Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Objectivist Answers

QuantumHaecceity commented on Ayn Rand & Epistemology 39:
Well, I consider myself an expert on Objectivism, so you can run whatever fatal flaws Objectivism is supposed to have by me.
I'll try to answer them in "real time"(I.E. in like a day or less, as opposed to say 2 weeks from now) That goes out to the particularly irritating, intransigent, belligerent Objectivist haters like Parille, Barnes, Nyquist, and of course Prescott.
This is probably one of the few times this has, or will happen. So take advantage of it...
As I don't want yet another epic thread hijack I've started a new one here. I'd like to ask Quantum a couple of questions to begin with:

1) Would you care to post under your real name? Most of the commenters critical of Rand here do, yet hardly any of Rand's defenders do. I'm not sure why. At any rate, it tends to be a bit more convivial.

2) Have you read Greg's book and/or many of the posts on this blog? Most of our would-be critics have done neither. If so, that would be a good start.

3) If not the above, what do you regard as good quality criticisms of Rand?

Update: My next questions are posted in comments.

119 comments:

ungtss said...

i'm struck by how many anti-randism is premised on the act of systematically confusing coercion with voluntary choice. for instance, a fully voluntary conversation involving numerous people becomes "hijacking." hijacking? seriously? "to illegally seize?"

ungtss said...

meanwhile, on that hijacked thread, i'm being told that a company that offers wages which no one is compelled to accept is "unethical," while a government that tells you "play by our rules or move to a different country" is perfectly legitimate. this all seems to be maintained by the systematic [deliberate] confusion of coercion and choice.

Daniel Barnes said...

ungtss, I think you need to check your "anti-randism" premise and become a bit more aware of all internet traditions....;-)

Anonymous said...

Oxford Learners Dictionary:

"2 hijack something (disapproving):

to use or take control of something, especially a meeting, in order to advertise your own aims and interests"

That definition would be closer to the one that Daniel meant than "to illegally seize".

Urbandictionary.com:

"Forum speak, is when a thread is taken from one direction of discussion to another completely off course topic or many different topics in a short period of time."

And that's the one I immediately recognized Daniel to be using. I'd wager that you're in a very, very small group not to recognize it.

You seem like a person who likes to analyze things (which is a very good trait). You should analyze why you failed to see what Daniel meant and why it was so easy for you to find something evil in that sentence.
Not being familiar with how 'hijacking' gained a distinct meaning online would explain a confusion as to why the term 'hijack' was used but it doesn't explain why'd you see a systematic (and probably deliberate?) confusion of coercion with voluntary choice.

Most of the time when you hear a neigh it's really just a horse and not an anti-life, collectivist, socialist, parasitic zebra set out to destroy man's mind.

Anonymous said...

I was right. I shall masturbate to celebrate the occasion!

QuantumHaecceity said...

1) No.

2) Yes, I've read some of the book on Scibd, but not all of it as they cut out large portions.

I've read a good amount of the posts on this blog.


So far, none of these haters have taken me up on my offer to debate, or take their questions or concerns to ObjectivistAnswers.com;

This only confirms why the vast majority of Objectivists ignore this site, as it's mainly just a hate site.

Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks QuantumHaecceity, or let's just call you Q.

You seem to have overlooked my question 3). Can I ask again, if not ARCHN and the associated blog, what do you consider to be good quality criticism of Rand?

ungtss said...

"You seem like a person who likes to analyze things (which is a very good trait). You should analyze why you failed to see what Daniel meant and why it was so easy for you to find something evil in that sentence.
Not being familiar with how 'hijacking' gained a distinct meaning online would explain a confusion as to why the term 'hijack' was used but it doesn't explain why'd you see a systematic (and probably deliberate?) confusion of coercion with voluntary choice."

Come now, gentlemen, i'm familiar with the slang use of the term. The point is that the slang use term connotes "taking it off course." as though there were a proper course, and someone unilaterally and inappropriately altered it.

but Daniel participated in the conversations on these "hijacked threads."

as did nyquist and jzero and Gordon and numerous others. who then is the hijacker? the collective interests of everybody involved? including the author of the post?

the purpose of the slang use of the term is to blame somebody for dragging a thread "off course." but who is to blame? nobody. who's the hijacker? nobody.

ungtss said...

"hey, we were going to go to mcdonalds, but then we all decided to go to Wendy's instead. somebody hijacked our evening!"

who? the guy who made the suggestion that everybody agreed with? that's hijacking? only in the world of words that don't mean things.

Daniel Barnes said...

ungtss, while threads usually wander off topic, methinks you doth protest too much.

Perhaps consider what you are doing on this very thread, which was started to give Q some space for question and reply. And then perhaps impress us with some your own conscious self-control.

Daniel Barnes said...

Now Q, to repeat:
You seem to have overlooked my question 3). Can I ask again, if not ARCHN and the associated blog, what do you consider to be good quality criticism of Rand?

ungtss said...

what _I_ am doing:)? i'm somehow forcing you to respond:)? come on, man. be fair. nobody's hijacking anything. This is a free forum and people respond to what they're interested in. If you respond, it's because you're interested in responding. Not because anybody's dragging things of topic, or "hijacking."

As to the relevance of the topic, I think it's extremely relevant, because it goes to one of the key tricks I see anti-randians play a lot -- shifting responsibility around to blame who they want and exempt who they want. as I explained initially, a person will blame industry for not paying high enough wages, but exempt a government for unilaterally imposing an ecological catastrophe.

they're free to play whatever games they like with responsibility, because they have no principle guiding the imposition of responsibility.

that's what's happening here, in a microcosm. dozens of people collectively and individually discuss a myriad of issues, including you. then you characterize the whole thing as a "hijacking." please.

ungtss said...

"Blame is closely associated with labeling theory, in that when intentional actors act out to continuously blame an individual for nonexistent psychological traits, and for nonexistent variables, the actors aim to induce irrational guilt at an unconscious level. It is a propaganda tactic, to use repetitive blaming behaviors, innuendos, and hyperbole in order to assign negative status to normative humans. When innocent people are blamed fraudulently for nonexistent psychological states and nonexistent behaviors, and there is no qualifying deviance for the blaming behaviors, the intention is to create a negative valuation of innocent humans to induce fear, by using fear mongering. Blaming in the form of demonization has been used by governments for centuries to influence public perceptions of various other governments, to induce feelings of nationalism in the public. Blame can be utilized to objectify people, groups, and nations, which can typically negatively influence the intended subjects of propaganda, compromising their objectivity. Blame is utilized as a social control technique."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blame#As_a_propaganda_technique

QuantumHaecceity said...

No, I didn't overlook question three. I didn't answer it because it was predicated on how I answered question two. Hence it said "If not the above", which is a qualifier or contingency.

You can call me Quan.

So is there going to be any type of serious questions for me? Tremblay alluded that Objectivism has been beaten here.

Also, besides ObjectivistAnswers.com, you guys should debate Dawson Bethrick too. Who also runs a blog.

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi Quan,

Leaving out the qualifier then, what do you consider to be examples of good quality criticism of Rand's doctrines?

Daniel Barnes said...

Sigh. For ungtss

Samadhir said...

ungtss: "i'm being told that a company that offers wages which no one is compelled to accept is "unethical," while a government that tells you "play by our rules or move to a different country" is perfectly legitimate."

If you want to work at that company, you are indeed compelled to accept whatever wages they offer you. It's the same thing with a government, where you have to abide by its rules if you want to live on its territory - governments simply tend to control larger territories than private companies. I don't see how one case is more "coercive" than the other.

Gordon Burkowski said...

DB: "Perhaps consider what you are doing on this very thread, which was started to give Q some space for question and reply."

U: "This is a free forum and people respond to what they're interested in. If you respond, it's because you're interested in responding."

As I read this exchange, Daniel, Ungtss seems to be saying that you have only yourself to blame if you respond to his posts. And he does have a point. Talk to Q and ignore interpolations. It might be very interesting.

Daniel Barnes said...

I'm requesting everyone with various other axes to grind take them over to the new Open Thread.

ungtss said...

Samadhir, per Barnes' request, i'll answer your question in his "Open Thread." I'd love to have a substantive discussion with you. But i should warn you: i might get a little pissy if you pull a Barnes-Burkowski special and claim i "dragged you out of this thread" or something else nakedly manipulative like that:). i trust you won't though:).

QuantumHaecceity said...

An example of good quality criticism is Stephen Parrish's A Critique of Objectivist metaethics.

Why?

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi Quan,

It's helpful to start by agreeing what quality criticism looks like. We find that Objectivists often struggle to admit that criticism of Rand is even possible, so wasn't quite sure where you stood there.

