PhilO

Objectivism, Intelligence, and Cultural Change

36 posts in this topic

Actually, my experience in college has led me to believe that my level of intelligence is rare and that understanding such as my own does not come easily to most of the population. I'm worried that I might be conceited, but it seems true to me...

One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence. (Another is an intense desire to know the truth regardless of upbringing or current cultural "certainties" that are falsehoods.)

If the average human had what is now a very rare intelligence (including among even Objectivists), above, say, IQ 180, I think Objectivism would now be the dominant philosophy. Religion, and its secular variants, is too blatantly stupid for a world of smarter humans to take seriously on a large scale.

As it *now* stands, I don't think Objectivism can be the dominant philosophy in the world. Evolution is never at rest though. It isn't usually noted, but consider what would happen to most of the population of the earth in the Atlas Shrugged collapse - except for those intelligent enough to be somewhere else when it happens, whose smarter children will make better use of a formerly underappreciated world that will be a lot less cluttered with stupidity.

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Actually, my experience in college has led me to believe that my level of intelligence is rare and that understanding such as my own does not come easily to most of the population. I'm worried that I might be conceited, but it seems true to me...

One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence. (Another is an intense desire to know the truth regardless of upbringing or current cultural "certainties" that are falsehoods.)

If the average human had what is now a very rare intelligence (including among even Objectivists), above, say, IQ 180, I think Objectivism would now be the dominant philosophy. Religion, and its secular variants, is too blatantly stupid for a world of smarter humans to take seriously on a large scale.

As it *now* stands, I don't think Objectivism can be the dominant philosophy in the world. Evolution is never at rest though. It isn't usually noted, but consider what would happen to most of the population of the earth in the Atlas Shrugged collapse - except for those intelligent enough to be somewhere else when it happens, whose smarter children will make better use of a formerly underappreciated world that will be a lot less cluttered with stupidity.

What do you mean by this? I.Q. isn't intellectual honesty...

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One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence awesomer sense of life.
My correction :)

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Actually, my experience in college has led me to believe that my level of intelligence is rare and that understanding such as my own does not come easily to most of the population. I'm worried that I might be conceited, but it seems true to me...

One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence. (Another is an intense desire to know the truth regardless of upbringing or current cultural "certainties" that are falsehoods.)

If the average human had what is now a very rare intelligence (including among even Objectivists), above, say, IQ 180, I think Objectivism would now be the dominant philosophy. Religion, and its secular variants, is too blatantly stupid for a world of smarter humans to take seriously on a large scale.

As it *now* stands, I don't think Objectivism can be the dominant philosophy in the world. Evolution is never at rest though. It isn't usually noted, but consider what would happen to most of the population of the earth in the Atlas Shrugged collapse - except for those intelligent enough to be somewhere else when it happens, whose smarter children will make better use of a formerly underappreciated world that will be a lot less cluttered with stupidity.

If that is true, how did the enlightenment and the creation of America happen?

The USA was created pretty darn close to perfect, and the stuff that people achieved during the gilded age is incredible. The application of reason during that age is enough proof to me that Objectivism can become the dominant philosophy.

I am aware that the enlightenment did not occur over the entire world during that time period, but it did occur in all the important areas to shape the entire world into a far more rational place and the shockwaves are still expanding from that single era in history.

With every philosophy, there are the experts who know every intricacy, and there are people who know bits and pieces of it. (i.e. The common sayings derived from Kant and other philosophies, pointed out by Ayn Rand in her speech in "Philosophy, Who needs it").

With Objectivism becoming dominant, I would see it as being taught in every university. All psychologists applying it, to help people when they have huge troubles. And the majority of the people having read Ayn Rands works, and living by certain fundamentals in their lives such as reason over faith, focusing on values rather than being overwhelmed by problems. Individual freedom is to be welcomed rather than feared, and above all, be honest to yourself at all times.

When I look at the world today, I don't see it as that hard a problem. Most people say one thing, but live by another set of ethics. And when I see what is being achieved in science, or being built each day, I think it is just a matter of finding some way to tell people "It is alright to be selfish, rational self interest is the greatest force for good in human history" so people can live explicitly by what they were previously choosing.

