Nocterro's Anti-Objectivist Pseudo-Terrorism
No, I’m not making any of this up. Check out the original post for yourself right here: Why Objectivism Sucks
Nocterro raises numerous “challenges” (sic) against Objectivist philosophy. Let’s see how well they stand.
Problem #1: Nocterro says that Objectivism “tries too hard.” Thinkers should be so ambitious. They should cut themselves down to size, humble themselves before sovereign academic authorities who know better, or someone in the approved philosophical establishment might denounce or (gulp!) ignore them.
Objectivism includes theories of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.
Not only that, it is touted by some of its proponents as a massively complete philosophy that pwns pretty much everything else in existence. Nothing else in philosophy, as far as I have seen, makes such an incredibly bold claim.
Consider, for example, metaphysical naturalism. It makes a claim regarding what sorts of things exist - nothing more. It doesn’t say ‘here’s a theory of knowledge’ or ‘here’s a political system’ - many different options are available for these things for a naturalist.
The first weakness of Objectivism lies in it’s incredible scope. Successfully challenge one part of it, and the entire thing crumbles. There’s too many possible weak points. Offer a counterexample to what its ethics entails - gone. Show that its political system doesn’t work - gone. For Objectivism to withstand any philosophical criticism at all, it must either narrow its scope, or be developed into the most mind-bogglingly airtight position philosophy has ever seen.
Problem #2: Objectivism “has virtually no support in the modern-day philosophical community.” Never mind the fact that Objectivism never needed or asked for support in the modern-day philosophical community. They have their own problems (just look at today’s global mess), and Objectivism is more than happy to make a clean break from them.
I suspect the first objection to this point will be something along the lines of “So? All those other philosophers are wrong!
But consider this - there’s something else that A) Doesn’t have any support in the relevant community, and B) would have at least a moderate level of support if it were even plausibly true. So, what is this mysterious thing that’s analogous to Objectivism?
Now Nocterro ridicules the idea that Objectivism’s critics might be dishonest. And yet here he puts Objectivism on the same level of “Young-earth Creationism.” It should not be difficult for anyone with firsthand familiarity with Objectivism and any form of creationism to see the crass dishonesty in this. Nocterro inadvertently offers himself as confirmation of the suspicion of dishonesty (perhaps he thinks no one could ever be dishonest).
YECism, like Objectivism, has little to no backing in the relevant community (science to Objectivism’s philosophy).
Why is this? I think the most likely explanation is that the experts just don’t think it’s strong enough to be taken seriously, and thus dismiss it.
But where are the academic papers which present these devastating critiques of Objectivism? Oh, that’s right, the academics won’t give Objectivism the time of day. So if they denounce Objectivism, they may be doing so out of utter ignorance of what it teaches. Of course, this does not concern Nocterro. All that matters to him is that he does not find an entry on the issue of metaphysical primacy in Blackwell’s Companion to Philosophy or discussion of the hierarchical nature of knowledge in his introductory philosophy course in college. If it’s not taught in these infallible and omniscient sources, then only a kook would take them seriously.
Meanwhile, in response to Nocterro’s gratuitously uninformed rant against Objectivism, Gil S., another forum member, gave his glowing thumbs up response, saying he “couldn’t agree more” with what Nocterro has posted, and pointed to a diatribe by none other than “the Maverick Philosopher.” We’ve already seen examples of the kind of “rigor” one can expect from this inbred party-liner in examining Objectivism (see here).
It’s a sad truth that there are many ideas posited that really aren’t worth taking seriously - see Jesus as myth, moon landing hoax, and 9/11 truthers.
Nocterro gives his recommendation:
We probably shouldn’t even be addressing these things - they should be ignored, or in the case of those that are immoral as well as silly (such as holocaust denial), ridiculed.
Objectivism is almost certainly one of these - it’s an idea that’s been around for awhile, so the relevant experts have had a chance to look at it.
