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Monday, May 20, 2002 - 9:40amSanction this postReply
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This article has already been shot down in flames by the well-argued response of another author. As a philosophy major about to enter a top 8 graduate program, I have a lot to say about the unwarranted polemics of this article, but I'll limit myself to the very end.

Mr. Pritchard notes that "Objectivism isn't very popular among academic philosophers." He then admonishes us to ask ourselves why. Duh...

I am a reformed Objectivist. I agree with much, but not all of Objectivism, because it contains many errors, as I've pointed out from time to time.

But in my dealings with Objectivists, I've found them to generally be amond the most closed-minded (not active-minded) people around. Objectivists tend to be dogmatic. They argue against other philosophies before understanding them. They stick to their convictions without fully understanding their convictions, and when presented with counterexamples one provides in order to show them more thought is needed, they simply reiterate what they've already said and ignore the issue.

Objectivism has a lot of followers who treat it like a religion, a religion in which the followers are saved and everyone else is damned. Objectivists have war rooms where they plot how they're going to destroy the evils of 20th century philosophy, philosophy which they characterize as word games and nothing more (just like the Athenians characterized Socrates before they sentenced him to death). Maybe they should try reading and understanding it, rather than condemning it up front. I think Thomas Nagle's The Last Word, for example, does a much better job arguing for objectivity than Rand ever did, and without the abrasive style as well.

I've yet to meet a single Objectivist who can answer Nozick's "On the Randian Argument", but I've met many who dismiss it as nonsense. Why?

Objectivists are often a pain in the ass to have in class--not for their insightful analyses and cutting comments, but for the same reason that having a fundamentalist Christian can suck. They each have a fixed set of conclusions and will only allow reason to operate around and preserve such conclusions, regardless of truth.

As a future academic philosopher, I want to bring philosophy back to being important in people's lives. As a reformed Objectivist, I want to be the gadfly biting the philosophy's back.

Post 1

Monday, May 20, 2002 - 1:00pmSanction this postReply
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Jason -- which Objectivists are you referring to? You told me at the beginning of UNHOF that I was the first Objectivist you had met, and I'm certainly nothing like that in my classes. (In fact, for whatever it's worth on the non-abrasive-Objectivist-in-the-classroom scale, I was told by a philosophy professor I had two classes with this semester that he'd kill for more students like me.) Have you met other Objectivists since then that ARE obnoxious? I don't doubt that some are like that -- Objectivism certainly has its share of obnoxious bastards -- but I don't think it's typical, and I don't think you have any solid basis on which to state it as a generalization.

Is Nozick's article online somewhere? I looked it up and saw that it is in The Personalist -- along with a response by Rasmussen & Den Uyl. I'm not a fan of most of their work, so I wouldn't be surprised if their response is insufficient... have you read it?

p.s. Socrates DID play a lot of word games. :-)

Post 2

Monday, May 20, 2002 - 10:19pmSanction this postReply
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Matt,

I'm not talking about you, that's for sure. And McNamara speaks the world about you. These impressions are based upon the arguments I've had online with others, essays I've read by Objectivists students, and talks with professors at various colleges. One dude at OSU talked to me for a quite a while about how he's sympathetic to Randian concept-theory but the Objectivist students in his class refuse to accept alterations that might improve it without considering the arguments.

Additionally, I'm reacting to the poisonous polemics I see on-line all the time which don't point out specifics but characterized all philosophy outside of Rand as garbage. Granted, Continental philosophy is generally garbage, but analytic philosophy, while it has the unfortunate tendency to miss the big picture by getting too focused on minor points, has a beautiful method and a passionate dedication to logic, method, clarity, and getting it right.

As for Nozick, I can't find it on-line. The article's in Socratic Puzzles. My solution is to present Objectivism more strongly as a virtue theory in which one attempts to develop states of being in order to indirectly achieve maximal personal utility. However, Nozick identifies six major logical leaps that need patching. If you can patch, please do!

Post 3

Monday, May 20, 2002 - 10:22pmSanction this postReply
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Oh yeah, and there were Objectivists at CTY as well...

