Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ayn Rand and Wikipedia

Was Ayn Rand a philosopher? That is the question now being taken to the important mediation committee of Wikipedia. There is currently a disagreement about whether the article about her should qualify her as a 'popular' or 'commercially successful' philosopher, or an 'amateur philosopher' (as Anthony Quinton did in his article on popular philosophy in the Oxford Companion to philosophy), or whether she is a philosopher without qualification.

This involves many difficulties, the main one being that Wikipedia has no concept of 'expert opinion'. We simply cannot ask Anthony Quinton or Ted Honderich or any of the philosophical establishment to weigh in on this important question. The question must be settled by whoever of the anonymous and mostly unqualified editors who turn up at the article talk page to thrash out a consensus. Which is not as bad as it sounds. Wikipedia has strict rules about 'reliable sources' and an entire manual devoted to citation. The rules are orientated towards mainstream academic consensus, and against 'original research' and using duff sources. This means you should use primary sources, however good, to support a claim. You should avoid using a blog or other self-published sources. Reliable and authoritative secondary sources are the preferred method of citation. Thus articles like Wittgenstein can be pretty good. The prose is often awkward and amateurish, and you have to put up the usual slavish political correctness of Wikipedia. But the results are not nearly as bad as you might have expected.

The difficulty is to assess writers like Rand, who have been so marginalised by the academic establishment that it is hard to find any reliable sources dealing with her, or her work. Who was Rand? That is the first question that non-American readers are likely to ask. I had not read any of her work until last week, and had only heard of her through Quinton's passing reference in the Oxford Companion. Well, read the article linked to above, which gives you a flavour of her work. There is a helpful lexicon on a pro-Rand website here, which contains samples of her writing. Otherwise there a few reliable sources which give a critical assessment of her work. Try these posts by the philosopher William Vallicella, who has a good explanation here of how Rand fails to understand Kant, and here where he points out some elementary - really elementary - logical errors in her work.

My view, based on a cursory reading of her actual writing, was that she lacked even a basic understanding of the essentials of the subject. I was particularly intrigued by her views on existence. But that is a personal view which, despite my qualifications, counts for nothing in Wikipedia. More about this later.

Meanwhile, let the excellent Brandon have the last word. He shows well how it is possible to combine sympathy with frankness (something the Wikipedia article should aim at, in my view). "Is she a bit of a hack when it comes to philosophy? Definitely. But I think what we see in Rand is someone of considerable native talent and ability whose reason never underwent the sort of discipline that would have made that talent genuinely shine."

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26 Comments:

Blogger Moulton said...

Los Obliviados y Los Olvidados

When I was just out of college, I had trouble diagnosing the flaw in Ayn Rand's notion of Objectivism. It occurred to me that having scientifically objective models of the world around us was a perfectly valid perspective.

It took me several decades to find the flaw.

When I was in college, my fraternity brothers criticized me for being "cocky". It was a word whose meaning was entirely unclear to me.

What they meant, of course, was that I came across as over-confident in my book-learning, a character trait they found annoying and off-putting. And I found their alienating attitude toward me inexplicably perplexing.

Part of the flaw in Ayn Rand's philosophy can be found in her failed relationship with Nathaniel Branden. Branden, being a psychologist and psychotherapist, was keenly aware of the kind of emotions that his clients routinely dealt with: anxiety, confusion, frustration, despair. His clients were anything but cocksure of themselves. Therapists deal with problems of unfinished Bildungsroman: their clients are very much a work in progress, full of anxiety and self-doubt, endlessly questioning themselves and worrying about their undiagnosed, unanalyzed, and uncorrected shortcomings.

In his second book, People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, M. Scott Peck recounted his difficulty dealing with young clients whose parents were more like Ayn Rand. He would treat the adolescent children whose parents were obliviously cocksure of themselves, whilst their children manifested the anxiety and self-doubt lacking in their parents.

If you want to glimpse an insight into the chasm between Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand, read M. Scott Peck's book.

What therapists like Branden and Peck sought to develop was empathy — the ability to apprehend the affective emotional states of those who were anything but cocksure, and become a conscientious and loving attendant to their journey of Bildungsroman, their life journey of building their character.

