Free Capitalist

Can uninspired intellectuals make good Objectivists?

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This is a more of a life-experience question, aimed at Betsy and other similar wells of experience in dealing with people of all different kinds. I have a friend, a committed atheist who strongly identifies with that as his defining characteristic, and frequently joins me on philosophical discussions on various topics. He is a math major (still undergraduate), and enjoys philosophical talk just for the sake of philosophizing. He sees nothing non-atheist in his deep respect for Buddhist teachings; he believes Jain sect of Buddhism, and Eastern philosophy in general, has shown as much respect for rights as any Classical liberalism. In fact, they've shown so much respect for it they've extended it to animals! (I hope you now see his methodology.)

So the basic background is that this guy is trained to think deeply in his specific profession (mathematics), but has little to tie him down to to purposeful thinking; to purposeful philosophizing. That we don't just ignorantly proclaim about 'rights for animals', but dig deeply about what rights and human nature mean, so that we may live more meaningfully for it. That's how I live at least. Everything I study, must have deep meaning to me; otherwise I leave it to somebody else.

Now I'm highly skeptical that intelligent people of this kind will trully appreciate what's important in Objectivism. What drew me in most of all, and still does to this day, was hero-worship. Most particularly of Francisco, but also of Galt, Roark, and that type of masculine person. It is only by extension that I've wanted to more properly internalize a philosophy they might've lived by; it's what kept me coming back to the philosophy in those early days when I had lots of conflicting ideas, and didn't know whether to throw an AR statement out, or give her a chance to prove it. It's because of my emotional attachment to Objectivism and to values Ayn Rand herself cared about, that I gave everything in Objectivism the benefit of the doubt, and have become as undivided to it as I am now.

I highly doubt this friend of mine will follow the same course. It is much too late to give a post-teenage person men to worship, since chances are he's already found a (watered down) target of admiration by now. The only exception would be someone who's still struggling this late in his life, still without a sufficiently reverent hero to really mean something to him. My friend is not that guy. He's confident, self-assured, thinks he already knows all (or most) of the answers, and already found all sources of inspiration that he needs. What is to keep him attached to Objectivism in those early periods when he'll have so much conflict about it within him? What would Prometheus mean to him? Or Francisco? Not as much as they need to, in order to really be a draw to dismiss his internal doubts, and keep giving the philosophy a try. I have met many of this kind of self-assured intellectual, quite late by this stage in their life, with heroes, with solidly-built foundations and predispositions. One can always give him the books and try, but I personally am of the highest skepticism that it will break through. Anyone else's thoughts?

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I have a friend, a committed atheist who strongly identifies with that as his defining characteristic, and frequently joins me on philosophical discussions on various topics.

I would be curious to know why atheism is his defining characteristic. For instance, is it an embracement of reality or a reaction against religion? There are very different meanings behind the two.

He sees nothing non-atheist in his deep respect for Buddhist teachings; he believes Jain sect of Buddhism, and Eastern philosophy in general, has shown as much respect for rights as any Classical liberalism. In fact, they've shown so much respect for it they've extended it to animals! (I hope you now see his methodology.)

Although he doesn't deeply understand the concept of rights, he does seem to appreciate that rights should be respected, which is a good start.

Now I'm highly skeptical that intelligent people of this kind will trully appreciate what's important in Objectivism. What drew me in most of all, and still does to this day, was hero-worship.

You may be right, but your second sentence above highlights something important about the issue raised in your first sentence. Specifically, there are many things that are important in Objectivism, with hero-worship being just one of them. That was most important for you, but other people will find different aspects of Objectivism as important as you see hero-worship. In other words, not everyone must hold hero-worship as the primary issue of importance in Objectivism to ultimately accept the philosophy as their own.

It is much too late to give a post-teenage person men to worship, since chances are he's already found a (watered down) target of admiration by now.

On what basis do you say this? I have found plenty of heroes to admire at each stage of my adult life, as have many other people I know.

My friend is not that guy. He's confident, self-assured, thinks he already knows all (or most) of the answers, and already found all sources of inspiration that he needs. What is to keep him attached to Objectivism in those early periods when he'll have so much conflict about it within him? What would Prometheus mean to him? Or Francisco? Not as much as they need to, in order to really be a draw to dismiss his internal doubts, and keep giving the philosophy a try. I have met many of this kind of self-assured intellectual, quite late by this stage in their life, with heroes, with solidly-built foundations and predispositions. One can always give him the books and try, but I personally am of the highest skepticism that it will break through. Anyone else's thoughts?

