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Posted: 01 March 2012 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Hey everyone,

A few weeks ago, I found out about Sam Harris while watching youtube videos of Christopher Hitchens. Sam Harris’ arguments regarding scientific realism as applied to morality was extremely profound to me. It was also good to find out that Sam Harris is a proponent of meditation; I have been obsessed into transpersonal psychology and eastern philosophy recently. Anywho, it seems that I agree with Sam Harris on almost all fronts… except for one. Sam Harris said in one video that he would like to increase taxes on the rich. If I had watched the video a few months ago, I may have agreed with him. But I have been reading a lot about Ayn Rand, and I tend to agree that people need to pursue happiness based, preeminently, on self-interest. She Rand made sense to me when she claimed that the government’s function should simply be to protect individual rights. Maybe an extreme form of capitalism makes sense. I seem to be conflicted; on the one hand, I think we can be objective in determining what is moral and what isn’t. On the other hand, I feel a bit unnerved by forcing people to put money toward things that should be valued based on morals. Is it immoral to force people to put the money that they earn toward something that is moral? Is it moral to rob from the rich to give to the poor? I’m very open to people helping me work through this issue, so feel free to respond to this message. I also want to add that I am a poor grad student with many thousands of dollars of loans to pay back, so it’s not as though I’m some cantankerous rich guy.

Thanks,
Jon

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Posted: 01 March 2012 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Ayn Rand is irrationality dressed up as rationality. Specifically, Ayn Rand ‘s philosophy is anti-scientific. 

In a nutshell, Ayn Rand’s “philosophy:” is really just a jumbled set of ideas about almost everything from love and sex to the economy to morality . She makes a lot of empirical statements on all these topics which she could never prove and was not interested in proving.

 

Imagine going to a university and meeting a scientist who claimed to have “proved” all the things she claimed were true facts about the world. Things about people and their motivations. Things about how people ought to conduct themselves relative to society. What should be considered as ultimate Good. On and on and on.

 


Now you say to this person - wow- what a huge set of fundamental discoveries you’ve made across such a wide variety of domains ! How did you prove them? Can I see your methods? Can I see your experimental results?”


And that researcher says to you “Bah, I don’t need any experimental results, these things are much too abstract to ever be subjected to the kind of scientific proof you’re talking about. Instead, just listen to this chain of reasoning I have here in my head..”


And then she starts to expound on all the wide variety of things she likes to talk about and about each she insists that it cannot be any other way than as she presents it as a matter of logic and a matter of fact.

 

The idea that you can just argue or reason your way to the underlying empirical reality of the world is anti scientific in the extreme. It means that knowledge about how people will behave, for example,  or what effect one person’s actions will have on another or on society can be known independently of experience,  which is to say a priori.

 


This is what Ayn Rand does. First she posits as final irreducible some set of “facts” which are really just baseless assertion after assertion. The reader is just supposed to swallow them without serious argument, since she never offers anything in the way of evidence except her own rather wordy arguments. She then tries to use a kind of pseudo-psychological-deduction-process to arrive at grand pronouncements about how the world works and how people ought to conduct themselves in it.


One of the really objectionable things all this is her go-to way of dealing with dissenters is to demonize them rabidly. Anyone who disagreed with her, who questioned her assumptions gets this treatment. 


Essentially, the dynamic she’s trying to leverage in her readers is a longing for attachment to something “pure”.  The black and white way she presents reality and people has the effect of forcing a choice on all her “followers”. Either you’re in here with us, or you’re one of them and THIS is what I say about dissenters!!!! Can you imagine me saying this about YOU? How would THAT feel???”.

 

It doesn’t make her wrong. It doesn’t mean that her philosophy is untrue- the untruthfulness of her philosophy is established by other means -  it just makes her a manipulative personality.

 

I can tell you that no scientific researcher takes her at all seriously and with good reason- it’s pseudo-science. That is, an activity dressed up to look like science and which would like to take on the authority of scientific knowledge, but which fails utterly to live up to the requirements the scientific method imposes on knowledge seekers and their claims to knowledge. Things like falsifiability, and repeatability.  Her methods , the statistical significance of her findings etc etc. are all missing utterly and yet she makes these grand pronouncements about the things in the world.

