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Philosophy On One Foot-The Basics of Objectivism by Ayn Rand

Posted by  $  Zenphamy 1 year, 11 months ago to Philosophy
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During the last week, we've had 2 or 3 posts related to Conservatism vs Objectivism. I ran into this brief reply by Ayn Rand when she was asked if she could explain her philosophy while standing on one foot.

Her entire reply is well worth a read, but the last sentence of her reply is exactly on point to the disagreements expressed by some commenters in those referenced posts:

" Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—nor while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics."

That reply was in 1962, but still addresses politics today, particularly here in Galt's Gulch. .
SOURCE URL: http://atlassociety.org/objectivism/atlas-university/philosophy-on-one-foot


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    Posted by Mamaemma 1 year, 11 months ago
    Excellent post. I had not seen it before. Thanks for the post, Zen. I get confused by words like epistemology and metaphysics. I liked these brief definitions.
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    • 11
      Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
      Yes, Rand was exceptional in her ability to use not only the written word, but as well extemporaneous English words to explain the most difficult of subjects and topics.
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    • Posted by khalling 1 year, 11 months ago
      ok! Flow chart! here it is from Kat (whom I do not know but I think is well done): http://www.objectivistliving.com/foru...

      Dale has put together two outlines for talks. This is one of them. Moving between the 4 (some argue 5) platforms of a philosophy should be practiced. I notice that it is the most often contradiction in here. Most recently, between Ethics and Politics.having this handy chart helps , I think.
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      • Posted by dbhalling 1 year, 11 months ago
        It is good, but I think a little bit overly complicated.

        The reason this is important is that you may think you are having a discussion about Politics and the person you are talking to is talking about Ethics. For instance, you may be talking about censorship and they say eliminating someone comments on your website is censorship. You are talking about politics and you counter that you are not the government and neither is your website so it is impossible for you to violate their 1st amendment rights. They are talking ethics and believe that all opinions are equally valid and they look at you like your are a martian and claim you are to the right of Attila the Hun.
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        • Posted by  $  HeroWorship 1 year, 11 months ago
          It's the hierarchical whack-a-mole.

          You start with the beauty of Atlas Shrugged (Aesthetics/Realization). They counter with heartless poltiics.
          So, you then talk about individual rights (Politics/Respect), they counter with heartless morality.
          So, you then talk about rational self interest (Ethics/Responsibility), they counter with multiculturalism and relativism.
          So, you then talk about non-contradiction, logic, and axioms (Epistemology/Reason), and they counter with the quantum nature of reality and Kantian categories.
          So, you ask them if they exist (Metaphysics/Reality), and they counter with you being a dogmatic Randroid - or some other personal attack, that being the only place you can go when someone demands of you that you treat reality as if it were real.

          Always know the level you are arguing on, and always know that Reality is the foundation, without which, no traction will be gained. Work from Reality, through Reason, to Responsibility - especially the Responsibility to champion Respect in service of Realization. :-)
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      • Posted by Mamaemma 1 year, 11 months ago
        Thank you, k. That is perfect. I did a screen shot and will print it to keep.
        I am pretty sure I tend to get confused about these concepts because so many people use confusing language to express them, thinking, I am sure, that it makes them seem more intelligent. Well, maybe to themselves, anyway.
        I do appreciate this.
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        • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
          Mama; Do you notice how simple it really all is in either Rand's response and in the Chart?
          The trick though still remains in the work Rand recommends for consistency in application and life.
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          • Posted by Mamaemma 1 year, 11 months ago
            Zen, I remind myself of one of Heinlein's best sayings: "man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal", and I ask myself often in what ways am I rationalizing and not facing reality? I see so many people everyday who perform incredible mental somersaults just in order to avoid reality (or try to), and I look at myself and ask, Am I doing that too? In what ways? I try to pay attention and banish fantasy from my thinking. I think that's what you mean in your comment.
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            • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
              Mama; I think you may have the gist of it. I do love Heinlein. Here's what Rand said:

              "If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought" (emphasis added)
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            • Posted by dbhalling 1 year, 11 months ago
              K& I tried to listened to a book tape of Heinlein's novel, The moon is a Harsh Mistress. I am not fan. He is a typical libertarian and I strongly disagree with the "rationalizing animal."
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              • Posted by  $  HeroWorship 1 year, 11 months ago
                As a long time Heinlein fan, I pretty much agree with your characterization. He is no Rand. In fact, his is conservative in the way that you critique Hayek on the limits of rationality.

