OK OK, the Biggie: Atheism vs Theism!

Atheists like to point out the evil and atrocities committed by religious people in the name of faith. Theists like to point out the evil and atrocities committed by atheists.

The common examples that atheists present are: the Crusades, Northern Ireland conflicts, 9/11, Rwanda, infighting between Christian and Islam sects over the centuries, Spanish Inquisitions etc. The usual counter-examples that theists produce are: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pat, Mao, Enver Hoxha.

It is not my intention now to weigh the crimes of both sets and see which way the scales tilt. I want to make a few observations, and point out that this ongoing battle is futile and irrelevant.

First, in defence of atheism: it is hardly certain that Hitler was an atheist. It is certain that the others mentioned above were. Atheists usually like to say that no one has committed an evil action in the name of atheism. But I don’t think this is true. Atheists who use this weapon to attack theism will discover it is a two-edged sword. The truth is, atheists have committed evil, and Enver Hoxha ruthlessly persecuted the religious in Albania and tried to eradicate religion. In 1967 he declared his nation to be the first and only official atheist state in history.

Whilst there is no denying the link between communism and atheism, I have never seen a compelling argument to logically connect the two. That Communism is atheistic I will grant, given the history of communists. I deny that atheism leads to Communism. In fact, if one follows the philosophy of atheists like Ayn Rand, a rational worldview would lead to Capitalism. So, the fact that evil communists were atheists I maintain is irrelevant in and of itself for this very important reason: would these evil dictators have committed the actions they did if they didn’t subscribe to an extreme political ideology? I haven’t met one person who would say yes. To phrase it another way: out of the two elements, atheism and political extremism, which of them removed would change the actions of the perpetrators in question? Again, you must answer political ideology, not atheism. Even if atheism is linked to their political ideology (which itself was almost religious in nature), and which I deny, it is too nebulous to draw any conclusions.

Similarly, atheists who attack religion just because religious people have committed evil acts are just as guilty of flogging a dead horse as theists who attack non-believers for the crimes of people who were incidentally atheists.

Let’s say Hitler was a Christian. Is this a legitimate attack against Christianity? No. Granted, Hitler attributed many of his actions to Providence and referred to God and his Christian beliefs occasionally, but he was also an opportunist and manipulated people by using religion. The Church’s collaboration with Hitler is well-known and I will not reiterate it here. Suffice it to say that although Christianity has much to answer for when it comes to Nazism, I would not use Hitler as an argument against Christianity, because I don’t believe he committed any actions in the name of religion.

No one could fail to cite an example of a religious person who committed evil actions in the name of religion. There are so many to choose from I don’t need to list them in this article. There were atheists who committed their actions in the name of atheism. Whether the connection to belief or non-belief and evil is strong or weak, both sides have to concede the point. I am not particularly interested in weighing up the numbers and seeing how much each side has killed. (And let’s remember the dictators of the 20th century had 20th century weapons. Would anyone truly trust a thermonuclear device in the hands of any religious fundamentalist?)

Even if I grant generously that both sides are equally culpable, (which the history of religion and oppression makes incredibly dubious) the theist must concede there is something amiss here. What it means is that religious belief and faith makes no one any more likely to act more morally or less evil. Now, this makes perfect sense if you accept religion is man-made. If you think your religion is a gift from god that supposedly makes people act better, you have quite a burden to square the circle.

One final point about harm done by faith, and this speaks to suffering in an incalculable way. What about the emotional baggage and guilt that religion imposes on people? What about the morbid terror of hell, and the commandment to simultaneously fear and love a galactic dictator? What about the indoctrination of children’s minds with lies about how the world is? What about the genital mutilation of boys and (worse still), girls? What about lying to potential AIDS victims about the efficacy of condoms? What about treating women as second or even third class citizens and as the property of the male? All these things and more are done, as a direct result of faith. They simply wouldn’t happen if the perpetrators didn’t believe.

Rather than get into a slanging match between atheism and theism, and rather than repeat the same tired (and often flawed) attacks on theism, the purpose of this is to point out that the battle between atheism and theism is a non-event. It is not the right battle that atheists should be engaging in, and it is a pointless battle even if the theists win.

I am not trying to win people over to atheism. Atheism isn’t a worldview. It isn’t a guide to morality. It isn’t a philosophy. It is a term for those people who answer the question “Does god exist?” with a negative. That’s all. Most atheists I know have come to that conclusion through rational means, and their atheism is a corollary of their rationalism. However, one can be an atheist and be irrational. One could be an atheist and be an evil depraved irrational nihilist. It is irrelevant. This is why atheists who battle on such parochial simplicities as atheism versus theism are wasting their time, and fighting a battle they cannot win (unless of course the debate is simply which position is correct, which leads me to say…)

Being a theist or an atheist is important, because ultimately only one side is correct. But as far as truth goes, it doesn’t matter one jot which side causes the most suffering or evil, or who are the most immoral. Which position is actually true? I believe atheism is the rational position to take. Even if I didn’t like the idea of atheism (or theism for that matter, which I do dislike), I would still have to concede it is the correct position.

The real battle is much broader and grander than divine ontology though. The war is between rationalism and irrationalism; between interpreting the world rationally or taking some things on faith. What we need is a self-consistent worldview based on rational critical thinking and logic. Once rationalism wins, communism dies, chi is destroyed, reincarnation is obliterated, New Age nonsense goes the way of the Dodo, astrology is eviscerated, conspiracy cults are extirpated, and faith along with religion are deracinated.

I encourage atheists to distance themselves from atheism versus theism battles. Whilst it is true that only one position is truthful, counting the dead and citing history won’t ultimately achieve anything. Theists must take a step back and see that their religion is just another branch on the tree of irrationalism, and atheists must realise that atheism in itself is just a result of a greater broader rational worldview. Let’s fight on those terms, and let’s see who wins.

62 Responses to “OK OK, the Biggie: Atheism vs Theism!”

  1. ordinarygirl Says:

    I take the stance that these atrocities were committed by humans, both good and bad, with all different kinds of ideals. That’s why atheism on its own isn’t enough of an ideology, and I think most atheists agree. Most atheists are also rationalists, humanists, skeptics, perhaps even capitalists. They don’t see a conflict.

    Religion on the other hand wants to be the end-all-be-all ideology.

    But, outside of that argument, we’re all human. It’s what we let guide us that causes us problems, whether it’s greed, rationalism, empathy, or the imaginary man in the sky. None of them have to be mutually exclusive.

  2. bobcu Says:

    If somebody wanted to talk about what is most responsible for atrocities in the 21st Century, instead of more than one half century ago, theism easily wins 1st prize. It’s not a coincidence the most violent place on earth, the Middle East, is also the most religious.

    If somebody wanted to talk about which side is correct, the atheists or theists, he would only have to point out theism is a belief in an invisible man who lives in the clouds. It should be obvious to anyone who isn’t insane this belief is extremely childish.

  3. Favela Cranshaw Says:

    ordinary girl says:

    “I take the stance that these atrocities were committed by humans, both good and bad, with all different kinds (?) of ideals.”

    Good people committing atrocities?

    Not one mention of morality in your post, as if you believe it isn’t possible for an atheist be moral. If “what we let guide us” is up for grabs, rather than morality, then let’s all be atrocious.

  4. Efrique Says:

    In many cases such arguments are occuring because many theists make (factually false and logically irrelevant) claims that religion makes people behave well.

    Such arguments must be attacked on BOTH fronts, not simply on the fault in logic. Theists don’t generally advance arguments based on logic (and certainly the ones that use that argument), but on emotion.

    I’d happily drop that entire form of argument, but theists keep coming along and throwing the argument back into the ring, and I’m sure as hell not going to stand there and let them tell obvious lies in order to win converts…

  5. salient Says:

    I agree that the ‘battle’ is ultimately between rationality and irrationality, though I disagree that the ‘evil’ promoting politicized aspects of religious teachings (which atheism totally lacks) are also a large problem that we should not politely ignore. It’s fine to be polite to individuals, particularly moderate believers, but religionists are a problem.

    Fundamentalist theists do not restrict their irrationality to personal matters of faith, they seek political influence and attempt to impose their narrow morality onto others. So, it’s not merely a matter of whether or not there is a deity, it is also a matter of protecting human rights (anti-religionism).

  6. db0 Says:

    I pretty much agree with your article but it is unfortunate that the most classic defense of a theist against atheism is to bring the classic examples into the table. Whatever we say, it seems that people will not let go of this dead horse.

    However I dissagree with you last point. Rationalism does not defeat communism. Communism is not irrational

  7. Brian Says:

    One man’s hero is another man’s villian

  8. evanescent Says:

    In chronological order:

    @ Ordinary Girl: thanks for the comment!

    Favela Cranshaw said:

    Not one mention of morality in your post, as if you believe it isn’t possible for an atheist be moral. If “what we let guide us” is up for grabs, rather than morality, then let’s all be atrocious.

    Of course atheists can be moral. But the point of the article was that atheism does not necessarily lead to any conclusions in and of itself. It’s just the denial of Something’s existence. One could be an atheist and be a humanist, or a nihilist.

    There is indeed an objective moral code than one can have, but not all people subscribe to it, atheist or otherwise.

    @ Bobcu: thank you very much. I was inspired by Christopher Hitchens. I never identified as an anti-theist until I thought about it. I think most atheists are anti-atheists, whether they call themselves such or not.

    @ Efrique: I agree. We should not abandon the classical theism vs atheism argument altogether of course, because ultimately we believe we’re right. But it should be recognised that taking the position of atheism is like taking the position that the moon is NOT made of cheese; it’s just a matter of fact, and doesn’t necessarily mean anything more.

    We have to lead onto greater and deeper, and indeed proper worldviews, like humanism, naturalism, or Objectivism.

    @ Salient: I wasn’t suggesting for a second that we should be polite and ignore politicised religious teachings. I don’t care if we offend religious extremists or not! If this is how my article came across, I apologise because that wasn’t the intent.

    @ db0: I’m not totally au fait with Objectivism just yet as I’m still doing my research, so I won’t fully elaborate here, except to say that if one follows the rationality of Objectivism where egoism and laissez-faire capitalism are the necessary rational result of such a worldview, communism is necessarily irrational. I will post an article on this in the near future.

  9. saintlewis Says:

    a few quotes from Hitler himself:

    (from July 11th – 12th, 1941) “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity….[an] invention of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.”

    (Oct. 10th, 1941) “Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.”

    (Oct. 14th, 1941) “Christianity is the lair…We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State.”

    (Oct. 19th, 1941) “The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.”

    (Dec. 13th, 1941) “Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless…”

    (Feb. 27, 1942) “…but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. Our epoch in the next 200 years wil certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity…my regret will have been that I couldn’t behold its demise.”

