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Post 60

Monday, June 13, 2005 - 5:28amSanction this postReply
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Robert Bidinotto asks: Let me revitalize this poll discussion by pointing out that here, at the site called "Sense Of Life Objectivists," fewer than half of those responding to the poll as of June 12, 2005 prefer to call themselves by the name "Objectivist." Does this tell us something? And if so, what?

The simplest, and most negative explanation would be that the term 'objectivist' has become widely associated as a negative as a result of the schisms, in-fighting, and post-Randian re-interpretation of her philosophy. If one were so disposed, they could point to the Branden-Rand affair as the seed that would undermine the title ‘Objectivist’. The majority might say that it all started with the Kelley-Peikoff split, and blame either TOC or ARI depending on their point of view. And still others might say, that the term ‘Objectivist’ has become so loaded with the vitriolic debate that ensues when factions lay sole claim to the title, that they would rather just side-step a debate they consider pointless.

 

There is however an alternative rationale, and one that is much more positive. Consider the possibility that since her death, Ayn Rand’s ideas have significantly influenced (directly or indirectly) a large enough number of people, that the term has become too narrow to fully embrace the wide array of people that adhere to it, either in part or as a whole. To use a terrible analogy, the term ‘Protestant’ can no longer subsume the totality of its adherents; thus the birth of Methodist, Baptist, Lutherans, et al.

 

I doubt that the founder of the philosophy would be amused at this development, since founders are rarely amused at seeing the child of their efforts grow beyond their own control or teachings. I doubt many of the original participants in the objectivist movement welcome this, since they may feel that it signifies the watering down of their efforts as activist for ‘Objectivism’, or some sort of challenge from the “outside”.  In my opinion it is a testament to the effectiveness of their efforts. Both Peikoff and Kelley, and all those that worked along with them to advance this philosophy, may have succeeded to a point that would surprise them. To their chagrin, or dismay, the price of their success may be manifesting itself by their own ‘tents’ becoming smaller or fixed in numbers, while new tents spring up elsewhere. 

 

In spite of those that would still like to debate it, we are past the point where the debate about “open system – closed system” is a significant issue.  Like it or not, Rand’s philosophy, like Aristotle’s before her, must now deal with those that build upon the foundation that was laid. Some of this building will be for the better, and some for the worse. It should be expected, that as the years go by people will speak of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, with a reverence for the ‘Fountainhead’ of their ideas – but without calling themselves Objectivist.

 

George 

 

 

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 6/13, 5:29am)




Post 61

Monday, June 13, 2005 - 6:51amSanction this postReply
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Thoughtful posts, fellows. Jeff and George are right -- apart from its clunkiness as a term that people can grasp, spell or remember, the term "Objectivist" is freighted with baggage. I still think, though, that we are stuck with it as a name for the philosophy defined by Ayn Rand. Coming up with a new name for an already-labeled philosophy is like coming up with a new name for the Ford Thunderbird. It will only confuse things, and just isn't going to go anywhere.

Michael raises an issue raised in the poll: the option of selecting some derivation of the word "Objectivist."  But I don't think any "hyphenated-Objectivist" term will fly, either, for reasons that should be obvious. If "Objectivist" is freighted with baggage, and is a clunky abstract neologism, what can be gained by adding a modifier except more complexity and confusion?  If people are already confused or put off by "Objectivism," what could they possibly make of "neo-Objectivism" or "Reality Objectivist" or "SOLOist" or any other such ungainly convolution? Above all else, a label needs to communicate something to a target audience. These suggested terms communicate absolutely nothing to anyone.

One of the biggest problems I have with the "anti-marketing" mentalities among Objectivists is that their view of communication is solipsist. It's all about self-expression in a complete social void: using terminology and arguments, and engaging in projects and activities, of no conceivable meaning or value to anyone else. Now this is fine if one is writing a blog or diary, or in a private bull session with a few nerds who know all the code words and secret handshakes. But if you are trying to convey your views to any consciousness residing outside your own skull, then you ought to assume the responsibility of intelligibility (at least). Arcane jargon, insider neologisms and woozy abstractions don't engage anyone or communicate anything.

So why use them at all -- except, perhaps, to flatter yourself with the implicit belief that "Only superior intellects can grasp these subtle concepts"?

If that is the motive of some, then I hope their feeling of self-congratulation solaces them as their views continue to be grossly misunderstood, or -- as is more likely -- completely ignored by a baffled, indifferent world.

