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Flipz
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The Contender
JimPhoenix
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Ayn Rand was a poor philosopher

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/1/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,210 times Debate No: 39818
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
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Flipz

Pro

Rules:
1st round acceptance only
No semantics (if you don"t understand the resolution, don"t accept the debate)
If you are not familiar with Ayn Rand, don"t accept the debate
Do not accept if you intend to forfeit your rounds by not posting arguments
Two or more round forfeitures and you must banish yourself from DDO forever!

Definitions: "Poor" means "not good." I realize that this is a big generalization, but I want judges to decide the relevant criteria after the debate concludes. In my opening speech next round, I intend to include arguments concerning Ayn Rand"s originality, the soundness of her reasoning, and her general understanding of the history of philosophy. Con could bring up these issues or other relevant criteria.
JimPhoenix

Con

I'm for the idea that a "poor" or good philosopher doesn't have to be about if the philosopher got his history of philosophy right, or if he was original. A good philosopher is when his logic is true now as it was since the begging of recorded history. And Ayn Rand philosophy, in my understanding, achieves that. So if it is true, the originality is irrelevant.

You can show your facts that points to your criteria of "poor". And I will show you that your criteria to define Ayn Rand as a "poor" philosopher is poor compared to the relevance of her philosophy.
Debate Round No. 1
Flipz

Pro

I want to thank JimPhoenix for accepting this debate, and I look forward to what will hopefully be a few fascinating rounds about Ayn Rand and her philosophy. For readers who might not be familiar with her, Ayn Rand emigrated from Russia in 1926 and founded the philosophy of Objectivism while living and writing in the United States. She was a novelist, self-proclaimed philosopher, and firmly an individualist and capitalist. Ayn Rand defines Objectivism as "the concept of man as a heroic being" with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

This quote comes from the Ayn Rand lexicon, a free online source that anthologizes various excerpts from Ayn Rand"s writings. I have read several of her novels and non-fiction works and would recommend them to anyone who wants to deal more thoroughly with Objectivism. The rest of my quotes will come from the nonfiction philosophical addendum at the back of her Signet edition novels, which nicely summarizes much of her philosophy. You can find part of this addition at http://www.atheistnexus.org....

In this debate, I intend to deconstruct Ayn Rand"s philosophy, revealing the fallacies in her thinking and demonstrating that she was, in fact, a derivative and very poor philosopher. I will examine three primary conceptual pillars of Objectivism - Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics " and will develop arguments around several key points: 1) The triteness and unoriginality of her work 2) Tautologies in her philosophical foundations 2) Improper Inferences 3) Confusion of philosophical categories. I will spend much of my time in the first round compiling evidence, and in the later rounds, explain how the evidence should be interpreted.

Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy that deals with the ultimate nature of being and the world, including its properties, principles, morals, and relationships.

Ayn Rand summarizes her metaphysics as, "Reality, the external world, exists independent of man's consciousness, independent of any observer's knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears. This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are--and that the task of man's consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it."

First, if we measure a philosopher"s salt by how much progress or understanding she brings to the discipline, then Ayn Rand certainly doesn"t measure up. Ayn Rand"s "metaphysics," if it can even be called that, basically states the assumption held by most philosophers in the Western tradition; most philosophers went on to build their metaphysics on this assumption, whereas Rand used this assumption as her metaphysics. Certainly, also, going so far as to say that "A is A" and "facts are facts" shows this underdevelopment, as these statements are tautologous, meaning that they are true under any circumstance, non-falsifiable. Tautologies might be true, but they do not reveal anything about the nature of being or the world and certainly aren"t "metaphysics." Verbalizing a commonly held assumption is not philosophical progress. Yet, Rand routinely touted her "metaphysics" as this kind of progress, blasting philosophers centuries old, especially Kant, for an overreliance on faith in their metaphysics. This reveals her arrogance and impoverished understanding of the Western tradition, as even early philosophers like Descartes and Kant, saw Reason as a tool apart from faith, capable of validating that faith and understanding much of reality without faith. This is where you get the ontological argument for God"s existence.

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge and methods of knowledge acquisition.

Ayn Rand defines her epistemology as "Man's reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality. Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. Reason is man's" means of acquiring knowledge."