If you like Parrish's piece that's promising, as you may also be interested also to note that we have levelled similar criticisms of Rand's ethics here; for example the problem that it entails "rational cowardice" is a moral virtue. See this post.

So if we can make the occasional quality point too, perhaps we are not entirely beyond the pale.

Anyway, thanks, I'll put some more serious questions to you over the weekend.

Daniel Barnes said...

Ok, here's the first question. It's about the two differing views of human nature.

Rand denied that humans have any innate tendencies or predispositions, and claimed that both our cognitive and emotional mechanisms are "tabula rasa" at birth. "A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice" she wrote, "If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free."

ARCHN, on the other hand, claims that genetic inheritance determines a large portion of human behaviour, and accounts for general tendencies like sexual selection (e.g. young men tend to prefer young women to old women as sexual partners), incest aversion, the personal traits of identical twins etc.

Which viewpoint do you think is closest to the empirical evidence of the past half-century? And if even if you disagree with ARCHN's view, would you consider it entirely unreasonable given that evidence?

Francois Tremblay said...

I didn't "allude" to any such thing, although I agree that this blog does debunk important various parts of Objectivism. I also strongly disagree with other parts of this blog, but on the epistemological and justification of ethics issues I think they're spot on.

Here is a complete demolition of Objectivist morality:
http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand5.htm

QuantumHaecceity said...

"Rand denied that humans have any innate tendencies or predispositions"


I've never heard of Rosenbaum claiming that humans have no innate tendencies or predispositions. If you can provide a direct quote, do so.

The Objectivist position on tabula rasa, is about ideas and knowledge.

Tabula Rasa consistent with Objectivism, is an epistemological situation, not a psychological one. It's basically denying that man has innate ideas, and that in order for man to know anything, he must acquire knowledge.

This is an important distinction, since Objectivism is against Theism and Platonism, and holds to a correspondence theory of truth.

QuantumHaecceity said...

"Here is a complete demolition of Objectivist morality"


No. It's probably a bunch of junk, like 99% of the attacks on Objectivism.

It would be nice if some similar clown would giddily volunteer to point out a so called COMPLETE demolition of Islamic morality.

Maybe convince one less person in the world from being a Muslim, then maybe there will be less terrorism and oppression, and planes rammed into buildings.

Rather curious that Mr. Michael Huemer chooses to attack tiny Objectivism, rather than a religious cult believed in by over a billion people. Curious that.

Want to take a guess why?

Gordon Burkowski said...

"I've never heard of Rosenbaum claiming that humans have no innate tendencies or predispositions. If you can provide a direct quote, do so."

Rand's Playboy Interview (1964), where she states flatly that "man doesn't have any instincts."

Jzero said...

"It would be nice if some similar clown would giddily volunteer to point out a so called COMPLETE demolition of Islamic morality."

Why don't YOU do so?

Why is your wish for some kind of refutation of Islam at all relevant?

Why should anyone else be working to fulfill your particular wishes?

"Rather curious that Mr. Michael Huemer chooses to attack tiny Objectivism, rather than a religious cult believed in by over a billion people. Curious that.

Want to take a guess why?"

Because Islam has at its root the existence of a God which cannot be truly proved or disproved; to argue against it one has to argue against the ideas of God and faith, and there's just only so much that one can do in that regard.

By comparison, Objectivism touts itself as being grounded fully in provable reality, that they are right and supposedly can prove it.

To the extent that Objectivists actually live up to that premise, The flaws of Objectivism can be debated. Although, some Objectivists still display faith-like reasoning, so...

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Burkowski

Objectivism doesn't refer to the meaning of instinct in that context, in the way you might think.

Usually, when people think of Instinct, they think of it as "the inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular complex behavior."

So it would be behavioral. When Objectivism refers to instinct in this context, it's referring to Epistemology, not psychology or behavior.

It means via Objectivism "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge". This can be cited from "For the New Intellectual".

There is an excellent answer on this from Andrew Dalton of ObjectivistAnswers, on Do humans have instincts:

http://objectivistanswers.com/questions/3971/do-humans-have-instincts

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Jzero

"Why don't YOU do so?"


Because I'm not in the business of making blog posts attacking and trying to tear down someone's beliefs or philosophy or religion for 8 calendar years. Or sit there and write books 400+ pages long attacking other's positions.

Nyquist is in that business, so I think it would better serve humanity, and be a better use of time, if he attacked a religious cult that is an actual threat, and WAY more relevant due to the huge amount of adherents.



"Why is your wish for some kind of refutation of Islam at all relevant?"

It's relevant TO ME because I find it disgusting, pathetic and sad that some humans like Greg Nyquist would attack a philosophy like Objectivism(which is a very noble philosophy) with such interminable vehemence, but yet not do so where IT IS MOST NEEDED; Against a religion that inspires and even commands people to kill others; Oppress others, and treats women like they are inferior,(arguably treats women like crap) and denigrates and oppresses homosexuals, etc.


"Because Islam has at its root the existence of a God which cannot be truly proved or disproved"

False. God can be proved or disproved. You can prove God through a deductive argument, and if it's sound and valid, it proves God.

You can disprove God by showing a logical contradiction in God's nature.

Also, you can clearly argue against the epistemology, ethics and Metaphysics of religious doctrines.

For example, Christianity is often touted to be based on the ethics of Divine Command theory.

Gordon Burkowski said...

"[Instinct] means via Objectivism "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge".

I think you're resorting to a straw-man definition here. Give me an example of any thinker who actually believes that humans have instincts and that those instincts are an unerring and automatic form of knowledge.

Just one. :)

Tad M Jones said...

q

I had a response to your declaration of the essay that totally demolishes o'ist ethics, but it was deleted, guess i am too stupid to post here

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Burkowski


You appear to be confused. Not once but twice.

Not only did I not say other thinkers define instinct like that, but I said that is what Objectivism is referring to in that context, and it's saying man does NOT have unerring and automatic forms of knowledge

Gordon Burkowski said...

Presumably Objectvists are holding this view in contra-distinction to someone. Who? Just one example. :)

QuantumHaecceity said...

You're not making any sense Burkowski. Why would a particular ideology or philosophy, defining a word a certain way, automatically mean they are holding that view in contradistinction to someone?

It could be a definition or position that everyone holds. Or no one other than them. It's irrelevant to the fact that the philosophy or worldview is simply giving you their definition of some given word.

ungtss said...

her point in that passage is that humans need to take responsibility for their lives and choose to learn how to live. she makes that point through some inartful hyperbole, but that doesn't take away from the validity of the point.

it would have been more artfully put as something like this: "are you still prattling about an instinct of self-preservation? your instincts may allow you to subsist for a short time at the level of other animals who live by instinct -- at the level of an ape, or a dog, or a possum. you may find shelter in a cave by instinct, or shake yourself dry, or reproduce, for the few short years before Nature cuts you down. You may live the life of a savage by instinct.

But to be a Man, you must live volitionally, by choice." etc.

Gordon Burkowski said...

“You're not making any sense Burkowski.”

Sigh.

Okay, let’s trace the argument. It began when Barnes quoted from Galt’s speech: "A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice" and "If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free." Barnes compared this to ARCHN’s position that “genetic inheritance determines a large portion of human behaviour”.

Q replied “I've never heard of Rosenbaum claiming that humans have no innate tendencies or predispositions. If you can provide a direct quote, do so.” That’s what Barnes did, of course. But I threw in the quote from the Playboy Interview for additional confirmation.

Note that Rand isn’t talking in the Galt quote about pulling your finger away from a hot kettle. She’s speaking of epistemological tendencies and predispositions – and denying that they exist.

Q’s response was to ignore the Galt quote altogether and to claim that Rand, in the interview quote, meant by instinct "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge". Now no one believes anything that crazy - including people who believe in genetic predispositions: that’s what makes it a straw-man definition. And it’s why I asked Q to give me one example of someone who actually believed that there are human instincts which constitute “an unerring and automatic form of knowledge".

I didn’t get an answer. And I’m not surprised.

P.S. Why refer to Rand as Rosenbaum? That’s a little like talking about the actor Marion Mitchell Morrison – instead of just saying John Wayne. . .

Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks for your response Quan,

Let's deal with an important point upfront:

>[Instinct] means via Objectivism "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge".

It's worth pointing out that the above shows Rand doesn't really know much about "instincts" to begin with. Critically, there is no instinct, animal or human, that is "unerring". An animal's instincts can lead it astray just as a human's can. So the Objectivist meaning of "instinct" actually applies to no existing creature.

Do you think obviously false claims like this help the credibility of Objectivism's views in this area? Or do you think that Rand simply mis-wrote, and instead of "unerring" should have really written something else?

QuantumHaecceity said...

"that’s what makes it a straw-man definition"


Then you don't know what a strawman is.

In order for that definition to be a strawman, it would have to be misrepresenting someone else's definition.

