he proves egoism.

More and better books on ethics → More people truly understand it and propagate (correctly) for it → More popularity → More Objectivism in academia → Problem solved.

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  • 1 month later...

On the continental side, Objectivism would have to contend with the current focus of Deleuze, Badiou and perhaps Zizek. But first, at least it would have to come to terms with Heidegger.

Interestingly on the analytic side, as far as I know objectivism would get on quite well with Wittgenstein's "first philosophy". His second philosophy has parallels with Heidegger, although it is greatly simplistic in comparison.

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On the continental side, Objectivism would have to contend with the current focus of Deleuze, Badiou and perhaps Zizek. But first, at least it would have to come to terms with Heidegger.

Waitaminute. Who takes the Nazi philosopher Heidegger seriously besides other Nazis and crypto-fascists?

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Critics have objected that Rand offers no argument against the possibility that some concepts may have their referents determined by the definition (Browne 2000; Long 2005a, 2005b). Rand describes the meaning of “capitalism,” for example, as “full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire” (1964a, p. 33). Since Rand does not regard such as a system as ever having existed, it's hard to see how the concept of “capitalism” could have been formed on the basis of its referents (what referents?); if instead Rand's definition of “capitalism” serves as the criterion to determine what would count as a referent, then some statements will be “true by definition” after all, thereby potentially resurrecting the analytic-synthetic distinction.

I'm pretty sure this is in reference to what Rand said about the meaning of a concept being its referents. They seem to think that if you've never seen a "pure" referent, then you can't form the concept for it. Saying that you can't form the concept of Capitalism without seeing a laissez-faire Capitalism is like saying that you can't form the concept of poison without observing a bottle of pure poison. But I think that in both cases you can still form the concept. If you observe that the word "poisonous" is attributed to certain foods (poisonous food), then I'd say you can differentiate poison by observing the difference between food and poison food. Food is good for you, poison food is bad for you, so poison must something that's bad for you. (I'm not 100% certain about this though.)

Another thing to keep in mind is measurement-omission.

With the above two points in mind, you should be able to see that the meaning of a concept is still its referents. By "dog", I mean those things I call dogs. By "capitalism", I mean those social systems that I consider capitalistic. (Even if the amount of capitalism in those societies isn't 100%. Measurement omission. The characteristics that make the system capitalistic have to be there, but they don't have to be there in any certain quantity.) When we say that our economy is a mixed economy, we know that it is part capitalistic and part socialistic, and we know which parts of the system are properties of the referents of each concept.

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The question: Why isn't Objectivism taken seriously?

The answer: Because those who don't take Objectivism seriously fail to realize that "Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification" (from Atlas Shrugged). Its that simple! :lol:

They might not "fail to realize it". They may, at some level, realize this but since this implies they cannot have the world as they want it - which could produce some level of discomfort and fear - they choose, knowingly or otherwise, to ignore it (which also leads to some discomfort and fear), just as happened in Atlas SHrugged. As Rand implies in the novel, those who know it and live as if it weren't true are more evil than those who simply don't "get it".

I'm new here and I hope my response is not too superficial.

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Even among those academic philosophers who are not overtly hostile to Rand, there is great difficulty in grasping her arguments and positions. I don't think this is a matter of dishonesty; it's a consequence of approaching Objectivism from a very different background conceptual context. There are distinctions that contemporary philosophy accepts as largely uncontroversial which Objectivism simply rejects, and distinctions which Objectivism considers significant which contemporary philosophy doesn't see as relevant. The result is that contemporary philosophers try to classify Objectivist positions using the ill-fitting concepts they have on hand, and they don't quite fit.

I noticed this in Christine Swanton's essay "Nietzsche and Rand as Virtuous Egoists" (published in ]i]Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory). Swanton spends a lot of effort trying to figure out the relationship between moral principles and interests. Do principles act as a constraint on our interests, or are they incorporated into our interests? Those are the only two possibilities she sees, which prevents her from properly seeing the actual Objectivist position: that our interests are identified through our principles. (I suspect, but can't prove, that this is connected to a deeper separation between ethics and epistemology in contemporary philosophy. The Objectivist position here ties the two fields together -- the ethical role of moral principles is closely tied to their cognitive role. If you view ethics as essentially separable from epistemology you will have trouble seeing this point.)

Irfan Khawaja has a fascinating essay in the same book on "The Foundations of Ethics: Objectivism and Analytic Philosophy" that tries to bridge some of these kinds of gaps. Worth reading.

Another example of this kind of 'talking past each other' I've seen happens when analytic philosophers try to apply the 'necessary vs. contingent' dichotomy while Objectivists try to explain the 'metaphysical vs. man-made' dichotomy. The two overlap in some ways, but not others. The resulting conversations usually yield more heat than light. I think similar examples could be multiplied almost indefinitely. The conceptual frameworks of Objectivism and contemporary philosophy are different enough that learning to bridge the gap effectively could almost be a career in itself, even ignoring the issues of emotional hostility and outright intellectual dishonesty.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The question: Why isn't Objectivism taken seriously?

The answer: Because those who don't take Objectivism seriously fail to realize that "Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification" (from Atlas Shrugged). Its that simple!

The point here about Heidegger is that he destroyed the concept of a self-evident subject.

Fast forward to Deleuze. The primacy of difference, and identity is representation. Foundationalism is dead.

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Taking down Descartes has been done over and over, but Heidegger's attempt fails. Descarte's "Cogito ergo sum" is as pure an example of what Ayn Rand called the "primacy of consciousness" as has ever been advocated. Heidegger gets no credit for refuting Descartes by the ridiculous measure of throwing out the subject-object distinction. It is not the case the making the subject-object distinction leads to metaphysical dualism or the cogito, so it is not true that refuting the latter requires discarding the former.

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Taking down Descartes has been done over and over, but Heidegger's attempt fails. Descarte's "Cogito ergo sum" is as pure an example of what Ayn Rand called the "primacy of consciousness" as has ever been advocated. Heidegger gets no credit for refuting Descartes by the ridiculous measure of throwing out the subject-object distinction. It is not the case the making the subject-object distinction leads to metaphysical dualism or the cogito, so it is not true that refuting the latter requires discarding the former.

You have failed to understand. It is the "primacy of existence" that is refuted.

How are you coping with Deleuze?

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I expected that, but I like how you put it :lol:

His notions of "care" and "being in the world" may need some elaboration.

To continue to refer to the alleged Heidegger in the face of my refusal to acknowledge his existence is to appeal to existence for justification.

Yes Deleuze, more importantly. Which I linked underneath the Heidegger link. Or to save you the trouble of scrolling; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_and_Repetition

Never heard of him. I am not a professional philosopher, nor does he much interest me. I found his biographical Wikipedia page more informative than the page on Difference and Repetition. He seems to be just another dead white Kantian, but transcendental empiricism at least sounds pretty cool.

I could say there are parallels to Rand's claims that differentiation and integration are the fundamental mental actions underlying thought, but since I really don't know what Deleuze is on about I should just stop.

Edited by Grames
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The answer I get for "why isn't Objectivism taken seriously" is that Objectivism presents an over-simplified view of the world, and that "things are not that simple".

I can't help but wonder what on Earth they mean. Things are not *how* simple exactly? Things are not what they are? Consciousness is not conscious? A is not A? It's no wonder they blank-out at the mere mention of morality.

From Wikipedia:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is a sense of behavioral conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong).

Good for whom? No answer.

Bad for whom? No answer.

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