Friday, February 09, 2007

Understanding Objectivist Jargon Pt.4: 'Second-hander'

"Second-hander" =
i) someone who thinks the opinions of others* has some value
ii) someone who thinks the 250,000 years of human culture, learning, customs and institutions prior to Objectivism has some value.

*There is one important exclusion: adopting the opinions of Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff in their entirety does not mean you are a 'second-hander'. It means you are an uncompromising individualist.


Anonymous said...

iii) someone with no talent, integrity or a single original idea who writes a really awful book about Ayn Rand, then thrashes her ideas with a constant barrage of fallacious bullshit to attract attention in order to sell such book.

[you can erase this parenthetical or not, but while it is your right to moderate comments, I challenge you to post my comment verbatim.]

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi John,

Now, I have this quote from David Ramsay Steele in mind about Objectivists relying on "bluff, buttresssed by abuse of all critics".

So having happily accepted your challenge, let me set you one in return, and ask you to provide a particular argument from ARCHN and demonstrate how you think it is "fallacious bullshit." I'm sure either myself or Greg would be happy to discuss it with you if you've got an interesting point. Who knows, it may turn out you're right.

Otherwise,'ll look like Ramsay Steele is right again.

Anonymous said...

Acknowledgement for posting my comment verbatim.

a) I'm not going to purchase or read your book, so your challenge is declined. From the content of this blog alone I judge that you are a second-hander, a parasite on Ayn Rand, and to buy your book would be to enable that.

b) You misconstrued my post. I did NOT say your book was 'fallacious bullshit', I said your subsequent thrashing of her ('on this site' was clearly implied in context) is full of fallacy. Since I will not be purchasing or reading your book, I was setting the stage for attack on the writings on this blog, not in the book.

c) Amazingly, you issued a fallacy in your post! Why would I proceed after that? Here is the logic chain. I asserted that the writings posted at this site are full of fallacy. I did not proceed to prove that; I merely asserted it. However, you then asserted that some other person's quote about Objectivists, which you do not link or quote in full, would be proven true ("...Ramsay Steele is right again.") if I failed to respond or failed to prove your logic at this site is fallacious (to your satisfaction.) Sorry, but that I might not have replied (for whatever reason) or if you might have rejected my proof of your fallacies on this blog, does not prove a general case written elsewhere about the nature of Objectivists. Composition -- or it might be Ad Ignorantiam.

d) Perhaps you hope to escape conviction of fallacy in point 'c' above in that you intended "it will look like" to be your hedge, that you are saying 'well, don't come back at me with the charge of saying I insinuated Mr. Steele's definition of Objectivists would be proven true. I hedged my language.' If that is so, I withdraw accusing you of the Fallacy of Composition/Ad Ignorantiam. In such case, however, I level a different fallacy, if anything a dirtier one. You imply that the mere seeming of matching the case distinctions of Mr. Steele would somehow be a reflection on my character and imply I should fear that. Since the burden of proof is on Mr. Steele to prove his characterization (whatever it is, you did not provide any way of knowing it), and since my silence or your rejection of my arguments would contribute exactly nothing to his proof, asserting with emotional force that my silence would yet carry a pejorative is the Argument from Intimidation, an embarrassing fallacy for one to commit. In case you have difficulty looking it up, I refer you to the works of Ayn Rand.

John Donohue

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi John,

Well, you obviously cannot respond to my challenge, as it is now clear you have not read ARCHN, so the rest of your points are moot.

As to the 'argument from intimidation', it is difficult to see why you consider it so vexing, as your initial post is textbook example of this very thing. For example, you claim ARCHN is "a really awful book", yet you now admit you have not actually read it. Therefore it can be "really awful" only, as Ayn Rand would say, because you say so. Hence your attack is, as Ayn Rand would also say, impotent; indeed pure bluff, buttressed by abuse like "no talent, integrity, or a single original idea" etc etc. DRS's remark is entirely apropos, yet again.

Of course, arguments from intimidation are only effective if one is easily intimidated! And frankly, one is unlikely to be intimidated by a vehement critic who, it turns out, has even not read the book in question, nor seems to have any substantial criticisms of Nyquist's arguments as found on this site. John, would you find it very impressive if I'd skim read an Objectivist site and written a post similar to yours? I doubt it.