  10. Clay Says:

    “Atheists like to point out the evil and atrocities committed by religious people in the name of faith. Theists like to point out the evil and atrocities committed by atheists.”

    Which is all well and good if you’re taking potshots at one another I guess. But the point of the discussion is whether there’s a “god,” not whether one side or the other is good or bad.

  11. evanescent Says:

    SaintLewis said:

    a few quotes from Hitler himself:

    (from July 11th – 12th, 1941) “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity….[an] invention of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.”

    (Oct. 10th, 1941) “Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.”

    (Oct. 14th, 1941) “Christianity is the lair…We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State.”

    (Oct. 19th, 1941) “The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.”

    (Dec. 13th, 1941) “Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless…”

    (Feb. 27, 1942) “…but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. Our epoch in the next 200 years wil certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity…my regret will have been that I couldn’t behold its demise.”

    A few more quotes from Hitler himself:

    1922: “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognised these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight…In boundless love as a Christian…As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated…For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

    Mein Kampf: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    John Toland in Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Autobiography, referring to Hitler’s religiosity around the time of the Final Solution: “Still a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite detestation of its hierarchy…”

    Clay said:

    Which is all well and good if you’re taking potshots at one another I guess. But the point of the discussion is whether there’s a “god,” not whether one side or the other is good or bad.

    I agree. If we’re talking about which is the rational position to take, it is important to disprove theism and establish the rationality of atheism.

    If we’re talking about which is good or bad, atheists should not argue the case of atheism; they should broaden their cause to rationalism, then, all else follows.

  12. seniorpastor Says:

    I agree that the discusssion is not as simple as athiesm vs theism. Neither is it as simple as rationality verses faith. All those who join the counter enlightenment critique of this dicotomy (see Isaiah Berlin The Crooked Timber of Humanity) join together in saying that before postmodernism came the counter enlightement which rejected the simpliicty of such dualistic thinking after all Kants Critique of Pure Reason was a critique. Even as a rationalist he was searching for a new paradigm. Everyone of us who claims a personal faith in God has some moments of athiesm in our story. (see wacathedral.org) And I suspect that as Alister McGrath writes in the Twilight of Athiesm that many formal athiest look for an authentic interpretation of the universe that will express both their honest questions and equally earnest hopes.

  13. tobe38 Says:

    @ seniorpastor

    I think you may have been reading a bit too much Alister McGrath – I’ve read your comment three times and I still don’t know what you’re getting at.

  14. saintlewis Says:

    evanescent…
    given that my quotes were from private diaries, and yours from broadly published material, it becomes very clear that Hitler said what he had to in order to control the liberal Church in Germany, while it was to his advantage. There also exists partial plans, and documented conversations of how, when the time was right, he planned on doing away with that same church. Good try, though.

  15. funfacts Says:

    I was searching for this kind of a blog for months now. Actually lost the hope of finding one, but here i am :) Thanks for the great articles! Looking forward for a little read after dinner :)

  16. evanescent Says:

    @ Saintlewis: I wasn’t “trying” to do anything. You seem to have some interest in painting Hitler to be a Christianity-hater, whereas you think my interest is in painting him to be a Christian. But you’re mistaken. I was countering your quotes of anti-Christianity with pro-Christian ones, to balance the picture. Perhaps you’re right. I have no vested interest either way. The points of the article are that:
    1. with Hitler it is not entirely clear either way, and 2. it’s irrelevant

    @ funfacts: Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy my articles!

  17. evanescent Says:

    Seniorpastor said:

    All those who join the counter enlightenment critique of this dicotomy (see Isaiah Berlin The Crooked Timber of Humanity) join together in saying that before postmodernism came

    What do you mean, postmodernism? Can you fully clarify in what context you mean this, and why?

    …the counter enlightement which rejected the simpliicty of such dualistic thinking after all Kants Critique of Pure Reason was a critique. Even as a rationalist he was searching for a new paradigm.

    I reject Kantian rationalism. Rationalism in this sense is not the sense that I mean it here: I mean it as a worldview based on rational and logical thinking. I’m not referring to philosophical rationalism. (Although I should add that Kant tried to amalgamate rationalism and empiricism.)

    And I suspect that as Alister McGrath writes in the Twilight of Athiesm that many formal athiest look for an authentic interpretation of the universe that will express both their honest questions and equally earnest hopes.

    This is typical McGrath rhetoric: verbose, colourful, imaginative, and totally empty.

    Atheists can find an interpretation of the universe that answers their honest questions and honest hopes. The difference is that atheists won’t believe something on faith, just because they want it to be true.

    Rationalism rejects wishful-thinking.

  18. Clay Says:

    I caught some of McGrath on some BBC documentary. I think in the 45 minute raw footage he may have managed to say two coherent things, neither of which was true.

  19. saintlewis Says:

    Seriously? I’ve been reading McGrath for years (he even asked me to help edit the 2nd edition of one of his books, but I was too busy), and find him to be a clear communicator, who is also refreshingly cautious to not overstate his case, or play fast and loose with the evidence. I really enjoy his work.

  20. Snark7 Says:

    Regarding Hitler… please forget the old canard, that “the Nazis were Atheists”. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
    According to the census, performed by the protestant church in the middle of 1939 in Germany, after SIX years of Nazi Rule,
    a whopping 95% OF ALL Germans were christians, 98.5% of all germans “God-believers”.
    Now does that sound as if the “Nazis were Atheists”, suppressing christianity ?

    Nope, they weren’t. In fact nearly all Nazis were christians, with a very small and negligible percentage of atheists.

    But of course, after the war the churches had the money and the means to promote their lies. Well helped by the western allies who needed an influence against the “godless communists”.

    And well, from the common germans point of view…. : Well, it was very nice to hear, that the “nazis were atheists and suppressed and persecuted the poor poor christians”. Because, as oneself was a christian, why, then one would nearly be a “victim by association” ! Incredible. From murderous religious bigot to “victim” in one easy step.
    How convenient!
    And thats how this blatant lie came to pass.

  21. evanescent Says:

    @ Saintlewis:

    You’re welcome to your opinion of McGrath of course, and I don’t mean to be aggressive in my opinion of him. But in my opinion the man is full of hot air.

    I’ve seen him debate for hours at a time and say virtually nothing of interest. He obfuscates, evades, nebulises, and dithers on and on, but says nothing.

    He blatantly contradicts himself (like saying that the choice to worship god is a FREE choice, ignoring the fact that if we CHOOSE not to, we go to hell and burn forever), he still attacks strawmen of atheism (like saying life is hopeless and cannot be emotionally satisfying without religion), and pretends that there is some kind of evidence for god (the same old teleological or anthropic fine-tuning articles). Worse, when he does try and counter-attack the likes of Dawkins, he does a terrible job at representing the views he is supposed to be criticising. In short, if he had read and understand half of what he tries to criticise, he wouldn’t be able to!

    Having said all of that, I wrote about McGrath recently and said that apart from his annoying religiosity, equivocating, evading, double-standards, and bullshit, he is probably a very nice man! I wrote about him here:

    http://ellis14.wordpress.com/2007/10/21/christopher-hitchens-versus-alistair-mcgrath/

    So did a friend of mine here:

    http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com/2007/03/12/the-santa-claus-analogy-%e2%80%93-too-complicated-for-alister-mcgrath/

    If I talked to him about something other than religion, I would probably like the guy!

    @ Snark7:

    There’s no doubt there’s been a concerted effort to re-write history by some christians. This is in keeping with their need to play the victim, and pretend that they’re being persecuted (like Jesus), despite the fact that they are the majority of the Western world and have untold undeserved privileges.

    In terms of political liaisons, christianity is not alone. Religion has always meddled in politics and sought earthly material temporal power. Religion has always tried to have its views established as the law of the land, and it has a history of inextricable bedfellowship with whatever government is in power at the time. That is not to say it has always succeeded, but the religions of any size that didn’t try to ally themselves with political bodies are very rare indeed. The Vatican probably saw the power of Hitler and saw an opportunity.

    I’m reminded of Jesus words: “my kingdom is no part of this world.” Do you think the church missed this verse?

  22. Geno Says:

    evanescent,
    To your comment “I’m reminded of Jesus words: “my kingdom is no part of this world.” Do you think the church missed this verse?”

    I think that the church has very much missed the point. But what that tells you is that when we do these “bad” things, it is because we are going against what Jesus says in the Bible – not because of what is said.

    That is why it is easy for me to say that even if Snark’s figures about the Nazis is correct, it says nothing about Christianity other than those people are disobedient to the teachings. All the bad things are because the so called proponents are going against, not being supportive of the faith.

    However, the atheist bad guys are doing exactly what you would expect “godless” people to do (which is the exact same as disobedient Christians.)

    But I am wondering if your choice to give up on the “Christians do all the bad in the world” comes on the heals of the beating Christopher Hitchens took a couple of weeks ago in his debate with Dinesh D’Souza? Hitchens all but surrender this point also (although I am sure that we won’t see any revisions in his book.

    Any way, your comment about Jesus’ statement about His kingdom is totally correct! ;)

  23. Snark7 Says:

    Hello Geno,

    the figures are correct. They were released into the public in 1939 by the protestant church of germany. I have to check a book at home for the correct reference of publication.
    However, I find your argument very weak indeed. It’s just a “no true scotsman” argument stated a bit differently and as such can be used as a “card blanche” for absolutely every religious or political ideology. I could state “torture your neighbours babies to death” and excuse it with your argument.

    You are missing the point though. My example doesn’t mean: “Christians are worse people than atheists”.

    My example means:
    The (often stated) claim of the faithful that believe in a higher being is the only surefire prevention against such atrocities is completely false.

    The claim, that believers in a higher being are morally superior is proven false.

    And above all: The well-liked claim “the Nazis were Atheists” is completely and absolutely false.

    However, as about 2 decades of discussions with the faithful of all kinds have teached me:
    Faith *requires* dishonesty against others and against oneself, so I don’t really expect this to change soon. ;)

    This -and the total profanisation and reduction of the “real wonders of the world” to the horrible, kitschy shabbiness of faith-, is what I hold most strongly against all kinds of faith.

  24. DaVinci Says:

    Evanescent, sorry I have nothing worthy to contribute here, but I have been keeping up with the conversation.
    Good topic.

  25. Geno Says:

    Snark7,
    You may be surprised, but I am agreeing with you. My position is that of a New Testament Christian, so I make no comment about any other religion – they may be everything that the atheist community says that they are. My purpose has been to keep evanescent from misrepresenting the Christian position (we christians do this well enough on our own).

    So, my position is not that of the “no true scotsman” fallacy. If you have ever peeked into the New Testament you will not see one mention that being a Christian makes you a better person – but what it does say is to do good, help the poor, the orphaned and the widows. So, if you are a Christian Nazi out killing people in an unjust manner, then you are not only NOT doing what the New Testament says, but you are actually doing the opposite.