 


In a nutshell, that’s what’s wrong with Ayn Rand. Who cares what Ayn Rand thought? 100% of the attraction some -typically very young- people have to Ayn Rand is the sense of certainty they find in her writings and her ability to spin a tale or make a verbal argument- on her terms- that sounds convincing, if you don’t look at it too critically and you don’t have broad first hand knowledge of the world and people in it generally.

 

Example:

jonathankimmes - 01 March 2012 05:40 PM

Hey everyone,
But I have been reading a lot about Ayn Rand, and I tend to agree that people need to pursue happiness based, preeminently, on self-interest.

 

This is classic Ayn Rand. Who can argue that pursuing self interest will make you happy? Well, apparently researchers can. There is tons of research that shows that people who relentlessly pursue money or even their own selfish goals are LESS happy than people with *enough* money (to be comfortable) and who engage in altruistic acts on a regular basis.


http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0725/p13s02-lire.html

 

http://www.squidoo.com/brain-effects-of-altruism


and so on….

 

So how did Ayn Rand get it wrong here, right t the base of her philosophy? Well she assumed that what appeared obvious to her personally- that selfish aims are the path to happiness- was a true fact about empirical reality, where the slice of empirical reality being considered here is human happiness.

 


But what makes humans happy is not a matter of apriori knowledge; it’s not axiomatic knowledge we can pretend we know about and therefore proceed to use as a basis for philosophizing.

 

Instead, it’s like everything else- it’s an open question about some part of the external world - in this case us and what goes on inside us- waiting for a researcher to construct a sufficiently clever way to gain sure knowledge about it.

 

This approach to knowledge is called the “scientific method” which is itself a refinement and perfection of Empiricism.  It depends on evidence as uncovered by suitably constructed experiments.  The specific conceit of the scientific method is that it requires all hypotheses   be subjected to rigorous attempts to disprove them using observations of the natural world as battering rams against those hypotheses.This is something different from what Rand does which relies on intuition and a kind of common sense plausibility about things to make its case.

 


If common sense plausibility were the path to knowledge then the sun would indeed revolve around the earth as it appears to do and Galileo would have been wrong and the Ecclesiastical school of thought- which is not really a different approach than the one Rand uses- would be right.

 

I seem to be conflicted; on the one hand, I think we can be objective in determining what is moral and what isn’t.

 

I think Sam does a good job here. Essentially he gives the same answer as all humanists, that is, people who define happiness as broadly, human well being. The answer is what is moral is that which tends to provide for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people with everyone deserving of an equal share and hard limits on what can be required of any law abiding individual in pursuit of that goal. What is good is what promotes human (and yes animal also within limits) well being. That’s a solid place to start your thinking.

 

I feel a bit unnerved by forcing people to put money toward things that should be valued based on morals. Is it immoral to force people to put the money that they earn toward something that is moral? Is it moral to rob from the rich to give to the poor?

 

Yes it is moral to force people to give money to things.

For instance, not everyone agrees on the need for police and sanitation, broadly considered. The two opposing groups are criminals and polluters. Do we respect this minority’s “rights” or do we force them to comply? So there’s your core answer right there. 


Getting more into the nitty gritty of taxes and such like, it’s silly to think that rich people somehow earned their money through an amount of work which is somehow proportional to their gains. We know this isn’t true. A CEO does not and cannot work 1000 times as hard as their computer programmers , yet they make 1000 times as much. IN what sense other than they positioned themselves through some means to put themselves in the way of this enormous hourly rate and they found someone willing to pay it is the CEO “deserving” of this largesse?


So the implied immorality of taking away something someone earned by their own hard work is extremely suspect. from the start.  What they did is not earn it so much as win a kind of opportunity lottery in a system which itself is rigged by the haves to benefit themselves disproportionately at the obvious expense of the have nots.  What I just said is a fair description of the relationship between CEO pay, the boards that set that pay,  the minority of citizens who have the clout to get tax laws written which favor themselves and the exact laws which do get passed.