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I strongly disagree, but this is getting off topic. Maybe a new thread on common denominators of Objectivists would be a good idea.

That thread could be interesting. I stand by my assessment of intelligence, however. How many Objectivists - by which I mean people who really take the ideas seriously and understand and personally apply them - do you know that have

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If that is true, how did the enlightenment and the creation of America happen?

The USA was created pretty darn close to perfect, and the stuff that people achieved during the gilded age is incredible. The application of reason during that age is enough proof to me that Objectivism can become the dominant philosophy.

The question is, *by whom*? In any age, it's the rare thinkers+doers who make all the difference. They could succeed in America because of the brilliance of another set of rare thinkers, the Founding Fathers. But observe the ironic conclusion to your observation in the form of America today. How did it get from 1776 to 2008? Bad philosophy played its part, but philosophy is impotent without men to implement it, one at a time. Why have some men actively rejected those bad philosophies but most have not? In my view, in very large part it is because religion, and Kantianism as the distilled essence of it, actively assaults the mind and elevates emotionalism above the mind, and that is a *comfort* to those who don't have much of a mind to lose in the first place.

Those who have eagerly grasped and adopted Objectivism who are uncomfortable with this view should honestly ask themselves why it is that the vast (99%+) majority of others they talk with - who grew up in the same culture - have no interest in Ayn Rand's writings, including those who *have* read her. If simply reading her writings were sufficient, there would be over 20 million Objectivists in the world today. There is no convincing argument in my awareness that that number is even as high as 0.1% of that figure (20,000).

There are certainly many intelligent, and a few extremely intelligent, individuals in America and the rest of the world today, but their efforts are increasingly undermined and suppressed by a tide of a faith-driven ideas accepted by the vast majority who do *not* wish to exercise what limited capacity to think that they possess. And that's the problem.

As Ayn Rand stated in the introduction to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:

The political aspects of Atlas Shrugged are not its theme. Its theme is primarily ethical-epistemological: the role of the mind in man's existence—and politics, necessarily, is one of the themes consequences.

The mind, and intelligence, are intimately correlated.

Note that Eddie Willers was a completely honest man but his fate is *still* left undetermined in the novel - precisely because he only has average intelligence.

Intelligence is not *sufficient* for a man to grasp and apply a fully rational philosophy, but it is *necessary*.

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I was initially attracted to Objectivism because of my sense of life and intellectual honesty.

Objectivism taught me how to think, and in doing so increased my intelligence.

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What do you mean by this? I.Q. isn't intellectual honesty...

I agree. I have observed that abstract intelligence is orthogonal to goodness, wisdom, honesty and integrity. All the I.Q. score tells is how well the test subject answers the questions on the test.

Example: The Unabomber was a PhD mathematician and a rather good one. He was not a sterling character.

Albert Einstein, who was one of the most intelligent humans to walk on the earth, was a socialist and a collectivist.

Plato was extremely brilliant, but he wrote the instruction manual for every nasty totalitarian regime, to wit, -The Republic-.

Bertrand Russel was extremely intelligent but his political outlook was horrendous. He was no friend of liberty.

Werner von Braun was a brilliant engineer, but a moral imbecile. He made a Faustian deal with the Nazis to get to build his toys. And he really looked good in his S.S. uniform.

And so on and so on.....

ruveyn

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I think that there are two factors here. The first is that for someone to commit the time and energy to study Objectivism means that they take ideas seriously. Obviously people who neglect ideas aren't going to develop their minds to a great extent, so this leaves intelligent people. The second is that having studied Objectivism and integrated it to any extent means a lot of housecleaning in the subconscious. I personally don't think that Objectivism requires high intelligence to understand, but it does draw the best minds first and makes them even better.

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Intelligence involves different, typically well-integrated, mental capacities. In general, I tend to think of it as mental ability and "power." I agree with Phil that intelligence is necessary, but not sufficient, to grasp and apply a fully rational philosophy (especially the "apply" part of that). One of the other primary necessities is a rational and healthy psychology.

