Monday, February 18, 2013

A Conversation in Facebook about Ayn Rand and her Philosophy Objectivism

       Yesterday, While tagging a picture about Objectivism in Facebook, I had a chance conversation with a friend of my friend in Facebook, Mr. Lucas Keckley who called himself a subjectivist.

       He started the conversation by posting some comments about Ayn Rand philosophy Objectivism and I started to answering them, and it developed into a very interesting conversation, and it gave me a chance to put my knowledge of Ayn Rand and her philosophy to test, and I think I came out very proud of being able to apply that knowledge in a particular situation. I also learned a few points from three other participants in the conversation, Kathleen Anderberg
Stuart Hayashi, and Scott Webster Wood and I want to thank them for their inputs.

         Although this blog is not the right place to post this conversation, I thought I would post this here until I start my blog about Ayn Rand and her philosophy and its relevance to India, which is where is should be posted.

Here is the conversation:

Stuart Hayashi The first line, staring with "The pompous..." made me a little nervous; I thought I was reading another insult from Cracked.Com or George Takei. But it ended good. 

Nanda Gopal Yes, you are right. That word does not seem to be right. 

Nanda Gopal The word arrogant also does not seem to a correct word there, I think!

In the nonfiction book I'm writing, I explain the difference between the conventional usage of the terms objective, absolute, and perfect -- which, due to the influence of Plato and Immanuel Kant, are logically incoherent -- and the the way that Ayn Rand and Objectivism use those terms...

Lucas Keckley I disagree with objectivism in name alone. The philosophical concept of objectivism is that a supreme power has the influence on moral compass. However, I would argue that the true title should be subjectivism, for it is the only code of ethics that truly exists.
Lucas Keckley Also, I disagree with Ayn Rand on the concept that true happiness comes from laissez-faire. Many opportunities, that would promote human happiness, would be thwarted through laissez-faire capitalism.

Lucas Keckley I'm not saying it should be disregarded, however. It is great during very industrious times, but there should be protections in place to ensure the happiness and well being of all laborers.

Nanda Gopal Ayn Rand did not say that true happiness comes from laissez-faire. What she said was that laissez-faire is the only moral system where an ideal man could function well. Individual happiness depends on many other aspects of his character, his ideas, his work, etc. and laissez- faire capitalism does not automatically make a man happy. Of course, this will take much more than a facebook comment to explain.

Lucas Keckley I understand. I'm just going by simple context without delving into every variable.

Lucas Keckley Which leaves me at fault, I admit.

Nanda Gopal Mr. Lucas Keckley, Your understanding of objectivism and subjectivism is not also correct. Again, it will take more than a facebook comment to explain.

Lucas Keckley I'm going from a purely philosophical perspective. Objective morality is an absolute morality/code of ethics. However, there is no such thing as an objective morality without some divine power telling you it is so. Therefore, everyone has a subjective code of morality/ethics.

Nanda Gopal No. I do not understand how you understood objectivism.  Objectivism means that the world exists independent of man's wishes, feelings, whims, etc., and that A is A. Man's only means of knowledge of the world comes through the application of his mind with reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates his knowledge of the world, the base of which is his senses. I do not know how you understood the word absolute in this context. A code of values or morality is absolute with a particular level of knowledge man posses at a particular time. For example, Ayn Rand told that religion was, at the time it was discovered, was right at that level of knowledge and it was man's attempt to form a code of values, and that was why Rand said that religion was a primitive form of philosophy, but as his knowledge developed, he needed much more complex system of philosophy.

Nanda Gopal Mr. Lucas Keckley, Again I am saying that this does not fully explain my position. If you say that an absolute morality must be only through some divine power, then it is also wrong from what I have explained.

Kelley Nielsen That's a beautiful image on the poster.

Lucas Keckley In this, I agree with Rand. Religion is a primitive form of philosophy, and gaining any moral ground on religion would be primitive. On objective morality, you would have to assume that there is a universal ground for a code of ethics. Objectivism does assume that morality exists independent of man's wishes, feeling, whims, etc. But what does that leave? It assumes that there is a strict right and wrong. However, it forsakes context (which is why I also disagree with Immanuel Kant, but there is more to be said about that at another time.) Subjectivism does include man's position and feelings given a certain context. The man decides what is correct in a given circumstance. In any case, neither say that any human is a rational being, ergo, it is to be argued that we are all at fault for being ignorant of some context of any given situation. Assuming objectivism is intrinsically superficial.

