Friday, May 22, 2009

OK, So I Was Wrong. It Happens.

Terry Goodkind is not only an adherent of Objectivism, but considers Ayn Rand to be the greatest philosopher since Aristotle.

Search me! I honestly don't know how people can believe this crap. Thing is, I'm myself harboring convictions that aren't all that dissimilar—but you really got to avoid getting sucked into buying the whole enchilada, mainly because it makes no sense. Not that Aristotle is the final word on 'sense', but Objectivism? Give me a break! It goes against everything we know about the human mind; against all the evidence we have about how the human mind actually works, insofar as it's workings are contingent upon the physical structures that allow it to exist and express itself. Rand-ism is an unscientific philosophy, born out of ignorance about biological realities. Surely, you'd think so anyway, that alone should cause those subscribing to the supreme power of reason, as instanced by the method of scientific inquiry, to abandon this silly ideology.

But, no. No no no.

There is an explanation for this, of course. A simple one. One with a supreme touch of irony that should prompt us all into a slightly embarrassed kind of snigger.

"People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool."

Recognize it? The thing is that Objectivists, thinking that they can actually appeal to 'reason' as an arbiter of 'truth'—excepting that accessible to the above-mentioned scientific inquiry—are exactly in that class of people whose heads soaked in convictions that actually can not be proved, not even suggestively so, by reason. Choices of action—what to do or what to believe to be true, to mention just two areas where such choices are made—are, at this level, matters of values. The word 'value' is a placeholder for a general class of those mental quantities that make us decide this way, rather than that; selectively attend to this thing rather than that one.

And, no, a ham-sandwich is not a 'value', as Goodkind would have it in his little philosophical spiel linked to above. A ham sandwich is just an object like any other, except that, for non-vegetarians at least, it may be associated with a mental 'value' of, say, "I like it" or "I'm hungry, and this is edible and will assuage my hunger"; which in turn will prompt a decision to eat it, rather than not. For a vegatarian it will also have an 'eek' value associated with it, and these two, in what amounts to a mutual mental competition, will lead to the need to ultimately make a choice that qualifies as a recognizable 'choice' as we think of it. "Should I eat this or not? I am hungry, but I don't want to eat the leftovers of a dead animal."

Values battling it out with values about basic decisions. Reason doesnt come into it, except in terms of evaluating the object and possibly the need to ingest food, which is related to survival, the desire for which is another 'value', and a strong one at that. And one might think that it is reason that ultimately decided if the ham-sandwich will get eaten. But in truth it is the competing values that have been activated in our minds in response to having performed the act of cognition that can be summarized as "This is a ham sandwich."

And, yes, reason might also show us a way out of the dilemma of having to make a choice; a way out to make the value competition be resolved with all values 'winning', if you will. I'm sure you figured that out, yes? (Solution: take the ham out of the sandwich and eat the rest.) But in that instance, reason wasn't actually the one doing the choosing either. It was all a way of the mind making the value competition come to a best-result outcome.

When you deconstruct Obectivist nonsense, usually a task so easy it is almost embarrassing, you might end up at the same place I usually do. I'm still not sure whether I'm sad or should just laugh about the terrifying applicability of the WFR. There are passages in the Goodkind books I'm reading (listening to) just now; passages that relate to ideology and how one is ensnared by them and by how everything, every aspect of one's thinking, tends to double back into one's ideology, because that's become the immutable framework of one's existence. And when I come across these, I want to say, "Terry, just listen to yourself! Listen and pay heed."

Still, the things—and maybe that's more important than Objectivist poppycock—that I do agree with in the Goodkind philosophy, is the value of life; the general railing against the religious, of the supernatural-god kind; and the notion that nobody but yourself can make, or ought to be allowed to make, the decisions that determine who and what you are and what you do and what you think.

If it comes down to it, and if I had to choose between people being stupid on the Objectivist side, as opposed to being stupid on the religious one...well, give me the Objectivists any damn day.

No comments: