North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Creating Your Philosophy

Creating Your Philosophy

A former member
Post #: 41
I'm curious as to what you all think:

Is it possible for a person to arrive at every fundamental principle of Objectivism without ever knowing of Ayn Rand at all? If so, is this person an Objectivist? If not, can anyone but Ayn Rand be labeled an "Objectivist"?
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 355
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I think there are a lot of people that come to many of the same conclusions prior to discovering Rand's works.
Whether they adopt the Objectivist lable when coming upon her philosophy, I guess that is an individual choice. I am curious as to see what the response will be as well.
A former member
Post #: 139
[Chad Merritt said]
Is it possible for a person to arrive at every fundamental principle of Objectivism without ever knowing of Ayn Rand at all? If so, is this person an Objectivist? If not, can anyone but Ayn Rand be labeled an "Objectivist"?

Is it possible, sure; but it is not very likely. One has to understand just how rare it is for someone to come up with a philosophy, let alone a fully rational philosophy. It's so rare, for example, that neither Plato nor Aristotle come up with a name for their philosophy. At that early stage, it was just considered the "love of wisdom" which is what the word "philosophy" meant in Ancient Greek.

Wisdom, back then, meant understanding the one in the many; that is, finding the principle that united many different observations. Doing this systematically, across the board, for all observations is what gives rise to a philosophy. It must also include a mental methodology that is explicit, the principle of rationality. For the Ancient Greeks this meant finding a way of ratio-ing one thing to another, thus omitting the measurements for commensurate characteristics. For example, the Pythagorean Theorem applied to all right triangles, because by ratio-ing one set of measurements to another in a particular way gave rise to a unit-less number, a ratio, which, I think, is where we get the name "rational" from.

Now, they didn't explicitly come up with the idea of measurement omission, which Miss Rand came up with explicitly, but it is clear from their writings that the specific amount of something was not the important factor, the important factor was an observed similarity, that could then be organized with other similarities to form a principle; which Ayn Rand also made explicit

I'm going into some of the historic details in order to differentiate a rational philosophic approach from Objectivism, which is a specific philosophy; discovered and named by one individual, Ayn Rand. While there are other rational philosophies out there (though not many), they weren't as thorough or as explicit as Objectivism on key issues, such as epistemology.

If someone came up with a fully rational philosophy on his own apart from Ayn Rand, then he would have the right to name it, if he chose to do so; but I doubt if it would be entirely similar to Objectivism on all levels. It takes an incredible amount of clear logical thinking on a very abstract level that is also tied to reality to come up with a philosophy. That's not to say that no one else could do it; but rather to emphasize that no one else has done it.

And why would one want to start from scratch anyhow, when there is Aristotle, Aquinas and Ayn Rand? The only motivation to come up with one's own philosophy that would be distinct from these is if one found a serious flaw or omission in one of those philosophies and came up with a solution that would be fundamentally dissimilar to the other existing philosophies. Miss Rand did this and thus created Objectivism.

Now, does that mean that only Ayn Rand is an Objectivist? Certainly not. One doesn't have to be the creator of a philosophy in order to follow it. And Ayn Rand makes it rather clear what one has to follow in order to become an Objectivist.

I'm a bit curious as to why one would bring up this issue. Do you see a flaw in Objectivism and have a solution that is fundamental enough to create your own philosophy? If so, I would like to hear about it.

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Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 356
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I think he brought up an interesting question.
People often come to similiar conclusions about things all the time, or even good ideas, independent of other people. You could stretch it a bit to ask the question if it could be applied to something as complicted as a philosophy.

(I have this whole analogy in my head about two women showing up to a party in the same outfit when they never met before, but someone I cannot get to work.)
A former member
Post #: 42
Thomas,

I don't see a flaw in Objectivism. I see a consistent and reality-rooted system. The problem I have is with people who think it is an inconsistent and Rand-rooted system. The best example I have of this kind of mentality is David Kelley, or Nathaniel Branden. For instance:


"Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, ?It?s all or nothing.? Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don?t try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand?s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path."
(from "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, A Personal Statement" by Nathaniel Branden, PhD)

Rand originated the ideas and integrations that make up Objectivism. She did it alone, did it first, and presented it as a formal philosophy. Thus, Objectivism is her philosophy. But if you come to the same understanding of reality and man as she did--if you develop the same (fundamental) philosophy--you are an "Objectivist."

