Subject: Re: Philosophy of Lisp programmers
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sat, 22 Jun 2002 16:15:48 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Bruce Hoult
| I believe that a person and their works can have value even if they are
| imperfect.

  This is very true.  However, there is a difference between relevant and
  irrelevant traits that affect how you have to interpret principles they
  espouse.  E.g., did Ayn Rand lead the kind of life that she said her
  philosophy had made possible?  No, she did not.  She actually lied about
  several important aspects of her life.  She wanted so very much to be a
  self-made success, she made parts of it up herself, instead, and denied that
  people had helped her at crucial points in her life.  This, to me, was quite
  important -- the standards she set were obviously extremely hard to follow,
  yet when she faced problems following them, she made them even harder to
  follow.  This is the "it's right because I say so" principle of truth, which
  flies directly in the face of everything she wanted to build and defend.
  Indeed, it is such things that caused me to consider possible inherent,
  serious problems in her philosophy.  (Peikoff is even worse, he believes
  something is right because Rand said so, and if there ever were a worse way
  to insult her philosophy, none of her detractors have managed to make it.)

| I find little fault in the early works of Rand, but after 1960 or so things
| went downhill.  The whole 60's "cult" thing is repugnant to me, along with
| the attendent principle that "if Rand said it then it must be correct".

  Yes, precisely.  But we must remember that Rand herself was very much opposed
  to all this cult thing, until there was evidently lots of money in it, at
  which point some other curious thing happened to her ethics and philosophy.

| Do you mean that for a philosophy to be useful (true?), it must provide
| canned solutions to a large class of problems, and thus save you the bother
| of thinking?

  No, not at all.  The time-saving function of a philosophy are at a much
  higher level.  I would argue that Aristotle's syllogisms are time-saving
  devices of this kind -- laying down principles of logic means that you waste
  so much less time with random noise that can lead anywhere except where you
  want to go.  I recently mentioned that relevance is orthogonal to truth,
  which sprung up in a discussion with my father over the role of Kant's
  philosophy in the development of equally strong anti-religious philosophies
  despite the fact that he intended to protect religion from the onset of
  science.  Kant seems to have confounded truth and relevance, because the
  religious belief he wanted to defend also does.  I have argued that a
  religion or a philosophy cannot speak about facts of the world -- if it does,
  it is now or will eventually be wrong -- but it can and should speak about
  the relevance and ranking of facts and observations.  A philosophy or method
  of scientific inquiry and the like will give you the means to establish the
  relevance of the facts you have observed, instead of you trying all sorts of
  ranking orders and stumbling on various ones that makes sense some of the
  time.  So on the contrary, it does _not_ save you the bother of thinking, it
  makes sure that you make thinking mistakes so more seldom if you know what
  you are doing than if you simply try to "think" without a method or a guiding

| Hmm.  It's about twenty years since I first idly thumbed through a copy of
| _Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal_ that was lying on a coworker's desk.  I
| borrowed it, then _Atlas Shrugged_, and then bought the rest.  So I should be
| down to 25% by now.  But I don't think so.  The things that my bullshit
| filter passed as being good or interesting ideas back then are, as far as I
| can tell, still now deeply rooted in my value system.

  Most of the people I have known who have read Rand have done so at an
  impressionable age.  My data set could be skewed by this, but the stuff that
  remains is definitely stable at this time with me, too.  I have no idea how
  much or little it might be, however.

  What struck me in many "believers" (it is, unfortunately, the right term) was
  that they did not manage to sift the arbitrary choices from the central ones.
  E.g., one guy I know colored his hair the same as Roark's, which I considered
  _nuts_.  Peikoff once had to "admit" that he liked horror movies and was not
  all that thrilled with skyscrapers.  *GASP*  So somewhere along the lines,
  people got the wrong message, they hung on to her conclusions, not to the
  method of discovery and reasoning from important observation to conclusion.

| The one thing I could *never* get into was _Introduction to Objectivist
| Epistomology_.  Somehow it just didn't ring true.  I mean, *parts* of it did,
| but to me Persig's ideas in ZATAOMM form a better foundation for Rand's
| ethics and politics than do Rand's own writings.  And they agree on just an
| amazing number of points, including (perhaps most striking), the relationship
| between conscious decisions, unconscious decisions, and one's internalised
| value system.

  But this was her first attempt to do "real" philosophy.  Yes, it failed.
  This is where I decided it would be more worth my while to seek additional
  problems to ponder and additional thoughts of giants elsewhere.  I happen to
  find Pirsig most fascinating myself.  Probably not an accident.
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