Defending Ayn Rand and Objectivism

Posted by xthinker88 3 years, 9 months ago to Philosophy
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I'm always interested in feedback on "debates" that I get into. I've posted the main post and thread and then there was another sub-thread that I'll post below in comments. Thoughts? Criticisms? Thanks.

Main Post R: Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961
My Response
Me: Well if Gore Vidal is that much against it that is high praise indeed.
R: Rand is EVIL.
Me: Lol. Yes. Because anyone who thinks it's wrong to own others is the very definition of evil to progressives who believe otherwise.
Me: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." Yep. Hard to imagine a more evil concept. Except for any contrary concept that argues that your life is only valued as something you should sacrifice to others and that others should be forced to live for you.
R: She believes that helping others is a weakness. that being selfish is a strength. I completely disagree.
R: her philosophy of selfishness, vanity, and egotism is all that is wrong with humanity. it breeds hate.
R: If I prescribed to her philosophy... i wouldnt share my knowledge or my mead with you unless you paid dearly for it.
Me: Actually you don't really seem to understand her philosophy. Just the cliff notes version with the familiar leftist spin.
Me: So you get no enjoyment, pleasure or satisfaction from sharing your plant knowledge? If that is the case then as your friend I would truly advise you to stop.
R: I see too many that use the plant knowledge to make a buck or abuse it. Rand would be proud of them. I don't make a living from it. Just recoup expenses.
Me: So you're not answering my question. Instead, you once again show that you don't even understand the philosophy you're maligning.
R: Pleasure or satisfaction isn't a factor. I started teaching because others asked me to.
R: Rand philosophy is all that is wrong with this country.
Me: So you don't enjoy it or get any satisfaction out of it? Once again avoiding my question. If you are that miserable doing it you should stop.
Me: Rand philosophy? Really? Because I know very few people that actually follow Rand's philosophy
R: You can convince me Rand philosophy is good for mankind. Ever.

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  • Posted by  $  jlc 3 years, 9 months ago
    In such situations, I am inclined to say things like, "Ayn Rand advocated win-win situations: If you taught someone something, then you could receive a tangible reward such as money or barter, you could receive an intangible reward such as feeling good about having taught something you love to others, or you could receive a long-term benefit in that you increase the effectiveness of your friends, to whom you might turn in an emergency."

    Then I add, "Rand's philosophy abhors the idea that you must purchase your own sense of self-worth by performing deeds you despise to people you scorn. You are worth value in your own right; you do not need to buy it from anyone."

    "So - what is wrong with these ideas? Tell me how self-esteem and friendship are Evil."

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    • Posted by 3 years, 9 months ago

      Good points. I think that as you can see, he was not really interested in listening. He could not even admit to enjoying teaching and sharing what I know to be a lifelong passion of his (wild edible plants and cooking using them). In hindsight, there cannot be a debate I think unless both people are open to honestly engaging and understanding the point of view of the other. In this case, he had no explanation for his points and was completely unwilling to listen to mine.
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      • Posted by  $  jlc 3 years, 9 months ago
        Segueing a bit...I am also interested in edible wild plants. I have often garnished a camp meal with them, and once made an entire meal of them (and some crawdads).

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  • Posted by ewv 3 years, 9 months ago
    He's an illiterate who is baiting you. Don't waste your time.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 9 months ago
      Thanks. Might be baiting me but not illiterate. Retired army officer who works for DIA. Probably masters degree I'm guessing.
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      • Posted by ewv 3 years, 9 months ago
        He's a philosophical illiterate and doesn't know or care what Ayn Rand actually stood for (let alone the "Republican Party"!). She was too clear a writer to be 'misunderstood' that way. That's giving him the benefit of the doubt. Either way he's wasting your time.
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        • Posted by 3 years, 9 months ago
          Thanks. I thought maybe my points didnt make sense.
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          • Posted by ewv 3 years, 9 months ago
            Not to him. You could chase him around in circles all night and you wouldn't get through to him. You can't explain a philosophy like that, especially to someone like him. There are too many abstractions he would never understand going in circles while remaining set in his stubborn traditionalism. At most just tell him to read what she wrote to educate himself. Then do something more worthwhile and interesting.
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  • Posted by 3 years, 9 months ago
    This was another response to the main post above with my response and the the thread:

