First of all Meghan, thank you for your prompt response. You'll note I actually have 3 (counting this one) posts on Ayn Rand and Objectivism, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the first one. And I apologized for the Fountainhead/Atlas mistake on the Skouksen card, that was my mistake, not the author's. Moving on...
It is fitting that Rand starts her defense with a romanticized, but mythical view of history. THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, FIRES BEING LIT AND WHEELS BEING INVENTED WASN'T MYTHICAL AT ALL. I DO BELIEVE THOSE THINGS HAPPENED. WHILE IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO ASCERTAIN THE EXACT ORIGINS OF THESE INVENTIONS, I FEEL CONFIDENT THAT RAND DID NOT PULL THE STORY ROARK PAINTS OUT OF YOU-KNOW-WHERE.
Give me a little credit here Meghan. The "myth" I am referring to is not that fire was created, it was the myth of the "Heroic Theory of Invention" that is explained and refuted in the Diamond card below.
AND YET, AREN'T WE LOOKING AT WATT'S PARTICULAR ENGINE? I THINK SO. AND WHILE IT MAY HAVE BEEN BASED OFF OF NEWCOMEN'S ENGINE, WATT'S ENGINE WAS DIFFERENT AND REQUIRED INDIVIDUAL, ORIGINAL THINKING. AND JUST BECAUSE NEWCOMEN HAPPENED TO COME UP WITH HIS OWN ENGINE FIRST DOES NOT MEAN, FOR ANY REASON, THAT WATT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO INVENT WHAT NEWCOMEN, SAVERY, PAPIN, HUYGENS, AND OTHERS DID...
Are looking at Watt's particular steam engine? I'm highly doubtful, I would HOPE that we've managed to improve on it in the past century and a half, just as Watt improved off Newcomen (etc etc). And while PERHAPS Watt would have been able to build his own steam engine without Newcomen's influence, we have no way of knowing and the fact remains that Watt's invention DID directly flow from Newcomen's. Hence the point I was making is that invention still has a strong social aspect involving many people, not just the creator who takes eventual credit.
While Ms. Rand is undoubtedly correct that many societies have opposed and oppressed their inventors, this does not change the immense value and importance of society in facilitating inventions either. THIS SEEMS TO BE AN OXYMORON. Had society maintained itself as a collection of isolated tinkermen, we'd be lucky to invented much at all. THE PHRASE 'NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION' SEEMS TO RING A BELL. DAVID ASSUMES HERE THAT A SOCIETY COMPRISED OF ISOLATED TINKERMEN IS A BAD THING. HE PROVIDES NO WARRANT AS TO WHY THAT'S TRUE, AND ASSUMES THAT HAVING A SMALL AMOUNT OF INVENTIONS IS ALSO A BAD THING.
I don't see the oxymoron at all. Some society's oppress. Some society's don't. Sometimes SOME of society oppresses while others don't. There are innumerable permutations of the situation, Rand's one size fits all history doesn't fit the facts. Next, assuming that the creation is a good thing (which Rand does herself way at the top when she talks about how our creation of fire, weapons etc has allowed us to survive, then it follows from Rand's own analysis that more creation is better as it gives us more routes and options in the eternal quest to conquer nature. Accordingly, the warrant to my claim "isolated tinkerman bad" is from the Diamond card, which implicitly shows "isolated tinkerman fail, cooperative tinkerman succeed."
This makes for far better prose than it does for an argument. People "think" for each other all the time. BUT IT'S THE ACT OF THINKING THAT IS UNIQUELY THEIR OWN. WHILE THEY MAY "THINK" FOR ONE ANOTHER, THEY MUST TAKE THE INIATIVE TO DO SO. Any invention which is multi-disciplinary (IE, most) MOST - YET HE DOES NOT PROVIDE US WITH AN EXAMPLE will most likely require various experts contributing their knowledge on specific areas of study to the greater whole of the invention.
No one is alleging a hive mind here Meghan. I'm only pointing out the cooperative nature of invention which Rand suppresses in her fetishization of the individual. Multi-displinary inventions? How about Space ships (rocketry, metallurgy, physics, and computers at least)? Fiber optics (more physics, computers)? Smelting (chemistry, metallurgy)? Loveless' spider thingy :)? Carbon-dating (anthropology, archeology, chemistry, biology)? The list goes on. And of course, considering the nerdy reputation of many tinkerers, often times they need to enlist the aid of another to build the thing after its been designed!
