Open Thread #390

 Posted by on 14 April 2013 at 12:00 pm  Open Thread
Apr 142013

Note: For now, at least, I’m going to pause these open threads… unless people raise a ruckus in the comments. Facebook is definitely the place to post interesting links these days, so these open threads just don’t serve the purpose that they used to.

Big Tree with Red Sky in the Winter Night

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with other NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. As always, please refrain from posting inappropriate comments such as personal attacks, pornographic material, copyrighted material, and commercial solicitations.

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  • Sajid1760

    You said you wanted a ruckus? I can’t promise that but I’ll do my best.

    I first came into contact with Ayn Rand and Objectivism about ten years ago and, after reading almost everything she wrote, I seriously tried to apply the philosophy to my life.

    I ended up failing miserably (not necessarily only because of my perceived inadequacies in the philosophy).

    Nevertheless, I have come to the conclusion that Objectivism does have some serious flaws that prevents it from changing the culture and/or replacing religion with further enlightenment.

    My four main problems with Objectivism are actually interrelated:

    1. Objectivism has no theory of conflict resolution. Ayn Rand famously said that rational men have no conflicts with each other. However, two men behaving and thinking perfectly rationally can come to radically different conclusions about the nature of reality and personal values. Objectivism does not mention the proper way for rational men to deal with each other when they disagree vehemently on an issue. Walking away every time you disagree with someone only leads to isolationism personally and Libertarianism politically. On the other hand great conflicts can often result in great resolution and a revelation of an aspect of the truth that eluded people before.

    2. Social dynamics and the purpose and meaning of life. Objectivism mainly states that man is an end itself and other men are fellow travellers. I have not ruled out that this formulation might be true but I think it really needs to be fleshed out. I think that man’s relationship with other men (and society in general) is *metaphysical* and as important as his relationship with reality. Thus, not only must I define my values relative to nature I must also define them relative to my understanding of people and the community which is created by a group of men working together. Thus, if I were on my own, I could pick my career and my work as my highest value. But if I considered myself a part of a community I could easily pick the aim of my work to be the advancement of a certain social structure and the preservation of a certain communal way of life (like say run for the mayor of a city or become president of a local YMCA or start an Objectivist Magazine).

    Objectivism has little to nothing to say about social norms and rules, where they come from, what they represent about the psycho-epistemology of humans and how important they are. All it says is that people should respect each others rights and not interfere with each others goals. I think this is too little and too simplistic. In fact an understanding of the psycho-epistemology of human-human interactions is necessary to create a theory of Objective Law which would go a long way toward developing a theory of conflict resolution.

    3. As has been stated many times previously on these threads, Objectivism lacks a proper theory of induction. Practically, Objectivism is a great guide when one is dealing with facts and issues that are well defined. Food is good, money is good, work is good, life is good, poision is bad, poverty (national) is bad, sloth is bad, death is bad.

    But when it comes to questions that do not have well-defined answers Objectivism fails miserably as a guide to *discovering* those answers. Objectivists (including Ayn Rand) are often too hasty in passing judgment on controversial issues like homosexuality, religion, international relations, smoking and are less interested in furthering nuanced conversation that would flesh out details and guidelines for dealing with those issues both in the short term and in the long term. As a result of Objectivism’s missing theory of induction, many purported Objectivists come to all sorts of weird conclusions based on faulty methodology and then get into intimidating morally charged shouting matches to prove their point. Also, I think there is a huge huge social component to induction (unlike deduction which is more or less individual). Thus, without a theory of social interactions and conflict resolution how is one to have a theory of induction? or vice-versa?

    4. Ayn Rand once said:

    “Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the nonexistent “rights” of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.”

    This is actually an extremely dangerous statement as it can be misused so easily. Objectivism has no protocol to define which nation is free and which nation is not. Even if it did, it has no machinery by which a consensus could be reached. Moreover, “free nation” is not well defined. Many Objectivists have used this statement to justify America’s invasion of Iraq and even today, most who disagree with the invasion disagree with it only with regard to US national interests. However, this is basically adopting a Libertarian theory of international politics–”inside our borders we must follow the law but outside we will just follow our “interests” with no concern for an overarching authority created with the purpose of making sure we don’t tread on anybody else”. Objectivism has no theory of what a nation is and nothing on which to base an international politics.

    If you really think it is okay for one “free” nation to invade another “free” nation consider the following scenario: Another nation (say Russia or Japan) suddenly becomes super advanced, super moral and then unilaterally decides that it is in its interests to invade and restructure a morally decadent USA. Would you think that is a satisfactory state of affairs (even if you concluded that the Russians/Japanese had the superior solutions to the problem of living) or would you say “you know what–why don’t we make a structure within which we can talk about this without killing each other and in the meantime why don’t you worry about your own country?”

    Aside from that I also have several problems with the Objectivist theory of money and economics but perhaps that is for another day.

    That was a really long post; if you have come this far thanks for reading :).

  • paulobrien

    I stumbled across your message doing a search for Objectivism and Conflict Resolution. I see there is no really good path toward using it this way. I particularly agree with your point number 4. I find it a bit contradictory for Rand to be willing to give to the state such powers to determine which countries to invade or not, considering she was so distrustful of state authority. I would not pay much heed to any of her foreign policy ideas as in many ways they do not add up with her overall philosophy. I think the real value of her work is to clarify the issue of one’s self and the overall unwinding of conditionings around self sacrifice and self identity. She has an overall healthy outlook on humanity (no original sin) and promotes a healthy self esteem based on honoring one’s own innate desires. This is a huge service and I think is probably at the heart of her appeal.

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