You have mentioned your skepticism many times in this post and seem to have pretty much written off this person's chances of understanding or accepting Objectivism. However, I'm not sure you have a very clear basis for doing so. It's certainly possible he won't be interested or ever accept it even if he reads it. However, the ages of 18-22 (the age of most undergraduates) is not "too late" for just about anything. It is a very young age to be, and there are so many deeply meaningful and significant experiences that lie ahead. It is very difficult to determine what will change or open a person's mind. But I certainly wouldn't try to force anything on him.

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Now I'm highly skeptical that intelligent people of this kind will trully appreciate what's important in Objectivism. What drew me in most of all, and still does to this day, was hero-worship. Most particularly of Francisco, but also of Galt, Roark, and that type of masculine person.

Just so you know there are other reasons for being attracted to Objectivism, my reasons were not yours.

For me it was a shared world view; finding someone expressing my thoughts and feelings.

In short, it was the love of reality, and the power that reason gave one to deal with it, that drew me.

You may wish to see if this could also be an inspiration for him.

I agree with Scott about his point on Atheism. I am finding it hard to reconcile your friend's admiration for mystical Buddhist values, with the atheistic view he defines himself by.

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I highly doubt this friend of mine will follow the same course. It is much too late to give a post-teenage person men to worship, since chances are he's already found a (watered down) target of admiration by now. The only exception would be someone who's still struggling this late in his life, still without a sufficiently reverent hero to really mean something to him.

It seems like you consider hero-worship as one's main appeal to Objectivism. I don't think this is the only thing (like Scott said). For me, for example, it was something else.

I also think age plays a role, but not a primary one. I think the primary is a person's ideas about metaphysics and epistemology. Maybe - I'm not sure here, I'm currently thinking of this topic myself.

My friend is not that guy. He's confident, self-assured, thinks he already knows all (or most) of the answers, and already found all sources of inspiration that he needs.

I think this is the worst sign of all though, and I can understand why you say you have little "hope" for him based on this.

The reason is that his confidence probably comes from some flawed approach to knowledge (or something additional). How else can he be confident, and yet obviously have unresolved questions and contradictions in his knowledge of the world?

Studying engineering 3 and a half years has given me the change to learn some approaches to knowledge.

I've seen 2 main approaches. Being interested in knowing how stuff work, I asked many questions. And I got 2 types of answers. One was: "Look at the board, the answer is the formula. One orange plus another orange equals two BECAUSE 1+1=2". The other was: "You see, if I add another orange the amount grows and you have 2 units".

I'm not sure if this example was good enough to demonstrate what I mean, but the point is that some people do not see it necessary to question beyond the formulas. In fact, if you ask for the physical meaning of the formula they would consider you dumb. For them, someone else has reduced existence into mathematical expressions, and there is nothing beyond.

And then you have the people who seek understanding - which means that are aware that a formula is just a generalization of some phenomenon but the phenomenon exists before (and independently of) the formulas.

So what allows the "formula is reality" mentality to be certain of itself? Are they really certain? Can they actually comprehend the legitimacy of your questions about 'meaning of formula', or do they honestly think you're an idiot for asking?

I don't think it's honesty. I think deep down inside there is some automatizes mechanism of evasion that quickly repels everything which might be a threat to who they are now (a threat to what they base their self-esteem on).

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I am finding it hard to reconcile your friend's admiration for mystical Buddhist values, with the atheistic view he defines himself by.

I don't. I think you'll find the following interesting:

I once knew someone who was an atheist and was also certain that existence does not exist (very heavy nihilist because this was also applied to ethics - meaning there is no right or wrong). More accurately, he thought that existence is subjective for every man. He was very fond of this idea - I think he considered it his own personal hallmark of being able to reach such a sophisticated conclusion. Being an atheist integrated well with his view of existence. He did not try to "explain the universe" like religious people do, and because he "knew" that nothing exists beyond one's consciousness (err, I mean personal subjective perception and thoughts) he knew that religion is just an invention of someone who tries to make himself feel better.

When I had a debate with him I got a strong sense of "confidence". What does "confidence" mean here? Endless loyalty to his idea about reality. He was not trying to understand my arguments - he was trying to destroy them without the goal of first understanding.

