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Does a person have to base every decision on reason to be considered an Objectivist?

Posted by edweaver 3 years, 11 months ago to Ask the Gulch
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A few discussions got me thinking about the question and I'm wondering what others think??


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    Posted by $ CBJ 3 years, 11 months ago
    I would say that every important decision should have serious reasons to back it up, in terms of advancing or maintaining one's fundamental values. Most everyday decisions (such as where to go for lunch) are choices between multiple rational alternatives, and don't require a great amount of thought.

    And Objectivism doesn't require that every decision lead to a positive outcome. Many decisions involve balancing risk vs. reward, with no guarantee of success. All that a rational person can do is make the best choice given the knowledge available to that person at that time.
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    • Posted by term2 3 years, 11 months ago
      If you are willing to accept the consequences of a decision, and you are aware of the consequences, thats enough I think to make a rational decision.
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      • Posted by tdechaine 3 years, 11 months ago
        So acting against reason and being willing to accept the consequences is still rational? Don't think so!
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        • Posted by ScaryBlackRifle 3 years, 11 months ago
          Yes, it IS rational. Even suicide can be a rational decision. Rationally speaking, I get to define which consequences are desirable in my own life.

          Dagny and Hank were childless. That, like alcoholism, tobacco and other drug addictions, is suicide on the installment plan. Were they irrational?

          I made the decision not to pursue great wealth in order to have more time with my kids. The business of my life was not to be business.

          If the goal was material wealth, I chose poorly. If the choice was to develop personal relationships and to relax more along the way, then I chose wisely. I was a single Dad with full custody of two sons still in diapers. I could have pursued wealth and fobbed the care of my sons off on hirelings or I could focus on my sons. I tried to split that decision by marrying two more times. That was a major waste of time. (Note: I am now happily married for the past 16 years).

          A decision is only irrational if it disagrees with a defined goal.
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        • Posted by term2 3 years, 11 months ago
          But there are also complicated decisions where the risk/reward ratio is not always known. That is why I say that if you are willing to accept the consequences based on what you know now, its an acceptable rational decision
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          • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
            You wrote that "being aware of the consequences" is sufficient to be rational. It isn't. You have to make judgments about choices, consequences and goals in accordance with rational principles.
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            • Posted by term2 3 years, 11 months ago
              I think we are going around on semantics. What's rational?
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              • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
                It means thinking in principles based on logic, with valid concepts and in full focus. In this context it means evaluating choices in accordance with a rational code of ethics applied to the values of your life. For the meaning of rational stands in a code of ethics see Ayn Rand's article on "The Objectivist Ethics". It isn't semantics. It isn't just predicting what will or will probably happen with a 'willingness' to accept consequences without regard to rational standards. You have to evaluate goals in a hierarchy of values and the means used to attain them, and engage in the mental effort necessary to think of what you need and possible means to get it, from the particular actions to the full principles of ethics to your own hierarchy of values.

                From "The Objectivist Ethics":

                "Rationality is man’s basic virtue, the source of all his other virtues. Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. Irrationality is the rejection of man’s means of survival and, therefore, a commitment to a course of blind destruction; that which is anti-mind, is anti-life.

                "The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours. It means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge. It means a commitment to the reality of one’s own existence, i.e., to the principle that all of one’s goals, values and actions take place in reality and, therefore, that one must never place any value or consideration whatsoever above one’s perception of reality. It means a commitment to the principle that all of one’s convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought—as precise and scrupulous a process of thought, directed by as ruthlessly strict an application of logic, as one’s fullest capacity permits. It means one’s acceptance of the responsibility of forming one’s own judgments and of living by the work of one’s own mind (which is the virtue of Independence). It means that one must never sacrifice one’s convictions to the opinions or wishes of others (which is the virtue of Integrity)—that one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner (which is the virtue of Honesty)—that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice). It means that one must never desire effects without causes, and that one must never enact a cause without assuming full responsibility for its effects—that one must never act like a zombie, i.e., without knowing one’s own purposes and motives—that one must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge—and, above all, that one must never seek to get away with contradictions. It means the rejection of any form of mysticism, i.e., any claim to some nonsensory, nonrational, nondefinable, supernatural source of knowledge. It means a commitment to reason, not in sporadic fits or on selected issues or in special emergencies, but as a permanent way of life."
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    • Posted by 3 years, 11 months ago
      I don't disagree with what you state. It does bring up another question though.