It's not giving a misrepresentation of someone else's definition; It's simply stating its own.

QuantumHaecceity said...

"there is no instinct, animal or human, that is "unerring"."


In OPAR, Peikoff qualifies unerring to mean "within the limits of its range".

What that means further, you would have to ask the man. With that qualifier, it can be assumed he doesn't take unerring at its face value understanding.

Anonymous said...

@Burkowski


"Why refer to Rand as Rosenbaum?"


A) Because it's her real name

B) I prefer it over Rand.

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Burkowski

That anonymous comment on the Rand name thing was me. I may have accidentally hit the anonymous circle before hitting "publish your comment".


Gordon Burkowski said...

"'Why refer to Rand as Rosenbaum?'
A) Because it's her real name
B) I prefer it over Rand."

The name she went by was her choice. I respect her choice. Everyone should.

ungtss said...

Note to self: it is perfectly okay to accuse dead people of all sorts of personality flaws and nefarious motives, but don't you dare refer to them by the wrong last name.

Daniel Barnes said...

Quan:
>In OPAR, Peikoff qualifies unerring to mean "within the limits of its range". What that means further, you would have to ask the man. With that qualifier, it can be assumed he doesn't take unerring at its face value understanding.

So let's just step back a minute. What we're seeing here is that on an important point about human nature - instincts - Rand is making a claim that is prima facie wrong. She's also doing it in unqualified language - "unerring" is not a term with much latitude in meaning - in a best selling novel.

Thirty-odd years later, in a far less read work, Peikoff tries to qualify this claim to make it less obviously mistaken, but does so in such vague language even someone very conversant in Objectivism, such as yourself, can only say "you would have to ask the man" as to what he actually means.

You'd have to admit that if you want to be clearly understood, this is not the way to go about it.

Let's look at another similarly strong claim about instinct from the same source:

Rand: "An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess."

Yet the Objectivist Answers page you recommended gives us two examples of self-preservation instincts that man in fact possesses - withdrawal and mammalian diving. So once again Rand has made a claim that is prima facie false and even with a charitable interpretation highly misleading.

Add to this the fact that Rand had no particular expertise or experience in human or animal biology, and it is difficult to see why her views on "instincts" seen as worth discussing in the first place. They are either obviously faulty, or so vague and qualified that her words have to be interpreted to mean the opposite of their usual meaning (e.g. "unerring")

Do you think this sort of thing makes it hard to see Rand as a credible authority on human biology? Do you think it is wrong for critics such as ourselves to point this sort of thing out?

Daniel Barnes said...

Furthermore, it's not just an isolated case. There are numerous examples of such flat denials. For example as Gordon has already noted, the Playboy interview, where we find her making claims like:

>Playboy: You attack the idea that sex is "impervious to reason." But isn't sex a nonrational biological instinct?

>RAND: No. To begin with, man does not possess any instincts. Physically, sex is merely a capacity. But how a man will exercise this capacity and whom he will find attractive depends on his standard of value. It depends on his premises, which he may hold consciously or subconsciously, and which determine his choices. It is in this manner that his philosophy directs his sex life.

There it is quite clearly. Man does not possess any instincts - not even a sex drive!

It seems very difficult to match this claim up against human behaviour real world, where for example adolescent children suddenly find themselves feeling attracted to (mostly) members of the opposite sex at roughly the same age that their sexual organs mature. But according to Rand the change in their bodies isn't responsible for these sudden feelings - it's their premises!

In fact it seems to be simply a rationalisation of a couple of Rand's pet philosophical theories.The reasoning is perhaps roughly like this:

P1) Ideas are the source of human behaviour
P2) There are no innate ideas
C) There is no innate human behaviour

We at the ARCHNblog think she needed to check her premises.

Jzero said...

"Because I'm not in the business of making blog posts attacking and trying to tear down someone's beliefs or philosophy or religion for 8 calendar years."

I guess a few days will suit you fine, though? Because here you are, attacking other people's opinions. I guess you've made it your business.

"I find it disgusting, pathetic and sad that some humans like Greg Nyquist would attack a philosophy like Objectivism(which is a very noble philosophy)"

I think there's a difference between claiming nobility and achieving it. Many Objectivists have been less than noble in their behavior. You only need to follow the Randzapper link to see things like Objectivists proposing genocide as the solution to the world's ills.

I also think there's a difference between examining a philosophy's flaws and "attacking" it.

But beyond that, your argument that Nyquist could be selecting more important subjects is just outright hypocrisy, because nearly anyone could be doing something more worthwhile, even you. If Objectivism is so noble, does it really need you to defend it? And wouldn't your time be better used finding ways to stop wars or end hunger or something like that? Why must you attack his viewpoints, if attacking viewpoints is so sad in your eyes?

What's really sad is the petulant-sounding, footstomping demand: "you should be doing what I think you should do, instead of what you want to do!"

"False. God can be proved or disproved. You can prove God through a deductive argument, and if it's sound and valid, it proves God.

You can disprove God by showing a logical contradiction in God's nature."

I'll believe that when I see it. Thousands of years and nobody's come up with the bulletproof formulae for either case.

Daniel Barnes said...

Jzero:
>I also think there's a difference between examining a philosophy's flaws and "attacking" it

I think that people have a hard time dealing with the fact that criticism of your dearly held beliefs is good.

If you read Greg's book, you'll find he says that he thinks Rand is an important, and possibly even great thinker, who says a lot of things that he agrees with. However he thinks her views are on the whole wrong, and in need of some serious criticism to sort what wheat there is from the chaff. The need is especially urgent, as she is widely read and with a core of uncritical followers, and there has not been much coherent criticism to date. I agree.

A great example to me is Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies. The first book is a devastating criticism of Plato, from which Plato studies have never recovered. Yet Popper says despite his criticism, he considers Plato the greatest philosopher of all time.

Now, we don't think Rand is the greatest philosopher of all time, but that we bother to criticise Rand in such detail indicates that we take her seriously and think that what she says is important - her errors are important enough to correct!

Gordon Burkowski said...


"In OPAR, Peikoff qualifies unerring to mean "within the limits of its range". What that means further, you would have to ask the man."

Why not just say: yes, she got this wrong, but her overall point is sound?

In reacting to Q's response, I hesitate to use the term "evasion" - given that Objectivists consider evasion the central moral transgression. But it's hard to describe it in any other way.

Elliot Temple said...

If you read Greg's book, you'll find he says that he thinks Rand is an important, and possibly even great thinker, who says a lot of things that he agrees with. However he thinks her views are on the whole wrong, and in need of some serious criticism to sort what wheat there is from the chaff. The need is especially urgent, as she is widely read and with a core of uncritical followers, and there has not been much coherent criticism to date. I agree.

A great example to me is Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies. The first book is a devastating criticism of Plato, from which Plato studies have never recovered. Yet Popper says despite his criticism, he considers Plato the greatest philosopher of all time.

Now, we don't think Rand is the greatest philosopher of all time, but that we bother to criticise Rand in such detail indicates that we take her seriously and think that what she says is important - her errors are important enough to correct!


Hi, I'm new here. I found you here:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2007/12/objectivist-critique-of-popper-examined.html

I am an expert on both Popper and Objectivism, and strongly in favor of both. I am somewhat mystified by the strong and ignorant Objectivist hostility to Popper (and often to fallibility as well). I fear it means many current Objectivists aren't too good, especially because I haven't seen any prominent Objectivists disowning Dykes and others who do it. Where are the "he doesn't speak for me" comments from Objectivists who don't irrationally hate Popper?

I think a lot of what you say in that Popper related post is good. I think that integrating Popper and Objectivism is one of the more pressing problems in philosophy. I consider both extremely valuable -- and highly compatible -- and think there should be a lot more interest in integrating them.

I am willing to post under my real name of course. I agree with your criticism of people who won't do that. My name is Elliot Temple, my email is curi@curi.us and my websites are http://fallibleideas.com and http://www.curi.us

I might be interested in defending Objectivism and discussing with you guys, but I'm not sure yet. I plan to look over some more of your posts. I wanted to ask a question first too:

What you say about Rand having enough value to be worth criticizing seems reasonable enough to be able to talk to you. But the blog and book title, "Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature", sound much more unreasonable and maybe suggest we wouldn't have enough common ground to discuss. Why such a harsh title if you guys are reasonable?

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi Elliot,

I for one would be interested in what you have to say.

>I think that integrating Popper and Objectivism is one of the more pressing problems in philosophy.

Well, we wish you luck with that one...;-)

We have seen others kinda sorta attempt to unmoor Rand from her rhetorical position and float her towards the more skeptical framework a "contextual" theory of knowledge entails underneath her rhetoric. I criticise Fred Seddon's effort briefly here (scroll down to "But just when I was about to write it off as little more than an insight into the mind of the unpaid academic reviewer on deadline – surely JARS cannot have fronted up with cash for this effort – Seddon suddenly becomes interesting" and read on).

