Talk:Objectivism (Ayn Rand)

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Former good article nominee Objectivism (Ayn Rand) was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Article Cross Talk[edit]


Use of cross-talk page[edit]

This section is transcluded from Wikipedia:WikiProject Objectivism/Cross talk.

There doesn't seem to be much use of the Objectivism cross-talk page lately. I'm the only one who has used it since February. Is it still relevant? --RL0919 (talk) 20:41, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

Perhaps not. Although I love it, I have to say it now seems like an esoteric feature. Karbinski (talk) 14:25, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

Cultural Objectivism is Missing[edit]

I came to Ayn Rand and Objectivism via a push-back reaction to the assertion of "Cultural Relativism" at university, yet I find no mention of it in this article. "Cultural Objectivism" is the argument that cultures are not equivalent, and that they can be measured by objective standards and judged to be superior or inferior relative to other cultures. Odd that I find no online references to it anywhere. Have all online references to this belief been scrubbed?Jonny Quick (talk) 06:04, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

  • I don't think that Cultural objectivism is the same thing as Objectivism. Objectivism is a particular school of philosophy, while cultural objectivism is merely a description of an aspect of a philosophy. It's also usually taken as the default or reactionary position, not To find cultural objectivists, simply search for terms such as "cultural relativism is nonsense" or what-have-you and they'll quickly come out of the woodwork. "Cultural objectivist" is also used frequently as a pejorative term in left-leaning academic discussion, so your filter bubble might be preventing you from finding it. Moral objectivism is a more interesting and applicable meta-ethical stance. 82.35.30.54 (talk) 14:12, 7 February 2014 (UTC)

Blatant Bias in Opening Paragraph[edit]

"Academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, but it has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.[5]"

I'll just do bullets, in no particular order, in order to keep this as brief as possible.