But it’s fair to disagree with what I said too. Maybe what supply siders claim is true. Maybe trickle down economics really does raise all boats. So the question becomes one to be settled. How shall we settle it? Through empirical observation of course. To the best of our ability, we need to use the tools of science to determine the answer to the question- how does the tax code and distribution of wealth interact with what we earlier defined as “moral” -the greatest good for the greatest number?


Now comes the final point.  You can’t be a smart person in the world, someone who really knows how it works and has good ideas for making it better, unless you are trained in the ways of evaluating scientific evidence. You need to learn what qualifies as evidence and what doesn’t make the cut. You need to learn statistics because that’s the lingua franca of “evidence”. You need to understand what the scientific method is and how experts apply it within their various fields of interest because it looks different (and the same) in different fields. Finally, you have to BE an expert in something eventually and respect the fact that you’re not an expert in other things and never will be.


It’s been a long time since just naturally smart people could parse the world as well as it could be parsed by anyone else. Without specific training in some field, at least the philosophy of science and how to weight scientific evidence, you’re doomed to be wander through your life being wrong . It’s no coincidence that Sam has a PhD; of course he does because he wants to know reality and deal with reality.


Science is the greatest falsity detection and rejection machine human beings can devise.  Anything it turns it’s attention to will be revealed in its true light if such is at all possible.  This is the single greatest truth any seeker of truth can come to terms with. It’s not a matter of competing philosophies anymore. The scientific method has won those arguments forever. The only areas of knowledge where there’s permanent intractable debate is where science currently has insufficient penetration. But those boundaries are always shrinking as science expands its scope and ability to investigate reality.  Your goal has to be to help move those boundaries. There has never ever been a more exciting and opportunity ridden time to stage a raiding party on the limits of human knowledge. What the world needs is not Ayn Rand type “thinkers’. What the world needs is someone who can prove some astonishing   and counter-intuitive fact about the world is definitely true and show us the way to arrange human affairs so that the world is a more moral place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ Edited: 02 March 2012 09:01 AM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 02 March 2012 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Is it immoral to force people to put the money that they earn toward something that is moral?

We are social creatures by nature. There is no such thing as radical individuality.  Genetically we are embedded within the matrix of 3 billion years of evolution, we inherit much of our personality from our parents, and language and culture moulds us. Individuals emerge from this rich natural and cultural foundation - we are not separate from it. 
I assume you live in a modern western democracy. The social contract that is accepted within such societies means that we agree to contribute to the greater good. We all benefit from equality before the law, protection by a legally constituted police service, roads and other transport infrastructure, clean drinking water, public sanitation systems, publically funded fair access to education, free health care at the point of use (at least this is the norm in democracies other than the US.), foreign aid, social security provisions, environmental protections, beneficial regulations of free markets, immigration regulations and a constitutionally controlled military.
The devil is in the detail of course and there are legitimate arguments to be had about the implementation of these public services but all of them are necessary for a flourishing, happy and prosperous society. We may grumble about paying our taxes , and we certainly have the right to demand a progressive rate of taxation in which the wealthy pay their fair share, but we all have to muck in.

Is it moral to rob from the rich to give to the poor?

This is a truly astonishing inversion of reality.
The rich benefit as much as anybody else from the above mentioned public services. They transport their products on public roads, they employ a healthy and well educated workforce, they expect to be protected by the law and they enjoy breathing fresh air and drinking clean water. 
Furthermore isn’t it much more likely that the rich have effectively robbed the poor in the first place? As Karl Marx correctly observed, the appropriation of the surplus value of labour is the source of all capitalist profit. The logical end point of truly unfettered capitalism is slavery and unmitigated environmental degradation.
Raw capitalism is inherently anti-democratic.
We have a duty to embed the entrepreneurial creativity of free markets within a carefully regulated socially democratic framework.
‘Capitalism amongst consenting adults’ may be fine but ultimately democracy must have the last word in the workplace. I encourage the growth of worker owned enterprises, democratically managed and competing against each other in free and fair markets. 
I believe that some form of liberal democratic socialism is the way forward. But this must be choice made within a multi-party representative democracy with free and fair elections. And regular referendums as well.
Free speech must be vigorously protected within a truly open media. 
  All of this within the broad framework of a constitution that protects human rights, individual liberty, ecological sustainability and the welfare of all. 