A person with either a semi-healthy or even unhealthy psychology can be greatly aided by a rational philosophy, especially if he is of at least average intelligence. However, a rational philosophy will not automatically transform an unhealthy psychology into a healthy one. Even highly intelligent people who grasp Objectivism intellectually, but who do not apply it to themselves (meaning, to their own psychologies), will not be able to either fully grasp or apply it. If such a person has an unhealthy psychology and/or malevolent motivations, Objectivism will be used primarily as a destructive force. By this I don't mean that Objectivism itself could be used destructively; I mean that it will be used as a cover for the person's destructive actions (in word or deed).

Of course, on the positive side, those who grasp Objectivism at whatever level their intelligence allows, apply it to themselves, and achieve healthy psychologies will do very good things and be happy.

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If such a person has an unhealthy psychology and/or malevolent motivations, Objectivism will be used primarily as a destructive force. By this I don't mean that Objectivism itself could be used destructively; I mean that it will be used as a cover for the person's destructive actions (in word or deed).

I can understand someone applying the epistemology of the philosophy without the ethics to cause great harm, evading everything in ethics, but how can the overall philosophy be used as a cover for destructive actions?

It is pretty hard to avoid that ethically, harming good people just harms yourself by destroying either examples that you can live upto, or what you can trade for directly or indirectly(not just financially). But if someone applies the epistemology but chooses the opposite of life ethically and didn't evade, I always thought that person would be led to suicide.

So I'm a bit puzzled by how the philosophy be used as a cover?

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One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence. (Another is an intense desire to know the truth regardless of upbringing or current cultural "certainties" that are falsehoods.)

I disagree with Phil's claims here.

I see the issue as: what factors attract people to Objectivism? Note that this includes people like Branden and Kelly. The subgroup of people who really get and live by Objectivism would be much smaller than those who claim to do so.

Of people I've known well enough to judge overall intelligence, the very brightest have primarily not been Objectivists (Stephen being one exception). The Objectivists I've known have had a range of intelligence, but not far from that of the general population. Some have read something by Ayn Rand (maybe a novel) but did not pursue things further.

Valuing truth in the sense of a firsthanded grasp of reality is exceedingly rare, even among supposed Objectivists. I'd say those who really practice Objectivism are necessarily firsthanders. However, there are certainly examples of supposed Objectivists who reveal themselves in time as secondhanders, especially power lusters seeking to cash in on Ayn Rand's name.

What I do see, however, is a certain level of interest in philosophical issues. The other common trait is at least a claim to intellectual independence. Some people come to Objectivism fooling themselves about the degree of their independence. Her strong endorsement of independence is warped into an endorsement of their own personality quirks, giving them an inflated and false self-esteem. Such people will eventually leave Objectivism for another group, such as the Libertarians or Kellyites.

Usually it is the novels that attract people, as was my case. I responded to who Roark was and knew what kind of person I wanted to be. For some, it is that spirit which attracts them. Maybe it is that image of strength that inspires them.

I think a man of average intelligence is capable of many things, including grasping Objectivism. Objectivists can take pride in having the right answers to very tough philosophical questions, and in adopting those answers into their own lives -- into their thinking habits, conscious ethical code, and personal hierarchy of values. There's no need to pursue ideas like we are smarter than average by virtue of being Objectivists.

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Intelligence involves different, typically well-integrated, mental capacities. In general, I tend to think of it as mental ability and "power." I agree with Phil that intelligence is necessary, but not sufficient, to grasp and apply a fully rational philosophy (especially the "apply" part of that).

If by "grasp" you mean "understand in a way similar to or the same as an expert in Objectivism does," then I agree. However, how much intelligence is needed to grasp (i.e. understand) Objectivism for the purposes of everyday life? The basic principles are very straightforward. And if you're arguing that higher than average intelligence is necessary to apply those principles, then the only Objectivist societies that will ever exist are exclusive groups of men like those in Galt's Gulch, because the vast majority of men are of average or below average intelligence. That's pretty much what average means, isn't it?

One of the other primary necessities is a rational and healthy psychology.

A person with either a semi-healthy or even unhealthy psychology can be greatly aided by a rational philosophy, especially if he is of at least average intelligence. However, a rational philosophy will not automatically transform an unhealthy psychology into a healthy one. Even highly intelligent people who grasp Objectivism intellectually, but who do not apply it to themselves (meaning, to their own psychologies), will not be able to either fully grasp or apply it. If such a person has an unhealthy psychology and/or malevolent motivations, Objectivism will be used primarily as a destructive force. By this I don't mean that Objectivism itself could be used destructively; I mean that it will be used as a cover for the person's destructive actions (in word or deed).