Post 4

Monday, May 20, 2002 - 10:47pmSanction this postReply
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Just for you, Matt.

http://atheism.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rci.rutgers.edu%2F%7Eowl%2Frand.html

Post 5

Monday, May 20, 2002 - 11:46pmSanction this postReply
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The analytic method is when it isn't obtuse. (Too often it is.) But I think the issue of losing the forest for the trees is a bigger problem than you imply; it can lead to floating abstractions, which I've seen running rampant. Granted, the analytics attempt to counter this by tossing forth counter-examples for everything, but that usually just leads to some minor alteration to fix the original argument, and then another counter-example, etc, etc... It's not always like that, but that does happen all too often. Still leaps & bounds ahead of the Carneys of the world, though :-)

I'll take a look at that link. But I got some articles from The Personalist today -- very interesting journal, from the looks of it. Its editor position was taken over around... uh, '67 or '68 I think, by John Hospers, and has a lot of Objectivism-related material, both pro- and anti-. Articles by Branden, Machan, Rasmussen, Mack, etc. I haven't read any of them, but I did get the Nozick article, and I'll let you know once I've read it.

I just hope Nozick demonstrates a better grasp of Rand's arguments here than he did in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

p.s. Perhaps I should add -- Having met Cameron in person, I can't possibly imagine him being obnoxious in a classroom. Or elsewhere, really.

Post 6

Thursday, May 23, 2002 - 6:35pmSanction this postReply
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It's been quite some time now since I wrote that article, but I still stand by the essence of it.

What Register has never explained to this day is why young students are so turned off and alienated by his style of philosophy and yet why they tend to be turned on by Rand's. Or why nobody says Nozick changed their life and the way they see the world. In my book, philosophy's impact on one's life and the way one lives it is THE most important thing and yet Register and co dismiss that so readily.

What I've seen happen time and time again has given me reason enough to hold much of modern academic philosophy in contempt - so many intelligent people I know have dropped philosophy, alienated by its rationalism. (I changed my major from philosophy to politics - politics departments in my experience do philosophy better: they keep it essential, purposeful, relevant and they set everything in historical context. Why this is the case is an interesting question in itself). These are not the people Register basically identified as stupid teenagers in need of better reasoning skills, these are some of the best young minds I know.

Post 7

Friday, May 24, 2002 - 12:08amSanction this postReply
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I agree with Cameron on this point. I don't despise academia like he does; in fact, I like it in many respects. The rigor is fun when they're not using stupid methods like "possible worlds" which were apparently intended to clarify something, but accomplish the reverse.

(Jason -- if you want to be academic about it, see Kripke's Naming And Necessity, footnote p.48. "The apparatus of possible words [worlds?] has (I hope) been very useful... but has encouraged philosophical pseudo-problems and misleading pictures." He also notes that in order to save confusion it is better, instead of saying "In some possible world, Humphrey would have won", to simply say "Humphrey might have won." Which sounds OK to me.) :-)

But Cameron hits the nail on the head when he points out the lack of relevence which is portrayed in academia. I can't recall having taken a philosophy class that treats the topics like they're truly important, except in the most detached sort of way. Some of them have the perfunctory introduction lecture where they ask "Why study philosophy?", but they apparently forget the reason by the next class. I'm sure there are many exceptions. There really shouldn't be any.

Post 8

Friday, May 24, 2002 - 12:11amSanction this postReply
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Oh, I should add -- my experience with the political science department at UNH was a disaster. I had one good professor, and the rest were nightmares of concrete-bound crap. So, I dunno what it's like at Victoria, but over here at UNH it's anything but relevant.

Post 9

Friday, May 24, 2002 - 3:32amSanction this postReply
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I'm with Cameron about academia, wholeheartedly - it IS despicable. Its "rigour" is nothing of the sort - it's simply pretentious, pedantic, conclusionless game-playing just for the hell of it. An adolescent jack-off competition, as I said in my own response to Register. Marx understood this matter better than any "reformed Objectivist" I know of - "Philosophers have interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." Meaning - at some point, you have to shit or get off the pot. It amuses, but does not surprise, me to see it's the ARI sympathisers who are going wobbly here. Scratch an intrinsicist & you find a subjectivist.

Post 10

Friday, May 24, 2002 - 9:05amSanction this postReply
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Has Lindsay made an insightful criticism of me and Jason -- that we are Intrinsicist Subjectivists gone wobbly? Or is he just talking out of his ass? You decide.

Post 11

Friday, May 24, 2002 - 9:37amSanction this postReply
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I agree that modern philosophers don't understand the importance of their field. They're emotionally detached from the world. Partly it's because the analytics see themselves as scientists that must remain emotionally neutral so as not to cloud their judgement. Partly it's for other less positive reasons.