To repeat my own view: I think that Rand could have done better than to select "Objectivism," for a lot of reasons. But it's been associated with her works and ideas for the better part of five decades, and that association is now recognized by a lot of literate people. Baggage or not, I conclude that for those of us in close agreement with Rand, "Objectivist" is the label we are stuck with.

For "fellow travelers" who harbor at least a few significant differences with her -- or for those who find the baggage too heavy a burden -- a different term may be appropriate to put a bit of distance between themselves and her. But I urge them to pick labels that are at least intelligible and memorable to their target audiences.

(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 6/13, 6:53am)




Post 62

Monday, June 13, 2005 - 8:21amSanction this postReply
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George,
"....as the years go by people will speak of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, with a reverence for the ‘Fountainhead’ of their ideas – but without calling themselves Objectivist. "

This and your whole post speak more of my own sentiment than I could have summarized myself . It's so good to see you back.

Hong





Post 63

Monday, June 13, 2005 - 8:33amSanction this postReply
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deleted
(Edited by George W. Cordero on 6/13, 8:34am)




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Post 64

Monday, June 13, 2005 - 11:26pmSanction this postReply
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A little anecdote to add to the discussion: I've been applying for summer jobs lately and listed my internship at The Objectivist Center on my resume. One of my interviewers asked, "What is Objectivism?" and I replied with one of my ad hoc spiels about enlightenment rationality, commitment to reality, etc. When I was done, she seemed nonplussed and said, "Oh, I was wondering what it had to do with objectivity."

Needless to say, I was dismayed that out of all the dozens of times I've been asked, "What is Objectivism?" I never once mentioned objectivity. But then I thought about my own experience with the philosophy, and while epistemology is its fundamental building block, it was always the ethical, political, and esthetic elements of Rand's thought that most excited me (and led to the most animated discussions with my peers and acquaintances). So I definitely agree with Robert here--the name "Objectivism" fails to adequately capture some of the most intriguing and inspiring aspects of the philosophy.



Post 65

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 2:17amSanction this postReply
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I just wonder what name you'd propose instead of the name given to the philosophy by its founder? I trust no one is seriously proposing "Principled Individualism" as the alternative?

Personally, I think "Objectivism" is fine. What isn't fine are the turn-off jerks who've been associated with it, like the Unholy Trinity of Peikoff, Binswanger & Schwartz. The trouble with folk who think there's some magic bullet of marketing that will make it all happen easily is that there isn't, & it can't. It's hard work. It's blood, sweat & tears. No glib formula or fancy name can change that—& goodness knows, ours (SOLO) is the fanciest name of all.

Linz



Post 66

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 8:42amSanction this postReply
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The time has long since past for naming the philosophy; Rand did it, "Objectivism" is associated with her ideas, and that's pretty much settled. My comments were retrospective only. If it had to be done over again, I wish she'd have chosen differently. I think some derivation of individualism would have communicated more meaningfully a sense of what she was all about, to many more people.

She did exactly that in The Fountainhead, and successfully so. Up to the NBI days, Rand was primarily known as the exponent of a new, radical form of ethical individualism -- a purer, uncompromising version of what the Founders had championed. And nobody misunderstood her special use of the term. Rand was all about the life, well-being and happiness of the creative individual, as a moral end in himself. She could have continued to make that ethical focus her distinctive and descriptive "brand" in the marketplace of ideas, then elaborated and justified that position using the more fundamental concepts as she developed her philosophy. But the shift of focus from "individualism" to "objectivism," while certainly alluding vaguely to a concept more fundamental in her system, was also far more abstract, far less evocative and far more confusing to many people. What had been clear now became more murky.

Again, though, this entire discussion is moot. "Objectivism" is now indelibly associated with her name and philosophy, and that's the term that those who agree with her ought to use, to avoid any further confusion. But you will still need to explain to the uninitiated exactly what the term means, and in concepts they can relate to. "Rational individualism" or "principled individualism" are useful descriptive terms for conveying a general sense of "Objectivism" in everyday conversation; they also connect back to the familiar use of that term in her fiction, where "Objectivism" is nowhere to be found.




Post 67

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 10:22amSanction this postReply
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Robert is right that "Objectivism" is the name and it is here to stay.

The only possible misunderstanding of the term "Objectivism" I can see is that for some it may sound too academic. Meaning, that many people have no problem with idea of being "subjective" about their own lives and think that only academics need to be worried about being consistently "objective".

However, it would have been interesting if Rand had called her philosophy "individualism".

