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The Virtue of Stupidity: A Critique of Ayn Rand and Objectivism

“It is not a novel that should be thrown aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

---- Dorothy Parker about Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

The so-called philosophy of Ayn Rand, known as Objectivism, has become a rather odious cult in the United States. Europeans find it baffling, while academic philosophers use it as opening for easy jokes. If a philosophy conference is getting especially dull and grim you can simply say the name Ayn Rand and you will get at least a few amusing jabs at her. Followers of Rand are impervious to any criticisms of her work however. When one mentions the obvious problems and contradictions in her work they are greeted with an almost religious parroting of her maxims. Maxims are really all they are because Rand rarely gives justification for any of her claims but simply states her point of view as emphatically as possible and then she (or her followers) accuses anybody who disagrees as being irrational. What follows is a detailed critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy with the work of REAL philosophers used to form a number of objections to her claims. If anybody doubts that my portrayal of Rand is an accurate representation of her philosophy then I invite you to go to where her philosophy is presented in great detail by Objectivists.


Objectivist Metaphysics are a complete con job. The whole point of the study of metaphysics is to try and derive objective reality from the subjective reality that human beings experience through their senses and consciousness. The three most famous approaches to this are those done by René Descartes, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Descartes tried to prove the epistemological position of rationalism by stripping away all knowledge that can possibly be held in doubt. His conclusion from this was that only his own existence was certain (I think therefore I am) and that all knowledge must be derived from that certainty. Hume moved in the completely opposite direction and doubted that even “the self" existed, reducing human consciousness to a bundle of sense data. Kant tried to resolve these issues between rationalists like Descartes and empiricists like Hume and his complex metaphysics now form the basis of modern analytical philosophy while both Hume and Descartes still exert a huge influence.

Rand’s solution to the problems presented by these three giants of philosophy is to completely ignore them altogether. Her metaphysics are based on “objective reality” in which she states the human identity and consciousness are the basis. So basically Rand says. “what you see is what you get.” The thing about Rand’s brazen philosophy is that after side stepping the whole question of whether we can derive an objective reality and what exactly our criteria of an objective reality is, she immediately states that her metaphysics are completely objective based on reason.

The thing that is crazy about this is that she gives no argument to why this is objective at all. She claims that the facts of experience and of science are completely objective despite a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. Rand makes no attempt to address scientific realism, and arguments against it, in any way. She just states “A is A” and goes on about her merry way.

We have a number of problems with this. While there are facts that we can derive from a priori (before experience) means, these are very few. Kant included in his philosophy the idea of synthetic a priori knowledge. This distinction is facts that are self-evidently true but only when we understand the “language” in which they are presented, such as math problems. The rest of knowledge is a posterori (from experience) and for this to be verifiable as genuine knowledge it must be falsifiable. (testable) Rand’s concept of metaphysics is to lay the groundwork for her moral theory, which then serves as the groundwork for her political theory. The problem with this is that moral claims are not falsifiable and therefore have no validity as scientific claims.

Rand’s epistemological position is reason. She basically claims that all facts can be derived from reason alone. Immanuel Kant made similar claims but came to completely different conclusions so this makes him Rand’s chief rival. Kant also dismissed the idea that humans could ever truly know objective reality because our senses are necessary parts of our way of interacting with the world. Rand rejects this premise despite the fact that she has absolutely nothing to base it on. Kant made the claim that how we experience the world is based on intuitions. We perceive time and space a certain way from our perspective because of our intuitions but basically an alien race on another planet might perceive these same concepts differently. This does not mean that time and space do not exist only that our perceptions of them are subjective. Anybody who has read a science fiction novel, like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, should have no problem with this concept but Rand rejects it outright with no real argument or evidence against it.

Rand makes a complete straw man of Kant, "man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others; therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind because he has eyes—deaf because he has ears—deluded because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist because he perceives them." This is not what Kant is saying at all. He is just saying that human perception is limited and our way of perceiving things may not be the only way of perceiving things. Kant’s argument is that while we can know things about objective reality through reason we can never know things about that reality that is apart from our perception.

It is interesting to note that Rand could have sidestepped this whole problem by taking the approach that the existentialists took. Existentialist philosophers rejected the idea that science could present us with concrete values of how to live our lives. They based their ethical philosophies on individual human drives and desires. Rand rejects this idea, once again with no real evidence or argument made. She insists that her philosophy is completely objective and based solely on reason. Her reasons for this seem to be only so she can bully anybody who does not agree with her by saying they are irrational.


Since Rand has come to metaphysical conclusions based on false premises it should come as no surprise that she continues to establish her ethics along the same vein while basing the whole idea on her bogus metaphysics and epistemology. Rand’s philosophy is a form of egoism. She argues that self-interest is moral and that altruism is immoral. Her argument for the whole thing goes like so: “An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, and that which threatens it is the evil.”

The problem with this is that it runs straight into the is / ought fallacy as first introduced by David Hume. Hume stated that a moral value (an ought) cannot be derived from a physical fact (an is). Rand is actually aware of this famous philosophical problem (you could have knocked me over) and this is her response.

"In answer to those philosophers who claim that no relation can be established between ultimate ends or values and the facts of reality, let me stress that the fact that living entities exist and function necessitates the existence of values and of an ultimate value which for any given living entity is its own life. Thus the validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between “is” and “ought.”

Ummmmm….correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that the same thing that she said before? It is almost like she didn’t answer the question at all but just repeated the same thing she had already said with more emphasis.

Anyway, Rand is wrong about this too. Just because you value your life doesn’t even mean that you should defend it at the cost of everything else. What about the soldier that jumps on the grenade to save the rest of his platoon? “What a loser!” Rand would say and by her philosophy not only is he a loser but he just committed an act that she judged to be immoral. Jumping on a grenade and saving everybody else’s life is an immoral act and I fail to see why it wouldn’t be using Rand’s own philosophy. She considers altruism to be immoral and you don’t get more altruistic then that.

Another important thing that fans of Rand don’t get about this objection is that there is a difference between something I value, like I value my car, and a moral value. Equality is a moral value. Liberty, altuism and justice are abstract moral values and you simply cannot derive them from physical facts about the world.

David Hume would object to Rand thusly; after he had completely destroyed her with the is / ought fallacy he would tell her that he believed that the foundation of morality is derived from moral intuitions that we as human beings all share. A person who does not share these moral intuitions is morally blind like a color blind person cannot see color. Hume would probably consider someone who lived by Rand’s philosophy with no guilt or regret a sociopath.

The funny thing is that Rand bases her own morality on one of these intrinsic human values and that value is being human itself. Both Rand and her archenemy Immanuel Kant start their moral philosophy from the same place. They both base their morality on the idea that every human being is intrinsically valuable. Kant forms the basis of his morality as acting as a free and rational person and on always treating people as not means to an end, but ends in themselves. Rand flips this on its head and says that human beings should value themselves above all other people and that altruism is allowing yourself to become the means to others ends. There is a huge logical problem with this.

Kant says that we have a duty to the rest of humanity and that duty is to help our fellow man to be as free as possible. When we treat others as ends in themselves we validate their intrinsic value as human beings and therefore validate our own value. If we treat people as Rand would have us treat them then we are invalidating the very value that she is basing her whole morality on in the first place. To not value the needs and lives of others as much as our own is to invalidate the entire idea that all human individuals have intrinsic value. We cannot say that every human being is subjectively intrinsically valuable to themselves because that is not objective and it throws Rand’s entire claims of an objective philosophy right out the window.

It is also worth noting that Rand straw mans Kant yet again when she addresses the idea of duty in her writing. “The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.” Ummmm…no. I just explained what the point of duty is to Kant and it is the same value that Rand based her philosophy on but in Kant’s case at least he is logically consistent. And isn’t her philosophy supposed to be based on reason only, not motives desires or interests? Sorry Ayn, you lose again.


Rand supports capitalism because it is the most free system. I don’t really have a problem with this argument per se but I do question Rand’s version of freedom. To Rand, freedom means being able to do what you want when you want to do it. There are many philosophers who share this view, including David Hume, but it isn’t the only version of freedom out there. A second version of freedom is freedom based on autonomy and that version is the idea that freedom doesn’t mean simply having your desires fulfilled but maximizing the number of options you have to pursue whatever goals you may want to pursue. I already addressed this question in my article "How to Build a State or Why Should the Rich Pay Higher Taxes?" and I will link that article at the end of this one so I don’t have to address that very long argument over again.

Another main problem I have with Rand’s view is that all her political arguments result from a false dichotomy. She states over and over again that you really only have two choices, capitalism and socialism. The problem with that is that you obviously don’t. If that is the case then every developed country in the world, including the United States is a Socialist country. Socialism (or collectivism if you prefer) and capitalism have co-existed in the United States government since the beginning. We have a lot of values in our society that contradict each other. We respect the rule of law but most people think that there are times when breaking the law is justified. We believe in individuality but we also believe in equal opportunity.

Rand herself has this problem in her philosophy. She says that force is unjustified but gives us no real criteria to judge this on. Then she turns around and addresses the idea of anarchy. Rand believes in a night watchman state and this basically means that the government can use force when it benefits the rich but can’t do so when it benefits the poor. This really makes no sense whatsoever. To Rand taxation is theft but then what is the debt owed for the benefits society gives us? Don’t we get some benefit from living in a society, like roads, military protection, police? Once again my previous article addresses this in much greater detail which is a pretty good thing because Ayn Rand never does.


Sindre Rudshaug on May 28, 2020:

Already in the first line after the allegation, you make a mistake thats so easy to point out for a third-grader.

"The whole point of the study of metaphysics is to try and derive objective reality from the subjective reality that human beings experience through their senses and consciousness."

Reality is reality, it is objectively discoverable. The fact that a stone smashes into your head is objectively, methaphysically true. How you interpret it is subjective. First existence exists, THEN discover it. If the existence of existence was untrue, there would be nothing to discover and nobody to discover it.

All the rest is a fallacy, resting on your first ignorant idea.

Zeray Kalayu on April 11, 2020:

Your critique of Ayn Rand and her comprehensive philosophy dubbed Objectivism is completely biased and untrue.

What made you mention Kant, Descartes and Hume BUT not Aristotle, greatest philosopher where the titles of Atlas shrugged are named after the laws logic discovered by him(Aristotle).

The law of identity: P is P( or A is A as you said in your critique)

The law of non-contradiction: P is not non-P.

The law of the excluded middle: Either P or non-P.

Your critique of her other branches of philosophy can be blown up briefly but it's a waste of time to spend a great deal of time defending for a straw man's critiques.

ben95 on December 03, 2019:

Your entire critique of her ethics is based on a misunderstanding on your part. She does NOT say man has intrinsic value, as in value to no particular valuer. Man's life is valuable in so far as it is valuable to himself, and perhaps to his family, friends, etc.

The dichotomy between individualism and collectivism is not a false one. To the extent you agree with one, you must disagree with the other.

And is/ought is indeed a false question.

Blanche Du Bois on October 12, 2019:

I hate Rand as much as the next guy, but "Socialism (or collectivism if you prefer) and capitalism have co-existed in the United States government since the beginning." is a shit take.

Adam on September 13, 2019:

This was awful. I will be doing a point by point refutation.

Todd Reinhardt on August 28, 2019:

Objectively, altruistic ethics rationalizes self destruction, and for society to destroy others at the whim of the elites. She nailed it, she nailed the loser who wrote this nonsensical piece. She described the destroyed, unhappy world we live in today.

Rose on July 09, 2019:

Thank you for this great takedown. I have come across the weird and disturbing “logic” of objectivism via the Lifebook program. Founders Jon and Missy Butcher are promoting certain parts of Ayn Rand’s books and objectivism as a way to achieve financial success and happiness. I don’t think they are diehard fans, since they acknowledge Rand has some problems, they obviously care about people and don’t seem like arrogant jerks like Rand, but I think you’ve pointed out here that the philosophies Rand pulled from are vastly superior sources to investigate.

It seems like because of her childhood experiences, Rand was stuck in a defensive mode and decided to worship her own ego. Thus, “objective sensory perception” in her case was actually just permission to indulge in the non-extraordinary psychological delusion that whatever thoughts her mind produced must be genius level stuff. Sort of, “I think I’m smart and a philosopher, therefore I am”. What a coincidence that whatever patchwork ideas supported her personal life choices just happened to also be the only “morally righteous” ones as well!

After meeting a few libertarians who claimed their opinions were superior because their minds were totally logical and non-emotional (even though their arguments were full of fear, paranoia, tribalism and contempt for certain people), I was wondering where this dysfunctional thinking pattern came from and why it made sense to them. These are actually smart people in many ways - how do they bend their minds around the idea that just because they know one topic well or have a successful business, that means they have suddenly been gifted with some super-human brain free from bias, which only processes “facts”, and that after analyzing all of those facts through their logical minds, it produced the totally logical and non-biased conclusion that their ideas are always correct!? Not only that, but also that their own life experiences are the only ones that can possibly exist - if they didn’t see it happen, it didn’t happen.

Henry Ralph Rawls from Marietta GA on July 07, 2019:

I agree with chanelstevan’s remarks, and again offer my comments of 8 years ago:

"Read the preface to Ayn’s book “The Virtue of Selfishness “ and you will get the full gist of her philosophy. All the rest of her books expand on these ideas and us elaborate stories (entertaining tomes) to make her points.”

Essentially, she says that we are all selfish. Only occasionally does this rise to the level of enlightened self interest. The current White House occupant, ongoing depredations in the RC church, and extremist terriourism all make this apparent.

chanelstevan on July 05, 2019:

You did a great job on the critical thinking portion of this article. But I don't think you truly understand the fundamentals of objectivism. There are quite a few areas where you completely misrepresent her philosophy. I recommend reading more into her work and understanding it first from the objectivist point of view completely before critiquing it.

Vincent on May 02, 2019:

Just what do you mean by "equality" though?

Howard the Roark on May 01, 2019:

An Objectivist is an individual who sees that Rand's philosophy corresponds to reality, and does so using his own reason and logic. A cultist is a fool who blindly follows, without the use of his reason. Your criticism can be improved upon, but you must first fully understand who you are criticizing.

DrSproc on July 22, 2018:

Any rant that starts with "so-called" or "REAL philosophers" is a deal breaker. Any sentient being can philosophize, it's not a licensed profession and writing "so-called" to demonized it, is a red flag right away. Sorry, but such writing doesn't work on me, worse it's unconvincing and feeble in reasoning. Not that I'm an Ayn Rand nut.

BillRandall on May 31, 2018:

others do NOT necessarily have any intrinsic value. Most are nothing more than dead weight (as in the keel of a boat) that the productive "sails" or engines have to drag thru the water. Just like ticks are not only of no value to their hosts, but indeed are threats to the very lives of those hosts. This guy doesn't want other people judging his value, cause he knows that he doesn't offer any.

Vodk on March 13, 2018:

"This is not what Kant is saying at all. He is just saying that human perception is limited and our way of perceiving things may not be the only way of perceiving things. Kant’s argument is that while we can know things about objective reality through reason we can never know things about that reality that is apart from our perception."

LMAO same difference! Our way of perceiving things might not be the only one, but since we cannot be other than what we are, that means, human beings, that's ALL we have and that is Rand's point. There are no means of knowing physical reality than through our senses and the rational conceptualization of those sensorial perceptions. Kant really made a mess, but please, continue laughing Rand off in your academic circles; objectivists don't need it and that is why academic philosophy becomes more and more irrelevant while Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead keep getting major sales.

Bongstar420 on March 08, 2018:

I disagree. Moral claims are falsifiable. It just so happens that most morality is subjective and not based on actual objective effects in the minds of the idea holders. One of my primary problems with rosenbaum was her immorality....IE. That the wealthy have the right to deny life and liberty to those who don't "qualify." Its difficult to explain this, but essentially she is cool with a small minority sucking up all resources and denying the "undesirables" born outside of wealth self sufficiency unless they submit to slavery to the owner (working for the owner's profit) .

Rick Ballan on September 04, 2017:

Well said and thank you. Indeed, whereas Rand rails against the "altruist/collectivist" who acts for "the greater good", her entire philosophy is based on the tacit assumption that capitalism is that greater good. This is one of the many contradictions that exist all throughout her writings. It's not real philosophy but more like a self help book for aspirational small business owners.