For me it is very confusing - I know that to integrate something it requires critical thinking. And the more critical it is - the better the integration. So on first appearance this sort of behavior may seem positive. But it is not. You can tell by the sub-tone. For example - if they easily somehow "fail" to see a contradiction in their view, but yet appear to do an excellent job in finding contradictions in yours - you can tell this person is out to prove something to himself - not to understand.

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When I had a debate with him I got a strong sense of "confidence".

I suspect it was a strong sense of vanity. Vain people are not confident, they are completely insecure about their values and seek to substitute the approval of others for moral certainty. Even the "rebel", the person who defines their values in opposition to others, is actually pursuing their approval - he wants to be respected as having an independent intellect. The irony of this, however, escapes him.

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Even the "rebel", the person who defines their values in opposition to others, is actually pursuing their approval - he wants to be respected as having an independent intellect. The irony of this, however, escapes him.

Haha! Right. I observed it too. And you have the type of 'exotic rock bands' (that no one has ever heard of). If you like that kind of rock band you must be so 'different' than the rest, cool and mysterious.

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Haha! Right. I observed it too. And you have the type of 'exotic rock bands' (that no one has ever heard of). If you like that kind of rock band you must be so 'different' than the rest, cool and mysterious.

And when it becomes popular, the band has "sold out". Yup. :)

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I have a friend, a committed atheist who strongly identifies with that as his defining characteristic, and frequently joins me on philosophical discussions on various topics.

Atheism isn't a commitment. It is a lack of commitment to the existence of a deity.

He is a math major (still undergraduate), and enjoys philosophical talk just for the sake of philosophizing. He sees nothing non-atheist in his deep respect for Buddhist teachings; he believes Jain sect of Buddhism, and Eastern philosophy in general, has shown as much respect for rights as any Classical liberalism. In fact, they've shown so much respect for it they've extended it to animals! (I hope you now see his methodology.)

He may be a-theistic, but he's not a-mystical and that's a bad sign. His enjoying philosophy "just for the sake of philosophizing" and the fact that he is a math major suggets a rationalistic approach to abstractions and his respect for Buddhism further underscores a breach between his ideas and reality.

When I am sizing up a person, I look for two things that all people who eventually become good Objectivists have from the get-go. It is not atheism, or right-wing sympathies, or non-conformity. It is (1) a good working relationship with reality and (2) a complex personal hierarchy of values.

The young man you described seems to have a problem with (1) so how are his values? What does he want and go after? Does he have favorites in all aspects of life? Does he pursue his values and defend them when they are attacked? Is he enthusiastic and energetic or is he depressed, repressed, or cynical?

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Scott,

I would be curious to know why atheism is his defining characteristic. For instance, is it an embracement of reality or a reaction against religion? There are very different meanings behind the two.

I'm inclined to think it's the reaction against religion, not a very healthy start.

You may be right, but your second sentence above highlights something important about the issue raised in your first sentence. Specifically, there are many things that are important in Objectivism, with hero-worship being just one of them. That was most important for you, but other people will find different aspects of Objectivism as important as you see hero-worship. In other words, not everyone must hold hero-worship as the primary issue of importance in Objectivism to ultimately accept the philosophy as their own.

Under this point let me subsume my replies to ifatart and Arnold, which all deal with a similar issue.

I understand of course that Francisco isn't going to underly every single person's attachment to Objectivism, or even that hero-worship in general will be a primary source of attachment. What I mean most particularly is the necessity of an emotional attachment to Objectivism, before all the conceptual and explicit issues can be worked out. For those people who don't start out immediately comprehensive of every single Objectivist issue (these people are the majority), they need a tie that will lead them back to the philosophy and encourage them to give it another try. That is what's behind the title of this thread. In my experience, an intellectual has to be inspired, to endure conceptual difficulties all the way through. It doesn't have to be what constituted my particular sources of inspiration, but it does have to be something in the philosophy, a concrete object of attachment, that leads the person back to it. I don't buy the 'love of reality' argument that people raise sometimes; no one can be inspired by the shapeless. It has to be reverence for Ayn Rand's person, for some of her characters, if not her person then her deepest values, some concrete object of attachment, in order to lead the beginner through to a complex understanding of the philosophy. My question is, then, am I mistaken? Can a person completely listless and indifferent to anything inspirational in mankind, still plow through Objectivism's initial difficulties? That is what I'm skeptical about.