You are welcome to vigorously debate the various criticisms Greg has put forward here and in his book, but it would be somewhat more constructive if you knew what they are...;-)

Michael Prescott said...

Laptop computer: $1200.

Cable modem: $55.

Internet connection: $40.

"I'm not going to purchase or read your book" ...


Anonymous said...

1) It's not that I can't respond to your challenge to show the fallacy in your book, it's that I decline to respond. And, Mr. Barnes, I have not asked that my claim that the book is "really awful" be taken as true 'because I say so'; rather, I simply have not YET proved my claim; I am biding my time. And your accusation of 'abuse' is rejected. See point 4 below.
2) Once again, I have no idea who DRS is (presumably Steele) and the continual reference to something not linked or fully quoted, and then calling for a conclusion based on it, is a fallacious gambit.
3) After declining, the points in my second and following posts are NOT moot, they are germane and remain unaddressed by you; they pertained to this blog and specifically your first response post to me, not to your book. I'm pretty confident you will once more ignore that, so you can put the suggestion one more time that I purchase the book. You've got a firm marketing plan and you are apparently sticking to it.
4) I would describe my first post as ironically insulting, intended to blend into -- but turn the tables on -- your mocking parody of Rand's "second-hander." My iii) is not Argument from Intimidation; it is fighting scorn with scorn. Would you care to elevate the discourse? Here, I'll make you a deal. Since your description of a 'second-hander' included i) and ii) plus a footnote, you may have the honor of showing how that is not abuse and bluff. Since you give no substantiation whatsoever, it "Looks Like" pure ridicule. Once you demonstrate the basis, I promise I will undertake the proof of my claim in iii)
5) I am perfectly able to make a judgment that the book is 'really awful' without reading it, since you excerpt from it freely on this blog, and every blogpage I looked at, such as the Centenary précis, was so misinformed that the judgment stands. That page, speaking as someone who understands Ayn Rand, to you, someone who does not, or does not want to, is perfectly awful. As far as your book goes, if someone proves to me that you mis-summarized and/or mis-cited your own book, or that the examples of it on this blog are weird, aberrant exceptions to the rest of the brilliant book, I'll send you an apology. Your main fallacy, by the way, is this: you talk Rand into a corner by blanking out your misstatements of her position. Example: "Although acknowledging that realism cannot be proved, she did believe it could be validated through the use of several axioms." This is to twist the formulations of Rand's metaphysics (so badly that YOUR points which follow it are moot) that you therefore arrive at a seeming contradiction in Rand. In this case, you claim that Objectivists deduce facts of reality from the axioms (wrong) and claim the axioms as being 'mere tautology', an error that many Rand critics fall into. Deluded that you have gotten her in the corner, you simply assert that Rand has rationalized her system around her personal 'mess' and that explains everything. Maybe this is a new fallacy. "Rand seems consistent in her own formulations. She is very intelligent. However, I am smarter and I want to restate her position, after which it inevitably leads to contradiction. I cannot have made an error. Therefore, Rand is wrong and she is just rationalizing." I'll let you put a label on this new fallacy. I have a really good one, but it might Look Like it is abusive.

Daniel Barnes said...

John D
>As far as your book goes, if someone proves to me that you mis-summarized and/or mis-cited your own book, or that the examples of it on this blog are weird, aberrant exceptions to the rest of the brilliant book, I'll send you an apology...

John, you don't even seem to know who wrote Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature! It is increasingly hard to take you seriously.

Daniel Barnes said...

Now, as to your sole substantive point. You quote Nyquist:

"Although acknowledging that realism cannot be proved, she (Rand) did believe it could be validated through the use of several axioms."

What exactly is wrong about this passage from Nyquist, John? Do you think Rand didn't believe realism could be validated by her axioms? Do you seriously think this? Yet if you acknowledge Nyquist's statment is in fact undeniably true, how can you then also claim this passage seriously "twists" Rand's formulation? Actually, you can't. So what you do is twist Nyquist's argument into the below:

>In this case, you claim that Objectivists deduce facts of reality from the axioms (wrong) and claim the axioms as being 'mere tautology', an error that many Rand critics fall into.