Bigguy on August 14, 2017:

Your sarcasm against Rand leads one to believe you doubt your own argument.

Charles Bagan on February 03, 2017:

Your critique is very flawed at best.

Let us address epistemology. First, we may only deal with this reality. Do not mention an a different reality, or another arbitrarily and fallaciously created being's perspective- it is this reality alone we are talking about. This pressupposes a question: a reality perceived by whom? Man. Reality, as it relates to man, are the only means by which one can objectively observe it. Rand does not attempt to answer your "what if questions" nor your "unknowable" questions. One can't ask be to answer a negative.

When we identify any scientific principle, we are not concerned with "why" it exists- that "unknowable" answer you seek. We are concerned only with the fact that it DOES exist- and that we know it. Take pi, a number indispensable in all mathematics and sciences: it is infinite; it's exact quantity is unknown. Yet we know that it exists and we have identified it's importance. Man may not step outside of the boundaries of that which he knows- objective reality. He may postulate any given number of theories as to "why", but one can not use ask "why that it is" to discredit "that it is". Man may not step outside of the boundaries of this reality; he has no answer based in truth on "why" reality exists, only that "it does".

Next, "ought vs. is". Rand never suggested that "because one values their life [they should defend it at all costs]." This is an utter perversion of her logic. She is not of the Nietzsche Egoism school. Selfishness, by dictionary definition: "[is] to be concerned with ones owns interests". This, as you should know, does not provide a moral evaluation. One valuing the sustenance of their life (the ends) does not imply that they may do so immorally (the means). The ends do not justify the means. As for you soldier example, this is not altruism to the man whom values his fellow soldiers. It is an utterly selfish act. In that situation, the grenade presents the alternative: life or death. If he dives away from the grenade only to save himself, with the price being the death of his (unaware) fellow soldiers, at the result of living the remaining time of his life in agony- it is not a sacrifice for him to jump on the grenade. It is selfish in that he would prefer death over the emotionless, lifeless state resulting from not. Yes; life is still that mans greatest value. However, this situation that has been given is such where an alternative exists that the consequences will not allow one to value his life.

Equality- of what might I ask? Man is equal only so far as in his rights. When concerned with his rights as it relates to himself, it is positive. He may act and do whatever it is that he please. Conversely, when he comes across another man, it is a negative. He may not infringe on that mans right. In essence "man has the right to do anything, so long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of another man." Your entire point says you know nothing of Rand, or are intellectually dishonest, resorting to perverting her logic. Man is an end in himself- that includes all men. Equally, her philosophy does not state that you may have no empathy or concern for your fellow man. It states that: you have no moral obligation to your fellow man. Do you see the difference? You are free in so choosing to devote your life to the poor, the sick, the elderly- but you are not obligated to. You are free to act with kindness to all men- but you are not obligated to. The rational premise, strict to her core beliefs however, would only be to do so when it coincides with your own self interests. If your wife is sick, it is NOT a sacrifice to pay for her treatment.

Finally, your grotesque a analysis of her view on the role of government. (Strictly from her philosophy). The government acts only to protect individual rights- a redundant terms as those are the only rights. The government of course has necessary and legitimate functions in so doing. I will not get into specifics in the Science of Politics nor the Philosophy of Government; but I will touch your inconsistencies. It is constrained by mans rights. It may only use force in RETALIATION to a person who INITIATES the use of force. It does not "only protect the rich". There is no such thing as "economic rights" only individual rights. In a truly unregulated capitalist society, the government has no right to interfere in the affairs of private citizens. Of course, it should be implied, that the government has no right to use force or to coerce men. It has not right to point a gun at a man and rob him- to take taxes. If, however, it is voluntary, such as maintaining a police force, roads, military; such actions are entirely moral. Though, that is why taxes are apportioned; whereas the income tax is not. The income tax is theft, taking money from one and giving it to another. The Declaration of Indepencd says "the pursuit of Happiness", not "Happiness". You have the right to take the proper steps in so achieving your happiness, but you have no right to demand others to do so for you. You may not use force based on the principle that mans means of survival is his reason. Unlike animals, man changes his environment to suit his needs, to do so requires the process of thinking. Muscle and mind; force and thought- these are opposites. If life is mans standard of value, the source of his rights, and his means to sustain it is by a process of thinking- by using force you destroy his means to live.

GEHD on January 20, 2017:

I do wonder how much people have applied science and psychology to Rand's philosophy.

Her philosophy depends a lot on an individual's consciousness, senses, and perception. But as science has shown us, our senses are kind of crap. Our memories are unreliable, we are very easily fooled and distracted, we are extremely prone to bias, not to mention the fact that we only perceive a tiny sliver of the spectrum of our environment. How does Rand's philosophy address the issue of our fallible senses?

And it should be noted that Rand was a victim of the fallibility of her own senses and biases. She was a lifelong smoker who denied any connection between smoking and cancer even though she had surgery for lung cancer.

David on September 04, 2016:

"She basically claims that all facts can be derived from reason alone." She does not claim this, "basically" or otherwise. If the other was going to bother to write about Rand's work, he might have taken the trouble to understand and to cite what she actually says. According to Rand--and she's right, obviously--our knowledge of facts starts with sense perception. There is much more that is wrong with this extremely hostile post, which starts with the title. Projection?

knight4444 on August 16, 2016:

Ayn rand was serverely mentally, if her followers actually studied her childhood, they might understand her better. Her mother was a sadistic monster!! They were Jews who were reasonably financial secure and when the Bolsheviks financially raped her parents, she was understandably emotional hurt. But her response was to go to the dark side!! Her philosophy of selfishness appeals mostly to conservative Caucasians!! Her philosophy is of white privilege!! Don't agree??? See what this nutcase said about the american Indians!!!! She what this maniac said about the Palestinians!!! BTW for all of her, so called religious Christian followers. You know she was a strong atheist!!! You know she was pro choice!! Lol. But conservative religious people have nothing in common with the teachings of Christ!

P George Stewart on August 12, 2016:

You get off on the wrong foot from here:-

"The whole point of the study of metaphysics is to try and derive objective reality from the subjective reality that human beings experience through their senses and consciousness."

The first thing to note is that Objectivism doesn't usually talk about "objective reality" in that way (I think Rand uses the term once or twice but makes clear that it's just a term of convenience, not a term of art), because for Objectivism, reality just is, whatever it is, but that fact is not "the objectivity of reality".

For Objectivism, objectivity is related to epistemology and a certain epistemological attitude and method - i.e. a method of taking existence and existents, entities, to be metaphysically primary, consciousness as secondary and metaphysically passive, but epistemologically active, and best active when it's "being objective", i.e. seeking to conform to a reality that goes the way it goes independently of the mind, and of consciousness.

Granted that our minds process reality in some sense, the goal is to be as objective as possible in that process - which means, to constantly have in mind the "underscored" tautologies called the "axioms" in any process of conceptualization and thought, especially beyond the perceptual level.

The perceptual level, in some sense, takes care of itself in terms of objectivity (the causal interactions between objects, sensory organs and brain are what they are, there's no question of "error" at that point). It's at the conceptual level where error becomes possible, and we need to be mindful that there's a heirarchy of concepts, that concepts are built on a foundation of concepts subsuming perceived entities/attributes, etc., and that those entities/attributes have natures that we are attempting to identify, and that when we start building up to concepts of concepts, we must always keep our construction tethered, ultimately, to that perceptual base. IOW, at the conceptual level, "There's many a slip twixt cup and lip", and the objectivity Objectivism is talking about relates to keeping thought on conceptual tracks in such a way that the concepts we're using can (if called upon) be reduced to their perceptual foundation, even if through several levels. It's really this entire process, which starts with the decision to focus on grasping a mind-independent reality that has an identity independent of one's thoughts, which one holds to be metaphysically primary, and to be discovered, that's meant by "objectivity" in Objectivism.

What you said about "subjective" and "objective" could be understood, in a loose way, as the problematic of much 17th/18th century "modern" philosophy, but even those philosophers didn't cast their problems in those terms. For them, the main problem was usually related to the idea that what we perceive/experience in the first instance are sensations, perceptions, experiences, seemings, etc. (later: sense-data, qualia, etc.), and the problem wasn't so much getting from there to an "objective reality", as it was trying to figure out what "reality" could possibly mean in that context: is the metaphysically real thing the sensations perceptions, or is there a meatphysically real thing behind them, that they could represent, or fail to represent? In that context, subject/object could be thought to be potential distinctions within the content of experience itself (e.g. Berkeley, Hegel), so "objective" wasn't necessarily "pointing outside" our representations in any way. But nor is it for Objectivism, since Objectivism doesn't have a representationalist foundation. For Objectivism (as for Aristotelianism, some Scholasticisms, Aquinas, Thomas Reid, Pierce, Austin, Wittgenstein, to name a few), we don't perceive sensations, experiences, perceptions, sense-data or qualia, we perceive objects. All those psychological items are secondary and derived, and abstracted FROM our experience of objects.

The "primacy of consciousness"of much of that 17th/18th century philosophy (apart from Reid and possibly - on the non-Idealist reading of him - Kant) stands in contrast to Objectivism's insistence on the primacy of existence and the identity of existents - their attributes, actions, etc. For Objectivism, the idea that consciousness can first of all be aware only of itself and its content is absurd, since, consciousness being intrinsically a relational term, to be identifiable AS consciousness, a thing must at some point be conscious of something not-it. As I said above: the psychological items such as sensations, experiences, perceptions, etc., are secondary and derived from our experience of objects.

Again, this kind of analysis isn't something completely outre for philosophy, it's the sort of thing the later Wittgenstein bangs on about occasionally, as also people like Austin, and in more modern philosophy, people like Kripke, Putnam, etc. Concepts like "experience" can't stand in isolation, because if they do, they're drained of meaningful content. Therefore, if there's such a thing as experience, there's such a thing as a world, and vice-versa (since the fact that there's a world has been identified). This is really more the meaning of Rand's "axioms" (which are cognate with Reid's "common sense" and some aspects of what Wittgenstein was talking about with "hinge propositions" in On Certainty - but many other philosophers, such as Aristotle, thought along similar lines).

The same logic can be seen, on another octave, as it were, when you understand Objectivism's critique of representationalism itself, and the global sceptical problems that arise from it: scepticism is intrinsically self-refuting, because it uses higher level concepts while denying the validity of their genetic roots (what Rand called "the fallacy of the stolen concept"). For example, the Argument from Illusion relies on there being at least one perception that's valid, namely, the perception by means of which the illusion as understood as really an illusion - but that being so, it therefore cannot be used to globally call into question the validity of perception.

Anyway, I could go on, but I just wanted to point out to you that you're missing a whole load of context - both in terms of having a rather narrow understanding of the history and problems of philosophy (which is why I'm mentioning the other names, so that you can situate Rand's ideas more easily) and in terms of Rand's own ideas.

There's no doubt that Rand wasn't primarily a philosopher, and she was idiosyncratic, and perhaps overly cranky about other philosophies. But the philosophy she did is actually quite deep and self-consistent - to crack it you'd have to understand it first, and you don't seem to be making much of an effort in that regard.

HRalph on November 20, 2015:

True, but the premise of enlightened self-interest would imply that while someone may say and/or even think that they are acting in the common good, subconsciously they (all of us) are driven by a selfish motive. e.g. in the case of non-enlightened self-interest, someone could likely be self deluded into thinking that slavery is for the common good because it helps the slave owner’s economy while also saving the slaves from the ravages of the African jungle as well as their pagan ideology -- to use an extreme example.

Under enlightened self-interest a slave owner may realize that slavery goes against his (her?) moral and ethical believes, but in the common (i.e, non-slave population) good, he should continue to keep his slaves but treat them very well in every way (after all, he is still protecting them from being eaten by lions and giving them honorable employment and a path to heaven via Christian orthodoxy.

Hmm, I wonder what deluded, selfish, rationale was behind the thinking of the Boston priests & fathers, as dramatized in the now-playing movie “Spot Light"

--- HRalph

aka Ralph-2

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on November 20, 2015:

Seems to me an appreciation of the "common good" is an important feature of government which was absent from Ayn Rand's so-called philosophy.

Hralph on November 18, 2015:

We’ll, at least if he read “The Virtue of Selfishness” he would know that behind seeming altruism lies self-interest (selfish) motivation. If so, this insight could help him manipulate conflicting points of view among representatives toward a consensus -- which has been missing for way too long. Let’s hope that his on (hidden?) selfishness is at least enlightened self interest. See, for example:

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on November 17, 2015:

I recall that Paul Ryan, the recently elected Speaker of the House, is a fan of Ayn Rand. This doesn't bode well for our country or the GOP.

The Man In Black From Cooley Texas on November 14, 2015:

MichaelM, I thouroughly enjoyed the substance of your comments.


Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on March 30, 2015:

"Ayn Rand gives no evidence or argument, bla bla... neither do you, guy, you just say she's wrong because you like a bunch of other dudes more because you were taught to and then use a whole lot of circular reasoning."

Well....I've read through all of the critique offered by Robes, and I have to say that it's about as complete as it gets. Not only does it dissect Rands "dime-store" philosophy entirely, does so without ANY evidence of circular reasoning what-so-ever. I think that before tossing around logical fallacy terms such as Begging the Question (circular reasoning) it really helps to understand what that term means. If it were understood, then that accusation wouldn't come up. If you're going to make the claim that a circular argument is being used, then provide an example. None is offered. It's circular because Poo, say's so. But more importantly, this critique doesn't simply tell us that Rand's philosophy is a huge bowl of word salad, designed to justify greed, selfishness, and intolerance, while stroking the Ego; he tells us specifically WHY it does this, where it comes from, what influences it grabs to make it's claims and why it's foundationalism is false.

I haven't been to this Hub in a long time, but I've always been impressed with Robes grasp of philosophy. What I find telling is that I've never yet seen a defense of Rand that is as thorough as this critique is. Perhaps that's because people don't read her with a critical eye and are more prone to authoritarianism and find that she provides them with a theory of rationality that justifies their own authoritarian leanings. If your a self-serving tea-bagger, then Rand is your cup of tea.

"So her ideas aren't based on stuff you can never know or prove anyway - so what? "

It would be very important if we knew that we had people in congress that would legislate this kind of garbage which is completely self-absorbed, and encourages greed at the expense of everything else. And we do. If they intend to legislate Randian ideas, they affect all of us.

" How can you have evidence for a philosophy about reality without first knowing which philosophy is correct so you can decide which evidence is valid?"

That's what criticism is for. Proving your science or philosophy isn't what makes it rational. What makes it rational is it's ability to be criticized.

"All of philosophy is pseudo-philosophy - that's as good as it gets. Ayn Rand probably doesn't base her "philosophy" on anything because there's nothing to base it on."

No. That's not true. She does base her philosophy on the Ego. Everything about it is finds its foundation in what she calls rational self-interest. If you follow Rand, then you would know that. Even if you don't follow her, you would know that.

" You know more about the study of philosophy than me, but you're not very good at explaining it."

He's actually brilliant at explaining it. Maybe it just isn't your thing. To understand it, you need to know something about what came before current concepts. Philosophical concepts don't simply pop out of thin air. They usually build on ideas that were presented by others long ago. Either those ideas have been expanded on, or they've been relegated to the dumpster of ideas that failed to hold up to critically thinking.

Hralph on March 30, 2015:

Interesting analogy with the laws of physics! I wonder how the trade-offs between entropy and enthalpy/disorder and energy fit in.

Re: "Caring about the cause would seem as good a motivator as any”

I agree, but I’m thinking there’s still at least a subconscious selfish reason involved: e.g., a social motivation to be accepted by other like-minded people?

Robert Sacchi on March 29, 2015:

I can see the logic of that based on Physics. A body at rest (or in motion) would stay at rest (or in motion) until a greater for is exerted on it. That force could either be something tangible like money or intangible like a place in heaven, good will & respect from others, political influence ... you name it! Caring about the cause would seem as good a motivator as any; I want to contribute to this cause because I consider it a worthy use of my time or treasure.