Lucas Keckley We can only come to know within ourselves what we feel is ethical. The only form knowledge that is true is constants such as mathematics, physics, etc. All other assumptions are subjective in nature.

Nanda Gopal I again disagree with you that objectivism is intrinsically superficial.

Nanda Gopal Neither of which say that any human being is a rational being?

Lucas Keckley Feel free to.

Lucas Keckley Excuse me, that's humanism that says that.

Lucas Keckley The wires got crossed on schools of thought.

Nanda Gopal Objectivism says that man is a rational being, in the sense that man possesses the faculty of reason, he may act irrational because that faculty is volitional.

Nanda Gopal Your understanding of subjectivism is right, but your understanding of objectivism is wrong.

Lucas Keckley I'll give you that. Let's stop arguing. I don't want you to consider me a foul being.

Nanda Gopal I will answer that soon because it will take a long time to explain this.

Kathleen Anderberg Regarding your statement "Objective morality is an absolute morality/code of ethics...there is no such thing as an objective," I do know that you do not understand Ayn Rand's philosophy esp. objective REALITY and morality. I quote from Rand: Objectivity is both a metaphysical and an epistemological concept. It pertains to the relationship of consciousness to existence. Metaphysically, it is the recognition of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness. Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a perceiver’s (man’s) consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic). This means that although reality is immutable and, in any given context, only one answer is true, the truth is not automatically available to a human consciousness and can be obtained only by a certain mental process which is required of every man who seeks knowledge—that there is no substitute for this process, no escape from the responsibility for it, no shortcuts, no special revelations to privileged observers—and that there can be no such thing as a final “authority” in matters pertaining to human knowledge. Metaphysically, the only authority is reality; epistemologically—one’s own mind. The first is the ultimate arbiter of the second. (from The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Vlad Sievsky I believe Scott made that graphic?

Lucas Keckley Ahhh, I see where all the wires have been crossed. This is all in relation to Rand. I just disagreed with the name and am arguing from philosophies of the past. However, i did not argue objective reality. Reality is, well, reality. Well, reality is an absolute. But facts are aside from morality/ or ethics. They merely exist, and outside of the bounds of true and false.

Nanda Gopal You are talking about analytic and synthetic dichotomy.

Lucas Keckley Yes! I am.

Nanda Gopal I suggest that you read Leonard Peikoff.s article in The introduction to epistemology for a complete understanding of that.

Lucas Keckley That was an excited "yes", not a yelling at you "yes!"

Lucas Keckley Okay, I will. I'll put it on my wishlist on amazon.

Nanda Gopal Haven't you read that?

Lucas Keckley I have not, which is why we have been in this disagreement this whole time. Again, I'm not arguing from Rand's perspective. This is where the misunderstanding has come from.

Lucas Keckley I was stating my thoughts from other schools of thought, but I will read Rand to understand her perspective.

Nanda Gopal Before reading Peikoff's article, read Rand's introduction to objectivity epistemology first.

Lucas Keckley Okay, let me make sure I'm looking at buying the right book. Is this it?:

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. With an Additional Article By Leonard Peikoff

Nanda Gopal Yes, this is the book!

Nanda Gopal Do you agree that you are a subjectivist?

Lucas Keckley Okay, I'll order it as soon as I can! Thanks for the source, friend.

Lucas Keckley I would say I am.

Nanda Gopal I would like to add you a friend even though I would call myself an objetivist. What would you say?

Lucas Keckley I mean, we all have different perspectives. If we all agreed on everything, this world would be quite dull.

Lucas Keckley Just because we disagree, it doesn't mean that we should be hostile towards one another, agreed?

Nanda Gopal Mr. Lucas Keckley, I can't send any friend request for one week. Can you add me as a friend?

Lucas Keckley Sure, why not

Lucas Keckley Wait, I want to get something straight, so objectivism (according to Rand) is talking about reality itself, correct? For example,  2+2=4.