Wouldn't one's attitude towards life be immediately obvious if one were called an "individualist" or a supporter of "individualism"?

Who knows, but anyway, Objectivism is still a good name and is what I voted for.

(Edited by Marcus Bachler on 6/14, 10:31am)




Post 68

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 12:29pmSanction this postReply
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As a SOLO neophyte it was "Objectivism" that brought me to this site. Terms, for me, are for naming and communication. I like George's analogy with Protestantism.  Because of enhanced communication, Ayn Rand's followers have begun a  process that the Christians initiated 1500 years after the death of  their beloved leader. As our knowledge of the world expands, our statements of reality must change to reflect those new findings. My professors taught me that philosophy is something that one does. Wisdom that tries to etch practice in stone is bound to crumble eventually. Are these fractious arguments about enlightenment or power? Henry VIII wanted to remarry,  Martin Luther wanted to interpret the Bible for himself.   Who wants what here?

call me an innocent abroad
Sharon 



Post 69

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 2:30pmSanction this postReply
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My understanding is that Rand wanted to call it "existentialism..."



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Post 70

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 2:54pmSanction this postReply
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how about...

Objectivist Sympathizer

"I know a lot of Objectivists and we enjoy the same films."

;)



Post 71

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 - 4:04pmSanction this postReply
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Objectivists enjoying the same films?

You must be joking.

Just look at the thread for "Sin City".

How about: Objectivist Sympathizer- we enjoy passionately discussing the value and importance of similar things?




Post 72

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 6:39amSanction this postReply
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Personally I just go by my own name. To me, using the term Objectivist to describe yourself carries the implication that you are somewhat of an expert in Objectivism. 

I am not and I probably won't be an expert in objectivism for some time, if ever. You see after ten years of study, a BSc, a MSc (Hons) and a PhD I still describe myself as an apprentice scientist when I people ask me how I earn my living. The simple fact of it is that in both science and objectivism there is so much yet to learn and so many others that know more than me. 




Post 73

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 2:57pmSanction this postReply
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Well, Dr. Winefield sounds mighty fine to me. - Hong



Post 74

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 3:25pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

What are you researching exactly?

It sounds like you need to join the ageing field :-)




Post 75

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 7:34pmSanction this postReply
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Hong, sadly being Dr Winefield isn't unique. My parents had three sons, all now have a PhD. Call me Dr Winefield and I look over my shoulder to see if one of my brothers is behind me.

Marcus, I'm studying how certain anti-cancer drugs bind to tubulin. The first task is to explore the Taxoid binding site on tubulin and determine which amino-acids in that binding site interact with Tubulin. It has been slow going mastering the lab's techniques (not all of which were written down and kept up to date - Yippee!), fixing HPLCs whose pumps blow up, and troubleshooting assays that work. Ahh the Post Doctoral experience... all this and $30,000 p/a.  :-]




Post 76

Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 2:58amSanction this postReply
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"I'm studying how certain anti-cancer drugs bind to tubulin. The first task is to explore the Taxoid binding site on tubulin and determine which amino-acids in that binding site interact with Tubulin."

Right then. [scratches head] :^/

"all this and $30,000 p/a"

That would of course be approximately US$30,000 more than you were making before."-P




Post 77

Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 5:53amSanction this postReply
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Thanks Robert.

Anti-cancer drugs interaction with Tubulin. That's interesting.

I guess we are working on the same side after all. I'll extend your lifespan and you save me from dying of cancer. Fair trade :-)




Post 78

Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 7:24amSanction this postReply
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Peter, $30,000 p/a is enough to live IN Kansas but not quite enough to get OUT of Kansas. There is only so much to see in Kansas and much of it isn't worth seeing twice. The Kansas City Jazz museum is worth seeing more than once - maybe that's because it includes a jazz bar...

Downtown KC however, should be bombed to the ground - the rubble would be more interesting. Even homeless people & beggars shun downtown KC. I saw more tumbleweeds than people the day I drove through the place.




Post 79

Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 12:06pmSanction this postReply
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I hear there are some very interesting medical phenomena in Smallville, Kansas. You might get some funding from LuthorCorp. :-)

Maybe Hong could post a magnified watercolor of tubulin (looks like a 3D labyrinth, like many proteins) then we'll argue whether it's art or not (now where is that other Robert?).
_______________________

I voted "None of the Above," since I call myself "handsome" and "sexy."


[Edited to correct address.]
(Edited by num++
on 6/16, 1:28pm)




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