 

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Posted: 02 March 2012 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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One of the people who was a firm believer in Ayn Rand and her Objectivism philosophy was the economist, Alan Greenspan. He was pretty much an economic “guru”, and was respected by both political parties for years. When the shit hit the fan though, here’s some of what he had to say:


In Congressional testimony on October 23, 2008, Greenspan acknowledged that he was “partially” wrong in opposing regulation and stated “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity — myself especially — are in a state of shocked disbelief.”[53] Referring to his free-market ideology, Greenspan said: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) then pressed him to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Waxman said. “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”[81] Greenspan admitted fault[82] in opposing regulation of derivatives and acknowledged that financial institutions didn’t protect shareholders and investments as well as he expected.


(From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Greenspan)

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Posted: 02 March 2012 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Good point Phea.


I would go further and argue that Greenspan and the economy never even came close to living in the “deregulated environment”  Ayn Rand and current representatives of such   thinking, like the CATO Institute et. al., would prescribe. In fact we have a very large regulatory structure over all manner of things from pollutants in food, to industrial emissions,  to car and road safety,  to building codes, to child labor and safety laws, to equal pay for women, to equal opportunity for minorities,  etc etc etc on and on and on. 


But even if we take finance, which is the part Greenspan was charged with overseeing, we impose huge regulatory requirements on things like insider trading and all the million other ways people will seek their “self interest” and in so doing harm the greater good.


So the “deregulatory environment”  Geeenspan refers to in your quote never existed at all, except in miniature within a very small and previously obscure micro-world of high finance and carrying names like “derivatives” and “credit default swaps”. 


And even in this obscure, tiny micro world which nominally involved the affairs of only a few, allegedly savvy and anyway very wealthy people , government DEregulation was a smoking, hulking disaster which after it blew itself up, went the extra mile and found a way to reach out into the larger economy and turn all our shared reality into a fucking nightmare.

 

 

[ Edited: 02 March 2012 09:28 AM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 02 March 2012 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Hey everyone,

Thanks for your replies so far. You all have made very interesting arguments and you have really inspired me to learn more about this topic. I had a feeling that Ayn Rand didn’t have it completely figured out, and it is good to read some well-reasoned objections to her philosophy. Softwarevisualization, you were especially influential when I read what you said about not having competing philosophies so much anymore, really, because the scientific method is the key to discovering the truth. It’s true that the philosophy and debate are mostly found in the areas that we have not been able to use science to come to some sort of objective truth yet. But yes, science is making progress in theses areas all of the time. Since I have only recently discovered Sam Harris’ arguments and the concept of scientific realism, I am a long way from really having a grasp on all of this. I haven’t even read any of Sam Harris’ books yet (The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape are being shipped to me). But it’s good to come on this forum and learn more about these ideas.

Jon

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Posted: 02 March 2012 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Something I said helped nip an Ayn Rand disciple in the bud..


Score! Good day! Good day!  softwarevisualization is having a good day!

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Posted: 02 March 2012 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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“Ayn Rand is irrationality dressed up as rationality. Specifically, Ayn Rand ‘s philosophy is anti-scientific.
In a nutshell, Ayn Rand’s “philosophy:” is really just a jumbled set of ideas about almost everything from love and sex to the economy to morality . She makes a lot of empirical statements on all these topics which she could never prove and was not interested in proving….” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH…  and Alan Greenspan is not an objectivst!  The most famous of fallacies…  point by point… wrong.

>>>> Here we go again.  Is this a fake post?  The mere mention of Rand’s name and the knee jerk reactions start flying fast and furious.  Harris admits to never reading her work but that it’s somehow a “horrible philosophy.”  Really??  Every SINGLE characterization of Rand in the above posts is completely FALSE and intentionally distorted.  I think the poor souls above are confusing her ideas with Islam.  Forget the lady- she freaks out the collectivists everytime- guaranteed!  Address the issue and a single component of objectivism.  To claim you atheistic and scientific and blindly accept Jesus and the Christian concept of self-sacrifice is not rational.