Nanda Gopal Objectivism is a code of values not only metaphysicis.

Nanda Gopal or epistomology.

Nanda Gopal A code of values derived from reality according to reason.

Lucas Keckley Okay, I see.

Lucas Keckley That, I agree with.

Nanda Gopal An ethics based on both theoretical branches of philosophy.

Lucas Keckley Values should come from reality and reason, it is only logical, is it not?

Nanda Gopal yes, of course.

Nanda Gopal Thanks Mr. Lucas Keckley for an interesting conversation.

Lucas Keckley I think you and I would come to the same conclusions on many ethical dilemmas. It's just a matter of what we perceive as reality. But in saying that, reality is reality and what is real is always real. Empiricism will get us there.
Lucas Keckley Thank you! It was an interesting conversation.

Nanda Gopal Again empiricism is not the correct word, I think.

Lucas Keckley  Empiricism in regards to facts anyway.

Stuart Hayashi Lucas, Objectivists use the words "objectivity" and "subjectivity" differently from other schools of philosophy; I agree with the Objectivists' reason for this.

I can't explain the matter as well as Peikoff's "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy," and I don't speak for all Objectivists, but this is my attempt to explain what is meant by objectivity. What many people would call "subjective," Objectivists would call "both contextual and objective."

In the nonfiction book I'm writing, I explain the difference between the conventional usage of the terms objective, absolute, and perfect -- which, due to the influence of Plato and Immanuel Kant, are logically incoherent -- and the way that Ayn Rand and Objectivism use those terms...

Lucas Keckley Yeah, this is why wires were being crossed.

Lucas Keckley Thanks for the resources.

Stuart Hayashi You're welcome.

Scott Webster Wood I'm not sure who took the original photo - I considerably modified it in photoshop even before doing the negative enhancement on it - I think I even took some stuff from other images so that I could end up with the correct backdrop for the enhancement (the goal is to make sure the statue itself is all that sticks out when you reverse it)

Lucas Keckley Stuart, your second paragraph nailed what I was trying to get at. I was going off of the Platonic/Kantian point of view of the two subjects. This is why I felt objectivity was fallacious.

Stuart Hayashi Thank you.

Lucas Keckley You can see above that I mentioned Kant. Hence... you can extrapolate.

Scott Webster Wood !Lucas Keckley - re:
"I disagree with objectivism in name alone. The philosophical concept of objectivism is that a supreme power has the influence on moral compass."  No it's not. The only underlying basis of objectivist epistemology is the objective - i.e. reality - i.e. the nature of the universe. If by 'supreme power' you mean 'what which is', ok. If by supreme power you are inserting some anthropomorphized notion of some cosmic clockmaker or other intelligent precursor - based on what? That is not what objectivism is at all so I must either assume I misunderstand what you mean based on a poor choice of wording or you misunderstand the philosophy based on a personal bias or more likely, a voluntary level of ignorance.

re: "However, I would argue that the true title should be subjectivism, for it is the only code of ethics that truly exists."
Huh? again based on what? This doesn't even make sense.

"Also, I disagree with Ayn Rand on the concept that true happiness comes from laissez-faire. Many opportunities, that would promote human happiness, would be thwarted through laissez-faire capitalism."

I think this too is a misrepresentation. I do not presume based on my reading of Rand that she was asserting happiness comes from anything. Happiness is a result of living your life without contradiction and achieving goals based on rational value judgments and corresponding actions. The premise that happiness must 'come from' something external to you is part of your problem right there. Happiness comes from within, in your own evaluations of what constitutes good and your own ability to consistently both strive and achieve those things.

If you are looking for happiness from anywhere else, you won't find it. If what you are looking for in regards to what you assume your own happiness to be is not consistent with the realities of the world around you, again you won't find it.

A Laissez faire approach to governance and any role it plays in the economic affairs of men is simply the only system that can exist in which a man will be fully capable and unhindered in pursuing his own happiness.

Lucas Keckley Scott, you're a little late to the party.

Lucas Keckley We've already figured out why the disagreement arose.

