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Heinlein vs Rand 
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Peter Scott: "...Does anyone think they're really philosophical twins?"

If I didn't say it earlier, Thanks Peter, for this most interesting topic/subject. It got my rusty gears to creaking. And it feels good.

I think Bob would have been much more twin like, had Ayn's non-fiction works been available during his formative years. I imagine him taking a deeper look at things, which is the reaction of most of us who choose to think. She brought many more tools or weapons to our arsenal, pushing the envelope. Mankind is better for having her precede us.


Bill Patterson: "There are people who think they are -- but that's always been puzzling to me. Apparently Heinein read Rand with approval, and Rand read Heinlein with approval; they never met, and they lived in universes on the same block, psychologically and philosophically, but not particularly close.

"I think Heinlein's statement in the Schulman interview that he made Rand look like a bloody socialist is fundamentally correct. Although there was a whole lot of nuancing going on, fundamentally Heinlein falls into the anarchist individualist classification, with a lot of affiliations with Stirner, while Rand is a natural-law philosopher, much more philosophically akin to the French and English (i.e. Locke) tradition. So what Heinlein said of Rand in TMIAHM -- that Prof could "live with" a Randist -- is fair (i.e., a neighborly affinity rather than any actual identity of ideas)..".< I'm just getting playful with punctuation here. LAO3D

Excellent observation, Bill. Your words (piled on top of those I've been turning over) have set off a chain of thought, that I'm not sure how they relate to exclusively your words, so don't feel miffed if I fail to make the connection...

For some, as yet unclear, reason, I am reminded of one particular artist, the greatest artist of the Romantic school of literature, second only to Ayn Rand, in my opinion, Victor Hugo. Actually, the verdict is still out on that evaluation within that narrow context. For this discussion, I'll state unequivocally, that Hugo was the greatest altruistic author of the romantic school. As such, he was the master at creating characters that embodied the ideals of altruism. Jean Valjean, the hero of Les Misérables, is the archetypical model, of a self-sacrificing hero, a giant among men, a character totally integrated philosophically, and tragically so, as he did not see through the flaws in his philosophy. He was true to it. No one but a zombie could fail to be moved by this character, no matter what the readers philosophy.

RAH, though not in the class of Hugo, also created giants of character, that are also capable of moving one, though to a lesser degree, but with as much integrity as Jean Valijean. I think RAH was only beginning to see the contradictions of altruism in his later years, While I have not done a research project on this, and probably never will, I find the word "sacrifice" used a great deal more in his early works, that in later days. To be sure, he made an effort to clarify the values being acted on by his characters, even when misusing the term sacrifice. As I said earlier, an error of knowledge, rather than a moral error.

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Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:39 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LeonArtO3D wrote:
I suggest you think again. That goes for Bing too.

"that is considered more important or valuable"

Considered by whom and for what? I suppose that Mumbo Jumbo's witchdoctor would have you believe that 'definition' while you are slaughtering your 9 year old daughter on his alters, but I hardly think it appropriate to use the standards of value of a mystic when formulating objective standards of value. If you compare that whole list of usages, the contradiction stands out glaringly obvious. Since contradictions can not exist in reality, it is left as an exercise for the student, to resolve it with vigor. Check your premises.

So far I am quite satisfied with my thinking. In everyday usage (on three more online dictionaries I have checked) "sacrifice" importantly includes the case where something is given up for a greater good. You have introduced a technical, private definition of the word while chiding others for not using standard English. Introducing a technical definition in a philosophical argument is appropriate. Doing so snidely, with no acknowledgement that the other definition exists, is less so, and a little confusing. Nonetheless, I have understood your technical definition, and correctly used it in a humorous Randian argument.

Then, to be on point for this forum, I have brought up an example where Heinlein seems to value heroics that Rand would not.

What have I missed?

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Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:00 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Sorry to cut this off mid-point, but personal/business distractions interfere. I'll get back asap.

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Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:43 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LilLeaguer wrote:
LeonArtO3D wrote:
I suggest you think again. That goes for Bing too.