Very, very few accept it.How many have even examined it? Nocterro gives the impression that they're all intimately familiar with Objectivism. My experience has confirmed quite the opposite in fact. Notice how unfamiliar Nocterro himself is.
It’s certainly not “mainstream”.
Not only that, there’s also the issue of conspiracy. What I mean by this is that to hold that Objectivism is philosophically tenable, one must posit the bizarre notion that almost every professional in the relevant field is either dishonest, or mistaken, in rejecting it.
So, you may ask, why am I addressing Objectivism? Simple: I’m an insomniac, and I’m bored at the moment.
Problem #3: In the next section, titled “Wonkyness,” Nocterro identifies his standard of measure:
“What”, you may ask, “is wonkyness?” Wonkyness is a measure of the amount of phrases that some idea employs that seem to be meaningless in the field of study of which the idea is a part. For example, the Intelligent Design crows commonly cites “complex specified information” or “specified complexity” as evidence. However, these terms don’t mean much to either biologists or information theorists. So, Intelligent Design has a certain level of wonkyness.
In applying this system of measurement to Rand’s philosophy, Nocterro ignores the fact that Rand was often careful to explain her terms, especially terms that are key to her system’s essential principles. She not only gave her own definitions (and that in itself bothered a lot of folks – how dare she!), she developed those definitions in accordance to her own theory of definition (a major component of her theory of concepts). Moreover, the system she developed applied those definitions consistently. Perhaps this annoys folks like Nocterro as well. After all, Nocterro thinks it’s wrong to develop a comprehensive view of life and reality that is integrated without contradiction. We learned this in his opening statement.
Now, back to Objectivism. One example I’ve seen cited in discussion regarding Objectivism is ‘the hierarchial nature of knowledge’. I’ve not seen this idea in any literature in the field of Epistemology that I can recall, and I’ve only seen it (briefly) explained once (here: http://tinyurl.com/27w5mnf).
You will notice that Nocterro linked to this article on the Importance of Philosophy website. Nocterro is thus aware of a source where he can go to get some introductory information on the idea. But he does not tell us why it “sucks” or why it makes Objectivism “suck.” Again, he just tells us that this idea is new to him. Perhaps he thinks it’s a bad idea because of this.
Another example of wonkyness is the ‘fallacy of the stolen concept’. A search for “stolen concept” on http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ returns no results. The only mention of this fallacy I can find on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is on the Ayn Rand page.
Of course, some critics of Objectivism have insisted that Rand’s identification of the fallacy of the stolen concept is nothing new (though they have a really hard time pointing to a prior thinker who identifies it explicitly). Those same critics agree that it is a fallacy, but want to deny Rand any credit for discovering it. Nocterro pretty much put a capper on that one, all by citing a single source!
There are most likely many other examples of wonkyness in Rand’s work; however to page through “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” looking for them is a bit more than I can bear.
In any case, it’s apparent that at least these two ideas, upon which Objectivism seems to depend entirely, are in fact examples of wonkyness.
Nocterro seems to put no limit on how far he can embarrass himself:
Now, you might ask: isn’t the idea of wonkyness itself an example of wonkyness? Well, no. Wonkyness, far from being some sort of logical or metaphysical core of this critique, is merely a name, or label I’ve given to ideas which are not employed in a relevant field. You can call it whatever you like - the idea behind it is that sometimes people have no clue what they’re talking about.
In a section titled “Final Thoughts,” Nocterro writes:
Before I get a slew of comments from Objectivists attempting to defend their pet theory, I’d just like to point out one thing. This is not entitled “why Objectivism is false” or “why Objectivism fails”; but “why Objectivism sucks”. I am well aware that I have only indirectly critiqued what Objectivism actually posits. I have not addressed, for example, ethical egoism, or the relationship between consciousness and objects. However, I don’t really see a need to.
Objectivists, like others who have “dogmas” (YECs, Mormons, etc.) will most likely never give up this philosophy - at least not because of any argument against it.
Rather, like the other aforementioned groups, they must come to realize it is untenable on their own.