1) Who, exactly is "academia"? This feels very weasel-wordy to me. It implies that she was noticed, but ignored or rejected. Where is the evidence of being noticed? One must be noticed before one can be ignored or rejected. This sentence seems to attempt to achieve the negativity of being ignored and/or rejected without first acknowledging the positive of being noticed. Any reviews of her work when published? An reports of editors specifically telling reviewers to ignore her work?
2) Use of the word "but" seems to try to tie one idea of ignoring and/or rejecting Rand's work, presumably at the time of it's publication BUT "it has been"... passive-voice is weak, understates the idea that the work has a legitimate place today. Another indicator of bias. If the statement is that the work has gone from being rejected and not noticed to a significant influence, then say it in a proactive, positive manner, such as "While a significant influence on American Conservatives and Libertarians (in that order), Rand's work was largely ignored or rejected at the time of it's publication." See how strong, positive statements read much better, convey more meaning and have dramatically less bias without sacrificing anything? Another issue I have is why the "conservatives" must all be americans. Do British, Australian and Canadian conservatives all roundly reject and ignore Ms. Rand, and it's only a small minority of americans and those wacky libertarians that are even aware of it? "Come join the international majority of normal people that are approved by academia and ignore or reject this crazy objectivism stuff." is what the statement is trying to convey.
3) "Academia" is this and that, BUT "libertarians and American Conservatives" are something that are "not academia". All academia is legitimate, and belong together in the higher levels of universities, but there are no libertarians and American Conservatives in academia, with the implication that all academia are center and left of center and libertarians and American Conservatives are marginal and fringe elements outside not just mainstream political thought, but also outside the wider-ranged academia. These are the REAL nut-jobs. The REAL hoot is when the University leftists get to decide which brand of conservative thinking is legitimate and which ones are not. Hint: They are going to pick the weakest and least threatening, and bless them, and Ayn Rand loses.
4) I don't think this statement belongs in the introduction. How many people have been killed in the name of Objectivism? Wars started and fought over? Assassinations and acts of terrorism? The only people that might find objectivism controversial would be people that believe in it's opposite. This statement is not noteworthy in the initial paragraph, and it's existence there is evidence of bias that the informed reader cannot help but notice and stumble over. So not only does it bias the article, but it's existence in the beginning degrades it's readability also. I'd be interested in finding out who it was that put this piece into this place in the article, so that I could take a harder look at their other contributions.Jonny Quick (talk) 08:15, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
The lead (the part before the table of contents), is supposed to summarize points discussed in the main body of the article. If you look down to the the section titled "Intellectual Impact", you will see that it starts by saying, "Academic philosophers have generally dismissed Objectivism since Rand first presented it", with four reliable sources cited in footnotes. The section then goes on to discuss the academic treatment of Rand's philosophy in more detail. So this is what is summarized by "Academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy". The sentence in the lead is also directly sourced to two academic books cited in the footnote for it (whose number you even copied above).
The alternative wording you propose in your second bullet makes even more use of the passive voice than the current wording, so I'm not sure what makes it "strong" in comparison. It also suggests Rand was ignored broadly (not just by academics), which is clearly untrue given the bestseller status of some of her works. There could very well be a better wording, but I don't think your proposal is it. The third and fourth bullets appear to be your own political opinions, which are not relevant to what should be in a Wikipedia article, so I won't address them here. --RL0919 (talk) 15:34, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
The 3rd bullet is my subjective "real time" reaction to the article as it is. After just finishing reading the whole "amateur vs. professional" argument in these "Talk" pages, I understand why. The lead is attempting to force-feed the notion of "class" into the reader's awareness right at the start, and THAT is the fatal flaw. Whether or not academia accepted, rejected or ignored Objectivism and/or Rand, whether or not the philosophy is amateur or professional may be somewhat interesting, but it does not need to be in the LEAD. It feels artificial and pushy. Bullet #4 attempts to convey the idea that for all the controversy (whatever it may be), how relevant is that controversy. Objectivism hasn't resulted in mass-homicide like Nazism, why then would Wikipedia elevate it's detractors to get top-paragraph status in order to communicate their criticisms? The only people that find Objectivism objectionable are hard-core socialists and communists, so the fact that their criticism is considered a top priority is de facto bias in the article. Otherwise, I agree with everything you said, that I've read, thus far.Jonny Quick (talk) 23:04, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
The reaction of academics in relevant fields is an important element for any article about a theory or intellectual movement. The criticism does not have to include accusations of mass homicide in order to be relevant -- most ideological disputes thankfully do not reach that horrific standard. It just has to be discussed in reliable sources that we can use to verify the article and give neutral descriptions of what has been argued. I agree that the summary of the criticism does not need "top-paragraph status", and it doesn't get that now -- it at the end of the lead. If you think the current wording overemphasizes "academia" as a class, then certainly we can discuss other ways to word it, but omitting academic reaction from the lead is not the right solution. --RL0919 (talk) 20:14, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
I can personally attest to the hostile reception that Rand's Objectivism received from the "academic community", which at the time (1960s-1970s in my direct experience) was substantially sympathetic to Marxism, nominalism, deconstructionism, and other quite non-Randian ideas. Her opponents largely adopted an unstated policy of marginalization, avoiding bringing up Rand at all in the curriculum, and reacting quite negatively toward students who mentioned her ideas. The reason this is even mentioned in the lede is that various editors seemed intent on making sure that readers would be advised that respectable folks rejected Rand's ideas; I think that's a remnant of the minimalization policy, but it seemed better to include a neutral true statement than to permit a partisan one. The "but ..." clause should be noted somewhere in the lede, since it is an important aspect of the subject (why one nevertheless might care). — DAGwyn (talk) 18:16, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
That's rather propagandist. "Help, help, I'm being suppressed". The fact is that compared to actual professional epistemiologist, she lost the competition. Popper et al. had much more influence on academia than she had. Her influence is practically exclusively restricted to the angloamerican environment and areas overwhelmingly influenced by it - which suggests that the causal relationship is rather the other way round - her influence there exists because it justifies certain pet ideologies firmly entrenched in angloamerican cultures rather than generally being particularly convincing. And that's not even touching on the issues of modern neurosciences which suggest that her notions on rational consciousness is simply "technically", i.e. physiologically not feasible, not happening. In essences, objectivism is in a catch22 situation: If I claim that objective knowledge is possible, but the result of such endeavor says it isn't, it is clear that the premise is absurd. I can then go and denounce the findings because I don't like their results, but that's hardly an argument of reason but one of "what must not be cannot be". --95.90.117.69 (talk) 13:02, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

There is a more succinct point to be made here - ignored suggests that objectivism has received no attention by academia. Clearly, it has. Otherwise it would not be possible to cite books to support this proposition. Alternatively, a quick search of any university library for 'Ayn Rand' will demonstrate that her philosophy has been noted by academia. The point is that it doesn't feature highly because it has been broadly rejected and/or is considered a niche interest. I am rephrasing as follows: "Academia has generally rejected her philosophy, although it has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives" 82.19.19.227 (talk) 23:05, 2 September 2014 (UTC)