The characters in Ayn Rand's novels appear, like Athena, fully formed from the head of Zeus, skipping over the years of development that educators and therapists attend. Contrast that with the Harry Potter character, whose seven-volume story is entirely one of Bildungsroman, full of the drama of self-doubt.

A good scientist is not cocksure. A good scientist adopts a healthy attitude of skepticism, including a level of Socratic self-skepticism that enables a humble scientist to diagnose the subtle shortcomings of emerging theories (and derivative practices). A good scientist tries every imaginable way to disprove all hypotheses before daring to imagine that any flight of fancy might be an objectively accurate model of the world around us.

This is the recurring flaw of the Randian character — adopting delusional beliefs (haphazard flights of fancy) and arrogantly acting on them without engaging in the rigorous scientific and Socratic process of conscientious self-examination. On Wikipedia, we often see this error when Admins form haphazard theories of mind regarding other editors, and then arrogantly act on those unexamined flights of fancy as if they were the objective truth handed down by Yahweh on stone tablets.

Were a Randian Objectivist to become more like an authentic scientist, he or she would become more like Nathaniel Branden, M. Scott Peck, Seymour Papert, or Sherry Turkle, immersed in the subtle sociological and psychological aspects of cognition, affect, and learning.

It is easy for a young Objectivist to naively overlook the role of emotions in learning and personal growth. In one week, I'll be 64 years old. It's taken me the last quarter century to begin to understand the subtle interplay of cognition, affect, and learning. It's an overlooked subject you won't find explored in Randian Objectivism.

10:50 am  
Blogger Ocham said...

(thank you Lar)

8:26 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Perhaps a through and very careful study of "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", by Leonard Peikoff, would clear up the confusions used by critics of her writing, confusions they then use to argue she is the one confused!

MaverickPhilosopher, at the time he wrote the material you linked to (the 5th & 6th links in this post), admits to not having really examined Rand's work, so his arguments are based on snippets he has excerpted from what he has read. Imagine if your PhD thesis was judged by your thesis committee on the basis of snippets!

It took me a lot of study to get to the point of grasping her ideas well enough to be confident in them. The biggest difficulty was re-examining my own premises as to whether they made sense, and then being careful that my faulty premises did not creep into my interpretation of her explanations (an aspect of thinking she called "psycho-epistemology"). Years later, I must still maintain that guarded introspective guard.

MaverickP has not done the work, and has missed her most fundamental point in metaphysics... that it is necessarily and inescapably integrated with epistemology. She shows that the philosophical understanding cannot evade the fact that Consciousness is an action of an entity that is inherently a part of Reality (whatever that may be). Any effort to say otherwise, implicitly accepts that Consciousness and Reality exist because something must be thinking, it must be thinking about something, and in speaking has to be responding to something else. (Of course this too, is dangerously capsular.)

MaverickP and many,, if not all, his peers are terribly caught up in the implicit belief that the contents of their minds are something apart from the rest of Reality. As such, they will forever be tossing around a host of arbitrary assertions, such as Kant's 'noumenal' world. Rand has put those two parts together, leaving them aghast, their implicit belief being behind their urge to toss her aside.

It is because the this integration between metaphysics and epistemology that she refers to Existence Exists, and its corollaries of Identity, as being Conceptual Axioms, not simply axioms. Really understanding that approach, requires a proper understanding of concepts, for which I refer you to "An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology". This does not suggest some sort of tautology is involved between her metaphysics and epistemology, only, as I have said, that they are integrated.

5:01 pm  
Blogger john said...

We decline the sympathy.

We also reject the categorization of hack, declared with frankness or not. That is, unless you are seeking a war of slurs.

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA
[officially speaking only for myself, yet quite confident in the 'we' as well]

1:21 am  
Blogger john said...

Mr. Moulton, Rand was the next notch up from scientist: philosopher. And yes, she was cocksure of her metaphysical axioms. All else was open to rational challenge. Even by you, at this late date should you wish to try.