                While his heroes tend to be rational themselves, and while he champions rationality, it is not rigorous. If he were to say - "humans are ALSO rationalizing animals - and as a betting man, I am not surprised when they use their intelligence to rationalize ..." I think this is a fair statement.

                Most people don't check their premises. Most people blank out. They can start that journey and it is their moral responsibility. And most don't.
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    • Posted by  $  MichaelAarethun 1 year, 11 months ago
      Metaphysics meaning of things that are real.

      Epistemology meaning definitions

      Morals depend on the first two.

      Can't get much shorter than that.

      That's all three of them.
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  • Posted by ProfChuck 1 year, 11 months ago
    As a scientist I am guided more by understanding than belief. Belief is the acceptance of a statement as fact based strictly on the vigor of the argument. Belief does not require proof or an experimental validation. It follows that belief is stronger than contradictory facts. Belief is, therefore, purely subjective and illogical. Understanding, however, is quite another matter. I was asked if I "believe" that two plus two makes four. My answer is NO! But because I understand the rules and properties of mathematics I know WHY two plus two makes four. It strikes me that appreciating the difference between belief and understanding is at the core of Objectivism.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
      Well put Prof. I agree to the importance of factual knowledge over belief. I'm reading a book by Hilton Ratcliffe, "Stephen Hawking Smoked My Socks' which addresses that very topic in science and research specifically. He's a bit of a radical Astrophysicist that's done some intense thought on the topic and impact of belief systems on thinking and experiment.
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  • Posted by  $  jbrenner 1 year, 11 months ago
    Many of us who would not consider ourselves to be Objectivists nonetheless agree with Rand's points in your timely link, Zenphamy. What is it that separates those of us who agree with Rand's basic tenets yet are not non-Objectivists from Objectivists? a) a difference in the perception of reality; b) a different current or past reality; c) unresolved contradictions; d) unknown contradictions; e) differences in how to deal with those with Rand's basic tenets; f) combinations of a through e; g) other? If you would like, I will post this as a separate thread, but for now, I think it is appropriate here.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
      Hi j; No, I think your topic is perfectly appropriate to the theme of the post.

      From all the years of attempting to explain to and argue with others, at the foundational level, it's unacknowledged or unchallenged belief systems instilled or accepted during developmental and/or educational levels. Many, if not most of those beliefs aren't even consciously adopted, they seem to those that have them, as if they're just right. Those belief systems are throughout our lives, professions, and searches for answers.

      There are as well, in Heinlein's words, 'those that can't or won't think' or fear doing it for themselves. But those are separate from the above description. I'm afraid, I just don't waste to much effort or time with men of this level (except when I find them on this site.)
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 1 year, 11 months ago
        Agreed completely. At least once per month I am challenging previously unacknowledged or unchallenged aspects of my life that I had taken for granted since childhood as self-evident. Master Yoda once said that "You must unlearn what you have learned".
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    • Posted by  $  HeroWorship 1 year, 11 months ago
      c. or f.

      I think of it like this. If someone uses Rand as an authority with me, rather than a source of material, I don't want to be an Objectivist. If someone uses Rand as a brilliant writer/philosopher and asks me to engage with them, unpacking the package deals, we are Objectivists.
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  • Posted by ewv 1 year, 11 months ago
    Ayn Rand's 'philosophy while standing on one foot' summary was published in "Introducing Objectivism", June 17, 1962, her first article as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. It is republished in full along with the rest of the columns in The Ayn Rand Column, 2nd ed with additional articles, 1998 https://estore.aynrand.org/p/262/the-... This context and source was omitted from the link you gave, which is also incomplete (and re-arranged from the original).