    SR: And it is the basis of the Republican philosophy and general outlook to this day...
    Me: Actually it's not. Objectivism and Conservatism have very little in common philosophically.
    SR: Selfishness is the basis for both.
    Me: Actually it's not. At least not as you probably understand it. Makes me think that other than to slander them, you don't really understand either set of ideas. But most progressives don't. Because they think it's ok to force others to live for them or for whomever they choose. Therefore, while they have no real answers, they are afraid of anybody who identified their philosophy for what it is - the philosophy of slavery.
    R: In simple terms. Rand, in the apocalypse, would rather eat her neighbors rather than help them. Dog eat dog.
    I'd rather help. Unless they prescribe their personal philosophy to Rand, then I'd eat them. Let them taste their own medicine.
    Me: In simple terms that's a wonderful straw man argument. But false.
    Me: Of course the philosophy that is opposite of hers demands that you would allow your neighbors to eat you if it were good for society.
    R: Seems I'd eat you then. I'm gonna need a good barbecue sauce.
    R: Sacrifice is necessary for all to survive. If one survives we all die. You're not an island.
    Me: I would not be willing to give you that opportunity. Nor to kill my neighbors to eat them. Neither is an acceptable choice under her philosophy. Either seems to fit yours perfectly.
    Me: And that statement about sacrifice Rick, if it's true implications are understood, is one of the most evil to ever be uttered by any human. But Hitler believed it fully. So did Stalin.
    R: Sad comparison.
    R: You won't convince me.
    Me: It's the perfect comparison. The concept that some should be sacrificed for the good of the whole is root of every tyranny and system of slavery ever devised. Of course I won't convince you. Because you clearly don't know what you're talking about when it comes to Ayn Rand's philosophy but are content to slander anyway.
    R: Im just trying to determine if it is a spicy sauce or a sweet sauce.
    Me: Well I'm a sweet guy with a temper so maybe sweet n spicy. Like thai.
    But seriously, I've taught over 17 hours of classes at the arboretum not counting the overnight shelter class in the past year and a half. They gave me an honorarium. For several of the classes it either did not cover or only barely covered the amount I spent on supplies. So I probably broke even or slightly better overall. Until you figure in my time spent.
    So clearly I did not do it for the money. And I have a day job. So why do it?
    A) I like the subject matter
    B) I enjoy teaching
    C) I enjoy the fact that my class, if applied, might save somebody's life some day.
    And D) I prefer to live in a world where more people are interested in nature and the subjects I'm teaching and fewer people die when facing a survival situation.
    What I did with these classes did not make much money. And I would have done it without the honorarium. All of those things are things I value and I am willing to trade my time to achieve those values. The fact that I didn't make a bunch of money is irrelevant. I knew that going in.
    That is the essence of Ayn Rand's philosophy. I suspect you share similar reasons Rick Hueston for sharing your plant knowledge. But if it's really such a horrid sacrifice that makes you miserable then you should stop. But I think I know you better than that and know you derive enjoyment and satisfaction from it.
    Now. If somebody pointed a gun to my head to make me do it, I would tell them to fuck off. Or maybe go along at gunpoint until the opportunity presented itself to slit their throat. Of course one of the fun things about teaching these subject is all the sharp and pointy things.
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 3 years, 9 months ago
      "Rand, in the apocalypse, would rather eat her neighbors rather than help them. Dog eat dog."
      It fell apart when he said Rand is about eating our neighbors and you rightly said that was a straw man. I think you could tell him Rand is actually against eating our neighbors. On that point he actually agrees with Rand.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 9 months ago
      R: yeah yeah, I get what you are trying to get to... "my happiness is my moral purpose" crap.
      Rand wrote: “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
      SW: so, mark basically what you are saying is utilitarianism without actually thinking about the consequences of your actions?
      R: Sorry, no Angel Scouts for Mark.
      R: Rand would be COMPLETELY against all the things LES teaches. EVERYTHING.
      Me: No SW. It's not utilitarianism. Utilitarianism argues the greater good for the greatest number and is behind every horrific decision made in modern times. Objectivism argues that it is wrong to sacrifice an individual for the "good" of society. And that furthermore any "good" that demands it is not really good but intrinsically evil. And usually designed merely to benefit those screaming the most about sacrifice.
      Note that In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt's friends risk their lives to save him. Ragnar also risks his life on a regular basis to carry out justice.