It is clear that in her first statement Rand overreaches. We don"t know if man if fully competent to know the [all?] facts of reality. You only need to look as far as the troubles in modern physics to doubt the absolutism in this assertion. As for the idea that Reason "identifies and integrates "material" in "acquiring knowledge" this statement yet again reveals a key assumption of the Western philosophical tradition and ignorance of what really consists of an "epistemology." Rand avoids wrestling with the nuances that really define an epistemology and what makes this branch of philosophy so important. What are the pitfalls and limits of Reason? What co-opts or enhances it? What is the extent of the objectivity and subjectivity of Reason? What is the difference between Reason and Intuition? These are the questions that define epistemology. Rand ignores them and then blankly asserts that Reason is king.

Ethics: The branch of philosophy that deals with man"s personal conduct and how he conducts himself in relation to others.

Ayn Rand justified her ethics by saying, "Reason is man's only proper judge of values and his only proper guide to action. The proper standard of ethics is: man's survival qua man--i.e., that which is required by man's nature for his survival as a rational being (not his momentary physical survival as a mindless brute)" Man--every man--is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others" his own happiness [is] the highest moral purpose of his life."

Ayn Rand rejected altruism as a "theory" that says, "man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value" The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: "No." Altruism says: "Yes."

Ayn Rand regarded laissez-faire capitalism as the only moral economic system. According to Ayn Rand, this means "that 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 moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve "the common good." It is true that capitalism does"if that catch-phrase has any meaning"but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man"s rational nature, that it protects man"s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice."

There are so many problems with Rand"s ethics, it"s hard to know where to begin. I should say, however, that I don"t find the first quote particularly problematic, and even agree with the idea that "man is an end in himself." Immanuel Kant, a target of Rand"s disdain, once uttered a premise much like this this in discussing the foundation for his ethics.

The problems with Rand"s ethics result from her fallacious inferences concerning individualism, altruism, and capitalism; her assertions grossly overstate the power of her premises. First, let"s examine altruism. I have found it difficult to ever find anyone who believed that the practice amounted to the belief that "the only justification for existence" is service to others. More importantly, altruism in itself is not a moral "theory," as she calls it. Rather, altruism can be a sub-component of a larger theory about conduct and relationships. For example, altruism as a "theory" has no ideas about self-governance in the absence of others, nor can it calculate the rightness of an action when the aims and desires of two beings conflict, nor does it have anything to say about the wellbeing of human beings, i.e., what they need beyond basic necessities. Ostensibly, self-esteem/individualism and altruism are not necessarily oppositional concepts. This is hard to see when Rand"s individualistic protagonists show a disturbing contempt for poverty and the poor.

Second, when Rand says that the Objectivist standard for ethics is "man"s survival qua man" she essentially asserts the core individualistic claims of her ethics, that "the standard by which one judges what is good or evil is man"s life." Besides the obvious banality of this statement, from this idea, the premise that "existence exists," she fallaciously infers the moral superiority of laissez-faire capitalism. Nothing about her most basic ethical principles would justify this assertion, if only because she arbitrarily excludes how we should treat others, only barring physical violence (quotation above). She says that capitalism is the only "moral system that lies consonant with man"s rational nature," but what about her premises makes this conclusion true? Why couldn"t the measure of a man"s worth depend upon how he conducts himself in relation to others, couldn"t seeing man as an end to himself demand that he be helped when in need, whether this be medical or financial? Rand does not have an answer for this problem.

Third, the idea of a laissez-faire system of capitalism as a moral system is laughable. The reason why laissez-faire capitalism failed during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was the moral outrage society felt at how factory owners treated and endangered workers, resulting in tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Also, Rand"s system includes no environmental regulation, no financial regulation, no regulation of any kind - are we to presume that if an owner of a corporation destroys the environment to make a quick buck that he is fact living a moral life? If man"s is the measure of a moral, what if environmental contamination hurts his ability to succeed? I need more space to flesh these contradictions out, so I will yield to Con now and continue in my next speech.
JimPhoenix

Con

To discuss if Ayn Rand was a poor philosopher, you have to answer the question: Compared to whom?