  26. evanescent Says:

    @ Davinci, thanks for dropping by!

    Geno said:

    My purpose has been to keep evanescent from misrepresenting the Christian position (we christians do this well enough on our own).

    Fortunately, any comment I make about Christianity, or any position I derive from it, I will always support by a verse from the bible, or from the sayings of a christian.

    So, my position is not that of the “no true scotsman” fallacy.

    I half-agree with Geno. There are some positions specifically that define christians and some positions that exclude non-christians. But, there are so many sects and sub-beliefs that fall under christianity, that when one christian calls another “christian” not a proper “christian”, we are right to be cynical!

    My position is that of a New Testament Christian

    The New Testament says that “all scripture is inspired of god”, so if you’re a NT Christian, you are necessarily an OT Christian too.

  27. evanescent Says:

    Geno also said:

    But I am wondering if your choice to give up on the “Christians do all the bad in the world” comes on the heals of the beating Christopher Hitchens took a couple of weeks ago in his debate with Dinesh D’Souza? Hitchens all but surrender this point also (although I am sure that we won’t see any revisions in his book.

    First of all, D’Souza is a very intelligent, very learned, very skilled debater. He was better than most theist debaters I’ve seen, but that isn’t saying much, since most theists argue ridiculous positions.

    Most of what D’Souza said was arguing the same old theistic positions: argument from god of the gaps; argument from fine-tuning, and a ridiculous argument from determinism vs free will by using a pencil as an example……etc etc.

    I thought Hitchens let himself down in the interview because he didn’t respond to the philosophical problems that D’Souza raised. This is the only intelligent way left that Christians can use, I think. I only wish they’d be honest about what they’re doing. (In his defence, Hitchens is trying to quit smoking, which might explain his tender countenance and slight shaking in the debate (and when it had finished.))

    D’Souza’s claim that christianity led to the western capitalist world is ludicrous and preposterous. However, Hitchens claiming that christianity is the cause of every problem is a little harsh.

    Faith is the source of most man-made problems in the world. Hitchens was going for style and aggression, and although most of what D’Souza said was rubbish (most theistic arguments are), the philosophical issues he raised were important.

    The thing which atheists need to realise, is that christianity IS a worldview which offers all the things that a worldview and philosophical system SHOULD offer. Atheists must be able to support their own philosophy rationally and consistently. Unfortunately for theists, just because christianity CLAIMS all the right things, it does not mean it succeeds, because it is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

  28. saintlewis Says:

    “I’m reminded of Jesus words: “my kingdom is no part of this world.” Do you think the church missed this verse?”

    Sadly, we do forget – continually. This ‘forgetfulness’ of what’s right, and the tendency for even Christians to screw up continually is one of the things that lends credence to the Christian faith: is ‘original sin’ does not really exist, then something ‘natural’, but much like it, does. That much is for sure.

  29. evanescent Says:

    Sadly, we do forget – continually. This ‘forgetfulness’ of what’s right, and the tendency for even Christians to screw up continually is one of the things that lends credence to the Christian fait

    So the fact that Christians are continually unable to live up to the principles of their own faith is somehow supposed to lend credence to Christianity??

    if ‘original sin’ does not really exist, then something ‘natural’, but much like it, does. That much is for sure.

    There’s a better explanation: people aren’t perfect and we make mistakes. Imposing impossible-to-obey laws on mankind is not the hallmark of a loving authority, but a dictatorship. Notice that all totalitarian regimes demand the impossible; all cults follow the same trend: demanding a high price in any form and making you feel guilty for not being able to pay.

    Fortunately, original sin doesn’t exist. It cannot exist, because it requires you to believe the following: that moral responsibility is transferable from one person to another. And it isn’t. It cannot be. No matter how close we are, I can never pay for your crimes, and you can never pay for mine. Even if you torture an animal and kill it, it doesn’t stop me eating that animal for food; moral actions are not transferable to other moral entities. The notion that one man can be somehow mystically accountable for the sins of others, or just by being a certain race, is the height of immorality and injustice.

  30. Bruce Says:

    The standard belt-buckle of Hitler’s Wehrmacht contained the words “Gott mit uns” (God [is] with us) and Hitler on one occasion stated that he intended to suppress and persecute atheists as opponents of his goals. Whether Hitler himself was an atheist does not much matter, as he made sure to enlist both the “civic religion” of “Gott mit uns” as well as the Luther-inspired antisemitism endemic in much of the majority Protestant country at that time, not that the Catholic regions were any better in practice.

    What Hoxha, Kim, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot (and for that matter Hitler) had in common was that each created a cult of personality around himself, replete with shrines, pilgrimages, quasi-religious practices, blasphemy statutes, holy scriptures, assignment to themselves of god-like powers through their propaganda machines. To call those states “atheist” is to deny the explicit religious behavior, beliefs, dogma and religious thought police that those tyrants deployed in favor of their respective official gods: themselves! It’s like calling the Jim Jones or Heaven’s Gate cults “atheist.” Those societies imprisoned and killed those who failed to worship the local god, just as other societies killed the blasphemers of the sky god, the tree god, the toilet god, etc.

  31. evanescent Says:

    Hi Bruce, excellent comment. Thanks.

  32. db0 Says:

    It is indeed quite thought provoking (Bruce’s comment). I was not really aware of that reaction to their personality. It actually makes quite a lot of sense on why people would keep supporting them even though their action were despicable. Only trusting in a God who had infallible and mysterious ways can explain it.
    In a way, in those so called “communist” nations, the leader attained “god status”, in a way but forcing already estabilished religions to extinction or at lease severely obscurring them.

    @Evanescent: I find objectivism to be seriously lacking, which is why I fail to see the irrationality in Communism. If nothing else, it has a rationale behind it which is quite fair but fails when humans (conditioned as they are now) are concerned. I don’t want to derail the comments however so I’ll stop.

  33. evanescent Says:

    Hi db0, I will write a proper article on this in the weeks to come, but for now just to briefly explain why communism is irrational: according to Objectivism, man’s right is to exist. In order to exist he must discover how to live and best sustain his life. This is his right. Man’s right to exist cannot clash with another man’s right to exist, and man cannot be sacrificed to other men, or have other men sacrificed to him. That is, no man has any moral duty or obligation to sustain another man. He may CHOOSE to, i.e.: through charity, or for those people HE cares for, and HE values.

    What socialism and communism are based on is the idea that man with his individual rights (the only real rights that exist) can be sacrificed for “the greater good”, for the “collective”, for society, or for another man. This is inconsistent with man’s individual rights, because man has no responsibility to sustain another man, which is exactly what collectivist politics demands. Man cannot live to his best if his individual rights are compromised. If sustaining his own life by means of HIS own values is man’s rational self-interest, and the only way to live is rationally (for man), anything that requires the sacrificing for another being is irrational. Therefore collectivist politics violate individual rights and are irrational.

    Communism is not “fair”. There is absolutely NO moral season why all men must have equal income, equal homes, equal jobs. There is absolutely NO moral reason why, if you earn ten times more money than me and I am on the breadline, you are obligated in any way to help me or sustain my life. You might CHOOSE to, but to take YOUR money (by law) and share it among other people is a violation of YOUR rights. Humans beings do have a right to exist, but not at the expense of other humans.

  34. lichanos Says:

    You say:

    “Atheism … It is a term for those people who answer the question “Does god exist?” with a negative.”

    I would refine that a bit. Atheism is a term for those who do not accept the validity of the notion of god. That is, they are non-theists.

    This may appear trivial, but many believers will attack atheists with the challenge, “You can’t prove that God doesn’t exist!” And they’re right. Proving a negative is pretty darn hard. Ask Saddam Hussein. Ooops, he’s dead. But he couldn’t have proved to GWB that he DIDN’T have WMD even if he had wanted to.

    I don’t say that god doesn’t exist. I say I see no reason to accept the notion of god’s existence. No evidence for it. Just as I don’t accept the idea of faeries and leprechauns. There is an infinite number of ideas I reject by withholding belief because there is no evidence for them.

    Thus, I have always been an atheist. Born an atheist. (You have to be taught to believe in god.) Never have seen a reason to move from my non-theist stance.

  35. lichanos Says:

    evanescent:

    You cite Objectivism – I assume you refer to the work of Ayn Rand, whom I regard as a completely shallow pseudo-intellectual. Okay, my bias is clear.

    I won’t defend communistic regimes – I’m quite partial to the virtues of the Bourgeois Enlightenment, John Locke, Bill of Rights, Adam Smith, all those great guys. But your arguments strike me as very wrongheaded.

    First of all, where does this notion, Man’s Right to Exist come from? Is it written on some sacred tablet in some cave? Rights are not like minerals or scientific laws, discovered through inquiry. They are created and accepted by people. The right to exist is a good one, I support it all the way, but let’s be clear about it’s source.

    You seem to have a very limited notion of what is and is not “rational.” How do you recognize it when you see it?

    If it is not rational to sacrifice for another, is it rational to sacrifice another? That is, is it okay to be completely self-serving and destroy anyone in your path? That would be consistent – is that the kind of society we want? Would we choose it? If we do choose it, isn’t it rational to make a different choice, even if it’s not the one you would make?

    Finally, I would point out that society is created by collective action. The only reason that individuals exist, and have the ability to act selfishly is that collectively, we have created an economy, an infrastructure, a culture, that generates a tremendous surplus. Thus, we are all dependent on one another in the deep sense. You could argue that moral obligation springs from that. (See my blog posthttp://iamyouasheisme.wordpress.com/2005/01/16/its-your-money/)
    Ayn Rand’s point of view is based on a rejection of the historical facts about the development of society. Besides, if everyone acted as she counsels, we’d be back in the jungle.

  36. evanescent Says:

    First of all, where does this notion, Man’s Right to Exist come from? Is it written on some sacred tablet in some cave? Rights are not like minerals or scientific laws, discovered through inquiry. They are created and accepted by people. The right to exist is a good one, I support it all the way, but let’s be clear about it’s source.

    It is man’s identify as a moral being that gives him a moral right to exist.

    You seem to have a very limited notion of what is and is not “rational.” How do you recognize it when you see it?

    Man judges what is rational based on what is logical and consistence with reality.

    If it is not rational to sacrifice for another, is it rational to sacrifice another?

    No.

    That is, is it okay to be completely self-serving and destroy anyone in your path?

    No, because that would violate the individual rights of other people. The rational person would not want to violate the rights of other people because in such a world his rights wouldn’t be guaranteed, and he would encourage people to violate his rights.

    According to Objectivism, the rational self-interests of men cannot conflict.