      A great example of this concept is in Rand's speech to one of the classes at West Point ('74 I think)
      "You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service — it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it."
      Once again, the idea of working for or even being willing to risk one's life for the values that one wants to achieve or believe in.
      SW: what if my individual happiness can only be achieved by forcing you specifically to work toward the
      R: Rand wants you to be Superman's Lex Luther.
      Me: There is no greater good of society. Society is merely a collection of individuals. You can try to force me. But I know how to shoot back.
      R: Objectivism is not a form of thinking, but rather a kind of radical imagination in justification of certain types of self identification.
      R: Objectivism is both too inflexible and unforgiving to implement into a world that must be shared by people who are, by its standards, imperfect
      R: In the end, without the work of others, everyone would have the same three Jobs-- hunter, gatherer and child care worker. Or serve as food for those who gather together for the greater good.
      SW: ok so, if we're assuming "individual happiness" is the ethically ideal outcome for any action
      what if i'm in a scenario where i can choose between my own individual happiness or the individual
      Me: Well it might be true that understanding Objectivism requires too much clear and logical thinking for most people. Certainly it seems to be the case in this discussion where the modus operandi has been to set up caricatures of AR's philosophy and then knock them down or to do the debate equivalent of the raspberry.
      Good weekend gentlemen.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 9 months ago
    I'm not sure what you're searching for or trying to show with this post. Gore Vidal wasn't a high intellect, Arguing with fools only makes one look like a fool as well, and whoever you're arguing with in your post has no idea what he's talking about. As an example only, "Her philosophy of selfishness, vanity, and egotism is all that is wrong with humanity". Her philosophy is of A=A and existence exists, from that everything else follows in a logical and rational sequence. Without establishing that, one is biting back at soundbites, only.
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  • Posted by term2 3 years, 9 months ago
    Mine is not a popular view here I know- I think objectivism is correct as shown by the fact it works in practice. It's an agreement among people about how we treat each other that actually works without unintended consequences that internally destroy it. Socialism sounds good on paper but in the end no one works and everyone mooches. The various fascist, communist, and dictatorial systems count on the masses providing goodies for the ones in power under threat of force. Eventually the masses revolt. (Interesting that the terms revolution applied to politics and the term describing motion of a when that brings you backbtibthe same place are the SAME)
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  • Posted by Herb7734 3 years, 9 months ago
    I have been debating lefties for 50 years. In many cases, I was sucked in because to remain silent would infer agreement. If I learned nothing else, it was "they are also deaf who will not hear." Many years ago, I debated someone on an issue that today seems unimportant. The debate strayed into a philosophical discussion, right up my alley. I modestly proclaim, I was brilliant. I knocked down and trampled to bits the other guy's every argument. Afterwards I got the sense that the audience was exactly the same as before. Those who understood gave me kudos, the rest kind of slithered off thinking of how to poison the cake and coffee that was served afterwards.
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  • Posted by philosophercat 3 years, 9 months ago
    Hint: at no point in your transcripts do you ask your interlocutor to state what he is for or define his terms. All of his statements are contradictory so get him to first discuss what he thinks about contradictions. If one makes contradictory statements knowingly does that mean a person lied? What does he think is the moral status of liars. Then get him to define and declare his position and point out the contradictions. Then challenge him directly are you lying or stupid? Trick is to get him to talk about lying and contradictions then expose the contradictions in his position. Usually they get angry and you get justified but they never say ...hey you were right all along.
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  • Posted by helidrvr 3 years, 9 months ago
    It seems to me that there is a more fundamental issue underlying these types of debates. By taking the bait of defending Ayn Rand, any other author, school of economics or philosophy I unavoidably entrap myself in the logical fallacy known as "Appeal to Authority". After a lifetime (five decades and counting) of studying the work of hundreds of authors and participating in countless debates, I have come to realize that this is a fruitless and self-limiting pursuit.