The original question is a good one if asked earnestly.  It comes down to this- is it always moral/ethical to confiscate from one individual to give to another.  Should a rich artist be forced to give a percentage of his wealth to a poor, struggling serial killer or pedophile???  How you can you conclude that the moral answer is always yes?  Shouldn’t an individual use his/her own judgement based on their own moral values and not be forced?  Why advocate force?  Why ALWAYS advocate force???  I don’t get it!!  Man, as opposed to other animals can always cooperate and trade peacefully to mutual benefit.  Why do the mystics/religionists and totalitarians always talk about the ‘common good’ and the use of force?  This is ancient, stone age nonsense and Rand is labeled ‘worse than Hitler’ because she refuted this?

To the original questioner, think for yourself and read more about objectivism or any other philosophy you wish but don’t listen to the disguised mystics just because they call themselves ‘atheists.’  Yeah, God and Jesus don’t exist… but they were right and we must force everyone to live by their rules?  I don’t buy it and nobody should.

The stock answer that we are social animals and therefore have to live for one another is bogus and takes the slightest fragment of brain matter to spew forth.  At least Rand and a few others question this so-called ‘undisputed’ truth.  Don’t take ANYTHING on faith, especially philosophy and science.


For a sane overview of Objectivism check this out and draw your own conclusions-  http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/ayn-rand/objectivism.asp 
Hate and freak out over objectivism but despise it for what it is.  The anti-Rands go out their way to STOP people from reading her writings.  Read EVERYTHING.  Read Rand, read Hitler, read Marx, read Mao, read Matt Ridley, read Steven PInker, read Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Aristotle, Dawkins, Darwin, Dr. Seuss, H.P. Lovecraft, whoever!  Shop and compare or you might as well back go back to your bibles and korans…

The connection between Rand and Harris is evident in their compatible idea that an objective morality exists.  Whereas Rand is consistent down the line, Harris is not and for reasons that he explains.

P.S.  Please take note, we don’t live in a democracy.  Democracies are second to totalitarianism.  It’s majority rule and opression of the minority, EXACTLY what this country is NOT supposed to be.

[ Edited: 02 March 2012 06:15 PM by mormovies]
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Posted: 02 March 2012 09:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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To claim you atheistic and scientific and blindly accept Jesus and the Christian concept of self-sacrifice is not rational.

It comes down to this- is it always moral/ethical to confiscate from one individual to give to another. 

 

Actually, no one asked this question. So you’re answering a question no one asked. Answering a question no one asked is a dishonest rhetorical technique that is so well known, it has a name- “straw man”.

Should a rich artist be forced to give a percentage of his wealth to a poor, struggling serial killer or pedophile??? 
How you can you conclude that the moral answer is always yes? 

 

As above, no one said this, so you’re now accusing me of having said something I provably never said.

Shouldn’t an individual use his/her own judgment based on their own moral values and not be forced?

 

This is not the same question as whether someone should be forced to pay taxes for things they don’t support. It’s a different question about whether they should “use his/her own judgment based on their own moral values and not be forced” .So again yo’re answering your own, preferred question which is an extreme and extremely ridiculous formulation.

 

Forced to do what exactly? You never say.  You therefore imply that all forcing of any action is equally morally objectionable.  But that’s obviously silly. There are clear cut cases where forcing is moral and clear cut cases when it is not moral. Like Rand herself, your mind does not admit the full spectrum of possibilities. There is forcing by the state and there is freedom of the individual and these two are always in conflict. That’s not just silly, it’s an inaccurate picture of reality.

 

  Why advocate force?  Why ALWAYS advocate force???  I don’t get it!!  Man, as opposed to other animals can always cooperate and trade peacefully to mutual benefit. 

 

I’m sorry, is this a bit of sarcasm that I am missing or do you seriously think that that describes the interactions between animals.

Why do the mystics/religionists and totalitarians always talk about the ‘common good’ and the use of force?  This is ancient, stone age nonsense and Rand is labeled ‘worse than Hitler’ because she refuted this?

 

Thanks for saving me the footwork of finding one of the many many absurd things Ayn rand has said.

 

To the original questioner, think for yourself and read more about objectivism or any other philosophy you wish but don’t listen to the disguised mystics just because they call themselves ‘atheists.’  Yeah, God and Jesus don’t exist… but they were right and we must force everyone to live by their rules?  I don’t buy it and nobody should.