Arnold,

I agree with Scott about his point on Atheism. I am finding it hard to reconcile your friend's admiration for mystical Buddhist values, with the atheistic view he defines himself by.

What he likes about Buddhism is its absence of any other reality, and absence of faith. In that sense it's completely unrelated to the three religions in the West. That's how, on a technicality, he thinks it perfectly fine to admire Buddhism and consider himself atheist.

Betsy,

Atheism isn't a commitment. It is a lack of commitment to the existence of a deity.

It's like Scott said, in an unhealthy form it can be self-identification based on a negative, rather than pursuit of the positive.

He may be a-theistic, but he's not a-mystical and that's a bad sign. His enjoying philosophy "just for the sake of philosophizing" and the fact that he is a math major suggets a rationalistic approach to abstractions and his respect for Buddhism further underscores a breach between his ideas and reality.

That's been exactly my thought on the matter. I can't see why he'd think it worthy of trouble to complicate himself with all of the Objectivist difficulties, if he doesn't philosophize purposefully, and has been professionally trained to avoid linking ideas to reality.

When I am sizing up a person, I look for two things that all people who eventually become good Objectivists have from the get-go. It is not atheism, or right-wing sympathies, or non-conformity. It is (1) a good working relationship with reality and (2) a complex personal hierarchy of values.

The young man you described seems to have a problem with (1) so how are his values? What does he want and go after? Does he have favorites in all aspects of life? Does he pursue his values and defend them when they are attacked? Is he enthusiastic and energetic or is he depressed, repressed, or cynical?

It's difficult to size up his values on a surface level. He doesn't initially strike one as cynical or repressed; on the other hand the warning sign of passionate atheism hints at something more than what meets the eye at the surface.

I don't know how to gauge his good working relationship with reality. He's competent in his profession, and loves complicated and obscure logical riddles. On the other hand he's prone to a completely sloppy use of concepts, such as believing that each of the 'heart-warming' philosophies has embraced and championed human rights. In other words, his head flies up in the clouds, but has difficulty tying it down to the real world, or finding a reason to.

And yet, those mistakes can easily be found in adolescence, and are quickly overcome by supplying a source of inspiration (which all youth need), something that forces the person to struggle through reconciling his conscious train of thought with his emotional and subconscious values which are different. It is my understanding that as a person matures and solidifies in his conscious processes, it becomes exponentially different to convince him these are wrong.

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I understand of course that Francisco isn't going to underly every single person's attachment to Objectivism, or even that hero-worship in general will be a primary source of attachment. What I mean most particularly is the necessity of an emotional attachment to Objectivism, before all the conceptual and explicit issues can be worked out. For those people who don't start out immediately comprehensive of every single Objectivist issue (these people are the majority), they need a tie that will lead them back to the philosophy and encourage them to give it another try.

The motive for me was not an emotional attachment to Objectivism, but an admiration of it, for what it could unlock.

My attachment to Objectivism per se, is not emotional, but I do value it (more below). For example, the key to my house has no emotional affect on me, yet unlocks the door to the values I have accumulated over 66 years.

In the same way, I regard Objectivism as a key to understanding my relationship to reality. The key is a vital value, but the emotional attachment is to the values it unlocks.

What I am trying to say (not very well), is that I was not so much inspired by an emotional attachment to Objectivism, or it's heroes, to understand it's ideas, but rather I was spurred on by what it could do for me.

Yes I do value Objectivism, and that is an emotional attachment. However, it is not that particular attachment that drives me. What drives me, is the new insights Objectivism opens form; in short, it's value as a key.

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The motive for me was not an emotional attachment to Objectivism, but an admiration of it, for what it could unlock.

My attachment to Objectivism per se, is not emotional, but I do value it (more below). For example, the key to my house has no emotional affect on me, yet unlocks the door to the values I have accumulated over 66 years.

In the same way, I regard Objectivism as a key to understanding my relationship to reality. The key is a vital value, but the emotional attachment is to the values it unlocks.

What I am trying to say (not very well), is that I was not so much inspired by an emotional attachment to Objectivism, or it's heroes, to understand it's ideas, but rather I was spurred on by what it could do for me.

Yes I do value Objectivism, and that is an emotional attachment. However, it is not that particular attachment that drives me. What drives me, is the new insights Objectivism opens form; in short, it's value as a key.