LOOK AT BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, OR ANY RENAISSANCE MAN FOR THAT MATTER. THEY WERE TRAINED IN A VARIETY OF FIELDS AND UNDERSTOOD MANY DISCIPLINES. I AM CONFIDENT THAT THEY WERE CAPABLE OF INVENTING THINGS WHICH COULD BE TERMED 'MULTI-DISCIPLINARY.' AND REMEMBER, IT IS THESE RENAISSANCE MEN LIKE BEN FRANKLIN THAT WE CAN EASILY CALL TO MIND AS GREAT MEN.
Renaissance men are very rare, and are getting rarer as the depth and breadth of knowledge increases expoentially. Whereas renaissance men were the wave of the past, specialists are the wave of the future. People with tremendous expertise in one area, working together to do things that none could do alone. Watch "Lorenzo's Oil" for example, or look up how Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA (that's right, Watson AND Crick).
BUT WASN'T IT HE WHO ORGANIZED HIS COHORTS TOGETHER? WHO TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO ACTUALLY ACT UPON GETTING HIS INVENTION CREATED AND REALIZING THAT HE COULD NOT DO IT ALONE? HE MAY HAVE RELIED ON OTHERS BUT IT WAS NOT IN THE SENSE THAT RAND TALKS ABOUT NEGATIVELY. Indeed, Jim West says himself "Loveless kidnapped two chemists, that means there's gonna be explosives. He's got a metallurgist, so there's gonna be heavy armor. And he's got...the world's foremost specialist in hydraulics. Which means, whatever it is, it's gonna move." The work of many minds all going into the creation of one invention. ONE INVENTION WHICH WAS THOUGHT OF BY ONE MAN - REGARDLESS OF HOW IT CAME TO BE. DAVID WILL SAY THAT THIS NEGATES RAND'S PHILOSOPHY. HOWEVER, LOVELESS DID NOT RELY ON OTHER MEN. DAVID WILL SAY THAT RAND BELIEVES THAT NOTHING IS WORTH HAVING IF IT NEEDS TO BE ACHIEVED BY A RELIANCE ON OTHER MEN. AND YET LOVELESS'S END MOTIVE - GETTING THAT STRANGE SPIDER MAN OVERRODE ANY OTHER DESIRE OF HIS, AND HE BELIEVED IN HIS INVENTION SO MUCH SO THAT HE WAS WILLING TO EMPLOY THE HELP OF OTHER MEN.
Ok, you clearly haven't seen the movie (which is a shame, as its quite funny, I highly recommend it). 1) Loveless didn't "employ" or "organize" the scientists, he kidnapped them. Slight difference. Two, he was dependent on the scientists in every real sense: without them, he couldn't have built his spider! That's a dependency no matter how much bobbing and weaving you try and employ. Three, the end goal wasn't really the spider, it was the destruction of the United States and the resale of it back to Europe so he could make a fortune and retire. But I digress.
This is where Rand gives a nod to the impacts of others in the creative process. But far from being ancillary or tertiary to the process, the dialogue and exchange IS the process. BUT RAND BELIEVES IT'S THE END PRODUCT OF THINKING - SOMEONE ELSE'S THINKING - THAT ULTIMATELY IS THE ONLY THING THAT CAN BE SHARED AMONG HUMANS. BUT PEOPLE DON'T SPONTANEOUSLY SHARE THINGS. THEY MUST MAKE THE ORIGINAL, INDIVIDUAL EFFORT TO DO SO. So long as no man is the world's foremost expert on every subject, the need for social interaction and presumably the preservation of social models which ALLOW for such interaction is essential. YET MAN MUST POSSESS THE DESIRE TO GO OUT AND SHARE THINGS THAT HE KNOWS.
No one is disparaging the individual's role in all of this, Meghan. I'm an individualist too y'know. I just don't fetish them like Rand does. Individuals need to think to invent. Individuals also need to share their thoughts to invent. I don't understand why this is so hard to grasp.