As for your attempted analysis, including the leading statement that "the flaw in Ayn Rand's philosophy can be found in her failed relationship..." etc, is of the category "psychologizing". Miss Rand understood this tactic down to the root; she wrote about it many times.

You can't refute a philosophy by psychologizing the philosopher. You present nowhere in your comments even an attempt to refute her actual philosophy.

As a sidebar extension: you can't refute or confirm a scientist by psychologizing either. For example, Sir Isaac Newton.

As for elevating emotions, empathy and self-doubt above truth or falsehood...well let me ask you this: when you discarded your cocksureness, was it because another person rationally convinced you you had made an error? Or, were you psychologically intimidated down from your certainty?

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

1:39 am  
Blogger Moulton said...

My area of research is the interplay of emotions and learning. It's more along the lines of cognitive science than psychology to analyze the flaw in Rand's work.

The opposite of objective is subjective, but in between those extremes is affective which comes into play in course of construction of a theory.

If some deified alien race landed on the earth and gave you a fish, you'd have a fish. But you would not have learned how to be a fisherman.

If some deified alien race landed on earth and gave you a magnificent cathedral, you'd have a cathedral. But you would not have learned anything about architectural engineering.

What's missing in Rand's work is a theory of the interplay of the subjective and the objective in the course of building a scientific or philosophical theory.

7:59 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Rand coined the term "psycho-epistemology" in recognition of the nature of emotions. Emotions are not a source of knowledge, but are a consequence of prior evaluations that almost instantly emerge when similar new circumstances elicit them. This is well explained, by both Rand and Peikoff. Emotions are not a separate issue "between" objective and subjective thought.

Cognitive Behavior Modification is probably the single most rational development in Psychology, because it enables a person to deal with so called affective psychological issues rationally.

CBM guides one to examine his emotional reactions to ascertain if they are rooted in the objective or the subjective, and to then act as rationally (objectively) as possible to correct the emotional issues involved. Sometimes the emotions are justified, but they do not provide a solution. The solution arrives by acting towards a rational corrective, knowing full well that one's emotional direction is counter-productive. When the rational corrective gains traction, the emotional reactions begin to shift.

It follows that treating so called affective reactions as 'things in themselves' —separate from objective and subjective thoughts— simply encourages their reinforcement or suppression. Neither is a solution.

Rand's approach pre-dated such views —on affective psychological reactions— as those of Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano (1996), by nearly fifty years. Her perspicacious insights negate the earlier, physiological arguments on emotions, of William James (1842 – 1910) and Carl Lange (1834 - 1900).

9:10 pm  
Blogger Moulton said...

See Cognition, Affect, and Learning.

10:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I am at the link Moulton offers.

After a lengthy, uninformative introduction we come to Figure 4. The Roller Coaster Learning Curve. The author indicates that it is an imaginary curve (an analogy reflecting learning) showing Time on the X-axis and "Cumulative Knowledge and Beliefs" on the Y-axis. The curve rises and falls three times before achieving a sustained level.

In spite of the author's description, a "cumulative" plot of acquired knowledge cannot fall, unless the author equivocates on the meaning of "knowledge." The author suggests a negative slope indicates the realization that some knowledge or belief is false? If it was false, why did the Knowledge & beliefs curve go up when they were acquired? The knowledge in question was not knowledge, so it cannot accrue cumulatively. I should add that learning that certain things are false is a kind of negative knowledge; it is knowledge of a certain value ...i.e., "don't fall for that again". In such a case the curve should continue upward.

Furthermore, Beliefs, that are not from & about Reality, are not knowledge, they are empty/arbitrary 'noise' in the mind. Why is such 'noise' counted as Cumulative Knowledge, apart from negative knowledge?

I think it safe to say that this curve is an oddly inept attempt to rationalize a poorly thought out & emotionally held, view of knowledge acquisition as being driven by emotion. Worse, the author even seeks the appearance of profundity by saying the change in slope corresponds "to the sign of the Second Derivative".

The entire analogy is suffering from GiGo: GarbageIn—GarbageOut

Nothing worthy of serious consideration yet appears.

