Arnold

Objectivism's Followers

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Have you ever wondered why the most obscure cults seem able to muster thousands, if not millions of followers, while Objectivism, after half a century may have (my estimate) maybe twenty thousand world wide? The answer is not as disheartening as it may first appear. Here are my thoughts on this:

If one were a betting man, what percentage odds would one put on the following?

Knowing the religious or philosophical beliefs of a random one hundred adults from these geographical areas: Alabama, Brazil, Pakistan, Tibet.

My point here is to stress the fact that the overwhelming mass of humanity arrives at it's beliefs by passively absorbing the ideas around it. It is easy to accept ideas via passivity or faith, because none of these require the effort of thought. The lack of individualism inherent in these beliefs, is a catalyst assisting this.

Objectivism, by it's very nature cannot be absorbed this way. Since it is a philosophy grounded in reason, reason is the only way of understanding it. It seems obvious to me that the general population is never going to put in the time, and that is why I think the ARI has been on the correct path.

Betsy made a great statement when she said that Philosophers created ideas, Intellectuals wholesaled them, and teachers were the retailers.

It is the academics who must create the intellectual environment that Joe Public will take in subconsciously. The intellectuals and teachers are the ones who take the trouble to understand Objectivism, but most (not all) will absorb what they are taught without much thought. I refer you to the examples above. Let's face it, even most Christians are not likely to have read the bible with the mission of understanding it, so why expect the average man to expend the effort to learn Objectivism.

The fact that Objectivists are rare by any standards, doesn't mean they can't have an influence by providing the proper intellectual climate. The ARI is working on all levels here; wholesale and retail, of the Philosophy manufactured by Ayn Rand. When the critical mass occurs, it will be like a light went on. With reality supporting the ideas, the transformation may be more rapid than we can imagine. Just as today's man thinks sacrifice is noble, but doesn't know why, tomorrow's man will feel self interest is noble, but not quite know why.

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It is the academics who must create the intellectual environment that Joe Public will take in subconsciously...tomorrow's man will feel self interest is noble, but not quite know why.

Ragnar Danneskjöld and Eddie Willers?

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Does it bother anyone else to be called a "follower" of Objectivism?

Couldn't you have chosen a better term, Arnold? :)

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You ask, "How many are needed?" For what? Your essay doesn't address your question.

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You ask, "How many are needed?" For what? Your essay doesn't address your question.

I assume Arnold means "the culture."

While it would be nice if other people around me were more rational, they don't have to be and it is not necessary that they be. Objectivism has already had a major positive impact on my culture -- i.e., the ideas I hold, the things I can do, and the people I choose to interact with.

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Does it bother anyone else to be called a "follower" of Objectivism?

Couldn't you have chosen a better term, Arnold? :)

He He, well I mean 'follow' as in 'understand. Follow me? :)

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You ask, "How many are needed?" For what? Your essay doesn't address your question.

I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

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I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

One question to ask is the difference between looking at a selective sub-set of humanity vs. entire large countries or all of humanity. The "culture" represented by the people aboard the Cordair cruise ship was likely a lot better than the "average" U.S. culture. The same would be true of a hypothetical Galt's Gulch.

My current view is that there will never be a time when a large country has a majority of fundamentally rational individuals with an explicitly rational philosophy - at least, not until average intelligence levels are substantially higher, which means not until "average humanity" has biologically better brains (because I reject the indefensible idea that free will accounts for all intelligence and ability.) I think that religion/faith/acceptance of the arbitrary is rampant in the world for one basic reason: it requires far less mental effort than actually thinking (including constant logical integration of knowledge), and most people have no desire (or, I suspect, even the metaphysical capability) to think at the level of the typical Objectivist today.

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While it would be nice if other people around me were more rational, they don't have to be and it is not necessary that they be. Objectivism has already had a major positive impact on my culture -- i.e., the ideas I hold, the things I can do, and the people I choose to interact with.

I couldn't agree more. Since discovering Ayn Rand and Objectivism in the early 1990s, my life has taken a dramatic turn for the better, in just about every way imaginable.

Because of my better reasoning skills, I have a lucrative career that I love. Because of the great art that Ayn Rand's novels are, my appreciation for great art has increased immeasurably. As a result, my enjoyment of life is that much greater.

When I think of where I am now - about to embark on another exciting life adventure in Sydney - I give a silent but enthusiastic THANK YOU to the woman who made it possible.

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I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

One question to ask is the difference between looking at a selective sub-set of humanity vs. entire large countries or all of humanity. The "culture" represented by the people aboard the Cordair cruise ship was likely a lot better than the "average" U.S. culture. The same would be true of a hypothetical Galt's Gulch.