      Do you think choosing to have an unhealthy lunch that may lessen the length of time a person lives is Objectivist? And if so, does that fall under the risk vs. reward?
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 3 years, 11 months ago
        It depends on the overall circumstances. If length of lifetime is one's highest value, then eating an unhealthy lunch is irrational. But if length of lifetime is one's highest value, then any diet other than the severely "calorie restricted" one would also be irrational, since that diet is (so far) the only one shown to maximize lifespan. Another consideration: If one has, say, a terminal illness, eating an unhealthy but tasty meal might make sense. A lot depends on context.
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      • Posted by jdg 3 years, 11 months ago
        It depends where you find that the overall sum of quality and quantity of life experience is maximized for you.

        I've had others tell me they don't think gambling at a casino can ever be rational. The way I look at it is, I fully expect to lose the money I bring in there to play with. If I expect to get enough enjoyment out of the game to be worth that price, then it was a rational decision anyway. If I don't, then walking in there was a bad idea.
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      • Posted by cjferraris 3 years, 11 months ago
        There also is the quality of life thing. I have lived the philosophy "Eat healthy, exercise, don't drink, don't smoke, still die... There is room for an unhealthy meal, but not on a regular basis. However, to get a better grasp of the world around us, we need to experience what life has to offer.. I didn't try sushi until in my 50s, and while I only eat it sparingly, I appreciate the experience.
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        • Posted by Herb7734 3 years, 11 months ago
          My daughter-in-law is not an Objectivist, though she has read Atlas.She is a child of the 70s and has trouble understanding the nature of freedom. Her philosophy can be summed up simply, although applied with difficulty. It goes like this: live, smile, live, smile, live, smile DIE!
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      • Posted by lrshultis 3 years, 11 months ago
        All depends on what you consider a lunch that can possibly have any bearing on life span. You will just ruin your life by contemplating such crap.
        The comedian Lewis Black in his 2004 "Black on Broadway" had some things to say about such a view of health and linked to the 'snowflakes' by saying: "Everyone of you has a health that is unique and totally different from everybody else. Completely! Because we... are all like snowflakes". And later in his show used snowflakes more like it would fit today's generation snowflakes.
        There most likely is no food that will shorten a lifetime but if you want to, say, continue a booze habit for lunch and other meals you may just possibly reduce a lifespan while, for a while, having some extra physical feeling of pleasure.
        Of course you can eat dangerous fad foods or tainted foods that may cut life very short if you are unlucky with the preparation of them.
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  • Posted by $ Snezzy 3 years, 11 months ago
    I seem to remember (meaning: I don't have any source other than my faulty memory) that Rand was asked how many Objectivists there were and she said, "One."

    It is her name for her philosophy. If you want to have a different philosophy, go ahead, but it might be wise to use some other name if you wish to differ with Rand on anything important. Peikoff once suggested "Gloopism."

    Rand's selfish insistence on her own name for her own philosophy may be seen as dogmatism, if you wish. That view does not make one correct.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 3 years, 11 months ago
    Heavens no. I choose my attire for more than protection from the environment, given the image I feel expresses who I am. That's purely an emotional decision.

    I like art deco and craftsman design elements in choosing furnishings simply because I like them. That's another purely emotional choice.

    The best decision I ever made, marrying my soul mate and still best friend after 40 years was kind of a mixed bag. First, she had the unusual talent for rational thinking and direct expression. I never have had to guess what's on her mind. That part of the decision was reason. The fact she had a spectacular body was pure lust, no rational thought involved.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 11 months ago
    What would you propose in the place of reason?
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    • Posted by 3 years, 11 months ago
      I don't propose anything. But people can make decisions based on emotion or other factors and I am wondering at what point is that person not an Objectivist? Is an Objectivist only so when they are 100% and is 100% achievable?
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 11 months ago
        Ed, Once one learns and understands the actual sources of emotional responses and their purposes in the more ancestral areas of our brains, it isn't difficult to apply reason. What eases the struggle between emotional and reasoned decision making is an earlier exercise in reasoned evaluation of personal values.

