Re: objectivists hate libertarians

Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 23 Sep 1996 11:28:15 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 23 Sep 1996, Eugene Leitl wrote:
> I think this is bullshit. I am fairly Libertarian, and I am strongly pro
> capitalism. Maximizing individual freedom has no intrinsic value. It is
> the maximization of in toto (over population, over time) happiness which
> has value. Why?

Eugene, I appreciate your sentiments, but I really don't think this
stance makes any more sense to me than the objectivists' stance.
Maximizing happiness sounds like maximizing complexity to me; an effort
to maximize something that we have *no* clue how to *measure* is just a
metaphor, and exactly as misleading as some of the metaphors that the
Objectivists have recourse to.

(If anyone figures out how to measure these things, or how to measure
life or extropy for that matter, please let me know.)

> What is objective reality? How can I learn anything about it, but through
> my senses, and augmentary senses (gadgets), which translate things
> outside my sphere of experience into a language I can understand.
> Plato's cave. Is there an outside? That we _feel_ there is something out
> there is but the artefact of the process by which we are generated: the
> Darwinian evolution.

Now, this I also find curious because Darwinian evolution is in itself
our best argument for believing in objective reality. Darwinian evolution
is the explanation that each of us has recourse to when accounting for
how our individual minds came into existence. Of course there is an
outside; if there weren't, then our own existence as individuals would be
a puzzling lacuna in the explanatory structure of our thought. If there
weren't an outside, we'd be able to explain all our percepts in terms of
our own activity, but we would lack any explanation for our own activity.

The definition that I am currently experimenting with: objective
reality is that part of reality which is the way it is independently of
the influence of any individual person's mind. By a strong construction
of this definition, only offplanet things are "objective reality" by now.
Certainly most of the objects surrounding you, the monitor you are
reading, etc, are not independent of the causal influence of mind and
thought. One might say that technology is the admixture of subjective
reality (thought and feeling) with objective reality (that which is
independent of thought and feeling). Some people seem to think that what
we are all trying to do here is to bring subjective reality into thorough
admixture with the rest of the poor dead "objective reality" universe.

However, I must insist that I still do not think the objective/subjective
dichotomy is a very useful one philosophically. It's a good thing to get
exhausted thinking about, if you need that kind of exercise, but it tells
us practically nothing about what we ought to be doing, and isn't that
the point?

So I suppose I'm actually agreeing with Eugene. He seems to think that
there is no point to elaborating the objective/subjective boundary, and
I'm inclined to agree with him. But to deny the existence of this
boundary, or to deny the existence of that objective reality that
explains our individual existences just closes up the minds of most
people who might otherwise have been listening to you.

> Knowledge: a bag of tricks. Ethics: cooperation emergence due to
> evolution pressure. Deterministic as hell.

Determinism/indeterminism is another one of these questions that I don't
like to see my friends taking sides on. This is an open question! It may
be decades, centuries, or thousands of years before we have an answer to
this question (and I'd be willing to settle for a proof that an "answer"
is impossible), but it is certainly an open question right now.

How could a computer fully predict the future course of its own
computation in a manner that we could usefully distinguish from its mere
carrying out of that computation? It could not. If I could prove that it
could not, then I would have proved that the determinism/indeterminism
question is a permanently open one, at least to the satisfaction of those
few people who think that human beings are a kind of computer. I suspect
Eugene is one of them. Me, I like to keep an open mind, although it gets
harder every year.

In the meantime, I'll be looking into more Popper. He was obviously
fascinated by this question, and I haven't read everything he had to say
about it yet.

> I dunno... Going for the right goals, but for wrong reasons? What's wrong
> with that? These objectivists are certainly not utilitarists. But they
> are certainly irrational.

Utilitarianism is irrational too. Most of the people that "utilitarian
libertarians" look to for guidance in difficult political questions (I
have in mind David Friedman here) deny that they are utilitarians, and for
damn good reason: David Friedman is *not* a utilitarian, and neither am I.
Unless "utilitarian" suddenly means something utterly different from the
very clear technical meaning that was established at the climax of
utilitarian thought in late nineteenth-century Britain. Frankly, of late
I like Hayek's thinking best, and he's certainly no utilitarian either.
Nor is he an objectivist, though I think Rand approved of him. If
objectivists want to criticize libertarians, that's okay with me (though I
really wonder about their motivation), but if they seek to criticize
libertarians on the grounds that libertarians are utilitarians, then they
are attacking straw men... a time-honored Objectivist recreation, I'm

I suspect what makes them *really* nervous is that so many libertarians
are vague Taoists or Discordians who, while continuing to keep their
intellectual tools for thinking about philosophy sharp, have utterly
abandoned any and all philosophical *commitments*. And who feel happier
that way. And whose valuable political commitments aren't even slightly
harmed by such lack of philosophical commitment. But most seriously
committed Objectivists I've known don't even know how to begin arguing
against this stance by any means other than the ad hominem. I would be
very interested in seeing some clear, calm, rational arguments against
this stance.

(I'd also be interested in seeing a solid refutation of Hayek, too, but
I'm not getting my hopes up or anything.)