AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

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AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:55 am

I am interested in a discussion comparing Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism with what is commonly regarded as a Buddhist idea that "reality" is a projection of the mind. I anticipate having to engage in this discussion sometime soon (with someone in person, not on this forum). A discussion here will help me to develop my own grasp of the topic.

For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception


Why might you argue that these two statements are either correct or incorrect?
According to your understanding, how does this compare with Buddhist teachings?

I can already think of a number of problems in this theory,
and while in some contexts it can be said to be true,
that overall it reflects a limited definition of "reality".



(reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_%28Ayn_Rand%29)

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby viniketa » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:37 am

Interesting topic, PadmaVonSamba. Closely related to the 'materialist' position in the mind/body problem. I'll take a look and come back with some more 'academic' comments.

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:28 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception


Why might you argue that these two statements are either correct or incorrect?



I'd argue that #1 is meaningless; we have no way to discuss or know about reality independent of consciousness.
#2, on the other hand, seems patently false; perception is unquestionably *mediation*, so I don't see how it could be seen as representing *direct* contact.

In other words, what is being described is an incredibly naive folk epistemology. I'd suggest that Rand's epigones read Husserl to see the difficulty of getting "back to the things themselves."
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby Jikan » Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:19 pm

Michael_Dorfman wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception


Why might you argue that these two statements are either correct or incorrect?



I'd argue that #1 is meaningless; we have no way to discuss or know about reality independent of consciousness.
#2, on the other hand, seems patently false; perception is unquestionably *mediation*, so I don't see how it could be seen as representing *direct* contact.

In other words, what is being described is an incredibly naive folk epistemology. I'd suggest that Rand's epigones read Husserl to see the difficulty of getting "back to the things themselves."


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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby conebeckham » Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:00 pm

I find very little coherence in Rand's "philosophy." It's based on an idea or concept of the "person" or the "mind" that just doesn't ring true to me...there's some great stuff here: http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby Jikan » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:16 pm

conebeckham wrote:I find very little coherence in Rand's "philosophy." It's based on an idea or concept of the "person" or the "mind" that just doesn't ring true to me...there's some great stuff here: http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/


I think it's coherent, but not as philosophy. It's a coherent *brand.* Rand produced a line of products that she found a way to market and mass-produce. They appeal to a certain demographic, even today. That is all.

Rand is not taken seriously as a philosopher by philosophers or people who read philosophy seriously.
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:53 pm

Everything is mind which is like space so there's no question of contact.
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:45 pm

Thank you.
For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two central tenets of objectivism, that :

1.'reality' is independent of consciousness, meaning (I assume) that a universe exists whether one is there to witness it or not. For example, the moon existed before there were beings on Earth who could observe it. (for the record, the objectivist argument also includes logical inference. For example, astronomers can refer to the existence of planets that they cannot detect observe, because they can detect gravitational impact on nearby planets that are observable, thus a reasonable assertion is that another planet must be there causing what is referred to as wobble).

and that

2. The sense perception that human beings have is sufficient to perceive reality. The inference here is that, for example, until the realm of hungry ghosts can be verified buy our senses, there is no reason to assume it exists. How would this compare with the Buddha's advice to not believe anything merely because someone has said it was true, but to test it our for oneself?

I am not so much interested in Ayn Rand's reputation itself, merely in the objectivist argument compared with the view that many Buddhists have, which is that what we refer to as "reality" is essentially a construct of, or projection of the mind.
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby Matt J » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:12 am

Thank you for giving me the chance to stretch my mind muscles.

First, let me practice some Nagarjuna:

If there is a reality independent of the senses, is it the same as or different from the senses?

If they are completely the same, then reality is the senses, and there is no independent reality.

If they are completely different, then the senses would be unable to know reality, as they share nothing in common.

If they are partly the same and partly different, then the parts that are the same would be identical. And which parts? How does one divide reality or the senses into parts?

If neither the same nor different, then the senses cannot know reality, just as the ears cannot hear the color red.