        Emotional and conditioned belief systems rely on influencing the sympathetic nervous system, biological-chemical based. Basing life decisions on that system while denying reasoning is the opposite of Objectivism.
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    • Posted by jdg 3 years, 11 months ago
      I would propose simply that we distinguish questions where reason applies from questions of taste.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 11 months ago
        There are simply no questions in reality for which logical reasoning doesn't apply. Even if that devolves back to determining the values/principles that determine taste.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
          For a physical taste like food preferences the taste is a biological fact, but there is choice for what to do about it: add salt, eat it or not, etc. Other kinds of taste, such as taste in art as meaning what preference, are based on prior accepted principles, explicitly or implicitly. So all matters of taste require reasoning within the realm of choice.
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  • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 3 years, 11 months ago
    Hello edweaver,
    I believe Ayn would consider me a student of objectivism. That is how I refer to myself. I do not know what it takes, short of being Ayn herself, to be an "Objectivist". I believe she once said she was the only objectivist and all others were students. One thing I think important is to exhaust all reason before resorting to decision based on emotion. If after due consideration the only direction left to one is emotion and a decision must be made then go with your gut. If on the other hand one rejects reason and places emotion paramount they are not even on the path of student.
    Respectfully,
    O.A.
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  • Posted by krevello 3 years, 11 months ago
    I think every decision has to be based in reason, but with the recognition that there are different kinds of rationales. Obviously, there's not the same kind of moral imperative when deciding what to eat for breakfast as when casting a vote or making a purchase. But, I think it's important to adhere to reason in all decisions particularly in a free society because most actions have symbolic value. For instance, a decision to purchase a particular good supports the producer, so purchasing that product is really an endorsement of not just the quality of the good but the work ethic of the person who made it. Actions have consequences that ripple outward, so recognizing that and attempting to adhere to some consistent standard is important. I think that's more a necessary condition of developing a consistent self than a condition of Objectivism.
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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 3 years, 11 months ago
    Reminds of the conflict between Kirk and Spock for captain of the Enterprise.
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    • Posted by $ blarman 3 years, 11 months ago
      +1. And Roddenberry used the three primary characters to illustrate that very concept. Spock was logical to a fault and his decisions as temporary Captain of the Enterprise usually turned out poorly when he relied solely on logic. Bones was too emotional: his trademark outbursts and interplay with Spock weren't there just for storyplay, but because Roddenberry wanted to emphasize how both could and frequently were too extreme in any given situation. Kirk played the medium between them, but emphasized an emotional tenacity of spirit along with quick decision-making based on intuition. His emotionalism sometimes got him into trouble, but it also triumphed in certain circumstances where logic failed.
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  • Posted by $ TomB666 3 years, 11 months ago
    Not every decision. Which flavor ice cream you prefer is not something on which you can be right and me wrong if our likes are different.
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  • Posted by brkssb 3 years, 11 months ago
    Don't [most] people make decisions based on a hierarchy of values? Students of objectivism would look to reason, purpose, and self-esteem -- and the development and integration of concepts. Personally, I see far too many comments aimed at "being an Objectivist" and who qualifies...
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 3 years, 11 months ago
    There is a difference between the hard core perfectionist and the Human Realist.
    As much as we might like to think otherwise, we do have emotions, they drive us passionately to create value...without which...we might as well be robots or "Vulcan's".
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  • Posted by tdechaine 3 years, 11 months ago
    An Obj.ist must adhere to Rand's principles. So if he acts on emotions or faith vs. reason, he is contradicting his principles. If he does so consciously and not just in error or in a moment of weakness, than he is not a true Obj.ist.
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  • Posted by peterchunt 3 years, 11 months ago
    Absolutely. But remember that there may be good rational for either side, so most decisions are not black and white. As an engineer, I often have to understand the assumptions made along with all the various facts to make my decision.
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  • Posted by wiggys 3 years, 11 months ago
    edweaver,
    do you base every decision as best you can on "reason"? If not why not? However, even if you do that does not constitute that you are an objectivist, but it goes a long way towards you becoming an objectivist.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 11 months ago
      I'm not asking about me. This is a more general question. What does it take for a person to qualify as an Objectivist? Can they be somewhat of an Objectivist or do they have to be all in to be considered as such?
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  • Posted by $ blarman 3 years, 11 months ago
    One of the flaws with reason is that it depends on knowledge, and knowledge is acquired drip-by-drip. So as one obtains knowledge, one is more and more able to rely on knowledge and reason to make good decisions. So the real question to ask is whether or not there is a point in a person's life where they gain enough knowledge to not have to rely on emotion to fill in the gaps. If you find it, let me know.
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    • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
      The requirement to gain the knowledge you need isn't a "flaw with reason". Reason is the only way to attain knowledge and must be consistently exercised over time throughout your life. Emotions are not not primaries as a 'default position', they are automatic reactions to values you have already accepted, rationally or not. Whatever may occur to you automatically based on prior experience and knowledge is not infallible and must be validated. That becomes easier by habit when performed consistently but is never automatic.
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      • Posted by $ blarman 3 years, 11 months ago
        Have you ever been a parent? What does an infant demonstrate? Emotion driven by basic needs: food, diaper changes, cuddling. It takes them time to develop their senses and figure out how to use them. Suckling is an innate response. Smiling at the face of a parent? Not so. Potty training is another example I'm going through (again) right now. Classic example of acquired knowledge: that sensation of something warm running down your leg could be flowing not into your clothes and on the floor or chair (or both), but into a proper receptacle. One learns what things are, of relationships between those objects, and then begins to tie things together: knowledge and reason to tie them together. I would also point out that children primarily learn by example: by watching what their parents do. If reason were all there were to it, they would intuitively figure out for themselves how to put on their clothes, cook their own food, and it wouldn't take them 15 years to grow up into a self-sufficient human being without any instruction from any other person. Yeah, I don't see that too much.

