The Instigator
Pro (for)
21 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
7 Points

Objectivism is not sound

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/1/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,179 times Debate No: 73635
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (221)
Votes (5)




Resolved: Objectivism is not sound

Finally, I have the time to begin this debate. I personally think that whilst Objectivism has some truth to it, there are elements which do not allign with reality.

I hope my opponent, Shabshoral, will still have the time to accept this. If you my opponent wishes to change the rules, he should let me know before we begin (I am open to suggestions).

Debate structure:

4 round of 10,000 characters. For both sides, summarising only in the last round. Voting period of 1 week.

No pre-defined definitions. I think that it would be best if definitions were up for debate so that the true meaning espoused by Rand in Objectivism is debated, rather than by something winning based on semantics that do not necessarily reflect the intentions of her philosophy.

Pro has the burden of proof. Pro has the burden of proof to affirm one of the three contentions, of which would affirm the resolution. In the event that Pro fails to affirm the resolution, or in the event that Con sufficiently negates all three contentions, Con will win.

Only Pro constructs a positive case. I, as Pro, will construct three lines of arguments against Objectivism, of which will be the focus of this debate. This is to prevent tangential, verbose digressions, of which are great for discussion but not for debate.

No new arguments after the first round of arguments. Pro may not construct new arguments after the opening round of arguments (in round 2). This is to prevent shotgun argumentation.

First round is for acceptance/brief statement of stance.

Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate.

Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss.

I hope your counter-arguments will be strong, Mr Shabshoral =)

**For voters**

This will be a debate about the soundness of some aspects of Objectivism, of which will be integral to the philosophy. What soundness means is whether the argument is valid (i.e. in logical form) AND has its premises as true. So, when voting, you should be looking both of these aspects. If the parts of Objectivism I criticise do not meet both of these requirements, then I have shown Objectivism not to be sound and I (Pro) will win the debate.

Min voting Elo is 3000; method is Select Winner


I accept - as stated, I will be defending the tenability of Objectivism against my opponent's objections.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, Shabshoral, for accepting this debate.

Affirmative Case

A1: A reason to live; purpose in happiness


When it comes to purpose in life, Objectivism begs the question. Nowhere in Objectivism will you find an explanation of why you should consider the purpose of life to be Rand’s. So, this begs the question: why live? Why should anyone follow Objectivism? Why should Man follow a “philosophy for living on Earth” when there is no reason to live? Is that not illogical? Syllogistically, it appears as such:

1) Man should live life

2) Since Man should live life, he should live it his way (this is where Rand begins)

3) Etc…

To give impact to following a philosophy that offers no reason to live, a Spanish university showed that certain people with a lower feeling of “meaning in life” were found to have a “serious level of depression and suicide risk, and a moderate level of hopelessness” [4]. In fact, so important was “meaning in life” that it was a significant predictor in determining the variance in depression and suicide.

So, the impact here is that with a lack of reason to live due to lack of purpose, depression, suicide and hopelessness become much, much more likely. Since Rand intended her philosophy to help people live on Earth, the impacts shown here contradict that end goal of Rand's.


A second rejection of Objectivist philosophy comes in the form of advocating happiness in moral virtue. In a 1959 interview, Rand explained that Objectivism has [Man’s] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness[1]. According to a collaborative study by R.Baumeister et al (of which three independent Universities were involved), lives which aimed to “cultivate happiness” were ones which there were overall downsides [2]. The study also showed that pursuing happiness, much like Rand does, is highly correlated to leading to a decrease in happiness. Rather, the recommendation for life-living was to focus energy on “understanding meaningfulness”, which is precisely what Rand *does not* argue for. These findings, that pursuit of happiness is of detriment, were also found within the work of Gruber, Mauss and Tamir (2011) [3]. Moreover, the collaborative study found that “the more people pursued happiness, the less they seem[ed] to be able to obtain it”.

So, the impact shown here is that Rand’s purpose to living life (happiness) leads to the opposite (unhappiness), therefore it contradictory and not logically sound.

A2: Altruism as undesirable

The Objectivist’s view on altruism is that it is: is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good[5]. However, altruism is not at all these things, as I can show you.

According to Seelig and Dobelle (2001), people who volunteered to help research study were rewarded with “an enhanced sense of self-esteem” [6]. Another positive to be extracted from this study was that altruism can turn liabilities into positives. The injured volunteers helped research into areas which required injured persons, thus without the volunteers, the research would not necessarily be able to occur. Thus, the impacts of altruism in this example are: (1) improved self-esteem for participants, and (2) the completion of useful research that may not be otherwise completed.

Altruism is actually a survival tool, despite Rand rejecting altruism and proposing that survival is important in determining morality: The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man [8]. According to Charnov (1977) cited in Gardner (2001), there is a phenomenon known as ‘Hamilton’s rule’ wherein altruistic behaviour can be favoured by natural selection if certain conditions are met in an equation [7]. Basically, without delving heavily into psychology jargon, the equation determines the cost to the altruist, the benefit to the recipient and the genetic relation, of which calculates whether altruism is a viable strategy in certain scenarios (this calculation causes an increase in frequency in production of altruistic genes).

So, the impact against Objectivism here is twofold: (1) altruism can help keep people alive, (2) Rand espousing survival as the basis of morality, and altruism being shown as a survival tool, are a contradiction in Objectivist philosophy, thus not logically sound.

A3: Rand’s conception of Man


A third, independent objection to Objectivist philosophy is that a conception of reality is arguably not capable of being described, due to the limitations of language. Rand terms the ideal human being as Man, wherein she describes the ideal characteristics of what is essentially the best person. Furthermore, as she outlines in the forward of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand writes that: “concepts are abstractions or universals, and everything man perceives in particular, concrete” [cited from novel]. There are issues with this that I would like to show you.