In the fourth section of the article, the notable "Role of Emotions In Learning" appears; the opening sentence reads:
"Readers who have some background in math will appreciate where we are going with this model, because we are supposed to analogize the ups and downs of their 'Learning Curve' (Figure 4) to the properties of a generic mathematical function that exhibits a similar roller-coaster shape.

This is incredible. The up and down curves are already a misplaced analogy, and now the author intends to extend the analogy! The rationalizations are stripped naked by the degree to which the author overstretches an analogy that was spurious from the beginning.

This article has entirely left the realm of reason, it's rationalizations and spurious analogies compound one on another devolving to sheer fantasy.

I just cannot keep reading, because reason was stymied at Figure 4. To give Moulton just due, I scanned ahead, but wanted to even give that up at Moulton's Purple Helix.

There is one somewhat sensible element at Figure 11. It shows that
DataQ&AInformationIntegrationKnowledge. But how do facts and information differ? Both constitute knowledge, and the first is merely one form of the second.

The subsequent argument proposes that ultimately Drama (say, of conflict, value, innovation) combine with knowledge to generate "Edutainment". While that is true and is essential to motivation, it is hardly "Edutainment".

The very notion of Edutainment removes knowledge from its importance to success at living on Earth. Instead, Edutainment suggests learning entails some arbitrary, floating sense of 'Knowledge is Fun'. Well, so is the 'knowledge' acquired by playing Nintendo games.

The final paragraph caves entirely to this final view. It offers no valid reason for knowledge, completely ignoring its capacity to enable a young mind to discover how s/he can live on Earth.

7:20 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I note that Barry Kort, the author of "Cognition, Affect, and Learning", blogs here, under the pseudonym "Moulton".

I also saw that Moulton's home page indicates that the ideas in his article are gaining traction in educational academia. Hmmmmmm.

2:31 pm  
Blogger Moulton said...

The Theory of Emotions and Learning, as sketched in that Knol article, has been the subject of a number of peer-reviewed publications.

Projects based on that model have been funded by the National Science Foundation.

This blog is probably not the best venue for a protracted discussion of the material.

However, I would be happy to meet with any academic communities who have an interest in reviewing the concepts outlined in the cited article.

9:16 pm  
Blogger J said...

Let's ask if Ted Honderich falls within the set of "authentic philosophers." Or, for that matter, say Maestro Maverick Philosopher.

Besides, if it's like a musty old platonist/aristotelian, or kantian-hegelian, or marxist freudian windbag, some might question whether it's "authentic philosophy," at all given some rigorous analytical definition. PhD generally has little to do with it, especially in this day, of, shall we say, "Miss Gradgrind in Herr Doktor's hottub factor."

Best to start with some sort of objective criteria: the Bertie-o-meter! (from Bertrand Russell) Which would include like some predicate logic, metaphysics, and conceptual analysis, "ethics", perhaps philosophy of science. If doesn't like score an 8 (out of say 10--ie Bertieness) on the Bertie-o-meter , it's not a philosopher (there may be greater thinkers---Wittgenstein, Quine, Moe Howard, Kripke, Thomas Pynchon etc--but BR a starting point).

I'd say Aynnie R. was, alas, at best 5 or 6 on Bertie-o-meter. Honderich, 6-7. MaverickP, nearly an 8.

2:25 am  
Blogger Moulton said...

Here is a quote from Charles Ainsworth, a senior Wikipedian...

"Well, an objectivist, if I understand right, believes that they have absolute, universal truth on their side so nothing that anyone else says matters. If you understand that such a person is beyond persuasion or self-reflection, then it makes it easier to deal with them.

"As long as such a person obeys the rules, there is no problem. If they don't, well, don't expect them to adjust their behavior based on any kind of self-recognition that their actions are ethically wrong in response to criticism or sanction. Instead, what may happen is a recognition that they aren't attaining their goals and an adjustment to put the accomplishment of their agenda back on track."

In other words, if an objectivist adopts an erratic or erroneous belief (and an associated dysfunctional derivative practice), the likely result will be a liminal social drama that devolves into a crazy-making lunatic social drama.

10:07 am  
Blogger john said...

More psychologizing. I suppose this is the educative technique you hope to see spread to all teachers?