Hralph on March 29, 2015:

Rand’s point is that we are all 100% selfish. Altruistic behavior is superficial while in fact it is self-interest behavior -- e.g., making donations to “worthy” causes is based not on caring about the cause (well, maybe a little bit, sometimes), but on what the donor personally receives: a tax deduction, a building or foundation in their name, a place in heaven, good will & respect from others, political influence ... you name it!

Robert Sacchi on March 28, 2015:

Interesting article. It would seem either 100% self-interest or 100% altruism would be a bad way to go.

Henry Ralph Rawls from Marietta GA on July 12, 2014:

Read the preface to Ayn’s book “The Virtue of Selfishness “ and you will get the full gist of her philosophy. All the rest of her books expand on these ideas and us elaborate stories (entertaining tomes) to make her points.

Odysseus Makridis from Netcong, NJ on July 11, 2014:

That we would even be discussing the value of Rand's work as philosophy is alarming. But let's not slide into ad hominems. The point is this: show me any page of her ranting and I can analytically show you what fallacy is being committed - not as a matter of rhetoric or polemics or opinion but carrying the appropriate burden of showing that a fallacy is committed.

Random example: see how her musings on anarchy actually use words like "moral" and "immoral" NOT in the way her theory defines them but in the standard way which she presumably rejects! Elementary slide toward inconsistency.

What about false dichotomy - on which her view is predicated: either self-regarding or other-regarding duties; why not both?

But don't underestimate how people succumb to their wishful thinking and other emotive needs and cannot think straight. There is also a problem with not using a word like "philosophy" without ambiguity. To most people, "philosophy" is any odd body of reflections on the meaning of life, government, or anything you like. The tradition and academic study of philosopy are characterized by rigor which is not available to other disciplines outside of Math and the Sciences. It is not surprising, though it always vexing, that those who actually study philosophy are seen as arrogant and aloof and even politically motivated while philosophy itself is clinical in its application of technical tools that require time and effort to master. Rand, on the other hand, has the advantage that her rambling gets through directly and reaches those traumatized recesses - abscesses? - of wounded sould who think that they deserve better than how they have been treated.

Trying not to commit the genetic fallacy myself, may I also point out that Rand was unleashed in the radical 60s to do some damage to an unusually idealistic youth rebellion that was leaning rather left, if you can believe it? But, to be balanced here, the 60s radicals were themselves intellectually lazy and, so, contemptible. It is one thing to take it as being "cool" to drop names but you can't study difficult material under the influence of hallucinogens and while occupying campus buildings.

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on June 15, 2014:

It's noteworthy that Fed chairman Alan Greenspan was an acolyte of Ayn Rand as is economics professor David Brat who recently defeated Eric Cantor in the Virginia GOP primary. I was infatuated by Rand's "The Fountainhead" in high school, but not by "Atlas Shrugged" many years later, having been inoculated by a liberal arts education in which she was not mentioned in my philosophy nor my literature courses. Her novels' characters are cardboard cut-outs and, as you pointed out so well, her philosophy doesn't hold water. Neverthless, her malign influence refuses to die!

Robephiles (author) on October 30, 2013:


1. This article is meant to talk about what Rand got wrong, which is almost everything. Descartes, Hume and Kant disagreed on a lot of things but they did get some things right. Some people are just incapable of understanding philosophy because it involves removing yourself from your subjective perspective and remove the things we take for granted. Just because you are not able to understand what I am saying does not eliminate the possibility that you are merely too stupid to understand it.

2. Consciousness is a fact. That isn't the part Rand gets wrong.

3. I actually agree with Hawking, but I think you have mangled his quote. The problem with Rand is that her philosophy DOES claim to have all the answers.

Bill Sego from Logan, Ohio on October 30, 2013:

It's called constructive criticism poo, not blatant and demeaning hostility. Your approach isn't necessary and is a horrible way of getting your point across. It's a distraction to the topic at hand, whether you agree with his or her points or not. Using your logic, you're basically doing the same thing. "Hey look at me, I can point out the inaccuracy in someone's grammar and make them look bad to get my counter point across." Don't be a hypocrite and, instead, focus on countering the points you don't necessarily agree with, not the grammar. I guess we can't all put together sentences as well as you...

poo on October 29, 2013:

"*sigh*", "your grammar is so bad" (you accidentally mistyped a few sentences too you know mister), "You are 0 for 2 so far", "I studied philosophy at school so I understand all about truth and God and the universe".

I got through the first section and had to laugh. Then the comments made me roll my eyes. Ayn Rand gives no evidence or argument, bla bla... neither do you, guy, you just say she's wrong because you like a bunch of other dudes more because you were taught to and then use a whole lot of circular reasoning. So her ideas aren't based on stuff you can never know or prove anyway - so what? What evidence is there for "I think therefore I am", anyway? How can you have evidence for a philosophy about reality without first knowing which philosophy is correct so you can decide which evidence is valid? All of philosophy is pseudo-philosophy - that's as good as it gets. Ayn Rand probably doesn't base her "philosophy" on anything because there's nothing to base it on. You know more about the study of philosophy than me, but you're not very good at explaining it.

From my limited understanding, I would guess that Rand assumes consciousness is a fact because you kind of have to do that to get any further. Otherwise you might as well stop at "I don't even know if I'm real, I could be a brain in a jar". You might be right, but it doesn't achieve anything. Stephen Hawking once said something really cool about before-the-big-bang, before time. I can't remember it word for word, but essentially, he said that stuff is by necessity outside of anything we will ever know or understand so we might as well forget about it - it could be God, it could be nothing, it could be everything, but we never get closer to the truth so worrying about it is pointless. I don't think Rand was necessarily right, but I do think her ideas are as useful for us to think about (why do we agree? Why do we disagree?) as any other.

I'll bet Descartes didn't have to write "REAL" (capital letters!) next to "philosopher" on his door in order to feel nice inside. Ayn Rand was probably foolish about a lot of things, maybe everything (I wouldn't know, I was looking for an article that might explain her viewpoint and I found none, certainly not here) but she was more fun to read than you.

Dreen Lucky from St. Paul, minnesota on September 17, 2013:

I very much enjoyed your hub. I would have to say that I agree and appreciate Kant's ideas/philosphies more than Rand. It was a great read and a good start to my day.

Robephiles (author) on September 05, 2013:

"It is very clear from your analysis that you do not have clue what Objectivism is all about."

I have never met an Objectivist who was able to explain the philosophy in a logical way that made sense. Ayn Rand's own concise explanation is nonsense to anybody who understands the history of philosophy. Objectivism is essentially a cult. There is no other way of putting it.

"Firstly - if you read what Objectivists published, you will not mix all philosophies all together as "internal conflicts of Objectivism". There are non."

It might be partially because of the bad grammar and spelling but I have no idea what this sentence is supposed to mean. It is not unreasonable to expect Rand and her followers to be able to answer to the works of Kant, Hume and Nietzsche on the points that they disagree with them, especially since Rand herself directly referenced Hume and Kant but failed to refute them, and stated that Nietzsche was an influence but has profoundly misunderstood him.

"1) if you accomplish something valuable and get reward from others, do you feel your self-esteem to rise?"

This is a psychological claim not a philosophical claim. In fact, it directly contradicts Rand's claim of being objective. Nietzsche would point out that if your self esteem is dependent on reward or praise by others you are compromising your own individuality. You would have to define "valuable." What is valuable to others is not necessarily valuable to me. I'm sure slave traders in the 17th century felt very proud of trafficking human beings for profit.

"2) are business providers employing people by investing own money?"

You really have to take care of your grammar issue here. I also am not sure what you are saying here. The answer to this one is "not necessarily." In the United States some of our most profitable companies are not investing their own money but getting money from the government. Still, I have no idea what this question has to do with proving Rand's philosophy. You are 0 for 2 so far.

"3) is your choice what to buy, what to sell and whom to help?"

Not without some form of cohesion involved, unless you are so wealthy that you essentially have an unlimited amount of financial freedom. By Rand's own philosophy this is not true. Since a person's sole standard for value is his own life, according to Rand, he does not have a choice whether to buy food, only what kind of food to buy. There are many other examples that prove this wrong. Also, Rand argues that helping people for any reason is immoral, and since the whole point of morality is to set societal norms she would prefer you not have the freedom to help anybody.

"4) is basis for all above your mind and reason (based on own senses)?"

This is solipsism and almost nobody agrees with it. Also, there are a number of studies that show the vast majority of people do not base their ideas of value or morality on this concept. So this is both philosophically false, because it is by nature SUBJECTIVE but also psychologically false because it is not supported by normative human behavior.

You ask these questions as if they are self evident but none of the four are. In fact, I think they are all badly framed, simplistic and at their core false. Of course your grammar is so bad I might just be misunderstanding you.

Peter Novy on September 05, 2013:

Check it by yourself :

1) if you accomplish something valuable and get reward from others, do you feel your self-esteem to rise?

2) are business providers employing people by investing own money?

3) is your choice what to buy, what to sell and whom to help?

4) is basis for all above your mind and reason (based on own senses)?

If you answered all questions ""yes" then you agree with Objectivism

Peter Novy on September 05, 2013:

It is very clear from your analysis that you do not have clue what Objectivism is all about.

Firstly - if you read what Objectivists published, you will not mix all philosophies all together as "internal conflicts of Objectivism". There are non.

Bill Sego from Logan, Ohio on May 19, 2013:

Nice article and I couldn't agree more. There's no place for her ideals in a hostile world. There's enough greed and suffering to go around without her adding to it and giving it an "excuse." Most who adhere to her teachings are self-centered business executives and dare I say conservatives. She gives them a pass to be even more greedy and self-centered. It's sickening. The "meaning of life" is that we all get along and support one another when times are tough. Not make it worse by making the rich richer and poor poorer. That just promotes violence from the majority toward the elite minority. History provides a proven track record that oppression ALWAYS backfires on the oppressors. It just bewilders me that anyone would adhere to her so-called philosophy. Wonderful, well-written post.

Robephiles (author) on March 04, 2013:

It has been a long time since anybody has put a comment on here about the actual article. I have some points to make.

1. My point about Rand is that she does not address the metaphysics that came before her. If one proposes a "new" form of metaphysics they must participate in the two thousand year old conversation that came before them. My main point was that Ayn Rand does not give an epistemological basis for her metaphysics. Though Descartes was a skeptic he did build a metaphysical system. Kant could hardly be called a skeptic. His work is almost entirely in response to skepticism. Only Hume was really a complete skeptic about human certainty as you claim. Descartes even claimed humans could be certain about the existence of God!

2. Logical Positivism is a very fringe idea in contemporary philosophy. Descartes, Hume and Kant influenced EVERYTHING that came after them, so to say that they led to it is like saying that they led to Hegel, who almost nobody takes seriously anymore.

3. *sigh* "Rules of science." There is such a thing as the scientific method. Rand makes no ARGUMENT for any of these claims. She could make an argument based on reason or one based on empiricism. I show over and over again that her arguments based on "reason alone" are not logical. Incidentally, the fallacy you mention predates Rand but it does not apply here. Her metaphysical claims are purely empirical, since she uses the human perception of reality as the basis for her OBJECTIVE metaphysics. By saying this she is saying that science PROVES things and that anything PROVED by science is OBJECTIVE reality. So she is saying that science is the basis for metaphysics which you just claimed was the other way around. In fact, this is the most intelligent interpretation of Rand's metaphysics. I purposely gave her the most intelligent version of the argument to show how weak it really is. If you can come up with a better version of what her metaphysics could POSSIBLY mean, without cheating, I'd love toy hear it.

4. Plato doubted that the senses could provide any meaningful data. Descartes also doubted this. Hume however is pretty much the opposite of that. In fact, Hume claimed that knowledge could come only from the senses. This is basically the same claim that Rand makes though she dismisses all the problems. Rand and Hume agree that knowledge comes from the senses. Rand and Kant agree that the basis for human morality is the intrinsic value of the individual human being. You make it sound like Rand's thoughts were not influences by the same things that influences these philosophers. You know who else you can trace back to Plato? Ayn Rand. My basic problem with Rand is that she cherry picks the stuff she likes from all other philosophers, Hume, Kant and Nietzsche most obviously, then dismisses all the objections to their philosophies, then changes everything she wants to change and then dismisses any objections to the changes she made. That is Rand in a nutshell basically.

David Hopper on March 03, 2013:

"The three most famous approaches to this are those done by René Descartes, David Hume and Immanuel Kant."

You should have just said that you're a skeptical leaning guy in terms of your philosophy, and anyone else would have been able to tell that you would find Ayn Rand ridiculous. All three men you mentioned criticized Aristotle and had problems with his philosophy. All three men are foundations in skeptical thought and had doubts of human beings ability to discover the truth. All three men provided the foundation for pragmatism and logical positivism, which led to an utter rejection of metaphysics, or as Marx called it; "Ideology."

In addition, the rules of science: i.e. proof or evidence cannot be used to criticize metaphysics, since without metaphysics there could be no science. So saying that Ayn Rand makes a metaphysical claim about the universe and provides no evidence for it is in fact a contradiction. This is a prime example of what Ayn Rand called the fallacy of the stolen concept or what is generally referred to as the fallacy of the self-refuting ideas, which is the basis of the vast majority of her critiques.

As you suggested if someone bases their metaphysics on all false premises, it's likely their whole philosophy will be flawed. And clearly you think Ayn Rand's whole philosophy is flawed, because the whole idea that man can be certain is viewed by you as a flaw. This idea was not created by any of the aformentioned people you mentioned, but was handed down to us all by Plato. Will Durant in "History of Civilization" correctly stated that many of the worst ideas and most destructive ideas in human history can be traced back to the ideas that Plato came up with in the Republic and it's ironic that all three of the men you mentioned as the most famous in regards to metaphysics, can all be traced back to Plato.

ScienceOfLife on January 14, 2013:

" I'm not inclined to buy that, or give it any credibility. What you're saying with this is that everything is relative"

Everything is relative? Where the hell did you get that from?! Please quote me directly... otherwise retract your mistake.

Understand, existence is objective. Reality wipes its butt with our opinions. The best we can ever do is explain a phenomenon rationally. We can never know for sure, have 100% certainty, or prove beyond a doubt, or claim Absolute Truth So Help Me God. This is all religious and political nonsense.

"That might involve producing Nessy, and opening him up to find the unfortunate fisherman, and maybe he can do that. Until he does, he might as well tell me that Pink Unicorns exist on Venus. It's just as valid."

Validity is a matter of OPINION! If a person wants to hypothesize Nessy, then good for him. If the hypothesis (in this case, exhibit A: Nessy) is a possible object, then we ASSUME its existence for the purpose of our theory. Nessy is far more rational than a ZERO-DIMENSIONAL PARTICLE after all! The Quantum Klub will tell you that nothing really exists, that particles are virtual, and that there are infinite alternate dimensions! Now THAT'S bullshit!

As for Unicorns on Venus, that would require an explanation as to how this "horse like" creature got there and can survive the horrendous temperatures. So no, that's IMPOSSIBLE.

Do I personally believe in Nessy? No. Is Nessy a possibility? A giant sea snake of some kind? Who knows! That's up to the person hypothesizing Nessy. If Nessy is a valid object, then we take it at face value to understand the theory. We don't ban and censor the Nessyites from taking part in the discussion. We don't persecute or ridicule like they do in the cults of Quantum and Relativity and Atheism and Surrealism and Modernism and Mathematical "Physics".

The only test they need to meet, is that when pressure by the ferocious audience as to WTF this Nessy creature IS, that the presenter had better be able to produce the goods! A mock-up at the very least! Then whether you believe or disbelieve AFTER you've heard the full story, is your own business and doesn't concern science one iota.

ScienceOfLife on January 14, 2013:

"Based on what? What was the criteria used to establish that it's rational?"

Rational means there are no contradictions, your key terms are defined unambiguously, and all the alleged objects of your theory can be illustrated so the audience understands what you're saying objectively.

If a theory is rational, then it is a POSSIBLE explanation of events. We are not omniscient, so we can never "know". We are not gods, we cannot fly back through time, etc. So the best science can do is work out a POSSIBLE explanation aka theory for what may have happened in the past.