This post was written because I was bored, and for anyone considering studying Objectivism to see whether it’s a decent idea.
So there you have it: another devastating critique of Objectivism without one quotation from an Objectivist source modeling extravagance of attitude and scarcity of content. It all goes to confirm what I’ve said before: the only alternative to Objectivism is some form of subjectivism. For Nocterro, Objectivism “sucks” because his crowd is either ignorant of it, they don’t like it, or they resented Rand for daring to speak on philosophical matters without their approval. And while we can point to the results of the academic establishment’s ideas put into action (national stagnation, welfare statism, government confiscation of wealth, collectivization of “the masses,” the sacrifice of the individual to the in-crowd’s designs, genocidal pogroms, etc.), Nocterro cannot point to anything like this that has come about as a result of Objectivism. Objectivism provides a defense of human reason and individual liberty. It is therefore to be denounced, ridiculed, vilified and condemned by the establishment community, as reason and liberty are direct threats to their self-enthronement.
Like many secular critics of Objectivism, Nocterro gives no indication of what he considers a worthy alternative to Objectivism. Though it’s clear that any alternative must bear the academic community’s inbred stamp of approval. His profile identifies him as a “deist,” which tells us that whatever specifics his worldview affirms, he grants metaphysical primacy to consciousness at least insofar as his deism is concerned. But deists are a mixed bag when it comes to other things that they endorse. Deism has no inherent theory of concepts (in fact, Nocterro seems to think that talk of concepts is “meaningless” – a stolen concept if there ever were one), no inherent view of morality, of politics, etc.
Also, just as theists who seek to rescue their god from the problem of evil tell us about themselves, Nocterro’s tirade against Objectivism is more autobiographical than anything else: his laziness as a thinker is conspicuous, he writes in a state of drowsiness , he shirks the responsibility of honest interaction, he comes across as so preoccupied with his own bitterness against Objectivism that it’s clear that his attitude will probably get in the way of any learning he’s capable of for quite some time. He also tells us that he prefers the safety of anonymous numbers, as if the consensus of an anonymous group who presumably agree with everything he says were the key to unlocking the deeper secrets of truth.
If Nocterro were to try to put some actual content to his raging beef against Objectivism, what would the result be? If he challenged the primacy of existence, would he not be affirming his position’s adherence to the primacy of consciousness while smuggling the primacy of existence in the process? If he challenged the view that nature has a hierarchical structure, would he not be likening knowledge to “a village of squat bungalows, with every room huddling down against the earth’s surface” (Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 130), thus confirming Rand’s prediction that her critics were burdened by what she called “concrete-bound thinking” (cf. “How to Read (and Not to Write),” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 26, 5)? If he were to challenge Objectivism’s egoism, would he not be endorsing some form of sacrifice in ethics? Nocterro has learned academia’s lessons well: don’t stick your neck out, don’t take a stand, hide in the shadows, keep your head lowered in the huddle, and hope for the safety of the group.
It is no secret that Rand was an outsider who had no interest in acquiring the necessary passkeys to the prestige of inbred academia. She was a successful businesswoman, a defender of individual liberty and capitalism, an intransigent atheist and an outspoken critic of communism abroad and the New Left at home. Each of these put her in the academic establishment’s sights. How dare she question their authority!
Just take a quick look at the consistent record of intellectual bankruptcy that academic insiders have given the world, from Cartesian rationalism to Kantian idealism, from Humean skepticism to Dialectical Materialism, from Logical Positivism to Linquistic Analysis, from Anal Phil to Pragmatism, from the Existentialist worship of nausea to Post-Modernism, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on. Objectivism represents a clean break from this track record of disappointment and letdown which are the heritage of the philosophical establishment. A rejection of Objectivism is a vote for a continuation of the tragedies that these highbrowed failures have brought on men throughout the ages. But the Nocterro’s of the world are not concerned about the results of their philosophical views when put into practice; their chief concern is to be part of the in-crowd, to assume the role of a useful idiot and achieve a rank in some ruling class.
by Dawson Bethrick