Not to mention
1) the speaker does NOT understand Objectivism.

2) what method of cognition produced this statement and proof?

John Donohue

4:42 pm  
Blogger Moulton said...

See also: Narcissistic Wounding and Narcissistic Rage.

5:51 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Why would you consider Ainsworth's statement to hold any validity?

1.
His statement is not just psychologizing, but the standard rationalizations an eight year old child uses to 'justify' smearing and insulting things the child doesn't like. Ainsworth et al. merely have a wider vocabulary with which to do it.

Both child and adult hope to show they are superior to the object of their insults by 'virtue' of their denigrations, rather than by real investigation and understanding. The adults denigrate themselves by their very approach!

2.
Ainsworth says, "don't expect them to adjust their behavior based on any kind of self-recognition that their actions are ethically wrong in response to criticism or sanction."

What kind of ethical standard is Ainsworth evoking? Philosophical uncertainty, as a given? Respect for destructive ideas, because who can know for sure? Is it respect for *any* other ideas regardless of validity? If done without rancor, an Objectivist viewpoint is not automatically some kind of ethical wrong-doing or attack. However, those unable to make a better case often feel they have been cowed, rather than shown a different point of view. Certainty, to the uncertain mind, is a cowing experience. Nonetheless, what is right, context fully grasped, IS right!

You treat Objectivists as simple dupes, but for many Objectivists, adopting Objectivism was a slow and often painful procedure, even to the point of tears on realizing how mistaken they had been. That is, they choose to "adjust their behavior" to certain inescapable principles of Reality. This makes them seem intransigent to those who lack confidence in whatever 'principles' they may hold &/or cheat on, when they *feel* so inclined. Grasping Objectivism is an absolutely enormous trial for many people, it is not simplistic in the least, especially because there are poseurs who attract neophytes, but who are eventually dismissed by those who discover serious objective thought.

3.
Further, why is Wikipedia an authority, given its motley sources, and even deliberate biases such as those by Wiki editor, Kim Dabelstein Petersen? (Pls. see the link and the comments, they are quite shocking.) So, are the biases directly introduced at times by its primary editors... or, are such edits ONLY by disturbing individuals like Billy the Wiki (BtW). Evidence suggests the former! Hence, Wikipedia sustains (selective) dishonesty as much as it sustains honesty. What sort of character does the man, William Ainsworthy actually possess?

I suspect that there are random BtW's trolling Wikipedia, editing their biases into articles on a regular basis. All of these manipulations are a major, though regrettable, problem intrinsic to the principles upon which Wikipedia was founded.

Ainsworth's intentions may seem honest and respectable, but in practice they clearly indicate otherwise. I was going to suggest he may not be personally responsible, but Mouton's quoting him is evidence that he is!

This is very much an example of "otherwise". Ainsworth "ain't worth" ...respect on this matter.

7:00 pm  
Blogger Moulton said...

It appears you are reifying his thesis.

10:33 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Moulton, it would be more interesting if your links were specific, instead of to a Google search result.

Narcissism is not the issue here, in the slightest. To bring that in, is to evade actual discussion of the points being made. Are your suggested links a mere slur?

Make a point of your own.

Your use of Peck's book in your first comment, above, is ironic. Peck's main points are (via a reviewer) —square bracketed material is mine:
1. The evil hide their motives with lies. [or rationalizations they believe, but refuse to question.]
2. Evil people want to appear to be good. [Consistent evil is too obvious for such minds to obtain the unearned they seek.]
3. When confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion. [Because it has no reason, it is just an incomprehensible "hatred of the good for being good".]
4. Evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (fosters dependency). [The essence of Rand's "The Fountainhead" is that one should think for himself, hence the title.]
5. To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost. [Which means grasping what Reality is.]

Rand takes the fifth point to its philosophical root, in the interest of dispelling the other four points. Doing so requires a rational epistemology, which Branden et al. disregard, for purposes consistent with the first four points.

Come on Moulton, you are educated enough and have been 'around' long enough to pursue your own honesty, rather than judging yourself on the basis of routine academic acceptance. That is, on a "second hand" standard of intelligent achievement.