"that is considered more important or valuable"

Considered by whom and for what? I suppose that Mumbo Jumbo's witchdoctor would have you believe that 'definition' while you are slaughtering your 9 year old daughter on his alters, but I hardly think it appropriate to use the standards of value of a mystic when formulating objective standards of value. If you compare that whole list of usages, the contradiction stands out glaringly obvious. Since contradictions can not exist in reality, it is left as an exercise for the student, to resolve it with vigor. Check your premises.


So far I am quite satisfied with my thinking. In everyday usage (on three more online dictionaries I have checked) "sacrifice" importantly includes the case where something is given up for a greater good. You have introduced a technical, private definition of the word while chiding others for not using standard English. Introducing a technical definition in a philosophical argument is appropriate. Doing so snidely, with no acknowledgement that the other definition exists, is less so, and a little confusing. Nonetheless, I have understood your technical definition, and correctly used it in a humorous Randian argument.

Then, to be on point for this forum, I have brought up an example where Heinlein seems to value heroics that Rand would not.

What have I missed?


I think I've been clear on the basics, but if anyone wishes to delve deeper, I suggest reading "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," especially on concept formation and definitions.

LilLeaguer: If you are satisfied with your thinking, i wish you all the best. May it serve you well. I've quoted a philosopher for this philosophical discussion, but if you choose to refer to that as a "technical, private definition" I'll let her works speak for itself, to any who do care to think about it.

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Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:33 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LeonArtO3D wrote:
LilLeaguer: If you are satisfied with your thinking, i wish you all the best. May it serve you well. I've quoted a philosopher for this philosophical discussion, but if you choose to refer to that as a "technical, private definition" I'll let her works speak for itself, to any who do care to think about it.[/color]

To be clear, your attempt to reconcile statements by Heinlein with those of Rand about "sacrifice" by pointing out that they are using different definitions of the word is valuable. Your further claim that Rand's is the better definition is debatable, but I have not been debating that point. You did seem to imply, though, that Rand's definition was in fact the common British/English definition, and I do take issue with that.

I also take issue with one who criticizes my thinking without, evidently, understanding it.

So, no, I am not trying to dismiss Rand's works on this point.

Back to Heinlein.

Early in this thread, it was asked whether we could reconcile Heinlein's honor of duty with Rand's disdain for altruism. I think that question has not yet been answered. I think that is the crux of my switchboard operator example. Here are two more examples of heroines that might be sacrificing for less then they get back. One is "heroic," the other less so:
  • Podkayne (PoM) risks her life to save a pet.
  • Maureen (TSBtS) abondons her children.
Are these rationally non-altruistic acts?

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Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:24 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LilLeaguer wrote:
LeonArtO3D wrote:
LilLeaguer: If you are satisfied with your thinking, i wish you all the best. May it serve you well. I've quoted a philosopher for this philosophical discussion, but if you choose to refer to that as a "technical, private definition" I'll let her works speak for itself, to any who do care to think about it.[/color]

To be clear, your attempt to reconcile statements by Heinlein with those of Rand about "sacrifice" by pointing out that they are using different definitions of the word is valuable. Your further claim that Rand's is the better definition is debatable, but I have not been debating that point. You did seem to imply, though, that Rand's definition was in fact the common British/English definition, and I do take issue with that.

I also take issue with one who criticizes my thinking without, evidently, understanding it.

So, no, I am not trying to dismiss Rand's works on this point.


I left out the 'Heinlein' part of your post, as I do not have those works currently, but will look into it as time and access permit.

Excellent job of clarifying your position. I am criticizing your thinking, at least the part of it that you have put into print, plus some guess work extrapolated from what you've written, which may not follow your thinking exactly. We shall see.

I do not believe you are thinking objectively. You are confronted with 5 or 6 supposed definitions, one or more of them are in contradiction with the others. You appear to accept this as consonant with reality. You do not challenge Bing, nor whomever else you looked up. You do not challenge contradictions when you confront them, at least, you didn't this time. When I raised the issue, you still did not challenge the contradiction. I take it that this is what you refer to as your way of thinking. I stated explicitly that contradictions do not, indeed, can not exist in reality. Sacrifice, can not be both of these definitions, it has to be one or the other.