    That would be consistent – is that the kind of society we want? Would we choose it? If we do choose it, isn’t it rational to make a different choice, even if it’s not the one you would make?

    But as I’ve explained above, this would be inconsistent with objectivism. Objectivism does NOT say “do whatever makes you happy.”

    Finally, I would point out that society is created by collective action. The only reason that individuals exist, and have the ability to act selfishly is that collectively, we have created an economy, an infrastructure, a culture, that generates a tremendous surplus.

    Society is a collection of individuals with common interests. You are absolutely correct that individuals need to trade with other people, share skills, exchange ideas, acquire the means to better our lives whilst at the same time giving things so that others can benefit their’s. But this is rational SELF-interest. No one works for nothing. Nobody exchanges money in exchange for nothing.

    Objectivism doesn’t say that a man is an island. It is NECESSARY for man to trade and to hold property; it is the very basic means of survival after all. His right to own property is a necessary attribute of his identify. His free control over his own property allows him to exchange it for other people’s property, so that both benefit. What collectivist politics does is take the property of an individual and share it (to some degree of other) with other individuals; individuals that a man has no moral duty to sustain. This is tautologically unfair.

    Thus, we are all dependent on one another in the deep sense. You could argue that moral obligation springs from that.

    No, there is no such thing as obligation. Obligation is another word for duty, service, or sacrifice. Man’s right is to exist, we agree on this. Your right to exist doesn’t clash with my right to exist, but you cannot demand that I help you exist. If I love you and value you, I of course want you to exist, because you are of value to me, and it is rational for me to help you. I have no compunction at all to help you get a job, find food and clothing, and sustain your existence. This is because man cannot be sacrificed to other men, or have other men sacrificed to them. This is not a rational way to live.

    Ayn Rand’s point of view is based on a rejection of the historical facts about the development of society.

    The development of society is irrelevant to how the BEST existence should be lived.

    You proceed from the notion that a form of collectivised politics or ethics, i.e.: of service and altruism, is correct, and argue that it must be right because it’s always been that way. Objectivism rejects collectivism and altruism at its very axioms though.

    Besides, if everyone acted as she counsels, we’d be back in the jungle.

    On the contrary, the failure of communism and socialism to create happy successful free nations is a testimony to their bankrupt epistemology. Here in the UK, the deplorable NHS and welfare state give jobless lazy bums free meals and money from the cash of hard workers, and the money of individual men is being poured in projects that don’t benefit individuals, whilst the NHS gets more in debt by the millions every year. It simply doesn’t work.

    However, observe that the freest, most successful, richest, affluent, and happiest nation on earth is the one that is least socialistic and most capitalistic: the United States. The US is the closest to what Rand would have idealised in a state; it’s not perfect by a long shot and some way off an Objectivist society, but its success from capitalism speaks for itself.

  37. lichanos Says:

    “However, observe that the freest, most successful, richest, affluent, and happiest nation on earth is the one that is least socialistic and most capitalistic”

    This is a very broad and unsubstantiated claim. I like living in the USA, but I wouldn’t claim that we are the happiest on earth, or even the freest. Not even the least socialistic.

    “On the contrary, the failure of communism and socialism…”

    I’m not arguing for a socialist or communist brief, still, the failure of the USSR can be laid to other causes than a “bankrupt epistemology.” How about, good old tyranny in the face of zero democratic tradition and culture? Ditto, China. Besides, if you want to be a die-hard commie, you can argue that it succeeded! As one historiansummed up Stalin, “A mountain of crimes, a mountain of achievments…” (He referred to the successful industrialization of the USSR.)

    “The development of society is irrelevant to how the BEST existence should be lived.”

    Weeell…this is a very strong claim for an extremely abstract position. A “true” conservative, like Burke, would argue just the opposite, heh, heh. Anyway, my point was that only by understanding the history of society can you understand what it is today, as opposed to the various mythologies of what it is, and so, to have no interest in its history, inevitably dooms you to a point of view detached from reality. Say what you want about Marx, he know the history of capitalism like few of its supporters did!

    “No, there is no such thing as obligation. … If I love you and value you, I of course want you to exist, because you are of value to me, and it is rational for me to help you.”

    How tiresome this market theology is. You reduce everything to a transaction. You speak of love and say that it is based on rationall self interest, and entails no obligation, only freely made choice. One might romantically argue that love is obligation freely entered into, a willing surrender of freedom to another. And aren’t you saying that man is OBLIGATED to attend to his survival? That seems to be your notion of his RIGHT to EXIST. This is not self-evident to me.

    “According to Objectivism, the rational self-interests of men cannot conflict.”

    Cannot conflict, or do not conflict? Shouldn’t conflict? Which is it? Sounds like religious dogma to me. How did Ayn Rand know they would never conflict? Sounds like Hobbes saying nearly the same thing, except that he meant for everyone to surrender their rights to the monarch, whose choices, of course, would never conflict with the best interest of the ruled.

    “It is man’s identify as a moral being that gives him a moral right to exist.”

    What the heck does this mean if man has no obligations other than to his (enlightened) self-interest? What is a MORAL right as distinct from any other right? If everything done in accord with self-interest is right, then what need for morality at all? Hey, the market will take care of everything!

    And what’s wrong with a philosophical Nazi deciding he just wants to kill everyone because he’s decided it’s in his self-interest to be dictator? How will you argue with him? What if he’s willing to accept the consequences, the hatred of the world, the endless assassination attempts, the constant war? He’s consistent. He’ll say, no other way of life is worth living. How will you argue with him? You cannot.

  38. evanescent Says:

    I like living in the USA, but I wouldn’t claim that we are the happiest on earth, or even the freest. Not even the least socialistic.

    You’re right, I can’t factually prove that Americans are the happiest people on earth. However, it is my opinion that America is the freest nation on earth, and this is a vital ingredient to human happiness.

    Can you name me a less collectivist nation than America?

    the failure of the USSR can be laid to other causes than a “bankrupt epistemology.” How about, good old tyranny in the face of zero democratic tradition and culture?

    And did it make people happy? Could it even make people happy, even in theory?

    Does it violate individual rights? You betcha.

    and so, to have no interest in its history, inevitably dooms you to a point of view detached from reality. Say what you want about Marx, he know the history of capitalism like few of its supporters did!

    I didn’t say I have no interest in the history of society. I said that how we came to where we are now is no argument in favour of our current political systems. The UK is governed, in theory, by an unelected hereditary Monarchy. It has been for many centuries. This may be interesting, but it is irrelevant to its worthiness, and it’s not an argument in favour of anything.

    How tiresome this market theology is. You reduce everything to a transaction.

    All human relationships ARE based fundamentally on trade! You only have to give this thought, and you will agree with me.

    You speak of love and say that it is based on rationall self interest, and entails no obligation, only freely made choice.

    Yes, love must be a free choice and equal between people, otherwise it’s not true love.

    One might romantically argue that love is obligation freely entered into, a willing surrender of freedom to another.

    One might, but I wouldn’t. How is love surrendering your freedom to another person? It is agreeing to SHARE lives, EXCHANGE love, give affection and friendship in RETURN for the same.

    Love is based on EQUAL respect is it not? Therefore it doesn’t involve sacrifice. When a person gives up much for someone they love, they are doing so because the person they love is of more VALUE to them than what they’ve given up. So it still comes down to one’s personal values.

    Otherwise, by your logic, the truly selfless being would be one who gives up everything he owns for a total stranger who means nothing to him. But of course, no rational person does this.

    And aren’t you saying that man is OBLIGATED to attend to his survival? That seems to be your notion of his RIGHT to EXIST. This is not self-evident to me.

    No, man has a choice whether to live or not. Unlike animals, humans can choose to live or die. We have to actively pursue our own continued existence. We have authority over own our bodies. Our right to exist is not a duty.

    Cannot conflict, or do not conflict? Shouldn’t conflict? Which is it? Sounds like religious dogma to me. How did Ayn Rand know they would never conflict?

    Your question is irrelevant because the answer to your first question is: they CANNOT conflict.

    Sounds like Hobbes saying nearly the same thing, except that he meant for everyone to surrender their rights to the monarch, whose choices, of course, would never conflict with the best interest of the ruled.

    Except Objectivism rejects the surrendering of anything to anyone, where rights are present in the absence of force.

    Your right to exist cannot clash with mine. How could it possibly?

    The problem with “selfish” is that people think of being selfish as gaining at someone else’s expense. Objectivism rejects this. For you to live and thrive and be happy, there is absolutely no conflict with my life, and my happiness.

    What the heck does this mean if man has no obligations other than to his (enlightened) self-interest?

    Man doesn’t have an obligation to his self-interest.

    Man must use his reason to discover how to live. It is this reason that allows man to place values on things. Value to what, and to whom? By what standard? His own life of course! Therefore, man acts rationally to acquire things of value to himself. It is the only rational way for man to live . A man who sacrificed things of great value for little or no value would not live long. Therefore sacrifice cannot be rational.

    What is a MORAL right as distinct from any other right? If everything done in accord with self-interest is right, then what need for morality at all? Hey, the market will take care of everything!

    Morality is a code of values that guides man actions. Since man is the only creature that is able to place a rational value on things, he is the only creature to whom the term “moral” applies. This gives him rights.

    And what’s wrong with a philosophical Nazi deciding he just wants to kill everyone because he’s decided it’s in his self-interest to be dictator? How will you argue with him? What if he’s willing to accept the consequences, the hatred of the world, the endless assassination attempts, the constant war? He’s consistent. He’ll say, no other way of life is worth living. How will you argue with him? You cannot.

    You’re committing the fallacy of Stealing the Concept.

    If the Nazi is rational, his basis for rationality is the necessity of life. A being that realises its own right to exist because it is a certain type of being, i.e.: a volitional moral being, must recognise that right in others. Therefore a being that acts to violate another’s rights is being irrational, because they are destroying the premises by which they may exist and be free.

    You cannot claim he is being rational by violating other’s rights, because you’re begging the question; a rational being by definition wouldn’t do this.

    Additionally, any rational being that violates the rights of another encourages a society where these rights are not recognised. But no rational being would want such a society because his/her own rights could be violated! Therefore, it is rationally selfish to respect others rights and therefore, have your own respected.

  39. lichanos Says:

    Your arguments remind me of how Augustine dealt with the problem of evil, how could it exist in the presence of an omnipotent, good God? Simple, evil is just lack of being. In so far as things are evil, they lack being. God is all being, all good. Likewise, you argue that whatever is objectionable – to you – is not rational. How do we know? It is objectionable. No rational person would want it.

    I think that a rational nihilist could exist. Would he be a nice, healthy person? No, but in principle he could be rational. He could decide that only one sort of life has value, the life of total power for himself. Damn everything else! Not clear on why this is not “rational’ as long as he admits the ramifications and makes a choice.