1:19 am  
Blogger Moulton said...

It would be more interesting to me if you were more inclined toward constructing an authentic Bohmian Dialogue rather than regressing to the tiresome modality of the Argument Culture.

10:23 am  
Blogger john said...

Ok, I admit it: I have never encountered the term "Bohmian Dialogue." Now I have. The first thing that leapt to mind was: If Ayn Rand put this in her book, she would get excoriated for totalizing the bad guys.

Then I found a link a little way down for something called "The Co-Intelligence Institute." Here is their mission statement, at least on that page:

"Dialogue can at times be truly magical, dissolving the boundaries between us and the world and opening up wellsprings of realization and resonant power. In those rare, deeply healing moments of dialogue in its most ideal form, we may experience the wholeness of who we are (beyond our isolated ego), listening and speaking to the wholeness of who we are (deep within and beyond the group around us). At those times it is almost as if wholeness is speaking and listening to itself through us, individually and collectively. Words become unnecessary; knowing is instantaneous, and meaning flows like a great river within and among us."

If Rand put THAT into the mouth of one of her bad guys, even her fans would cringe. "Hey you went too far, girl."

Moulton, if this therapy is for people who share common values and want to take their voluntary bonding further, I can 'sort of' get behind it. In fact, I have participated in it in business settings. In fact, this is a natural process that occurs when two people are falling in love. But really, if for fundamental enemies, the result is likely to be 'murder', don't you think?

The Wikipedia article does not say anything about the issue of common fundamental values in the participants. Do the advocates believe nothing is unsurmountable under their process?

My last question is: can you actually visualize a successful Bohmian Dialogue between a profound atheist, Objectivist, primacy of existence warrior and a profound theist, Platonist, primacy of consciousness warrior?

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

3:29 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Moulton,
I responded to your post and comments on the premise that rational minds would consider the implications of the alternate view I offered, and that their responses would express honest doubts or questions, explaining why. That is simple discourse on the legitimacy of statements and claims, used for the purpose of understanding a conclusion, and/or its veracity.

To that end, I contested inaccurate statements about Objectivism, and responded to the specific arguments that were brought up by yourself and others. For example,

* - I pointed out Rand's recognition of the very field which you argue Objectivism lacks: psycho-epistemology and the role of emotions. (Rand and her characters were quite capable of empathy, and supported those characters who honestly deserved that support.)
No response, just redirects with little bearing on your own topic.

* - I pointed out misunderstandings concerning Objectivism's metaphysics, and pointed out the reason for the misunderstandings.
No response, just redirects with little bearing on your own topic.

* - I pointed out Maverick Philosopher's, whom you cite, self-admitted lack of knowledge about Objectivism, something you admit to yourself.
No response, though the inherent dishonesty should cause you considerable shame.

When two people disagree, at least one is wrong and stands to benefit by examining why the disagreement exists. Those who evade such examination do not gain and remain stilted by their own errors. I looked at your links and considered your points, right from the start.

The 'Argument Culture' approach, of which you accuse me, was in the nature of your post and first comment. You have not considered the ideas or facts in my responses, preferring to move to something else, with links to suggest I have ulterior emotional motives or attitudes. An odd semi-ad hominem tactic, of glancing and even direct insults, with no bearing on the very topic you initiated.

Such disingenuous behavior suggests your latest criticisms are an overweening psychological projection.

One cannot discuss a topic with an emotionally evasive mind. It would be nice if a sensible on-topic comment were to appear, that actually takes into consideration the contradictions between your claims about Objectivism and Objectivism itself. That is why Objectvism, especially among acclaimed & self-proclaimed intellectuals alike, is badly needed, isn't it?

OAO

3:41 pm  
Blogger J said...

I would agree Peck's schema remains relevant here, even if we question his use of the loaded-term "evil." Objectivism does not lack machiavellian aspects (neither does Aristotle, for that matter).