My current view is that there will never be a time when a large country has a majority of fundamentally rational individuals with an explicitly rational philosophy - at least, not until average intelligence levels are substantially higher, which means not until "average humanity" has biologically better brains (because I reject the indefensible idea that free will accounts for all intelligence and ability.) I think that religion/faith/acceptance of the arbitrary is rampant in the world for one basic reason: it requires far less mental effort than actually thinking (including constant logical integration of knowledge), and most people have no desire (or, I suspect, even the metaphysical capability) to think at the level of the typical Objectivist today.

While I agree that "free will" does not account for intelligence and ability, it does account for the basic philosophical decision on what we are to do with that intelligence and ability we do possess. That alternative is, "To think or not." Everything else follows. And being an Objectivists does not make one intelligent, the physical composition of a person's brain is the primary factor in that. What Objectivism does is outline the method by which one goes about getting the full and proper use of that brain.

As to the original topic, I find it hard to conceive of people picking up "Objectivism by default." There would be too fundamental a gulf between the unthinking acceptance of the particular catchphrases a person would pick up from Objectivism and Objectivism itself. A person would be almost forced to blindly accept something more appropriate to their mode of operation lest their foggy existence be exposed to a stiff breeze.

And one must remember that such a culture DID exist on earth, and that the people accepted it; not in unthinking desperation but in full astute awareness of what they were doing. Not as full as an awareness of what might be considered of an Objectivist accepting those same principles, but full enough to give birth to the United States of America.

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I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

One question to ask is the difference between looking at a selective sub-set of humanity vs. entire large countries or all of humanity. The "culture" represented by the people aboard the Cordair cruise ship was likely a lot better than the "average" U.S. culture. The same would be true of a hypothetical Galt's Gulch.

My current view is that there will never be a time when a large country has a majority of fundamentally rational individuals with an explicitly rational philosophy - at least, not until average intelligence levels are substantially higher, which means not until "average humanity" has biologically better brains (because I reject the indefensible idea that free will accounts for all intelligence and ability.) I think that religion/faith/acceptance of the arbitrary is rampant in the world for one basic reason: it requires far less mental effort than actually thinking (including constant logical integration of knowledge), and most people have no desire (or, I suspect, even the metaphysical capability) to think at the level of the typical Objectivist today.

I disagree with your assessment. If what you say is true, it would be impossible to sustain an industrial society with people who had no desire to exert mental effort. There are many areas of life that I do not exert mental effort simply because those areas are not of value to me: I have no desire to be a mathematician, so I do not exert the mental effort to be one. While free will may not account for "100%" of intelligence and ability, it certainly accounts for a significant portion. When I was in school in my younger days, I was not a very good student, just passing. When I graduated 8th grade, I realized that my grades in high school would affect my future life in terms of what college I went to, so I consciously said to myself: "I had better start exerting the effort to be good in school." When I got to 9th grade, I discovered algebra and other subjects that I fell in love with. I quickly became a student with a 90+ average in most of my subjects. When I was in high school, I had no moral compass and was very depressed about life in general, but I told myself that I will look for something that gives meaning to life. I found The Fountainhead, and the rest is history. I do not consider myself more intelligent than the average person; I consider myself someone who has chosen certain values while disvaluing others. The reason most people have no desire to exert mental effort (in certain areas of their lives) is for one reason only: their education teaches them values that do not recognize the rewards of mental effort. I think the character of Hank Rearden is a perfect example that illustrates these points. He had no desire to think about what his wife was doing because he was taught, by his altruist teachers, that mental effort (reason) was not something that one applies to human affairs.

I think there will be a time when the culture will contain a majority of rational individuals: that day will be when people realize that it is immoral to initiate force to achieve their values. Laissez-faire. Once that is reached, I really don't care what others do with their lives. I will be free to choose my associations. I don't think that is too much to ask of society and the individuals who live in it.

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As to the original topic, I find it hard to conceive of people picking up "Objectivism by default." There would be too fundamental a gulf between the unthinking acceptance of the particular catchphrases a person would pick up from Objectivism and Objectivism itself. A person would be almost forced to blindly accept something more appropriate to their mode of operation lest their foggy existence be exposed to a stiff breeze.

I distinguish between understanding "Objectivism by default" and accepting it's values. For example, once it becomes accepted in the culture, that profits are not evil, that is the value the majority will "blindly accept".

And one must remember that such a culture DID exist on earth, and that the people accepted it; not in unthinking desperation but in full astute awareness of what they were doing. Not as full as an awareness of what might be considered of an Objectivist accepting those same principles, but full enough to give birth to the United States of America.