Again, this is little more than clever wordplay. First of all, reasoning minds CAN (and often do) work under coercion. COERCION DOES OFTEN PRESSURE MINDS TO ACT IN MANY WAYS. BUT ULTIMATELY, IT'S ONE'S DECISION TO CHOOSE HOW TO ACT. THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS WORLD - BESIDES BEING DEAD - THAT DICTATES HOW ONE OUGHT TO LIVE. Many artists in the Middle Ages created masterpieces while under the knowledge that failure could result in death.
Well, casting aside the effect of mind-altering substances (Truth serums for example) in coercing people to act outside of their "free will," this is a remarkably, well, cynical view of what freedom means. I definitely prefer the Berlin definition (read my other post). I don't think coerced freedom is freedom at all. But let's take your argument at face value. You just claimed that no one is actually taking your freedom if you are coerced to act (by, say, threat) b/c its still ultimately your choice. Fine, that means ANYTHING in a Randian world is justified including slavery b/c technically I'm not taking away their freedom (they have the CHOICE to run away, even if it means they'll be shot). Meghan is going to respond that its not ok b/c its a dependency, but at the point where we agree that slavery is a "free" interaction (B/c the slaves can still make a break for it) it falls under the same category as the "free" contraction of labor that Meghan says is ok and DOESN'T count as "dependency" in an Objectivist world. She can't have it all ways. And as showed throughout all my posts, coercion and dependency come in many ways, some more direct than others (the environmentalism example I gave in other post, to name one). Rand creates an arbitrary line, but its just that, arbitrary, and falls apart under cursory examination.
Any artist who makes a commissioned piece has to subordinate their preference to the clients preference. WHICH IS WHY ROARK IN THE FOUNTAINHEAD NEVER ACCEPT COMMISSIONED PIECES. HIS CLIENTS SOUGHT HIM OUT AND THE CLIENTS THAT HE AGREED TO WORK FOR LET HIM WORK ON HIS OWN TERMS. WHEN IT DIDN'T HAPPEN - WELL, READ THE FOUNTAINHEAD TO FIND OUT HOW ROARK REACTED WHEN HIS TERMS WERE COMPRISED. An architect (as Roark found out) needs for his designs to meet certain criteria spelled out by the client. AS ROARK FOUND OUT? PLEASE READ THE FOUNTAINHEAD BEFORE SAYING THAT HE 'FOUND OUT' ANYTHING. I DO BELIEVE HE TAUGHT EVERYONE ELSE A LESSON - AND A DAMN GOOD OBJECTIVIST LESSON TOO. And for the vast majority of artists and inventors, without a client or patron, there is no creation at all. AND THE IMPACT OF YOUR ARGUMENT IS...?
In the real world, Roark would wither away and die for lack of money (read the Skousen article). Roark is living in a fantasy world that would collapse in approximately 20 minutes if it had to obey conventional economics (again, read the Skousen article).
This is what I was referring to when I talked about the paradoxical (SIDENOTE: ISN'T PARADOX DEFINED AS "TWO SEEMINGLY CONTRADICTORY IDEAS THAT ACTUALLY ARE TRUE"?) nature of Objectivism, preaching an opposition to enslavement while mandating a series of prescriptive behavioral norms. Who is Rand to tell me what my own mentality should be? SHE DOESN'T. SHE JUST EXPECTS YOU TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN, THUS KILLING TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE - 1) GETTING THE NOTION ACROSS THAT IT'S YOUR 'BEHAVIORAL NORMS' TO FOLLOW AND 2) YOU'RE STILL ACTING SELFISHLY IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO BE AN OBJECTIVIST - THIS IS HOW SHE GETS PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND HER PHILOSOPHY. While the slaves condition is evil because he didn't choose to be in that position, the altruist forms his life plan freely and in absence of coercion. At the point where Rand terms that lifeplan immoral, she is saying that man must not live in his own vision but in her own vision, a vision of selfishness. That's as oppressive a dogma as any I've heard. ACTUALLY, DAVID, RAND'S PHILOSOPHY IS THE ONLY ONE WHICH DOESN'T TELL YOU WHAT MORALS TO HAVE BESIDES ONE - VALUE YOURSELF ABOVE ALL ELSE. EVERY OTHER DOGMA IN EXISTENCE REQUIRES MUCH, MUCH, MUCH MORE OF YOU.