Scott Webster Wood well someone tagged me, I'm still scrolling through from top to bottom

Lucas Keckley I was arguing from a school of thought separate from Rand's. Stuart explained that objectivity and subjectivity are different when coming from the perspective of objectivists. I was coming from the platonic/Kantian point of view, not the Rand point of view. This is why there is a misunderstanding.

Lucas Keckley or was, rather.

Stuart Hayashi Scott Webster Wood, Vlad Sievsky tagged you; he said he thought you were the one who made the graphic. There were two conversations going on this thread. One conversation was over the meaning of objectivity, and the other was about who made the graphic.

Lucas Keckley From the little I've read on the subject, according to Rand I would be an objectivist; according to Plato or Kant, I would be a subjectivist.

Nanda Gopal This is where you are wrong Lucas. You have to choose whether you want to accept Rand or Plato

Stuart Hayashi Lucas, that's cool; I think that philosophic inquiries are an ongoing thing; our philosophies are things we work on over our whole lives.

Scott Webster Wood re: creating the original image based on the meme I tend to take a little more 'in your face' approach to some things - when people are playing the sensationalism bent, I try to find the shortest distance to slam them hard with their own poor judgment to think they have a monopoly on such tactics. I have learned through the years that if you seek a well reasoned, rational approach to existence/philosophy/knowledge, then not only is one of the primary means [for others] to assail it going to be ad hominem style insults, but common sense reversals of those insults tend to be the best way to assault them - point blank!

I dub it 'ant-activism' but it exists in more forms than simply reversing poorly thought out attacks. It involves taking twistings of logic away from reality in all sorts of forms and reversing the opposing argument by varous means back onto the person utilizing them.

So, call me arrogant? Call me pompous? Call me narcissistic? I'm going to grab those portions of that which make sense, discard the rest and slap you right upside your premises with it!

Stuart Hayashi Nanda, in my essay I attempt to explain why I think the Objectivists' definitions of "objectivity," "subjectivity," "absolute," and "perfect" make more sense than the Platonic/Kantian definitions.

Scott Webster Wood (a great example is the 'I, Randroid' blog entry that I just reposted earlier today on my wall)

along with the comments this time around:

"O-bots, dittohead mind-numbed-robots, media zombie automatons, rand-droids. People love to accuse others of behaving like machines, alleging mindless, programmed behavior. Yet the only one of that list that has cause to be proud of the accusation and turn it's accuracy against the accuser is the latter.
Among other things, Rand, Peikoff and just about any self-identified objectivist with any integrity will tell you first and foremost "don't take my word for it, examine the evidence and prove it to your own satisfaction" along side "think for yourself, don't take anyone else's word for it". So even to follow the advice of Rand robotically requires you to behave and think independently."
The ideal android would be something that appeared and behaved in a manner identical to biological humans but that also possessed the superior abilities of a machine and who's decision making was b...

Nanda Gopal Thanks Stuart I will go through that essay.

Stuart Hayashi Scott, I experience lots of 'roid rage . . . 'cause when someone calls me a Rand-roid, it makes me rage!

Lucas Keckley Since I haven't read enough of Rand, I can't decide at the current moment. It wouldn't be very scholarly of me.

Stuart Hayashi That's cool. Philosophy, unlike the eponymous rock band, is in no Rush.

Nanda Gopal I haven't read much of Kant, or Hume, Leibniz, but that does not mean that I can't accept Rand's ideas or anyone's ideas.

Stuart Hayashi Nanda, every time someone criticizes Rand without having read her, lots of Objectivists get mad and say, "Read her before criticizing her."

Lucas Keckley Haha, yes Stuart, you are correct. Philosophy is a process (or rather study) to be understood over many years of one's existence.

Lucas Keckley Well, I wasn't criticizing her, there was just a misunderstanding.

Lucas Keckley Since I have read more of their work, I was moreso criticizing Plato and Kant, haha.

Nanda Gopal If you criticize Kant and Plato, then you would probably agree with Rand.

Lucas Keckley Most likely.

Nanda Gopal If you read her original contribution in three branches of philosophy. Metaphysics - her article in Philosophy who needs it about the difference between metaphysical and man made; Epistemology - her introduction to objectivist epistemology; ethics - The virtue of Selfishness, you will understand her.

