Objectivism and Objectivists: A critical perspective
#1
Objectivism:

Some of you may be familiar with Ayn Rand's work and her philosophy of Objectivism. IMO, Objectivism fails from the start because of various false premises. The most scientifically incoherent of these is the requirement for belief in contra-causal free-will. The other central flaw with Objectivism is that it makes the naturalistic fallacy.
Here's an article I wrote on the subject. It was a long time ago, and I wasn't very clear back then. My views have evolved since.

Objectivists:

I've had run-ins with Objectivists before, and as Michael Shermer has said, some Ayn Rand followers tend to behave like a cult.

Quote:For Objectivists, once a principle has been discovered through reason to be True, that is the end of the discussion. If you disagree with the principle, then your reasoning is flawed. If your reasoning is flawed it can be corrected, but if it is not, you remain flawed and do not belong in the group. Excommunication is the final step for such unreformed heretics.

(Note: Shermer also gives a different reason for why Objectivism is flawed- the fact that Objectivism proclaims absolute moral truth).

To borrow from my comment to a couple Objectivists I had been debating online, "(they) obfuscate the issues, misunderstand the philosophy of naturalism, don't comprehend the naturalistic fallacy, don't get how experience is subjective relying on natural causes, don't understand cause and effect and blindly defend their fallacious ideology without a shred of intellectual honesty." I had said this before reading Shermer's article, so I was glad to be in good intellectual company!

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
A card-carrying Objectivist uses the words 'second-hander' and 'moocher' with the same vehemence that words like 'mleccha', 'heathen', 'kaafir' or 'gentile' are used. Their use of such 'us-them' vocabulary curiously mirrors the age-old strategy of religious faiths to build in-group solidarity accompanied by out-group hatred.

The very categories of 'creator' and 'second-hander' which are water-tight for an Objectivist, may only be of as much contemporary relevance as terms like 'freeman' and 'serf'; ready analogies, but oversimplifications. Much like the narrative of Marxism needs the camps of the 'bourgeosie' and 'proletariat', what Ayn Rand ostensibly presented as a counter-narrative needed its own camps namely, 'creators' and 'second-handers'. Apologists for Objectivism conveniently conflate 'haves' and 'have-nots' as synonyms of 'creators' and 'second-handers' respectively, thus simultaneously glorifying Capitalism and demonizing Communism.

All of the above narratives have today outlived their usefulness. When so much value can be created by 'crowd-sourcing' and 'in the Cloud', how does one isolate the 'creators and second-handers' and how can anyone in her right mind declare like Howard Roark "I don't consult, I don't co-operate, I don't collaborate." ? When there is supposedly 'fortune at the bottom of the pyramid', is capital really the enemy of people who were once called 'have nots'? Objectivism, like the Marxism that it supposedly emerged as a response, is a now-anachronistic theoretical framework into which it will be ludicrous to force-fit the realities of today's economies and societies.

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#3
(02-Jan-2011, 04:11 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: When so much value can be created by 'crowd-sourcing' and 'in the Cloud', how does one isolate the 'creators and second-handers' and how can anyone in her right mind declare like Howard Roark "I don't consult, I don't co-operate, I don't collaborate." ? When there is supposedly 'fortune at the bottom of the pyramid', is capital really the enemy of people who were once called 'have nots'? Objectivism, like the Marxism that it supposedly emerged as a response, is a now-anachronistic theoretical framework into which it will be ludicrous to force-fit the realities of today's economies and societies.

But force-fit it they do! As I have discovered, Objectivism is unfalsifiable, mainly because it involves argument after argument steeped in moral coercion offered under the pretext of freedom from such imposition, combined with a looseness with the facts, allowing for the development of all convenient and misleading narratives.

The answers can range from downright denial that crowd-sourced projects do any overall good at all to society, to predictions about how in the long-run such "collectivism" will lead to a draconian and freedom-less society (forgetting that Any Rand's very work is being promoted by the efforts of a collective- the very Objectivists who argue that they are against "collectivism", and that the notion of freedom, being relative, could just as well imply freedom from hunger and disease), to actually claiming that these crowd-sourced projects are in-fact comprised of completely self-centered, individualistic acts (or that they might as well be).
I find the whole collectivism/individualism divide to be a distraction. This false dilemma is created as a natural result of our human propensity for black/white simple-mindedness.




"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
Xkcd on the cult of Ayn Rand:

[Image: sheeple.png]

Alt Text: Hey, what are the odds -- five Ayn Rand fans on the same train! Must be going to a convention.
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#5
This is a good summary of Rand's "philosophy".

[Image: atlass.gif]

Her "philosophy" is mostly a series of cliches melded together with stubborn, unthinking nationalism and chauvinism. I heard the new Atlas Shrugged film is not being received too well either.
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#6
(02-Jan-2011, 04:11 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: Much like the narrative of Marxism needs the camps of the 'bourgeosie' and 'proletariat'
Sorry, but this is a gross mischaracterisation of Marxism. One does not need to read Marx to acknowledge the existence of social classes in modern society.