You might also be interested in long time Popper defender Ken Hopf's comment here that Popper's and Rand's epistemology have nothing in common. Ken's perspective is especially interesting as Ken is a former Objectivist himself. I tend to agree, but of course remain open to see what you have to say.

Ken and other Popper experts such as my friend Rafe Champion post regularly www.criticalrationalism.net. Perhaps you might like to put your viewpoint to them as well to get some additional feedback.

Daniel Barnes said...

Also:
>Why such a harsh title if you guys are reasonable?

Interesting comment, as it doesn't appear to be such a harsh title to us. Certainly by the standard of Objectivist rhetoric about their opponents - parasites, lice, looters, moochers, the most evil man in history etc it seems positively innocuous.

Reasonableness is, after all, a two-way street...;-)

Elliot Temple said...

I have known Rafe for many years, he's great. I've had discussions with Ken too but am not impressed. (His advocacy of spanking children particularly put me off, but there were other issues too.)

I used to blog at criticalrationalism.net for a bit but I quit after the owner (Matt) misquoted me and refused to correct it. (Later he also shut down a critical rationalism email list and refused to give it to me or one of my friends rather than shut it down, which was really lame and destructive.)

Ayn Rand is explicitly a fallibilist. This is in Atlas Shrugged and elsewhere. Everyone who has read her knows this right? I don't understand why everyone seems to act like she said something else, when fallibilism is in her major books. If you don't know this I can get you passages, but I'd find it bizarre if anyone involved in the debate hadn't already read them or hadn't noticed the comments on fallibility.

Also, Objectivism understands that knowledge is contextual. That's emphasized! That's definitely not one of it's problems. I don't really understand the accusation.

The induction will have to be dropped but Ayn Rand barely talked about induction in print, and in ITOE 2nd edition says she didn't have a solution to the problem of induction. So I don't see why it's such a big deal to drop induction -- which no Objectivist has ever made work, including Rand who acknowledged this -- and replace it with an epistemology that actually does work and, further, has everything Objectivists want in an epistemology. (Like realism and the possibility of acquiring objective knowledge.)

Objectivism didn't innovate much regarding induction anyway. It's just something that already existed that Objectivism accepted without improving on it a lot. So I really don't see the problem in dropping it and getting more out of the parts of Objectivism that had something new to say (and there's plenty of those).

Also, for what it's worth, I talked to Harry Binswanger about Popper. He was extremely stupid and irrational. For example he misquoted Popper badly and then refused to correct it. He is the only major Objectivist I've gotten to discuss Popper so far. Popperians on the other hand are more accessible which is better. Actually the total lack of Objectivist discussion groups online is really sad and reflects badly on the community. (There's only some really bad forums and Binswanger's list which has problems like limiting participants to 6 posts per week, censoring what they say, and charging money).

Will be back later.

Daniel Barnes said...

Elliot:
>Ayn Rand is explicitly a fallibilist... I don't understand why everyone seems to act like she said something else...

Hi Elliot,

A common meme among Objectivists is that Ayn Rand always wrote and thought clearly and precisely, unlike other philosophers.

We at the ARCHNblog operate from the basic premise that this belief is false. Rand's apparent clarity of style is an optical illusion caused by her novelist's skill and flair for dramatic rhetoric. We would argue that Rand actually wrote and thought in a vague and deeply confused fashion, regularly ending up in rhetorical positions that are at odds with the logical implications of her theories. In other words,she is just like other philosophers...;-)

For example, as we have pointed out on this site many times before, she will condemn skepticism to the lowest rung of Hell whilst holding a position that logically entails at best a skeptical, and at worst a relativist/ subjectivist view.

This disconnect between what Rand's theories entail, and what she seemed to believe they entailed, explains the phenomenon you describe. There are plenty of other such examples.

Elliot Temple said...

> In OPAR, Peikoff qualifies unerring to mean "within the limits of its range".

This is silly. On the other hand, like I said, Objectivists generally mean stuff contextually, not non-contextually, which is good. (And they sometimes fail to mention this, which can be confusing.)

But on the other hand, contextually unerring means capable of error. Contextual "certainty" means it's fallible. So they seem to get a bit confused.

Basically he's saying your instincts are always right as long as they are only (metaphorically) asked questions to which they know the answer. And if they are asked questions they don't already have the correct answer to, then they are fallible.

Elliot Temple said...

> I've never heard of Rosenbaum claiming that humans have no innate tendencies or predispositions. If you can provide a direct quote, do so

Racism in VoS:

"Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science."

The Objectivist Ethics in VoS:

"But man’s responsibility goes still further: a process of thought is not automatic nor “instinctive” nor involuntary—nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. ... Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort."


Atlas Shrugged:

"In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and effort, and that that is his distinction in the universe, that is his nature, his morality, his glory."


IToE:

"This would imply a theory of innate ideas, or some equally mystical construct."

IToE index entry:

"Innate ideas, error of"


Rand's position is that people are born *tabula rasa*.

PS Her name is Ayn Rand.

Gordon Burkowski said...

Two brief notes on instinct as "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge".

1) I must confess that I have done Quan an injustice. I had forgotten that this quote came from Atlas Shrugged; I therefore concluded that it was his howler - not Ayn Rand's.

2) But can we make any sense out of the remark? I'd like to suggest that Rand may well have said "unerring" when she in fact meant "unvarying". If so, the remark makes sense - and is amply confirmed by lots of ethological research. Mind you, ethologists would talk about "behaviour" - not "knowledge". . .

Elliot Temple said...

I started reading ARCHN (the book not blog). Initial comments:

http://curi.us/1577-ayn-rand-contra-human-nature-–-introduction

(Is there a better place on the website to post about this?)

ungtss said...

G,

"But can we make any sense out of the remark? I'd like to suggest that Rand may well have said "unerring" when she in fact meant "unvarying"."

That's certainly how I read it at first. In hindsight, her word choice was poor, and her hyperbole with regard to whether we have instincts also, and her use of the word "knowledge" was inappropriate in the context of instinct. But none of those take away from the point, which is "sack up, gentlemen. you can't rely on your instincts to survive."

I did notice the quality of her writing -- both in depth and in quality of editing -- seemed to deteriorate over the course of the novel. By the end, it's quite conspicuous. I know I would have gotten tired.

Gordon Burkowski said...


"http://curi.us/1577-ayn-rand-contra-human-nature-–-introduction"

Thanks for this, which I have read. I hope that your review continues - either here or on your own blog.

I can't resist recalling DB's recent remark that "Rand's apparent clarity of style is an optical illusion caused by her novelist's skill and flair for dramatic rhetoric." Mr. Nyquist doesn't pretend to be a novelist - but he might want to recall those criticisms when he looks at his own book. . . :)

Daniel Barnes said...

Elliot Temple:
>I started reading ARCHN (the book not blog). Initial comments:

Hi Elliot,
Thanks for the detailed beginning.

Can I ask if you have ever subjected Rand's writings to this level of close analysis?

Do you have an example of this?

Elliot Temple said...

(I missed this reply earlier.)

> Can I ask if you have ever subjected Rand's writings to this level of close analysis?

Of course. Actually I wrote something lengthy about FH recently but it's not public, so here, take a look at these recent posts instead, mostly about Peikoff's Objective Communication course:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/32

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/34

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/44

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/203

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/220

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/message/253

If you are intent on AR personally, you can begin with some stuff here:

https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=elliot+temple+ayn+rand&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Elliot Temple said...

ARCHN book review:

http://www.curi.us/1578-critical-review-of-ayn-rand-contra-human-nature

Ynf said...

Elliot, I read your review and for the sake of curiosity I have to ask:

One of your criticisms of the book is that it is very hostile. I don't think even the most staunch defenders of Ayn Rand can claim that Atlas Shrugged or most of her writing isn't hostile.

Do you also criticize Atlas Shrugged for this?

A very disappointing review really.

One example:

"One place this leads is, "If your conception of man’s greatness is unrealistic, no man will ever be able to live up to it." ARCHN thinks no one can be great and objects to Objectivism promoting heroism and greatness.

You're misrepresenting what has been said. The keyword in what ARCHN says is 'unrealistic'. If something is unrealistic it can not be realized. An unrealistic idea of greatness can not be realized. How do you go from that to ARCHN claiming someone can't be great?
Telling someone they shouldn't chase an unrealistic goal is not equivalent to telling someone they shouldn't chase goals. I'm confident that Greg and Daniel would think a realistic goal of greatness is a very positive thing.

Second example would be your first criticism under the 'Innate Ideas'.