Second:

As human beings, we are bound by the 6 senses. Thus, everything we know is known through the senses. Because we have senses, and cannot separate ourselves from them, how can we verify a world independent of the senses? In the example of the wobble, the inference is still based on sensory input--- the wobble effect on other bodies.
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:43 am

Matt J wrote:Thank you for giving me the chance to stretch my mind muscles.



Thank you. I was hoping for some references from Nagarjuna.
(By the way, Xin Xin Ming is my all-time favorite Buddhist writing).
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby kirtu » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:37 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception



They mean that the real physical world exists and that it can be perceived through sense contact. Nothing unusual or spectacular at this point.Those aren't the real problems with Objectivism. As far as these two tenets go, this is just a form of materialism probably tending toward atheism (I don't know because I've never asked a Rand follower these details - we always get the the real heart of the mater - their deification of selfishness).

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby futerko » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:48 am

kirtu wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception



They mean that the real physical world exists and that it can be perceived through sense contact. Nothing unusual or spectacular at this point.Those aren't the real problems with Objectivism. As far as these two tenets go, this is just a form of materialism probably tending toward atheism (I don't know because I've never asked a Rand follower these details - we always get the the real heart of the mater - their deification of selfishness).

Kirt


Good point Kirt. I think the main issue with the idea of the "objective" is that it obscures the fact that it is not a value-neutral way of looking at things - to couch it in terms of the OP, the claim that an independent reality exists is itself an act of consciousness masquerading as an objective truth, based upon the idea that we perceive common objects, but excluding any reference to context (either external context as in the idea of "ecology", or internal as in the idea of a network of language/ideas/meaning).

Take someone with a phobia for example. We can isolate the cause, thereby taking it out of context, but for the person experiencing the phobia the associations they make cannot so easily be isolated from their way of seeing.

It can be very useful to draw a line around something and remove it from its context. It can allow us to cut down the Amazon rainforest and use it for profit while ignoring its place in the wider scheme of things. This way of seeing is particularly well suited to an instrumentalist view, enabling us to dissect, analyse, and utilize the world around us in a clinical way, with the hidden assumption that humans are at the centre of the universe.

(I also suspect that the ideas of causality, impermanence, and non-inherent existence can account for a model of the changing universe, whereas the objectivist model may well have difficulty accounting for change over time, I'm not entirely sure about that yet, but it would certainly explain why people with such a view like everything to look like it just came out of the packaging)
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby viniketa » Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:42 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Thank you.
For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two central tenets of objectivism, that :

1.'reality' is independent of consciousness, meaning (I assume) that a universe exists whether one is there to witness it or not. For example, the moon existed before there were beings on Earth who could observe it. (for the record, the objectivist argument also includes logical inference. For example, astronomers can refer to the existence of planets that they cannot detect observe, because they can detect gravitational impact on nearby planets that are observable, thus a reasonable assertion is that another planet must be there causing what is referred to as wobble).

and that

2. The sense perception that human beings have is sufficient to perceive reality. The inference here is that, for example, until the realm of hungry ghosts can be verified buy our senses, there is no reason to assume it exists. How would this compare with the Buddha's advice to not believe anything merely because someone has said it was true, but to test it our for oneself?

I am not so much interested in Ayn Rand's reputation itself, merely in the objectivist argument compared with the view that many Buddhists have, which is that what we refer to as "reality" is essentially a construct of, or projection of the mind.


The so-called philosophy of Objectivism is undergoing a renaissance and expansion due to a perception that it is complimentary to current policies of "austerity". Even before that, however, it had grown to a body of writing that goes well beyond Rand, so her reputation really isn't useful to refutation of Objectivism.

I knew there were some proposals that Objectivism is fully compatible with Buddhist philosophy, but until I did a search on it, I wasn't aware that there are a LOT of such proposals. Further, reading some convinced me that there actually are some parallels in some areas. Not the least of which is the Objectivists seem to take a type of modified Prasaṅga approach to defending their positions.