    “Otherwise, by your logic, the truly selfless being would be one who gives up everything he owns for a total stranger who means nothing to him. But of course, no rational person does this”

    Well, maybe the conclusion is that there are no truly selfless people. That is, no saints among us. Isn’t that the very nature of a saint, what you have described? Isn’t that what Jesus did? I’m not advocating this point of view, but obviously your notions are not self-evident to a lot of people.

    “All human relationships ARE based fundamentally on trade! You only have to give this thought, and you will agree with me.”

    Here you have honestly stated the bedrock of your entire outlook. How many times, in books and in speeches, have I heard someone say of an uttlerly outrageous position, “Think of it a moment, and you’ll see it MUST be true.” Sorry, I don’t buy it. This is pure mythology, right out of the screeds of those bourgeois merchant thinkers that I do really love so much, but they weren’t right about everything.

  40. evanescent Says:

    Your arguments remind me of how Augustine dealt with the problem of evil, how could it exist in the presence of an omnipotent, good God? Simple, evil is just lack of being. In so far as things are evil, they lack being. God is all being, all good. Likewise, you argue that whatever is objectionable – to you – is not rational. How do we know? It is objectionable. No rational person would want it.

    I do not argue that whatever is objectionable is irrational. I argue that whatever is NOT rational is objectionable.

    Rationality is my starting point, not my conclusion.

    I think that a rational nihilist could exist. Would he be a nice, healthy person? No, but in principle he could be rational. He could decide that only one sort of life has value, the life of total power for himself. Damn everything else! Not clear on why this is not “rational’ as long as he admits the ramifications and makes a choice.

    You’re stealing the concept again.

    A rational person realises that not only is total power for oneself impossible, it is undesirable. It is irrational to pursue ambitions that are unreal, and it is undesirable to quest after such power, because such power only comes at the expense of the rights of other individuals. But, as we’ve already seen, a rational person wouldn’t violate the rights of others.

    You’re trying to have your epistemological cake and eat it too.

    Well, maybe the conclusion is that there are no truly selfless people. That is, no saints among us. Isn’t that the very nature of a saint, what you have described? Isn’t that what Jesus did? I’m not advocating this point of view, but obviously your notions are not self-evident to a lot of people.

    The notion of sacrificing constantly is one of the (many) problems with religion. Religion is a paradigm example of altruistic ethics; sacrifice to god, to your fellow man, to the “greater good”. All collectivist politics do is replace god with Society or the State.

    What Jesus should have said is “take care of the things that matter to you as a rational thinking being.” If everyone did this, and put their own values first, they would be free to give any surplus they wanted to help others, if they chose it. People would act in a manner consistent with the things they value: their own lives, their jobs, their friends, their family etc. And since the rational interests of man cannot clash, if everyone did this, the world would be a much better place.

    Here you have honestly stated the bedrock of your entire outlook. How many times, in books and in speeches, have I heard someone say of an uttlerly outrageous position, “Think of it a moment, and you’ll see it MUST be true.” Sorry, I don’t buy it. This is pure mythology, right out of the screeds of those bourgeois merchant thinkers that I do really love so much, but they weren’t right about everything.

    You haven’t really shown what is outrageous at all about objectivism.

    Perhaps you didn’t like what I said or the way I said it, but all I meant is that if you take a minute and think about the nature of human relationships, they are all built around the concept of trade; of giving in order to receive. A “loving” relationship where only one partner does all the work and receives nothing back is not a healthy equal respectful relationship at all, in other words, not a truly loving one! If you think about (any) other relationships, I’m sure you see quite clearly that mutual exchange and mutual benefit are at the very core of them all. Since we would not give if we would not receive, our interest in any relationship begins with what WE value, and what WE want; i.e.: our rational self-interest. This is not a vice, it is a virtue!

  41. evanescent Says:

    lichanos (and readers), I am nipping out for the night so feel free to reply and I will respond tomorrow.

    I’m enjoying this exchange lichanos and I look forward to your reply.

  42. db0 Says:

    Evanescent, I find your outlook as much if not even more utopic than what Marx envisioned. You seem to believe that once everyone takes on the Objectivist Point of view the rationality as you believe it will take effect. However that rationale, as far as I can see is quite open to interpretation and I’m quite certain that those without as much intelligence as you, are bound to misinterpret it.

    Furthermore, lets say that this can work. You begin however with the assumption that all humans are born equal when nothing could be further from the truth. How is the person who is born with a mental disorder going to compete with the people who don’t give a damn about him because he’s not close to them? How is the person who is born in a poor country going to get out of poverty when he does not even have the same chance at education as you do? Who is going to stop monopolizing companies? After all, they are doing nothing bad, just following the best interests of their shareholders.

    While communism in order to work requires a complete mindframe change to the more altruistic and tolerant, Objectivism requests a boost of egoism and tolerance with an almost omniscient knowledge of what is good for other humans. Furthermore especially because Objectivism requires an egoism of such magnitude that you will only care for your immediate circle, it is very easy to get redirected and ignore the fact that you should not hurt other human beings.

    Not only that but there are more than one way to hurt someone. What if, in your company’s best interests, you refuse healthcare on a technicality. You get a bonus and that person gets poorer. How about if you just buy from the cheapest retailer who is outsourcing his workforce to a third world country run under a dictatorship that gets him cheap labour?

    And all this, even without getting into the discussion of how the current capability of Earth cannot support the current population. How are you going to make billions of people control birth rates without affecting their right to control their own life?

    Unofrtunately, everything I’ve seen from Objectivism looks like an excuse to act as much self-serving as you can without feeling guilt.

  43. lichanos Says:

    db0 says:

    “Unfortunately, everything I’ve seen from Objectivism looks like an excuse to act as much self-serving as you can without feeling guilt.”

    Hey, well put! And let’s not even get into what sordid and truly selfish things Ayn Rand did in her life! But enough of this ad hominem stuff!

  44. lichanos Says:

    db0 says:

    “Unfortunately, everything I’ve seen from Objectivism looks like an excuse to act as much self-serving as you can without feeling guilt.”

    Hey, well put! And let’s not even get into what sordid and truly selfish things Ayn Rand did in her life! But enough of this ad hominem stuff!

    “I argue that whatever is NOT rational is objectionable.”

    …but your way of deciding what’s not rationale seems to be to decide what is objectionable. The whole system built on a sort of Cartesian-deductive logic from presumed first principles: contracts; trade; right to exist…Unstated are the values on which the system rests and that are its real motivation.

    Your notions of rationality are too focused on deduction, as db0 points out when he says, “You seem to believe that once everyone takes on the Objectivist Point of view the rationality as you believe it will take effect.” Elementary, dear sir. It all follows from the premise. Not! Karl Popper had a different, more suitable view of rationality, that of contending viewpoints, people arguing, supporting their words, and struggling to find or define the truth…sort of like this blog. The Objectivist view is ruthlessly deductive from mythological axioms.

    Values are not arrived at solely by logic, but they are not illogical or irrational – they are not, however, deductive. You don’t state what values are behind Objectivism, so we must intuit them. db0 has done a good job at ferreting out one of them!

    I don’t know what “stealing the concept” means. This must be a Britishism not current here. Please explain. Also, how do you get indents in your comments?

    “…all I meant is that if you take a minute and think about the nature of human relationships, they are all built around the concept of trade”

    It’s true, I didn’t like how you said it. I didn’t like it because it is part of the English-Liberal mythology (I mean 18th century liberal) about man’s state of nature. Just some primitive folks sitting around CHOOSING to form a society on the basis of reciprocal contracts. Nooo…Wasn’t then, isn’t now. That may have been part of it, but not the whole story.

    Ultimately, I find the Objectivist point of view untenable because it is a reductive view in the long tradition of defunct reductive intellectual systems:

    Hegel: it’s all the Idea working itself out…
    Freud: it’s all sex and sex drives
    Marx: it’s all class struggle
    Schopenhauer/Nietzche: it’s all the Will

    Most relevant, the Hedonists: Man only acts to increase his pleasure. If you counter, what about acts of terrible self-sacrifice? the Hedonist will tell you that deep down, underneath it all, the sacrificer is getting a pleasurable return on his investment. So it’s all about accumulation of hedonic units, utility, money, whatever currency you like. After all, any other course of action is irrational. Who wants to HURT themselves? Only a lunatic.

    But this point of view starts from a proposition and then makes sure that any objection is twisted until it fits. Sort of like Objectivism and rationalism. So, beginning with our mythological man who is a rational economic actor in the market of society, trading here and there, for love, for sex, for food, for affection, for fun, trading trading trading, we conclude that man, when he is making sense, is trading for advantage, for what other sort of trade is there? (to be trade for disadvantage is to be under duress, like Jews forced to sell at 10% or be sent to the camps…) so selfishness, construed as protecting our self and self interest, is the only virtue.

    It makes sense if you take a very limited view of human beings, life, and society, but why take that point of view?

  45. Ergo Says:

    “The Objectivist view is ruthlessly deductive from mythological axioms.”

    False. Objectivism rejects the deductive/inductive dichotomy as being two separate kinds of knowledge. Likewise, Objectivism rejects the analytic/synthetic dichotomy for the same reasons.

    “Values are not arrived at solely by logic, but they are not illogical or irrational – they are not, however, deductive. ”

    There is no other way to arrive at values–which are a species of facts–than by using logic. However, to pose logic as devoid of induction is again peddling a false dichotomy. Logic is not purely deductive.

    “I find the Objectivist point of view untenable because it is a reductive view”

    False. Objectivism does not reduce to any first principles. Objectivism reduces to primary empirical data derived from the sense. This is the basis of the Objectivist theory of concepts, the Objectivist heirarchy of knowledge, and the Objectivist rejection of the analytic/synthetic-deductive/inductive dichotomies. You’ll have to get away from traditional philosophical vocabulary to even understand this.

    Also, it would help you maintain your semblance of intellectual credibility if you refrained from speaking about philosophies you have little to knowledge about. Your inaccuracies are more than sloppy, they are intellectually irresponsible in a debate of ideas.

  46. Ergo Says:

    P.S. To claim that Objectivist axioms are “mythological” puts you in the position of having to reject the axioms “existence exists” and “existence is identity.”

    Would you like to refute these “mythological” axioms from non-existence, or non-identity?

    Also, your accusation that Objectivism is reductionistic seems incongruous and ironic given your subsequent (inaccurate) reduction of Hegel et al.

  47. lichanos Says:

    Well, I’ll address another Objectivist myth, that of the individual. Objectivism is species of radical individualism that denies the facts of existence. If trade is paramount in relations between people, and if rational people recognize freely made trades and honor the obligations attendant therein, I would submit that the objectivist contradicts his own philosophy.