Alright, but let's dig deeper. What happened when you had a strong disagreement with Objectivism, in the earlier periods? Clearly the opposite idea seemed to you more to 'open the doors to reality' than this Objectivist idea which seemed patently false. What possibly could have kept you coming back and trying to see if the Objectivist idea was right, if an opposite idea seemed to you more likely, and more justified at the time? It must be something else; merely desiring to know is no help when differences and contradictions arise. Or else you never had a disagreement with Objectivism, and I'm speaking towards a more different kind of personal experience than you've been describing about yourself.

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What I mean most particularly is the necessity of an emotional attachment to Objectivism, before all the conceptual and explicit issues can be worked out.

In the best case, the person has a positive and basically rational sense of life that responds to the heroes and events of the fiction works. However, there can be all kinds of negative emotions (and an overall pre-existing psychology) that can attract someone to Objectivism. For example, the heroes can be viewed by some as agents of revenge or power rather than embodiments of independence and/or productiveness. So, an emotional connection is not always a guarantee of a long-term and rational commitment to Objectivism.

My question is, then, am I mistaken? Can a person completely listless and indifferent to anything inspirational in mankind, still plow through Objectivism's initial difficulties? That is what I'm skeptical about.

If someone is truly indifferent to anything inspirational in mankind, then I don't think you are mistaken.

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The motive for me was not an emotional attachment to Objectivism, but an admiration of it, for what it could unlock.

My attachment to Objectivism per se, is not emotional, but I do value it (more below). For example, the key to my house has no emotional affect on me, yet unlocks the door to the values I have accumulated over 66 years.

In the same way, I regard Objectivism as a key to understanding my relationship to reality. The key is a vital value, but the emotional attachment is to the values it unlocks.

What I am trying to say (not very well), is that I was not so much inspired by an emotional attachment to Objectivism, or it's heroes, to understand it's ideas, but rather I was spurred on by what it could do for me.

Yes I do value Objectivism, and that is an emotional attachment. However, it is not that particular attachment that drives me. What drives me, is the new insights Objectivism opens form; in short, it's value as a key.

Alright, but let's dig deeper. What happened when you had a strong disagreement with Objectivism, in the earlier periods? Clearly the opposite idea seemed to you more to 'open the doors to reality' than this Objectivist idea which seemed patently false. What possibly could have kept you coming back and trying to see if the Objectivist idea was right, if an opposite idea seemed to you more likely, and more justified at the time? It must be something else; merely desiring to know is no help when differences and contradictions arise. Or else you never had a disagreement with Objectivism, and I'm speaking towards a more different kind of personal experience than you've been describing about yourself.

I had no strong disagreements with Objectivism. The first book I ever read of hers was Virtue of Selfishness. I had never heard of Rand, but the words she wrote resonated with me. Here was a source of power for me, I thought; a source of power to understand the world around me. There were no heroes in VOS, only ideas that I saw for the first time, that did not originate in my head, but felt as if they belonged there. My primary motive has always been to understand the world around me, and nothing greater than that would draw me to Objectivism. The fiction heroes were just the gravy to me, not the main meal. There can be no greater reward than getting to know one's mind and how to use it. That is what keeps me coming back, and should motivate your friend.

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I don't know how to gauge his good working relationship with reality. He's competent in his profession, and loves complicated and obscure logical riddles. On the other hand he's prone to a completely sloppy use of concepts, such as believing that each of the 'heart-warming' philosophies has embraced and championed human rights. In other words, his head flies up in the clouds, but has difficulty tying it down to the real world, or finding a reason to.

It sounds very much like the 'formulas mentality' I was describing. Someone who seems highly intelligent, yet fails at concepts of philosophy.

If you take formulas (not just mathematical formulas, but any knowledge which is passed on to you as a set of rules) as fundamental representations of reality (as reality itself), then an intelligent person would be able to do very sophisticated stuff with it. Apply the formulas correctly to achieve actual results in the field (this is possible because those formulas were invented by someone who did bother to look at reality).

But philosophy requires a different kind of thinking - not application of formulas, but observing the most basic aspects of existence and forming principles from them. The 'formulas mentality' cannot do that. However, if you bring them a set of formulas to represent philosophy - and if it doesn't collide with other, well-accepted formulas - no problem.

