What do Objectivists think about manipulating irrational beliefs to defend themselves from irrational adversaries?

Posted by Poplicola 4 years, 7 months ago to Ask the Gulch
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I was recently re-reading part of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" and wondered what Objectivists thought about how Asimov had his fictional society of scientists essentially rely on psychological warfare in the form of an artificial religion to defend itself against an irrational but numerically superior enemy.

At a less extreme level, would it be tolerable to Objectivists to acquiess in the preservation of a "Civic Religion" with respect to those who can not be convince to embrace Objectivism, if that belief system would, despite its lack of an Objective basis, result in society fostering an environment in which Objectivism could safely be practiced and expanded?
SOURCE URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism_(Foundation)


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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 4 years, 7 months ago
    BTW, this post makes me re-think Foundation. When I read it ten years ago I was thinking this is a Seldon crisis, so they really have no choice -- it's all psychohistory, "trends and forces". Now it occurs to me that their belief in psychohistory affect their actions. Maybe Asimov was saying something about a "Great Man" model vs trends and forces.
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    • Posted by WilliamRThomas 4 years, 7 months ago
      As I recall, the last time I re-read Foundation I was disappointed (having since become convinced of the essentials of Objectivism) to realize that Azimov's idea psychohistory depends on determinism being true. The Mule is a random, unpredictable event. But then most other events are reliably predictable.

      Since we do have free will, psychohistory makes less sense in fact.
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      • Posted by $ Technocracy 4 years, 7 months ago
        We have individual free will, but once people clique/group/herd up, their behavior is influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the group movement. That is why its so much easier to manipulate movement on groups. Once positional movement starts group inertia aids you.

        Propaganda, for want of a better term, when looked at closely by an individual tends to fall apart. Groups on the other hand, never look closely enough to see the flaws, they are listening to their peer group opinions. So the propaganda holds together to achieve the intended effect to some degree.
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        • Posted by WilliamRThomas 4 years, 7 months ago
          I'm an economist some of the time, and I hold that prediction of human actions is possible with some degree of confidence (or, to put it another way, with some degree of error).

          But the portrait of psychohistory in Foundation goes way beyond that. And in fact, prediction over decades, centuries, and millenia is unlikely to be proven true.
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          • Posted by $ Technocracy 4 years, 7 months ago
            Agreed, at least by any predictive math we have at this point. In the future, that might change.

            We have free will, but for many people the range of choices they can or will exercise is very limited. Limited enough to allow some useful predictability, even now.

            It was a good series of books, but it was definitely far away sic-fi. The plausibility of the story was there due to Asimov's skills as both a hard scientist and story teller. Not a lot of writers the skill set to hang it all together like that.
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      • Posted by VetteGuy 4 years, 7 months ago
        Hi William,

        Have you read the "prequels" to Foundation? In Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation, psychohistory is portrayed much more in terms of probabilities and percentages, and compares somewhat to quantum physics. In Quantum physics, you can't tell what a specific atom is going to do, but given the mass as a whole, the results are predictable.

        When I first read the two prequel books (a long time ago) I remember thinking that a better name than "psychohistory" might be "quantum humanics".
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        • Posted by WilliamRThomas 4 years, 7 months ago
          No, I haven't read the "prequels" because I looked at them and after reading a bit I thought he had just moved on so far that he seemed to have forgotten what "Foundation" was really about.

          That's what I remember, anyway.
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      • Posted by philosophercat 4 years, 7 months ago
        Right on. Free will means when you find out you are being manipulated you change your behavior to eliminate the manipulator or accept being a puppet. The philosopher Joshua Green claims to have shown that all men are puppets except of course himself.
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      • Posted by $ blarman 4 years, 7 months ago
        I just finished reading those a couple of months ago and I thought a couple of things were very interesting.

        1. That someone could invent a scientific/mathematical approach to anticipating human behavior on a massive scale. One would have thought that if such a thing were possible, Seldon would simply have taken over the stock market and used the acquired economic power to push forth change.
        2. That they actually used the religion of science at one point to rule the galaxy. (Does global warming sound familiar here?)
        3. Ultimately, it was the development of the mind that went on to rule. The caveat to this was that it was only a minor cabal - not the majority of society that ever developed these attributes. And instead of being able to enjoy these developments, they had to continue to surreptitiously control the galaxy.
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  • -1
    Posted by jdg 4 years, 7 months ago
    I see Objectivism as a religion. It doesn't have a God, but then, neither does Taoism, and like Taoism it does promote a "Way" which is supposed to be the only correct way to view things, if you believe.

    And some of the beliefs in that "Way" are certainly not required by rationality, and may arguably be irrational to hold.

    Farther than that I will avoid going, lest it hurt someone's feelings. (Though I snicker at the thought that anyone adult enough to belong to something called the Gulch would want to have anything to do with the current fad-ideas of "triggering" and "safe spaces"!)
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    • Posted by WilliamRThomas 4 years, 7 months ago
      Objectivism, like any systematic philosophy, is like a religion in that it provides answers to big questions of metaphysics and ethics.

      Like any system of thought, it can be parroted dogmatically.

      But I'm curious at the implication that there are essential ideas of Objectivism that it is irrational to hold. Please enlighten me.

      Another way of looking at Objectivism: it's the basic ideas of the Enlightenment (reason, pursuit of happiness, liberty), but taken seriously and defended against Hume, Kant, Rousseau, and the post-Enlightenment critics.
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      • Posted by jdg 4 years, 7 months ago
        I would like to read such a systematic defense sometime. One as thorough as my favorite, Mises' Human Action.
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        • Posted by WilliamRThomas 4 years, 7 months ago
          There are several systemic treatments of Objectivism.

          David Kelley and I have drafted a textbook called "The Logical Structure of Objectivism." http://atlassociety.org/objectivism/a... .

          I have written a set of short, linked essays surveying the key ideas of the philosophy: start here: http://atlassociety.org/objectivism/a... .

          Other notable surveys include Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand" and Tara Smith's "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics."

          I hope this information is helpful.

          But perhaps you meant a book that begins with summarizing the ideas and intellectual context of the Enlightenment, then discusses and dispatches with its critics. I don't have one of those handy as such.
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