 

Once again a straw man Not one person on this board has asserted this.

The stock answer that we are social animals and therefore have to live for one another is bogus and takes the slightest fragment of brain matter to spew forth. 

 


Once again, this is a shrunken and grotesque representation of other people’s claims and evidence. It’s not clear even what you’re objecting to. We are fundamentally social in a myriad of ways which have clearly been shown as innate. What I do does effect you and what you do does effect me and this does have implications for how to structure society and laws. It’s quite amazing to hear anyone dispute this, but of course you’re welcome to dispute whatever you want. The problem you face is the overwhelming amount and quality of evidence that details just how social we really are.

 

You can start with refuting Richard Dawkins   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins
and Lorenz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Lorenz 
and David Buss http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Buss
and Karl Von Firsch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_von_Frisch
and Dian Fossey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dian_Fossey
and E O Wilson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._O._Wilson
and Niko Tinbergen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niko_Tinbergen
and Jane Goodall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Goodall

and of course Darwin and all the neo Darwinists along with virtually the entire fields of sociology and psychology. You can also include genetics with not only its experimental results around the heritability of personality traits but of course the flotilla of twin studies all of which show, without even meaning to,  that Ayn Rand’s conception of what it was to be human and what constitutes human character and motivation and how we should therefore arrange the contingencies which govern society and interactions amongst its members to be little more than an extended masturbation fantasy utterly divorced from reality.


Addressing now the original poster again,   my suggestion to you in brief is to look at the quality and tone of responses you got and from who. That’s a pretty concise summary of what’s what. 


For further consideration, here’s some good , interesting, accessible and current books that will get your interest within the first few pages:

 


David Buss, The Murderer Next Door
http://www.amazon.com/The-Murderer-Next-Door-Designed/dp/0143037056/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753325&sr=1-1

 

David Brooks The Social Animal
http://www.amazon.com/The-Social-Animal-Character-Achievement/dp/0812979370/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753357&sr=1-1


Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational
http://www.amazon.com/Predictably-Irrational-Revised-Expanded-Edition/dp/0061353248/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753455&sr=1-1


Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene
http://www.amazon.com/The-Selfish-Gene-Edition—-Introduction/dp/0199291152/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753289&sr=1-1


John Leher, How We Decide
http://www.amazon.com/How-We-Decide-Jonah-Lehrer/dp/0547247990/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753385&sr=1-1


David Linden The Accidental Mind
http://www.amazon.com/The-Accidental-Mind-Evolution-Memory/dp/0674030583/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330753409&sr=1-1


Read these and tell me if Ayn Rand seems to be talking about anything in the real world.


One thing is, if you give every lunatic who stakes a claim to your time the attention they demand, you’ll absolutely waste what time you are given in life. There are just too many lunatics and too few hours. Your time is the most precious thing you have. Marvin Minsky makes the point that people have a desire to spend their lives involved with things larger than just themselves.


This leads people to join religions and study science and develop complex philosophies. While all of these may be engrossing to the participants, they’re not all of equal value because many of them are just fairy tales or fantasy projections about reality or a kind of poetic or militant thinking about life . You can waste a huge amount of time on them.


If it’s true that Sam hasn’t read Rand, then bully for Sam. Every second you waste reading Atlas Shrugged is a second of your life you’ll never get back.


A real skill to hone and one worth coveting is the ability to get off early kills against time wasters. People who , with just a glance, can toss off as useless truly useless things have a skill to be envied. The best way to develop this skill is to get grounded in a solid place intellectually and scientifically. The books I provided will give you a flavor, a taste of what such a solid place looks and feels like. 

 

Not only are they engrossing reads in and of themselves and not only do they represent what their respective slices of science are like at the cutting edge- a place you yourself might inhabit one day - they should also have the side effect of leaving you nicely inoculated against the ravings of an autistic, myopic, vindictive, angry anti-scientific, sociopath like Ayn Rand,  and the sorry legion of her followers who share those traits with her.