So, Nāgārjuna does naturally come to mind when wanting to refute Objectivism, along with Candrakīrti. That 'match', however, would likely end in a draw. It seems, then, that leaves the old philosophical debate between realism and idealism, to which about the only refutation is some form of epistemological pragmatism. For example:

"When a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear, does it make a sound?"

Realist: Of course. Just because no one hears it doesn't mean there is no sound.

Idealist: Without an hearer to perceive the sound, there is no sound.

Pragmatist: If there's no one to hear it, what difference does it make if there is a sound or not?


As for your #2 above, "The sense perception that human beings have is sufficient to perceive reality", it would seem the refutation of that would be to point out that this position also rejects science, then, as science uses all manner of tools to aid the senses. (However, one can argue that such tools are merely extensions of the senses and are not 'extrasensory').

In any case, I did find at least one (and know there are others) site that covers several bases in respect to Objectivism: Criticisms of Objectivism

That site points to this paper, which makes some good points: Objectivist Epistemology: Strengths and Weaknesses

Which, in turn, points to this paper, which goes a bit further: Foundationalism, Skepticism, Coherentism

See what you think of those, PadmaVonSamba. If I run across anything futher, I'll return...

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby futerko » Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:15 am

I just realised this is in the academic forum, and also dug out of my subconscious the origin of my idea came from Adorno,

http://www.iep.utm.edu/adorno/#H3

Reality is thus deemed discernible only in the form of objectively verifiable facts and alternative modes of representing reality are thereby fundamentally undermined. A successful appeal to the ‘facts’ of a cause has become the principal means for resolving disputes and settling disputes in societies such as ours. However, Adorno argued that human beings are increasingly incapable of legitimately excluding themselves from those determinative processes thought to prevail within the disenchanted material realm: human beings become objects of the form of reasoning through which their status as subjects is first formulated. Thus, Adorno discerns a particular irony in the totalizing representation of reality which enlightenment prioritizes. Human sovereignty over nature is pursued by the accumulation of hard, objective data which purport to accurately describe and catalogue this reality. The designation of ‘legitimate knowledge’ is thereby restricted to that thought of as ‘factual’: legitimate knowledge of the world is that which purports to accurately reflect how the world is.


(p.s. by "enlightenment" he means the 18th Century age of reason)
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:20 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception.


You may have already thought of this, as I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but the snake/rope parable is a refutation of this...

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby undefineable » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:49 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of this discussion, I only want to discuss two components of objectivism:

Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists ...
1. independent of consciousness
2. that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception


Why might you argue that these two statements are either correct or incorrect?
According to your understanding, how does this compare with Buddhist teachings?


Isn't 2. effectively a contradiction of 1.?!

I like the idea of an extreme right-wing philosophy being found compatible with Buddhism, since -already- oriental followers typically describe Buddhadharma as socially 'conservative' while Americans use it to justify a 'liberal' outlook :stirthepot: . In this case, though, I don't see an obvious compatibility - Doesn't Buddhism deny 2. and write off any significance of 1. in so far as it may be true? Moreover, isn't the whole 'self-interest' thing incompatible with Theism, let alone Christianity?!
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:23 pm

undefineable wrote:Moreover, isn't the whole 'self-interest' thing incompatible with Theism, let alone Christianity?!


Ayn Rand was an atheist and Objectivism part of her explanation of atheism, so it is strange that several Christian groups have taken-up Objectivism as philosophical basis for their conservatism.

As for Baudadharma being conservative, I've seen the claim before, but do not understand it. How can a doctrine so grounded in impermanence be conservative, in the true sense? :shrug:

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:10 pm

Does "impermanence" mean "relativism"?
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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:20 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Does "impermanence" mean "relativism"?


No, but then relativism doesn't mean what most people believe it means.

True conservationism is based in denying change.

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Re: AynRand's "objectivism" compared with dharma

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:45 pm

1. There is nothing to perceive outside of mind. (The quantum double slit test gives science to this. )
2. It's not our senses that perceive. It's our intellect. Depending on the power of the intellect, the perception will be greater or lesser.
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