(Predictions are also nothing to do with rational science. This is part of the contradictory anti-philosophy of empiricism. Evolutionary theory is not "proven" via "predictions" despite the pressure put on Darwin by the closet atheists known as "empiricists" who had their own agenda; evolutionary theory was an EXPLANATORY mechanism about past events.)

"Well,..I don't subscribe to that at all. We always adopt a theory according to it's plausability, and that in itself makes it relevant until it's not. That's not the same as belief."

It's exactly the same! Probability is not objective, it is an observer bias. It's a personal matter and post-scientific. Rationality rules out all that nonsense. Either something is possible, or impossible -- that's it, period! No middle ground, no belief, no opinions, no probabilities and personal certainties. Nature doesn't care about a human monkey's personal certainty or calculated probabilities. The Moon exists or doesn't; the man was dead or alive; atoms have a physical shape or they don't; the Yeti exists or it doesn't.

It's not a matter of knowledge or guesswork or likelihood. We ASSUME the yeti, or the moon, or the atom, in order to explain our theory. This is the scientific method.

cajbnackjn on January 13, 2013:

Article full of ad hominems, straw man and no true scotsman fallacies.

lastmanstanding on December 10, 2012:

hail obozo.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on August 09, 2012:

"A theory is never believed, or disbelieved, because belief plays no role in what is rational. A theory is never true, or false, or proven/disproven, or — as you said — taken on authority/consensus. This is all subjective crap!"

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You're telling me something I don't disagree with. I already know that no theories are ever proven.

"The criteria is rational (and/or objective)"

Based on what? What was the criteria used to establish that it's rational?

"If there are two copeting rational theories, then what you personally believe is your own business. We don't persecute or have dogmas in science and (hopefully) philosophy."

By competing, do you mean contradictory? As you already pointed out, belief isn't material here. If a theory is faced with a contradiction, it's been falsified, and dumped. I don't know about you, but when I see a theory that has a contridiction I don't hold it because of some belief. It's gone. End of story. If the idea is to arrive at or closer to the truth, which is all that matters to me. then a philosophy or ideology can be examined and criticized to see if it holds water. If it doesn't it's fair game. There are no sacred cows. Rand for example is dogmatic and presents a theory of rationality that is full of holes. Why anybody would hold to that is beyond me.

"As to whether a theory is "likely" or not, or its "degree of plausibility" is irrelevant and subjective (belief). To you, it's unlikely that Nessy ate The Fisherman. To your neighbour, who witnessed events, it happened as a "fact".

Well,..I don't subscribe to that at all. We always adopt a theory according to it's plausability, and that in itself makes it relevant until it's not. That's not the same as belief. It's simply functioning based upon what we know at this time. As for my neighbor witnessing Nessy eating the Fisherman, if he can demonstrate that as true, then it is. That might involve producing Nessy, and opening him up to find the unfortunate fisherman, and maybe he can do that. Until he does, he might as well tell me that Pink Unicorns exist on Venus. It's just as valid. I'm not inclined to buy that, or give it any credibility. What you're saying with this is that everything is relative, and I don't agree. I'm not a relativist at all. I think you can arrive at a place much closer to the truth by eliminating those things that are demonstrably false.

Wow on August 08, 2012:

Rand certainly generates a lot of comments. I think it is a mistake to critique Rand from the perspective of the philosophic canon. It only seems to egg on people who love her and and can then whine: "but, but, but it's her ideas that matter not theirs". Most of her fan club probably haven't read much of the canon and won't understand that sort of critique anyway. In any event (as you point out), philosophy doesn't care a whit about Rand who is nearly universally viewed as both a light weight and blowhard by academic philosophers. It just doesn't make sense to take this approach.

On the other hand, why not just apply some good old fashioned common sense. Rand would appreciate this right?

1. Science and the individual.

The extreme individualism of Rand is ridiculous on its face. Take Atlas Shrugged for instance where several of the titans of humanity we are supposed to love and admire are scientists or inventors. One only need observe the history of science to immediately see that science is has not been driven forward by a handful of individuals. Certainly there were a few great thinkers who were present at the right moment to tie ideas together and push across certain boundaries, but science is at its heart a collectivist endeavor. Myriad thinkers contribute tiny bits of new knowledge, posit almost correct ideas, extend slightly the work of others, or event make the right mistakes at the right times, and what rises out of this is an overall progression of thought that eventually culminates in breakthroughs. Some of those breakthroughs are made by leaps of insight by great thinkers others are stumbled upon by accident by less great ones. One might even argue that there is a certain historical arc to the progression of science and that certain ideas only ripen at a certain moment in history at which point they are waiting to be plucked. Individuals play a role, but the great advancements in science and invention exist in a complex web of thought and action out of which it would be very difficult indeed to quantify the exact role of the individuals involved.

2. Fairness, proportionality, and luck.

In many ways, I'm living a Randian dream. I work at a company that started small, but has grown big. There are lot of great individuals here. Many of us have worked incredibly hard. The company now employs thousands and generates hundreds of millions in revenue. How did this happen- individual ability, very hard work, and . . . wait for it. . . a lot of luck. There are thousands of guys just like me who have worked as hard, are as smart, and were just not so lucky to have exactly the right ideas and opportunity at exactly the right time. There are a smaller number of guys just like me who are as capable and hardworking but have been exponentially more successful. The CEO (i.e. titan of industry) I work for is a brilliant man. The CTO (my boss) is a brilliant woman. They have both been successful in industry. Yet, Bill Gate has been more successful if we are to judge success as the market does (i.e. by using net worth as a proxy for value). Is Bill Gates 1000 times more capable and driven than the executives I work for? Is Bill 25,000 times more capable and driven than I am? These are back of the envelop figures but probably in the right galaxy. So where am I going here? Rand, in Atlas Shrugged at least, seems to attach a certain moral worth to success as defined by capital markets. If so, it is a morality that demands of its adherents not a little bit of good fortune.

3. Repeatability.

Rand seems to think that titans of industry achieve what they do through personal ability, ambition, and drive. One need only study the track records of US CEOs to see that this is only partially true (see #2 item). There is almost no such thing as a CEO who is consistently successful. She may have a great run at one company and then fail miserably at the next only to perform adequately in the three following that one. When individual ability and style are aligned with the right support staff in the right market at the right time you get great success stories. Duh. If, however, it was all about personal ability it would seem much more likely that the same handful of titans would always be successful. The books "Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swann" by Nicholas Taleb are fascinating reads for anyone interested in luck, randomness, and rare events.

4. Capitalism.

So many people who call themselves capitalists seem to totally not get it. The great thing about capitalism isn't that it allows a few "great" individuals to succeed. It is the exact opposite! Capitalism is a powerful economic system because it allows many, many people to try and fail. When socialism fails the consequences are much different because it is the government and by proxy the whole country that fails. Capitalism is designed to allow a vast number of aspirants to through mud at the wall and see what sticks and what slides off without upsetting the whole system. With all these individuals trying to succeed sometimes everything aligns and the greater good is served and value is created. Meanwhile all the failure gets recycled. Competition IS good, but competition requires a lot of players and a lot of losers. Rand never seems to account for the losers.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 08, 2012:

"But, that the earth is flat, or not, isn't a theory: its just a plain description."

That's absolutely true. My point was that prior to our understanding of that, the idea of a flat earth was put forth without facts. Fact undermined the theory. So, it was merely a theory as I would understand it and was debunked later. Copernicus heliocentric theory changed things even more.

"Either it is, or isn't flat. A theory might be... WHY the earth is a sphere... or WHY ships don't sail right of the edge of our Flat Earth... or WHY the dinos went extinct... or whatever. A theory is a long, complex piece of work."

Well put. Facts replace theories. They either support it, or contradict it. I always tend to hold theories at arms length. I'm kind of a fact based guy. Political theories are always garbage. I always question or reject a political or economic theory that tends to inflict damage on people. Especially when it's cloaked in the Bible or buzz words like "freedom".

"We're not trying to "prove" the Yeti exists, or that the Earth is spherical."

I would not be inclined to try to prove that the Yeti exists or doesn't. It would be like trying to prove that Unicorns exist. I can't prove that they don't. That would be trying to prove a negative, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to prove that the do. When I see one, maybe I'll change my views. As for the earth, that's something that we can empircally measure. It's "map-able". The idea of the earth being flat was falsified long ago.

"I'm no fan of Popper and the Empiricist School though). Science should reveal nature's secrets and unlock mysteries."

You appear to be including Popper among the Empiricist School. He wasn't. He rejected classical empiricism and the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper was a Critical Rationalist (he even coined the term) William Warren Bartley expanded that into "Pancritical Rationalism" by applying that to everyday life. Bartley pointed out “Beliefs must be justified by an appeal to an authority of some kind (usually the source of the belief in question) and this justification by an appropriate authority makes the belief either rational, or if not rational, at least valid for the person who holds it. However this is a requirement that can never be adequetly met due to the problem of validation or the dilemma of infinite regress vs. dogmatism.”

I tend to avoid belief systems.

The framework I come from permits a rationalist to be characterized as one who is willing to entertain any position and holds all his positions, including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decisions, and his basic philosophical position itself, open to criticism; one who never

cuts off an argument by resorting to faith, or irrational commitment to justify some belief that has been under severe critical fire; one who is committed, attached, addicted, to no position.

"So think of it like: hypothesis = assumptions, Theory = explanations. Hypothesis = static pieces, Theory = moving those pieces around. Hypothesis = photograph, Theory = movie."

I do. However I don't stop there. I begin there. The hypothesis = assumptions. The Theory = explanations, but are all subjected to criticism to determine if they bring us closer to the truth of the hypothesis and theory that supports it. I'm not inclined to accept any explanation that can't be falsified. What makes the hypothesis or the theory supporting it true? A theory isn't rational because it can be proven. ( they never are). It's rational because it's criticizable. If the theory is subjected to relentless criticism, and still stands, we hold on to it, until such a time when it doesn't. When that happens the theory is replaced by another that falsified it, and that stands until it's replaced by another. It's an endless process that constantly brings us closer to the truth.

I think too many people don't understand that we are fallible and can never own the truth. They want desperately to prove they are right. But we can get glimpses of it when we discard the garbage that obscures it. It's a stripping away process. Deductive rather than inductive. Kind of like a sculpture chipping away at a block of marble in order to reveal the form that lies inside.

"Assumptions includes the definitions, exhibits, facts, etc. We don't query those, we take them for granted, on face value, so we can understand a theory."

I don't argue with facts. But I do question definitions. Language can be vague, and there are many languages in the world making concepts even more vague. Mathmatics is probably the only universal language.

"In the theory we use the hypothesized "pieces" to explain something as part of our theory."

Yes. But that is all inductive and doesn't prove the theory. You're using things to support the theory. We can always find things that will support a theory. I'm more interested in looking for those things that disprove the theory. I wan't to know if the theory is false. Every hypothesis/theory is open to criticism. Unless is some metaphysical idea. Then it's not in the realm of science, but the supernatural, and I'm not interested in that. If it can't be falsified, then it's just somebody preaching a belief to me.

"Dino bone = exhibit. We're not trying to "prove" our dino bone exists, or might exist under the mud."

Right. The Dino bone exists and we see it. Why it exists becomes part of our theory. That theory is that creatures like this roamed the earth. What makes the theory work is that it stands up to criticism. The theory is falsifiable. We can deductively determine that the theory holds. Nothing has been offered to make that theory false so it stands. Maybe we'll find out that they all came from outer space some day, but until that happens the theory stands up to criticism.

ScienceOfLife on July 07, 2012:


No that wasn't addressed at you specifically my friend, just a general comment re: what I hear about theories/science.

But, that the earth is flat, or not, isn't a theory: its just a plain description. Either it is, or isn't flat. A theory might be... WHY the earth is a sphere... or WHY ships don't sail right of the edge of our Flat Earth... or WHY the dinos went extinct... or whatever. A theory is a long, complex piece of work.

So, the Flat Earth or Sphere Earth would be part of the hypothesis, specifically the exhibits phase. We're not trying to "prove" the Yeti exists, or that the Earth is spherical. We're trying to EXPLAIN our theory. That's science (or ought to be: I'm no fan of Popper and the Empiricist School though). Science should reveal nature's secrets and unlock mysteries.

So think of it like: hypothesis = assumptions, Theory = explanations. Hypothesis = static pieces, Theory = moving those pieces around. Hypothesis = photograph, Theory = movie.

Assumptions includes the definitions, exhibits, facts, etc. We don't query those, we take them for granted, on face value, so we can understand a theory. In the theory we use the hypothesized "pieces" to explain something as part of our theory.

Another example. Dino bone = exhibit. We're not trying to "prove" our dino bone exists, or might exist under the mud. We're trying to use it as part of our theory, i.e. WHY it's there and what happened to the monster that it comes from.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"A theory is never believed, or disbelieved, because belief plays no role in what is rational. A theory is never true, or false, or proven/disproven, or — as you said — taken on authority/consensus. This is all subjective crap!"

I don't think I was making a point that any theory is believed or disbelieved. Belief is irrelevant as far as I can see. A theory can never be proven to be true, since attempting to do so would necessarily involve induction which won't prove anything. However it only takes one example to disprove a theory. The theory that the earth is flat, was falsified. We can now rule that out.

Where did I say anything is taken on authority/consensus?? Are you sure you're addressing the right person?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"Any claim to be an end in oneself based on one's nature as a human being must be recognized as universal to all who are were or ever will be."

You're saying that it is a persons duty to recognize this theory based on an Argumentum ad Verecundiam argument with Rand as the authority?

I have to assume that you're a fallibalist. Perhaps not. But assuming you are, how can a fallible person come up with an infallible theory? No theory is ever proven, you must surely know that.

ScienceOfLife on July 06, 2012:

Actually the real issue with is/ought (morality) is that no-one ever bothers to define what they mean by "ought" (or "should", "rights", "must", "moral", "good, "bad", etc).

Something is implied, but never properly defined or reasoned out. If I say, for example, "people should not tell lies", is this just an opinion, i.e. "i would LIKE IT if people did not tell lies"? Or am I saying something else? If so, WHAT?!

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"Value cannot be a fact EVER"

I don't think this has gotten through to him. If value is a fact, I'd ask him to demonstrate that truth to me. He should be able to demonstrate them. So...“Values must be demonstrated true.” But, “values must be demonstrated true” is a value. Maybe he can demonstrate why it is true?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"but the only satisfactory solution to philosophy teachers such as Robephiles is a direct "mathematical" syllogism deriving an ought from an is (which I think is a little silly)."

?? Yes...logic should be off limits when discussing the validity of a dimestore philosophy. How silly of him. So we should ignore the logical problems and embrace this stuff ad vericundium.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"Duty is the opposite of freedom."

No it isn't. I think you need to define freedom before you make that statement. It seems that you are taking the narrow view of freedom as deciding for yourself what you will do. Exercising prerogatives on a daily basis. That's one view of it. However another is the freedom FROM something that restricts you from doing what you might choose to do. When that is the case is it not your duty to do whatever you must to be free FROM what ever has you in chains? If Freedom is you goal, you have a duty to free yourself.

The Pilgrims came to this country to free themselves FROM the religion of the King. If the freedom to practice their religion was important to them, then they had a duty and obligation to find a way to do that. Duty is NOT the opposite of Freedom. More often than not, it is necessary for it exist.

I think it would be a difficult argument for you to tell anyone in the military that duty is opposite to Freedom.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"Given the subsequent comments by both of you, I would be most interested in your response to the is/ought explanation since that is the rock on which the entire normative half of Rand's philosophy (ethics and politics) rests."

The is-ought fallacy is when someone assumes a conclusion based on an ‘ought’ rather than an ‘is’. The major problem is that an ‘ought’ is often derived from an instinct, false premise, or cultural morality.

Is-Ought Fallacy Structure

Argument: A ought to be B therefore C

Reality: C cannot be logically verified by the ‘ought’ connection of A and B

What we're talking about here is Critical dualism.

Critical dualism is the view that there is no way to derive moral principles from matters of fact. In the traditional language of moral philosophy this dualism is often called “the is/ought problem”, as though philosophers have to find some way to get over it or solve it.