Paradox (par-eh-doks), n....3. A statement that is self-contradictory in fact and, hence, false. (from Webster's dictionary, the 2nd definition is yours which is also valid but not the only one).
Does Mill's dogma require more than that? I'm not sure...it certainly constrains my actions less than Rand's does. Rand is an oppression of the mind, while I might be able to do anything I want, I'm not allowed to think anything I want (for example, I have to think any action I take is for me, not for others. That's a restriction, and one I reject.). Yes, maybe one could justify any "altruistic" action just by saying "oh, its b/c I want to do it," but some of us don't think along those lines, and don't want to, and Rand doesn't give us that option. Hence, the restrictive dogma.
But yet even this can be inverted. We tend to value inventions based on some sort of teleological standard, that is, based on the value they have to our society. OR TO OURSELVES, MORE IMPORTANTLY. INVENTORS DON'T WORK BACKWARDS AND SAY: HOW DO I BENEFIT SOCIETY? THEY SAY: HOW CAN I BENEFIT MYSELF THROUGH THIS INVENTION AND PERHAPS AS AN ADDITIONAL BENEFIT GET SOME PEOPLE IN SOCIETY TO BE BETTER OFF? Rand herself implicitly acknowledges this by continually referencing the inventions that have had giant, positive impacts on our lives. THE LIVES OF THE INVENTORS. SHE DOESN'T MENTION SOCIETY MUCH AT ALL. AND WHEN SHE SAYS "POSSIBLE BENEFICIARY" SHE FIRST AND FOREMOST MEANS THE CREATOR HIMSELF.
Not always true ("necessity is the mother of invention," remember?). We built the A-bomb because the government decided it would be good for society (to win a war), and thus we went off and did it. Some inventions obey the reverse framework, some don't. Again, Rand's creating a false, one-size-fits-all history.
She talks about fire and weapons for hunting, but (correctly) ignores the stick figure I created when I was five. Why? Because the great inventions satisfy needs, they allow us to survive when we otherwise would perish, thrive when we otherwise would die. A society that has no need, has no need of inventions. And to the inventor that invents something that cannot be given to anyone, I say "who cares?" and society would tend to come down on my side, I think. AT LEAST THE MAN WHO INVENTED FIRE WAS WARM THAT FIRST NIGHT, CORRECT? HIS IDEA HAPPENED TO BE POPULAR AND CAUGHT ON - AND THOSE PEOPLE ACTING SELFISHLY DECIDED TO JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON AND START THEIR OWN FIRES AS WELL. THEY TOOK THE PERSONAL INIATIVE TO IMITATE THE ORIGINAL CREATOR BECAUES THEY LIKED WHAT THEY SAY (OR LIKED WHAT THEY FELT, IF WE'RE STILL ON THE FIRE/WARMTH ANALOGY).
This is entirely non-responsive. I was making a point about how Rand herself prioritizes inventions based on their societal worth, and doesn't seem to care about the stupid inventions (like my stick figures). Hence, the end point still stands, "A society that has no need, has no need of inventions."
This is a strawman argument if I've ever seen one. No man or women wishes for affliction on others so they can be the superhero, sweeping to the rescue. Instead, people operate in a little world Rand might like to visit termed reality. In reality, there is suffering, whether we like to admit it or not. Having come to terms with that truth, and recognizing that suffering is bad, we are under the obligation to ask, how should we deal with it? The answer varies depending on how you ask, (ISN'T IT: WHO YOU ASK?) but Rand misguidedly pre-empts the question by pretending that suffering only matters if we make it matter, and that by ignoring it ceases to be relevant. IN RECOGNIZING THAT SUFFERING EXIST, WE RECOGNIZE THAT THE ALLEVIATION OF SUFFERING - AS I'M SURE MOST PEOPLE WOULD AGREE IS THE MOST POPULAR COURSE OF ACTION REGARDING SUFFERING - ONLY COMES WHEN PEOPLE SUFFER. YOU CANNOT CURE SUFFERING UNLESS THERE IS SUFFERING TO BE CURED, WHICH CATCHES THOSE WHO WISH TO ALLEVIATE SUFFERING IN A VICIOUS CYCLE. A world with no suffering is better than one with it, even an altruist would admit. But in a world with suffering it is better to alleviate it than to ignore it. In such a world, the role of creators can't be ignored. But the role of those who distribute the creation, who give it life and meaning, can't be disparaged either.