        "Emotions are not not primaries as a 'default position', they are automatic reactions"

        Again, go back and look at a child. Children evince pure, raw emotions that do not come from prior knowledge. Emotions are instinctual - not developed as a result of reason. You have it backwards. Reason is a product of rational capacity and experience/training. The ability to reason may be inherent, but its effectiveness is dependent on an aggregation of acquired knowledge and application. We can train ourselves to recognize and rationally react despite those displays of raw emotion, but emotions come whether you want them to or not. Take one example: love at first sight. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever rational about it. Take anger. If you see someone beating someone else, you immediately are indignant that that other person is being treated that way, but it isn't because you stop and think "Hey, that's wrong" and then decide to elevate your blood pressure and pump adrenaline into your veins. Can we learn to control our emotions? Only to the point that we do not allow our emotions to determine our responses to everything the way children do. That's called maturity. But the position that emotions are the product of reason is denied both by empirical observation and psychological studies.
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    • Posted by ScaryBlackRifle 3 years, 11 months ago
      Humans are not inherently 100% rational beings ... that's why emotions exist ... they are a necessity to the sum total known as "human."

      Trying to root out all emotions leads to serious mental aberrations. To discard emotions is to cut off a leg. You might still be able to stand, but you are at a serious handicap in the race of life.

      An objectiivist without passions is in deep doo-doo.
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      • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
        100% of what? Reason is the means of acquiring knowledge. Emotions are automatic responses in accordance with values already accepted. Emotions are not tools of cognition and not a substitute for reason. Being rational does not mean not having emotions and is not a "handicap" in "deep doo-doo". Those who confuse the different functions of reason and emotion and substitute emotions for thinking are.

        Please read "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness and other discussions of reason vs. emotions in Philosophy: Who Needs It?.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 3 years, 11 months ago
    The first thought that pops into my mind is, "What else is there?" Irrational decision? No matter what name you give it, anything else would be irrational. Examples: Rational: One can determine the length of an object by measuring it. Irrational: One can determine the length of an object by counting the warts on a dill pickle. Pretty obvious, is it not?
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  • Posted by jimjamesjames 3 years, 11 months ago
    Hell, no. It it not rational to eat ice cream and BB ribs but I'm going to.....
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    • Posted by ScaryBlackRifle 3 years, 11 months ago
      It IS rational ... if it is your goal to live a life with flavor, then ice cream and BBQ ribs (I prefer beef to pork) are required elements. ;-)