How is it possible that Rand derives the true nature of man? How can we check to see that Rand’s conception does indeed reflect reality with such concrete terms? The language used in coming to this conception is not necessarily capable of describing the exact nature of Man. This is due to the inductive nature of language, wherein humans process information and then use language to describe the processed information. Meaning must be filtered through the subjective fallibility of the human mind. In order words, language itself is not something created (however its origins came about) with objectivity, thus depictions of Man are not necessarily without inaccuracy.

This phenomenon has been well-documented in philosophy. According to philosopher George Santayana (1932), language is very much metaphorical, “any degree of inadequacy and originality is tolerable in discourse, or even requisite [9]. Examples like “she picked him from the crowd” or “he got wrecked in that debate”, both showcase how language is not always this strict, definite, exact calculation, but rather metaphorical estimations. The great philosopher continues, “a sensation or a theory, no matter how arbitrary its terms, will be true of the object, if it expresses some true relation in which that object stands to the self, so that these terms are not misleading as signs, however poetical they may be as sounds or as pictures” [11]. Verily, he argues, concepts, words, idea etc. only become misleading when you demand that they are only valid when precise.

This phenomenon has been well-documented in scientific community, too. A collaborative paper by Gerard Steen explores the idea of metaphor use in knowledge and language. Prima facie, “knowledge and its foundations in information and data can be conceptualised via metaphor in various ways” [10]. The importance of this sentence is it affirms the idea that knowledge can be derived from non-precise metaphors. The research continues to explain that, “the findings from our data suggest that this type of metaphor [used for rhetorical purpose] use is fairly exceptional in comparison with the regular, conventional use of metaphor typical of all abstract topics, including knowledge and its management” [quoting Steen, 2008, found in source number 10]. Here, we see that conventional use of metaphors plays a role in abstract knowledge, abstract knowledge like the conception of the essence in Man.

The impact of this phenomenon is that Rand’s conceptualisation of Man is not nearly as accurate as she purports it to be, but is rather a concept filtered through her subjective experience and metaphorical knowledge. Furthermore, in attempting to make it precise, she undermines its precision due to the limitations of language. In other words, concepts do *not* necessarily correspond with reality. This takes the objectivity out of the Objectivist’s conception of Man.















Note: in the interest of conserving space, “Objectivism” will henceforth be called “O’ism”

A1: A reason to live; purpose in happiness


Quoting David Kelley:

A perennial question in O’ism is whether (1) life is a value because one chooses to live, or (2) one should choose to live because life is a value. When the question is posed in this form, (1) is the correct answer. [1]

If one is to live, then one must live according to O’ism. Rand never tried to answer why that initial choice to live should be made. She recognized that, in order to even consider philosophical issues, that choice must have already been made. The decision to live is pre-moral and pre-philosophical. As Galt said:

“Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of actions are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course.” [2]

O’ism is only necessary if one desires to live. If one does not, then a philosophy aimed at preserving life can be no more of a value than anything else. Valuing in general is not possible until the choice to live is made – ‘To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”’ [3]

Rand never begs the question. She never assumed that one should value life. All of philosophy is only relevant if one already value life, making the question of “why” you should value life unanswerable. It is still clear that the choice can be made, and Rand created her philosophy for those who had made the choice to live. There is no issue here.

Pro says that O’ism fails because, since it does not offer a “reason to live”, depression and general existential angst are bound to plague anyone who follows it. This argument can be disregarded for two reasons:

A.) Even if O’ism does cause these problems due to a lack of meaning, if there are no alternative philosophies that would give people this meaning in a rational way, O’ism would still be the only logical choice. If the rejection of O’ism would, as Rand would say, lead to the rejection of reality, and, by extension, the negation of life and of all values, you could never justify it, since it undercuts the basis for any such justification. Regardless of whether or not O’ism is “ideal” in its effects, if it is the only philosophy consistent with reality it is the only one that should even be considered, so, unless Pro can propose an alternative, O’ism should still be accepted.

B.) You can only say that a lack of meaning is bad if you already presuppose that life should be valued. Pro’s argument completely fails for this reason – for it to be bad that a philosophy does not give life meaning, one must be able to consider “good” and “bad”, and, to do so, one must already assume that life should be held as a value. If a man does not choose to live, it doesn’t matter to him if he commits suicide. If a man does choose to live, he needs no more “meaning” than the fact that he made the choice (since you cannot value life before choosing it and setting it as the standard of value, the choice itself must be unquestionably valuable), so to criticize O’ism for not providing such “meaning” is senseless.


Quoting Galt:

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” [2]

Again, Pro’s argument can only stand if the equivocation it rests on is left unchallenged. Rand’s conception of happiness, by definition, should be pursued, since values should be pursued, and happiness is the result of their achievement. The only way around this is to argue that values should not be pursued, which would be a contradiction in terms, as values are those things that one acts to gain and/or keep.

Pro makes a rather strange argument – that valuing happiness is contradictory because actively pursuing happiness leads to a decrease in happiness. A decrease from what? A decrease implies that a higher level of happiness is possible. If this is so, then it is obvious that someone who values happiness would work to reach it, and, if this is achieved by means of the pursuit of “meaningfulness” (or whatever else), then pursuing meaningfulness is still pursuing happiness. If “pursuing happiness decreases happiness”, then it’s obvious that the person isn’t really pursuing happiness – if they were, they wouldn’t allow the pursuit to get in the way of the attainment of happiness.

If happiness should be pursued (the BOP is on Pro to show otherwise, since O’ism is assumed), then Pro’s arguments fail.

A2: Altruism as undesirable

Pro’s argument rests on a fundamental misconception of what Rand is referring to when she talks about altruism. To Rand, altruism is not “helping other people”. In fact, the quote Pro supplies is directly preceded by these lines:

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. [4]

As such, the “positive effects of altruism” that Pro cites are irrelevant, as she is using the term “altruism” much differently than Rand does.