The best attack you made on that paragraph was my grammar mistake (good catch!). Aside from that, this is blatantly ignoring the hierarchy I gave you in the last section (World with no suffering > world w/suffering and people aid > world w/suffering and people ignore it). Since this syllogism seems to elude you, allow me to rephrase it.
IF Suffering exists, THEN one should attempt to alleviate it. If the "IF" statement is false, then the "THEN" statement is irrelevant. But since the "IF" statement is true, the "THEN" statement becomes operative. That we might agree that it would be preferable that the "IF" statement is false has no bearing on the actual veracity of the statement. You are (or more correctly, Rand is) committing a basic "is/ought" fallacy.
There are at least three unwarranted assertions in that paragraph. First, that independence directly correlates with talent. RAND HERE IS TALKING ABOUT TALENT IN THE SENSE OF SELF-FULLFILMENT. THE MOST TALENTED INDIVIDUALS ARE THE ONE WHO SEIZE THE THINGS WHICH THEY ARE GOOD AT AND BECOME THE BEST AT THEM. Second that independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. IF YOU BELIEVE ANYTHING ABOUT OBJECTIVISM (WHICH NO MATTER HOW MANY IMPLICATIONS OF DAVID'S YOU MIGHT AGREE WITH, YOU PROBABLY BELIEVE A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE INHERENT SELFISHNESS OF MEN - SELFISHNESS IN A GOOD SENSE!) YOU'LL AGREE THAT WHILE IT MIGHT NOT BE THE ONLY GAGUE, IT'S THE ONLY POSSIBLE WAY TO ACHIEVE VIRTUE - WHAT'S THE POINT OF HAVING MORAL CODES IF WE DONT' CONSTRUCT THEM OURSELVES?
Ok, but talent can be defined in many ways by many people. Read some Derrida, or post-structuralist authors, words don't have static meaning like that, "talent" can also mean effectiveness at fulfilling a societal objective or external goal, for example. I don't know how many people believe that the inherent selfishness of man is a good thing (We haven't all bit from the poisoned apple yet!), but regardless, that's just a silly statement. While I happen to agree that moral codes should be majority self-constructed, both of us are in a distinctly minority position. Christianity and organized religion especially are examples of constructed moral codes meant to constrain action. Indeed, since the point of a moral code is to provide right/wrong guidelines for conduct (and presumably to stop us from doing "wrong" even if we'd want to), most people would ask the opposite question: "what's the point of having a guide to conduct if you create it for yourself?" Its silly for the same reason that letting, say, the movie industry police itself is silly, if they were going to act morally they wouldn't need to be policed at all, and if they aren't going to act morally then they'll just immorally create a conduct code that facilitates their immorality.
Third, that there is no standard of personal dignity except independence. NONE of these are supported by anything except Rand's meta-myth that one can create independent of a social context. I would instead assert a doctrine that is freer than Rand's intellectual enslavement: that one creates their own dignity, that that dignity can come in the form of self service or in the service of others, and that neither Rand nor anyone else can disparage the moral code that one freely comes to for him or herself. The only obligation one has to others is to allow them the freedom to come up with and live their own code, free from your interference. THIS SOUNDS COMPLETELY, COMPLETELY RANDIAN TO ME. COMPLETELY. John Stuart Mill > Ayn Rand any day of the week. While the altruist is a slave to others, the egoist is a slave to him or herself. What's needed is a moral code that doesn't enslave anyone to anything, and Objectivism isn't it.
Nope, its my man John Stuart Mill. The distinction comes in the form of less intellectual restrictions and a more comprehensive def. of liberty (The Harms Principle). Its not Randian because Rand would object to the "service of others," only allowing it in the context of serving oneself. Since Mill would allow both "service to others" and "service to self" (so long as in taking either action you don't violate the Harms Principle), his philo is freer than Rand's is.