That quote above, especially when viewed in the context of the entire essay, demonstrates that Branden took a dogmatic approach (in other words, he replaced the primacy of existence with the primacy of Rand's consciousness) and the approach failed him, so he turned against the source of his dogmatism and became a moral subjectivist. Branden viewed Objectivism (in the way Kelley views it as an "open system") as a system of ideas created by someone, not as a system formed by a rigorously logical process of induction from the perceptually given.

Any man can be an Objectivist as long as his ideas systematically correspond with reality. It's a difficult task, but also an entirely possible one. It seems there's a lot of people (e.g., the Objectivist Center and especially David Kelley) who think that anyone can be an Objectivist who has read Ayn Rand. To me this bears a strong resemblance to accepting the primacy of consciousness over the primacy of existence. I asked the question in my first post to open the door to the issue: "Is Objectivism a system derived from Ayn Rand's imagination, or is it an accurate representation of things as they are?" I wanted to open this door because I have read essays by and had conversations with many people who think the former rather than the latter.
Chuck
SmithChuck
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 37
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Is it possible for a person to arrive at every fundamental principle of Objectivism without ever knowing of Ayn Rand at all? If so, is this person an Objectivist? If not, can anyone but Ayn Rand be labeled an "Objectivist"?
Thi­s may not answer your question, but Rand once said that if a John Galt is out there somewhere, he probably has never heard of Ayn Rand or Objectivism - "he would just be." Certainly this person would be considered an implicit Objectivist. And certainly if he's a John Galt, he would have arrived at every fundamental Objectivist principle (since all those principles are in Galt's Speech). I agree with Tom, however, that this would be quite improbable - just as improbable as Rand's having done it.

Even Galt had the benefit of being taught philosphy by Professor Akston. Should it be assumed that Hugh Akston had arrived at all the basic Objectivist principles, and passed them on to his pupils? If so, would Akston likely be the first to have done so? Is there anything in Atlas indicating that Galt's philosophy is superior to Akston's? I wonder how much screen time Akston will get in the movie. Who do you think should portray him? I'm thinking Anthony Hopkins.

Thanks for the fun mental exercise, Chad.biggrin
A former member
Post #: 141
[Chad Merritt said]
Rand originated the ideas and integrations that make up Objectivism. She did it alone, did it first, and presented it as a formal philosophy. Thus, Objectivism is her philosophy. But if you come to the same understanding of reality and man as she did--if you develop the same (fundamental) philosophy--you are an "Objectivist."

Rather than putting Objectivism in quotes, why don't you just say that person is rational? Everyone who has ever been rational throughout history is not an implicit Objectivist if he has never heard of Objectivism; such a person is just rational.

Now, I do think it is possible for someone to begin reading Miss Rand's works and come to a conclusion that he agrees with her after hearing the arguments and get a short order conversion from whatever he was to Objectivism. Let's say that one was and Aristotelian, at least for the most part, and that person read Miss Rand; then it wouldn't take much to convince him that Objectivism is more true to reality than Aristotle, and he would become an Objectivist.

And actually, I think this is one reason why Objectivism is spreading as quickly as it is, because our Western Civilization is primarily based on Aristotle, to the extent that one thinks that things observed in reality ought to make sense, and goes through an effort to understand them. Once one is in that state, then coming across the right questions and the right answers flows naturally into becoming an Objectivist, provided on is consistent.

I don't know what Branden has to do with your line of reasoning, however. I mean, notice that he doesn't give any examples. So, what is he talking about? Your guess is as good as mine, and by making himself that vague he is counting on you to fill in the details and to confirm his suspicions for him, because he won't do it himself. That would require evidence and proof, neither of which he offers.

As to whether or not Galt was in advance of Akston, I think he was. Akston learned a few things from his students. If you realize that Ayn Rand corrected some mistakes of Aristotle, and that Akston taught Aristotelianism, then Ayn Rand or John Galt could teach him a few things to get him from being a follower of strictly Aristotle to his intellectual heir, Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

[Edited typo]

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$­$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

A former member
Post #: 43
I should have been clearer and/or more forthright.