The problem arises because philosophers want to find some way to justify moral principles and the best way would be to find some way to derive moral principles from some set of facts, unless it is believed that they can be handed down from some supernatural authority. Almost everyone who has dealt with this issue has tried to answer it by reference to human nature or to the nature of ‘the good’. But each of these forks leads to a dead end: the first because anything that anyone can conceivable do can be attributed to human nature and the second because there is the question of defining ‘the good’.

It is interesting to note that the same logical structure underlies the is/ought problem and the problem of induction which looms large in the philosophy of science. In each case the hope is to derive general principles (natural laws in the case of science, moral rules in the case of moral philosophy) from statements of fact. In each case the problem arises from the desire for justification based on facts and in each case the problem is insoluble in principle. The way forward is to aim to establish critical preferences for scientific theories or moral proposals based on their capacity to solve the problem that they are supposed to solve, and to stand up to criticism.

People who preach the impotence of arguments are in a paradoxical position, analogous the paradox of the liar. Rands assumption of infallibility stands out in her dismissal of contrary views as irrational, which put her squarely in in the cross hairs.

Is and Ought

Hume showed that moral (ought) proposals cannot be logically derived from factual (is) propositions. Moral philosophers have tried to close the gap in various ways in the hope of finding a rational base for ethics rather than being forced to make a choice between some arbitrary external authority or an existential leap of faith (or lonely despair).

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"This is the same David Hume who doubted his own existence and admitted having no clue how to verify it one way or the other, right?"

It isn't that he doubted it. It's that he couldn't rationally justify it inductively. It's the same David Hume that introduced the Problem of Induction. He pointed out that we cannot rationally justify our science through induction. The "problem of induction" plagued philosophers for centuries. In order to deal with the problem, they found themselves using induction to try to solve it. You obviously can't use the problem to solve the problem. You can't justify induction by using induction.

Traditional ‘bedrock’ foundationalism said that knowledge must be justified in order to be rational, and it attempted to justify our knowledge by deriving it from an indubitable and infallible source. (Rand is clearly a foundationalist.)

Hume then argued that the attempt to ground our scientific knowledge upon sense experience leads to irrationalism. Hume pointed out that there is no ‘middle term’ that allows us to validly infer future events from past experiences, and that such inductive inferences provide only psychological, as opposed to rational, justification through custom and habit.

Kant’s attempt to salvage the rationality of science collapsed when Einstein imposed a non-Euclidean geometry and a non-Newtonian physics upon nature. Einstein described a natural world that rational beings before him had never conceived. And his descriptions were then corroborated by the results of the experiments that he conceived in order to test them.

The success of Einstein’s theory shattered all hopes of explaining the rationality of science in terms of a priori foundations. If Kant could be wrong about the a priori certainty of Newtonian Mechanics and Euclidean Geometry, then how could anyone ever claim to be a priori certain again?

Wittgenstein and the logical positivists, in particular, argued, as Hume had argued before them, that the meaning of a term is reducible to sense impressions, and that empirical verifiability is what distinguishes science from metaphysics, and sense from nonsense.

When you (Michael) state; "It is the self-evident fact of existence—that something is—and its corollaries, I am aware of it (consciousness), and of myself as distinguished from it (identity) that reside at the base of all knowledge.", you are agreeing with and relying upon the very same logical positivism that reduces everything to sense impressions.

It was in this context that induction and demarcation emerged for Popper as the two fundamental problems of epistemology.

Popper realized that the attempt to explain the rationality of science as a byproduct of its justification had failed. We cannot rationally ground science upon a priori cognition because a priori cognition is unreliable, and we cannot rationally ground science upon sense experience because inductive inference is invalid. If we want to avoid Hume’s conclusion that science is irrationally grounded in custom and habit, then we have to explain how scientific knowledge can be rational given the fact that it cannot be rationally justified.

But where Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, and the positivists all agreed that our knowledge must be justified in order to be rational, Popper cut the Gordian knot by arguing that scientific knowledge cannot, and need not, be justified at all — and by saying that it is rational not because we have justified it, but because we can criticize it. Popper argued that any attempt to justify our knowledge must, in order to avoid infinite regress, ultimately accept the truth (or reliability) of some statement (or faculty, or person) without justification.

But the fact that the truth (or reliability) of this statement (or faculty, or person) is accepted without justification means that we attribute to it an authority that we deny to others. Thus, where Wittgenstein and the positivists appealed to experience to justify our knowledge, Popper argued that ‘the main problem of philosophy is the critical analysis of the appeal to the authority of ‘experience’—precisely that ‘experience’ which every latest discoverer of positivism is, as ever, artlessly taking for granted.

The observation statements that report our experience never entail the truth of a strictly universal statement (or theory). So universal statements (or theories) cannot be justified (or verified) by experience. But it takes only one genuine counter-example to show that a universal statement is false. So some universal statements (or theories) can be criticized (or falsified) by experience—or, at least, by the acceptance of observation statements that contradict them. Popper concluded that it is falsifiability, and not verifiability, that distinguishes empiri¬cal science from metaphysics.

And then, by pointing out that there is a logical asymmetry between universal and singular statements—so that universal statements can be falsified, but not verified; and singular statements can be verified, but not falsified—he showed that the distinction between science and metaphysics cannot coincide with the distinction between meaningful and meaningless statements, because if a statement is meaningful then its negation must be meaningful as well.

In this way, Popper argued that the growth of science is both empirical and rational. It is empirical because we test our solutions to scientific problems against our observations and experience. And it is rational, because we make use of the valid argument forms of deductive logic, especially the modus tollens, to criticize theories that contradict the observation statements that we think are true—and because we never conclude from the fact that a theory has survived our tests that it has been shown to be true.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"The validity of the senses is axiomatic. One must rely on that validity in any attempt to refute it."

Actually your statement should read; IF the validity of the senses is axiomatic, THEN one must rely on that validity in any attempt to refute it.

Almost everyone is familiar with the classical method of reasoning know as modus ponens. The well known example goes as follows:

If Socrates is a man then Socrates is mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Few know that the progress of science no longer depends primarily upon this method, but on the less familiar form known as modus tolens, which goes like this:

(If) Socrates is a god, (then) Socrates is immortal.

Socrates is not immortal.

Therefore, Socrates is not a god.

We have two different kinds of statements, both of which are necessary ingredients of a complete causal explanation. They are (1) universal statements, i.e. hypotheses of the character of natural laws, and (2) singular statements, which apply to the specific event in question called "initial conditions". It is from universal statements in conjunction with initial conditions that we deduce the singular statement, . . . a specific or singular prediction.

The initial conditions describe what is usually called the "cause" of the event in question. . . . And the prediction describes what is usually called "effect".

To give a causal explanation of an event means to deduce a statement which describes it, using as premises of the deduction one or more universal laws, together with certain singular statements, the initial conditions.

The first criterion required for a set of statements to be admitted as a theory is that it must be internally consistent from a formal, logical point of view. In order to meet this criterion the following conditions must be satisfied. The set of "axiom" statements must be independent and not contradict one another. Also, there must be no dependent statements which contradict other dependent statements. Another condition is that none of these axiom statements may have a "built-in" contradiction (self-contradictory). When a theory satisfies these conditions, all of the "basic statements" of the theory can be deduced, in the strictly logical sense, from the axiom statements. This criterion is necessary to permit "falsification" to extend to higher level theories. By insuring that this criterion is met, we guarantee that:

If a higher level statement is true, then an immediately lower level, dependent, statement is true. (Call this "Premise 1")

We can show what this means by two steps of modus tolens. Suppose we have a simple theory with one axiom, one "middle level" statement which, for this example, we will call the "hypothesis", and only one basic statement, the "prediction". Since Premise 1 is true for this theory, we can show the relationships among the statements of the theory:

P1. If the axiom is true then the hypothesis is true.

P2. If the hypothesis is true then the prediction is true.

Suppose the prediction turns out false. Then we would say:

P3. The prediction is not true.

Argument 1

If the hypothesis is true then the prediction is true. (P2)

The prediction is not true. (P3)

Therefore, the hypothesis is not true. (modus tolens)

Argument 2

If the axiom is true then the hypothesis is true. (P1)

The hypothesis is not true. (from argument 1)

Therefore, the axiom is not true. (modus tolens)

Because this first criterion was satisfied in this simple theory, a false prediction "carried through" to prove the axiom of the theory false. If this first criterion had not been satisfied, this technique of using modus tolens could not have been used, and we would not know how a false prediction affected the theory as a whole. In more complex theories, a false prediction might show only that a combination of axioms is inconsistent in regard to their consequences, but not which of the axioms is the one which caused the trouble. Because of this, a false prediction may cause the whole theory to be falsified, or only a part of it.

Strictly deductive reasoning is "truth preserving", that is, it is such that if one starts out with "true" premises, one can only deduce "true" conclusions. Starting with a "theory" and deducing "predictions" can be stated in the form of a premise:

If the theory is true, then the prediction is true.

However, we cannot prove that a theory is true, but we can certainly show that a prediction is false. If the scientist tests one of these predictions and finds out that it is not true, he uses modus tolens to conclude that the theory cannot be true.

If the theory is true, then the prediction is true.

The prediction is not true.

Therefore, the theory is not true.

A theoretical system may be said to be axiomatized if a set of statements, the axioms, has been formulated which satisfies the following four fundamental requirements. (a) the system of axioms must be free from contradiction (whether self-contradiction or mutual contradiction). This is equivalent to the demand that not every arbitrarily chosen statement is deducible from it. (b) The system must be independent, i.e. it must not contain any axiom deducible from the remaining axioms. (In other words, a statement is to be called an axiom only if it is not deducible within the rest of the system.) These two conditions concern the axiom system as such; as regards the relation of the axiom system to the bulk of the theory, the axioms should be (c) sufficient for the deduction of all statements belonging to the theory which is to be axiomatized, and (d) necessary, for the same purpose; which means that they should contain no superfluous assumptions.

In a theory thus axiomatized it is possible to investigate the mutual dependence of various parts of the system. For example, we may investigate whether a certain part of the theory is derivable from some part of the axioms. Investigations of this kind . . . have an important bearing on the problem of falsifiability. They make it clear why the falsification of a logically deduced statement may sometimes not affect the whole system but only some part of it, which may then be regarded as falsified

Science admits only theories capable of being tested by experience. If the form of a theory is such that its basic statements simply don't correspond to experience, or are otherwise not testable, then that theory does not qualify as empirically scientific. It may be some other kind of theory, but it is definitely not to be considered scientific. For a theory to be scientific it must be testable.

The third criterion concerns the comparison of one theory with another, and can be considered a decision process in selecting among theories which satisfy the other criteria. This is chiefly appropriate when one considers adding a new "axiom" to a currently accepted theory. Conditions which apply to this criterion include whether the proposed revision has fewer axioms (Stuart refers to this condition, which has been known through the ages as Occam's Razor, as "Popper's Chopper"), whether the proposed revision produces more and different basic statements (predictions), and, which is particularly significant in selecting from among competing theories, whether the new axiom produces basic statements (predictions) which contradict basic statements produced without that new axiom.

ScienceOfLife on July 06, 2012:


Decent comment/post. The problem is even deeper than this though! Allow me to explain...

A theory is never believed, or disbelieved, because belief plays no role in what is rational. A theory is never true, or false, or proven/disproven, or — as you said — taken on authority/consensus. This is all subjective crap!

The criteria is rational (and/or objective). If a theory (explanation) proves (is demonstrated) to be RATIONAL then all we can say is that it MIGHT be the case. We can never know because we're not omniscient gods. We have no time machine to go back and verify the asteroid that supposedly killed the dinos (or not!). We're going to ASSUME (hypothesize) certain things in order to THEORIZE (explain) events logically (step by step in sequence and without contradiction).

Even Popper talked about this in his own waffley way (terms like "falsification"). If an explanation is rational then we know it is POSSIBLE (able to be the case), since it is IMpossible to imagine/visualize that which is irrational (e.g. a thing that's not a thing, a 0d particle, creationism, a 4d spirit-being, a square-circle, etc).

If we can imagine it, then it's possible. If there are two copeting rational theories, then what you personally believe is your own business. We don't persecute or have dogmas in science and (hopefully) philosophy.

As to whether a theory is "likely" or not, or its "degree of plausibility" is irrelevant and subjective (belief). To you, it's unlikely that Nessy ate The Fisherman. To your neighbour, who witnessed events, it happened as a "fact".

As long as the explanation makes sense, you have a theory based on DEFINITIONS and your ASSUMPTIONS (which includes your exhibits aka "evidence": Nessy, the fisherman, the water, the big teeth, the blood stains found, the radar data, etc).

Maybe it was a crocodile from the local zoo. Maybe it's all a lie and fisherman's conspiracy. Maybe YOUR theory is that he slipped and fell, drunk, and the blood was from hitting his head on a rock. FINE! Just make sure YOU can explain YOUR theory, or that you understand another's and don't have to invoke Authority (it is proven by experts!) or Intimidation/Voting (the wise consensus is...) or Deflection (look at my fancy stats and equations!) or Bullying (you're just a crank!) etc.

ScienceOfLife on July 06, 2012:


"Ayn Rand posed three basic axioms: Existence exists, A is A (law of identity), consciousness is conscious."

What a load of crap!

They're just tautologies. Observe: "An orange is an orange." "A dooberywidget is a dooberywidget." What did we learn? Nothing!

According to Ayn Rand's own words, we still have no idea what SHE even means by 'exist', or by 'conscious'!

For example:

'Existence' (subject: noun?!)

'Exists' (modifier: verb?! adjective?!)

"This thingy is thingish." Great. Thanks Ayn Rand!

The basis of any "epistemology" is definitions. Ayn Rand never got off the ground. As for her political opinion, ALL moral/political discourse is opinion (reasoned or not).

The problem for her, as for all philosophers, is never defining "exist" consistently and objectively. Clearly, existence doesn't depend on human logic because (hopefully!) the Moon existed long before Aristotle came along and formulated the first laws of basic logic.

Hopefully things didn't start existing by spontaneous back magic as soon as the first advanced chimp piped up with, "Existence exists, yo!"

Hopefully, a thing exists because we first define exist consistently, and that definition precludes human observation and subjectivity.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"It is the self-evident fact of existence—that something is—and its corollaries, I am aware of it (consciousness), and of myself as distinguished from it (identity) that reside at the base of all knowledge. They require no proof, nor is proof possible, because there is nothing more fundamental that man can experience (thence know) from which they could derive. Furthermore, their validity is implicit in all knowledge, and one cannot attempt to refute them without implying their validity with the means they utilize in the very process"

You're using a criteria as it's own criteria?? What you're describing here is Floating Foundationalism, which comes in many different varieties. But its basic move is to accept some statement or theory—paradigm, linguistic framework, form of life, belief or what have you—without justification, and to then use it as a foundation upon which to justify everything else. In so doing, Floating Foundationalism retains the demand, the purpose, and sometimes even the logical structure of justification. But it leaves the foundations themselves floating in mid-air. It acknowledges that justification is ultimately grounded upon something that is itself ungrounded and, it advises us not to question these things, but to ‘commit’ ourselves to them instead—and to proceed as if nothing has changed.

I understand why we would want our theories to be justified, if ‘justification’ meant showing them to be true and ‘true’ meant corresponding to the facts. And I understand, if this is what ‘justification’ and ‘true’ mean, that we might still want our theories to be justified even if we recognize that justifying them is an impossible dream.

But if a theory can be justified and not true, then why are we so concerned with justification? If a theory can be true but not correspond to the facts, then why should we be concerned with truth? What exactly turns on the justification of a belief if it's not its correspondence with the facts? And what, if anything, does all of this have to do with the institutionalist’s distaste for criticism?

These questions, in my view, can all be answered in a word. The word is ‘authority’, and in this context it refers to the cognitive authority that justification is supposed to provide for our beliefs.

This is why institutionalists recommend that we commit ourselves to a theory. And this is why they do not like criticism. If our knowledge is not grounded upon bedrock, then we better not rock the boat. But in my view, it is just this appeal to foundations that are not indubitably true and to arguments that are not logically valid that is likely to lead to infallibilism and authoritarianism.

Why so?

Because it is relatively easy, so long as we accept Methodological Scepticism, to argue against the claim that a certain theory is infallibly true. All you need do is to show that the claim that is false involves no contradiction.

But how do you argue with a commitment?