So, how does one challenge a definition, objectively? There's another name for this, it's called "Reality Testing." I gave you a clue about that also. Let's say you have two claimants to a definition, two claims by people you know. One of them you know to be honest and otherwise, of sound character and rational; the other, you know to be a confidence man. My example to you was the claims of a witchdoctor claiming to be the anointed one of Mumbo Jumbo. From your reaction, I got the impression that his claims are just as valid as a claim by a stalwart defender of objectivity. Maybe you didn't even think about what I said. I used a glaringly obvious example of a mystic that no sane man would believe. But the same hold true for any mystic, be he a Catholic Priest, or a Fundamentalist Protestant bible thumper. Personally, I am very well versed in the claims of either of these variety of con men, but that only reflects a great deal of reality testing that I've done in my life to sift out truth from falsehood. My first introduction to the term sacrifice came from my protestant fanatic father, who's indoctrination of me required many years of reality testing before I could think clearly. He would tell you that if you sacrifice your life here on earth, you would get a much greater reward in Heaven after you die. Why you might even get to site on the right hand side of God for your good deeds. So, do you accept his claim to a definition? He will even tell you that there is no reason, no proof of the existence of God or Heaven or anything else he has tried to convince you of, that you would have to shut down your rational faculty, your only means of survival on earth, and accept his claims on faith. Semantic value zero! In my mind, claims without proof, without any possible way of verifying their truth or falsehood, these claims are identical to the sound of wind, not an utterance in English, as if nothing had been said. So, what is left? What is the nature of the action that is being requested of me? "Oh, I want you to kill your daughter," the witchdoctor tells you, "A sacrifice to the gods," etc. ad nauseum. There is no doubt of the objective reality of your daughter, so he wants you to sacrifice that superlative value for a non-value. There's your reality testing in action. So what do you allow into your mind as the definition of sacrifice? Do you want to think objectively or do you want to cripple your mind and make it incapable of thought?

To me, there is no great mystery about any of this. I don't program my computer with garbage, I certainly don't allow it into my thinking. The definition of a definition does not include accepting random claims as identification.

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Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:15 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LeonArtO3D wrote:
Sacrifice, can not be both of these definitions, it has to be one or the other.


There is a concept "Sacrifice", and there are definitions for the word "sacrifice". (I will capitalize the one referring to the concept). The definitions are labels, and they are _not_ the concept ("The map is not the territory.")

The Randian/non-altruistic definition for "sacrifice" is so much in opposition to the generally accepted definition for "sacrifice" that it cannot mean the same thing. (Thus the need for an extended explanation by Rand, which you've quoted.) In other words, you are using a label which usually means one thing to mean another thing altogether.

Words (labels) have no intrinsic meaning -- they have meaning (and utility) only to the extent that a community can agree on a common concept to which they refer. Society at large (including Heinlein, and those of us who find value in his writings) tend to accept and use a common defintion of "sacrifice" to refer to a concept "Sacrifice", meaning (more or less) giving up something of value to oneself, for the benefit of another, or for a greater good. That which is given up may be life, or money, or time, or material goods. The "other" which receives the benefit may be another person, society at large, a group of people, God, etc. The driving motivation for making the sacrifice may be love, an act of charity, or a sense of duty (often the Heinleinian motivation).

The "Sacrifice" that your definition "sacrifice" refers to seems almost to be an irrational act -- the motivation for making the sacrifice is not offered, and without motivation, the act itself (the surrender of a higher value to one that is lower) makes no sense.

That being the case, when you refer to an Altruistic "Sacrifice" by the label "sacrifice" which is based on the Randian definition, things get confusing quick, because the Randian label "sacrifice" does not refer to the Altruistic (and Heinleinian) act "Sacrifice" -- it refers to something altogether different. And the fact that you seem to be insisting that the label "sacrifice" can only be defined in reference to the Randian act "Sacrifice" ("the surrender of a higher value to one that is lower") and does not in fact generally (and legitimately) refer to the Altruistic/Heinleinian act of "Sacrifice" ("giving up something of value to oneself, for the benefit of another, or for a greater good") rejects the idea that a Rational evaluation of the "value" of what is given up may not correlate with the world at large's evaluation, or the evaluation of the one who is making the sacrifice.
(That is, I may make a donation to a Rescue Mission, allowing street alcoholics to have a warm place to stay at night. Money is fungible, so I can't use the money to the benefit of my family, or even myself. I think I am satisfying a higher value by giving, an Objectivist may think not. The act may satisfy both definitions of "sacrifice". If I make a donation to a "worthy" cause (and I have no idea what that would be by Objectivist standards), it may still be a "sacrifice" as I understand the word, but not as Rand was defining it.)