I didn't had much time to respond your every argument. So I will follow my logical aproach to wha, i think Ayn Rand saw the moral problems of altruism.

Ayn Rand defended above all freedom, that you have the right to own property, and that includes your body. No one has the right to use coersion, and you have the right to defend your rights. For Rand, the use of force is immoral, and the only moral way is by reason and voluntary cooperation.
Altruism is the sacrifice of yourself for the "greater good", and that "good" is dictated by someone who has the power. It's the root of all religions and all systems of control. Altruism gives a "immoral" reason to force submission.

When somebody believes he is altruistic, he is lying to himself and others. There are no one that isn't individualistic. When you give something, without asking for anything in return, you may illude yourself to think that you are being altruistic, but you are wrong. Usually that ilusion leads to disillusion, when the person you gave something for "free", doesn't act the way you expected, you will feel betrayed.
And so the confusion begins, because you thought that you were being good, and by being good you expected to be rewarded, but as we all know, not always an altruistic action is rewarded. The reason is because it's an illusion, and in reality you are being totally selfish. You give something because you want something in return. If you know that you are not getting payed, you can still help, but you you won't sacrifice yourself, if you still love your life..
We fight to survive, and we make choices, and that choices are not, in the beggining, for others but only for ourselves. But then society tries to make us feel guilty for being selfish, and you start to focus your objectives for the benefit of others. Then, slowly, you begin to lose your ambition, and when you notice, you don't know who you are anymore, and you become a sacrificial animal for others. I know it because something like that happened to me, but I never gave up, and when I heard about Ayn Rand was when everything became clear.
Is the ilusion of altruism that makes people fear freedom. This is why the governments always use scare tactics for us to feel weak, helpless and in need for guidence. The more we believe we are victims, the more freedom is taken away from us. Like Benjamin Franklin said: "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither".

In the next round I will speak about capitalism and socialism and develop on your arguments.
Debate Round No. 2
Flipz

Pro

To discuss if Ayn Rand was a poor philosopher, you have to answer the question: Compared to whom?

This is simply not true. The criteria for what makes a good philosopher exist abstractly, coded in the logic of our language and our understanding of what makes an argument coherent, insightful, and justified. Also, I made the argument last round of Ayn Rand’s lesser complexity compared other Western philosophers.

Ayn Rand defended above all freedom, that you have the right to own property, and that includes your body. No one has the right to use coersion, and you have the right to defend your rights. For Rand, the use of force is immoral, and the only moral way is by reason and voluntary cooperation.

I had the burden last round of constructing a negative case, but I was hoping that you might bring this point up, as it shows a critical deficiency in Ayn Rand’s thinking, particularly in her unjustified assumptions and tendency to think only in extreme dichotomies.

I want to specifically examine the relationship of “coercion” to “freedom.”
To believe in the value of freedom is an unwarranted metaphysical assumption; simply stating its value, as Ayn Rand did, does not prove its value. Other philosophers circumvent this problem and attempt to demonstrate freedom’s value by either appealing to the existence of God or conceiving of a social contract. Both, however, force you to give up something in return for moderate freedom: taxes, your loyalty in case of an invasion, your acceptance of a religion, etc. Ayn Rand believes in the value of her moral proclamations without actually legitimizing her moral positions. To infer the value of freedom from the simple idea of “existence exists” is just silly, and if you can’t see why this is an improper inference, I will explain in detail next round.

Even if Ayn Rand touted laissez-faire capitalism as a kind of social map, she does not understand that an economic disposition is not a coherent political or moral disposition. These two are necessary conflicting, and to think they are the same is a categorical confusion. Let’s examine this issue in context of “coercion.” In laissez-faire capitalism, the government does not regulate financial markets, environmental pollution; it cannot ban poisonous products; it does not collect income tax (and by the way, ANY tax is coercion, though Ayn Rand only rules out income tax). Corporations exert violence and force in far subtler ways than individuals or governments. If a corporation pollutes the air in your town, are you not coerced to breathe that pollution? If a company knowingly dumps toxic waste in public waters or near a residence, is that corporation not committing violence against consumers? If continuous pollution causes global warming, have corporations not coerced other people to feel the effects of its pollution? As I stated before, the reason why we have labor laws and regulators like the FDA or EPA, is because profit motive falls short of respecting human dignity. Just look at the entire history of the Industrial Revolution and the labor movement for examples.