Scott Webster Wood Stuart I wrote that post so when they call me a Randroid, I just link it and say "thanks for noticing"

But if they think your cool, call them weird!

Nanda Gopal M. Lucas Keckley, if you agree with Rand, then you would no longer be a subjectivist, is it not so?

Lucas Keckley This would be true

Lucas Keckley Your article posed some well founded arguments. Based on what I understand so far, I would be an objectivist.

Stuart Hayashi Thank you.

Nanda Gopal A subjectivist changed to an objectivist with this conversation in about one hour. is it so?

Stuart Hayashi I think we can't get ahead of ourselves. These things need time to gel.

Lucas Keckley Well, I didn't change, just merely changed the label.

Lucas Keckley Do you understand what I mean by that?

Nanda Gopal yes, I understand that, but you are an objectivist now, aren't you?

Stuart Hayashi If I thought that the Platonic/Kantian definition of "objectivity" was the only correct definition, I would still be calling myself a subjectivist.

Stuart Hayashi I don't think there's a need to make any commitments to anything right now.

Lucas Keckley Yes, I am now an objectivist, and this^

Lucas Keckley I understand. I need to get the book first! haha

Lucas Keckley Thank you Stuart Hayashi and Nanda Gopal for the most welcome discourse!

Nanda Gopal You are welcome Mr. Lucas Keckley.

       After this conversation, I went over the article of Mr. Stuart Hayashi and he helped me to know and understand Kantian and other perspective of the concept subjective, objective, and where Kant erred and how Rand's idea of these concepts were correct and not Kant's.
Nanda Gopal shared Stuart Hayashi's note: Objectively, Absolutes Do Exist and They Cannot Transcend Context. 
Objectively, Absolutes Do Exist and They Cannot Transcend Context
Stuart Hayashi Thank you for sharing this.

Nanda Gopal I am going through this article just now. I will comment after going through it in full and after a full understanding of it and its consequences.

Stuart Hayashi Oh, my! Please be merciful on me.

Nanda Gopal I am not an expert in this matter so you can very well be reassured that I won't be and can't be harsh on you from what I have read so far.

Nanda Gopal I have not read Kant much and I thank you for elucidation of his ideas of "objective" and "absolute, etc., and I can see how and where Kant is wrong.

Stuart Hayashi You're welcome!

Nanda Gopal You said "I can give you the URL to where Kant says that" about murder and such, have you given the URL where Kant said that?
Stuart Hayashi I didn't do it, but I can in a few minutes.
Stuart Hayashi This is it.

The thought experiment goes: suppose a woman is running away from a maniac who wants to murder her. She asks you if she may hide in your house. You agree. Then the murderer knocks on your door and asks you if you are hiding his intended victim in your home. Kant seriously proclaims that you are morally obligated to truthfully answer the murderer.

Nanda Gopal That is fantastic nonsense. That is morally evil in common sense terms. You can very well lie to the murderer.

Nanda Gopal Philosophy is not something that tries to disprove common sense though some philosophers think and do that.
Nanda Gopal Again I thank you for differentiating the two concepts subjective and contextual here. From what I have so far read it was a great article and I appreciate it.
Nanda Gopal The second argument above being subjective in essence leads to the argument, you are blind because you see through your own eyes and not through the eyes of someone else. This is what Ayn Rand sand about Kant's philosophy.
Nanda Gopal Kant set up a concept of reason to destroy it like setting up a straw man and destroying him. He has done the same thing about objectivism I think.

 Nanda Gopal
Nanda Gopal Is this article yours? 

Nanda Gopal When I tried to find the meaning of zuckinity" and "mooginess" I came across this article about subjectivism.
Nanda Gopal Rand thought that Kant's philosophy was much more evil than Christianity because when Christianity asked you to help others and make them happy, it did not prevent you from pursuing your own happiness, but Kant wanted you to act in absolute selflessness. 

Classic Chou Kant can be a little ridiculous. Absolute honesty cannot protect you from violence.
Nanda Gopal That was a wonderful article. Thank you Stuart Hayashi for that.


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