[emphasis mine]

Having suffered from clinical depression for essentially my entire life, I can't claim to have anything like a healthy psychology. However, since discovering Objectivism in 1998 I have never, not once ever, used it "as a cover for [my] destructive actions" (of which there are a good number); I have always recognized my failings as errors or evasions. "Will be used" means 100% of the time. That's just not true.

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I disagree with Phil's claims here.

You make good points, but I still ask, on what basis do you conclude that the actual Objectivists that you've met and known about, have an intelligence distribution not different than a random sampling of the population at large? Because that is not my experience. (Again, my view is that intelligence is necessary but not sufficient, speaking on the issue of those have a fractured/compartmentalized intelligence.)

In other words, if you took 100 individuals from the last OCON conference, and 100 random individuals picked from the phone book, and they all took IQ tests of your choosing, do you believe that the distribution would be essentially identical? ("You" here is meant to be anybody who's been to a conference and wants to comment.)

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If by "grasp" you mean "understand in a way similar to or the same as an expert in Objectivism does," then I agree. However, how much intelligence is needed to grasp (i.e. understand) Objectivism for the purposes of everyday life? The basic principles are very straightforward. And if you're arguing that higher than average intelligence is necessary to apply those principles, then the only Objectivist societies that will ever exist are exclusive groups of men like those in Galt's Gulch, because the vast majority of men are of average or below average intelligence. That's pretty much what average means, isn't it?

Over 20 million copies of Ayn Rand's work sold, where are all the Objectivists if all that's needed is the average? That simple question and the facts behind it, have a nagging habit of popping up around such claims.

The average is entirely contextual. Suppose that the Atlas collapse were so thorough that everybody outside of the valley perished. What, then, is the new human average intelligence/capability? This is an extremely important point.

I respect the efforts of those who consider it possible to change a country of 300 million religious individuals (either secular or supernatural variants, or a combination) into one that fundamentally respects logical reasoning on principle and is capable of doing so consistently. I've even done my part in that direction. It's also a metaphysically impossible task and there are better and far more certain ways to address the real problem, which is how to enable freedom for one's self (and like-minded individuals) in one's lifetime.

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Over 20 million copies of Ayn Rand's work sold, where are all the Objectivists if all that's needed is the average? That simple question and the facts behind it, have a nagging habit of popping up around such claims.

Not everyone who is aware of Objectivism accepts it, obviously. And I'm not claiming that understanding Objectivism will cause one to adopt it, just that it doesn't require boatloads of brains to grasp the basics.

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I disagree with Phil's claims here.

You make good points, but I still ask, on what basis do you conclude that the actual Objectivists that you've met and known about, have an intelligence distribution not different than a random sampling of the population at large? Because that is not my experience. (Again, my view is that intelligence is necessary but not sufficient, speaking on the issue of those have a fractured/compartmentalized intelligence.)

In other words, if you took 100 individuals from the last OCON conference, and 100 random individuals picked from the phone book, and they all took IQ tests of your choosing, do you believe that the distribution would be essentially identical? ("You" here is meant to be anybody who's been to a conference and wants to comment.)

I've met many, many people claiming to be Objectivists over the years. I've also met a handful of really, really brilliant people. If your claim is true, Phil, shouldn't those groups overlap significantly? The fact is they don't. Most Objectivists are no smarter than most other people. The difference is Objectivists are more explicitly aware of the integrated philosophical value of their minds.

But why focus on IQ or intelligence so much? Most people have about the same IQ. Who cares if one group is slightly higher than another? The average level of intelligence is more than adequate for living. Far more important is the choice to use what one has.

A nontrivial matter, too, is how to measure intelligence. IQ tests gave Richard Feynman an above-average IQ, and my score was even higher. Big deal. He's gone further in physics than I ever will. So what's the value of IQ tests?

Finally, I think the burden is on you, Phil, to prove the case. I've identified evidence counter to your claim, so I continue to be unpersuaded.

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I've met many, many people claiming to be Objectivists over the years.