Altruism is the sacrifice of yourself for the "greater good", and that "good" is dictated by someone who has the power. It's the root of all religions and all systems of control. Altruism gives a "immoral" reason to force submission.

When somebody believes he is altruistic, he is lying to himself and others. There are no one that isn't individualistic. When you give something, without asking for anything in return, you may illude yourself to think that you are being altruistic, but you are wrong. Usually that ilusion leads to disillusion, when the person you gave something for "free", doesn't act the way you expected, you will feel betrayed… Then, slowly, you begin to lose your ambition, and when you notice, you don't know who you are anymore, and you become a sacrificial animal for others

Altruism isn’t a theory or identity; it’s giving an hour at a soup kitchen even though you’d rather see a movie, and it certainly doesn’t turn you into a “sacrificial animal.” Ayn Rand’s version of altruism is a prime example of her tendency toward melodrama and extremes at the expense of rational argument. Altruism can occur whether someone takes pleasure in helping others or begrudgingly helps them.

As I said in the last round, altruism is an idea in context of larger theories and philosophies, and to pinpoint altruism as the the root of ALL systems of control is the most laughable and lazy assertion I’ve ever heard any philosopher make. This idea alone shows why Ayn Rand is indeed a poor philosopher. Nazi Germany, for example, committed violence against millions because of racial ideology, not because of altruism. In fact, a stronger altruistic impulse might have prevented them from doing so. In Kantian philosophy, people participate in “altruism,” if it can even be called that, because they believe that human beings should be respected, dignified, and treated as ends in themselves. This is why violence is strictly prohibited in Kant’s philosophy.

Also, people can commit violence or exert control in the name of God, an ideal, or because they are sociopathic. None of these items need altruism as a justification; none of these items demand and allegiance toward or sacrifice for other human beings.


Conclusion
You did not answer any of my arguments last time, so I extend those. I would also like to point out that you have not demonstrated an affirmative argument that shows Ayn Rand is a good philosopher. Repeating her positions does not show me why her positions are reasonable, insightful, or justified.

I maintain that Ayn Rand was a poor philosopher because she doesn’t understand how to construct an effective philosophical argument, infers incorrect conclusions from premises, does not offer insightful ideas, and borrows heavily from a Western tradition she doesn’t understand.

JimPhoenix

Con

JimPhoenix forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Flipz

Pro

Jim Phoenix has forfeited the round. For this, JP should also have forfeited the debate. In R2, JP said he would not address my arguments until R3, and since failing to do so, this only leaves R4. Since I cannot respond to R4 arguments, judges should not allow him to make any new R4 arguments. Extend my arguments. Vote Pro.
JimPhoenix

Con

JimPhoenix forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Flipz 3 years ago
Flipz
If you read my speech through then you would understand how I nuanced the notion of "poor," which includes the use of tautologies amongst other charges like improper inferences and lack of originality.

And while I'm on the subject, no, tautologies alone do not make a poor philosopher. In fact, Aristotle's rule of non-contradiction was a huge leap for its time. My point is that Ayn Rand largely ignores or misinterprets most of the history between Aristotle and herself. And, when she arrogantly tauts something as simple "A is A" like its some great metaphysical and historical triumph, then we have a problem. She even devotes several hundred pages of Atlas Shrugged to this title. If you feel so strongly about this topic, send me a challenge.
Posted by blue5peed 3 years ago
blue5peed
I hope that in the following rounds Flipz will present some actual arguments, or perhaps he was meaning to post that opening speech in this section?

poor=not bad (how illuminating) and by the way, Ayn Rand was a bad philosopher, she uses tautologies, by the gods!
Posted by Flipz 3 years ago
Flipz
That's fine as well. A philosopher's merit can in part be determined by his/her product. At the very same time, I feel there are other considerations that should be taken into account, not just whether I agree or disagree with her philosophy.
Posted by fnarkchang 3 years ago
fnarkchang
it would be wise to debate upon her philosophy rather than to debate upon whether or not she was a good philosopher
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