Many Americans identify with the sort of crass materialism (in both economic and philosophical sense) of Rand as expressed in the Fountainhead: just win baby. And absent any real ethical standards apart from "Just Win", the Objectivist would seem to have an easier time justifying his or her own greed, self-indulgence, desire for power, and "will to power," really (tho' Aynnie sort of half-pint Nietzsche, if that). Why shouldn't a real Objectivist like join the mafia, if he/she was convinced that would result in success?

Another thing: opposing the Randian heroics does not entail one like therefore approves of the Catholic church, or Karl marx (and being catholic, or quasi-catholic doesn't mean one opposes the mafia--say the Maverick Philosopher for details).

Some rational egotism is justified, and one could defend some vaguely Randian ethical maxim--say, "smarter people are better than stupid people, and deserve to be wealthier" or something. Yet most Objectivists do not bother confirming or proving that assumption.

6:35 pm  
Blogger Moulton said...

If you want to reckon a model wherein rivals polarize themselves to the point of bloodshed, you might take a look at Rene Girard's Model. Since this thread is about Wikipedia, here is a Wikipedian version of Girard's Model.

If you found the literature on Bohmian Dialogue intriguing, you might want to look at Peter Senge's concept of The Fifth Discipline: The Theory and Practice of The Learning Organization.

It occurs to me that neither Jimbo-loving Wikipedians nor diehard Randian Objectivists would be subscribers to Senge's methods (which I reckon would probably be more meaningful to followers of Nathaniel Branden, since his practice focuses on systematic methods of self-improvement).

Finally, let me quote the great Zen poet Seng-Ts'an:

If you want to get the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.

8:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

J, you are falling into the trap of repeating others' ideas of what Objectivism is, without checking your sources. Galt's speech provides a synopsis of Objectivist ethics, and it is nothing like your effectively parroted remarks.

Drilling down to essentials—

Primary Values: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem.

Primary Virtues: rationality, independence, productivity, honesty, justice, integrity and pride.

The basics of each one is explained in Atlas Shrugged.
Elsewhere Objectivists such as Leonard Peikoff and Tara Smith explain how the violation of any ONE of the above virtues undermines the rest. They explain how ethics is necessarily a product of epistemology and why subjectivism leads to ethical principles that undermine survival and happiness (discounting the deluded happiness of druggies and the born again in 'rapture').

There is also a distinction to learn between the term egotism (as you used it) and egoism. The latter is moral first-handed pursuit of one's own life. The former is sacrifices others to himself, &/or lords himself over others... he is a second-hander.

9:33 pm  
Blogger J said...

No. Peikoff's summaries of Objectivism pretty much says the same: Rand upheld a sort Aristotle-lite realism (tho' naturalized, really),and virtue ethics of a sort. Peikoff also says that all Objectivism follows from a Tabula Rasa view of mind (google 'er), which means sans innateness (formerly known as a soul). That's really a metaphysical claim, dare we say fairly weighty: and Peikoff does not attempt (as say empiricists, or Kant, behaviorists, or Noam chomsky have attempted), to show how the supposed necessary knowledge, or that holistic "Reason", or even "values and virtues" come about, given that tabula rasa. Ayn Locke? At any rate, the entire problem of epistemology is just sort of summed up in a few paragraphs (and repeated in Rand's books ad nauseum). Rand = Toastmasters' empiricism.

That said, I do agree to the external realism, and some of the empirical elements, even a bit of the libertarianism (tho not the bogus heroics): but Objectivists don't really provide convincing arguments, apart from sort of insisting on common sense. The world exists, independently of you! Well yes, it does, more than likely--but what about say Time? Or Space? Or Reason itself? Justice? Probability?Or that supposed billiard-ball causality (which btw quantum theory does modify). It would not be difficult to take Objectivist code apart, but I am sort of busy with work and other projects.

Really, Objectivism is not completely mistaken, but over simplified, even a type of reductionism. As Robert Frost said of modern poetry, it's tennis with the net down.

12:39 am  
Blogger Richard said...

J, all of the things you list as lacking in Objectivism have been explicitly written about, either by Rand or by other key representatives of Objectivism.

The net is not on the floor, it is just set very high. It takes more effort to jump it, or you would know of Objectivist positions on the matters you say are missing.

6:47 pm  

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