Well, then if you are going to go in that direction, with those that disagreed with the philosophy getting top billing in the lead of the article, over and above the person and the philosophy itself, then the least you could do is define the traditionally leftist "academia" was at the time of Objectivism's "birth". Again, I reiterate my belief that to fail to state a brief summation about what Objectivism is before nailing the coffin closed is in and of itself biased. The least the article could do is acknowledge that the rejection was coming from an academic social strata that was already firmly entrenched on the left and would therefore reject anything that disagreed with it. If you are going to mention the "rejection", then make it a statement about the bias of "academia" and not piss in the article reader's soup before they've even had a chance to find out what Objectivism is about.Jonny Quick (talk) 03:22, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

Academic reaction sources with quotes[edit]

A few editors have a habit of rewriting the lead description of the academic reaction to Objectivism, either to soft-peddle it (as with this recent edit) or to make it more forceful (as with this edit in a few months ago). In their view, Rand is not really ignored or rejected by most academics, or she is actively rejected by all of them. The actual truth, supported by multiple sources, is between these extremes. Rand's ideas are most commonly just ignored by academics, and when addressed, rejected, although not universally so. I've just restored the description to an accurate representation. Since these same editors sometimes claim in edit summaries that the sources reflect their view (without actually adding any sources or quoting from the ones already cited), I'm taking the opportunity to put verbatim quotes from some of the sources I've just used, where they can be seen by one and all:

  • Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (2nd ed., 2013), p. 1: "Yet despite the sale of nearly thirty million copies of her works, and their translation into many languages (Landrum 1994, 302), there have been few book-length, scholarly examinations of her thought. This is hardly surprising since academics have often dismissed her 'Objectivist' ideas as 'pop' philosophy."
  • Neera Badhwar and Roderick T. Long, "Ayn Rand" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2010): "Contemporary philosophers, by and large, returned the compliment by dismissing her work contemptuously, often on the basis of hearsay or cursory reading."
  • Allan Gotthelf, On Ayn Rand (2000), p. 1: "Yet the philosophical system which her works express and on which they rest is insufficiently understood by many of her admirers and by most of her detractors; and she still gets little attention in academic philosophical journals and courses."
  • Tibor Machan, Ayn Rand (1999), p. 9: "This may account for why Ayn Rand is a popular novelist but not popular among philosophers, and not even given due respect for her clarity of thought, let alone the content of her thinking."
  • Jenny A. Heyl, "Ayn Rand (1905–1982)" in Contemporary Women Philosophers: 1900–today (1995), p. 223: "Perhaps because she so eschewed academic philosophy, and because her works are widely considered to be works of literature, Objectivist philosophy is regularly omitted from academic philosophy."

The above are all full-sentence quotes, all from publications by academic philosophers, all published in the last 20 years. Two are from encyclopedias, two others are from book series that overview various thinkers. In other words, exactly the sort of publications we would expect to summarize the common treatment of the subject. I'm not naive, and I know this information will be ignored by many who want to press their own view. I just want it handy for others. --RL0919 (talk) 20:20, 30 December 2014 (UTC)#

Reverted most resent edit, heavy reliance on Sciabarra multiple times the lead from very outdated critique. It's not acceptable and borderline, fringe views, fringe views should not be given lofty accreditation. Rowland938 (talk) 01:18, 7 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree with RL0919 that the "level of generalization matches cited sources." For this statement about the academic reaction in the lead, there are multiple reliable sources that support it, including, but not limited to the Sciabarra source. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is highly credible and is certainly not outdated. If we need to be more specific, how about we elaborate in an academic reaction section later in the article? Abierma3 (talk) 02:03, 7 January 2015 (UTC)
Rowland938, I can't make sense of your argument here. There are seven distinct sources cited for this sentence, with nine different authors, only one of whom is Sciabarra. Several of these sources are quoted verbatim above to leave no doubt as to their view on the matter. --RL0919 (talk) 02:25, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

Not a completely objective entry about objectivism.[edit]

Hello all,

Good information here. One statement makes it too much of an opinion piece and therefore must be corrected if Wikipedia wishes to be taken seriously: "Academics and philosophers have ignored or rejected" objectivism. It should read "Liberal Academics and philosophers in the United States have ignored or rejected" objectivism. It should be noted that there are other highly educated philosophers and academics, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, who do not ignore or reject objectivism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 50.110.170.122 (talk) 15:10, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

The article currently says, "Academic philosophers have mostly ignored or rejected Rand's philosophy, although not universally so." Which is entirely correct -- it isn't just liberals and not just in the US. It also acknowledges that there are exceptions with the "mostly" and "not universally" portions. All of which is supported with sources and described more expansively later in the article. --RL0919 (talk) 17:58, 3 February 2015 (UTC)