    The individual exists by virtue of the collective. The individual cannot exist as we know it without language. Language is a collective creation. We do not make it ourselves, we do not inherit it like property from our parents. Without a community of speakers, a language dies. So, we are born into a creation from which we benefit. The objectivist then turns around and says, “I have no oblications to anyone!”

    The same logic holds regarding wealth and all else that it is created in the context of society. You cannot make a hefty income if you are living on a desert island – you need a society in which to do it. (Not to mention the money economy!)

    So, we can argue, we are all obligated in some way to everyone else. This was OBVIOUS to nearly everyone before the industrial revolution made it possible to produce huge surpluses so that lots of people could live lives that were not so obviously dependent for survival on their neighbors. Hurrah! It’s great. Don’t forget the facts, though.

    Ergo:

    For thelife of me, I don’t know what “existence exists” and “existence is identity.” means. C’mon, existence EXISTS?!

    You say:
    “Objectivism does not reduce to any first principles. Objectivism reduces to primary empirical data derived from the sense.”

    I ask, what are the primary sense datums on which the edifice of Objectivist thought is built?

    “There is no other way to arrive at values–which are a species of facts–than by using logic. ”

    It might have been better if I’d said that values are not derived sole with DEDUCTIVE logic. That would be closer to my point of view. I agree that induction is an equally valid mode of logic.

  48. Shannon Lewis Says:

    “So the fact that Christians are continually unable to live up to the principles of their own faith is somehow supposed to lend credence to Christianity??”

    Since the core ‘principles’ of Christianity are that people – even Christians – are ‘sinners’ (which means that they ‘miss the mark’, i.e. – they don’t do what they should), and need grace, I’d say that we live up to those principles quite well. Wouldn’t you?

  49. lichanos Says:

    Evanescent:

    You said

    “A being that realises its own right to exist because it is a certain type of being, i.e.: a volitional moral being, must recognise that right in others. ”

    I don’t get this. If it doesn’t recognize this, then the being is not moral, not rational. Axiomatic, but not convincing. Why MUST it? You say “recognize that right in others” as though it is indicated by a red cross on our foreheads or something.

    Granted, if one accepts the paramount importance of inductive and deductive logic, one might make this claim, but not everyone does. And why SHOULD they? That’s the question.

    The fact is, rights are not just recognized in this intellectual, abstract sense, they are GRANTED, or demanded, and TAKEN. And to grant rights implies power to give, and refuse to give, on the one hand and the other. Thus, POWER relationships are at the heart of society, something that doesn’t enter into your remarks about self, choice, free will, etc. Markets (and all their transactions) are never perfect (and perfectly free) except in economics textbooks. Power interests always are present.

    Thus, your notions of Objectivism seem to me like wishful and self-serving thinking.

    Regarding Ergo’s remarks on my ignorance – I don’t claim to be an expert on Ayn Rand. If that’s what you want, find a Rand Fanblog. Everyone there will agree on everything, except the fine points of her philosophy. I am responding to the ideas presented here.

  50. evanescent Says:

    lichanos said:

    Objectivism is species of radical individualism that denies the facts of existence. If trade is paramount in relations between people, and if rational people recognize freely made trades and honor the obligations attendant therein, I would submit that the objectivist contradicts his own philosophy.

    Sorry lichanos, that makes absolutely no sense at all. There is no argument there.

    The individual exists by virtue of the collective.

    Incorrect. A collective is a non-person, so it cannot value anything. Inasmuch as a collection of people value anything, it is the individuals in that collective that value; perhaps the majority of the collective values something. But countries, societies, collectives have no values – people do.

    People exist because they are procreated (for example). That does not mean they “owe” their lives to anyone or anything; their lives are their own.

    The individual cannot exist as we know it without language. Language is a collective creation. We do not make it ourselves, we do not inherit it like property from our parents. Without a community of speakers, a language dies. So, we are born into a creation from which we benefit. The objectivist then turns around and says, “I have no oblications to anyone!”

    I fail to see how human language invokes obligation on anyone. This is a non-sequitor.

    The same logic holds regarding wealth and all else that it is created in the context of society. You cannot make a hefty income if you are living on a desert island – you need a society in which to do it. (Not to mention the money economy!)

    That doesn’t refute objectivism. What’s your point?

    So, we can argue, we are all obligated in some way to everyone else.

    That’s another non-sequitor. A sound argument has a conclusion that logically flows from true premises. You’ve not presented any true premises or syllogism to prove obligation is necessary.

    For thelife of me, I don’t know what “existence exists” and “existence is identity.” means. C’mon, existence EXISTS?!

    Yes. Existence EXISTS. This is an axiom of any epistemology. Because existence exists, it also does not NOT-exist. This is the basic of logic, the reality of non-contradictory identities. Contradictions do not obtain in mind-independent nature. This is objectivism’s starting point: that there is existence and identity is founded on existence: everything that exists has an identity: it’s own and nothing else’s. A is A.

    “A being that realises its own right to exist because it is a certain type of being, i.e.: a volitional moral being, must recognise that right in others.”

    I don’t get this. If it doesn’t recognize this, then the being is not moral, not rational. Axiomatic, but not convincing. Why MUST it? You say “recognize that right in others” as though it is indicated by a red cross on our foreheads or something.

    The very fact that a rational being recognises its own right to exist, necessarily means that it recognises that right in others. Because to recognise one’s right to exist but deny that right to others is a contradiction; it is like saying “I have a certain identity because I am X. This person is also X, but doesn’t have that identity.” A rational person does not believe in contradictions.

    In other words, a person who says other human beings don’t have a right to exist but that he does, is contradicting himself.

    The fact is, rights are not just recognized in this intellectual, abstract sense, they are GRANTED, or demanded, and TAKEN. And to grant rights implies power to give, and refuse to give, on the one hand and the other.

    Wrong. Rights arise from the type of being that one is.

    In our society, various “rights” can be demanded or granted, such as the right to vote, or the right to minimum wage etc. That is not what I’m talking about.

    The right to exist is not bestowed on any human, because that implies a bestower. Rights are not gifts from other beings; they are a consequence of our nature as volitional rational beings.

    Thus, POWER relationships are at the heart of society, something that doesn’t enter into your remarks about self, choice, free will, etc. Markets (and all their transactions) are never perfect (and perfectly free) except in economics textbooks. Power interests always are present.

    Do you think power relationships are at the heart of society? You mean this society? And only in a business sense?

    What does this have to do with what an objectivist society would look like?

    Regarding Ergo’s remarks on my ignorance – I don’t claim to be an expert on Ayn Rand. If that’s what you want, find a Rand Fanblog. Everyone there will agree on everything, except the fine points of her philosophy. I am responding to the ideas presented here.

    You can say what you like! I’m not after back-slapping or praise, just healthy debate.

    Shannon Lewis said:

    Since the core ‘principles’ of Christianity are that people – even Christians – are ’sinners’ (which means that they ‘miss the mark’, i.e. – they don’t do what they should), and need grace, I’d say that we live up to those principles quite well. Wouldn’t you?

    So, if christians are good, that’s proof that christianity is true. And, if christians are bad, that’s proof that christianity is true? Hmmm.

  51. Ergo Says:

    “The individual exists by virtue of the collective. The individual cannot exist as we know it without language. Language is a collective creation.”

    Talk about an ontological confusion of priorities!

    By reduction to definition, a collective is a group of entities. Therefore, a collective is not irreducible; an individual entity is. Therefore, to make the (silly) statement that an individual exists by virtue of the collective is to reverse to logical–and metaphysical–order of things.

    Language is not a collective creation. Language is a set of symbols (in some cases, words, pictures, sounds, signs, etc.) that represent concepts.

    The formation of concepts is an individual affair, since concept-creation requires a conceptual consciousness capable of creating concepts.

    There is no such thing as a collective consciousness–this is a metaphysical fact.

    Therefore, a conceptual consciousness is an attribute of individual human beings.

    Therefore, the creation of concepts is the function of individual human minds.

    Therefore, the creation of symbols that represent a concept is the function of individual human minds.

    Therefore, the creation of language (which are symbols that represent concepts) is the function of individual human minds.

    A lone man on a deserted island would still require the use of his conceptual faculty to create and hold an innumerable amount of units, facts, information, and entities in his mind. He does this by the method of epistemological unit-economy, by creating one concept to hold a whole wide range of particular units/entities/facts/information, with its particular measurements omitted.

    Thus, a lone man on a deserted island would still need to use language–symbols, concepts–to think and make decisions on how to survive.

    Ergo, language is not a collective creation.

  52. lichanos Says:

    Evanescent:

    You say: “People exist because they are procreated … That does not mean they “owe” their lives to anyone or anything; their lives are their own.”

    My point here is that your point of view is an example of what economists call externalizing costs. That is, during the Industrial Revolution, people set up factories, made tons of money, and turned the air into smog and the water into sludge. They took air and water as “free goods” for their use. Later, society took a different view and insisted on environmental controls, at least in our part of the world. (Their just learning this in India and China.)

    All individuals make use of and have the benefits of their social environment, but you take them as “free goods.” They are not. They must be maintained.

    I am not claiming that the collective is a corporate person, or that it has its own values. (That’s statist popycock that can be used to justify all sorts of horrors, depending on who claims the revealed truth of what the collective truly desires. Lenin, Rousseau, Hitler, whatever…) I am saying that an individual is not complete unto himself and owes his existence to the fact that there is a collective. In so far as other individuals are part of the collective, he owes his existence to them to. Not all of his existence to each one, but their is this connection.

    Since we cannot assume that we are born moral beings, though you seem to, if we are to be moral, this fact of interdependence seems a rational basis for much of it. True, the obligation is not contractual – we did not ask or choose to be born! – but that’s my point. There is a difference between moral and contractual obligations. They are not the same.

    My point about language was intended as one example among money of how the individual exists only because there is a collective.

    I do not say obligation is necessary by the way. Recall, I accept the idea of a rational Nazi monster. I only argue that it is sensible, rational, and in accord with the facts of human society now and in the past.

    Your starting point of Objectivist epistemology is simply a tautology, isn’t it. An attempt to update Descartes’ cogito ergo sum… Okay, there is stuff… stuff exists…by positing that something IS, we cannot say it IS NOT at the same time. 2 + 2 = 4. The only interesting thing I’ve found in Ayn Rand is her insistence on the independent nature of objective reality, always a sore point in epistemology, but I don’t think her treatment is particularly relevant or profound. I don’t see how this provides you your place to stand and move the world…

    “Because to recognise one’s right to exist but deny that right to others is a contradiction;”

    Honestly, I just don’t get this. Why is this so? One could argue that each individual is unique, and therefore, the rights I recognize in myself do not necessarily exist for others. In fact, this is how it’s been for most of human history. Rights for me and MY tribe, death or slavery for you and yours. Only if you accept the commonality of humanity does your argument begin to hold…and then we are edging back towards that collective again. “Humanity? What’s that? I just see individuals? Hey, Humanity, come over here!” Nobody answers. Get it…Sort of the reverse of the old joke, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand…”

    “[rights] are a consequence of our nature as volitional rational beings”

    You accept the notion of Natural Rights, I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me, despite our wonderful Declaration of Independence.