      Spock was only half human ... and just not a hell of a lot of fun to be around.
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      • Posted by jimjamesjames 3 years, 11 months ago
        "Spock was only half human ... and just not a hell of a lot of fun to be around." Bingo!! The die-hard, "I've found my calling" Objectivists are a lot like I was in the 1960s......Tiring........ like Spock.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
          Spock was a parody based on the common false notion of reason claimed to mean no emotions for anything. The heroes of Ayn Rand's novels did not remotely resemble Spock. Ayn Rand was a clear writer. Misrepresenting her in order to promote an emotionalist attack on reason is not honest.
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    • Posted by tdechaine 3 years, 11 months ago
      That is not generally a moral issue.
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      • Posted by jimjamesjames 3 years, 11 months ago
        My point is that there are moral and not-moral decisions made by everyone,every day, and to restrict one's reasoning to be 100% objective takes some joy out of life.
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        • Posted by tdechaine 3 years, 11 months ago
          The real point here is that consciously making immoral decisions is immoral and that takes joy out of life. But there are certainly a lot of decisions outside the realm of morality - leaves a lot of flexibility.
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          • Posted by jimjamesjames 3 years, 11 months ago
            Any decision that does not initiate force or fraud is a moral decision. Anything that gives me an excuse (not reason) to eat ice cream and bacon is fine with me. By the way, no, I am not fat.
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            • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
              Morality is not based on 'not initiating force'. You have it backwards. Morality is based on reason. The principle of not using force against others is a fundamental social consequence. Moral principles primarily concern choices in your own life. There are a lot of irrational, immoral things you could do to yourself that would not be initiating force against others.
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              • Posted by jimjamesjames 3 years, 11 months ago
                Okay, you win, you're right, I'm wrong, have a nice day.....
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                • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
                  The entire field of ethics arises because each individual is confronted with choices that make a difference to his life and survival. It does not start with politics. Every political philosophy is based on and presupposes an ethics. The anti-philosophical libertarian attempt to base all discussion on "initiatation of force" is false. Instead of making snide remarks please read Ayn Rand's "The Objectivist Ethics".
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 3 years, 11 months ago
    Your last comment about "100%" is an error in thought, perhaps an example itself of not being "100% rational."

    Your emotions are the summations of your ideas. If your ideas are realistic and rational, your emotions will be valid guides. But they are guides only. You must examine your own feelings and thoughts. "Check your premises."

    As Zenphamy asked, what else would you use, but reason tested by reality?

    (We use these words in both a common and technical sense. We should keep them straight. In common talk "realism" and "rationalism" mean about the same thing. In technical philosophy, they are false alternatives, diametrically opposed. Objectivism holds that the real is rationally explicable and rational conclusions can be empirically validated. No dichotomy exists.)

    Rand wrote an open letter to Boris Spassky, who was "100% rational" about playing chess and 100% irrational about politics, playing chess for the glory of the USSR. You cannot have it both ways.

    To use your implied standard, CBJ, you are asking if Boris Spassky could have called himself an Objectivist because he was "mostly" rational (chess, crossing the street, matching his clothes, ...) and just irrational about some things, like politics and ethics.

    The often implied question is "what about making mistakes?" The answer is that, as in baseball, errors count, but you don't lose the game (necessarily), as long as you identify them and fix them (with practice). We all make mistakes.

    An Objectivist engineer I know says that "the perfect is the enemy of the good."
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 3 years, 11 months ago
      "Mostly" rational is not my implied standard. Referencing my first sentence, "Every important decision should have serious reasons to back it up, in terms of advancing or maintaining one's fundamental values.* One's politics and ethics are important decisions, thus Spassky would not have been an Objectivist.
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    • Posted by BeenThere 3 years, 11 months ago
      "Your emotions are the summations of your ideas. If your ideas are realistic and rational, your emotions will be valid guides. But they are guides only. You must examine your own feelings and thoughts. "Check your premises.""


      "(We use these words in both a common and technical sense. We should keep them straight. In common talk "realism" and "rationalism" mean about the same thing. In technical philosophy, they are false alternatives, diametrically opposed. Objectivism holds that the real is rationally explicable and rational conclusions can be empirically validated. No dichotomy exists.)"

      Exactly.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 11 months ago
      My comment about "100%" is not an error in thought because I made it with reason. My question has nothing to do with fluff. I simply looking for a discussion on who qualifies to be a Objectivist and why?

      Maybe my question would be better asked, if people use methods other than reason to make some decisions, no matter the method, when are they qualified to be an Objectivist?

      BTW, I don't believe there is a better way of making decisions than using reason & logic but not all people use that to make decisions or all people would be an Objectivist, wouldn't they?
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      • Posted by ewv 3 years, 11 months ago
        "If people use methods other than reason to make some decisions, no matter the method, when are they qualified to be an Objectivist?"

        They don't. But reason as an exclusive method of cognition is a necessary, not sufficient condition. Ayn Rand's philosophy has a content, it doesn't just say 'use reason'.
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