Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tara Smith: Reality Is Not Objective

Hilarious. John Allison forked out $2m for Tara Smith to sit around playing word games like this all day.


Daniel Barnes said...

Love the cultist wittering in the footnotes too.

Jzero said...

Not to belabor the obvious (much), but isn't that line basically true? That, in fact, reality is not objective - as "reality" makes no attempt at judging anything in any manner - it is people who are objective (or not) in their judgements.

Now, most people would assume that more objective judgements would rely on those "existing phenomena" instead of feelings and an actually objective person would judge based on what they could confirm as reality, as opposed to how they thought reality should be - but I recall a few Randists in comments a while back essentially arguing that "objective" should mean "subjective (but only of course from Rand's infallible perspective)"...

It would be interesting to see if Tara Smith eventually works her way around to that argument, to claim that a properly objective viewpoint is in fact what most would consider subjective, but that the magic of Rand's genius makes it fine - but it isn't 85 bucks interesting.

Daniel Barnes said...

In classic Objecto-cultist fashion, Tara Smith's entire schtick consists of playing trivial word-games with "objective".
If John Allison wants to pay $2m bucks for this, well that's his investment decision made with his own free will. I'm sure the market will decide, in the form of both sales of Smith's book, and the profile it gathers in the legal community.
But John, if you are reading this, I will personally volunteer to write a widely ignored legal tract based on word games around the term "objective" for the bargain price of just $1m! Get in touch, dude!

Mark Plus said...

Yeah, despite all the propaganda about the importance of prices and markets, these libertarian businessmen see nothing wrong with funding private command-and-control economies to spread their views. Ludwig von Mises couldn't get a real academic job when he migrated to the U.S., so an American ad man named Lawrence Fertig bribed New York University to give Mises in office and pretend that he had a job there as a visiting professor or something to that effect. Fertig then paid Mises's salary out of his own pocket. In effect Fertig hired Mises to teach and write a certain kind of propaganda and call it "Austrian economics," even though no market existed for that product in academia.

The current businessmen who give money to universities to subsidize the teaching of Rand's writings engage in basically the same kind of misallocation of resources towards producing a genre of literature that no one outside of Rand cultdom really wants to read.

Anonymous said...


Von Mises probably couldn't get a job because he was seen as too extreme. Plenty other Austrians had gotten employment in the US and the UK at the time such as Hayek, Fetter, Hick, etc.

-Neil Parille

Anonymous said...

Apparently what Allison is doing is getting some attention:


-Neil Parille

B.M.W. said...

@Jzero: I've seen a similar argument advanced about "truth", the idea that reality isn't "true", but rather truth is a judgment that we pass on a given proposition if we find it to be in accord with reality. I can see the point that they're driving at, but at the same time, I think when we equate reality with truth it's in the sense that reality is the gold standard for determining the truth of something. I think that's generally understood without splitting a lot of unnecessary hairs.

With "objective" it gets even a little trickier. "Objective" CAN refer to a judgment, such as, "Bill, you're not being objective about this", by which we mean that Bill isn't seeing things from a larger, impersonal perspective. But I think in the sense that she's using the word, and in the sense that Objectivism is called "Objectivism", it's not so much a judgment as a QUALITY that reality is said to possess: an existence independent of any subject.

Now, we could still go back and still say that this is a judgment, because it's a judgment that we're making about the nature of reality, rather than reality itself. But at that point we're spliting split hairs. You could say that about any quality of anything then. You could say, "Well the sun isn't really yellow. Yellow is just a word that we use to describe the color that the sun is." At that point you've pretty much severed words from their connection in reality. Something that I think we all know would have Ayn spinning in her grave like a rotisserie chicken.

B.M.W. said...

The "yellow" example probably wasn't the best, but it was actually pretty hard to think of a quality that we ascribe to things that ISN'T to some degree based in subjectivity. If we say that fire is hot, we mean that it's hot relative to our levels of comfort and safety. If we say that a noise is loud, it's because it's hurting OUR ears.

That's not to say that there aren't objective qualities. If we say that something is buoyant in water, that isn't a judgement that we're passing relative to our perspective on things. So, analogous to this statement about reality not being objective, if we said that a raft isn't really bouyant, that that's just a judgment that make about the raft, then again we're divorcing the WORD "buoyancy" from the quality that the raft possesses. And then the rotisserie starts turning and so on.

Daniel Barnes said...

Good comments, BMW.
Just to be clear however, I will repeat the obvious point that words have no necessary connection to reality.
The sun does not come with a embedded tag that reads "yellow" in every language. (Some languages do not even have words for certain colours; for example, Ancient Greek did not have the word "blue" apparently).
In fact words are labels which we attach to objects as social conventions so that we can understand each other. Hence the helpfulness of generally agreed meanings such as those recorded in a typical dictionary, and conversely the obfuscation of Randian projects like an official Lexicon of approved meanings.
This may be a point that seems obvious. But it is one Rand, and Randians, are deeply confused about. In classic Rand fashion, she has even asserted that words both are labels, yet also (more obliquely) have a "necessary connection" i.e. they are both labels and not-labels.

B.M.W. said...

Yes, you're right. The words themselves don't have a direct connection, but what we're referring to by our use of a word certainly does. For instance, as you pointed out, different languages have a different word for what we call "yellow" (or possibly no word at all.) If I call it "yellow" and a Xenothorpe calls it "brxfgh", we can still say that there's something, some attribute possessed by the sun and lemonade and schoolbuses and whatever, that we're both referring to. Otherwise, in what sense could we say that we have different words for that thing? Even if our alien parses colors in a radically different way than we do, along different lines and concepts, we can still compare how we're organizing our perceptions to how they're organizing their perceptions in relation to the thing itself.

Anonymous said...

You can't split the metaphysical meaning of "objective" from the epistemological meaning. "Objective" as a mental orientation works only because there is an external reality. Reality has to have this quality or identity of externality, of being "out there" or having otherness, for objectivity to be worth a damn as an idea. To actually state in black-and-white "reality is not objective, only people are (or aren't)" is one of those rhetorical or pedagogical tricks that get elevated or hardened into a pernicious dogma or confusion. Much better to say "reality is objective so I should have an objective mindset." But no--"REALITY IS NOT OBJECTIVE," this from a writer who is supposed to be the pride of latter-day Objectivism.

Anonymous said...

I see two things operating there. 1. By downplaying the metaphysical meaning of objective, Smith hopes to smuggle it in as an unexamined conclusion. It's one of the axiom of O'ism so why should they be bothered with it? Why debate subjectivism any longer? The answer is that subjectivism/idealism etc. have a persistent appeal, not entirely originated by philosophically corrupt education. The dispute should not be swept under the rug, it should be clearly stated and acknowledged by anyone addressing these matters. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, etc. 2. (A darker, cynical theory.) Smith may be deliberately introducing confusions in order to keep the pot boiling. Once people figure out that A is A, 1 = 1, and that it's better to be free than in chains, then what use will they have for new O'ist philosophers and additional O'ist books/seminars/conferences? Schisms and the like are good for business, the BS business.

Might we hope for a split (and mutually hostile conferences) between the partisans of a "Primacy of Metaphysical Objectivity Institute" and those of a "Objectivity is a Groovy State of Mind Center"?

Peter Nerian said...

It's not a word game, you just don't get it.