That's true. I've been careful to provide an adjective that may have been overlooked: actual.

I've also met a handful of really, really brilliant people. If your claim is true, Phil, shouldn't those groups overlap significantly? The fact is they don't.

I am not focusing only on the brightest of the brightest - I'm focusing on above-average. There is a significant difference. That said, I have little doubt that given exposure to the philosophic ideas at a young enough age, those individuals would have a far higher probability of grasping and applying them than their age peers. I also have little doubt that even as philosophically confused adults, their chances of grasping the philosophy are also far higher.

Most Objectivists are no smarter than most other people.

Well, that's your claim, it doesn't match my observation.

The difference is Objectivists are more explicitly aware of the integrated philosophical value of their minds.

Why is that?

But why focus on IQ or intelligence so much? Most people have about the same IQ.

Intelligence mostly follows a Gaussian distribution. It depends on what you mean by "about". That thin tail at the right of the curve is the difference between "the cave and New York City". Ten million average people do not exceed or approach the ability of one Ayn Rand, one Einstein, one Newton, etc. In quantum mechanics, a single blue photon can initiate a process that a trillion red photons cannot.

Who cares if one group is slightly higher than another?

I'm not especially interested in those who don't deviate more than slightly from the average. I agree with your point in a way you do not intend: almost average people are unlikely to integrate Objectivism into their lives. The evidence is obvious, after scores of millions of Ayn Rand's books sold and a few thousand Objectivists in the world (max.)

The average level of intelligence is more than adequate for living. Far more important is the choice to use what one has.

Eddie was an honest guy. Was that enough? Intelligence alone isn't sufficient - but the flip side of that, is, neither is only honesty. Eddie's intelligence was adequate to live in a Valley; it wasn't adequate for a world disintegrating as a result of lots of other average minds using technology they cannot grasp beyond using it to kill each other.

A nontrivial matter, too, is how to measure intelligence. IQ tests gave Richard Feynman an above-average IQ, and my score was even higher. Big deal. He's gone further in physics than I ever will. So what's the value of IQ tests?

On that, I wouldn't argue a lot. Current IQ tests are very limited in the actual measurement of intelligence. Nothing personal, I know you are a smart guy, but not even close to Feynman, so in that instance the tests failed to show a significant difference (particularly on the high end.) On the other hand, I'd bet that *either* result would be sufficient to classify both of you as more likely, in advance, to be able to understand and apply the ideas, than those who got 100 on the same test.

Finally, I think the burden is on you, Phil, to prove the case. I've identified evidence counter to your claim, so I continue to be unpersuaded.

That's ok, as time passes I come to an increasing understanding of the unimportance of going to great lengths to argue a point. Reality is what it is.

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I would note that this distribution of IQ scores:

http://encarta.msn.com/media_461540296/dis..._iq_scores.html

is useful for concretely considering my point. While this distribution isn't necessarily useful to differentiate between the very bright and the real geniuses, that isn't important in this context. The current adoption rate of Objectivism in the population vs. Ayn Rand's books sold can be explained in relation to a single parameter that's intimately connected to the ability and desire to grasp and apply complex ideas - there is a *causal* connection. I would challenge anyone to provide a similar cause+parameterization for any other putative reasons behind the adoption of the philosophy (e.g. honesty.) It is not my experience than only 0.1% of the people I meet are essentially honest and 99.9% dishonest; but there is no such question in regards to high intelligence, most simply do not have it.

There are some important results if this is true. For one, that would mean that the low adoption rate is not a moral issue, and it isn't an ignorance issue; it's a metaphysical issue.

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I would note that this distribution of IQ scores:

http://encarta.msn.com/media_461540296/dis..._iq_scores.html

is useful for concretely considering my point. While this distribution isn't necessarily useful to differentiate between the very bright and the real geniuses, that isn't important in this context. The current adoption rate of Objectivism in the population vs. Ayn Rand's books sold can be explained in relation to a single parameter that's intimately connected to the ability and desire to grasp and apply complex ideas - there is a *causal* connection. I would challenge anyone to provide a similar cause+parameterization for any other putative reasons behind the adoption of the philosophy (e.g. honesty.) It is not my experience than only 0.1% of the people I meet are essentially honest and 99.9% dishonest; but there is no such question in regards to high intelligence, most simply do not have it.

