Alice in Objectivist Land, part one

NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Thu, 2007-07-05 00:48

One day young Alice Blumenthal was playing in a tree in the park when she noticed a white rabbit scampering across the grass and disappearing into a hole in front of some bushes. Alice was curious, so she followed the rabbit and peered into the hole. However, she felt herself slipping and falling into the hole and down into a large pit. “Oh, dear!” she said, and then she hit the bottom. At the bottom, she noticed a small door with a sign over it which said, “Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Land”, and she opened it and walked on through. “How peculiar.” she remarked to herself.

When Alice stepped into Objectivist Land, she met the Red Queen, who welcomed her.

“Is this anything like the utopia in Atlas Shrugged where people work in a completely free political/economic system and are always happy and productive?” asked Alice.

“Well, no. We are concerned here with the Objectivist theory of knowledge. The political/economic stuff comes later.” answered the Red Queen.

“Okay,” said Alice. “I’m sure everything has to be pretty objective and rational compared to the nonsense I’ve seen elsewhere.”

The Red Queen shook her head. “You may call it ‘nonsense’ if you like,” she said, “But I’ve heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!”

Alice didn’t really know what the Red Queen meant, but she went on in the direction pointed out to her. Soon, she saw an apparently blind man, wearing a blindfold, and feeling the tail of an elephant.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m looking for an elephant, but all I can find is this rope.” answered the blind man.

“You haven’t examined far enough.” said Alice. “If you feel up a little further…”

“Now, now, little lady,” interrupted the blind man. “one doesn’t need to examine every drop of water in the ocean to determine the boiling point of water. There is uniformity in nature, and that’s why inductive reasoning works. I am applying reason and logic to my perceptions, and I am determining truth, devoid of any bias or wishful thinking. It is objective.”

“It may be objective,” said Alice, “but it is wrong.”

“Metaphysically,” said the blind man, quoting Rand, “the only authority is reality: epistemologically—one’s own mind. The first is the ultimate arbiter of the second.” He went on, “The concept of objectivity contains the reason why the question ‘Who decides what is right or wrong?’ is wrong. Nobody ‘decides.’ Nature does not decide—it merely is; man does not decide, in issues of knowledge, he merely observes that which is.” And, finally, he concluded, quoting Rand quoting Bacon, “’Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.’ This means that man does not create reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality.”

“Well,” thought Alice, “perhaps there is only one reality and consequently one truth, but this man’s truth is not the same as mine.”

She walked away.

Next, she came upon a turkey in a box.

She asked the turkey what he could tell her about Objectivist land and he said, also, that reason grounded in experience devoid of bias or wishful thinking was the most certain path to truth.

“Every time I stick my head out of this hole in my box,” explained the turkey, “I get a pellet of food. So, I have learned something about cause and effect; that A is A, and causality is a corollary, the law of identity applied to action.”

“How do you know,” asked Alice, “that the Queen of Hearts might not come along and chop your head off on Thanksgiving?”

“A conclusion is “certain”, said the turkey, quoting Peikoff, “when the evidence in its favor is conclusive; i.e., when it has been logically validated.”

“But that’s just it,” replied Alice, “inductive evidence is always inconclusive. One must take a leap of faith that ...”

“Don’t say that faith is part of logic and reason.” snapped the turkey. “Objectivists believe faith and reason are diametrically opposed to each other.” He quoted Peikoff, “Faith designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.” He went on and quoted John Galt, from Atlas Shrugged, “…an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”

“But,” protested Alice, “if you get your head chopped off, you won’t be able to correct your error.”

“But,” protested the turkey, “I have to live and act within the limit of my knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of my life.”

“This is true,” remarked Alice. She remembered that Peikoff once said that knowledge at one stage is not contradicted by later discoveries, that advance conclusions augment and enhance earlier knowledge; they do not clash with it or annul it. Still, she could not help but think someone could discover that a tail is not a rope and that getting a pellet of food when sticking one’s head out a hole is not always going to happen, and this would have to mean that A might not really be A. Either that or they were wrong with their first conclusions. So, this process may not be so certain, after-all.

Anyway, now Alice came upon a large frog sitting on a lily-pad. “What are you doing?” asked Alice.

“I’m not doing much of anything. I’d like to catch some flies with my tongue, but there aren’t any around right now,” said the frog.

Alice noticed a fly sitting on a rock on the edge of the pond. It was not far away. It was within the frog’s tongue range, but the frog was not making a move for it. “Why don’t you go for that fly over there?” asked Alice, as she pointed toward the sitting fly.

“Flies don’t sit still like that,” answered the frog. “It is their nature to fly around.”

“Well,” replied Alice, “perhaps this one is choosing to sit still.”

“That would contradict its nature,” responded the frog. “An entity’s nature determines what it will do in any given situation.”

“Humans have a nature, but they have options to do various things in any given situation,” said Alice.

“That’s because humans have free-will,” said the frog.

“Yes,” said Alice, “but they also have a nature, and you just said a nature determines what an entity will do in any given situation. How can an entity be bound by its nature and also have free-will?”

“I don’t know,” said the frog. “I haven’t integrated that into the structure of my edifice.”

Just then, the frog died, from starvation, and the fly flew away.

“Wow!” thought Alice, “Integrated structures based on self-evident axioms and reason grounded on experience doesn’t seem to help these residents of Objectivist land.” As she walked back the way she came, she noticed that the turkey had been beheaded, made ready for thanksgiving. And the blind man looking for the elephant had given up.

“Did you do any further searching?” asked Alice.

“Yes,” said the blind man. “I felt some columns, a wall, and a snake, but I couldn’t find the elephant.”

“Well,” said Alice, “this is getting curiouser and curiouser.”

To be continued...

bis bald,


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Decently Confining Himself to Dissent

Luke Setzer's picture

I am glad to see this poster at least confining himself to the Dissent forum here.  Even so, his provocative accusations managed to get him banned from at least one other Objectivist Dissent board:

Watch out for this guy as he can consume major blocks of your time in endless argumentation if you let him.

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)

Looking forward to part 2

reed's picture

Looking forward to part 2


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Haha! And welcome. Don't forget to supply a photo. Smiling


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