Justification once explained what made scientific belief rational. But the myth of the foundation is like every other myth: its power as a myth depends upon its being taken for the truth. Most of us no longer believe in a bedrock foundation of truth. But few of us believe that rationality is a matter of consensus. It is better to abandon our foundations entirely—and with them, the demand that we justify our theories.

I'm afraid that your comment amounted to one long justification for Rands Objectivism. Any attempt to justify our beliefs must lead either to psychologism, or to dogmatism, or to infinite regress. But neither psychologism nor dogmatism can demonstrate truth. Not only is it impossible to justify our beliefs, but attempts to do so may lead to authoritarianism of one form or another. For authority is authority—regardless of whether it is the authority of the Pope, or the authority of experience, or the authority of Ayn Rand. And it is useless as proof to anyone unwilling to defer to it.

What are we trying to justify when we try to justify true belief?’ and ‘What are we claiming is justified when we claim to have justified true belief?’

The obvious answer to these questions is ‘a belief’. But the term ‘belief’ is importantly ambiguous. For it may refer either to the content of belief (to the what that is believed), or to the process of belief (to the believing itself).

It may, in other words, refer to an object that someone believes, or to a subject’s act of believing it. I will call epistemologies that appeal to the first of these senses of ‘belief’ objectivist, and epistemologies that appeal to the second of these senses subjectivist.

I think that it is important to understand that this ambiguity gives rise to two very different ‘justified true belief’ theories of knowledge that differ both with regard to what we are justifying when we justify a belief, and with regard to what counts as a justification of it. For according to the objectivist theory, we are justifying a statement or proposition. But according to the subjectivist theory, we are justifying someone’s act of believing a statement or proposition. Justification, in an objectivist theory, is concerned with showing that a statement is true. But justification, in a subjectivist theory, is concerned with showing that someone acted properly in believing that a statement is true.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"Nowhere in her works will you be able to ever find her saying that the government will solely serve and protect the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor."

But that's exactly the outcome. You stated that the "The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence." What protects the poor from being exploited by the Rich? If the ONLY proper purpose of government is to protect a person from physical violence, then who or what protects a person from having economic destruction leveled against him by another? Or is that not the business of government?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

"In deciding between food and poison, when one decides what one ought to do, he must ask: "What will happen to me if I choose food or if I choose poison?" The answers: life and death, respectively. "I value my life, therefore, I ought to choose the food instead of the poison".

An insect will make the same decision. It's our instinct for survival. Taken up to the top of the food chain you have decisions made under the guise of Social Darwinism. I'm well aware of Rands views on individualism and Ego, however even an insect has a sense of community survival. We not only exist as individuals, but as members of a family, a community (society), a nation and we have a desire to secure the survival of each.

"Concerning your claim of that capitalism-socialism dichotomy, I have already debunked that as well... I mean have you read Atlas Shrugged? Have you read Rand at all?"

I have. Quite a bit. Including Atlas Shrugged. Capitalism requires socialism in order to function. Socialism provides the infrastructure that enables capitalism to thrive. Without it, it couldn't exist. There is no purely capitalist society on the planet. No private source can provide the highways, rails, ports, airports, or maintain the national parks which are a benefit to everyone. The idea expressed by Galt that he and a group of industrialists are the elite job creators is absurd. The truth is that the consumer is the job creator. This mantra used by Romney and the Republican/Conservatives is completely without merit.

In this election, Governor Romney is running on the concept of his experience at Bain qualifying him as a “job creator”. He’s on very thin ice here for a number of reasons.

1.The purpose of Bain Capital was not “job creation”. The purpose of Bain was wealth creation. Bain’s objective was to maximize profits for investors. That could be done many ways. One of the ways was through “creative destruction” of companies that would be dismantled and their assets sold off piece meal. The employees were always expendable. If a company could be profitable without laying off its work force. Fine. If not, fine. Profits for the investor can be obtained through “creative destruction” of the company in order to provide the investors with a return. The workers were always a secondary consideration at best. Mostly they are of no concern at all, and people are fired, and then possibly offered their jobs back at a lower pay scale. Their insurance is gone. Their pensions are looted.

2.A Venture Capitalist is not a “job creator”. That isn’t what they do. Maximizing profits of investors is the only function. Creating jobs is not on the list of things to do in Venture Capital Private Equity companies. If you own a private equity company and you tell your clients that you are more interested in creating jobs than you are in profits, you won’t be serving your clients and you aren’t doing the job of private equity. Most certainly, your own business won’t survive. The most obvious way to maximize profit is to reduce operating costs. Employees represent a cost. A smart business man only hires people when there is a demand for his product. If he can produce the same product using fewer people it increases his profit margin.

3.Some industrialists create products. However, a product is not a job. It is an idea. If the idea is good it will sell through marketing of the idea. That idea MUST be sold to somebody willing to buy it. The more people willing to buy it, the more demand there is to provide the product idea. What creates jobs is the demand made on the company to fill the orders for their product. It is the consumer demand that creates jobs.

Who exactly are the so called “job creators”? They are none-other than the public itself; the consumer who is willing to spend his money on the product or service being offered. The idea that a wealthy industrialist is a job creator is completely false. Hiring a person must always benefit the wealthy industrialist in filling the demand for his product made by the consumer. The consumer always drives the hiring of personnel. Consumer demand creates the job. A company will only hire people based on the demand for the product or service that it offers. Hiring people in hopes of having people walk through the door to buy something is like demanding that the stove gives you heat before you put in the wood. The thing that creates jobs is the demand for a product made on a company by consumers of that product. The public/consumer is the job creator. A company provides a product or a service. It doesn’t provide jobs. That is not what it’s in business for. To suggest otherwise is false, ludicrous and totally and completely illogical. No business man ever started a business with the idea of creating jobs for people. He started a business to make money from his product.

The United State along with every major industrialized nation in the world has operated on a mixed economy. We have the largest economy in the world. We have been a blend of socialism and capitalism for decades. There is not one example of a pure capitalist society on earth. It doesn’t exist because capitalism left unchecked will devour itself. Like all systems devised by man, it’s fallible and prone to error. No man made economic system or system of government is infallible. When we find errors, an intelligent human being corrects the error and does so hopefully without compounding the error by doubling down on the mistakes.

The Consumer is the Job Creator. The very notion of not raising taxes on the rich because they are the “job creators” is absurd. The so-called “job creator” doesn’t make decisions on hiring people based upon his personal tax rate. He doesn’t pay his staff out of his personal bank account. It comes from a business account. I doubt that any wealthy corporation CEO ever said, “My personal taxes are too high. I’m not going to hire anybody at my company”. This argument should be mocked and ridiculed for how absurd it is. Bill Gates doesn't hire people based on his tax rate.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 06, 2012:

cbl2988: "Well, what about values? How are we to measure value(s)?"

So, you ( and Rand) hold that “Values must be demonstrated true.”?

"A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue."

But, “he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue."” is a value. Can you demonstrate why it is true? Also.."he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue."...means that the values being pursued are arbitrary.

"This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly"

So you have values that you can’t demonstrate to be true. I for one don’t think values can be demonstrated as true. Is that not hypocritical? If you accept that humans have values, then it’s their values. They are not dependent on demonstration, otherwise, why would we consider them our values?

It certainly might be helpful to discuss how we made a particular value judgement. We might discuss certain consequences of holding or not holding the value. However as it is a value, it is determined by human judgement, not any particular demonstration. So there can be no basis or criteria or standard. Otherwise that would be to remove the human element from this. Truth is determined by humans, not criteria or standards or bases. Moreover, a criteria cannot be its own criteria. Again, it is an issue of responsibility. Even assuming you have a criteria you think is adequate, (in this case Rand's Philosophy) how did you determine that? Are you responsible for that judgement, or is the criteria responsible? Merely claiming a standard or a criteria or a basis does not help one to demonstrate the truth of values. Instead, it creates a certain amount of hypocrisy. If we claim a basis gives us truth, we then are making the implicit claim that truth requires bases. But then it is plainly obvious our own basis lacks a basis, as it cannot be its own basis. By claiming truth must be demonstrated by bases we undermine our own moral integrity. While I think that one can be willing to question “humans have values”, and therefore hold the position non-dogmatically, I don’t think that the notion that “humans have values” is logically compatible with “values are determined by demonstrations.”

Rand puts forth a positive methology. A Theory of Rationality. Positive methodologies have about as much humanity as a software program. Positive methodologies are automatic. They tell people exactly how they must judge the truth, so that they need "not" judge the truth. I’ve never known a positive methodology, or theory of rationality that actually works. What I have known are several people who are dogmatic and dictatorial because they think they have a positive methodology. Moreover, as I pointed out before, the positive methodology can’t demonstrate it’s own truth. It’s own standards can’t justify it’s own standards. So those with positive methodologies, or theories of rationality either have to resort to circular arguments or hypocrisy or both.

Speaking in metaphysical terms, I guess you could say I believe in the rational unity of man, reason is the same for all of is. Although the burden of truth falls on each of our shoulders individually, we are all united in the sense we share the same world. Truth is the same for all of us. There is only one truth. We’re each approaching it from different directions and positions and situations. Comparing, contrasting and criticizing these positions helps all of us to weed out error and get nearer to the truth. At least those of us who have an interest in the truth. I believe that we must work to share our ideas and take part in critical discussions and that this is how we progress. This of course doesn't meet with Rands idea of a scorched earth approach that we see among the TeaParty Rand devotees in our Congress. And of course, we never progress as a result of this dogmatic approach. Ideologies like Objectivism are "theories of rationality. They are handed to people and adopted without question. But that limits us. We learn by imaginatively thinking up new idea, new values, new approaches, new positions, then once they are mature enough, subjecting them to criticism. As this is a negative methodology, it need not resort to circular arguments of justification and is therefore not hypocritical. It avoids the need to defend a position irrationally. Nor does it attempt the impossible task of taking the burden of judging the truth off our individual shoulders. No idea is ever proved or justified, and nobody is as dogmatic in their certitude as the Randian Identity Philosopher.

If a criteria, such as Objectivism, is undeniable, human judgement may as well be automated. We can program a computer to do it. You know, there are so many possible criticism of this viewpoint it’s hard to know where to begin. For one, it would mean that truth was no longer a value, but a kind of fact. As such there would be no value of truth, as such there would be no truth. However, if there was no truth, then how did we determine how humans judged the truth in the first place? What I am saying is that we have to accept that judgments of truth can only rest on human shoulders and can not ever be factually explained. This, in my view, is where Rand falls flat and can be and should be dismissed.

You make decisions about the truth everyday. Just like you decide something tastes good, or something is beautiful or something is interesting, you decide if something is truthful. It’s a value decision. What you really want is a way to reduce values to facts. You want to say, “we decide truth because of this undeniable criteria and no other decision is acceptable but this one. We now have an undeniable standard concerning the truth. You are no longer free to determine the truth, but must follow this standard as it is undeniable.” However, if there is no freedom to determine the truth for ourselves, then it is merely a done deal of sorts. An automatic process. It’s like having a trial by jury, but then telling each jurist exactly how he must decide. Or worse, it’s like having 12 personal computers for jury members instead of individual human beings. If there is an undeniable way to demonstrate the truth, then human valuing doesn’t even have a place in the process anymore. This is absurd. What can one make out of a total denial of the value we place on the truth? Do you or do you not value truth? If you value the truth, then how can you square that with a process that determines what we must value as true in advance so that we need no longer value it?

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 05, 2012:

cbl2988 ...I have an issue with this statement: "On any level of income, a man’s money is a limited quantity; in spending it, he weighs the value of his purchase against the value of every other purchase open to him for the same amount of money, he weighs it against the hierarchy of all his other goals, desires and needs, then makes the purchase or not accordingly.

The same kind of measurement guides man’s actions in the wider realm of moral or spiritual values. (By “spiritual” I mean “pertaining to consciousness.” I say “wider” because it is man’s hierarchy of values in this realm that determines his hierarchy of values in the material or economic realm.) But the currency or medium of exchange is different. In the spiritual realm, the currency—which exists in limited quantity and must be teleologically measured in the pursuit of any value—is time, i.e., one’s life."

I don't agree with the idea that the same considerations or measurements are made when guiding the difference between material value purchase and "spiritual" issues. It's not demonstrably true. The "currency" used in value assessment is certainly different than that used in a metaphysical sense, and to suggest it involves the same heirarchy isn't demonstrably true. The currency used in a material sense is money, and that not actually limited. It's variable. Whatever you spend can always be replenished. The currency spent in the spiritual/metaphysical sense is time which cannot be replenished. have no way of knowing how much of that currency you have. You know what's in your bank account this month, but you never know how much time you have. You can save your money to make a purchase. You can't save your time. When it's done, it's done. So the considerations can't be the same. You have many opportunities to replenish material currency. You have no way of replenishing time. The idea that one uses the same heirarchy of decision making on material values and moral values is an attempt to ignore the fact that the physical world and the metaphysical world are two different things. One is falsifiable, the other is not. Why would I consider using the same value system for both?? You're comparing apples and oranges.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on July 05, 2012:

This was as thorough a thrashing and detailed disection of Rand and Objectivism that I've seen. Like many people, I read Rand when I was in my 20's. I actually read the Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged all the way through. John Galts final speech at the end goes on for what must be a hundred pages. Who speaks like this??? Then, I read the Virtue of Selfishness, and her short book Athem, and after that, I found myself laughing at this simplistic comic book philosophy. All the charactors in her books were one dimensional. The Hero's were Gods, and everyone else was the lowest form of vermin. Life was very black and white in Rands world. Yet, I saw many shades of grey. hmmmm...what's wrong with this picture?

I dropped Rand in my early 20's and chalked it up to exposure to pseudo-philosophy and moved on to the real thing. What I've found amazing is the pre-occupation with her nonsense by many politicians that seem determined to employ her ideas into legislation. People like Paul Ryan who is a Rand fanatic (although he claims to have no interest in her because she represents an atheist philosophy...which is itself a dumb statement and offensive to most atheists) have claimed that Rand is the source of their political evolution. That's about the only form of evolution that a Conservative accepts, but there it is.

I think that Rand's Objectivism represents philosophy for dummies. It provides a patina of superficial respect for those who would otherwise be seen as idiots. The problem is that we have a lot of idiots in congress today that find her compelling. This Hub is an excellent description of what the problems are within Rands philosophy. It's a rock solid logical and rational examination of a bogus philosophy that should be used and referred to as a means to expose her garbage and send it to the landfill where it belongs. Objectivism is NOT a philosophy to be taken seriously as a way of running this country.

Nice work man. Nice work.

Carneades-Georgia on May 12, 2012:

Robephiles, thanks for this excellent hub! I'm going to reblog it to my Critical Critique @ blogspot, where I've just put another source critical of her, and where I added my own comments that she was hardly a rationalist, in the modern meaning.

msorensson on December 28, 2011:

What a great essay...I was one of those..a fan..I remain a fan of her work..I read each and every one of them ..between the ages of 12 to 21..It took a long time to realize that hers, too, is a limited point of view..but I am glad I was exposed to it..

Robephiles (author) on June 22, 2011:

Thanks a lot. I just got tired of the defense of Rand after awhile. Or more specifically the MichealM defense. In his first comment he doesn't understand that an ad hominem is a personal attack used in the premise of an argument and things just become more simple from there. Most people think philosophy is just "your opinion" and that couldn't be further from the truth. I really liked your Rand hub too which is why I linked it here.

Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on June 22, 2011:

Hey Robephiles

Thanx this is a very informative hub, it was interesting to see people try to justify this evil and immoral philosophy. Beyond all the philosophical mumbo-jumbo I see no one actually providing a real reason to follow Rand. The military ceases to exist in a reality where self interest is paramount. Throw yourself on a grenade? Why even risk joining unless paid enormous amounts to justify the gamble? Police and Fire Fighters, the same practicality holds, there is no benefit to me by stopping your house from burning unless it is beside my own. Since the wealthy are so much more "worthy" in Rand's world perhaps they should be taxed far more in order to protect their worth?

I think Rand is less of a god and more of the high priestess for those that worship them selves as gods.