    As newspaper columns the articles were only about 800 words, but "Introducing Objectivism" was still packed with essentials in elaborations of each of the 'standing on one foot' items. A major emphasis in the last half was her contrast between her philosophy as the foundation of a free society versus the ethics and politics of altruism and statism -- which is also especially relevant to your immediate purpose of "That reply was in 1962, but still addresses politics today, particularly here in Galt's Gulch".
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  • Posted by PURB 1 year, 11 months ago
    This excellent, succinct summary of Objectivism first appeared in Rand's first column for the Los Angeles Times on June 17, 1962. (It was also published in The Objectivist Newsletter, August 1962.)
    If anyone is interested in this or other Ayn Rand manuscripts, please contact me. Michael

    http://www.penultimaterarebooks.com/
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  • Posted by Herb7734 1 year, 11 months ago
    True, no philosophy that's truly a philosophy can be expressed under that condition. However, Rand did it brilliantly, expressing the essence of Objectivism in 30 seconds. Barbra Branden wrote an adaptation of her book "The Passion of Ayn Rand for TV. In it Helen Mirren portrayed Rand so well that I almost believed she had been resurrected. She did the "on one leg" scene just perfectly.
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  • Posted by  $  MichaelAarethun 1 year, 11 months ago
    The only place that can be done is by having one foot in the center and the other foot only as far as one can stretch it without moving the foot that is firmly planted in the center. For many of us it's the Constitution. For too damn many others it's the center of the left with Plato, Adolf, Lenin, and the Progressives.

    I had not seen this description before but it made instant perfect sense.

    Sadly the bulk of one former tied to the center philosophically and politically group the, Republicans, are now the right wing of the left learning how to do stiff arm salutes and say We Serve The Party...starting with Rand and Cruz and finishing with Clinton and Sanders.

    Ahh well....

    It is possible to straddle the center and have one foot left and one right or one foot barely touching the center and the other going in one and one only direction - and by my way of thinking perfectly acceptable but one step further puts you in some other systems center and one may no longer claim the rights privileges and responsibilities of the Constitution with it's associated philosophy.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
      I'm sorry Michael, but I couldn't disagree more. This magic center that others speak of, may well have been one of the most damaging influences to our republic. To me, the center connotates with compromise, and The Constitution as well as Objectivism rejects compromise.

      One of the best ideas of the political spectrum I've seen is of a four (4) sided matrix, with freedom being at one corner vs the others.
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    • Posted by  $  MichaelAarethun 1 year, 11 months ago
      Either way all centers are not just valueless way points to somewhere else. Unless you are heading left in that case lock the steering wheel. That's the part I don't agree with the mugwump theory which allows only two viewpoints and belittles those who have a firm grasp as bi-conceptual. My point of view I view them as as sort of floating around with no conception, no cognition, no grasp on reality just blowing in the wind. Another name for center in this case is 'sacred ground' the source of the true power. The Citizens and their Constitution.

      Mugwumping is better put as seizing any opportunity for agreement even though one loses all values in the trade. Doesn't apply.
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      • Posted by  $  1 year, 11 months ago
        Michael; It's been years since I've run into 'mugwump'. I think it's a neat word, but I always thought it meant someone who acted politically as independent.

        Regardless, I'm not sure what you're trying to say in this thread.
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  • -2
    Posted by freetrader 1 year, 5 months ago
    "The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church."

    State government by definition includes the idea of initiation of force - even if it only includes simple things like taxation and requiring citizens to be in or outside it's boundaries - but obviously it is much worse in the real world then that - as sacrificing such a basic moral principle at the start would lead.

    Furthermore, any non-volunteer actions like that would by definition affect the economy, and therefore not be a complete separation of government and economy, as economists such as Walter Williams love to point out.

    Either volunteerism or anarcho-capitalism would seem to fit Ayn Rand's criteria, but she didn't like anarcho-capitalism.

    I don't think she was very consistent on this principle. As I am, I note it.
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    • Posted by ewv 1 year, 5 months ago
      You do not understand Ayn Rand's philosophy, in particular the purpose and nature of a proper government. It is incompatible with anarchism. Rights are not protected by throwing them on an 'open market' of force.
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      • Posted by freetrader 1 month, 3 weeks ago
        rights aren't protected at all by organizations, as they are not alive. They are protected by people. who may organize to do it more effectively in an organization, if that is what they find works.

        The dribble that 'if you do not agree with someone you do not understand them', that 'I must agree with a philosophy instead of objective reality', and 'the implied guilt trip and appeal to the masses' is the exact type of immature, non-objective, non reasoning trash I'd expect to find on an open forum as opposed to ones that only are for those using reason and reality - not appeals to authority. I made this objection to the forum when I signed up a year and a half ago.
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        • Posted by ewv 1 month, 3 weeks ago
          'Organization' is an abstraction referring to the people who make it up. To say that an organization does anything means that the people in it are doing it through acting in their role as members and on behalf of members.