    “Do you think power relationships are at the heart of society? ”

    Well, “at the heart of…” is a slippery phrase. Let’s just say I think power relationships are crucial, VERY important in all societies. Hobbes had that right, but he didn’t recognize the value or use of humans’ ability to limit their influence.

    If you ignore power relationships, then people with power are free to work their will, and claim, incidentally, that it’s all happening because that’s the natural law, or something like that. Historical examples are legion. One recent and relatively trivial example from the USA:

    ENRON bought up companies that traded electric power to California. They tried to gouge the market by withholding supply to drive up prices. Dick Cheney intoned, “let the free market do its work,” but it was obvious then, and certainly now that all the emails and phone tapes are public, that they were deliberately using their power to accumulate more power and to undermine whatever free market there was. So, if you are blind to this, you just see a market going a bit haywire when, in fact, you are being screwed over by a particular player. Just one little example.

    “I’m not after back-slapping or praise, just healthy debate.”

    I truly admire your ability and willingness to listen to your posters and to respond to what they say. Most blogs are filled with ranting and personal attacks.

  53. lichanos Says:

    Ergo:

    “There is no such thing as a collective consciousness–this is a metaphysical fact.”

    I agree with this, almost. I’m not a Jungian or a mystic. But to say it is a metaphysical fact is a weird way of putting it. What is a metaphysical fact exactly?

    As for language – a man raised alone on a desert island would not be TOTALLY without language, but his linguistic level would be pretty low.

    To say that language is a collective creation is not to deny that there are things that go on in each individual during the process. It is to say that it can’t happen in one individual alone.

    You say that an “individual entity” is irreducible. How do you know what an individual entity is? Self evident? David Hume, and all Buddhists, thought that the notion of the self was an illusion. Biologists talk of organisms being collections of communities of smaller organisms…you don’t have to be a sceptic-solipsist to doubt the irreducibility of the individual. You just assume that the only relevant scale or frame of reference is the social level we all see, where people are just individuals and that’s that. Thus, my point, oft made, that Objectivism is just fancy, dressed up dogma, aka self-serving prejudice, aka received wisdom…

  54. Ergo Says:

    “As for language – a man raised alone on a desert island would not be TOTALLY without language, but his linguistic level would be pretty low.”

    The above contradicts the below:

    “It is to say that it can’t happen in one individual alone.”

    I’m going to cease responding to you lichanos. There’s nothing sensible being said that I can logically analyze. You keep vacillating and equivocating. For example, first you offered language as one instance of proof to defend the view that individuals exist by virtue of the collective. Therefore, you concluded that language is a creation of the collective. I refuted that, thoroughly and logically. Now, you retract and offer two contradictory statements (as cited above).

    Then, you say you agree with the metaphysical fact that there is no collective consciousness; but you qualify your agreement with the word “ALMOST” (your caps). So, do you agree or not? Is there a collective consciousness or not? You want to have your cake and eat it too?

    Another example: you don’t agree with the notion of natural rights, but you describe the declaration of independence and the constitution as wonderful. So, what is it? You don’t like the notion of natural rights but still admire the constitution that is based on the natural rights theory? You want it both ways?

    In addition to vacillating, you are simply afraid to explicitly hold a position and then defend it, or if wrong, retract it. Here’s another example: first, you said:

    “Thus, POWER relationships are at the heart of society” [your caps]

    Then, when asked to clarify by Evanescent, you vacillated by saying:

    “Well, “at the heart of…” is a slippery phrase. Let’s just say I think power relationships are crucial, VERY important in all societies.”

    You’re either very sloppy in your thinking or you’re simply being dishonest. And all of this is ironic given your aspersions against Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is being studied in over 30 universities in the US in philosophy departments, including the induction of the Ayn Rand Society in the American Association of Philosophy.

    If you’re not familiar with philosophically technical words like “metaphysical” or “tautological” or “ontological”, then you have no business dismissing ideas you don’t understand—and most of all, you have no business casting smears on true intellectuals like Ayn Rand by calling her a “shallow pseudo-intellectual” without giving a shred of evidence in support; and given your track record here, you should be more wary of the opinions your own comments create about your intellectual abilities.

  55. Ergo Says:

    P.S. I made a factual error.

    The Ayn Rand Society is part of the American Philosophical Association, not the American Association of Philosophy.

    If interested, here’s the link:

    http://www.aynrandsociety.org/

  56. db0 Says:

    All I have to say is that noone responded to my comments :-/

  57. evanescent Says:

    Hi db0. Here goes:

    Dbo said:

    Evanescent, I find your outlook as much if not even more utopic than what Marx envisioned. You seem to believe that once everyone takes on the Objectivist Point of view the rationality as you believe it will take effect. However that rationale, as far as I can see is quite open to interpretation and I’m quite certain that those without as much intelligence as you, are bound to misinterpret it.

    Hi DbO, there is no ‘Objectivist point of view that takes effect with people acting rationally’. The Objectivist point of view is that the proper and only truly effective way for man to live is by acting in his rational self-interest. That is, in accordance with values that HE himself chooses rationally and logically.

    Furthermore, lets say that this can work. You begin however with the assumption that all humans are born equal when nothing could be further from the truth. How is the person who is born with a mental disorder going to compete with the people who don’t give a damn about him because he’s not close to them?

    That, believe it or not, db0, is beside the point. At whose expense is this person supposed to live and thrive?

    No man can be sacrificed to another man, or have any man sacrificed to him. Man has no moral duty or obligation to sustain any other man.

    It violates the individual rights of any man to take his money, without his consent, and give it to support others.

    If you feel so strongly about taking care of people who have mental disorders and cannot work, you can work for a private company who takes care of them, or give money to charity to help them. I would probably do the same. I might not. Who knows? The point is you cannot say that these people WOULD DEFINITELY NOT be taken care of, and declare that is some kind of argument against an Objectivist society.

    How is the person who is born in a poor country going to get out of poverty when he does not even have the same chance at education as you do? Who is going to stop monopolizing companies? After all, they are doing nothing bad, just following the best interests of their shareholders.

    Inherent in each of your questions is the assumption that something must be given to another person at someone else’s compulsory expense. Why?

    While communism in order to work requires a complete mindframe change to the more altruistic and tolerant, Objectivism requests a boost of egoism and tolerance with an almost omniscient knowledge of what is good for other humans.

    Objectivism is based on egoism. This is a healthy virtue! It means that man acts rationally in accordance with his own values. It means he doesn’t sacrifice a higher value for a lower value. It means he is true to himself, and acts in the way that will, ultimately, provide his life with the most happiness.

    Objectivism states that man should act rationally. That is, logically with reality ever as his frame of reference. It does NOT imply that we should be omniscient. We aren’t perfect. But we should be as rational AS POSSIBLE.

    Furthermore especially because Objectivism requires an egoism of such magnitude that you will only care for your immediate circle, it is very easy to get redirected and ignore the fact that you should not hurt other human beings.

    That’s a non-sequitor. Even if Objectivism said that you should only care for your immediate circle (it’s a bit more inclusive than that), it IN NO WAY follows that we should harm other people.

    If you’ve been keeping up with the conversation, I explained to Lichanus that a rational man MUST, NECESSARILY, BY DEFINITION, respect the rights of others.

    As far as care goes, man cares for the things he values. It means, for example, that he values the life of his daughter over that of a stranger. But, what rational man doesn’t? It means he values his own family over that of a stranger. But, what rational man doesn’t it? It means he values food, shelter, clothing, nature, his pets etc, inasmuch as they are of worth and value to HIS life.

    Objectivism does NOT dictate what you can value. Only that you act rationally in accordance with the hierarchy of your values.,

    Not only that but there are more than one way to hurt someone. What if, in your company’s best interests, you refuse healthcare on a technicality. You get a bonus and that person gets poorer. How about if you just buy from the cheapest retailer who is outsourcing his workforce to a third world country run under a dictatorship that gets him cheap labour?

    Moral guilt is not transferable. If I buy a coat made by a company that uses cheap labour, that does not transfer any moral culpability onto me. That is the kind of thinking Christians use with Original Sin. I am not responsible for the acts of others.

    In a free laissez-faire society, consumers will vote with their wallets, and they are free to NOT BUY from that company.

    If YOU feel that strongly about buying from such companies, then don’t buy from them! Manufacturers, if everyone stopped buying from then on ethical grounds, would change their strategy or go out of business. They will follow the market.

    But you cannot tell another man where he may or may not buy his clothes etc from.

    And all this, even without getting into the discussion of how the current capability of Earth cannot support the current population. How are you going to make billions of people control birth rates without affecting their right to control their own life?

    You seem to think that humans are silly little children without a mind of their own. It is exactly this thinking that says “we can’t think for ourselves”, “this problem is too big for us to think about”, or, “I can’t be bothered thinking this problem out, so I’ll let the government decide.” Tell me, how is that any different to God of the Gaps or “goddidit” reasoning?

    It is not necessary to foresee and theoretically solve ANY imaginary problem in an objectivist society. What matters is whether objectivism is true, and you haven’t presented any argument against it.

    A rational person understands that contraception is sometimes necessary. If they are IRRATIONAL and decide to ignore this and have children that they cannot support, that is their problem. Just as man is FREE to make his own choices, he is NOT FREE to avoid responsibility for those choices.

    You want to treat man like a child: where he has little freedom to make his own decisions, and where other people pay the price for his errors.

    Unfortunately, everything I’ve seen from Objectivism looks like an excuse to act as much self-serving as you can without feeling guilt.

    Why would I feel guilty about taking care of the things that matter to me??

    Tell me db0, if you go for a job and you see your “competitor” sitting across the waiting room from you, do you up and leave and sacrifice your job to him?

    Do you give to charity whilst your family starve?

    Do you throw yourself into a burning building to rescue a total stranger, whilst forgetting that you have people who care about you?

    A man who did this would not live very long, or have a very happy life! Whereas imagine if everyone did this…

  58. lichanos Says:

    Ergo:

    “I’m going to cease responding to you lichanos…”

    Threat or promise? Hee, hee. You seem to be without humor or irony yourself. I tend to be a bit playful – this is not a university seminar – but I am quite serious about my point of view. Drop the intellectual pretentiousness, please. I can toss about technical vocabulary if I choose to, but I prefer to keep my language as simple as possible.