Throughout history, at least since the Renaissance, when the division between the haves and have-nots has become too extreme, revolutions have been fought and societies have been turned upside down. We may be approaching that point again and no amount of Rand justification will stop someone who is homeless or hungry from trying to remedy the situation, be it with ballot or gun.

Voted up

Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:

Apparently you didn't get the satire of what I did. I treated him as Rand's ethics would compel me to do. I will treat all egoists the way they deserve. I will care about everybody except for them. Why should I. I have no duty to you. You are giving me no value. Do you expect me to trade something of value (posting on my hub) for something that has no value to me? (his comments.)

Deco on June 16, 2011:

You project your own flaws onto MichaelM. Your final paragraph is a feeble excuse to shroud your cowardly intentions. To stop speaking to him, all you need to do is stop speaking to him. It is obvious that he has not made a single comment here which was not in response to something you have said, meaning it is more than likely that he would cease his comments if you did. There is nothing here to suggest that he intended to harass or pester you, since, again, his every comment was explicitly in response to your own words. Hide your cowardice if you wish, but be aware that only fools will be fooled by this tactic. Of course, they may well be your desired audience.

Oh, and there is no need to ban me (if such is possible with a non-account; I honestly don't know), since I will not be making any further comments.


Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:

In case anybody has followed this thread this far I have decided to ban any future comments from MichealM on this particular hub. If he chooses he may comment on any of my other hubs. My reason for doing this is that MichealM seems to be someone who came to hubpages from an outside source and made an account just to comment on this hub. As such he is not a member of the hubpages community so I do not see why I have any "duty" to continue to debate this issue with him.

In addition he has accused me of a number of things that are unfounded and has consistently said insulting and disrespectful things. His style is sly but it has constantly been there. Simply correcting factual inaccuracies or voicing a difference of opinion is not insulting, though I know some people who take it this way, but constantly implying that anybody who does not see the objective facts of your case is stupidity when you are stating things that are unfalsifiable claims and this is intolerable to me after a certain point.

Another reason I have decided to ban him is that I have other things to do. It against my self-interest to continue to have this conversation with him and since I see no reason that I should have any duty to him I feel I am morally obligated to act in a way compatible with my self-interest. I have academic papers to write, hubpages to write and fiction I am working on, all of which could earn me money while talking with MichealM will not earn me money so therefore it is against my interests. I learned a long time ago that some people will not stop commenting on your blog or page until you ban them so I am taking that action now to avoid my having to deal with the issue further.

Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:

I am not citing authority to make arguments. I am simply pointing out that the things that you are saying (without argument) are not ideas that are in anyway considered to be settled issues. You always accuse me of fallacies (such as ad hominem) while ignoring context and then within seconds commit the fallacy yourself or my supposed fallacy is in response to something where you used the same basis tact.

As for the use of autonomy, if you are going to use any words you want and not define them then why even come into this conversation? Autonomy means something very specific.

As for the mass murderer example, are you talking about somebody like Hitler? Are you talking about a serial killer? If you are talking about a serial killer I know one person who called a serial killer "an ideal man" (William Hickman) and that person was Ayn Rand.

But yes, I do think criminals retain certain rights even after they are convicted of crimes. There are many people who oppose the death penalty

for ANYBODY no matter how severe their crimes. (life) Even somebody in prison deserves some liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. I oppose the use of isolation because it treats human beings in a way that I think contradict their essential rights. I think inmates should have contact with the outside world and that they should have the opportunity to better themselves. Do I think this is true of a "mass murderer." Yes, Tookie Williams killed many people as a gang member (some people called him a mass murderer) but while in prison he was given the freedom that allowed him to redeem himself in many people's eyes.

You assume that rights are absolute. They are not absolute they are relative. This does not mean that they only exsist in society but that we judge the ability to exercise these rights under circumstances where they are logical consistent. Intent matters, as Kant would point out, not just the action you take. In this way you have a right to free speech but if your speech is meant to incite a riot then you have abused that right and iot is a criminal act. It is the intent of your action that defines a right not the action itself.

MichaelM. on June 16, 2011:


Autonomy in this context is not synonymous with free will in the philosophical context. And it is not a word that she used, it is my word that sums up the concept that one needs to be free from any coercion by physical force.

"The idea that rights do not exist outside of a political system is a highly contentious claim" —— Be my guest ... rebut at will... but appealing to authorities like the Constitution and Kant won't cut it. Show me in your own words why it is not true.

Also, note that when the Constitution says rights apply to all persons, it does not mean that they are not contextual in the sense I have explained. You will have a tough time looking for an authority to cite who will back you up in saying that a convicted mass murderer still has a right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:


Rand does not claim a person has a moral right to autonomy in the way philosophers use the phrase. She says freedom and free will but these are not the same as autonomy. Her version of free will seems to be based on the compatibility between determinism and freedom view that Hume and Locke had. Autonomy means something completely different and is championed by Rousseau, Kant and Rawls.

The idea that rights do not exist outside of a political system is a highly contentious claim. The United States constitution says rights apply to "all persons" not "all citizens" and therefore it is logical to conclude that the writers thought that these rights were due to them even before they formed their government.

Your views are more like those you usually hear in a political science class but philosophers are not interested in simply the mechanics of our system but the justness of such a system and possible alternatives.

Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:

Yeah, I seriously don't think the idea of inalienable rights has ever been completely presented in a way that everyone agrees. Natural law ethics had the idea of forfeiting your rights when you violate someone else's rights. But in Rand's case she bases the inalienable rights on human value of life and then we must extend that to property. But if I'm starving and you have all the food why can't I use force to get the food if my life is the standard of value for me?

Human rights is as they are usually discussed today are heavily influenced by Kant. Kant thinks you are free when you are rational and make decisions that are rational and logically consistent. Acting on your desires or even values isn't freedom to Kant unless it can be proven to be a decision that does not logically contradict itself. But the Utilitarians are still out there and if we except Utilitarnism then human beings really only have rights to the extent that these rights make the world a better place so in that way they are not inalienable.

This conversation could literally go on forever. I don't mind continuing to talk about it but I've been talking to a few people about them for years now and we still are confused by certain issues and still have points we don't agree on.

Ethics is really a conflict between the “right” and the “good”. The two terms don’t really mean the same thing but sometimes we think something is right even if it doesn’t lead to the good. Sometimes we think something is good but that certain ways of obtaining it are not the right thing to do.

MichaelM. on June 16, 2011:


The word "rights" has two separate contexts. On a desert island or in outer space, or anywhere there are not enough people to form an independent third party institution to manage the use of force, the word "rights" has meaning only in the context of individual ethics, i.e. the rights and wrongs a human being must discover and apply to live a successful life. There would be no political rights, because there would be no political institution to enforce them. There are only moral rights.

When such an institution can be formed (a judge, a sheriff, a posse, etc), the process of sustaining one's moral right to autonomy necessitates its objectification as a political right to serve as a standard governing the action of the government that will enforce that autonomy. It is the moral "rightness" of autonomy that establishes the necessity of one's political rights. It is the moral right that is inalienable in an absolute sense, because it is derived from the universal and inherent nature of all human beings.

Political rights, however are alienable a) in that they do not exist at all outside of governance by a political system, or b) when they are forfeited by the act of violating them. One may only claim a right to one's life so long as one does not violate that same right of another. One may not violate a right of a person derived solely from his nature as a human being, then turn around and claim the same right by the fact that one is human. That is a self-contradiction and self-refutation. That is the logic behind the right to self defense, that is already well established.

So the problem you suggested is merely caused by conflating separate contexts of the same word.

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 16, 2011:

Perhaps we should take this discussion to email?

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 16, 2011:

Now that I think about her politics a little more, I realize that she advocates natural, inalienable rights. In her politics, she advocates the retaliation of force in response to its initiation. The problem is, she doesn't bother going into the difference between retaliatory and initiatory force. So, if, for instance, someone violates the rights of another, then imprisoning him would be wrong, if, in fact,his right to Liberty is inalienable. So now that I think about it, inconsistencies like that (and how she chooses to represent faith, which is one of the main disagreements that I have with her) pop up in he philosophy every now and then so that I have a hard time dealing with. I suppose that I didn't really get into it because no one really raised the question beyond my own curiosities. My question is this: has anyone really solved that main inconsistency that Rand ignored? Are rights really inalienable? If so, then how do we justify imprisoning people? If not, then are they really just natural and we can choose to forfeit them by harming others, thus making them not inalienable?

Robephiles (author) on June 16, 2011:

The guy who made these videos is pretty smart about explaining the issues involved with this debate.

I think he puts a little too much stock in G. E. Moore. Even Moore later in his life was unsure about some of his conclusions and when he considered rewriting a lot of his work in order to address his later ideas he eventually decided it was "too much of a mess" for him to figure out.

Wittgenstein would later claim that a lot of our philosophical problems were really about language and if we could just solve the language problems then we would have all of our philosophical problems figured out. You can see a language problem in Rand when she uses the word "selfishness." She doesn't seem to mean it as just get as much for yourself as possible (at least not all the time she talks about it) so you wonder if she is just using the word to try and shock people.

A lot of philosophers use weird language choices. If we are going to solve these debates it is important to clarify that we are talking about the same thing.

I'm not sure exactly where he is going in the videos. I think he is saying that we have a conflict between what we think of as subjective and objective.

Perhaps when Rand used the word objective she was saying that we are humans so what do we care about reality outside of the human experience. In fact, now that I think of it this is probably what she really meant. But I still don't think this really excuses her approach to her ethics it only really gives you an idea where she is coming from.

One of the things Rand assumes is consciousness as a fact but we do not really know whether it is a fact. That is what the mind body problem is all about. There are a lot of uncertainties to work out. But Rand seems so certain about these things that we are for the most part uncertain about and still hotly debating about.

He also mentions the conflict between scientific realism and positivism in the second video but doesn't really go into it. Rand was obviously a realist when it came to science but she could have at least addressed positivism.

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 15, 2011:


I was hoping to get your thoughts on these three videos on is/ought:

Robephiles (author) on June 15, 2011:

Even if I was to accept your explanation on face value I don't see how that is deriving an ought from an is. As Albert Camus said whether or not to live is the most important choice that human beings make in life. It is an important decision. Kant explains self-interested action as duties to yourself. If the choice is simply protecting my life that is one thing but there are very few moral decisions I make where the choice is about me protecting my life. Rand uses the example of giving a homeless person money. There are a number of actions, perhaps hundreds, that a person can choose to make in that situation. Rand says simply that we ought not feel obligated. I don't know where she is deriving this from facts about the world. If I gave the homeless person a dollar it would make almost no difference in my life. If I gave him a hundred dollars then it would make more of a difference but it definitely would in no way threaten my life. Kant has no formulation of what a person ought to do but he does simple tell you to act as a free and rational being. Rand asks us to act as a paronoid scared fool who is constantly afraid people are going to take his stuff.

MichaelM. on June 15, 2011:


While you touched on several areas in reply to my comment, you skipped the most important one: ought from is. Did my explanation help you to see that Hume was wrong and that human beings can discover the oughts for living entities (that which contributes to their life) from that which their nature is?

Robephiles (author) on June 15, 2011:

Once again Rand's philosophy contradicts itself. The idea that an organism’s life at all has value is an intuition. Value cannot be a fact EVER. An alien race might not see us having any more value than ants.

The fact that you acknowledge that ethics is normative is puzzling since Rand argues her ethics are completely objective matters of fact. Those two concepts do not go together. Once again Kant and Rand begin their ethics on the same assumption that human beings are intrinsically valuable. Rand then insists that after we have accepted our own intrinsic value we have no obligation to the values of others. This is pure logical contradiction. (P and not P)

Kant asks us to be logically consistent by assuming the same values in others that we have for ourselves. Duty is only contradictory to freedom and free will if you accept the version of free will held by Rand. Rousseau, Kant and Rawls hold a different idea of free will which is more compatible with the ideas of individuals functioning within society than individuals functioning within a state of nature. (Rand and Hobbes have a few things in common. Mostly the things Hobbes was wrong about.)

Once again I would have no problem with Rand's claims if she based them on individual human drives such as Nietzsche does. Then we would have a foundation for a logically consistent set of ethics. But Rand chooses to invade Kant's territory of "pure reason" and he makes mincemeat out of her.

As for duties, I have many of them. I have a duty to my wife. It is natural for me to want to be unfaithful to my wife sometimes but I do not because I respect the value of her as a human being. This does not make me less free in anyway. If I had children I would have duties to them. This does not make me less free or effect my ability to function as a moral agent in any way. I have duties to my students. When my students come to me for help my purpose is not to enforce my will or to arrange some kind of mutual exchange of value. My purpose is to treat them as ends in themselves. When a student comes to me and wants a letter of recommendation for law school I may think they are making a terrible choice but I write the letter for them because I respect and recognize their ends. It does not serve my self interest in any way to write students letters of recommendations. I already got my letters a long time ago so why should I for any reason other than duty care about theirs?

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 15, 2011:

Michael M.,

I agree with you 100%, even on the is-ought problem that you talked about. It is simple as a,b,c and 1,2,3 to me, but the only satisfactory solution to philosophy teachers such as Robephiles is a direct "mathematical" syllogism deriving an ought from an is (which I think is a little silly).

Mathematical reason isn't the only applicable form of reason (which is the opposite of what I believe Hume believed. But that is kind of funny for a guy who believes that Math doesn't exist, since he doesn't even know if he exists or not).

In addition to your is-ought contribution: Where do values come from? From concepts that contain referents based in reality. That is how her ethics is objective. On top of that, her ethics is universal. It applies to all.

MichaelM. on June 15, 2011:

I just noticed that my prior reply was inadvertently truncated as I began to comment on the Objectivist ethics and politics.

Given the subsequent comments by both of you, I would be most interested in your response to the is/ought explanation since that is the rock on which the entire normative half of Rand's philosophy (ethics and politics) rests. Any views one might have on the Objectivist ethics and politics must be qualified by one's position on is/ought. For anyone to upset Rand's ethics, they must rebut the idea that man's oughts in the pursuit of life must satisfy the demands implicit in his fundamental nature.

(Continued from previous truncated reply:)


• "The problem with this [that an organism's life is the standard of value] is that it runs straight into the is / ought fallacy as first introduced by David Hume. Hume stated that a moral value (an ought) cannot be derived from a physical fact (an is)."

This is the same David Hume who doubted his own existence and admitted having no clue how to verify it one way or the other, right? Meanwhile the average gardener who is fortunately unaware Hume ever existed, is fully aware that the first task in defining how to grow a tree (a living entity) to the maximum potential of its nature is to know what that nature IS. It is only the difference between what the metaphysical identity of a Swamp cypress IS and that of a Saguaro cactus IS that will tell one where and how one OUGHT to plant and nurture them, each in accordance with their particular nature.

This is the first fact of reality for all living entities. The particular nature of human beings in this context is that their life is contingent on choices of action among alternatives—choices that necessitate the definition of a code of values to guide their spontaneous actions. To construct such a code from the bottom up one must begin with the recognition that the most fundamental alternative man faces is life or death.

If one chooses to pursue death, no ethics, no values, are required. Just let nature take its course. But if one chooses to pursue life, then life is inexorably and implicitly the standard of any value one would act to gain or keep in the interest of maximizing it. And here, "life" does not mean mere physical existence. To pursue life means to pursue the full potential of one's nature under the extraneous circumstances in which one exists. Hence Rand's conclusion: that which contributes to one's life is therefore "the good", that which detracts, "the bad."

Consequently, one needs a comprehensive code of values (in principle) that is hierarchically ordered in respect to their contribution to one's life. Thence, the pursuit of life and happiness requires that in the face of any alternative, one must strive to opt for the higher value and forsake the lower value. Even then, success continues to depend as well on whether one's values and hierarchy are rational (viable).

Contrary to the widespread colloquial misconception you share that altruism is no more than wanting to help others, its primary attribute is the necessity of self denigration. The moral mandate of altruism is that in the face of an alternative, one should opt for the lower value and forsake the higher one—that one should act to detract from one's own life out of duty. If any benefit accrues from an act to the actor, it is not altruistic, it is selfish.