Pro goes on to talk about how “altruistic behavior” can be beneficial to securing survival, and how, if Rand valued survival, she should have valued altruism. There are two objections to this argument:

A.) When Rand talked about survival, she did not mean survival by any means or as any kind of thing. She specifically said that man’s life was of value and that the good is that which furthers man’s survival qua man. If the Objectivist theory of value is correct (that it is an individual’s life lived in accordance with his nature that is the highest value), it doesn’t matter if altruism furthers unmodified “survival” – altruism would only be valued if it furthered survival qua man, which, if altruism places others above the self, and living qua man is to live with the self at the forefront, is impossible. Pro has to refute the value O’ism gives to the self for altruism, by definition, to be a value.

B.) If these “altruistic behaviors” do further man’s life qua man, and if this is only possible if they respect the self over all else, then they’re mislabeled. Again, to Rand, altruism is the sacrifice of higher values for the sake of lesser values. If the kind of survival advanced by the actions Pro cites is a higher value than the effort involved in carrying them out, choosing those actions is not a sacrifice and is not altruistic.

Either the behaviors cited do not further life qua man, in which case they could never be moral, or they do, in which case choosing them could never be altruistic. Given these refutations, Pro’s arguments are completely nullified.

A3: Rand’s conception of Man


Every concept has its basis in the perception of reality. When one forms the concept of a “triangle”, one sees existents, finds a quality that can serve to delineate those existents from all others, and makes that quality the essential characteristic of all triangles – if an existent has it, it is a triangle. If not, it is not. There is no room for error here – no matter how much of language is “rooted in metaphor”, a four-sided shape can never be a triangle by definition of a triangle. A is A – a thing is itself. If a thing does not have the necessary qualities to be subsumed under a concept, this is directly necessitated by the fundamental nature of reality. It isn’t an “arbitrary whim” that causes the letter “O” to be a circle (or oval – either one, the details are irrelevant) – it has the absolute qualities of a circle (these qualities being obvious merely by looking at the letter) as conceptualized by the individual, so it is objectively a circle to that individual.

In much the same way, the concept of “man” is formed by looking at various concretes, singling out one quality (rationality) present in at least one, and building a concept around that essence. If an entity has rationality, it is a man. There is no room for error here if the conceptual process is carried out correctly (and this can be verified just by going through the steps and making sure that there are no contradictions, such as the essence of a concept being “square circleness” or something equally silly). My challenge to Pro is to show exactly how Rand’s concepts can be “wrong” or “not in relation to reality” if everything they describe are possible and non-contradictory.

Pro’s fatal flaw is that she conflates language with concepts themselves. Language is a tool used to refer to concepts – it does not replace them. Concepts themselves are, by their nature, merely abstractions of existents, real existents, with specific and definite qualities. Since A is A, concepts are not as fuzzy as Pro makes them out to be. Pro’s argument is, in essence, that since language is not guaranteed to be perfect, it must always be imperfect. The easiest response is likely also the most impactful – is “A is A” ever anything but true? Is there any fallibility in that proposition? If not, then it has been established that tautologies are not subject to error.

I don’t quite understand Pro’s emphasis on metaphor – if metaphors are used in language to effectively denote concepts, how are they any different than, well, single words? What makes a description of a table that uses metaphor any distinct from just saying “table”? Language is obviously already abstract… words are just as abstract as metaphors. I don’t see how this is relevant at all, given that Rand never rejected the nature of language as abstract. Rand did, however, place an emphasis on the relationship between concepts and reality, which is not attacked by attacking language.



2.) Atlas Shrugged (Galt’s Speech)


4.) “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,”

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you, Shabshoral.

Affirmative Case: Defence

A1: A reason to live; purpose in happiness


Quoting David Kelley:

“A perennial question in O’ism is whether (1) life is a value because one chooses to live, or (2) one should choose to live because life is a value. When the question is posed in this form, (1) is the correct answer.”

This is an inductive argument, of which is logically fallacious, in this context. There is also the baby issue. I will deconstruct both:

Inductive argument: My opponent assumes that people live because they choose to live, as indicated by them living, then my opponent concludes that life must be valuable. However, how is it possible to know that this choice has been made, rather than absent minded automation? What of the mentally retarded, people with lowly I.Q. or people too busy with life to consider whether they should be living it? We see amoebas continuing to live. According to the logic of Objectivism, they are choosing to live because they are living! You see, it *could* be true, but Objectivism *never shows* it to be true, and instead uses inductive logic and presents it as deductive, thus making it logically fallacious.

Baby issue: Obviously, one cannot choose to live before one lives, so does a baby choose to live? If not, that would mean that the baby’s life is valueless (according to Kelley’s logic). If the baby’s life does have value, then this must mean that the baby chooses to live, yet we know that the baby comes into this world due to external reasons beyond its choice. So, either:

1) Baby lives have no value, which means the philosophy for living on Earth has no qualms with killing babies, which contradicts the philosophy’s intentions

2) The baby chooses to live, yet really does not, meaning that this line of argument is internally contradictory

"If one is to live, then one must live according to O’ism. Rand never tried to answer why that initial choice to live should be made…The decision to live is pre-moral and pre-philosophical… The philosophy is aimed at preserving life."

This would be like a hospital ringing you to say, with no prior call, that ‘this is how we perform a brain-transplant’ (parallel: this is how you should live), and then continuing to detail the brain-transplant operation (parallel: Rand writing 50000000000000000 pages on how to live). In response, you ask ‘why should I get a brain-transplant?’ (parallel: why should I live?), to which the hospital replies ‘that is a pre-hospital question, and so we are not required to answer it’ (parallel: that is a pre-philosophical question). Would you not expect the hospital to be able to answer that question?

What good is a philosophy for living on Earth when people are not given answers to some of the most integral questions to life? Objectivism attempts to preserve life, but why should it? Con admits that Objectivism cannot and does not answer this question!

