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Heinlein vs Rand 
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Well, this thread certainly got some new blood...

Since I know Rand's work well, I'll add that as much as I admire much of it, the whole "sacrifice" bit with her different definition of the word always seemed to me to be a sort of caricature of Christian morality.

Quote:
""Sacrifice" is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man's virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as a more virtuous, less "selfish," than help to those one loves).


I don't think she understood Christianity all that well, including the symbolism and results of the Ultimate Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which was NOT "the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or a nonvalue."

Anyway,
DanHenderson wrote:
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."


Well, we may not be able to really describe it, but when you fall off the Empire State building and hit the ground, it still REALLY hurts. I would argue the description is good enough to be a "working" description. A Map is not the Territory, true, but it can still be damned useful.

_________________
"There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk 'his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor' on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else."


Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:13 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Peter: "Leon, I'd b interested in what you think Heinlein's interpretation of 'sacrifice' was."

I don't recall him ever mentioning it. I've just completed rereading all the Heinlein in my current collection, only about 10-15 books, two of those I barely skimmed this time around: Grumbles and Expanded Universe. Not enough to go on. I've pretty much burned out my interest in the topic ATM. I'm not an Ivory Tower sort of guy, and to do justice to the question would involve more of an investment of my time than I have interest in. I'll no doubt buy the rest of the collection to fill in all those I've lost over the years, and reread them for pleasure and escapism, but when it comes to ideas, I'm interested the best literature on a particular subject. I've offered my opinion on Heinlein vs Rand, having read almost everything he wrote, and for sure everything she wrote. I've recommended reading for anyone interested in objective reasoning. For anyone who does not want to end up with their mind in the unfortunate state described in your post, they can find an alternative in my recommendations. And if they find it flawed, they will at least know the nature of what they are condemning.

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Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:10 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Sorry BillMullins, but I completely missed your post. I am not Ayn Rand, nor am I on the Objectivist Debating Team. I'm not here to reproduce all of Ayn Rands works, to answer questions you refuse to look up for yourself. I don't care whether you (or anyone else) refuse to discover it or not, it's your mind. The Expanded Second Edition of Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, will answer all the questions raised above, about the difference between the currently popular philosophies, and Objectivism. I personally do not find any flaws in this work, so I recommend it. I'm not urging anyone to go against their better judgement. If your college professors have convinced you that no further research into the workings of the human mind are in order, go ahead and have it their way. I'm 67 and still studying and will continue till I die. What anyone else does with their mind is their business.

That, is my final word on this subject.

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Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:26 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
I've changed my mind to this extent. I'll let Ayn Rand speak for herself. This is the "Forward to the First Edition" of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:

(This work was first published in the Objectivist July 1966-February 1967.)

This series of articles is presented "by popular demand." We have had so many requests for information on Objectivist epistemology that I decided to put on record a summary of one of its cardinal elements--the Objectivist theory of concepts. These articles may be regarded as a preview of my future book on Objectivism, and are offered here for the guidance of philosophy students.

The issue of concepts (known as "the problem of universals") is philosophy's central issue. Since man's knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the validity of man's knowledge depends on the validity of concepts. But concepts are abstractions or universals, and everything that man perceives is particular, concrete. What is the relationship between abstractions and concretes? To what precisely do concepts refer in reality? Do the refer to something real, something that exists- or are they merely inventions of man's mind, arbitrary constructs or loose approximations that cannot claim to represent knowledge?

"All knowledge is in terms of concepts. If these concepts correspond to something that is to be found in reality they are real and man's knowledge has a foundation in fact; if they do not correspond to anything in reality they are not real and man's knowledge is of mere figments of his own imagination." (Edward C. Moore, American Pragmatism: Peirce, James & Dewey, New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p 27.)

To exemplify the issue as it is usually presented: When we refer to three persons as "men," what do we designate by that term? The three persons are three individuals who differ in every particular respect and may not posses a single identical characteristic (not even their fingerprints). If you list all their particular characteristics, you will not find one representing "manness." Where is the "manness" in men? What, in reality corresponds to the concept "man" in our mind?

In the history of philosophy, there are, essentially, four schools of thought on this issue:

1. The "extreme realists" or Platonists, who hold that abstractions exist as real entities or archtypes in another dimension of reality and that the concretes we perceive are merely their imperfect reflections, but the concretes evoke the abstractions in our mind. (According to Plato, they do so by evoking the memory of the archtypes which we had known, before birth, in that other dimension.)