Without the "wholesale and retail" efforts to instill those ideas in the public, they have have been eroded by those pushing alien ideas.

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And being an Objectivists does not make one intelligent, the physical composition of a person's brain is the primary factor in that. What Objectivism does is outline the method by which one goes about getting the full and proper use of that brain.

Perhaps you misunderstood. I am not saying that Objectivism leads to intelligence, though it is extremely helpful for thinking. I'm saying that somebody probably has to be at a certain level of intelligence to actually grasp and apply the philosophy.

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I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

What part of Objectivism can be lived by degrees, large or small, and still be called Objective?

[...]most people have no desire (or, I suspect, even the metaphysical capability) to think at the level of the typical Objectivist today.

What is a typical Objectivist?

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Perhaps you misunderstood. I am not saying that Objectivism leads to intelligence, though it is extremely helpful for thinking. I'm saying that somebody probably has to be at a certain level of intelligence to actually grasp and apply the philosophy.
I think most people have the intelligence to be Objectivists, even if not all of them would be as able to defend the ideas. Understanding concepts like objective reality and selfishness doesn’t require a specialized knowledge in philosophy. Also, you can agree with and accept Objectivism without being intelligent on each of its applications. Does a grasp of Objectivism require an intimate understanding of psycho-epistemology?

Where people are not receptive to Objectivism, the problem is evasion. It would be interesting to see a study done on Objectivists, to determine what psychological traits they may have had in common in childhood. I don't remember much from when I was little, but my mom told me once that I was stubborn in seeing things as "black or white". She told me a silly story about a time in kindergarden when I confronted my best friend because he was teasing the girls. I do remember telling my two friends in primary school never to ask me to lie, because I wasn't going to do it. A few years ago I was a groomsman for a high school friend of mine. During high school and college, he would occasionally refer to me as his "moral compass" to other people. I always got annoyed at this, because I thought he was making fun. Well, when I visited him for the wedding, he had written this really thoughtful letter to me, and in it he explained that he thought I had influenced him and our other friends for the better, and had kept them out of trouble, and so when he called me his moral compass he always meant it sincerely. In the interests of honesty I'm not going to claim that I'm proud of everything I've ever done, but just use these as the best examples. In my case I think I was able to appreciate Ayn Rand because I had an independent mind and I was a moral absolutist. I can see different childhood virtues possibly drawing people to Objectivism for different reasons, and I think that would be a really fascinating subject. I doubt that intelligence has much to do with it at all.

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I assume the majority will never bother to actively explore the content of their minds, so I ask:

How many Objectivists are needed to influence the culture enough to become Objective (to a large degree)? That is the question I answer for myself.

What part of Objectivism can be lived by degrees, large or small, and still be called Objective?

I was referring to the degree the culture accepts objective values, not the purity of of understanding of individuals.

[...]most people have no desire (or, I suspect, even the metaphysical capability) to think at the level of the typical Objectivist today.

What is a typical Objectivist?

My answer to this would be someone who has read, understood and lives by the values of Objectivism.

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What part of Objectivism can be lived by degrees, large or small, and still be called Objective?

Sorry about the misquote above. It is my response which say's:

"I was referring to the degree the culture accepts objective values, not the purity of of understanding of individuals."

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I think most people have the intelligence to be Objectivists, even if not all of them would be as able to defend the ideas. Understanding concepts like objective reality and selfishness doesn’t require a specialized knowledge in philosophy.

By a "specialized knowledge of philosophy" do you mean a person has studied (either in an institution of learning or independently) what is the accepted definitions for terms such as 'accidental logical identity'? Objectivism is a philosophy which comprehension requires individual, uninterrupted spans of concentration during reading time. Understanding it cannot first come from listening, not as humans are at this point in time. One can enjoy and analyze the literary aspects of AS, for example, by download from audible.com, but I don't think grasping the fundamental differences can come from a casual reading, or disjointed listening. Understanding a logically-ordered series of meaningful and specifically-chosen words requires a particular level of reading comprehension, and a particular level of intelligence. Most people's normality is being accustomed to non sequiturs and only knowing non-objective word meanings and their sloppy uses. To be able to revise one's grasp of the meaning of words used in Objectivism, not only must one not evade reality, but one also must effortfully sustain in one's hierarchical comprehension the meanings of concepts. This requires reprocessing and reintegration of previously-abused words before one can grasp the full meaning of sentences in AS or ITOE. This takes reading and re-reading, thinking and a conscious effort on an individual's part. My view is that being an Objectivist takes intelligence, but it also takes a great deal more than that.