Also, as I showed, people *struggle* to cope with life without a purpose in their lives. So, in effect, because Objectivism effectively weasels out of answering the tougher philosophical question of: why live?-, this causes people a stark lack of purpose in life, which leads anti-life affect, such as increases in depression, suicide and hopelessness. The contradiction occurs when you consider, and I quote my opponent, that Objectivism aims to “preserve life”.

Further illogic occurs when you consider that “why live?” is an integral premise to argue “how you should live”, hence the question begging charge still applies to Objectivism. Have a look for yourself:

“[Rand] never assumed that one should value life. All of philosophy is only relevant if one already value life, making the question of “why” you should value life unanswerable.”

1) “All philosophy is only relevant if one already values life”

2) “Rand never assumed that one should value life”

3) Rand builds a philosophy (something that assumes “one already values life”) whilst never assuming that one should value life

C) My opponent’s argument is now explicitly contradictory and obviously does require the initial premise of “why live?” to be answered, and since Objectivism does not answer the question in the initial premise, it begs the question

Counter-responses to Con’s two alphabetical points:

A.) This is not a debate about whether Objectivism should be accepted due to lack of alternatives, but rather about whether it is sound. Even if there are no better alternatives, that does not mean that this makes Objectivism sound.

B.) For this impact argument, I assumed Objectivism’s premise of ‘life has value’. So, in effect, if we are to hypothetically assume that life has value, Objectivism is still internally contradictory because, as argued earlier, the philosophy for living on Earth encourages people, in a way, to not live on Earth.

If I do not assume that life has value, I merely cannot run this impact argument, yet my other objections stand.

There is also the choosing to live issue which is deconstructed earlier.


In reality, my opponent argues that values should be pursued, AND THEN happiness will result. In order:

1) Pursue values

2) Obtain happiness

However, Rand herself, as I quoted in the first round, said that: “[Man’s] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness”. Pursuing value is, ultimately, pursuing happiness, as happiness is the end that is sought. My opponent elaborates to say that Rand’s conception of happiness, by definition, should be pursued. Happiness is being pursued. However, my opponent then conflates the terms by arguing that it is a contradiction to not pursue values, BUT I argued that *happiness* should not be pursued, which means my opponent’s counter-argument is a straw-man.

“If “pursuing happiness decreases happiness”, then it’s obvious that the person isn’t really pursuing happiness – if they were, they wouldn’t allow the pursuit to get in the way of the attainment of happiness.”

If a person thinks that the way to get happiness is to pursue it, then why would they stop pursuing? Have you ever heard someone say, “I am going to stop pursuing happiness because I’ve had enough of being happy”? Besides, I have the scientific study to show that pursuing happiness does decrease happiness, whilst my opponent only has hypothetical rhetoric.

A2: Altruism as undesirable

Instead of arguing half-truths with dodgy definitions, and thereby wasting people’s time, I am going to be a big girl and admit that I cannot affirm this contention. Well argued, Shabshoral.

A3: Rand’s conception of Man


Method to determine absolute qualities: My opponent’s opening sentence is all the concession I need: “every concept has its basis in the perception of reality”. How do we know that Rand's upbringing, her surrounding culture, her feelings etc. were whisked aside in ALL her moments of constructing a completely objective, “concrete” conception of Man? How could she know that people whom she has never met (hermits in secluded areas), and cultures that she has never experienced (small tribal culture), fall within Objectivist theory, despite her method of induction never accounting for these things? How does she know that the alignment of concept and reality are 100% accurate for everyone, and not just the people who she has met? Again, her method of verification is induction, which as we now know, means that she used her perception of reality to create what she thinks is an accurate reality. Therefore, she could *never* be quite sure if her philosophy was, in reality, correct, but rather could only tell, at best, that her philosophy could be 100% consistent for a limited length of time or a particular group. So, to conclude with absolute certainty that Man has certain values will be logically fallacious, in that it will be assuming that an inductive argument (which can never be certain) is certain. In other words, it is not that the concepts are necessarily wrong, but concluding that they are certainly right, which Objectivism does, is wrong. Via formal logic, I can conclude, without delving into specific content, that the method in which Rand determined her conclusions is flawed, and therefore her philosophy (which includes the method of determining its conclusions) is not sound.

A is A; three-sided triangle is a three-sided triangle: The problem with my opponent’s argument is not that concept = concept, but rather how do we know we have correctly attributed real value to the concept? You know how? It is through induction, and I have repeatedly describe the problems with this method of argumentation. There is no way in which you can determine that that A is A without filtering A through your subjective experience. Again, it is the method of determination which is problematic, not necessarily the concept.

Metaphors and induction: To put this in terms of the debate, I will show you an analogy with water. Now, someone could look at water and say ‘water is a liquid’ (Rand looks at Man and sees Him as a rational being). Now, knowing that water is a liquid helps us understand water to some degree, but as we know, in some scenarios, water changes to being a gas or solid (Man can change to being irrational when emotional). Water can also bubble at higher temperatures. Water is also capable of mixing with other liquids (Man has emotions. Man can move). Now it should be obvious that to simply label water as a liquid (Man as a rational being) is not only inductive, but clearly missing a lot of meaning in the term Man. This was the point I was making with reference to metaphors: the more precise your definition of Man becomes, the more information you leave out. Saying that something is something else in a metaphorical way, avoids having to be specific with meaning and thus leaving out important meaning.



Thanks, Pro



Inductive argument:

When Rand said “live”, she meant “live qua man”, meaning “live as an entity with the qualities I have ascribed to entities that are subsumed by the concept “man””. Given this, a severely mentally impaired man, amoeba, or a baby could not choose to live, since none are able to act rationally. Implied within “acting rationally” is “acting volitionally”, since “[reason] is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice.” [1] To live qua man is to necessarily live volitionally, so entities like those Pro mentioned cannot live in the sense that Rand used the phrase and are completely excluded from the current discussion. They’re completely irrelevant – Rand specifically chose to talk only about those things that can and have chosen life, so nothing else should have an impact.