There are some important results if this is true. For one, that would mean that the low adoption rate is not a moral issue, and it isn't an ignorance issue; it's a metaphysical issue.

Using the graph you refer to, there are 960,000,000 people of above average IQ out of 6,000,000,000 in the world. If there is the causal connection you claim, why aren't they all Objectivists?

You say it's not ignorance, but surely a huge percentage of that 960,000,000 have never even heard of Objectivism. You say it's not morality, but it's certain that a huge percentage of that 960,000,000 accept a morality that is mystical and/or altruistic, and view a morality of rational self-interest, which they call "selfishness," as evil. And as for metaphysical, do you really think that 5,040,000,000 people are genetically or physically incapable of understanding what, except for the purposes of those wishing to study philosophy as a discipline, doesn't have to be a whole lot more than "You can't wish things into being, you have to learn and think if you want to do anything, and you can do whatever you want as long as you don't force anyone to do as you say," and that they couldn't possibly have accepted those ideas if they had been raised with them instead of the nonsense they've been living under all their lives?

When Ayn Rarnd referred in Atlas Shrugged to a "simple idea available to the simplest man," I think she meant it.

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There are some important results if this is true. For one, that would mean that the low adoption rate is not a moral issue, and it isn't an ignorance issue; it's a metaphysical issue.

Do mean by the term "metaphysical issue" a matter of fact in the natural domain not subject to or dependent on human agency?

ruveyn

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I've also met a handful of really, really brilliant people. If your claim is true, Phil, shouldn't those groups overlap significantly? The fact is they don't.

I am not focusing only on the brightest of the brightest - I'm focusing on above-average. There is a significant difference. That said, I have little doubt that given exposure to the philosophic ideas at a young enough age, those individuals would have a far higher probability of grasping and applying them than their age peers. I also have little doubt that even as philosophically confused adults, their chances of grasping the philosophy are also far higher.

Is the issue: does intelligence correlate with adopting Objectivism? I think not. The primary is the extent to which they: value truth in intellectual matters; put reality first; and embrace their lives. In other words, it is essentially a matter of freely chosen values, not innate cognitive ability.

The difference is Objectivists are more explicitly aware of the integrated philosophical value of their minds.

Why is that?

Because in studying Objectivism, they learn the content of the philosophy, including that reason is our primary means of survival and the source of our values. Many people understand in limited degrees how valuable their minds are, but it takes Objectivism to see the integrated whole.
Who cares if one group is slightly higher than another?

I'm not especially interested in those who don't deviate more than slightly from the average. I agree with your point in a way you do not intend: almost average people are unlikely to integrate Objectivism into their lives. The evidence is obvious, after scores of millions of Ayn Rand's books sold and a few thousand Objectivists in the world (max.)

But why blame IQ, and not the widespread bad ideas that people start with?

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In other words, if you took 100 individuals from the last OCON conference, and 100 random individuals picked from the phone book, and they all took IQ tests of your choosing, do you believe that the distribution would be essentially identical? ("You" here is meant to be anybody who's been to a conference and wants to comment.)

Not a fair comparison. Why not compare Objectivists, intelligence-wise, to some reasonable *other* intellectual system, such as enviros, or socialists, etc. Maybe there is not that much difference in intelligence between Objectivists and other intellectually-fueled people.

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I have the view that it is a commitment to honesty that is the most important trait for people to become Objectivists, based off my own personal experience.

My own personal IQ is 165. Prior to Objectivism, I was almost diametrically opposite to the philosophy, on the very far left. Altruist(Who used intelligence as an excuse that people should 'sacrifice for their own good' to get things done). I believed that contradictions existed, and resented/hated other peoples success. My view at the time for resolving the emotions/reason dichotomy was 'Emotions were to choose goals, reason(not in the Objectivist sense, but raw brainpower) to execute them'.

When I read Ayn Rand, it was because at the time, Objectivists were becoming a pain in my plans, and were the only people who were capable of that. Just one single Objectivist who knew the philosophy well, could gridlock an entire forum of people into a big debate, preventing me from getting a 'consensus' on the things that I wanted, to push my agendas.