2. The "moderate realists," whose ancestor (unfortunately) is Aristotle, who hold that abstractions exist only in concretes, in the form of metaphysical essences, and that our concepts refer to these essences.

3. The "Nominalists," who hold that all our ideas are only images of concretes, and that abstractions are merely "names" which we give to arbitrary groupings of concretes on the basis of vague resemblances.

4. The "conceptualists," who share the nominalists' view that abstractions have no actual basis in reality, but who hold that concepts exist in our minds as some sort of ideas, not as images.

(There is also the extreme nominalist position, the modern one, which consists of declaring that the problem is a meaningless issue, that "reality" is a meaningless term, that we can never know whether our concepts correspond to anything or not, that our knowledge consists of words-and that words are an arbitrary social convention.)

If, in the light of such "solutions," the problem might appear to be esoteric, let me remind you that the fate of human societies, of knowledge, of science, of progress and every human life depends on it. What is at stake here is the cognitive efficacy of man's mind.

As I wrote in For the New Intellectual: "To negate man's mind, it is the conceptual level of consciousness that has to be invalidated. Under all the tortuous complexities, contradictions, equivocations, rationalizations of the post-renaissance philosophy-the one consistent line, the fundamental that explains the rest, is: a concerted attack on man's conceptual faculty. Most philosophers did not intend to invalidate conceptual knowledge, but its defenders did more to destroy it than did its enemies. They were unable to offer a solution to the 'problem of universals,' that is: to define the nature and source of abstractions, to determine the relationship of concepts to perceptual data- and to prove the validity of scientific induction.... The philosophers were unable to refute the Witch Doctors claim that their concepts were a arbitrary as his whims and that their scientific knowledge had no greater metaphysical validity than his revelations."

These are the reasons why I chose to introduce you to Objectivist epistemology by presenting my theory of concepts. I entitle this work an "Introduction," because the theory is presented outside of its full context. For instance, I do not include here a discussion of the validity of man's senses - since the arguments of those who attack the senses are merely variants of the "stolen concept."

For the purposes of this series, the validity of the senses must be taken for granted - and one must remember the axiom: Existence Exists. (This, incidentally, is a way of translating into the form of a proposition, and thus into the form of an axiom, the primary fact which is existence.) Please bear in mind the full statement: Existence Exists - and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists." (Atlas Shrugged.)

- Ayn Rand

New York, July 1966

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Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:58 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
LeonArtO3D wrote:
Sorry BillMullins, but I completely missed your post. . . . I don't care whether you (or anyone else) refuse to discover it or not, it's your mind.

That being the case, it's unseemly for you to come here and insist that the terms of the debate be framed in Objectivist language, and that other frames of reference are "an error of knowledge" (as you put it on 10/8).

Objectivism is _a_ philosophy, it is not _the_ philosophy. If it works for you, I'm glad. It doesn't (in all its respects) work for me. That doesn't mean that I am in error, or that my failure to respect the unusual Objectivist definitions of words is wrong.

LeonArtO3D wrote:
I do hope we don't have any RAH aficionados who use words as if they had no definition established.

That's just the point – "sacrifice" does have an established definition, and had one for hundreds of years before Ayn Rand came along and tried to redefine it. Heinlein used it with the established definition, and did not use it with the meaning that Rand tried to give to the word.

LeonArtO3D wrote:
Sacrifice, can not be both of these definitions, it has to be one or the other.

True. So let me assert, then, that Rand's definition is the incorrect one (or, at least, one of them.)

PeterScott wrote:
the worth of a definition is whether it is useful in communication,
Agreed. And the Objectivist definition of "sacrifice" is only useful when all parties to the discussion agree that the definition matches the concept being described. That does not appear to be the case with respect to "definition" as you (Leon) have used it, and in the context of the works of RAH (because he did not use the word to mean the same concept to which you've been referring). Therefore, the Objectivist definition has little or no value here – it is obscuring rather than enhancing communication.