You claim "ARCHN is saying: you are bad and you can't change. Accept it. Give up, compromise, sacrifice, give in, bend, break." yet ARCHN doesn't even state whether people are bad (or good for that matter) anywhere. It certainly doesn't mention giving up, compromising, sacrificing etc.
It claims that human beings are not a blank state when born, that there are innate tendencies and in denying this fundamental nature one causes "emotional repression, neurosis, and misery."

View human beings as a root rooted in the soil. We can grow in many different directions but we have to grow from a certain place. The Objectivist view claims that we are not rooted anywhere but can take root wherever we want. If we are already rooted this view becomes problematic.

Robert A. Heinlein said:

"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal"

This quote summarizes ideas that I have. I apply it to others and I apply it to myself. An Objectivist would typically consider this view to be evil. That it claims that human beings are incapable of reason. I disagree. This view does not exclude that human beings are capable of rational thought (which they very much are).

When I analyze a situation I try to apply logic. Then I analyze my analysis, keeping in mind that I, as a human being, am prone to rationalizing, cognitive bias and other natural shortcomings. It is a way of falsifying my thoughts and makes it much more likely that I uncover errors in my thinking and makes me capable of correcting them, resulting in a more rational analysis. Accepting that I, as a human being, have strong natural tendencies that lead rational thoughts astray, makes me more capable of rational thought, it doesn't discourage me from attempting rational thought. This is something many Objectivists seem unable to comprehend.

Your criticism is very typical of an Objectivist worldview where most things are black and white and people are be divided into two categories. If ARCHN disagrees with Ayn Rand on a point then they represent the opposing faction. If Greg or Daniel were to criticize a particular aspect of capitalism, then they must be socialist. If they were to criticize egoism then they support altruism.

Gordon Burkowski said...

Ynf,

A fair reaction to a most disappointing review.

However, after the "pro-Marxist" smear on the other thread, I wasn't surprised. Too bad.

Daniel Barnes said...

I also was expecting better. ARCHN certainly has some obvious weaknesses, of which I am sure Greg is all too aware. Temple's response however is a matter of quantity over quality. Much of his review is trivial. Ermagerd, Nyquist has said something insulting! ZOMG, Nyquist has appealed to an authority! Etc. Where it is not trivial, it is straining to impress and is even embarrassing as Temple plays the would-be inquisitor, interrogating innocent phrases until they confess whatever he wants them to. A single example will do:

Nyquist: Hardly anyone ever learns how to earn a living or take care of a household or raise a family from reading Plato or Kant. They learn how to do such things through imitation and practice.

From this sliver of text Temple draws a rather striking conclusion:

Temple: This inductivist approach is incompatible with the claim that GN accepts Popper's rejection of induction. It's also incompatible with Objectivism. Why does GN believe this? He doesn't say. He said he was a Popperian but he's not. What is he?

But here's Karl Popper:
"I distinguished three main types of learning process, of which the first was the fundamental one.
1) Learning in the sense of discovery: (dogmatic) formation of theories or expectations, or regular behaviour, checked by (critical) error elimination.
2) Learning by imitation. This can be interpreted as a special case of 1)
3) Learning by 'repetition' or 'practising', as in learning to play an instrument or drive a car.Here my thesis would be that (a) there is no genuine 'repetition' but rather (b) change through error elimination (following theory formation and (c) a process which makes certain actions or reactions automatic, thereby allowing them to sink to a mere physiological level, and be performed without attention." (Unended Quest, p52-53)

So Greg's simple claim is incompatible with Popper only if you're prepared to interpret it in a transparently unreasonable fashion, as well as ignore everything else he says in the book. And no matter how much Popper Temple likes to cite, it seems the aforementioned is, unfortunately, his preferred critical method.

What puzzles me is that he doesn't seem to be aware that this is a rather obvious tactic, but then I am not sure critical self-awareness is one of his strengths. I will close with my favourite quote from his piece:

Temple:
>ARCHN has way too much hostility and insults. The only positive thing I can say about it is that at least GN doesn't try too hard to hide that he's a rotten bastard.

I'm considering that one for the masthead...;-)

Now, in my opinion Temple's considerable intelligence and obvious energy could be more productively used than on weak stuff like this. He seems to think Ayn Rand is a sincere fallibilist to the same degree that Popper is. (My opinion is that if she is, it's accidental and unwitting, as her anti-skeptical rhetoric seeks to position her on the other side). If so, a Popper-Rand rapprochement is at least an interesting angle. If he wants to make a real contribution to Objectivist studies, perhaps he should write something seriously along these lines. Even a site run by immoral and dishonest haters of Objectivism like this would be keen to run something like this if he was prepared to write it.

Elliot said...

there is a big difference between learning from "imitation and practice" vs conjectures and refutations and problem solving.

> "Ayn Rand is a sincere fallibilist to the same degree that Popper is"

I didn't say that. Popper understands it better explicitly, talks about it more, provides more help in understanding it to readers. (however he also actually violated fallibility more severely, e.g. with his authoritarian censorship views on TV, and his insufficient awareness of the fallibility of government. it's sad how bad some of his political thinking was.)

for those who don't know, one of popper's ideas was that the government own a majority share of all public companies. (letter to bryan magee in After the Open Society. for TV stuff check out "The Lesson of this Century")


anyway, if i understand your method right, you picked what you considered the worst couple aspects of my long review and only replied to those. why don't you try engaging with the parts most difficult for you? then you might learn something.

that is not how i approached ARCHN. there wasn't some section that i thought was hard to answer and skipped. i answered what i regarded as the most challenging parts, plus also pointed out some particularly bad parts.

Daniel Barnes said...

Elliot:
>anyway, if i understand your method right, you picked what you considered the worst couple aspects of my long review and only replied to those. why don't you try engaging with the parts most difficult for you?

Actually my reaction was rather like Pauline Kael's watching Heaven's Gate; I could see what I'd cut, but couldn't see what I'd keep.

What do you consider to be strongest parts of your criticism? If you can point them out I might consider discussing them further.

Daniel Barnes said...

Ynf:
>I'm confident that Greg and Daniel would think a realistic goal of greatness is a very positive thing.

Perceptive commentary Ynf. I confirm that I myself, and am sure Greg too, have a very positive view of ambition and achievement, amazingly despite not being Objectivists.

You're quite right that it is a standard Randian meme that if they are for something, everyone else is somehow against it and vice versa. If we like capitalism then you can't possibly; or, if you say you are in favour of capitalism but not Objectivism, it must be a false corrupt capitalism that conceals your inner Socialist premises. Etc. Objectivism's purported holism only makes it worse.

Gordon Burkowski said...

"Temple:
>ARCHN has way too much hostility and insults. The only positive thing I can say about it is that at least GN doesn't try too hard to hide that he's a rotten bastard."

Fascinating. What, I ask myself, is going on here? Is this lack of self-awareness at its most extreme? Or is it a leadfooted attempt to be ironic? Maybe time will tell. . .

Melab said...

Just to comment here, but I think Ayn Rand's explanation of concepts makes sense.

Xtra Laj said...

Making sense or sounding plausible is very different from being correct.

Daniel Barnes said...

Just to comment here, but it sure looks like the sun goes round the earth too.

gregnyquist said...

Ynf and Daniel have done such a good job of critiquing Temple's critique, that there really isn't a whole lot that I need to add. However, I did want to address some of Temple's more important misconceptions.

So ARCHN is a justificationist, not Popperian, book

While I agree or am in sympathy with many of Popper's views, I would not consider myself, or ARCHN, to be "Popperian." Philosophically, I'm closer to Michael Polanyi and George Santayana than to Popper.

Temple's charge of justificationism muddies the water a bit. While I don't believe that any knowledge can ever be fully justified, I do believe that some forms of knowledge are more reliable than others. Scientifically tested knowledge tends to be the most reliable. Less reliable is knowledge that is merely pragmatically tested. Much less reliable is significant claims based on rationalistic speculation.


That knowledge of cooking can "only" be learned in the kitchen, by cooking, is false. Some people learn all about an activity from books and then do it well there first time. Maybe that's rare, but it happens. It only takes one counter example to refute a claim about what "only" works.


While I'm still inclined to stand by the "only," I would easily settle for "mostly," because that's all I need to carry out my criticism of Rand's theories of knowledge and history. And that is the whole point of the assertion. Complex knowledge must be formed (at least in the vast majority of cases) through practical application. Can book learning help in the process? Yes, in a subsidiary fashion. Can you learn solely from books? Not if it's practical application.

ARCHN: "Rand had a unique talent for inspiring cult-like devotion in her admirers."

The book would be more credible without throwing in cliche insults like this.