Also, you can agree with and accept Objectivism without being intelligent on each of its applications.

Objectivism is the philosophy for living expertly. Which "applications" do you think are key and which extraneous that allow a person to claim acceptance? How is this different from agreeing with and accepting a cult? Objectivism, when understood and practiced, is organic because it is the growth of explicit cognitive mastery of human life that is specific to human life.

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By a "specialized knowledge of philosophy" do you mean a person has studied (either in an institution of learning or independently) what is the accepted definitions for terms such as 'accidental logical identity'?

I don't know that particular term, but yes that's basically what I mean. Maybe another way to put it is that it doesn't require a highly technical level of understanding.

Understanding a logically-ordered series of meaningful and specifically-chosen words requires a particular level of reading comprehension, and a particular level of intelligence. Most people's normality is being accustomed to non sequiturs and only knowing non-objective word meanings and their sloppy uses. To be able to revise one's grasp of the meaning of words used in Objectivism, not only must one not evade reality, but one also must effortfully sustain in one's hierarchical comprehension the meanings of concepts.

Yes, but I think that amounts to the same thing, since what you're talking about in the second case is the refusal to focus to form basic, funadmental principles with which to deal with reality.

This requires reprocessing and reintegration of previously-abused words before one can grasp the full meaning of sentences in AS or ITOE. This takes reading and re-reading, thinking and a conscious effort on an individual's part. My view is that being an Objectivist takes intelligence, but it also takes a great deal more than that.

I am not saying that it doesn't take intelligence, but that it doesn't take a high level of intelligence. I think most people have the intelligence to understand Objectivism, but reject it because of the compounded evasions they have accepted over their mental development. Even if they decide to give it an honest hearing, to overcome the automatized processes of evasion takes tremendous effort.

Objectivism is the philosophy for living expertly. Which "applications" do you think are key and which extraneous that allow a person to claim acceptance? How is this different from agreeing with and accepting a cult? Objectivism, when understood and practiced, is organic because it is the growth of explicit cognitive mastery of human life that is specific to human life.

Well, I listed psycho-epistemology as an application. The core of Objectivism is its metaphysics, ethics and politics. It is possible, in my opinion, to integrate Objectivism by studying these areas alone.

Regarding specialized knowledge. To accept evolution as a fact, you don't need a degree in biology. All you need is to be presented with the evidence as discovered by scientists, and to read their arguments. Likewise, to accept, say, the principle of objectivity, you don't need to have studied the progression of philosophy from the preSocratics through Descartes, Hume and Kant. To understand why Capitalism is the best system, you don't have to major in economics.

That isn't to say that Objectivism requires no effort to understand. Being a comprehensive, fundamental philosophy it requires conceptual integrations of the highest level. However I think most of us come from the experience of having to correct a lot of false premises, and that's a very long process. I don't see why, given a proper education from the beginning, almost anyone can't fully understand and integrate Objectivism. Just imagine if even a third of the schools in the US taught the way they do at the VanDamme academy. Even if the teachers and staff aren't Objectivist, having a reality-focussed curriculum that teaches hierarchically would develop minds brimming with evidence. Hand them Atlas Shrugged and it will be like connecting the dots! That's why even having one or two of such schools is so exciting. I think it's not unreasonable to expect an explosion of Objectivists in the next one or two generations.

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My view is that being an Objectivist takes intelligence, but it also takes a great deal more than that.

Yes, certainly. I see intelligence as necessary but not sufficient. On top of that, there is free will, honesty, having the right information, and having the drive and time to understand. I just don't think that the intelligence part can be overlooked.

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On top of that, there is free will...

If I can quote myself in the psychology forum, I wonder how you are using the term "free will", because:

As a side note, from my childhood attempts at creating in myself the qualities and concentration of qualities I would have liked my parents to encourage, and in being involved in raising others' children over the years, I frequently hear that parents can do the best they can, but the child has free will, as well. I've always (well, about 15 years or so) thought that was a strange perspective which I hear even from other students of Objectivism, because to me, the measure of an Objectivist parent is not the degree of intelligence or beauty or any other genetically-influenced desirable characteristics in a child. The measure of success as a parent to me is the extent to which the child recognizes and acts consistently and continuously upon the fact that man's mind is a specific type of consciousness that is most productive and engenders the greatest happiness through the choice to control the action of one's mind; the parent directs the child's use of his free will. This is important because even the most intelligent child can choose to freefall, rather than select and guide certain values - in fact, most intelligent children today do this. Currently, even the most rational parents I have met encourage every habit (neatness, diligence, punctuality, morality, honesty, creativity, etc.) and provide all the intellectual stimulation except that one thing - how to take abstract ideas and values and apply them to present real circumstances in a fully integrated, non-contradictory manner.