LeonArtO3D wrote:
I don't recall [Heinlein] ever mentioning [sacrifice] . . . having read almost everything he wrote


Some examples of the use of the word "sacrifice" by Heinlein. I've not included uses where it has a specific religious meaning ("scapegoat sacrifice", for example). But it would seem that Heinlein's usage of the word is consistent with what I would call the "standard" definition. In _Stranger in a Strange Land_, Jubal Harshaw derides altruistic claims of sacrifice as being "noble" – he contends that whoever is making the sacrifice is _always_ doing it for his own personal benefit ("People do what they want to, every time.") – but even then, Heinlein never approaches the Randian usage of the word, or seems to agree with the concept it refers to.

Sometimes his usage is of a more pedestrian sort ("sacrifice" = "to give up" with no reference to the motives for so doing).


"This I Believe": "I believe ...in the tedious sacrifices of teachers."

_Podkayne of Mars_: "Will I ever make that sacrifice [to eat lightly] to remaine svelte and glamorous?"

_Stranger in a Strange Land_: "It meant staying out of the pool that day, which was a great sacrifice, as swimming . . . was not merely a delight but almost unbearable religious ecstacy [for Smith]."

_Glory Road_: "[Star] would never risk Herself unless necessary. She would sacrifice ten million brave men, were it needed, as the cheaper price. She knows what She's worth."

_Starship Troopers_: "Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part . . . and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live."

"The Menace from Earth": "This project we had been slaving over for a year, flying not more than twice a week in order to devote time to it – and that's a sacrifice."

"Gulf": "Don't you think it's noble of me, Joe, to sacrifice my girlish reputation for home and country?"

"A Bathroom of her Own": "Dick Blair, a paratrooper and Purple Heart, had been my choice. But Dick had begged off, and who is to tell a combat veteran that he has got to make further sacrifice for the dear peepul?"

"The Last Days of the United States": "Are we, as a people, prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve a world authority?"

_Double Star_: "I did have to sacrifice a lot of hair and Dr. Capek inhibited the roots."

_The Star Beast_: "But you were willing to sacrifice Henry's forty years of service to save your own ugly face."
"The Secretary has been quite firm that the Stuart boy must not be sacrificed to expediency."

_For Us, The Living_: "Aren't you likely to tell him someday that, since you have sacrificed the best years of your life for him that the least he can do is to stay out of danger?""

_Methuselah's Children_: "Why don't we do it thoroughly and convince them that Ford is a martyr who sacrificed himself to save them? He is, you know. ... He didn't sacrifice himself primarily on our account, but there is no doubt in my mind that his personal sacrifice saved us."

_The Rolling Stones_: "He did not care to let them know of the choice between sacrificing their capital or letting strangers wait for medical attention."

_Farnham's Freehold_: "This resulted in sacrificing the one intact bear hide, the covering of the bed Karen had died in."

_Time Enough for Love_: " He was certain to be spotted by the first classmen on their return from mock sea battles and “volunteered” as a sacrificial victim."

Some of Heinlein's personal statements ("This I Believe", the story of the Swope Park hobo, etc.) indicate that sacrifice arising from duty (to oneself, one's family, one's tribe) is noble, to be admired, and even necessary for the advancement of the species. ("The Pragmatics of Patriotism": "The next higher level [of moral behavior] is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. . . The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for a group larger that the unit family -- an extended family, a herd, a tribe. . . . Patriotism means that you place the welfare of your nation ahead of your own even if it costs you your life.") He not only embraces "sacrifice", it is inherently linked to his definition of "morality." (See "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" as well -- "Women and children first".)


Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:33 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Leon,

The genius of Rand wasn't in her non-fiction, IMHO, though it was thought-provoking. No, Atlas Shrugged was genius--Fifty years after publication, Mr. Thompson is President, Wesley Mouch is running the economy, the Bureau of Economic Doubletalk is refusing to let a companies move to other states, Cuffy Meigs is in charge of "Homeland Security" and the universities are fever swamps of mystical bullshit.

Oh yeah, and Wyatt Oil is under atack and Associated Steel and Solyandra are getting billions from the government.

Luckily, as the National Bureaucracy of Space begins its death throes D. D. Harriman is launching rockets. Whether there is a WW III or the producers go into hiding and let it fall, both geniuses, Heinlein and Rand, had this in common; that they understood that the Farnham's will still go on.

_________________
"There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk 'his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor' on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else."


Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:11 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Yes, you're right. Although I consider solving the problem of universals, genius. The future looks bright ahead.

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Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:49 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
This morning's episode of "Morning Edition" on NPR included an interesting segment on Ayn Rand.

Tomorrow they'll deal with Friedrich Hayek.


Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:33 am
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