It seems to me the real issue is, not whether it's a "cliche," but whether it's true. Temple argues (citing Heller) that it isn't true because Rand said she didn't want to be leader of a movement. However, I hold that how a person acts reveals far more about what they really want than what they say. If Rand didn't want to be a cult leader, why did she behave like one?

Rand wanted to be many things she really wasn't. She wanted to be rational; she wanted to be a realist; she wanted to be scrupulously honest; she wanted to know the reason for all her emotions: but as a matter of fact she was not all that rational, she wasn't all that realistic about human nature, she didn't know how to be honest, and she had a tendency to rationalize, rather than understand, her emotions.

gregnyquist said...

Popper-Rand rapprochement is at least an interesting angle.

It of course is most interesting; but it also strikes me as an entirely hopeless undertaking, for several important reasons.

(1) Rand is hardly a fallibilist. While her theory of contextuality implies fallibilism, Rand never acknowledged the implication or ever, as far as is known, supported it. Yet we do have her on record as denouncing fallibilism: "'Don’t be so sure — nobody can be certain of anything' Bertrand Russell’s gibberish to the contrary notwithstanding, that pronouncement includes itself; therefore, one cannot be sure that one cannot be sure of anything. The pronouncement means that no knowledge of any kind is possible to man, i.e., that man is not conscious." That's a rather extreme anti-fallibilist position.

(2)Rand's strong emphasis on ex ante justification of knowledge constitutes an even more critical divide between her and Popper. Knowledge, for Rand, is justified primarily (or at least to a large extent) by how one has reached those conclusions. Popper, on the other hand, could care less how conclusions are reached. Whether reached by "reason," intuition, guessing -- it's all the same to him. What's important for Popper is not how you reach conclusion, but how well it is tested. This is a very different orientation than what we find emphasized in Rand.

(3) While Rand may have been eager to criticize others, she was phobic when it came criticism of herself. Since confirmation bias is hardwired in, Popper's insistence on openness to criticism becomes a significant difference between his approach and Rand's.

(4) If Rand's conclusions about human nature were subjected to the sort of criticism recommended by Popper, they would soon be found implausible or false. Indeed, Rand's refusal to allow Objectivism to be rigorously criticized allowed many errors to grow and fester within the philosophy (e.g., the equivocation at the heart of her ethical theory, the misuse of "A is A," her confused view of meaning, etc.).

Gordon Burkowski said...

Curiouser and curiouser. . . Two developments.

1) Elliot Temple has posted his hostile review of ARCHN on the Objectivist Living website, home of Michael Kelly, described by Temple on the other current ARCHN thread as a "pro-Marxist".

2) It seems that Mr. Temple was kicked off the solopassion website, presumably for having any contact, even a hostile one, with ARCHN.

In other discussions here, Elliot has had no problem in reminding others to check their premises. Can I assume that he himself may be doing a lot of that right about now?

Gordon Burkowski said...

Actually, SOLO banned Temple from the site without explanation. So take my suggestion - or any other - as speculation, until the facts come out. If they ever do.

Dragonfly said...

He has posted a link to the same review on Objectivism Online. One of the Randians, Dan Edge, commented: "That was a fantastically devastating critique!"


Well, if you think that statements like "ARCHN and GN are immoral. They are evaders. They are dishonest haters of Objectivism. Beware" constitute a fantastically devastating critique... It sounds to me more like parroting the worst elements of Rand's and Peikoff's rants.

Daniel Barnes said...

Gordon:
>Elliot Temple has posted his hostile review of ARCHN on the Objectivist Living website, home of Michael Kelly, described by Temple on the other current ARCHN thread as a "pro-Marxist".

Hi Gordon,

Just a couple of points. Michael Kelly is not David Kelley. However, Michael Kelly is no friend of the Objectivist orthodoxy and is associated with the Branden/Kelley faction, so I guess that makes him "pro-Marxist" anyway..;-)

Secondly, while Solopassion is a confused site, and guys are not keen on ARCHN, I doubt merely posting at our site would get him kicked off. It's more or less run at the whim of its founder, Lindsay Perigo. In fact dissing us would score points over there, even as weak as Temple's work is.

Daniel Barnes said...

Dragonfly:
>He has posted a link to the same review on Objectivism Online.

I am sure that Temple considers his review a work of philosophical genius, hence will be pushing it every place he can. As I noted in my comments, his review comes off as desperate to impress. This sense of palpable desperation - not to mention some considerable detachment from reality - is present quite clearly throughout his blog. For example in a recent post he makes the remarkable claim that "I am the best living philosopher."

I suspect your mileage may vary.



Gordon Burkowski said...

"Michael Kelly is not David Kelley."

oops! sorry for the glitch. :)

Gordon Burkowski said...

"[W]hile Solopassion is a confused site, and guys are not keen on ARCHN, I doubt merely posting at our site would get him kicked off."

Michael Kelly makes much the same point. So who knows?

Anonymous said...

I suspect the reason Elliot has been banned from posting on SOLO is that he has not provided a cover image within the required time period. This is sad: What a person looks like is unimportant.

Ynf said...

"I suspect the reason Elliot has been banned from posting on SOLO is that he has not provided a cover image within the required time period. This is sad: What a person looks like is unimportant."

Well that's not true. As Atlas Shrugged taught us, the heroic men among us are all physically attractive and the parasites among are physically unattractive.

:)

Anonymous said...

> I am sure that Temple considers his review a work of philosophical genius, hence will be pushing it every place he can.

If I wanted to expose the truth, then I would do as Temple has done. I also would not claim surity on anything, let alone a person's motivations.

> As I noted in my comments, his review comes off as desperate to impress.

I read your comment and it asserts that Temple is straining to impress but doesn't give a good example. Your comment refers to his point about learning by imitation, but you are confused about what he is getting at. The usual conception of "learning by imitation" is inductivist nonsense. What appears to be learning by imitation is actually a creative process of conjecturing explanations and criticising them to find flaws.

> This sense of palpable desperation - not to mention some considerable detachment from reality - is present quite clearly throughout his blog. For example in a recent post he makes the remarkable claim that "I am the best living philosopher."

Putting aside Temple for the moment, what do you think the best living philosopher should do? Not claim to be? That would be bad philosophy.

Jzero said...

"Putting aside Temple for the moment, what do you think the best living philosopher should do? Not claim to be? That would be bad philosophy."

That might be bad Objectivism, but not necessarily bad philosophy. Philosophy in general does not demand hubris in the same way the specific philosophy of Objectivism does.

And of course, not claiming to be the best philosopher around is a sound strategic move, as it prevents one from being proved otherwise, often in an embarrassing manner.

gregnyquist said...

Putting aside Temple for the moment, what do you think the best living philosopher should do? Not claim to be?

It's in poor taste. The old adage that a person should not be a judge in his own cause applies here. Even Rand, hardly a particularly humble person, shrunk from saying such things about herself. The person who does not feel a distaste for immodestly praising themselves demonstrates a lack of the sort of emotional cues which rein in troublesome egotistical tendencies and help render a person fit member of sociey, pleasant to deal with. Calling one self "the best philosopher around" suggests a self-absorbed narcisist who's incapable of even providing the elemental level of due consideration of others required in polite society.

Daniel Barnes said...

It seems another Popperian Objectivist has suddenly materialised to anonymously defend the first Popperian Objectivist. Who knew there were so many of them?

Seeing as the earlier one has failed to do so as yet, perhaps this latest one might like to pick the two or three most powerful criticisms that The Best Living Philosopher (TM) made so we might respond?

Anonymous said...

> It's in poor taste.

If social norms frown on one stating the truth, then that is a problem with the social norms.

> The old adage that a person should not be a judge in his own cause applies here.

If the claim turns out to be incorrect, a good philosopher would withdraw it and we should expect Temple to do the same. So why don't you name a living philosopher whom you consider to be better?

> Even Rand, hardly a particularly humble person, shrunk from saying such things about herself. The person who does not feel a distaste for immodestly praising themselves demonstrates a lack of the sort of emotional cues which rein in troublesome egotistical tendencies and help render a person fit member of sociey, pleasant to deal with. Calling one self "the best philosopher around" suggests a self-absorbed narcisist who's incapable of even providing the elemental level of due consideration of others required in polite society.

You expect the best living philosopher to be normal and concerned about fitting in? The best living philosopher will have a lot to say about these things and you should be prepared that his ideas are quite different to your own and not signs of psychological disorders. But I guess you don't know that "mental illness" is a metaphorical concept and wholly mythical, right?

Jzero said...

"You expect the best living philosopher to be normal and concerned about fitting in? The best living philosopher will have a lot to say about these things and you should be prepared that his ideas are quite different to your own and not signs of psychological disorders. But I guess you don't know that "mental illness" is a metaphorical concept and wholly mythical, right?"

I think someone's triggers have been pulled.