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but you seem to be saying that there is a rational, objective definition of "sacrifice", and you are using the concept as described by Rand to correspond to that word, and that any other definition is wrong. Unfortunately, the world at large doesn't see it that way, and it is the world at large that defines words (by their usage). Rand can say that "sacrifice" means X, and other Objectivists may agree, but the rest of us know what "sacrifice" means, and you are banging your head on a wall to insist otherwise. And likewise, we would be banging our heads to insist that you are wrong with your definition, at least when you are using the word that way with other Objectivists, and you are all able to have effective communication by doing so. But, we are right in pointing out that if you want to communicate with anyone who is not a part of the community that uses the word "sacrifice" to mean Randian/non-Altruistic "Sacrifice" (in other words, the rest of the world), then you would be behooved to use the word "sacrifice" in the same way the rest of us do. Otherwise, you are the Ugly American in Paris, shouting your English even louder because French people speak French, and failing still to be understood.

And to get back to what you said, "sacrifice" can in fact "be both of these definitions", depending on context, and who is using it. I (and LilLeaguer) recognize that you are using it one way, and that it can be defined as you are doing so within the realm of what you are saying. I don't see you accepting as legitimate that the "standard" definition is just as accurate, and is useful, (and that the concept it refers to is of value to us all).


Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:42 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.' -- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass.

I'm pretty sure that Heinlein quotes Humpty Dumpty as well somewhere, though I don't remember the reference. Bill does a fine job of discussing my willingness to accept your definition within a system of argument and my reluctance to force that definition in use outside the system. Frankly, many people who want to get into arguments over definitions are covering up their own fallacious arguments (e.g. bait and switch, "No True Scotsman").

If a witch doctor were trying to talk me into sacrificing a child for the benefit of the gods, I would not get into a dictionary argument over the objective meaning of the word. Rather, if a discussion were even necessary, I would address the concepts that lie underneath the words. I am certainly not so unthinking as to be swayed by the use of the word, "sacrifice," as if it were a magical incantation.

Similarly, I suppose, if someone were to argue to me that giving up my future Social Security benefits would not be a sacrifice, as the greater good of anti-collectivism would be served through my personal monetary loss, I also wouldn't get into an argument over definitions. I might argue on other grounds, however.

I don't know Rand's thinking very well. And, while I thank you for the invitation, it is not likely that I will be diving into the source documents anytime soon. That is why I don't post on Rand forums. But Heinlein's sense of duty in particular might be at odds with Rand's sense of moral obligation to others; I don't know, and I would be interested in your analysis, when you are familiar with them, with some of the examples from Heinlein's writings.

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Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:09 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Bill, thanks for the McLuhan reference, that's where I was about to go. There is an objective reality, but it exists outside of language and no description of it matches it.

The dictionary is a giant circular definition. There is no such thing as intrinsic meaning, except in pure mathematics, and that by definition (heh) is not dealing with reality. (And even then there's Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem mucking things up.) Communication is achieved by comparing enough points of reference to believe that you have matched the wordless concept being described by the other party. Dictionaries exist to make that easier, not for arbitrating pissing contests. Definitions are flexible and often contradictory, ambiguous, and ephemeral: English is not Fortran. An ideal definition that exists only in the pages of a reference work is pointless; the worth of a definition is whether it is useful in communication, which means it has no intrinsic or objective value; a definition is only valuable in the context of a conversation, where people are participating.

Leon, I'd b interested in what you think Heinlein's interpretation of 'sacrifice' was.


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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
PeterScott wrote:
There is an objective reality, but it exists outside of language and no description of it matches it.


Reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, though I'm unable to find an attribution for it:

"Trying to express an idea in words is like trying to build a tree out of lumber."

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