The reason I chose to read Ayn Rand at the time, was not to enjoy the novels, but to 'understand the enemy'. I knew back then "You can't fight what you do not understand." and I put my best effort into understanding the philosophy, because denying the enemy has a gun, does not stop the bullet from hitting you.

Reading those books at the time with the commitment to understanding them, essentially beat me. There was no way to evade who I was in those novels, and what the world would end up being like if I succeeded in my path at the time.

I realised at the time I had a choice tho, and resolved to become a better person using Objectivism as my guide.

That was many years ago now and it has required much hard work since then, to change myself to become a better person(of which it is still continuing, I will not stop the self improvement until the day I no longer exist).

During that time period, faced with many touch challenges in changing some aspects of myself(of which I won't go into here, due to it being too personal), there has been times that it would have been easier(in the short term) to throw in the towel than battle my way through them. But the questions then become "Do you want to drift in life without a philosophy? If not, what do you replace it with? If nothing else offers you a greater life as a rational man, why stop in the face of challenge?" which has required honest answers, and the fact that I remain an Objectivist today, shows what my answers were. Thus, my experiences have given me my firm view in honesty as the most important trait necessary.

PhilO says intelligence. But an intelligent man who knows his intelligence, why would he cripple it with lies? Some unfortunately do, but most don't in my observations(An engineer who lied to himself about how much metal is needed to build a building just because the cost is inconvenient, wouldn't get far).

Others say sense of life. If you truly enjoy living your life on Earth, why would you turn away from reality if you truly love your life? (giving rise to an implicit honesty).

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I don't think a high level of intelligence is needed for a person to become an Objectivist - if by "Objectivist" one means somebody who knows the philosophy well enough to use as a guide to his life. (As opposed to somebody who knows it well enough to write a book about an aspect of the philosophy.)

To become an Objectivist in today's culture requires that a person be interested in ideas. And that he wants to find the truth and is willing to follow it. Any person with normal intelligence can do that, but it also requires that he be willing to hold (and follow) ideas that are contrary to what his friends, family and other associates think.

Today, an Objectivist is going to hold ideas that put him in opposition to much of the rest of the culture - because Objectivism is so rare - and most people just aren't willing to be such an intellectual outcast. It isn't a matter of intelligence.

In my own experience, I've known some very intelligent Objectivists. I've also known many who I don't judge as being much above average intelligence, but who are willing to persistently work hard to learn what they know. And some are people who just don't seem much above average, but maybe they learned about Objectivism at the right time in their life, such that they didn't have many bad ideas or habits to overcome.

Why aren't there more Objectivists today? I can only attempt to answer that question by observing people I know who have been exposed to Ayn Rand's ideas, but who did not become Objectivists. Why didn't they? The people I know of who fall into this category aren't stupid. Some of them are intellectually lazy - they just aren't that interested in ideas. A few of them I think were afraid that if they followed Ayn Rand's ideas, it would turn their comfortable world upside-down, (because it would change or end many of their relationships) so they never allowed themselves to go there. In some cases their thinking was so corrupted by modern bad philosophy that they really didn't see Objectivism as being correct. In some cases, they may have been turned off by an Objectivist they met who had a disagreeable personality, so they never bothered to learn more.

So I think Objectivism is understandable (to the extent needed) by a man of average intelligence - or maybe a little above. And furthermore, to have a culture that is dominated by Objectivist ideas will not require that most people be Objectivists. It might be the case that most people still won't have much of an interest in philosophy, but they'll live by the good ideas that are everywhere in the culture that many of them will take for granted. A philosophy is like that - it can radically affect people's lives, even if they have no idea where the ideas came from, or even if they're not fully aware of the ideas they hold. For a negative example - look at the influence of Kant today, yet if you asked 100 average Americans about the ideas of Immanuel Kant, would they have a clue what you're talking about?

As an example of the influence of good ideas on a man of ordinary intelligence, consider the character of Mike the electrician in The Fountainhead. (He's one of my favorites among Rand's minor characters!) A man like him won't be an intellectual contributing to the explicit spread of good ideas, but by his example (and by his work of course!) he will contribute to the spread of the good. And... in a better culture, there will be many more men like him. But there only has to be a small minority of high-achieving intellectuals to spread good ideas.

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