    Re:

    The above contradicts the below:
    “It is to say that it can’t happen in one individual alone.”

    Man does have some innate linguisitic ability – it is not ALL learned or created. Some is hard wired. See S. Pinker. But it cannot reach the level we take for granted if it is developed in isolation – surely you have heard of the Wolf Boy, and other examples (even if they are legendary.) I compressed my argument by not referring to these facts.

    “but you qualify your agreement with the word “ALMOST” (your caps).”

    I agree that there is no collective consciousness. My qualification referred to the manner in which YOU stated your disagreement. Again, pardon my flippancy – I though I was being funny. Never kid a kidder, eh?

    “…you don’t agree with the notion of natural rights, but you describe the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as wonderful”

    So what? There are a lot of contradictory ideas and forces at work in history, and the Declaration embodies some of that. I like some of it, reject other parts. By the way, the US Constitution originally implicitly legitimized slavery and denied the vote to women – I don’t like that either.

    “Then, when asked to clarify by Evanescent, you vacillated by saying: “Well, “at the heart of…” is a slippery phrase.”

    I try to be very careful with my words. “At the heart of…” can imply association, causal relationship, historical sequence, all sorts of things. I try to avoid reductionist arguments, as in, “Money is the root of all evil.” Maybe it’s true, but hard to know exactly what it means, no?

    Calling Ayn Rand a “shallow pseudo-intellectual” is harsh, but I wouldn’t say it’s a smear. I have my arguments – you don’t agree. I have refrained from talking about her personal life, which many have made hay over. I don’t care how many universities put her on the syllabus. I don’t deny that she’s INFLUENTIAL. In fact, I deplore this fact!

  59. db0 Says:

    Hi DbO, there is no ‘Objectivist point of view that takes effect with people acting rationally’. The Objectivist point of view is that the proper and only truly effective way for man to live is by acting in his rational self-interest. That is, in accordance with values that HE himself chooses rationally and logically.

    So if I rationally and logically choose to further my own and very close circle’s best interests by ruining lives (not immediately but in the long term), destroying the environment of third world countries (who don’t care to stand up for themselves…the lazy bums) etc, then all is good? You might say that I am not acting rationaly and then I would say that you are the one not acting rationaly. Who is right? Of course noone since there is no higher “true morality”. You can say what you wish but the person who still acts more egoistic than you is still more powerful because he does not have the same moral holdbacks as you.

    That, believe it or not, db0, is beside the point. At whose expense is this person supposed to live and thrive?

    No man can be sacrificed to another man, or have any man sacrificed to him. Man has no moral duty or obligation to sustain any other man.

    It violates the individual rights of any man to take his money, without his consent, and give it to support others.

    If you feel so strongly about taking care of people who have mental disorders and cannot work, you can work for a private company who takes care of them, or give money to charity to help them. I would probably do the same. I might not. Who knows? The point is you cannot say that these people WOULD DEFINITELY NOT be taken care of, and declare that is some kind of argument against an Objectivist society.

    At who’s expense!? For fuck’s sake listen to yourself man. Do you seriously think that the best way to treat people less fortunate than ourselves is “let someone else deal with it”? We’re not talking about sacrificing anything here. Nobody asked you to give up half your house for the sick man but from what you say it seems to imply that even a miniscule portion of your wage is too much to help the less fortunate. Is this the rationale that Objectivism guides you to? Sorry but what you see as a “violation of individual rights” I see inhumanity.

    Objectivism is based on egoism. This is a healthy virtue! It means that man acts rationally in accordance with his own values. It means he doesn’t sacrifice a higher value for a lower value. It means he is true to himself, and acts in the way that will, ultimately, provide his life with the most happiness.

    Objectivism states that man should act rationally. That is, logically with reality ever as his frame of reference. It does NOT imply that we should be omniscient. We aren’t perfect. But we should be as rational AS POSSIBLE.

    You state that man should act rationally. But who defines what is rational?

    That’s a non-sequitor. Even if Objectivism said that you should only care for your immediate circle (it’s a bit more inclusive than that), it IN NO WAY follows that we should harm other people.

    If you’ve been keeping up with the conversation, I explained to Lichanus that a rational man MUST, NECESSARILY, BY DEFINITION, respect the rights of others.

    By definition of whom? Ayn Rand? How do you (and don’t mean you specifically of course) respect the rights of others if by your sheer inhumanity you ignore the fates of other people by claiming ignorance of their plight? What happens if you work, say, in a factory and some workers are abused while you are one of the lucky few who have cushy positions. Following objectivism, you would be good by just sitting by and watching (or ignoring) what is happening as it is not your business? Is this correct?

    As far as care goes, man cares for the things he values. It means, for example, that he values the life of his daughter over that of a stranger. But, what rational man doesn’t? It means he values his own family over that of a stranger. But, what rational man doesn’t it? It means he values food, shelter, clothing, nature, his pets etc, inasmuch as they are of worth and value to HIS life.

    That is not rationale. That is emotion. This is exactly the kind of thinking that allows people to abuse each other and then not feel guilty.
    You start thinking in that extreme and shamelessly egoistic mindframe and sooner or later you don’t care (or just don’t care to learn) what effect your actions have on other people as long as you (seemingly) don’t have any effect on their individual rights.
    So what if you making a few million dollars on the market leaves a few thousand people without job? You don’t know them, they should have taken care and your family and pets are worth more than theirs in any case.

    Sorry if I keep arguing with examples but I’m trying to realise what effect objectivism would have.

    Objectivism does NOT dictate what you can value. Only that you act rationally in accordance with the hierarchy of your values.,

    Again, someone could be an objectivist and his values and rationale wildly different that yours. Unless the “correct rationale” is defined by Ayn Rand. Is it?

    Moral guilt is not transferable. If I buy a coat made by a company that uses cheap labour, that does not transfer any moral culpability onto me. That is the kind of thinking Christians use with Original Sin. I am not responsible for the acts of others.

    You have GOT to be kidding me. If you buy from a company that user child labour and – in effect – help keep them in business, you are not morally and ethically guilty?

    I’m not talking about the sins of the father stuff here (even which is debatable). I’m talking about your personal actions.

    In a free laissez-faire society, consumers will vote with their wallets, and they are free to NOT BUY from that company.

    If YOU feel that strongly about buying from such companies, then don’t buy from them! Manufacturers, if everyone stopped buying from then on ethical grounds, would change their strategy or go out of business. They will follow the market.

    But you cannot tell another man where he may or may not buy his clothes etc from.

    So if there were a few thousan people that were buying cheap goods from a company known to abuse children and destroy whole communities to make an easy buck -in a lawful way-, as a good objectivist you would neither tell the shoppers that they are immoral (remember moral guilt is not inherited) and nor would you take action against the company (because you may not take away the company owner’s individual rights). Am I correct?

    You seem to think that humans are silly little children without a mind of their own. It is exactly this thinking that says “we can’t think for ourselves”, “this problem is too big for us to think about”, or, “I can’t be bothered thinking this problem out, so I’ll let the government decide.” Tell me, how is that any different to God of the Gaps or “goddidit” reasoning?

    That is a non sequitur. I am not proposing or saying anything like that. I do know that people just don’t think about this specific issue (otherwise it would not be an issue) but I see a specific problem that an objectivist society, by default, cannot solve unless you define a very specific “rationality” that people must follow, which should not be much different than having…lets say…10 commandments.

    It is not necessary to foresee and theoretically solve ANY imaginary problem in an objectivist society. What matters is whether objectivism is true, and you haven’t presented any argument against it.

    True? Of course it is true. Any way of life can be “true”. The problem does not lie in the truthfulness of it but rather in the sheer cold “reasonable” inhumanity of the whole thing.

    A rational person understands that contraception is sometimes necessary. If they are IRRATIONAL and decide to ignore this and have children that they cannot support, that is their problem. Just as man is FREE to make his own choices, he is NOT FREE to avoid responsibility for those choices.

    Ah, but what if they CAN support them? It would just mean that some other, “unknown” people would not be capable to support theirs any more. Are we then at the point where only the richer people are allowed to procreate? Hmmm?

    Why would I feel guilty about taking care of the things that matter to me??

    What boggles my mind is how can you not feel guilty by being strictly self-serving and ignoring the larger picture. I will put this down in a difference in perspective. While I may not be able to help everyone, I am happy that society provides a safety net for the more unfortunate of us and I am glad to help with that. And while that net might not be perfect, it is something that can be fixed (by making the really worthless-of-help units fall through) You on the other hand seem to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Tell me db0, if you go for a job and you see your “competitor” sitting across the waiting room from you, do you up and leave and sacrifice your job to him?

    This does not make sense.

    Do you give to charity whilst your family starve?

    That is totally a non sequitur. On the other hand, if you do not starve why would you NOT give on charity? Especially if you know the charity is not there just to perpetuate the bad (by allowing people to be lazy bums for example). It seems to me, that the poeple who are objectivists, more often than not, tend to be middle or higher class citizens. Definitely the people who would not starve in a state which has welfare.

    Do you throw yourself into a burning building to rescue a total stranger, whilst forgetting that you have people who care about you?

    Only if I was a fireman. Otherwise I would be foolish. Not because I would not save the man but because I might throw my life away for nothing as I know nothing about burning buildings. On the other hand, If the firemen urgently needed my help and that entailed no danger but rather a loss of time. It would be inhumane not to help.

    A man who did this would not live very long, or have a very happy life! Whereas imagine if everyone did this…

    It really chills me to the bone to think of living in such an inhumane society.

  60. lichanos Says:

    It seems to me that db0’s exchange with Evanescent gets to the heart of the matter. db0 is repulsed by the implications of the Objectivist position, E argues that he has misunderstood the program. But db0 bases his response on what he has observed about human society. Who is being realistic, scientific, rational, empirical, and who is building castles in the air.

    “Oh, if we were all objectivists, wouldn’t life be grand!” Too bad, as db0 points out, that for so many it is simply a way of excusing their awful behavior or their lack of compassion. Yes, you could make similar arguments about Christianity: “If everyone truly followed Christ’s way…” And I would. That’s why I have little interest in religion. I think ethics and philosophy has to be a little bit practical.

    The focus on technical philosophy as being the root of Rand’s ethical position is what sets her apart for me as a pure suedo, (my term for pseudo-intellectuals.) It’s all so facile and superficial. So easy to syllogisms as a bludgeon. So easy to deflect criticisms of the underlying values.

  61. lichanos Says:

    “A rational person understands that contraception is sometimes necessary. If they are IRRATIONAL and decide to ignore this and have children that they cannot support, that is their problem.”

    And are the children at fault as well?

  62. evanescent Says:

    This continuing discussion has been relocated to its own separate thread here:

    http://ellis14.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/open-thread-objectivist-ethics/


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