In fact Nyquist's argument is as follows:
a) Despite her protestations to the contrary, Rand regularly ignored the facts of reality in favour of her own rationalisations. For example, she makes many claims - such as her tabula rasa epistemology - that are simply not borne out by the empirical evidence
b) Nyquist does say the axioms are a mere tautology and also argues why the Objectivist view of them is a fallacy. Read the book!

This stands in striking contrast with yourself, who simply rocks up and says this is "an error that many Rand critics fall into." Why is Nyquist's criticism in error? Do you even know what his criticism is? You're just recycling catechism, man, you don't even know the arguments you're attacking...;-)

Daniel Barnes said...

In fact John, you don't seem to realise that you've given us are yet another case in support of Nyquist's argument above. You ignore the facts, not even bothering to acquaint yourself with them. You come out with wild condemnations based on the slimmest of skim-reading - a single sentence, which it turns out is undeniably true anyway. You don't even know who wrote the book you're criticising! Keep it up, man. This is the Randian fact-free rationalisation method par excellence, and I thank you for providing us all with yet another prime example of it.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I am an adherent to the fundamental principles of Objectivism. I have bought Nyquist's book and have read a portion of it. I am waiting to have the time to finish it before I really jump into the middle of things.

My own evaluation is that, just from the portion I have read so far, the questions Nyquist raised that need to be answered did not come from a second-hand mind. Nyquist is a strong thinker who is completely familiar with Rand's works.

Despite some very fundamental disagreements I have so far (which I will cover over time, starting with the validity of induction), this is a well-thought-out book and deserves serious discussion.

Saying that it is awful does not make it so. Frankly, if the arguments in it cannot be refuted and/or explained and/or restricted, they certainly will not go away. They will grow since more and more people will become aware that they were not answered.

The glee with which Rand's thinking is trashed at times here on this site bothers me and it is uncalled for, but then I look at the abuse her critics here receive from ortho-Objectivists (taking example from Rand herself) and I really can't blame them. I usually just ignore this part, but in fact it embarrasses me. I guess everybody does it to get the juices flowing. I find it childish among intelligent people. (However, I used to be one who did it, too, until I formally eschewed it. I hated what I was becoming.)

If a person is really interested in promoting Objectivism, he will meet Nyquist's ideas head on, not simply dismiss them or rant against them. This goes for some other extremely perceptive critics—to cite two on this site, Daniel Barnes and Michael Prescott. The biggest mistake anyone can make is to dismiss a highly intelligent opponent with a first-hand mind. He will get creamed and not even know what hit him.

For the rest of the record, I personally am not interested in competing for anything, waging war, doing Objectivist missionary work, protecting Rand or whatever—let the zealots do that. So, in this sense, I do not consider Rand critics to be opponents. They have to personally attack me for that status. I have works of my own to create and too little time to be an Internet gladiator. (I prefer shoot-em-up video games, anyway. The monsters are more interesting qua monsters. //;-)

I just want to get to the bottom of things for my own selfish benefit. I hate harboring unanswered doubts in my mind—ones that can be answered, that is. I am actually grateful to Nyquist (and the others) for testing my thinking so deeply.


Daniel Barnes said...

Well said, Michael K. From my point of view, while we do have some fun with Rand, I think a few one-liners helps to balance the more serious stuff. There is many a true word spoken in jest. And we try to only trash that which should be justifiably trashed - the excesses and fallacies of her doctrines, and those of her followers. While her epistemology gets no respect round here, true, you'll notice we don't criticise her views, say, on Soviet socialism, which were quite correct and regrettably the opposite of the prevailing intellectual climate of her time. We mercilessly lampooned James Valliant's hapless cult artefact, but would hardly say the same thing about Barbara Branden's PAR, which is a decent book. And so forth. Some things you just can't take seriously, and we don't...;-) You may be interested to know I'm writing an appreciative review of "We The Living" which should be up in a few weeks. Just keeping things interesting.

Anonymous said...