This is flat out false. First of all, rulers do create something, namely, they create the reality of the state they rule. WHERE'S THE WARRANT FOR THIS? THEY CREATE WHAT THEY THINK OUGHT TO BE THE NORM FOR ALL STATES. Second, most rulers (or at least the tyrannical ones) aren't really dependent on their subjects at all. They usually have enough wealth and power that they can buy whatever they need through "free" contracts, though they might choose not to. BUT THEN WHY DO THEY WANT TO RULE? WHY DON'T THEY JUST BE WEALTHY AND POWERFUL AND LEAVE IT AT THAT? BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO FULFILL THEIR DESIRE TO RULE THROUGH THE SUBJUGATION OF INDIVIDUALS, THUS BECOMING DEPENDENT UPON THEM. They are not living for their subjects, they live for themselves and their subjects are valuable to that end OF THE SELF. This may violate Rand's tenant to not use men as means, but it doesn't make the tyrant less of an egoist. They just are egoists that Rand finds distasteful. NOT DISTASTEFUL - BUT ALTOGETHER IMPOSSIBLE. THEY ARE NOT EGOISTS ACCORDING TO THE RANDIAN DEFINITION.
They create state via passing laws, enforcing laws, etc.. I thought that was self-evident. They might want to rule b/c they know that, while they COULD be reasonably powerful and wealthy just sitting there, they can be even more wealthy and powerful by being oppressive and cruel. The Randian definition, as far as I can see it, is "an egoist is an egoist when its convenient for me to label it an egoist" b/c I can't see ANY other linking thread through her arguments. The tyrant is no more dependent on his subjects (and probably less so) than the inventor to his builders, or the creator to his cohorts.
THE APPEAL TO SELF-INTEREST COMES AT THE SELF-INTEREST OF THE RULER, AND IT'S THE INDIVIDUALS WHO DECIDE TO ACTUALLY GO AHEAD AND DO THINGS SUCH AS KILL, MURDER, ROB, AND RAPE THOSE OPPORESSED.
But it was in the self-interest of the German's to take that action. If I'm a German, I'm unquestionably better off now that I have the Jewish farmland next door, and the Jewish painting brightening my living room, and the Jewish life savings in my bank account. Self-interest is an inadequate check on rights violations.
I would point out that Rand is lying, again, but it just seems redundant at this point. Pop quiz: when would you prefer to live? In 1890, Industrial Revolution America, when the Gospel of Wealth and social darwinism lead to much the same conditions as Rand proposes? AS LONG AS I DIDN'T GROW UP WHEN PROHIBITION WAS AROUND THEN I'M A-OK WITH WHATEVER DECADE YOU SLAP ME WITH. Or today, where morality is deigned to include service to others, where we laud the patriots who gave their lives for our country, where corporations are expected to behave honestly and serve humanity and not just the bottom line? PROVE TO ME THAT WE LIVE IN THIS SOCIETY. BECAUSE I HONESTLY DON'T THINK WE DO.
Hmm, well then you're more stoic than I thought. But while we don't live in the ideal era YET, we're at least closer. We DO honor our soldiers today, and we do have outrage when we hear that Shell helping kill off natives in Indonesia, and we do get pissed off upon finding out that companies are dumping toxic chemicals in our water (ever seen "Erin Brockovich?"). We aren't there yet, but I think we're moving in the right direction. But if you'd rather live in an 1904 world than a 2004 world, be my guest.
SURE THE ROBBER BARON MAY HAVE BEEN DEPENDENT ON OTHERS. BUT I'M NOT CLAIMING HE WAS AN EGOIST AT ALL. NEITHER DOES RAND. ONLY INDIVIDUALS LIKE ROARK - WHO DON'T WORK FOR THE END OF ACCUMULATING MONEY (LIKE THE ROBBER BARONS) AND WHO WORK FOR NOTHING BUT THEIR OWN SELF-EDIFICATION AND ENJOYMENT - ARE ABLE TO BE CALLED EGOISTS.
The point of showing the dependency of the robber barons was to point out that everyone is dependent (see also the environmentalism example I gave in my other post). There is not a single totally independent person in the world, nor can there be one. Its just not possible.