[ Edited: 03 March 2012 07:24 AM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 03 March 2012 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Objectivism is a philosophy that believes man is basically good. I don’t believe Rand gave enough consideration to some of the quirks that always have, and always will burden our particular species. Three that come to mind are, the necessity of greed, the enjoyment of cruelty, and the rigidity of opinion. Here’s a quote about one basic Objectivism belief,  from a website link in another message:


“The Nature of Reality

Objectivism holds that reality is an absolute—that facts are facts, regardless of anyone’s hopes, fears, or desires. There is a world independent of our minds to which our thinking must correspond if our ideas are to be true and therefore of practical use in living our lives, pursuing our values, and protecting our rights.”

 

Reality may be an absolute, whatever that means, but facts generally don’t matter. It’s how the facts are perceived that matter. Here’s an example:


Jack is on a crowded commuter train, tired after a days work. The mood is very mellow, everyone is either reading, or engaged in quiet conversation, or napping. A man with two children, a 5 year-old girl and a 7 year-old boy, get on the train. The man sits down next to Jack, leans back in his seat, and closes his eyes. His two children begin being very disruptive, running in the car, being loud and disturbing everyone. The man seems to be oblivious to their behavior. Finally, Jack, angry and upset at the situation in general and the man in particular, nudges the man. Jack asks the man, “Don’t you think you should do something about your children?” The man opens his eyes and seems to enter the world again.  He says, “You’re right, I’m so sorry… are they acting up?  We just came from the hospital… their Mother, my wife… just died. I’m afraid they just don’t know how to handle it, and to be honest with you, I don’t know either.”


Now Jack goes from being an upset, angry, victim to being stunned, sad, and supportive if he possibly can be. Now here’s the point. The FACTS did not change… fact: the kids were being rude brats, fact: the father was being inattentive, and not supervising his children properly. These facts are “reality”. Unfortunately, reality is so big, and our senses are so limited, we can only acquire small pieces of it at a time. Many times, our paradigm, our way of looking at the facts, sometimes even our entire world view, is changed, altered, shifted as more facts, are discovered. We see it happen all the time in the natural and applied sciences.


While reality may be an absolute, our perception of it changes, our way of dealing with it changes and evolves. We’ve evolved beyond slavery, for example, not because of any change of facts, but because our perception of the facts changed, and that DID change our reality.

[ Edited: 03 March 2012 08:09 AM by Phea]
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Posted: 03 March 2012 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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“You therefore imply that all forcing of any action is equally morally objectionable.”

Yes.  Absolutely!  Damn straight.  You imply it isn’t and that it isn’t worth debating?  It’s a foregone conclusion?  When is it EVER ethical?  Force, according to Rand and MANY others, is only moral and justifiable when applied against the initiator of force.  The Straw Man lives and breathes because Rand was originally brought up when Harris came up with his simplistic, flawed plan of wealth re-distribution.  An idea that has been tried since the dawn of time with tribal societies.  An ancient idea that has failed countless times.

Objectivism as a philosophy can be rationally debated when you consider the multitudes of so-called serious philosophies that are based on blatant mystical and supernatural claims that are acknowledged and seriously considered by scientists and so-called athiests!!  This nonsensical, kneejerck response that always pops up with regard to Rand-  “don’t read her, it’s a waste of time, etc.” is so tiresome and intellectually dishonest.  Check out EVERY review of her books at Amazon and there’s ALWAYS a religious or mystical collectivist who begs consumers to avoid her work, don’t turn the pages and avert your gaze.  This tells me something.  How could her ideas to be so dangerous as to warrant that.

I’ve read most of the works cited above that are somehow compiled as evidence that renders Rand obsolete.  Have you ACTUALLY READ THEM??  You’ve read Dawkins, Wilson, etc. and you still believe objectivism doesn’t contain a shred of rational, scientific basis?  REALLY??  Many of the works cited actually parallel and confirm many of Rand’s concepts, much more so than many of the so-called academically approved ‘serious’ philosophies.  I don’t know any crazy idea that Rand invented.  She took a lot of different elements from ancient and modern philosophers and devised a philosophical system based on non-contradiction.  I can point out many contradictions in Dawkins, Darwin, etc. that should be open to rational discussion.  There’s should be room for rational, calm discussion with resorting to the “don’t read it!” response.  That’s not rational under any circumstances.  I just can’t tolerate the irrational hysteria and I reject the secular defense of the Christian philosophy that every collectivist resorts to every f#$ing time.