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The measure of success as a parent to me is the extent to which the child recognizes and acts consistently and continuously upon the fact that man's mind is a specific type of consciousness that is most productive and engenders the greatest happiness through the choice to control the action of one's mind; the parent directs the child's use of his free will.
This is important because even the most intelligent child can choose to freefall, rather than select and guide certain values - in fact, most intelligent children today do this. Currently, even the most rational parents I have met encourage every habit (neatness, diligence, punctuality, morality, honesty, creativity, etc.) and provide all the intellectual stimulation except that one thing - how to take abstract ideas and values and apply them to present real circumstances in a fully integrated, non-contradictory manner.

I need to think about this more - the topic of free will is certainly fascinating and I think it can be probed deeper than simply saying that it consists of "the choice to focus or not". I've had arguments (I think some of them are in threads on the Forum) over the question of whether one can truly focus without focusing on *something* (along the lines of "a consciousness conscious of nothing is a contradiction in terms.") I don't see how one can have an "abstract" focus without something to focus *on*. If that is so, then focus may be tied to, e.g., motivation (as in, e.g., I refuse to focus on 18th century French literature because it bores me to tears even if my teacher says that I *must* - what I want to do is focus on reading that Heinlein science fiction novel! I think motivation, which is really personal and internal rather than externally driven, is a key driver of action including the desire to focus.)

I would, though, distinguish between free will and thinking methods, which I think is what you're really talking about (correct me if I'm wrong). Once one *has* decided to focus on a subject, there are certainly different, learnable methods for thinking generally, for guiding one's consciousness. It would have been great to have parents with such knowledge, and it would also be great to teach children with much more rationality than what they get "on average" today. I also think that more intelligent children will be the most personally motivated to want to acquire such knowledge, because they love thinking. It isn't hard to imagine two children, one eager to read every book in the library, and other only interested in playing baseball with the other kids and socializing; they will have different motivations and different mental abilities.

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I don't see how one can have an "abstract" focus without something to focus *on*.

That is not possible, correct.

If that is so, then focus may be tied to, e.g., motivation (as in, e.g., I refuse to focus on 18th century French literature because it bores me to tears even if my teacher says that I *must* - what I want to do is focus on reading that Heinlein science fiction novel! I think motivation, which is really personal and internal rather than externally driven, is a key driver of action including the desire to focus.)

I have some additional thinking to do about the topic of free will as well, but my current position is - using your example - is it your position that the child is born with a particular innate desire for particular abstraction combinations, and so wanting to focus on Heinlein instead of Voltaire cannot be otherwise steered? How can a child intrinsically have such a personal and internal desire, not initially shaped by an external force. I am saying the child's desire to focus on something can be shaped into the desire to focus on something for the purpose of performing superlatively precisely because it is not worthy of more attention than for that purpose (the teacher or the parent says the child *must*).

I would, though, distinguish between free will and thinking methods, which I think is what you're really talking about (correct me if I'm wrong). [...] I also think that more intelligent children will be the most personally motivated to want to acquire such knowledge, because they love thinking. It isn't hard to imagine two children, one eager to read every book in the library, and other only interested in playing baseball with the other kids and socializing; they will have different motivations and different mental abilities.

Sure. But how does the child who wants to read acquire that love of thinking? Through incidents of success and encouragement early in life, and building successes over time. A child with lesser intelligence will experience fewer incidents of success and at a lesser rate, so how do you still shape the love of thinking in such a child (or any child) unless focus and concentration are initially externally-driven. I'll think about whether this is really thinking method.

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IIRC, Ayn Rand said somewhere that the basic principles are simple enough for anyone to understand, and I agree. Doesn't take too much, IMNSHO, to grasp something like "Never initiate force." We'd be awfully far along if everyone understood and adopted just that.

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IIRC, Ayn Rand said somewhere that the basic principles are simple enough for anyone to understand, and I agree. Doesn't take too much, IMNSHO, to grasp something like "Never initiate force." We'd be awfully far along if everyone understood and adopted just that.

That's exactly what *isn't* fully grasping and applying Objectivism - a series of disconnected moral commandments ala the Bible, mouthed and practiced out of context by blind followers. Note that taking that statement on faith is exactly what the Libertarians claim as "axiomatic", then proceed to diss Objectivism as overly intellectual and "impractical". This all reinforces my point in this thread.

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