Not everything chooses to live if you’re using “live” in the biological sense. A tree does not choose life. However, the kinds of entities that Rand was talking about – volitional entities – can, by definition, choose. Rand basically said that “Things which choose their actions choose their first action, which is to live.”

By saying that O’ism never “shows” it to be true that the entities that it’s talking about choose to live can only be the result of pure equivocation. O’ism only talks about and only applies to entities which have to make the choice to live or die – by definition alone O’ism restricts the entities that it talks about to ones with such a choice. For Pro to say that, even if this is the case, O’ism must “show” that those entities have that choice is absurd – it’s like saying that if I say “all squares have four sides” Pro can invalidate my argument by saying “well, what about triangles? They have three sides. Are they squares? How can you show that squares have four sides given the existence of triangles?” The problem is obvious: the original statement encompasses what the original statement encompasses, so the qualities of entities that the statement does not encompass are completely irrelevant – that which it does encompass are encompassed by definition and by virtue of being encompassed.

Response to the “Baby Issue”:

A baby does not choose to live, but a baby is a special case: a baby will, by all odds, grow into an entity which will be able to make such a choice. The baby itself is valueless outside of the potential it has to stop being a baby – that potential is enough to grant it special protections and rights. Even if babies didn’t have rights, this wouldn’t be a problem – babies, if they didn’t grow into adults, would be equivalent to rocks, so killing them wouldn’t be immoral. O’ism is about living qua man, not qua baby, so this argument fails.

Would you not expect the hospital to be able to answer that question?””

I see no problem with the hospital not being able to answer that question. They can state what is the case (the exact process of the brain transplant and the implications of it), but they cannot make a case for its value because making such a case would require the evaluation of the values that are necessary for evaluation. There is no basis for doing so, since any basis would be the thing being brought into question.

“[…] it begs the question”

No answer can be given to that question. It is an unquestionable primary. What you can do, though, is make if -> then statements. For example, “If… you choose life, then… follow O’ism”. This is equivalent to saying “If… you want to go to New York, then… take road X” – is this advice faulty because it does not tell you why you should go to New York?

The two alphabetical points:

A.) It’s relevant if there are viable alternatives to O’ism in the context of the argument I was responding to. The accusation leveled against O’ism was that, if it does not provide a reason to live, and if not doing so would lead to the detriments Pro listed, then it self-contradicts in that it conjures forth these detriments while still claiming to be a life-based phil.. This matters if it is possible to have a rational phil. that doesn’t have these detriments. Yes, if these detriments do exist, an O’ist would much rather that they didn’t, but, if the rest of O’ism holds true, then life qua man is the ultimate standard of value, and this can only be upheld via rationality. Any non-rational belief is immoral. Given this, if O’ism is right about there being no “reason to choose life”, then any phil. that did give such a reason is irrational. Therefore, there is no contradiction in saying that choosing life is pre-moral, since saying anything else, no matter what the benefits would be, would be irrational. You cannot rewrite reality because it would be “better” if things were different – O’ism must stay within the bounds of what is, rather than what is ideal.

If a lack of pre-moral purpose causes depression, then depression must be deal. That does not show a contradiction. If there is no better way to live on earth than to follow O’ism, then O’ism has still fulfilled its goal, regardless of whether it’s “abstractly” perfect or not. It’s irrelevant if things would be “better” with a pre-moral purpose – if O’ism is true, there isn’t such a purpose, so there’s no value in pretending that there is.

B.) My purpose with this point was not to show that Pro is presupposing that live has value – it was to show that all phil. does so. You cannot hold any philosophical position without holding the idea that life has value, and, from this, it can be drawn that valuing life is pre-phil.. As such, you could never give a philosophical answer to why you should live, and, if this is the case, there’s no “better way” to live on earth than to accept this fact and follow O’ism.


Rand wrote that values are means to happiness; the pursuit of values leads to happiness. If A results in B, then arguing that you should not pursue B is equivalent to saying that you should not pursue A. Values have the role of A in this relationship, with happiness being B. As quoted before, happiness is the achievement of values, so Pro is advocating abandoning value.

The point I made is that not pursuing happiness, according to you, would be the way to pursue happiness.

Where H = Happiness, h = happiness – 1, and P = the pursuit of happiness:

H + P results in: h

H results in: H

Given this, the real pursuer of happiness would always choose the latter, meaning that in order to pursue the greatest happiness you must not pursue the greatest happiness, which is a meaningless, paradoxical, and contradictory loop. Therefore, the study is nonsense.



The statement “a triangle has three sides” is timeless and does not depend on any particular cultural interpretation. If a shape has three sides, it is a triangle. If it does not, it is not. In the same way, if an entity is a “rational animal”, it is man. If it is not a rational animal, it is not man. This has nothing to do with the metaphysical status of any entity to any extent farther than looking to see if it meets the requirements of the concept. No matter how culturally charged the concept is, if it was formed according to Rand’s method, it’s absolute and 100% accurate in the context of what it covers. If a hermit is not a rational animal, it is not man. There is no inherent problem here – the concept is accurate as far as it reaches. Pro’s only way to object to this is to appeal to some “platonic form” that dictates what the concept of man really is. There will be more on this later.

A is A; three-sided triangle is a three-sided triangle: What is “real value”? How do you determine if a concept has more “real value” than another? What does “unreal value” mean? Pro seems to think concepts should have some “absolute meaning” independent of experience/individual choice – ignoring the fact that conceptualization is just the process of selecting qualities and entities to abstract from all others. There can be no “wrong concept” as long as a quality from reality is distinguished from all others and set as “required” for all entities that wish to fall under the concept. How could there be? I’ve addressed the argument against induction above.