As far as Lindsey's comments, seems like every time he writes anything relating to a discussion with me involved it ends up being all polemics and name-calling without a single argument. Maybe he's just ranting. Maybe he's not talking about me or Matt, and he's just not clear.

After all, I'm certainly not an ARI sympathizer. And my criticisms of Objectivism as a "reformed Objectivist" are that it's too relative and subjective and thus self-defeating if carried to its logical ends.

Alas, I refer you to my original post in this field.

Disagree with an Objectivist and you'll either be excommunicated, told you're going to philosophical hell, told you're evil, or told you're anti-reason. The last label is particularly ironic.

As for "rigour" being nothing of the sort, to make that comment requires that one evade a huge amount of empirical evidence or fail to properly integrate it.

Walter Kaufman once said (in his Critique of Religion and Philosophy) that the difference between a philosopher and a theologian is that the former searches for truth regardless of where it leads, and the latter starts with an idea of what is true and defends it at all costs, even against reality. Objectivists have a tendency to be closer to the latter than the former.

Post 12

Saturday, May 25, 2002 - 7:41pmSanction this postReply
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I've yet to meet a single Objectivist who can answer Nozick's "On the Randian Argument"

Check out an Objectivist answer in "Reading Nozick", ed. J Paul.

Post 13

Tuesday, April 1, 2003 - 1:23amSanction this postReply
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What an excellent article, Cameron. From my brief experience doing a Stage 1 Metaphysics paper at the University of Auckland, it rings true. I pulled out after two weeks as I was just bored with all the pointless pontificating.

The course was taken by the head of department, a professor with approx 30 years' academic experience. One of the first lectures covered the 'apparent paradox' that the sentence 'this is the same car I had last year' could refer to exactly the same car or a car of the same make and model. Wow! Amazing!

The tutorials were equally impressive. When asked if the course material was online the tutor replied proudly 'I don't know. I don't really like computers. I'm a Luddite' and then proceeded to explain what a Luddite was!!

We also spent a whole tutorial on the question of whether a baby was a person!

By this time I had had enough and was out of there. If anyone can provide links to the material mentioned in the above discussion (the above link is out of date) I would be interested.

Cameron, maybe you should forward your article to the HODs of each NZ university philosophy dept. But no, on second thoughts, there's probably not much point!

Post 14

Wednesday, April 2, 2003 - 5:46pmSanction this postReply
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Did it occur to you, and people like you, that “getting you out of there” is the point in all the professor’s gibberish?

Michael

Post 15

Wednesday, April 2, 2003 - 10:08pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry, I'm not quite following you Michael. Do you mean they don't really want students in their classes? If so, for what reason?

Sorry to be so obtuse.

PS Name withheld as still a (non-philosophy) student at said university.

Post 16

Friday, April 4, 2003 - 8:51amSanction this postReply
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Hi NW, no, it is I who am obtuse. I was relating your experience in that philosophy class to the absurdities I have seen coming from postmodern art teachers. When I teach, I like to see intelligence or passion, or the potential for that the students—and I do my damnest to communicate, hopefully, in a good enough manner that “light bulbs” go off in the students’ hearts and minds.

Good postmodernists on the other hand spend so much time discussing the subtleties of gray issues that they dilute, confuse, or obliterate MEANING. The unfortunate thing is that they are the majority in the humanities, the arts and philosophy—and it will stay that way until many more reason orientated and passionately life-affirming people dive into the humanities.

Cheers,

Michael

Post 17

Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 2:29pmSanction this postReply
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eudaimonia said:

"I am a reformed Objectivist. I agree with much, but not all of Objectivism, because it contains many errors, as I've pointed out from time to time."

What exactly is a "reformed Objectivist"? What parts of Objectivism contain "errors"?

Post 18

Sunday, April 15, 2007 - 6:24amSanction this postReply
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Your obituary on philosophy is a bit premature. Work in epistemology is ongoing and fruitful.

Look at the work of Dennett, Milikan, Bunge and the late Robert Nozick for examples of viable philsophical researches.

Post 19

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Kolker, I'm not yet familiar with the others -- but Dennett's philosophical research isn't viable (no matter how popular he was).

And please feel free to revive the thread if, after reading it, you still find yourself in disagreement.

Ed


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