It is absurd to assert that one has a "duty to the rest of humanity and that duty is to help our fellow man to be as free as possible." Such a duty is just an unchosen obligation arbitrarily asserted without grounds. Duty is the opposite of freedom. And it is only freedom that enables a man to create his own value, while duty subordinates it to the will of others. There is no value to a human being that is intrinsic just as there is no such thing as an inherited original sin. One's value must be earned by the product of one's mind and actions (one's soul). Valuing the needs of others equal to one's own is meaningless, since alternatives necessitate choices. Valuing them higher than one's own inverts that fundamental choice of life over death.

Rand is, nevertheless, an egalitarian via her recognition of the moral imperative for the intellectual integrity of logical consistency. Any claim to be an end in oneself based on one's nature as a human being must be recognized as universal to all who are were or ever will be. That is the basis of Galt's oath in "Atlas Shrugged, "I swear by my life and my love of it , that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

The significance of reason to ethics is the fact that it is man's only means to pursue life, and so the application of one's reason to one's actions in the service of one's life is the primary moral imperative. And in a universe of volitional and thus fallible men, autonomy in that process is prerequisite to being human in the fullest sense.


Politics, like ethics is a normative science. It is actually the extension of ethics in the context of an individual's life into the social context of an individual living and interacting among other men in long term relationships. There is only one possible barrier in that context to individual autonomy, and that is the initiation of physical force by others to prevent or negate one's own choices.

Consequently, there is only one fundamental political alternative: freedom or force, and thence only one moral task for a government to perform: to remove coercion from human interactions, to guarantee that all interrelationships among men shall be by voluntary choice. The government shall be the sole legitimate user of force, and may use it only to stop the use of force in normal human relationships, i.e. to guarantee the rights of all individuals to their own moral authority over the applications of their reason to action in the pursuit of their own lives.

That is the essence of Rand's radical capitalism, and you will not find such principles replicated so consistently in anything before her or since that claimed the name of capitalism, most especially not the crony-capitalism of Obama and Bush. Thus you err in your statement that Rand stated the alternative to be capitalism v. socialism. It is rather freedom v. force, and that pits capitalism as she defines it against capitalism as others have defined it (not to mention all other -isms that constitute statism) that condone to one degree or another the use of force by some to take for their own purposes the values others created or acquired in voluntary exchanges.

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 14, 2011:

You implied that I was "simple", among other things. But I realize that we aren't always as careful with our words in comment sections.

Robephiles (author) on June 14, 2011:

I don't remember making any personal insults but if I did I apologize.

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 14, 2011:

On the contrary, despite what I have said, I do respect you. I simply disagree with you. Do not forget that you initiated this discussion on my hub and it was you who made personal insults directed toward me.

Robephiles (author) on June 14, 2011:

This is the first time you have shown anything approaching respect for me in any of your comments. Though to be fair written comments often seem harsher than if you are speaking to somebody in person.

I'm amazed that you would say the is / ought thing is a genuine criticism since when I brought it up previously you linked me to a video that called it "a silly idea" and previously have dismissed it.

I have not taken anything Rand said out of context. She says her metaphysics are based on objective reality and her epistemology is reason. She says selfishness is moral and altruism is bad. She says taxation is theft. She doesn't put these claims in any special context and makes no caveats. If you have any explicit examples please explain to me how the context is different. I did rephrase Rand somewhat but the meaning of my words and her words are close to identical.

It is not crazy for me to ask for you to present your own argument in support of Rand. When I argue for Kant I don't just quote him but I put his arguments in my own words and give my own examples. I am a moral Kantian. I can apply Kant to situations that he never even thought of and I can also point out the flaws of Kant's philosophy and address them in a serious and thoughtful way. You seem to think Rand has no actual flaws. The problem with Rand is that to accept her philosophy you must dismiss all of the rest of the history of philosophy that came before her and that is a TALL order for any philosopher to attempt to do let alone to have actually accomplished.

My critique of Rand is an immanent critique. What this means is I have examined her philosophy using her own terms. She claims the use of axioms but then refuses to address objections to her use of these axioms. She claims her philosophy is objective yet she bases it on criteria that are hotly debated among philosophers. Even consciousness is still debated and she takes it as an axiom. Also the most devastating argument is that she claims human individuals are intrinsically valuable yet has a moral philosophy which asks moral agents to take into account only their own value and not the value of others. This isn't just a moral failure it is a logical failure. (This is why she hates Kant so much. He pointed this out before she was even born.)

As for Nietzsche the idea that Nietzsche says "do what you want" is based on the misconception that he was a nihilist. He was not and his philosophy is in opposition to nihilism. I wrote a hub on Nietzsche previously but his philosophy makes sense on its own terms. If you accept the axioms and intuitions he bases his philosophy on his views are completely consistent. This is not the case with Rand. I personally hate a lot of the things Nietzsche says and find it really disturbing. The point is I can't dismiss all of it. It is too well constructed and too thought provoking to just dismiss outright. Rand however I don't have that problem with.

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 14, 2011:


I don't care if you are a philosophy teacher, professor, a philosopher, or Joe the plumber. All I care about is ideas. It makes no difference who you are or what your profession is.

I am a Kinesiology major. Nothing about what I study in school has much to do with philosophy (except a few philosophy classes here and there). It is more of a hobby and a passion of mine.

I understand every point you make and where it is coming from. However, I just have to disagree with just about everything you say. The only criticism that you make that I find worthy is your is-ought one (because it is a legitimate and honest question).

Most of what you presented about Rand was just a huge smear. She didn't say half the things you say she did (you actually outright misled your readers, something I do not approve of and will, therefore, speak my mind to you about it, and I am not going to point it out again because it is obvious and made the case) and the other half you dropped the context behind those ideas. The reason WHY I quote her is because she is who we are talking about Rand and her ideas, not me and my ideas and a lot of it is also to point out the glaring context-dropping, contradictions, and misrepresentations that you continually insist on perpetuating throughout everything you say about her.

Neitzche makes more sense to you? Really?

Isn't Neitzche the guy that believed that said that people should do what they feel like doing without any real regard to other people? He is the guy that you keep accusing Rand of being. A whim-worshiper that believes that he is morally justified in doing whatever he feels like doing in the moment because he wants to do it and it brings him pleasure. The Mystic who believes in instincts and feelings guiding the lives of men in place of reason. You thing he is more logical and is not "completely retarded" (classy by the way). Right.

I'm sorry if you feel like I am talking down to you. That wasn't my intention. I respect you, but also disagree with you. But if you still feel that way, it isn't really my problem.

Robephiles (author) on June 14, 2011:


Wow, and I thought comments were ridiculous before.

All the points that you claim I commit fallacies when "arguing" about Rand are obviously not meant to be arguments but opinions. Most of them are in the introduction before the argument begins so the average twelve year old would know that they are opinions. I never say Rand is wrong because "Europeans find her baffling," but that is obviously meant to be background information.

I do not think that no philosopher is "right." When I teach philosophy however, I teach philosophers views separately from my opinions of those views. When I teach Utilitarianism I bring up all the objections to Utilitarianism and the objections to the objections. When I teach Kantian ethics I do the same thing. When I teach Virtue Ethics I do it again. I assure you that philosophy professors do have strong opinions on which philosophers are "right." We get in fights about it all the time. Your scoffing at academia is the same "bias" you accuse me of.

I already refuted most of the metaphysical claims you make about Rand I'm not going to do it again. I will point out that you miss the point. Rand bases her reality on the same principles that science is based on but science doesn't "prove" it "predicts." Just because I acknowledge that there is a difference between deductive and inductive logic does not mean that nothing exists. Kant's whole metaphysics are based on proving that we can know things after Hume pointed out all these problems with knowledge obtained through the senses.

After telling me to quit insulting my author about Rand you directly make an ad hominem at David Hume without in anyway addressing or refuting his claims. When I say Rand seems to have adopted her philosophy as objective in order to bully I am merely stating that if she based her ethics on individual drives like Nietzsche it would make much more sense. That was the point of the statement but if you want to take it out of context then go ahead. I'm not really that broken up about you disagreeing with me.

Robephiles (author) on June 14, 2011:


Once again, Rand does not define rights in a satisfactory way. I really had no bias when I read Rand for the first time. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 13 years old. I assure you I had no political views when I was thirteen.

Since you have no problem talking down to me then I will talk down to you. You do realize I teach philosophy right? I'm a philosophy instructor. I do know what I'm talking about and find it amusing that your responses to me are to accuse me of not.

Every year in my ethics class I have at least one kid who wants to write a paper on nihilism. I tell this kid every year if they write a paper on nihilism then I will give then an F no matter how good it is. They always say, "but that isn't fair!" and I tell them, "look who just proved he isn't a nihilist."

Rand's ethics go against most of what we mean when we use the word ethical. They go against human concepts of fairness and justice and Kant and Hume absolutely destroy her. If you want a philosophy that is like Rand's but not completely retarded then read Nietzsche or Max Stirner or Robert Nozick. I do not judge philosophers on what their views are but on whether their views are logically consistent.

I find it amusing that in the beginning of my hub I said that all Rand's followers do is parrot her maxims and that is all you have done. You have not presented an original thought of your own, a counter example or a clarification. You just tell me to read Rand again as if it won't be stupid this time.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about Ayn Rand:

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. "

MichaelM. on June 14, 2011:


cbi2988 with whom I agree 100% slipped in while I was compiling this, so there is some duplication here and there. But that's ok, the repetition will do you good ...


• "philosophy of Ayn Rand, known as objectivism" — objectivism is generic, and Rand did not originate it; she is, however, the creator of the philosophy, known as Objectivism, because that is the name she gave it. Capitalize it or confuse your readers.

• "odious cult" = argument from intimidation inapplicable to ideas in question.

• "Europeans find it baffling" = an appeal to the authority of an arbitrarily defined consensus. Value=0.

• "academic philosophers use it as opening for easy jokes" = argument from intimidation; laughter is not an argument.

• " Followers of Rand are impervious to any criticisms of her work however" — that's because, unlike so many of her critics, a true Objectivist is only pervious to facts.

• " ... they are greeted with an almost religious parroting of her maxims." — like all those juvenile brains parroting the absolute truths their teacher has demonstrated to them ..."2x2=4, 2x3=6, 2x4=8, 2x ..."

• "... and then she (or her followers) accuses anybody who disagrees as being irrational." — you are conflating two entirely separate groups of "followers" here. The multitude of publicly contentious Objectivists are very young newbies of high school and college age who have barely cracked the philosophy. They know just enough to realize how revolutionary Objectivism is and how contrary to the awful ideas of their relatives, peers, and professors to be consumed by an orgasmic enthusiasm. Needless to say they are prone to throwing into the fray every idea and characterization they can extract from their embryonic knowledge of the philosophy. To characterize Rand's philosophy on the basis of what they say or how they act is itself juvenile.

Those who eventually master a workable knowledge of Objectivism and/or continue to hone their understanding after their academic years understand that the adjective "irrational" is inapplicable to the noun "disagreement." Disagreement is not an idea, and in Rand's world, only ideas matter. That's why I opened by pointing out the absence of ideas in your characterizations that attempt from the get-go to let the reader know that daring to like Rand for any reason at all will make one a laughing stock of the cognoscenti. [ reread Ch.19 in "The Virtue of Selfishness" and repent!].

• "If anybody doubts that my portrayal of Rand is an accurate representation of her philosophy then I invite you to go to ..." Please do! Just keep in mind that it consists of excerpts, not fully explained ideas and proofs. If you care whether she can demonstrate the truth of her views or not, you will have to find the topic in which you are interested in one or more of the essays collected into books like Rand's "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" or Leonard Peikoff's compilation of her ideas, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand."



• "Rand’s solution to the problems presented by these three giants of philosophy is to completely ignore them all together."

It is the special fallacy of present day academia to believe that philosophy can be no more than an endless game of intellectual ping-pong with the notions of philosophers in which none are allowed to be right—just interesting. To someone like Rand, however, who had a firm grip on the human capacity to know the nature of the universe, what possible use could the conclusions of academia's "giants" be who saw man as little more than a figment of his own imagination and/or wandering aimlessly in an unknowable universe. To wit:

"His [Descarte's] conclusion from this was that only his own existence was certain (I think therefore I am) and that all knowledge must be derived from that certainty. Hume moved in the completely opposite direction and doubted that even “the self" existed, ... Kant also dismissed the idea that humans could ever truly know objective reality"

To which Rand said, "speak for yourselves!"

Regardless of where they started or how they proceeded, with few exceptions, philosophy's "giants" ended up believing that consciousness was hierarchically prior to existence. To which Rand replied that consciousness is awareness, and a consciousness not aware of something is not conscious. If existence were not prior to consciousness, there would be nothing for it to be aware of. To be conscious implies that of which one is conscious. And that implies the simultaneous awareness of oneself as opposed to everything else, i.e. identity.

It is the self-evident fact of existence—that something is—and its corollaries, I am aware of it (consciousness), and of myself as distinguished from it (identity) that reside at the base of all knowledge. They require no proof, nor is proof possible, because there is nothing more fundamental that man can experience (thence know) from which they could derive. Furthermore, their validity is implicit in all knowledge, and one cannot attempt to refute them without implying their validity with the means they utilize in the very process


• "Kant also dismissed the idea that humans could ever truly know objective reality because our senses are necessary parts of our way of interacting with the world. ... "Kant made the claim that how we experience the world is based on intuitions. We perceive time and space a certain way from our perspective because of our intuitions but basically an alien race on another planet might perceive these same concepts differently. This does not mean that time and space do not exist only that our perception of them are subjective."

The preposterous claim here is that the mere fact that our interaction with reality has a specific nature it is necessarily fallible. If that were true, nothing Kant, you, I, or anyone else would ever think or say could be regarded as true or useful. It would all be conjecture at best based on unreliable perceptions.

Our sensory perceptions are inherently valid, 1) because sensory perceptions are the only reality we have, 2) because they are automatic interactions between external entities and our physical capacities, and as such, are not volitional—they cannot "choose" to be a right or wrong response to reality. They are the given— simultaneously the "out there" and the "in here" qua product of their interaction, and 3) that different perceivers may have different means of perception is irrelevant, because we identify reality not with our perceptions, but with the concepts we abstract and integrate from them. There are legions of blind, color blind, deaf and mute humans who nevertheless know the same reality the rest of us do using different means of perception.

Rand gives a sci-fi example of thinking atoms that perceive microscopic atomic reality directly but have none of the sensory means we have. Their "senses" are equally valid as ours and they are just as able to infer our macroscopic reality in the same way we are able to infer their microscopic one, each using his own natural means of access through the process of reason that abstracts and integrates the similarities and differences among whatever kinds of perceptions they have.

The validity of the senses is axiomatic. One must rely on that validity in any attempt to refute it.


"Her reasons for this seem to be only so she can bully anybody who does not agree with her by saying they are irrational." You will greatly enhance your credibility if you stick to the ideas and quit insulting their author.


• "The problem with this [that an organism's life is the standard of value] is that it runs straight into the is / ought fallacy as first introduced by David Hume. Hume stated that a moral value (an ought) cannot be derived from a physical fact (an is)."

This is the same David Hume who doubted his own existence and admitted having no clue how to verify it one way or the other, right? Meanwhile the average gardener who is fortunately unaware Hume ever existed, is fully aware that the f

cbl2988 from Mesa, Arizona on June 14, 2011:


You are not being honest. I suppose that when you "read" The Virtue of Selfishness, you read it just to confirm you biases. You completely missed the point especially on her positions on force, government, etc.

Here is what she has to say about Anarchy:

"Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naïve floating abstraction: . . . a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare. But the possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government."

“The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 112.

"If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door—or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus bring about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistorical savages.

"The use of physical force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors’ intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are motivated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by prejudice or by malice—the use of force against one man cannot be left to the arbitrary decision of another."

“The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 108.

This is some of what she says about government:

"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his."

Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 183.

"The source of the government’s authority is “the consent of the governed.” This means that the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose."

“The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 110.

Nowhere in her works will you be able to ever find her saying that the government will solely serve and protect the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor. If you want a full, comprehensive, understanding on what she specifically has to say on this, read her essays "The Nature of Government" and "Government Financing in A Free Society". If you say, "I already read it", I will say, "read it again because you obviously missed the whole point due to your biases".

If you want a better understanding of her ethics and its connection to objective reality, read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.