Metaphors and induction: Pro is basing this objection off the idea that Rand is “clearly missing a lot of meaning in the term Man.” Where is she getting this “meaning” from, if not from Rand herself? If it is true that Rand’s conception of man doesn’t include this meaning, then she must be using her own concepts to say that Rand is lacking. The fact of the matter is that this is a clear-cut example of equivocation – Rand is using the term “man” in a way that she defines, but Pro objects on the grounds that the term “really means x, y, and z.” The problem is that the only way she could say this is if she’s equivocating two separate concepts, namely her own concept that she labels “man” and the concept that Rand labels “man”. Pro is challenging a statement because she’s using a word that the author gave a clear definition of differently than that author, not because of any flaw inherent in the statement. The argument is based on the conflation of the two words.

To Rand, if a man destroyed his rational capacity, he was no longer man because that is how Rand defined “man”. To say that Rand is wrong because “man can be consistently irrational and still be man” is wrong directly by Rand’s definition. There is no “information being lost” because Rand chose a narrow definition. The fact is not that Rand was saying that irrational things are rational or anything else like that – she was saying that irrational things were excluded from the concept of “man”. Pro’s objection is akin to saying that the definition of a triangle as a “three-sided shape” is “too restrictive” because “six-sided shapes exist”, regardless of the fact that those six-sided shapes are not triangles. Unless Pro would like to say that there’s somehow something wrong with defining triangles or anything else in this manner, then her argument here fails.

1.) Virtue of Selfishness

Debate Round No. 3


Summarising Points

Burden of Proof:

Since I am Pro, my burden of proof is to show that Objectivism is not sound, meaning that I need to argue an aspect of Objectivism being unsound. In other words, all I need to do, at any point, is to show Objectivism is illogical. Even if I have dropped sections and arguments, my burden of proof only requires me to affirm an instance of Objectivism being unsound.

****If at any stage you find Objectivism unsound, you should vote for me.****

A1: A reason to live; purpose in happiness

Under this heading, a central question to this debate was: why should we value/live life? In response, my opponent argues that this is a “pre-philosophical” question, one that Rand intentionally does not answer. I ask you, the voter: could this not be classified as a philosophical question? Is it not philosophical to ask: why should I live my life? Furthermore, is it not logical to ask why you are doing something before you ask how to do it? Do you ever ring a hospital to ask how to have an operation (with the implications being that you will have one) before you have reason for one? I offer you the idea that this is a classic example of begging the question (thus Objectivism is not sound). Let us explore it…

<impact> I covered the impacts of living life without a purpose, of which these are increases in: (1) depression, (2) suicide and (3) hopelessness, as was found in my research. My opponent never contests these impacts, thus they are legitimate, in this debate. So, the question of “why live” becomes quite an important one. Does it make logical sense that Rand would want to ignore such an important question when constructing a philosophy for “living on Earth?” The raw fact is that ignoring such an important question, given the context of the debate, does not make sense, and thus is not logically sound.

<1> There was the explicit exposure of the internal contradiction. This so clearly shows that my opponent’s argument is internally contradictory. I quote my opponent:

“[Rand] never assumed that one should value life. All of philosophy is only relevant if one already values life, making the question of “why” you should value life unanswerable.”

Now, the form interpretation:

1) “All philosophy is only relevant if one already values life”

2) “Rand never assumed that one should value life”

3) Rand builds a philosophy (something that assumes “one already values life”) whilst never assuming that one should value life

C) My opponent’s argument is now explicitly contradictory and obviously does require the initial premise of “why live?” to be answered, and since Objectivism does not answer the question in the initial premise, it begs the question

<2> Another feature of this sub-point was the idea that people have already chosen to live”. This “pre-moral/pre-philosophical idea” incurred the problems of (1) the Inductive argument and (2) the Baby Issue.

(1) Whilst, in my opinion, my opponent adequately addresses the problem of induction, in regards to choosing to live (by saying that this philosophy only applies to those who have already chosen life, rather than trying to say that everyone has chosen life), my opponent contradicts himself again, with regards to “pre-philosophy”. I quote my opponent:

“Rand specifically chose to talk only about those things that can and have chosen life”

Part of the concept of man is to act “volitionally” or “rationally”, meaning that things that have chosen life are acting rationally. HOWEVER, as you may remember, my opponent said previously that choosing life was “pre-philosophical!” BUT, as you can clearly see, my opponent argues here that those who are living (according to Rand’s definition) are acting rationally (and thus are being philosophical, which he earlier said that they were not). To summarise this point, either:

1) My opponent successfully counters my Inductive argument point but concedes that choosing to live is philosophical (and not “pre-philosophical”), and thus fall under all the logical fallacies found up until my <2> argument

2) My opponent retracts his contradiction, and so my inductive argument stands

Either way, my opponent’s ultimate argument here is unsound.

(2) In the end, my opponent’s counter-argument to the baby issue surmounts to equivocation (and is therefore unsound, due to the faulty semantics), wherein he, in reality, argues that babies do not have rights yet they have rights. This answer is inspired by the fact that the conception of rights comes from requiring and exercising reason. Babies quite clearly cannot do this. So, my opponent begins to equivocate in arguing that babies have rights because they can become adults, yet Rand’s conception of choosing to live is what creates value (according to the philosophy). In form:

1) Babies cannot reason

2) Reason is required to be considered Man

C) Therefore, in saying that babies have rights, this "special case" counter-argument my opponent makes is equivocation

Alphabetical points:

My opponent’s objection basically came down to this: is there a rational alternative to Objectivism that does not have these detriments (the detriments being the negative affect that comes from not having a purpose in life). To this, I still maintain that this is irrelevant. Even if there were no better alternatives, Objectivism could still be unsound. In reality, there is no mutual exclusion in my opponent’s false dichotomy.

Pursuing happiness (II.)

Under this section, I have a serious advantage over my opponent, in that I have provided a study showing that the pursuit of happiness leads to unhappiness, hence Objectivism’s championing of happiness is ultimately contradictory, thus unsound.

Throughout the debate, one of my opponent’s responses to this is essentially a No True Scotsman fallacy, in that he argues that the pursuit of happiness is not a real type of pursuing happiness. There is no talk of the methodology, nor attempt at exposing the limitations of the study. Just a simple: that is not real pursuit in happiness.

