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In the essay Fact and Value, Peikoff says:

Now consider the case of Kant, whom I take to be the negative counterpart of Ayn Rand. To anyone capable of understanding Kant’s ideas, the first thing to say about them is: “false.” But implicit in the all-embracing war on reality they represent is a second verdict: “wicked.”

Yet, in his "DIM Hypothesis" book he urges us to read up the works of the Big Three philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and Kant. Is this a contradiction?

Is it moral for an Objectivist to read the books that criticize Objectivism ? Am I a fake Objectivist, if in my bookcase I have "Critique of Pure Reason" and/or I even recommend to others to read it as well. What about "The Passion of Ayn Rand" by Barbara Branden? What about Marx "Capital" or Hitler's "Mein Kampf" ? The Bible?

What about extracting interesting points from non-objectivist material, for contemplation? Consequently, what about communicating on forums and websites such as "Atlas Society" or "Objectivist Living" and/or attending their seminars to learn what they have to say (which may be interesting and valid in part)?

What about being a member of the local philosophy club, and study together topics from different schools of philosophy?

asked Nov 06 '12 at 20:57

rarden's gravatar image


edited Nov 06 '12 at 21:14

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

The answer is no. because a mans work does not make it your rules automatically.

(Oct 03 '13 at 19:14) Hawk kingdom Hawk%20kingdom's gravatar image

It's not clear why the questioner would think this is contradictory. If one is to legitimately reach a conclusion that something is false and wicked, then one needs to study it to do so. And if one has already done this and wishes for others to reach the same understanding, as Peikoff does, then of course counseling them to study the matter so they may likewise see is in order.

So then what about the morality of reading books that criticize Objectivism? The essence of immorality, for Objectivists, is the opposite of reason: actively closing ones eyes to facts rather than pursuing the truth. It would be patently irrational and therefore immoral to avoid a criticism merely because it is a criticism.

And what about studying the thoughts of non-Objectivsts? That's nearly all of the thinkers in history! Look, it's this simple: Objectivism is not coequal with all truth, nor even with all philosophical truth. Not anywhere close. So if you're not studying thinkers other than Objectivists, then as the kids say, "you're doing it all wrong."

Whether people should spend their precious time studying things they know to be dishonest or otherwise without merit depends on their context and hierarchy of values (very often it would be a sacrifice and therefore wrong).

Finally, studying and thinking about something doesn't require giving active support to it (granting it the immense value of one's "sanction"). So whether one should hang out in this or that forum or seminar or whatever is a matter of being careful to support one's values rather than the opposite. Studying Mein Kampf and talking with Nazis is one thing -- joining the Nazi party is another. Studying the Bible and talking with Christians is one thing -- joining a church is another. Etc.

answered Nov 06 '12 at 22:12

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Nov 08 '12 at 12:53

So, in above quote, Peikoff meant to say "agree" with Kant's ideas, rather than understanding ?

What about the idea of "tolerance" promoted by the Atlas Society? Doesn't tolerance mean that it is moral to discuss and debate alternative philosophies and concepts? Tolerance doesn't mean agreement. If so, is Peikoff arguing against such tolerance in his essay?

(Nov 07 '12 at 14:28) rarden rarden's gravatar image

No, I think Peikoff meant exactly what he wrote -- why do you think he might have meant "agree"?

(Nov 07 '12 at 15:47) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Peikoff is arguing against sanctioning evil, not against studying and understanding evil.

(Nov 07 '12 at 15:48) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

What is the point of reading a book, or a theory, and not understanding what it says ? Should in my view the text be a juxtaposition of words, rather than a constructed plausible argument ?

(Nov 08 '12 at 11:52) rarden rarden's gravatar image

Rarden: Sorry, I'm very confused by what you are writing -- do you think someone is calling for (or even vaguely suggesting) reading a book for the purpose of not understanding it?? Everyone here is clearly urging the opposite of that.

(Nov 08 '12 at 12:41) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Peikoff's Quote: 'To anyone capable of understanding Kant’s ideas, the first thing to say about them is: “false.”'. I understand Kant's idea (let's say the third antinomy) as a valid argument albeit on wrong premises. Does that make me a 'false' person, according to Peikoff ?

(Nov 09 '12 at 10:22) rarden rarden's gravatar image

Isn't the "them" referring to Kant's ideas?

(Nov 09 '12 at 10:25) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Rarden, again, I am sorry to report that I am very confused by what you write. Is English your first language? Here is all that I am able to reasonably infer from Peikoff's statement: Peikoff thinks that if you do not regard Kant's ideas (i.e., the fundamentals of his philosophical system) as false and wicked, then you must be suffering from some combination of simple ignorance (having not studied it), an inability to grasp it (i.e., insufficient intelligence or development), and unwillingness to acknowledge the truth regarding it (evading).

(Nov 09 '12 at 11:29) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

If I may try and bridge the gap between Greg and Rarden:

I think what you are getting caught up on, Rarden, is Peikoff's grammar. He's saying, "To those who have read and can understand the text of Kant and his ideas, you should conclude they are false and wicked." It would be the same as saying, "For those who have learnt how to ride a bike, you should find that it's fun."

There is nothing wrong with reading Kant, Marx, Barbara Brandon, etc., so long as you make rational conclusions about their ideas. Same goes for other ideological repositories today like the Atlas Society.

(Nov 14 '12 at 09:46) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

Is finding truth criminal?

(Nov 16 '12 at 03:34) savedandfavored savedandfavored's gravatar image

Yes, my confusion was Peikoff's grammar, I was confused by the word "them", and I thought it referred to people instead of ideas. Actually, rereading the essay now, and taking into context the preceeding paragraph where positive ideas are discussed, it is clear that "them" refers to positive ideas. Still, it would be clearer if peikoff wrote "ideas" instead of "them" in that sentence.

(Feb 10 '15 at 21:57) Bop Bop's gravatar image
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Asked: Nov 06 '12 at 20:57

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Last updated: Feb 10 '15 at 21:58