          I don't know what "dribble" you are referring to or what it has to do with this thread.
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    • Posted by dbhalling 1 year, 5 months ago
      Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Capitalism is political system where people's natural rights are protected and the economic system that develops when people's natural rights are protected.
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      • -2
        Posted by freetrader 1 month, 3 weeks ago
        I always thought it was goofy where rand redefined capitalism. capitalism is an economic system, and it does not necessarily mean free market either, and it is not a political system.

        Regardless, lets pretend free market and capitalism are the same words. Then, by definition, the only political system that is fully an economic system of capitalism is by definition systems of anarcho-capitalism. All present commonly used systems think that in some cases, no matter how limited they are; police, fire, roads, they can force people to contribute wealth, time, and life to it to protect others and for the greater good and are, by definition, socialist - for the greater good.

        It is not necessary to set up governments this way. Please note I am not an anarcho capitalist, but I expect most people here not to be able to follow the argument, as it requires actual thinking, inductive, objective from reality, as opposed to rote learning from someone elses book.
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        • Posted by ewv 1 month, 3 weeks ago
          Economic freedom cannot exist without a political system protecting the rights of the individual. They necessarily go together in reality as a social system. There is no such thing as any economic system apart from a social context with some kind of government within a social system.

          We have never had a complete capitalist system. Today we have a badly mixed system. It does not follow that all systems today are "socialist". Ours is a mixture of freedom and controls. It is no more "socialist" as its essence than "capitalist", with degrees of both; it has socialist aspects to it and capitalist aspects.

          Ayn Rand's definition is not "goofy". She gave the reasons for the definition of the concept capitalism in "What is Capitalism?". She also explained why 'anarcho-capitalism' is a floating abstraction with no possible meaning in reality and with no free market possible, not "by definition" capitalism. She did not say, let alone "pretend", that "free market" and "capitalism" are synonyms.

          The conceptual understanding and explanations of this are not "rote learning from someone else's book". If you have such condescending contempt for the people here that you pronounce we are not "able to follow the argument, as it requires actual thinking, inductive, objective from reality", then isn't the forum for you to be posting.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 5 months ago
      I'm not sure you get Objectivism. Voluntarism, as well as anarcho-capitalism lack any philosophical principles from which to base their NIF belief as a basis of society. Most, strike me as dedicated pacifists wishing for an Utopian ideal, with absolutely no in depth understanding of the principles of AR's philosophy. They very much remind me of the 'Can't We All Get Along' and 'Give Love A Chance' groups of the 60's and 70's. Few seem to realize that contracted enforcement of NIF is actually a violation of NIF and suffers the problem of competition and conflict between different 'enforcement companies' and differing standards of 'right's protection'.

      AR's description of an Individual states it well: "Do not make the mistake of the ignorant who think that an individualist is a man who says: “I’ll do as I please at everybody else’s expense.” An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man—his own and those of others.

      An individualist is a man who says: “I will not run anyone’s life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself."
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      • -1
        Posted by freetrader 1 month, 3 weeks ago
        the only philosophy of non-voluntarism which you just exposed is I can force my neighbor to do something beyond protecting myself and others which is not initiating force.
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        • Posted by  $  1 month, 3 weeks ago
          No--what I just exposed, is self-interest/egoism which arises from the principles of AR's analysis, development, and descriptions of her philosophy of Objectivism. A=A and 'I own my life' --> 'Self defense' and 'I own my property'. There simply is NO 'force my neighbor' or 'protect others' derived through the logical, reasoned morality, and principles of Objectivism. A philosophy of 'non-voluntarism' is called slavery or thuggery. Libertarians and pacifists both seem to want shortcuts to results and actions without going through the work required to arrive at objectively derived and based actions rather than reactions.

          But hang in there and you might get there eventually.
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          • Posted by dbhalling 1 month, 3 weeks ago
            "Libertarians and pacifists both seem to want shortcuts to results and actions without going through the work required to arrive at objectively derived and based actions rather than reactions."

            Hear Hear
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