[ Edited: 04 March 2012 09:31 AM by mormovies]
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Posted: 03 March 2012 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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While reality may be an absolute, our perception of it changes, our way of dealing with it changes and evolves. We’ve evolved beyond slavery, for example, not because of any change of facts, but because our perception of the facts changed, and that DID change our reality.

Wrong.  Incorrect.  You misunderstand absolute moral vs. absolute reality.  Abolishing an activity or belief does not change reality in any way.  Slavery is always irrational and immoral.  Practicing slavery does not alter reality.  It’s still anti-reason, going against the fact of reality that man (or any living thing- even plants) cannot survive and thrive under oppressive force.  Yes, our perception of reality can change and always will.  Rand argues that reason (specifically the application of science) is the only to change and correctly align our perception of reality.  99.9% of other philosophies and religions don’t believe this.  Many scientist don’t believe this.  This is open to discussion, of course.

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Posted: 03 March 2012 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Forced to do what exactly? You never say.

>> Forced to do anything against their own individual moral values.  Forced to act against their own rational judgement.

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Posted: 03 March 2012 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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“What I do does effect you and what you do does effect me and this does have implications for how to structure society and laws. It’s quite amazing to hear anyone dispute this, but of course you’re welcome to dispute whatever you want. The problem you face is the overwhelming amount and quality of evidence that details just how social we really are.”

>>> Your use of ‘social’ is so vague and it’s a label often used to gloss over the details.  Most philosophies and many scientists think of humans as social in the sense of ants in an ant farm as opposed to a group of individuals.  Humans are more complex than ants.  Lower species have almost genetically programmed behavior and can almost function as a collective organism.  Marx and other leftist (also Rick Santorum!) wrongly believe this of humans and almost all of the excellent works you cite also refute this.

Rand and others (not just her!) believe that the smallest human unit is the individual, not the family, the tribe, the group or society.  This is debatable but you spew it like it’s truth from a god and you get pissed if someone disagrees?  Humans can actually pursue individual goals and promote individual values and benefit each other without any force.  There is cooperation in other lifeforms but they all resort to brute force too.  In setting the rules for a thriving, life-promoting society (ie, non-religious, non-sacrificing) we should respect the individual and NEVER resort to force to oppress an individual to the point that they have to act against their best, rational judgement as long as it doesn’t infringe or violate any one else’s individual rights.  Now, the debate is open to what are rights, how are the derived and who can give or take them away.  Rand is the ONLY human I know of that claims that rights come from man’s ability to reason, from his mind.  Other ‘great minds’ believe rights come from God or government.  Sam’s original economic recovery scheme assumes that rights come from the government and can be taken away by the government.

[ Edited: 03 March 2012 11:11 AM by mormovies]
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Posted: 03 March 2012 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Mormovies,

You state, ” Slavery is always irrational and immoral.” I can’t agree with that. It’s quite likely that slavery was thought up and started by a humanitarian, as an option to genocide. Think about it.

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Posted: 04 March 2012 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Thank you.  It took me about one mili-second to think about it.  Granted slavery might be the ‘lesser evil’ compared to a ‘greater evil’ but it NEVER becomes moral and a rational value by a rational thinking human!  Sorry to disagree but this dangerously implies that you side with every blood-thirsty tyrant whoever existed and slaughtered!  You do know that Hitler and Mao always preached about the ‘common good’ and ‘sacrifice’?  Every slave master believes they have a good reason for enslaving a fellow human being that doesn’t change the reality of facts.  This is the profound problem with relativism.  Some of the most heinous crimes against humanity can be legitimized.  Say what you want but Rand was a feisty ball-buster and pissed on everyone’s sacred concepts.  Even if she’s completely wrong (and that’s impossible), I still respect her!

(Check out Rand with Mike Wallace and especially Phil Donahue where she freaks out America’s housewives- and many Sam Harris board members-  with her so-called ‘radical’ and ‘satanic’ ideas.)

[ Edited: 04 March 2012 10:25 AM by mormovies]
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