Michael K.: "I have bought Nyquist's book and have read a portion of it. I am waiting to have the time to finish it before I really jump into the middle of things."

What, you haven't finished it yet?! If I were a Freudian I would think of Freudian resistance, but fortunately I'm no Freudian. Put all the bad stuff you're reading away so that you can read a really good book! If you think Objectivism is important, this book is a must.

Oh my, I'm afraid I'm going to sound like Fahy now...

gregnyquist said...

Mr. Donohue has objected to the following description of Rand's metaphysics, which he regards as a twisted misstatement of Rand's position:

"Although acknowledging that realism cannot be proved, she (Rand) did believe it could be validated through the use of several axioms."

I'm rather surprised that Mr. Donahue should object to this. The distinction between proof and validation in regards to the Objectivist axioms is taken straight from Peikoff. In Objectivism, these axioms don't prove anything, but are regarded as the basis of proof. But they are said to validate certain notions, such as causality and "contradictions don't exist in reality."

Mr. Donahue: "You claim that Objectivists deduce facts of reality from the axioms (wrong) and claim the axioms as being 'mere tautology.'"

Well of course Rand does deduce facts of reality from her axioms. Causality and the view that "contradictions don't exist in reality" are both assertions about matters of fact that are deduced from the axioms. As for the claim of tautology, I don't see how that one can be evaded either, since a tautology is defined as a statement that's true no matter what the actual truth values of the predicate and subject are: in other words, its truth-value is independent of the way things are. "A is A" and "Existence exists" are clearly tautological statements.

Mr. Donahue: "Deluded that you have gotten her in the corner, you simply assert that Rand has rationalized her system around her personal 'mess' and that explains everything."

No, this is a mischaracterization of why I have charged Rand with rationalization. This is an important point that bears greater scrutiny. My charge of rationalization is not made lightly. It is based on three very well supported premises:

1. Rand's view of man, particularly her conceptualization of her so-called ideal man, is largely based on notions about man and the human condition that don't square with reality.

2. From evidence compiled from Rand's letters, journals, and life, she appears to have been relunctant to face up to the empirical challenges to her ideal man theory--so much so that it would not be exaggeration to claim that she evaded important facts about human nature.

3. It is obvious from Rand's life that she was a very brilliant woman who could have easily understood the important facts about human nature which she refused to accept.

Now the only way I can see my way to explaining these three premises is by assuming that Rand was guilty of rationalization. The only other possible explanation is that Rand was lying, and don't regard that as very plausible.

To sum up: if those three premises (and they're well supported by the facts) then Rand's theory of human nature is almost certainly the product of rationalization.

Unknown said...

john donohue, I understand your desire not to sanction Nyquist's critique of Rand by buying his book. So, just to help you out, here's a link to a free on-line version of the book:

Now you have excuse to evade Nyquist's critique Rand, save that you fear having to question your assumptions.

Unknown said...

Forgive the typo ... I meant to write, "Now you have no excuse to evade Nyquist's critique Rand..."

Anonymous said...

In fact, both Peikoff and Rand have explicitly said that a person who dogmatically accepted their views without scrutiny WOULD be a second hander. This post is a flat-out lie.

Anonymous said...

I love Ayn Rand's philosophy, and I see where you question alot of her stuff. As long as you explain your self, others can see your point.

Good for you, you question things and think for yorself.

I think she is brilliant, but she did live in another time long ago.

She used to be so mad when people would just copy her ideas, she thought that was terrible. She learned a lot from others with independent minds, her equals, not her imitators or plagiarists.

But aren't there some things you agree with? She is very wise.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this belongs here or not, but I'm curious about 'The Art of Living Consciously: The Power of Awareness to Transform Everyday Life' by Nathaniel Branden. This review sounds to me like Gurdjieff stripped of the mysticism.

Is there any link between Gurdjieff and Objectivism outside of this book?

Anonymous said...

fucking second hander scum

Anonymous said...

Ah, an Objectivist!

Damien said...


I hope you don't talk that way around people who just happen to meet on the street, who you don't know.

Damien said...


i have a feeling Anonymous isn't an objectivist, he's probably just a jerk.