"Is it possible for a person to arrive at every fundamental principle of Objectivism without ever knowing of Ayn Rand at all?"

My point was: If you cannot, Objectivism is a system created in Rand's imagination. If it is a correct system, anyone can induce the principles of Objectivism from the perceptually given.

I brought up Branden because he typefies the former reasoning about Rand's philosophy. The idea that anyone can arrive at the principles of Objectivism (with or without Rand) undercuts any representation of Rand's philosophy as "dogma." It is very important to me that Objectivism is recognized as a system of ideas properly derived from reality, not as a whimsical creation by Rand.

I was curious to see if others here have encountered such irrational approaches to Objectivism (as Kelley's or Barbara Branden's or Nathaniel Branden's). I have heard enemies and friends of Objectivism take the primacy of consciousness approach to the system (in other words, who have blindly rejected it or blindly accepted it), and it bothers me more each time.
A former member
Post #: 146
[Chad Merritt said]
"Is it possible for a person to arrive at every fundamental principle of Objectivism without ever knowing of Ayn Rand at all?"

My point was: If you cannot, Objectivism is a system created in Rand's imagination. If it is a correct system, anyone can induce the principles of Objectivism from the perceptually given.

Well, I don't think this is true if by "anyone" you actually mean any person out there, because Objectivism is an act of genius. If "anyone" could do it, then it would have already been done.

Isn't that like saying that anyone could have come up with Newtonian physics? To the extent that he integrated observations about existence and organized his thoughts into general principles regarding physical motions, this is not something anyone else had done.

The point is that it takes a great deal of concentration and keeping track of what one's mind is doing and keeping it all tied to reality for any great system of ideas to come to fruition. Very few people are interested in doing this; however the one's who are interested in doing this know that ideas have to be taken seriously on all levels of the hierarchy.

Now, if you mean, does Objectivism correspond to existence (including the nature of man) on all levels -- sure that is true. This is what makes understanding Objectivism available to anyone out there who reads her works and thinks it through, to the extent that they are rational. However, it doesn't mean that anyone who understands Objectivism could have come up with that system of thought on his own without Ayn Rand.

The facts are always there, but what did it take for Ayn Rand to have thought through those facts to come up with Objectivism? A great deal of cognitive effort.

Given your continued reference to Branden, Kelley, et al, I am beginning to think more clearly just how evil they are. They are trying to belittle Ayn Rand's achievement by claiming that anyone could have done it. Well, no, it took an extraordinary focus on existence and rationality for her to do that. And I think it takes evasion on their part to claim that anyone could have done it; as if being rational, which they are not, should be taken for granted as common-place, because it isn't.

In short, the standard is not: Could anyone else have done it? That is primacy of other people's consciousness. The proper standard is: Does it correspond with existence?

Whether or not anyone else could have done it, if they were as rational as Miss Rand on a first-hand basis, is not the issue.

The facts are there. Use Objectivism to integrate them.

In the entire history of the world, the type of thinking and effort that Miss Rand put forth in order to come up with Objectivism has only happened three times: Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand. So, it certainly doesn't come across as if "anyone" can do it.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$­$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

A former member
Post #: 44
I agree with you entirely, but I think you're misinterpreting my idea of "anyone." By saying "anyone" I mean any man who puts forth the effort Ayn Rand put forth (with the same consistency) is capable of reaching the same (or a similar) grasp of reality, and thus of Objectivism. In other words, any man qua man is capable of making the choice and putting forth the effort to understand reality. In fact, this is what each individual must do to become an Objectivist--he must operate within his capacity and his scope of knowledge.

I didn't mean literally anyone can, despite evasions and/or laziness. Someone like Branden knew Rand personally and still didn't grasp it on his own, and then lied to her and attacked her character. Men partaking in massive evasions (for instance, Kant) will almost never be able to get on the right track. But if someone makes the choice, throughout their life, there is nothing stopping them.

To me the issue is, as I said before: does reality prove Rand right? or is her system a set of floating abstractions occasionally tied to reality? My answer is obviously the former; many men, including "Objectivists" (Kelley, Branden, etc) view it as the latter. Again I agree with you--any Objectivist who claims such a thing is an evil man and a hypocrite, just as Peikoff pointed out in his essay "Fact and Value".
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