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For example let's say I want to refute Marxism but don't know much about the mechanics of Marxist philosophy. But I do have ample evidence that private property and business is very good at alleviating poverty (contradictory to Marxist views). Would that fact that Marxism creating an "incorrect" corollary (that private property is bad and creates poverty) mean that something is wrong about the ENTIRE philosophical system?

Philosophical systems are supposed to be logical progressions which can be logically translated into policies (such as abolishing private property) so wouldn't proving wrong one or more of these "translations" mean that the philosophical system itself is flawed?

asked Jul 27 '14 at 06:23

TheBucket's gravatar image


In a tribute to Aristotle, the first to identify the law of non-contradiction, Ayn Rand uses the expression, "check your premises," frequently in Atlas Shrugged and throughout Objectivism. For example, early in Atlas Shrugged, Francisco says to Dagny (Part I Chap. VII):

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

The same principle is expressed again several times later in the story.

Checking one's premises means that if a set of premises leads to an apparent contradiction, at least one of the premises must be wrong (assuming that the principles of logical inference were followed correctly). It does not mean, however, that all of the premises are wrong.

It is particularly important to check premises such as the following, which this same questioner has expressed in past postings on this website:

  • The belief, common among pragmatists and many others, that "fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong"; that scientific truths are established by "consensuses of recognized experts"; and any dissenting minority views can't be considered the work of experts even when the dissenters otherwise fully qualify as experts in their fields. (The questioner has repeatedly applied this premise to economics and global climate concerns.)

  • Acceptance of utilitarianism ("greatest good for the greatest number") as the ultimate test of the "goodness" or "badness" of politico-economic social systems. Objectivism, in sharp contrast, starts with individuals and with man's life qua man, which depends on reason as man's basic means of survival, and then Objectivism asks what kind of social system is most consonant with the life of a rational being and why.

As for challenging Marxism or anything else, it is not enough merely to claim that it leads to a contradiction. Sooner or later, someone needs to identify exactly which premise is flawed and why, and that requires studying the philosophy itself, not merely dismissing the entire philosophy without knowing "much about the mechanics of Marxist philosophy."

answered Jul 27 '14 at 18:21

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Jul 27 '14 at 06:23

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Last updated: Jul 27 '14 at 18:21