    So instead of being a defender of Rand, Hoppe, von Mises or any of the numerous sources of "Authorty", I have become a proselytizer of the one logically unassailable truth from which all human action must flow - Only by the universal application of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" will the greatest benefit accrue to the greatest number of people.

    Truth is universal and needs no "Authority" to defend or prove it.
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    • Posted by philosophercat 3 years, 9 months ago
      Greatest good for greatest number is utilitarianism and presents the problem of choosing an action before hand. That why advocates invented the calculus of benefits. Problem is no one knows what is good. Keynes is the perfect utilitarian. How much stimulus should Greeks get before you find out all the happy people with pensions are starving? Rand was right morality must be a moral code appropriate to the nature of man as a rational being. Anything else logically is for some other species or non-rational humans. Take your pick.
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      • Posted by helidrvr 3 years, 9 months ago
        There is no need for defining a "universal" good. That being established, the word I used was "benefit". Benefit is entirely in the eye of the beholder. By definition the same benefit cannot be achieved by separate participants in any social (inter personal) transaction. If you agree to exchange your dollar for my chocolate bar, then we come together and BOTH benefit precisely because you value my chocolate more and I value your dollar more. In that sense one might describe the transaction as being "good" because we are both perceiving a net gain (greater benefit) from the transaction.

        BTW, your entire reply is a classic example of multiple appeals to authority. Just what I'm addressing.
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        • Posted by philosophercat 3 years, 9 months ago
          I presented you with a definition, not an authority. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist morality. The point I made is inherent in the its nature; it is only after the event that a consequentialist can tell if the action was moral or not. Bentham and Mill defined what your are defending. Joshua Green is the modern utilitarian who denies humans have free will therefore he is a utilitarian and has no morality. Rand held man has free will and therefore needs a moral code. So give some thought to your stance on free will.
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    • Posted by johnpe1 3 years, 9 months ago
      and it requires a range of view further than the point of your nose
      to see that capitalism yields more benefit to humankind
      than fascism, socialism, communism or any other schism
      ever will. . these people are myopic. -- j
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  • Posted by Abaco 3 years, 9 months ago
    The criticisms of Rand are often so stupid that they indicate those making them are motivated by something I don't want to waste my time addressing - fear, greed, hatred, envy. See Animal's Grandpa's comment on turds...

    When you look into the abyss, it looks back into you....
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  • Posted by tdechaine 3 years, 9 months ago
    If you're going to engage such people, do so with questions back at them that get to some specific objections, and then answer them seriously, not so facetiously.
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  • Posted by teri-amborn 3 years, 9 months ago
    Good people subdue the earth.
    Evil people subdue other people.
    It is good to do more with what you have.
    As a result your life should grow and not stagnate.
    Your friend doesn't seem to grasp these concepts.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 3 years, 9 months ago
    "xthinker88: So you get no enjoyment, pleasure or satisfaction from sharing your plant knowledge? If that is the case then as your friend I would truly advise you to stop.”
    Indeed! Imagine the friend thinks, “That guy is always calling me with plant questions, never to do something for me.” I would want the friend to tell me that he would like me to fix is household electronics or maybe pay him money if I don't have anything to offer that he needs while he looks at my plants instead of it being a one-way street. That last thing I'd want is him thinking “I can't stand his requests for plant help, but I'll grudgingly do it because good people are selfless.”

    Maybe you could ask him how he would feel if someone did him a favor and he later found out the person was doing it grudgingly out of a sense of obligation not because he wanted to.
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  • Posted by  $  Thoritsu 3 years, 9 months ago
    The person you are arguing with has formed an opinion without understanding the topic, probably by listening to a leftist opportunistic devil realizing he is ripe for manipulation. "Rand is evil", really? Please do explain.

    I think he is malleable. He has assigned many negative attributes of totalitarian government to individual rights. Provide an example of a how satisfaction in one's self and work is productive, and a counter example of how taking freedom away is a disincentive.

    This guy can probably be fooled into asserting an indefensible position such as Rand supports murder. Perhaps explaining how liberal lies and government action killed millions by banning DDT would get his attention.
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  • Posted by RonJohnson 3 years, 9 months ago
    Sounds typical. I've had many such exchanges, and always with people who got their information from a Huff Post article. None of them ever read Rand thoroughly. I'm reading Atlas for the third time in my life and I am astounded by how clearly she debunked her future critics by laying out a very strong case for helping your fellow human being...but not as altruism. She argued that it is natural and pleasurable to help your fellow man, but when it is promoted as a duty from which you are to take no pleasure, then it is evil.
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  • Posted by salta 3 years, 9 months ago
    He did not want to admit getting any satisfaction out of sharing knowledge. He probably thought he was being "tricked" into appearing "selfish". Quite sad really.
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