Check the following conversation for example (with a very intelligent person whom I know):

It start when person A declares that ethics are not an exact science, and can never be. He elaborates on his point:

You see, when I consider some notion or idea, my only way of validating it is through the scientific method, which is comparison to results of experiments and the existing body of human knowledge, which was obtained as a result of experiments. For some field to be called "exact science" - in my opinion - it should rely on constant "check-ups" versus reality, with easily identifiable false claims. The only two fields of science that are a little weak on that point are mathematics and astrophysics, but as you can surely understand they still follow a well-defined set of rules as to what is false or true.

Mathematics has no claims on the world outside the well-structured chains of logic, and astrophysicists, while cannot conduct experiments, still rely on countless observations of our world.

I believe that you cannot say the same about ethics. You cannot conduct an experiment to test the validity of some minor point of an ethical theory; there will be always variable factors that will effect the outcome; no two persons will implement the theory in exactly the same way; no two persons have the same environment to interact with - in short, it seems to me that under no circumstances can a repeatable experiment (or a set of observations) be constructed.

Person B replies:

You rely on scientific methods as the primary way to gain valid knowledge, forgetting that scientific methods are constructed against some standard - the same standard which allows every man to test the validity of his knowledge. "Existence exists" is an axiom which you cannot validate via scientific method: you have to use your own mind for that, not a method somebody else invented for you to deal with statistics. Statistics will not allow you to know, for example, whether you are angry at a certain moment. Minimum square error will not allow you to know if man requires use of reason to survive on a desert island. By your approach to knowledge, in order to answer such question ("does man need to use reason to survive on a desert island") a person has to conduct an experiment: to abandon several people of different origins and mentality on a desert island and observe the results. Only after so and so people have died which had mentality X (with all the additional problems of quantifying X), with variance of 4%, then you can be certain that man needs to think in order to survive on a desert island. This is ridiculous.

And check out person A's reply to that:

About your point: "This is ridiculous.". Yes, so? But if it is not done, than

the proof for your views can hardly be called "objective".

Input is welcome.

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"Can uninspired intellectuals make good Objectivists?" Not unless they are willing to change.

What is it that you see in this person that allows you to call him a friend? What is it that draws you to spend time with him? What is it that draws him to have discussions with you over other people? Maybe, value seeking. Maybe you should point out to this person that one seeks non-contradictory values to enahnce their life and an understanding of Objectivism can do just that.

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"Can uninspired intellectuals make good Objectivists?" Not unless they are willing to change.

What is it that you see in this person that allows you to call him a friend? What is it that draws you to spend time with him? What is it that draws him to have discussions with you over other people? Maybe, value seeking. Maybe you should point out to this person that one seeks non-contradictory values to enahnce their life and an understanding of Objectivism can do just that.

This brings up a very good point Ray.

Aristotle distinguishes between three types of friendships, calling only one of them good. There is the relationship of pleasure (be it "partying", their beauty, sex, etc.), the relationship of utility (what can he do for me?), and the relationship of character (He has certain good character traits that I like). Aristotle makes it clear that only the last is the best and proper type of friendship.

I use this distinction all the time when I have friends. Are we friends-because he is beautiful? Are we friends-because he is rich and will buy a movie for me, or dinner, etc.? Or-are we friends, because he has some good character attributes-ie., he is always honest to others, and faces facts when they happen. Or, he is very hard working and extremely intelligent, ie. productive.

If you are friends with him for a proper reason, maybe you can try to find out why? Does he have a few good virtues? Does his sense of life match yours? Etc. This might be a good starting point in understanding his values and his commitment to them (virtues being, in a sense, a "commitment" to values). If you can't find anything like this, then why is he your friend?

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In the best case, the person has a positive and basically rational sense of life that responds to the heroes and events of the fiction works. However, there can be all kinds of negative emotions (and an overall pre-existing psychology) that can attract someone to Objectivism. For example, the heroes can be viewed by some as agents of revenge or power rather than embodiments of independence and/or productiveness. So, an emotional connection is not always a guarantee of a long-term and rational commitment to Objectivism.

You're right, I meant positive emotional connection specifically. I don't take people with those negative emotional connections seriously.

But you see what I mean? Doesn't someone need an emotional connection to the philosophy, or to characters, or the author, to overcome the possible intellectual challenges ahead? I had a debate with this guy's friend, who was a strong proponent of multiculturalism, or inability of comparing cultures, and of undefinability of words like culture, which would necessarily reder cultures impossible to compare. Well my 'friend' was wholly on this guy's side, and desperately wanted him to debate me, and prove me words wrong. And here we have a passionate atheist with a love for science. I think he's having an affair with nihilism, a mistress of many of today's of modern science-loving passionate atheists.