Rand's idea of a band of 'supermen' ruling over society is more similar to fascism. Much like the Nazis, she appropriated a caricature of Nietzsche's philosophy and his ubermensch into her "philosophy".

Quote:Objectivism, like the Marxism that it supposedly emerged as a response, is a now-anachronistic theoretical framework into which it will be ludicrous to force-fit the realities of today's economies and societies.
I don't think that Marxism is anachronistic. Marx's masterful analysis is useful in understanding the historical development and the working of capitalism to this day. Also, Objectivism certainly did not emerge as a response to Marxism. Rand's direct enemies were the "compassionate" conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. She considered the Democratic Party to be infiltrated by communists. In short, she was delusional to the core.
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#7
(14-May-2011, 09:59 PM)madhav Wrote: I don't think that Marxism is anachronistic. Marx's masterful analysis is useful in understanding the historical development and the working of capitalism to this day.

To say that a comparison between Objectivism and Marxism in terms of their historical impact is a somewhat disproportionate and incongruous comparison, seems to be a reasonable objection, simply because as far as 'historical impact' goes, Objectivism was never an organized political movement with aims to capture state power (with the exception perhaps of an episode of influence over the regulatory body of a superpower economy.).

While it is undeniable that the work of Marx constitutes essential reading for students of history and anthropology, suggesting that the Marxist narrative of history be privileged over all other narratives seems to be an increasingly untenable claim. That the Marxist narrative is apocalyptic in its tone is well-known, and in the Indian context, its proponents' attitude of condescension, ambivalence and often downright disdain towards electoral democracy is indicative of their unease caused by the departure of unfolding history from the purported inevitability of their narrative.

(14-May-2011, 09:59 PM)madhav Wrote: Also, Objectivism certainly did not emerge as a response to Marxism.

The acknowledged influences on Ayn Rand are many, and her early life in the Soviet Union including first-hand experience of a 'university purge of the bourgeoisie' is an influence that cannot be summarily discounted, as is evidenced in her first major literary work, We the Living.

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#8
(21-May-2011, 05:37 AM)arvindiyer Wrote:
(14-May-2011, 09:59 PM)madhav Wrote: Also, Objectivism certainly did not emerge as a response to Marxism.

The acknowledged influences on Ayn Rand are many, and her early life in the Soviet Union including first-hand experience of a 'university purge of the bourgeoisie' is an influence that cannot be summarily discounted, as is evidenced in her first major literary work, We the Living.

To add to that, in Atlas Shrugged, it is because his company decided to implement the policy of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", that John Galt, who is an embodiment of Rand's objectivism, decides to quit his job and start a strike to show that the only right path for a society is the libertarian path.
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#9
Quoting from this article by Sam Harris (which itself was written to counter the blowback of an earlier article on the 'crisis of inequality')...

Quote:Followers of Rand, in particular, believe that only a blind reliance on market forces and the narrowest conception of self interest can steer us collectively toward the best civilization possible and that any attempt to impose wisdom or compassion from the top—no matter who is at the top and no matter what the need—is necessarily corrupting of the whole enterprise. This conviction is, at the very least, unproven. And there are many reasons to believe that it is dangerously wrong.
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#10
Apart from the fundamental issues, pertaining to Objectivism, that Ajita's article and post already addresses, there are a couple of basic issues that I think Ayn Rand is mistaken about.
1. She seems to equate Money with Intrinsic value, while in real world its correlated to the market value.
2. Existence and non-existence is treated as fundamental alternatives giving rise to Objectivism, the inherrent subjective nature of existence is never really addressed. What I mean is that people don't really prefer any kind of existence. An adventure lover won't prefer existence without thrill, although the thrill inducing activities might be harmful to his existence.
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#11
So today was ayn rand's birthday (fox news)

The muppets on fox news and capitalism.

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#12
(13-May-2011, 10:55 AM)madhav Wrote: This is a good summary of Rand's "philosophy".

[Image: atlass.gif]

Her "philosophy" is mostly a series of cliches melded together with stubborn, unthinking nationalism and chauvinism. I heard the new Atlas Shrugged film is not being received too well either.

One of the reason objectivism is taken is that there is a lack of serious engagement to criticism the ideas of Ayn rand. Most professional philosophers who know there actual "worth" just shrug this off. I leads to people taking these ideas seriously. (I would say similar thing happens regarding pseudo philosophy prevalent in Indian society where new age mambo-jumbo is considered as serious philosophy.
For a change philosopher Massimo Pigliucci (i highy recommend is blog) has written a series of article around Ayn Rand's objectivism critical assessing them to expose the logical flaws

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.in/20...ysics.html
http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.in/#u...ch-results
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