In any case, I don't think we have a consensus yet on what qualities "the best living philosopher" would have.

Why wouldn't such a philosopher seem fairly normal? If they possess the wisdom of the ages, wouldn't they need to be able to communicate it without appearing to be entirely mad? And if their ideas were so alien and radical, wouldn't that mean their "best" philosophy was not very applicable to most of humanity? There's only so much individualism one can cram into a philosophy before it becomes insular and isolationist.

Daniel Barnes said...

Jzero, shame on you.

Don't you know that collectivist anti-concepts like "consensus" cannot possibly establish who The Best Living Philosopher (TM) is?

The only person who could truly, possibly, - objectively! - know who The Best Living Philosopher (TM) is, in fact, The Best Living Philosopher (TM) himself. He even has a syllogism he has produced to this effect, but of course it is far beyond your understanding as only The Best Living Philosopher (TM) can understand it...;-)

Anonymous said...

> It seems another Popperian Objectivist has suddenly materialised to anonymously defend the first Popperian Objectivist. Who knew there were so many of them?

Oh, you think I don't exist.

> Seeing as the earlier one has failed to do so as yet, perhaps this latest one might like to pick the two or three most powerful criticisms that The Best Living Philosopher (TM) made so we might respond?

Temple pointed out a number of ways in which the book appealed to authority but you dismissed these criticisms as "trivial". So I don't know what you consider to be a "powerful" criticism.

Why don't you try a more considered response to the non-trivial complaint of appealing to authority?

Gordon Burkowski said...

"But I guess you don't know that 'mental illness' is a metaphorical concept and wholly mythical, right?"

1. This statement by "Anonymous" seems strongly influenced by the writings of Thomas Szasz.

2. On his website, Elliot Temple lists Thomas Szasz as one of his favourite thinkers.

3. Perhaps "Anonymous" should resort to a more creative handle. My recommendation would be: "Best Living Philosopher".

Leo said...

Elliot Temple is the best living philosopher.

I'm a real person: facebook.com/leonorgo

I'm usually closeted about praising Elliot in public because:

1. I was a total bitch to him and his friends in the past. But I've learned to be a better person so fuck the past.

2. Elliot's strong and doesn't depend on praise. But I praise my favorite bands (and they suck at philosophy, I just dig the music, aesthetics, stage presence, etc.) so why not praise him?

The idea you guys seem to be advocating, that a person can't say he's the best when he knows he is the best, is called fake modesty. It starts as lying to the self to appear humble and ends with a person believing it and destroying their self-esteem. It's bad.

Real humbleness it's when you are not afraid to be proved wrong. You know your worth. You like criticism. You know you make mistakes and if someone discovers your flaws that's good for you. You know if you find someone greater than you have someone to look up to and learn from. It's good.

You guys could be more like Elliot and read books more carefully. Seek to learn and create.

gregnyquist said...


Why don't you try a more considered response to the non-trivial complaint of appealing to authority?


Complaints about appeals to authority are in fact trivial for the simple reason that often there is no better way to determine the degree of reliability of a knowledge claim. Let us suppose you have two people, Peter and Paul, who are arguing over the date of Lincoln's assassination. Peter claims that Lincoln assassinated on April 14, 1865. Paul, on the other hand, insists that Lincoln was assassinated on March 14, 1865. How is this conflict supposed to be resolved? Peter insists on resorting to the history books, but Paul will have none of it:

Peter: All the history books say that Lincoln was shot on April 14 at the Ford's theater.

Paul: You're appealing to authority. You can't do that.

Peter: But how else is this dispute to be resolved? You seem to be making a ridiculous, trivial objection.

Paul: It's an entirely non-trivial complaint.

Peter: So you're saying you don't recognize any authority? -- that there aren't people whose specialized knowledge makes their views more reliable as indicators of truth? Are you suggesting that all knowledge claims, no matter where the source, are equal? -- that the doctor has no greater authority, on matters relating to his profession, than a common quack?

Paul: Appeals to authority are not okay.

Peter: On what authority do you make such extravagent claims?

Paul: On none whatsoever. I don't need authority. I'm the greatest living philosopher, and that should suffice.

Peter: Isn't it a tad immodest to declare yourself the greatest living philosopher? After all, no one should be a judge in his own cause.

Paul: The greatest living philosopher would of course be able to judge his own case; otherwise he would not be the greatest living philosopher.

Peter: But declaring oneself the greatest living philosopher is bad manners. It's narcissistic. It's like declaring that one's fecal matter doesn't stink. Narcissists are not pleasant people to be around. They have no consideration for others. Why would the greatest living philosopher wish to be a collosal jerk? Since when does a wise philosophy counsel us to be inconsiderate of others?

Paul: The best living philosopher will have a lot to say about these things and you should be prepared that his ideas are quite different to your own and not signs of psychological disorders. But I guess you don't know that "mental illness" is a metaphorical concept and wholly mythical, right?

Peter: So if I say Mary is in love with Jack, that has to be "mythical" and untrue because "in love" is a metaphor? Metaphors are descriptions; and some descriptions describe facts about life. If someone is so self-absorbed and self-unaware that they can in good faith consider themselves the greatest living philosopher, they are not likely to be the kind of person anyone is going to want anything to do with.

Paul: You expect the best living philosopher to be normal and concerned about fitting in?

Peter: So the greatest living philosopher would be an outcast, living in his mother's basement?

Paul: What are you talking about? I don't live in my mother's basement! I've got a room upstairs, and am given free rein of the attic!

Peter: Oh, sorry.

Elliot Temple said...

The Anonymous commenter in this discussion is not me.

I wasn't planning to comment here more (due to too much evasion rather than honest discussion), but I thought that serious factual accusation needed contradicting, given that I did comment here recently and stopped abruptly.

I have readers and fans, and many of them are Popperian fans of Ayn Rand. It's no surprise someone would come comment.

If you're shocked to find out that many of them *also* like Szasz, well, you shouldn't be. They also mostly like Mises, Feynman, Burke and Godwin, just like me. Maybe I persuaded them :)

If you want to be persuaded too, or are interested in Popperian fans of Ayn Rand (and Szasz, etc), go here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fallible-ideas/

I am writing some stuff about Popper and Rand currently, but I don't plan to post it at ARCHN.

Jzero said...

"The idea you guys seem to be advocating, that a person can't say he's the best when he knows he is the best, is called fake modesty."

Actually, the idea that I, at least, was advocating is twofold:

1) "Knowing" you're the best does not actually mean you are, objectively, the best; and

2) In philosophy, how does one determine "the best"? In sporting events you can have competitions and tournaments to determine which parties are the best - in philosophy it's mainly a matter of opinion. There's only a few standards by which you can measure it - such as the more rational approach, i.e., if a philosophy has an unassailable reasoning behind it - or the counting of heads, "mob rule" approach where popularity and acclaim show who's the winner.

I doubt we will see evidence of either.

Leo said...

What's good philosophy is not a matter of opinion. Good philosophy makes your life better if you live it.

A good philosopher:
- studies the masters carefully
- writes clearly and acessibly
- seeks to eliminate errors and contradictions in his work
- seeks external criticism

Gordon Burkowski said...

"A good philosopher:
- studies the masters carefully
- writes clearly and acessibly
- seeks to eliminate errors and contradictions in his work
- seeks external criticism"

By this standard, every conscientious undergraduate on earth is "a good philosopher".

Jason A. said...

Agree or disagree with Elliot (and unlike some other posters familiar with Elliot before ARCHN, I disagree as often as not) he presents a good opportunity to learn and hone one's thinking skills.

I'm no Randroid, never have been and Elliot's not one either, which I figured out a couple of years ago when he did something no Randroid would. He criticized an important mistake of Rand's. Specifically, he criticized Rand for epistemological foundationalism:

"Moralities, like everything else, do not actually have a basis or foundation. Foundationalism is an epistemological mistake.

That said, it's an epistemological mistake that Rand made. So she has an answer to your question: the basis is something like "Man and life". A morality for men must be a way for them to live well, it must fit the needs of man and be appropriate to a human lifestyle (that is: one based on reason). She might continue by saying how man needs to survive, and to do that he needs to produce, and so he also needs ownership of what he produces, and so we get capitalism and property rights. I am not overly impressed by this line of argument; I think that a similar style of argument could be used without a lot of difficulty to advocate for very different conclusions. I think Rand wasn't actually getting her moral conclusions in this way; I think she worked them out a better way and then tacked on these foundationalist arguments later as justification (and she did so under pressure from the whole philosophical tradition to provide foundations and justifications)."

Is Elliot the best living philosopher? I have no idea. He's the best living one I know, but that's not saying much since I don't know many. I agree with others who have said that if you know of one better, please say who it is so we can learn from him or her.

Dragonfly said...