The other attempt at counter-argument, from my opponent, was semantics to twist my words in order to make it appear that I wrote: you pursue happiness by not pursuing happiness. I will clarify the meaning of what I actually wrote. The meaning involved rejects the idea of pursuing happiness because it leads to not pursuing happiness. At no stage do I advocate on how to pursue happiness. I merely rejected Objectivism’s apparently sound model for pursuing happiness.

Finally, I do not abandon pursuing values, but rather I abandon Rand’s specific conception of pursuing value, of which is intertwined with pursuing happiness. Again, my study explicitly shows how Rand advocating pursuing happiness is contradictory, hence Objectivism being unsound.

A3: Rand’s Conception of Man

Under this contention, I argue that the conception of Man is not necessarily grounded in reality, and my opponent essentially responds by saying that Rand’s Man is constructed via common elements found in adult humans (and is not necessarily all encompassing). I think my objections stand. Let me show you why.

A is A; three-sided triangle is a three-sided triangle

Let us get this fact straight: humans are far more complex than triangles. Furthermore, the element Objectivism tries to extract from humans (reason) is far more elaborate than the element of the triangle (three-sidedness). So, as I have been arguing all the debate, since Rand’s method of inference is induction (which is a separate instance of induction to the previous one), then Rand starts to run into problems when she attempts to confirm that something as complex as the capacity to reason, despite layered in cultural, Rand’s perception and individual differences, means one thing for ALL people. If it were a *physical* element of humans (rather than the *metaphysical* ‘reason’), such as all of them having a heart, then this physical trait is much more of a given, much like the three-sidedness.

In summary, this point explored how Rand’s limited method of induction still fails to provide objectivity, despite only trying to describe a certain characteristics humans have (reason). You cannot point to the capacity to reason; its conception is abstract (unlike the three-sidedness).

Metaphors and induction:

Similarly to the above problem, my metaphorical counter-point shows how condensing information into short phrases creates problems. The study I highlighted showed how metaphor should be used to construct abstractions, due to the limitations of language. Con does briefly mention this point in the second round, but it seems, as far as I can tell, to be dropped. In other words, my uncontested point of language is limited in terms of scope, therefore shows using language and purporting it to be exact creates the same problem induction does, in that the method of information gathering is not capable of being precise.

Con’s rejection of my argument attempts to show how I have used the wrong definition of Man, yet the construction of identifying the definition to exist in reality is where my objection lies here. I understand fully that not every man is a Man, but this does not counter my argument, as a critique of language would apply to both arguments (the one my opponent thinks I am arguing and the one I am arguing in reality).

So, the conception of reason is a metaphysical construct which is constructed via induction, and thus cannot ever be as objective as Rand tries to make it seem. Therefore, Rand arguing that an estimate (induction) is an exact, is not logically sound.

In closing

Thank you to Shabshoral for providing great opposition. I was humbled when I had to admit that my A2 was completely countered, so even if you do not win, you can take pride in forcing me to abandon that contention.

Thank you for reading this debate; I hope it was worth your while =)



The Final Defence

Burden of Proof:

Pro's analysis of the BoP is sound.

A1: A reason to live; purpose in happiness

Is it not philosophical to ask: why should I live my life?”

I have specifically laid out a logical argument showing that it is utterly impossible to ask this question without already valuing life. My opponent has done nothing to address this except for saying “but it must be philosophical!”, which is not an argument.

My opponent never contests these impacts, thus they are legitimate, in this debate.”

I never contested them because I showed that they were completely and totally irrelevant. I've argued time and time again that, regardless of how nice a “perfect” world would be, if such a world is not reality you cannot gain anything from pretending that it is. Objectivism, if it is right on this point (and it is, as I have shown previously), would be merely RECOGNIZING the reality that cannot be changed; the reality is that Objectivism doesn't answer the question Pro is asking because nothing can answer it. My opponent has never argued against this point – she has never showed that it would be even possible to non-contradictorily hold that there is a philosophical answer to “why live”, and, as such, Objectivism cannot be criticized for not doing the impossible.

Part of the concept of man is to act “volitionally” or “rationally”, meaning that things that have chosen life are acting rationally.”

I NEVER made this claim. I specifically said that Rand only talked about VOLITIONAL entities, NOT rational entities. They are not equivalent terms. As such, the supposed “contradiction” in my argument simply does not exist – NOWHERE did I advocate that entities that chose to live were rational in doing so, ONLY that they made the choice volitionally. There is no philosophical basis for such a choice and there is no rationality involved, which is why I didn't say that there was at any point in the debate. I have no idea where my opponent got this from.

babies do not have rights yet they have rights.”

This is not what I said. I said that babies, by virtue of being babies, do not have rights. Rational and volitional men have rights, and babies only have rights insofar as they are guaranteed to grow into one such man. A baby is equivalent to a rock on its own. The end product of a baby, however, is an entity that will be able to reason and will be able to choose life, etc. It is the rights of that potential man that are extending over the baby, not any rights inherent in the baby itself. Therefore, there is no contradiction – the source of the rights of babies is the same as the source of the rights of adults, since it is only from the potential adults that the babies get their rights.

Alphabetical points:

Even if there were no better alternatives, Objectivism would still be unsound”

Objectivism wouldn't be unsound for both valuing life and espousing the belief that there is no “reason” to live because doing so causes the harms listed for the very reason that there is not an alternative that is any better. If Objectivism's position is the ONLY rational one, then it must be the most life-affirming philosophy. My opponent's argument is equivalent to saying that nutritionists are “anti-life” because they recommend food rather than starving to death – she would say that, since life would be so much easier if food wasn't needed, any person who tries to deal with the reality in the best way possible is failing because they do not try to achieve that impossible ideal. The fact of the matter is that we DO need food, and Objectivism is the best nutritionist around when you eliminate prayer and supplication, so it can't be said to be failing or self-contradictory on this basis.