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"Can uninspired intellectuals make good Objectivists?" Not unless they are willing to change.

What is it that you see in this person that allows you to call him a friend?

I'm not using the word friend in the formal sense of a close and intimate companion. I mean just an acquaintance with certain common values. It's on the basis of those common values that I'm deliberating whether the guy will appreciate Objectivism successfully. There can be plenty of good people who don't, but I was wondering if he was good enough to take that 'next step'. And if he continues in his evident affection to semantic nihilism, I don't think we'll have much in common in the future.

It's just such a contradiction, for a smart, thought-loving person with a distaste for mysticism and a love of science, to at the same time be utterly unfit for a strong definitions and a benevolent philosophy, to even vehemently against it. I guess that's what modern liberal education is good for nowadays -- producing such walking contradictions...

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It sounds very much like the 'formulas mentality' I was describing. Someone who seems highly intelligent, yet fails at concepts of philosophy.

If you take formulas (not just mathematical formulas, but any knowledge which is passed on to you as a set of rules) as fundamental representations of reality (as reality itself), then an intelligent person would be able to do very sophisticated stuff with it. Apply the formulas correctly to achieve actual results in the field (this is possible because those formulas were invented by someone who did bother to look at reality).

But philosophy requires a different kind of thinking - not application of formulas, but observing the most basic aspects of existence and forming principles from them. The 'formulas mentality' cannot do that. However, if you bring them a set of formulas to represent philosophy - and if it doesn't collide with other, well-accepted formulas - no problem.

I think you're absolutely right. That's why philosophy has been properly classified in the humanities, and not in sciences. It is not field of strict procedural thought formulas, but instead requires a lot of out-of-step thinking and many independent connections. In fact in philosophy almost all of the time you 'know' the conclusion before you can actually prove it, and you work backwards to prove in words what you already knew was right in your head.

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Doesn't someone need an emotional connection to the philosophy, or to characters, or the author, to overcome the possible intellectual challenges ahead?
I think what someone needs is a connection to values, and reality. A person defines their values and then the emotions come. In other words a person needs reason to define their values and hence one's automatic response. Your "friend" does not seem to value reason in every realm (and maybe only one, math) and hence why he seems to have little inspiration to achieve any other values.

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It's just such a contradiction, for a smart, thought-loving person with a distaste for mysticism and a love of science, to at the same time be utterly unfit for a strong definitions and a benevolent philosophy, to even vehemently against it.

It's not a contracdiction at all.

It depends on what values motivate him, how much they motivate him, and whether or not he respects reality. Observe that Ellsworth Toohey was smart, an intellectual, and rejected religion too.

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It's not a contracdiction at all.

It depends on what values motivate him, how much they motivate him, and whether or not he respects reality. Observe that Ellsworth Toohey was smart, an intellectual, and rejected religion too.

Yeah, I think I've fallen into the same mistake that people sometimes do... It isn't the love of thinking, or a distaste for mysticism, or a love of science, that make the most important things about a person, but his values. Those other things are secondary.

Well this person's values are still evolving, as he is eager to ask questions of both me and my intellectual opponents (in fact, eager to see us confront each other and strongly argue our opposing views). At the moment it looks like he will follow the path of almost every atheist, historically, into nihilism.

As I said, can an uninspired intellectual make a good person? It seems not.

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It's not a contracdiction at all.

It depends on what values motivate him, how much they motivate him, and whether or not he respects reality. Observe that Ellsworth Toohey was smart, an intellectual, and rejected religion too.

Yeah, I think I've fallen into the same mistake that people sometimes do... It isn't the love of thinking, or a distaste for mysticism, or a love of science, that make the most important things about a person, but his values. Those other things are secondary.

Well this person's values are still evolving, as he is eager to ask questions of both me and my intellectual opponents (in fact, eager to see us confront each other and strongly argue our opposing views). At the moment it looks like he will follow the path of almost every atheist, historically, into nihilism.

As I said, can an uninspired intellectual make a good person? It seems not.

Sometimes the love of discussing ideas has motives other than love of truth. There can be the desire to impress, intimidate or just destroy.

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