Gordon Burkowski: "By this standard, every conscientious undergraduate on earth is "a good philosopher".

By the same standard Ayn Rand is definitely not a good philosopher. (Of course we knew that all along...).

And from what I've read of Elliot Temple he doesn't qualify either.

gregnyquist said...

The idea you guys seem to be advocating, that a person can't say he's the best when he knows he is the best, is called fake modesty. It starts as lying to the self to appear humble and ends with a person believing it and destroying their self-esteem. It's bad.

We're not advocating "fake modesty," we just find Temple's assertion absurd. Temple's not even the best living Objectivist or Popperian philosopher. He's little more than a clever idealogue who doesn't know enough to know how much he doesn't know, or how far his notions are from the truth.

A good philosopher:
- studies the masters carefully
- writes clearly and acessibly
- seeks to eliminate errors and contradictions in his work
- seeks external criticism


Here's one problem: we find no evidence that Temple studies the masters carefully, seeks to elimate errors in his work, or genuninely seeks external criticism. On the contrary, we find him incapable of understanding any criticism that is thrown his way and unable to engage in rational discussion. Seeking external criticism means learning how to understand other points of view, and engage in debate in a civil manner, without resorting to condemning everyone who refuses to agree with him.

gregnyquist said...

I think Rand wasn't actually getting her moral conclusions in this way; I think she worked them out a better way and then tacked on these foundationalist arguments later as justification...

Pure speculation. What evidence is there that Rand found a "better way" to attain her moral conclusions but decided, instead, to tack on foundationalist arguments? None whatsoever. There is no hint of such thing in Rand's journals, in her letters, in any thing that she is reported to have said.

Moralities, like everything else, do not actually have a basis or foundation. Foundationalism is an epistemological mistake.

It's not enough merely to assert that foundationalism is a mistake. Any decent philosopher, and certainly the greatest living philosopher, would provide compelling reasons why it is a mistake.

Daniel Barnes said...

Jason A:
>Agree or disagree with Elliot (and unlike some other posters familiar with Elliot before ARCHN, I disagree as often as not) he presents a good opportunity to learn and hone one's thinking skills.

I agree. That's why his review was a disappointment. His criticisms were callow and trivial, as Greg and I have pointed out. We had hoped for better.

When prompted to give us what he thought were his strongest points, he did not respond.

Jason A. said...

It's not enough merely to assert that foundationalism is a mistake. Any decent philosopher, and certainly the greatest living philosopher, would provide compelling reasons why it is a mistake.

Indeed; I wasn't attempting to quote his argument against foundationalism here. I just found it interesting that he is someone who:
1) Likes Rand a lot but also
2) Has a significant criticism of her.

In my experience the confluence of (1) and (2) are rare.

Anonymous said...

> So you're saying you don't recognize any authority? -- that there aren't people whose specialized knowledge makes their views more reliable as indicators of truth?

Yes, there are no authorities: every claim to truth must be evaluated on its merits and not on the say-so of some authority. Why? In a nutshell, it is because every entity that can possibly create knowledge is fallible. Mistakes are always prevalent, it is easy to be deceived by oneself and by others, and our ignorance is infinite,

People with lots of knowledge and specialized knowledge are valuable not because they are authorities but because they help you to see things you didn't think of, including good criticisms of your existing ideas. They can help you to move to a better problem situation.

> Are you suggesting that all knowledge claims, no matter where the source, are equal? -- that the doctor has no greater authority, on matters relating to his profession, than a common quack?

People who are perceived to have little or no authority -- such as children -- commonly have their claims to knowledge dismissed for that reason. People don't evaluate the claim against the only standard that it should be judged: whether it is in fact true or not. They use the source as a proxy for truth. But there are no proxies to truth and people such as children suffer enourmous harm because of the idea that there are.

Rami Rustom said...

@ Daniel Barnes said...
>
> His criticisms were callow and trivial, as Greg and I have pointed out. We had hoped for better.
>
> When prompted to give us what he thought were his strongest points, he did not respond.

Why should Elliot repeat his criticisms (aka "points")? What is to be gained by repeating what's already been said?

By "callow and trivial" do you mean *wrong*? If so, then you should be able to easily refute his criticisms. But you haven't done that. I don't understand why people do this. What is your aim? Do you intend to judge ideas by merit or by status?

If you didn't mean *wrong*, then what did you mean? Did you mean that he was right but that his right ideas are unimportant? If so, then I'm interested to know why you think they are right but unimportant.

Or did you mean something else? What?

Anonymous said...

Steve Jobs wasn't normal by current societal norms. Richard Feynman famously didn't care what other people thought. Neither lived in their mother's basement. But so what if they did. They wouldn't be any less great for it.

If you want to see what a jerk looks like, then watch how a typical parent treats their child. Temple is highly critical of this -- he would like children to be treated much better -- but yet apparently he is the jerk.

Daniel Barnes said...

Rami:
>Why should Elliot repeat his criticisms (aka "points")? What is to be gained by repeating what's already been said?

Actually, Elliot claimed that I'd only picked on the weakest points of his criticism.

I replied by asking him what, then, he thought were his strongest points.

He has not so far responded.

Jzero said...

Leo: "What's good philosophy is not a matter of opinion. Good philosophy makes your life better if you live it."

Isn't that EXACTLY a matter of opinion? What constitutes "better", and by whose standards? A serial killer might find his life greatly improved by a philosophy that allows him to kill often without remorse or fear of punishment. Even if we constrain ourselves to "normal" human standards, are we talking about wealth, or happiness, or some blend of indicators?

Brian Scurfield said...

I was the Anonymous commenter above. Why did you think Elliot was me? Perhaps you guys need to rethink some of your ideas? I suggest a good start would be to become acquainted with Szasz.

Lloyd Flack said...

I have read Szasz. He was right in exposing some psychiatric abuses, but his primary theme, that mental illness does not exist, is wrong. Think about it. The mind does depend on the brain and things can physically go wrong with the brain affecting the mind. You expect this to happen. Objectivists and other libertarians seem to want to believe that they have more control over their life than they coul possibly have.

Daniel Barnes said...

1) I don't identify myself in conversation.
2) As a result, my interlocutors become confused as to my identity.
3) This is their fault.
4) They should therefore read the works of Thomas Szasz.

Are the rest of your arguments this good, Brian?

Brian Scurfield said...

You're being evasive.

It's your bad ideas about things like greatness and mental illness that caused the problem and not me posting anonymously. You thought Elliot couldn't possibly be who he said he was, so he must be mentally ill and without friends and allies. Consequently you thought I was his sock puppet.

Daniel Barnes said...

I'll take that as a "yes"....;-)

Jzero said...

"You thought Elliot couldn't possibly be who he said he was, so he must be mentally ill and without friends and allies. Consequently you thought I was his sock puppet."

Actually, I would venture to guess they thought you were his sock puppet due to similar styles of writing and talking points.

Plus, nobody said he was "mentally ill" - the fact that some people might have disagreeable personality traits does not denote mental illness, per se, unless you're the type to call any accusation of imperfection as an accusation of full-on psychosis.

This is kind of like the "sanction of the victim" Rand often talked about in Atlas Shrugged, only used by Objectivists and similar types - where a fairly mild criticism is portrayed as "dehumanizing" or some other grossly extreme offense, like just now this idea of saying a person was mentally ill.

This way, the person being critiqued (or their defenders) can play at being the poor, put-upon, defenseless victim who is called all kind of horrible names, and brush aside any actual criticism in the process.

Samson Corwell said...

In response to Anonymous on the matter of appealing to authority:
Am I appealing to authority if I told you what person X has said about topic C?

Leo said...

Jzero,

> A serial killer might find his life greatly improved by a philosophy that allows him to kill often without remorse or fear of punishment

What reality would permit him to live like this?

Jzero said...

"> A serial killer might find his life greatly improved by a philosophy that allows him to kill often without remorse or fear of punishment

What reality would permit him to live like this?"

I don't know - this reality, perhaps? It is not, after all, as if there have been no cases of serials killers that have gone uncaptured or unpunished for long stretches of time, and though nothing leaps to mind right at the moment as an easy example, it is not impossible to conceive that there may be instances of serial killers who live their lives without ever facing any serious repercussions for their actions. There are many unsolved murders out there.

And, certainly many of the serial killers who ARE caught - sometimes after decades of killing - show little sign of shame or remorse. (The killer that Rand was once infatuated with would fit that description.)

So if there were some philosophy that, if put into practice, could assist one in committing murders and escaping any punishment, while not feeling any empathy or remorse for the victims, one would have to conclude that it was a good philosophy - for serial killers, at least - since it meets with your criteria of "making life better if one lives it".

Unless you're proposing that a "good philosophy" is good for society, as opposed to good for each individual.