Pursuing happiness (II.)

IF happiness is your goal, and IF happiness is achieved when it is not pursued, then the way to pursue happiness, BY DEFINITION, would be to not pursue it. This is clearly an absurdity – I have shown EXACTLY how the conclusions of the study dissolve into nonsense, so I did not need to do anything else to completely neutralize this point.

Again, if happiness is caused by the pursuit of values, then the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of values. If the pursuit of happiness is bad, so is the pursuit of values, since the pursuit of values logically leads to happiness, and is, as such, the pursuit of happiness itself. Therefore, my opponent IS advocating that values should not be pursued, which is a contradiction in terms, given that any “ought” statement depends on values being valuable in the first place (else why would any course of action be better than another?). My opponent has not offered any legitimate defences of her arguments here, and instead has opted to just repeat that she has “studies” and that she “didn't mean what I say she means”, which isn't enough to win a debate when I have clearly showed that her argument is fundamentally illogical and absurd, regardless of how many PhDs agree with it (A is A no matter who says otherwise).

A3: Rand’s Conception of Man

A is A; three-sided triangle is a three-sided triangle

My stance is VERY easy to defend here – all I have to do is show that the concepts are absolutely infallible and apply only to those things they apply to. To do this, let us examine “reason”. My opponent claims that this cannot be properly conceptualized because it is “too complex” and it cannot be said that it “means one thing for ALL people.” The simplest counter is also the best: Reason is Reason. Reason is just what Reason is defined as. It is nothing more, nothing less, lest my opponent wants to argue that a tautology is false. IF Reason = Reason, then that's an entirely valid proposition – Reason is what Reason is, and whatever Reason applies to is whatever Reason applies to. That is ABSOLUTE. That is unable to be debated. It is entirely tautological in nature. Given this, there CAN be no problem with it being something different for different people or whatever else – Reason is, BY DEFINITION and BY NECESSITY, Reason, and can be nothing else. My opponent is effectively saying that Reason can be Not-Reason, which is patently absurd. Reason = Reason is objectively true no matter your cultural background, your predispositions, etc. As such, I have shown that concepts formed through induction (just the identification of particulars and the extrapolation of broader statements – for instance, seeing a quality, calling it “Rationality”, and then making the generalized claim that anything with the qualities that he saw has Rationality – A is A, so this cannot ever be incorrect) can be absolutely valid, neutering my opponent's objections to Objectivism.

Metaphors and Induction:

My previous arguments can just be extended here – if X is defined as X, then saying that X = X is “incomplete” because of the limitations of language is absurd. X was defined a certain way, so trying to force it to have meaning outside of that original context is futile. Zarroette is essentially saying that X = X is invalid because she defines X differently than Rand does and this causes the proposition to “lose out” on meaning. She is arguing that X = X is “inexact”. All should hopefully see why this does not make a compelling case.

In closing…

Thanks to Cassie as well – I had a lot of fun with this. This was probably the hardest debate I've done on this site – props.

Also, thanks to any voters brave enough to wade through this incredibly dense debate – Godspeed!

Debate Round No. 4
221 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
lol I said some really stupid stuff in this debate. This could have been so much simpler...

This is absurdly unnecessary:

"Where H = Happiness, h = happiness " 1, and P = the pursuit of happiness:

H + P results in: h

H results in: H"

I'm pretty sure I was sleep-deprived when I came up with most of this stuff. I was right, mind you, but I didn't argue it nearly as effectively as I could now.
Posted by Zarroette 2 years ago
"Arch enemies"

Lol. Although, I guess our 200+ comments look pretty serious.
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
uh, lol?
Posted by ChickenBakuba 2 years ago
This Debate is totally technical jargon to me, aka sh1t
Posted by ChickenBakuba 2 years ago
Ehh, these 2 Debaters are like arch enemies
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
This is where you got your argument types from:
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
I think Bossy won this as well...
I guess it's for the better that I didn't vote
Posted by ShabShoral 2 years ago
Objectivism doesn't give a reason to live... I totally conceded that point, lol.
Posted by Zarroette 2 years ago
Bossy lost this because he came up against a seriously good debater. Don't be too hard on him ;)
Posted by FourTrouble 2 years ago
"Objectivism gives no reason to live." Wow.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Yassine 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: A1. 1. Reason to Live: - This was Pro's argument: P1. Man should chose to live. P2. If Man should chose to live, then Man must only chose O'ism. C. O?ism is what Man must chose. => Clearly, O?sim does not defend (P1), a contention admitted by Con, thus the Syllogism is invalid, hence O'ism is unsound. - Pro's counter argument to Con's rebuttal: P1. Man is a rational being, & Man is a volitional being. P2. Man choses to live. P3. Choosing to live is not rational (pre-philosophical). P4. If O?sim, then Man. P5. Man is incoherent (P1 & P2 & P3) C. O'sim is incoherent. => Con tries to counter this by saying P3 is impossible to defend, but that?s just a straw-man, as the argument isn't about feasibility, it's about soundness. => Pro's win. (full RFD later).
Vote Placed by Envisage 2 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Comments.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Under this voting standard, arguments are weighed the most. So I will solely focus on that and sources (since sources help further argument impact). All Pro had to do was win one line of argumentation out of the three presented. She eventually conceded A2. I found Con's rebuttals to A1 lacking, and I found some of Con's claims to be indeed contradictory, as Pro showed. Without going into more specifics, due to a severe lack of time at the moment, Pro won A1. Con obviously won A2, and A3 was somewhat stuck in the middle. Personally, I think Con had a slight edge in A3, but again, I can't go into details at the moment due to work. Even if he won A3, he still needed to win A1, which I don't believe he did. I will gladly expand on all of this once I get home from work around midnight.
Vote Placed by zmikecuber 2 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: I'll try and vote o nthis over the weekend. We'll see...
Vote Placed by tejretics 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: If there's a problem with the GDoc, please PM me. RFD in Google Doc: